"Wonderful Old Lawrence" by Elfriede Fischer Rowe


     LAWRENCE HAS AN AMAZING NUMBER of older homes that are still standing, occupied and in good condition.

     The first house in Lawrence was built in 1854. It was a log cabin about 18 by 24 feet and erected by Clark Stearns a proslavery man from Missouri. The act of organizing the territories of Kansas and Nebraska passed Congress, May 30, 1854, and within a few days after that, Stearns arrived upon the ground and erected his cabin as a squatter's claim, for a farm. The New England advance pioneers found him there with his family and after they erected their tents, August 5, 1854. When they proposed to organize a town company, Stearns was an obstruction to be got rid of, and they bought him out for $500. There is a cement marker at 616 Massachusetts Street, just south of Underwoods, in front of a used car lot, and bordering the sidewalk, which reads: "Site of the first house in Lawrence, 60 feet east."

     In June of the same year, Achilles B. Wade built a cabin and settled on it as a squatters claim. He later accepted $100 for his claim, and left. Wade's cabin was east of the present Water Works, on Indiana Street.

     After Stearns left Lawrence, Caleb S. Pratt bought a stock of goods to put in the Stearns cabin, but before this was accomplished Paul R. Brooks and his cousin, D. H. Brooks, purchased the goods from Pratt and moved them into the building. Thus, the first cabin became the first store building in the city.

     Lawrence was a city of tents at first. One type of building peculiar to Lawrence was called a "hay tent" or "A" house. These tents or "A" houses were built by setting up two rows of poles, then bringing the poles together at the top and thatching the sides with prairie hay or cotton cloth. The tents or houses were all roof and gable. The windows and doors were at the ends.

     The reason they were called "A" houses was due to their shape. The opening was like the printed letter "A," and the "hay tent" name must have been derived from hay being used on the sides. These tents were long and high. Two hay tents were put up almost immediately on arrival of the emigrants -- one for a boarding house, and the other for the Church or meeting house. The boarding house was run by two women who served some 150 people at $2.50 a week. Two rough boards were laid across some logs for a table and in the beginning the boarders sat on wash tubs, kegs and blocks. Both of these hay tents were also used for general shelter and sleeping quarters until the newcomers could erect something for themselves.

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     There were few log cabins built at first. Log cabins had never been introduced into New England so the New Englanders did not know too much about how to build them. Those that were erected were made of oak, hickory or walnut.

     Sod houses too didn't come until later, although sod was sometimes used for walls for the hay tents and houses, but not for an entire structure. The houses made of other woods came after saw mills were erected. In the spring of 1858, steamboats on the Kaw brought eastern lumber and pine. In the meantime, limestone rock was used, and for mortar, limestone was burned to produced lime.

     The New Englanders had little knowledge of stone, so they turned to brick. The first kiln of brick was burned in the spring of '56. The old brick plant was at the foot of Mississippi Street, if it were cut through. The pond later became Green's Lake and now belongs to the Veterans of Foreign Wars. The brick that was made here was of mud and hay and was a soft brick. The vitrified brick came later. Some of the houses I am going to speak of later are made of this soft brick.

     It is surprising that these early houses were so well made and some too, quite large. But many of the early New Englanders were well equipped, both education-wise and moneywise. They came from families in the East who had means. Later, as some of the citizens would become more prosperous, particularly in the early 1870's, the man of the family wanted to give his family the best, and he would build a larger and more pretentious house. When they moved into the larger houses, they needed more furniture and much of this extra furniture was purchased at auctions that were held in Lawrence, for a while, almost regularly.

     Many of the early settlers made a great deal of their furniture. They used the predominant wood, which was walnut. Lawrence had a saw mill and later a planing mill.

     After the strife was over and Kansas became a state, many men left Lawrence with their families because they had accomplished the purpose of their coming. Others left because of dissatisfaction, and some because of illness or homesickness. They did not want to be burdened with household effects, or they needed money to go back, so auctions were a common and popular event in Lawrence. The men particularly attended these auctions, both as a social event and to pick up furniture to supplement what they had.

