Best Kept Secret in SEK
by Crystal Harper

Cherryvale, whose name rings of peace and tranquility, was so named by the railroads because of the prolific growth of wild cherry trees growing in the area. The town's history is rich, not only in the beauty of the natural resources surrounding it, but in the charm it holds of the past.

Located on the  Osage Mission-Independence Trail in what is now known as The Little Ozarks, Cherryvale sits amid softly rolling hills, flowering meadows and golden wheat fields. Among the many varieties of trees and bushes that dot the landscape are wild cherry, oak, maple, sycamore, Osage orange trees, red bud, blackberry and sumac bushes. The abundance of wooded areas and the lakes and the rivers and many streams in the area makes it ideal for a large variety of wildlife, including deer, bobcat, coyote, and the smaller animals such as rabbit, skunk and ground hogs. 

In the later half of the 1800s, this area was still occupied by the American Indians, who were gradually being pushed further to the west, as young men, coming back from the terror of the Civil War, became anxious to establish new homes. Competition arose as the settlers and the railroads vied for land in the three-mile strip of Osage ceded land along the east side of what is now Montgomery County. The first white man to purchase land and settle here was Mr. Abe Eaton, who later sold it to the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas Railroad which later became the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railway. The town site was plotted by this railroad in May 1871.

History of Cherryvale shows that the first building built in thereon was the Union Hotel at 102 South Depot Street. Cherryvale's first school, built in 1872, was a two-story frame building near Fourth and Carson Streets. Miss Mary Greenfield was the teacher. Ten years later, a four-room brick structure was erected on this site.

Cherryvale would experience growing pains in those early years, especially in 1873 when a disastrous fire destroyed much of the wooden-frame downtown area surrounding the L.L.&G railroad. The fire was flamed without the aid of any fire protection or water resources. Local residents had to watch as the town burned in January's freezing weather. But the entrepreneurial tenacity of several local merchants rebuilt Cherryvale, this time with bricks and mortar. In 1888, the first fire protection was established with a hose reel and a hand reel housed on a lot at 117 South Galveston Street.

In May 1880, the town was incorporated in Kansas. At that time railroads were one of the major influences in Cherryvale. The thrill and romance that accompanied the advent of the railroad, and the discovery of an abundance of oil and natural gas reserves has left the town with a history that few towns can compare with.

The railroad boom began in 1879, when the St. Louis-San Francisco "Frisco" Railway reached Cherryvale, crossing the already built Atchison-Topeka & Santa Fe Railway. By 1886, there were railroads branching in many different directions. The Frisco and the Santa Fe railroads both built big beautiful depots in Cherryvale. The Frisco depot was dismantled after a fire. The Dick Webb family took possession of the Santa Fe Depot in 1992 when they purchased the rail line. The Heart of the Heartlands, railroad enthusiasts, restored it back to the elegant grandeur of its original 1910 status. Today there are many freight trains running through the town and many hope that someday, regularly scheduled passenger cars will again travel through Cherryvale along with the present excursion trains operated and sponsored by the Heartland group and the Webb family's SK&O Railroad.

Many enterprises contributed to Cherryvale's prosperity, but none, with the exception of its location and discovery of oil and gas, could surpass the famous Edgar Zinc Company built northwest of town in 1898. The zinc smelter was the industry around which the town built is fondest dreams. Mr. Edgar selected 40-acres on the Frisco Railroad tracks for his plant. It was the largest zinc plant in the world employing 458 workers. For 8 years the plant maintained a day and night operation. The zinc company built fifty cottages and a boarding house south of the plant, plus a general store, Baptist church, and hospital. They also built a company store on Cherryvale's Main Street. With its up-to-date cottages, broad streets and lawns, the area south of the smelter became known as "Smelter Town." These cottages were later purchased after the plant closed and moved to different locations within the city. Many can be spotted today by their distinctive architecture.

