Archive for Thursday, April 19, 2007

Week marks anniversary of early settlers’ arrival

April 19, 2007

In October, Eudora's sesquicentennial anniversary will be celebrated with fireworks, music and a festival.

On Tuesday, as plans for the fall birthday bash continued to solidify, the city reached a sesquicentennial milestone.

A century-and-a-half earlier on April 17, 1857, a group of 16 German settlers from Chicago arrived to a town site purchased by the German Settlement Society. The land was located between the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers on the Fremont Trail. Their goal was to build a new community.

The group wasn't the first to arrive ---- an Indian mission and a way station occupied the same general area before them.

In fact, the inn's owner, Shawnee Indian Chief Paschal Fish, sold 774.5 acres of land to Society representatives Charles Durr and Louis Pfeiffer in February 1857.

According to a history written by Allen Crafton in the "Eudora Centennial Magazine," the Fish family acquired more than 1,100 acres of land in the area as part of an 1854 treaty between United States Government and the United Tribe of Shawnee.

Crafton surmised the area was valuable to the German settlers because of the friendliness of the Indians and Kansas' role as a free state.

Eudora Area Historical Society member Fern Long has a similar view.

She pictured Fish as a person that was generous to the travelers, she said.

"So, therefore, the Germans came here and he was friendly with them so they bought land from him," Long said.

The society bankrolled the first group of settlers, but soon more paid their own way to the area, Crafton wrote.

Although the settlers arrived April 17, 1857, the community didn't establish an official name until later that summer.

According to Crafton, "some of them surely had in mind names which they would have liked to bestow upon the new town, but the gentle, kindhearted Fish suggested the name of his daughter and the company forgot the names they had in mind and the new community was christened Eudora."

The community members in the early days of Eudora served like interlocking pieces in a puzzle ---- the settlers were specifically chosen by the society for their professions to make the city a success. The town had a stonemason, a doctor, cabinetmaker and a farmer.

"All kinds of people," Long said.

The early settlers had to survive close quarters by living in one building during the first months of the city's existence.

"I don't think they would do that today," Long said.

According to Crafton's history, the settlers planted crops started within weeks of arrival.

"Of course, one of the first things they did was send to St. Louis to get what they call a corn cracker which ground corn to corn meal and wheat into wheat flour," Long said.

Soon after settling, other businesses starting springing up, Long said.

By the summer of 1857, Charles Durr established the city's first sawmill.

Eventually wood from the mill helped rebuild the area after pro-slavery supporter William Quantrill ransacked the countryside in the 1860s, Long said.

In addition to the sawmill, the city had a working post office by the following fall.

"So you see, they had things going pretty quick once they got here," Long said.

The fact the new settlers could establish themselves quickly was impressive, Long said.

"They came a long way pretty fast getting the town established," Long said. "They were good businessmen."

By the fall of 1858, Eudora was officially incorporated as a city and had its first elections for mayor and council.

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