     In examining the life of the women during those times, one thing stands out in reading the various diaries and articles, and that is their cheerfulness and enthusiasm. They would write letters home telling of the beauty of the prairies, the wild flowers and birds, the deer, and believe it or not, the climate. They suffered the shortage of such things as milk, butter, and eggs, to name only a few. They accepted these hardships of housekeeping

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without the conveniences they were used to, with a cheerful and quite often amusing comment, rather than a lament. Many substitutes were used in their cooking, where only the prairies would produce the ingredients. Some of these no doubt were used by the women living on farm claims, rather than in towns, but I have a few recipes that could have been used by them all:

     Corncob Sirup -- (Red ones preferred). Boil for 2 hours; strain and add 2 pounds brown sugar. Boil until thick.

     Sheep Sorrel Pie -- Lemons were scarce, so in a lemon pie recipe they substituted shredded pink-flowered sheep sorrel.)

     Acorn Bread.

     Wild Grape Dumplings.

     Clover Blossom vinegar.

     Cockelbur Cough Sirup.

     Pea Hull Soup.

     And this recipe was given for Roast Goose in 1870: "On the day before Christmas, kill a fat goose and dress it. Wash it well in a dishpan of hot soapy water. Rinse in a milk pail of cold water. Dry it thoroughly and hang it up in the woodshed over night. Next morning early, mash a kettle of potatoes with cream and butter and a cup of chopped onion and lots of salt and pepper. Stud the potatoes into the goose and sew it shut. Rub the skin over with salt and pepper and sage and put it in a not too hot oven. (No thermostats in those days.) Dip the grease up every hour or so and save for cold-on-the-lungs and shoes."

     Cook books in those days weren't sticking their necks out by giving specific instructions. "Grease saved for shoes" -- grease applied on the soles and sides of shoes, made them waterproof. But can you imagine how those shoes would smell in a hot, damp room?

     Even back in those early days, the women worried about their weight! This was found in an old cookbook: "How to Grow Thin." "Drink as little as you can get along with comfortably, no hot drinks, no soup, no beer and only milk enough to color the lukewarm tea or coffee you drink. Eat chiefly stale bread, lean meat with such vegetables as peas, beans, lettuce in moderation. Avoid watery vegetables such as cabbage, potatoes, turnips, etc. No pastry whatever. Limit yourself to 7 hours of sleep out of the 24, and take plenty of exercise in the open air."

     Here are a few beauty hints in those early cookbooks:

Face Powder

     "Take 1/4 pound of wheat starch pounded fine. Sift it thru a fine sieve or a piece of lace. Add to it 8 drops of oil of rose; oil of lemon 30 drops; oil of bergamot 15 drops. Rub together thoroughly." (Bergamot is a pear-shaped orange whose rind yields an essential oil used in perfumery.)

Drawing of carved wooden washstand with bowl, pitcher and oval mirror

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To Remove Wrinkles

     "Melt together one ounce white wax, 2 ounces strained honey and 2 ounces of the juice of lily bulbs. The foregoing melted and stirred together will remove wrinkles."

     For recreation in those real early days, there was hiking, horseback riding and in the winter, skating. There were many ravines in Lawrence then, and they would be full of water. In the winter, skating was excellent and the best places were lighted with flares for skating at night. The river too, was used for big skating events. Coasting and sleighing came with the snow.

     Then there was Liberty Hall, a building that was erected at the corner where the present Jayhawker Theatre building now stands. The entire second floor was one large room which was the scene of many gatherings. The room was open every afternoon and used like our community building. The churches alternated having meetings there -- graduation exercises were held there, lectures, home talent and imported plays, all were held in this hall.

     There are conflicting dates of when some of the old residences around Lawrence were built; however, the ones I have chosen were built from 1854 and in the 1860's. One thing that is amazing was that the houses are scattered all over the town; east, west and south of the Hill. Not like today, where several dozen houses are built at one location as a new development opens up. However, I am convinced that a great many of the very earliest houses were erected in east Lawrence, east of Massachusetts Street.

