A Few Reminiscences (of Coldwater), 1933, Comanche County, Kansas Hosted by RootsWeb, the oldest & largest FREE genealogical site. Click here to visit RootsWeb.
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by H. V. Butcher

A Few Reminiscences, The Western Star, July 7, 1933.

It was over thirty five years ago, on June 20, 1898, that the senior editor of the Western Star first came to Coldwater. At that time, he was a resident of Medicine Lodge and his stay in Coldwater during the last two weeks of June and the first two weeks of July, 1898, was for the purpose of serving as an instructor in the county Normal Institute. At that time, four weeks sessions of the institute were held.

The city of Coldwater, at the time referred to, had not yet begun to recover from the depopulating effect of the land openings of upon towns and counties, throughout southern Kansas. Coldwater's population then was less than 400. Hundreds of people from this county had taken up their residence in the new state of Oklahoma. All over this part of the state there was a suggestion that the county had been almost deserted. But not all even "tried their luck" in the new country. A good many who did make the run into some part of Oklahoma came back within a year or two, and continued to make this county their home. In addition to the exodus to Oklahoma, a good many early settlers in this county got discouraged when the hard times, the partial crop failures, the low prices and other unfavorable conditions of the early 90s came, and returned to the county or state from which they came. Hence the population of Comanche-co. in 1898 was considered below what it had previously been.

At the time referred to S. M. Jackson was postmaster in Coldwater. Rev. C. M. Gray was pastor of the Methodist church in Coldwater, also in Protection. Rev. A. M. Buchanan was pastor of the Presbyterian church in this city. He also preached in the Presbyterian church in Ashland. Prof. J. W. Rodgers, who then lived in Protection-tp., was principal of the Coldwater schools. Three other teachers made up the teaching force in the schools.

There were very few stores in Coldwater at that time. Shultise & Allderdice were the leading merchants. H. E. Crummer conducted a grocery store, Geo. H. Torrey a hardware store and tin shop, H. J. Williamson a lumber yard and sold all kinds of building material, as also did Perry A. Johnson. For a while, U. G. Stephens was associated with Mr. Johnson in the business.

The only drug store then was conducted by Dr. G. G. Laughead, John Janson ran a boot and shoe shop and sold harness, saddles, blankets, etc. B. S. VonSchriltz conducted a general store which he called "Montgomery Ward No. 2." There was but one bank - the Comanche County State Bank, which afterward became the First National Bank.

A Few Reminiscences, The Western Star, July 14, 1933.

In last week's article mention was made of how the different public land openings in Oklahoma helped to reduce the population of all the counties in Kansas west of the Arkansas river and near the southern line of the state. The city of Coldwater furnished many of the land and town lot boomers in the new country, and as a result, fell off considerably in population and in business during the early 90s.

In addition to the big exodus of our people to some part of Oklahoma at that time, the town and the country suffered greatly from the hard times period which began with the year 1889. It was not until about 1905 that all kinds of business began to make a marked improvement.

A few more facts about the businessmen of Coldwater thirty five years ago: Attention has been called to the list of merchants (very small it was) at that time. Of course, there were then no garages or filling stations, for those were the days when livery stables flourished. The Kimple livery, feed and sales table did a big business. The Powell barn (later the Spencer Hull barn) was also well patronized. It stood one half block north of the present Martin Zerby corner. The barn was destroyed by fire a few years later.

Thirty five years ago, J. P. George was Santa Fe station agent in Coldwater. For a while Jack Allen carried the mail to and from the depot to the post office. After the death of Mr. Allen, Ed Price became mail carrier. He usually used a wheelbarrow in which to transport the mail. At that time there were no rural mail routes in this county.

Coldwater had two hotels thirty five years ago - the St. Nicholas and the City hotel. For many years, the St. Nicholas was conducted by Mr. and Mrs. R. A. Callaway. Every pioneer settler in Comanche-co., and many from adjoining counties, also hundreds of traveling men, came to know Mr. and Mrs. Callaway personally and the St. Nicholas was regarded as one of the best conducted hotels in this part of the state. It was destroyed by fire about 17 years ago. The City hotel which stood on the lot where M. H. Jabara's store now stands, was conducted for some time by J. Q. Leonard.