Another  first business of major importance was the flour mill established in 1873 by a man named Dodd. In 1902, the Sauer-Stephens Milling Co purchased it. The city's first natural gas well was drilled at Fourth and Labette Streets in 1887. By the turn-of-the-century, more than 30 gas wells were producing inside the city limits. The town soon caught the attention of capitalists back east.

With this discovery of the abundance of oil and natural gas reserves to supply an inexpensive source of fuel, brick factories began opening, eventually causing Cherryvale to emerge as a leader in the brick industry. By 1908, from these shale mounds, six plants were producing the world's best bricks estimated at 500,000 bricks per day: the Coffeyville Vitrified Brick and Tile Company, the Cherryvale Brick Company, the Southwestern Brick Company, the Federal Betterment Company, Union Brick and Gas Company, and the W.H. Crowl Brick and Tile Company. The most sought after Cherryvale bricks today, Don't Spit On the Sidewalk, was a project of a Topeka doctor to help stamp out tuberculosis. These special bricks were manufactured by the Coffeyville Vitrified Brick and Tile Company located south of Cherryvale's city limits in Corbin City. The Corbin City brick plant was considered the Nation's leader in brick manufacturing. According to an article in the Cherryvale Republican of 1910, local residents were miffed that the bricks placed in miles of sidewalks and roads across the Midwest did not carry Cherryvale's name. With the passing of the smelter boom and the new competition of cement, the brick plants closed in 1930.

Eagle Mfg, located at the east end of Main Street where the Cherry Bowl Lanes & Grill is now, opened in 1910 and manufactured raincoats and work shirts. It was the beginning of an industry that was Cherryvale's second leading enterprise. In 1943, Reliance Clothing took over to make khaki pants for the US Army and at its peak employed 285 people. Reliance sold to H. D. Lee Corporation, who manufactured men's work pants. The H. D. Lee Corporation was relocated several blocks west along the Santa Fe railroad tracks just north of Main Street.

By 1901, the town was booming with a glass factory, shovel and barrel factories, a marble works, an iron works, two grain elevators serviced by the railroads, and a bicycle factory. The cigar factory, Cahters & Stahl who pioneered political campaigns on cigars, was built in 1888 at 103 1/2 East Main Street. The firm would produce 17,000 cigars each month and now is one of the best known cigar firms in the Midwest. In 1896, Robert H. Cloughley, a railroader, built the first steam driven automobile west of the Mississippi. The engine was similar to a railroad steam engine. The streamer auto company after about one year due to lack of financial backing..

Deregulation of the railroads during the 1970s created large scale abandonment of tracks and rail service, hurting a town already suffering from the shutdown of its major industries. But that endowing pioneer spirit held by the strong men and women influencing Cherryvale from its beginnings still existed and they kept their town alive and vibrant.

Investors, recognizing their potential in town, opened Vallis Wingroff, an international printing company in 1964. One of the town's most affluent families opened Gragg Cabinets & Fixture Shop in the late 1960s and later in 1969, opened Charloma Fiberglass Company, manufacturers of fiberglass bathtubs, showers, and a one-piece shower stall. In 1997, the only remaining Cherryvale hotel out of 19 that existed during the turn-of-the-century, was discovered and purchased by two preservationists and railroad historians from California. They are in the process of restoring the beautiful 1912 brick building into a Railroad Bed & Breakfast Inn and Museum. With their encouragement, insight, and expertise, the City of Cherryvale and surrounding area have become more actively involved with historic preservation. The Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast restoration project may be that new dawn on the horizon this little southeast Kansas town has been long awaiting.