     All of the houses I am writing of are on the original townsite. If you would examine the abstracts of these homes, you would find the first entry with the name of Robert Robertaille, who was a Wyandotte Indian Chief, and who represented his tribe in these transactions. It was Wyandotte land on which the emigrants settled.

     The old Babcock barn at 2239 West Drive was converted into a duplex by George K. Melvin. Mr. Melvin's grandparents wereearly settlers. Next door north on the Melvin property is a small house built and used by the Babcocks for the servants. The Melvins use it for storage only.

     At 623 Indiana, Adam Oliver brought his family from England in 1858 and to Lawrence in 1862. After Quantrill's Raid, the family went to Canada for a short time, but soon returned to Lawrence and Oliver built the house at 802 Tennessee. Many people in Lawrence think the 802 Tennessee residence was the first house of the Olivers, but the records show otherwise.

     Also in the 800 block on Tennessee is 827 recently owned Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Tait. This house was built on the edge of a ravine which was later filled, leaving the first floor below the ground level The Robert H. Miller house 1111 East 19th

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Street, was built in 1858. It was a farm home then, and remained in the Miller family until the death of a son, Vanroy, in 1952. There are many interesting stories in connection with this house and Quantrill's Raid. Leo Eller is the present owner.

     The house at 743 Indiana Street was built by Hiram Towne, a well-known contractor. He built North College, which is still a memory for some of us, but only a picture to many. This house at 743 Indiana was rented by Towne to a widow Mrs. Emily Hoyt, but he reserved a room for himself.

     The day of Quantrill's raid, Mrs. Hoyt's teenage son hid in the corn field in back of the house. The original house did not have the south extension on the porch, nor the bay window. The first fence around the property was wooden picket. All three lots were in the original deed. Incidentally, the taxes shown on the abstract, for the last half of 1878, were $3.85 for each lot and the lot with the house, $38.50. It is interesting to note, the taxes for this year (1960) for the same property and the same house amount to over $500, compared with $92.40 for the full year of 1878; an increase of about 550%!

     The present iron fence and bay window, and the extension of the south porch, were added by F. W. Jaedicke, then gunsmith and hardware merchant, when he purchased the home in 1879. Jaedicke came to Lawrence the year after Quantrill's Raid. Since 1879, the house has remained in the Jaedicke family, being presently owned by a daughter, Mrs. Otto A. Fischer.

     The house at 1008 Ohio was built by George W. Bell. It is across the street from Corbin Hall, on Ohio. The 718 Locust resident in North Lawrence was built in 1869 by A. J. Dicker and has been in the Dicker family since. Dicker came to Lawrence in 1868 and built his grocery and meat store in North Lawrence and a year later built his home east of the store in the following block. The home is now owned and occupied by Donald Dicker.

     Other homes include: 1105 Rhode Island -- The home of Mrs. A. B. Mitchell. It was built m 1855. 1106 Rhode Island -- This house is occupied by Tom Delahunty and his sister. It was built about 1870 by Tom's father, R. Delahunty. He was in the transfer business when he came to Lawrence in 1867 and Delahunty helped haul engineering equipment for Gen. Fraser to survey the site for Fraser Hall. 702 Rhode Island -- Built by Julius Fischer in 1869. He was the father of the late Otto A. Fischer, shoe merchant. Julius Fischer was one of the original 16 Germans who were sent out in 1857 from Chicago, by a German Association formed there to found the town of Eudora. The house is now owned by Wm. L. Holliday.

     304 Indiana -- I don't know who built this house, but it was always referred to by the old timers as the Kahoe home. This location was possibly the site of the home of Achilles B. Wade. 309 Indiana -- across the street from the Kahoe house and possibly

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the home of Wm. H. R. Lykins, one of the first emigrants. 323 Illinois -- Built about 1870. Family by the name of Van Hoesen lived there. It is now occupied by Mrs. Katheryn Wilson Stevens who represents the 3rd generation of the Eli Wilson family to live in it.

Printed in Journal-World December 8, 1960

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