Coldwater had no public hall or opera house thirty five years ago. Public meetings, lectures, etc., were held either in the court room or in one of the churches. Commencement and other school programs were held in the high school auditorium. Occasionally, they would be held in one of the churches. Of course at that time, there were, in this part of the country at least, no telephones, automobiles or electric lights, sweepers, irons or washers. The electric and gasoline age had just begun to dawn. Four years later, or about the year 1902, new conveniences for travel and for homes began to make their appearance.

A Few Reminiscences, The Western Star, July 21, 1933.

In referring to the changes which have taken place in Coldwater and in Comanche-co. during the past thirty five years, mention should be made of the improved conditions of living from the standpoint of sanitation and convenience. Here are some of the changes:

Until about thirty years ago, Coldwater had board sidewalks only, and not very many of them. In the business section of town, board sidewalks, from eight to twelve feet wide, were in use. The building of cement sidewalks and the making of cement blocks for building purposes began in Coldwater about the year 1905, and it was not long until the cement industry began to take on a real boom. Within a few years, the building of cement sidewalks extended to all parts of town, even to the extreme, limits. Several residences, as well, as business houses, have been built of cement blocks. But the use of cement in the ways indicated has not been very extensive during the past fifteen years.

Another marked improvement during the past thirty five years has been in out water system and in the installation in our city, about fourteen years ago, of a splendid sewer system. For over twenty years, the city of Coldwater has had a water and electric light system which will compare favorably with those in any other town of similar size in the state. Before the city water plant began to supply our city with water, however, there was no scarcity of water in Coldwater. From the very beginning of the town's history, wells were put down, and, in each an inexhaustible supply of good water was found. Many windmills were in use in town. At one time there were at least seventy five windmills in Coldwater. Of course the coming of the municipal water system changed things, as far as the use of windmills was concerned. The installation of the new municipal water plant also revolutionized living conditions in out city, and greatly reduced the fire hazard.

An attempt was made during the latter 80s by some of the people of Coldwater to manufacture brick from soil on two or three different farms a few miles south and southwest of town, but the experiment did not prove very successful, as the brick were of rather inferior quality. A few buildings which were built of the home made brick still stand. The first school house ever erected in the city was one of them. That building still stands. It is located one block south of the Santa Fe depot. The original Avery-Hungerford block and the Halliday-Bennett building, on the south side of Main st., (Now owned by Geo. H. Torrey) were also built of home made brick.

A Few Reminiscences, The Western Star, July 28, 1933.

Since the writer first saw Coldwater 35 years ago, the town has changed considerably, not only in a material way but in population. For the past several years, the town has had a population varying between 1200 and 1300. That is about three times as many people as composed the population in 1898.

At the beginning of the year 1889, when the town was five years old, Coldwater had a population of about 1000. Then came the two "openings" in Oklahoma, the hard times period of the early 90s and the bad crop years which followed, when hundreds of the original settlers here concluded that there were greener pastures further on and left their farms or their town homes here and moved on. The result was the reduction by half of the population of Coldwater and Comanche county. Most of the towns and counties in this part of the state passed through the same experience.

In this county, the period of rehabilitation, both in town and on the farms, started about 27 years ago and continued for 20 years or more. The coming into the city and county of many new settlers made a demand for more houses and more improvements of all kinds.

On farms and ranches, cattle raising continued for several years to be the chief industry. Then wheat began to take a prominent place, and each year was given more and more attention. That helped to stimulate business greatly. Many tracts of land which had been held for several years by some mortgage company were bought and new homes were started.

Gradually the people of Comanche county fell in line with the trend of the entire country to get away from the older ways of doing things and to add new comforts and conveniences. That steady progress continued until about four years ago, when the present depression set in.

There is every reason to believe that with the return of better conditions in the financial and economic world, Coldwater and all of Comanche county will take on much of its former prosperity and that eventually our people will pull out of their present financial quagmire. Comanche county people are nearly all of the hopeful, persevering kind, and it only requires on their part a little more of that determination and perseverance.

A Few Reminiscences, The Western Star, August 4, 1933.