Cherryvale can boast of having quite a number of famous people who were born and/or grew up there, including Vivian Vance who became famous playing Ethel Mertz in the I Love Lucy TV show. Louise Brooks, a silent film star, Raymond Wheaton, one of the original Ink Spots music group, Frank Bellamy, author of the Pledge of Allegiance, and Thurlow Lieurance, famous for translating Indian chants and liturgies into contemporary orchestra works are a few of these celebrities. The infamous Bender Family committed their murdering atrocities northeast of town. Theodore Roosevelt spoke at Cherryvale's famous Logan Community Park. Senator Warren Harding, who became the U.S. President from 1921 to 1923, spoke at Logan Park while on a Chautauqua Series in 1898. Charles Curtis, U.S. Vice President during the Herbert Hoover administration, also spoke at Logan Community Park while still a U.S. Senator from Kansas. John Phillips Sousa, the March King, presented a rousing parade down Cherryvale's Main Street in 1911. Charles Lindbergh, while flying his famous Spirit of St. Louis across this country from San Diego to St. Louis, lost his whereabouts and used the configuration of railroad tracks that crossed Cherryvale as a beacon to get back on course. At that time,  radar had not yet been invented and aviation maps were unavailable. He was 50-miles off course due to strong tail wind during the night.

The Pearson-Skubitz Big Hill Lake and Park, 5-miles east of Cherryvale, is busy year around as people, attracted from all over the United States, gather to enjoy hunting, fishing, camping, boating, swimming and other recreational activities. It's a wonderful place for family get-togethers and reunions. Many consider Big Hill Lake one to the clearest freshwater lakes in Kansas and possibly another "best kept secret in southeast Kansas."

Today, farming and ranching effectively utilize the abundant native grasses and fertile bottom lands surrounding the town. In Cherryvale one can have the best of two worlds. There are many fine churches, good schools, medical facilities, and pleasant small businesses. There is a good library, post office, and supermarket, but above all, a safe environment to raise a family. Yes, the town has experienced some drastic changes in the past, but there still exists that spirit of patriotism and success in most of its citizens, who not only envision the town as a great site for business and manufacturing, but for tourism as well. Come and enjoy "The Best Kept Secret in SEK" (South East Kansas).

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Historic Points of Interest
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1869 Fairview Cemetery
Northeast of town on Olive Street.  P.C. Bowen set aside 10-acres of his farm for a cemetery. The exact date is uncertain, however, the oldest marked grave is dated 1869.  Cherryvale's three cemeteries and two rural cemeteries abound with local history and genealogy information.

1870 Santa Fe Lake Tanko, Road's end at South Galveston Street.  Built to draw fresh water for the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railway and later the Santa Fe's steam locomotives, this 45-acre lake was deeded by the Atchison Topeka Santa Fe Railway to the city as a New Years gift in 1954. By special agreement, it also supplied water for early Cherryvale, water not exactly suited for drinking, but fire protection and similar purposes. Since most citizens depended on private cisterns at this time, only the more reckless people used this water. When the Santa Fe discontinued its use, the lake found no practical use. On April 1, 1957, fishing opened at the lake and since then it has been a favorite fishing spot for local residents. It is now part of the Cherryvale Recreation Commission with three baseball fields, tennis and basketball courts, a picnic area, fishing berms, and sometimes an ideal skating place.

1881 Logan Memorial Veteran's Park, 326 South Liberty.  This memorial park has served Cherryvale since 1881 when the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad offered the six-acre tract to the city. The park is named after General John A. Logan, first Commander-In-Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic,  1868 to 1871. In 1895, the first Civil War Old Solders' Southern Kansas Reunion was celebrated there. They leased the park for a two-week period each year for 99 years.

 This reunion was replaced in the mid-1950s with the area's Annual Youth 4-H Fair held in June. Cherryvale's Memorial War Monument fronts old State Highway 169 (Liberty Avenue). The park is the center of community activities with public swimming pool, tennis courts, high school football field and track, playground, and picnic facilities. The Annual Cherry Blossom Festival in May is held in this community park. City Hall, 620 336-2776.

1882 Cherryvale Downtown Business District, 100 block on East and West Main Street.  Since Cherryvale had six brick factories, most of the streets, sidewalks, and downtown buildings were constructed from these bricks. 1882 saw the advent of sun-dried brick streets. The wood planked sidewalks were replaced in 1898 with kiln bricks from the Corbin plant and later, in the early 1900s, the brick sidewalks were widened to sixteen feet. Late 1800s saw the multiple use of gas throughout Cherryvale as a result of its immense underground natural gas fields and its use as a clean cheap fuel.

