Leavenworth -- First City

Col. Henry Leavenworth established the first fort west of the Mississippi on the bluffs of the Missouri River in northeast Kansas in 1827. The City of Leavenworth, growing next to the fort, was founded in 1854--the first city in Kansas.

Buffalo Bill Cody spent part of his youth in Leavenworth. Abraham Lincoln spoke on the steps of the Planter House Hotel in 1859, campaigning as Republican Presidential nominee. Fred Harvey, creator of the Harvey House depot restaurants, called Leavenworth home. Bethel A.M.E. Church was involved with the Underground Railroad. The Sisters of Charity, long time residents, founded St. Mary College in 1923.

The Federal government established a Federal Penitentiary in Leavenworth in 1906 and the Old Soldiers Home has become a Veteran Administration Center.
Parker Carousel Museum title
Parker horse head artwork The First City Museum of Leavenworth, KS owns two fine old carousels. The oldest is a hand cranked "flying horse" machine built in the 1850s. It features simply-carved wooden flying horses and a sleigh
C.W. Parker Carousel # 118, built in Leavenworth in 1913, is the pride and joy of the collection. It is in the process of being restored. Plans include display of both carousels inside their own facility. (A fundraising campaign includes opportunities to purchase engraved bricks or to "adopt" a horse for restoration.)
Beginning in 1892, C.W. Parker built a national reputation as maker of carousels--first in Abilene, KS (it is fabled that Dwight Eisenhower once worked at the Parker Carousel Factory)--and, after 1911, in Leavenworth, KS. Early Parker horses were standardized, with interchangeable parts, and lightweight. His carousels had a reputation for being easily assembled and compact, for efficiency in traveling among county fairs and small Midwestern towns.
After Parker moved his operation to Leavenworth, the carving of the wooden horses became much more elaborate and a clear, dramatic style emerged, as can be seen in these restorations-in-progress.
This restoration project is done with all volunteer labor. Those involved include Jewell West (President of First City Museum), Eleanor Vornholt (Secretary), Don Johnson and Pete Lawson (Master craftsmen), Dianne Lechner (Coloring Specialist), and the very-pleasant Lawrence Tate (shown, below) who hosts visits to the workspace. Larney calls himself Leavenworth's "smallest and oldest stripper." He is responsible for cleaning away layers of old paint and crud from all parts of the carousel. His enthusiasm for this project is evident as he scurries among the artifacts to show visitors the project work and shop space.
Lawrence Tate, tour guide
Lawrence Tate,
carousel restorer.
restoration in progressdetail of carver's artworkspacedetail of older horsescorn under saddle is Parker trademark
mechanism used for flying horse carousel horses stretched in leaping more woodcarver's art 3 ponies used on Parker carousel sleigh of older carousel
Read 2009 article, “History is just fun here.
River Landing title
River Landing sign At this activity hub, between 1854 and 1870, thousands of tons of supplies were once unloaded from riverboats docked along the Kansas side of the Missouri River. Pioneers often bought supplies here as they began their overland trek westward.
River Landing now includes pleasant shade trees, winding walks, a boat dock, and park benches affording a fine view of the mighty Missouri River. Railroad tracks running parallel to the river here remind current visitors of the importance of the railroads which replaced riverboat traffic.
Missouri River view
old railroad bridge sitewagon sculpturewinding pathcreek outlet into river
entrance gate sunflower manhole cover railroad engine sculpture old railroad bridge upstream
Carroll Mansion title
Mansion seen from the street The 16 room Carroll Mansion is operated by the Leavenworth County Historical Society. The elaborate Victorian mansion began simply, in 1867, as a smaller, wood-framed farm house. Later, a bank repossessed the farm, and the banker moved his own family into the house, extensively enlarging and "modernizing" it to reflect the Victorian tastes of the early 1880's. The last owners, the Carroll's, raised several children in this elaborate home but did little to change the elaborate interior decor or furnishing. The last surviving daughter willed her home to the county. There is a small fee to tour the home.
Victorian detailingmain staircasefine interior woodworkinterior peacock windowporch corner An historical library in a room of the home allow visitors to browse county history in artifact, photo and written documentary.
Ft. Leavenworth title
Trails marker The cut seen here is part of old Oregon and Santa Fe Trail routes. Ft. Leavenworth was established at this spot to help traders and settlers travel in safety.

Starting in the 1840's
, thousands of early travelers were ferried here. The wagons and teams climbed this hill and headed southwest toward Santa Fe or northwest toward Oregon Territory. This cut resulted from great tramping on the land.

Besides Ft. Leavenworth
, other termini along the Missouri River were at Franklin, Westport, Independence, and St. Joseph.

looking uphill
looking downhill to the river
another view of the cut

uniform markers from the back fronts tell specific stories unknown soldier

The military cemetery at Leavenworth is impressive. Headstones tell their own stories.

See also: Trip to Leavenworth, Feb. '99

Read Topeka Capital-Journal 2002 article about 175th anniversary of the founding of Ft. Leavenworth
Visit Frontier Army Museum

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All photos 2000 by Carol Yoho
Visit Acme-emedia Archive
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