Thirty five years ago, Coldwater had but two church buildings - Methodist and Presbyterian. Each was a wooden structure. The Methodist church then stood two blocks north of where the present building stands. During the 1903, a new church was built. It was also a frame structure, and stood on the corner where the present new building stands. The new church was built during the summer and early fall of 1930.

The tornado of May 9, 1899, completely destroyed the Presbyterian church in this city. A little later a church building was moved by the Presbyterian from Greensburg to this city, and it was used until the present new brick church building was erected in 1912.

The old building which the Presbyterians had been using for about 12 years was sold to the Catholics and moved to a lot east of the school building. The Catholics, however, did not use the building for many years, finally selling the lumber from the building to H. E. Nixon, who used it in the erection of a residence.

The present Christian church was built during the summer of 1910, and the Assembly of God church building about five years ago.

Our fine, modern court house was built about five years ago.

Coldwater's present high school building was built during the latter part of 1926 and the early part of 1927. The two cottage buildings had been built several years before. The building which the new building supplanted was built during the year 1889, and was in use about 37 years. The original cost of the old building was a little over $12,000, but the district has had to pay much more than that amount in interest on the bonds issued then. The original cost of the new building and equipment was $65,000, and the cottage buildings cost about $6000. The Vocational Agriculture building also cost about $6000.

It was not until about 1905 that Coldwater began to take on city airs, and to show signs of permanent and modern improvements. New business houses, residences and other improvements began to be made. Since then a number of substantial two story brick buildings have been built - the Allderdice store, the Coates hotel, the Odd Fellows hall, the Pike hotel building, the telephone building, the Peoples Bank building, the National Bank building (one story), the John Janson building, the Scholle building, Gossett theater, VonSchriltz, opera house building, also many good one story business buildings - the Parsons machine shop, the Stewart Bros. garage, the Ford garage, the Golden Rule garage, the Botzer garage, the Arthur Barlow buildings, the Wichita store office building by J. T. Botts, Dr. R. C. Korff, Dr. T. H. Crawford (now the Dr. Shelley office building), Dr. Holcomb's office and several well equipped filling stations.

A Few Reminiscences, The Western Star, August 18, 1933.

Some of the material changes which have taken place in Comanche-co. during the past thirty five years have been printed in these columns. It has not been alone in material things that changes have taken place. People have changed their outlook upon life and in their attitude toward many things about them. In part at least, that has been due to new industrial and economic conditions, which, naturally, help to shape their ideals and ideas. To explain:

During the period of time referred to what may be called the "mechanical age" and the "electrical age" has been ushered in and has flourished with remarkable rapidity. Now means of travel and of doing nearly all kinds of work have come into use; new forms of pastime and amusement (including moving pictures) have become almost universal, taking the place to a large degree, of the old time and simpler pastimes. Formerly, people met much more often than they do now in neighborhood or county meetings, picnics, barbecues and in school, Sunday school and political conventions.

To some extent, the hospitality, the neighborliness and the hearty good will which characterized most of the early settlers seem to have slipped away, and, in their stead, came a sort of individualism and a desire to live more easy and care free life. Work on farms, ranches and elsewhere began to be done with much less manual effort, and an increasing demand for travel, for amusement and for the things and the experiences which gave one a thrill took possession of a good many people.

Along with the things mentioned, people - many of them - began to buy cars, tractors, combines, trucks and other kinds of machinery, as well as household conveniences, many of which proved a good investment. But, as every one knows, a good many people made up the mistakes of buying too freely, and especially of going in debt for things which were, in reality, not necessities. For a while, farm and ranch products brought good prices wages were good and most everybody was employed, thus creating what were regarded as prosperous times.

The World War came in 1917, and every one knows how that affected prices and wages in this country. Following the war, there came a brief period of deflation, but with the year 1922, a seven year period of prosperity, such as this country had not known for many years, set in. In the fall of 1929, things suddenly changed, following the big financial crash, and everybody knows what has happened since then.

It now looks as though things in the entire country have begun to adjust themselves, and it is probable that, from now on, people will begin to adjust their way of thinking in regard to the things which constitute living and working and striving together for the common good.

Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news articles to this web site!

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