Archive for Thursday, April 27, 2006

Exhibit takes look at county’s past

April 27, 2006

Keyta Kelly has lived in Leavenworth County for 24 years. But until earlier this year when the county counselor began helping to organize an exhibit of about 50 historic photos depicting scenes from around the county, she said she didn't have a good sense of the county's history.

For example, Kelly said she knew little about the county's education system in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

"I was amazed at how many one-room schoolhouses there were in the county," she said. "There were approximately 80 of them."

A picture of the Kickapoo School from about 1894 is the oldest photo in the exhibit, which went up last week throughout the hallways of the Leavenworth County Courthouse.

Another photo from the 1890s depicts Fall Leaf School and its 108 students, all of whom were taught by the same teacher.

"Could you imagine?" Kelly asked.

The school photos give some insight into Kansas' long history of civil rights.

"One thing I thought was interesting is all of them were interracial back then. Out in the county, they were desegregated," she said.

But the exhibit isn't limited to old schoolhouses. There are pictures of businesses from yesteryear, including the Millwood General Store, the Hotel Mayfield in Basehor and the G. Campbell General Store in Lansing. There are photos of a covered bridge over Stranger Creek near Easton and railroad depots in Reno, Fall Leaf, Lansing and Tonganoxie.

A 1932 photo of Albert Conley's barbershop in Tonganoxie is Kelly's personal favorite from the collection. It's hung outside her office on the second floor of the courthouse.

"I just like the expressions of the men in there, and the detail. It's just a good photograph," Kelly said.

Photos in the exhibit were culled from the collections of museums throughout the county and from county residents. Kelly, County Clerk Linda Scheer and County Commission Chairman Dean Oroke visited the museums and selected the photos for exhibit.

Once the photos were selected, they were copied and blown up for display by Debra Bates-Lamborn of First City Photo & Frames.

Then, a team that included Kelly, Leslie Rocha from the County Appraiser's Office and Mark Bureman, former director of the Carroll House Museum, went to work.

"Once we got the pictures, we had to research to find out what date they were, what we were seeing and making sure that was accurate," Kelly said.

Their research led them to make dozens of phone calls to longtime county residents for assistance. Most were readily willing to help.

"It's amazing the memories some people have," Kelly said. "Fred Leimkuhler (of Tonganoxie) - he's in his 80s and he can just recall anything that happened 60 years ago. He knows it as well as if it were yesterday."

Kelly said the collection was put together for several reasons, including the need for something to decorate the courthouse's walls. But there's also an ulterior motive, Kelly said.

"We're kind of hoping a trip to the courthouse will be more enjoyable. Most of the time, when people come to the courthouse, it's to complain about their taxes or they'll come to pay their taxes, unpleasant things. We're kind of hoping they'll see the history and maybe that makes it a little more enjoyable trip. And we want to complement the remodeling that was done."

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