The downtown streets were electrified in 1888. Water came to the downtown area in 1899 from Lake Tanko and in 1904 the first sewers were put into service. In 1899, a local and long distance telephone system was installed. Today, the remaining buildings of downtown Cherryvale remain the same as built at the turn-of-the-century. To contact the Cherryvale Chamber of Commerce, please telephone 620 336-2105.

Circa 1888 St. Francis Xavier Cemetery,  Located west of town on County Road 5300 This four acre plot is enclosed by a Victorian iron fence with a central impressive sculpture of the Crucifixion. One is impressed by its quiet peacefulness. The oldest dated gravestone is dated July 26, 1888.

1888 Mt. Zion Community Church, Located northeast of town at 20052 Chase Road. This nondenominational restored historical country church is located adjacent to Big Hill Lake. Built for the Mt. Zion community and the Osage Indians settled along Big Hill Creek, this Methodist Episcopal church was forced to close in 1963. The church stood vacant for two decades with years of emptiness taking its toll on the building and the grounds. Local citizens restored the church in 1982. A ceiling fixture from the demolished Cherryvale Frisco Depot now lights the church interior. Sunday services are held weekly at 8-9am, allowing those who attend elsewhere to join their own churches. Weddings and funerals are still held at this historic church. The church was recognized as a Kansas Historical Site in July of 1979.

1898 Frank Bellamy Home, 916 East 7th Street, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB OCCUPANTS.  As a student in Cherryvale Central High School, Frank Bellamy brought the Pledge of Allegiance into national focus as a winner in a 1892 national student contest. The pledge was first officially used in a national celebration coinciding with the opening of the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. A veteran of the Spanish-American War, he is buried in Cherryvale's Fairview Cemetery.

1900 Municipal Waterworks, 5772 County Road 4800.  In 1900, a 50-acre lake was constructed on a 150-acre site south east of town for a municipal waterworks. Eleven years later the city switched its source to the Verdigris River. Today, the Lakeview Country Golf Club & Resort is cradled by the reflective lake.

It is open 7 days a week, with a  9-hole golf course featuring a putting green, driving range and pro shop. Scrambles, tournaments and seasonal leagues can be organized. Golf cart rentals and storage are available. Boat rentals, fishing, swimming, camping, picnicking, hiking, horse rentals, and RV parking is provided around the lake. The Expressions Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, and carry outs. Nightly entertainment and dancing is enjoyed along with a full bar. Golf Resort, 888 522-2582 or 620 336-3020.

1906 Louise Brooks Birthplace, 531 East 7th Street, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB OCCUPANTS.  Born Mary Louise Brooks on November 14, 1906, Louise Brooks was the most erotic silent screen star of her time, if not all time. But a hellcat behind the scenes. She conquered New York, Hollywood and Berlin, burning more bridges behind her than any other actress. Yet in the end, she still carved immortality out of defeat. Her second home in Cherryvale is located at 322 East 2nd Street.

1909 Vivian Vance Birthplace,
309 West 6th Street, PLEASE DO NOT DISTURB OCCUPANTS.  Vivian Vance was born Vivian Roberta Jones on July 26, 1909. She was urged by her dramatics teacher to seek a career in acting.  After a successful career in the theater and movies, she was asked by Desi Arnaz to play Lucille Ball's TV Series neighbor, Ethel Mertz. Television critics agree she was definitely among the most-seen and most-popular personalities on television. West 6th Street was designated as Vivian Vance Lane the summer of 2002.

1910 Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Depot & Park, 123 North Depot Street, DO NOT DISTURB OCCUPANTS.  This distinctive Mission-style AT&SF depot with its covered drive-through entrance portico and a covered outside waiting platform is located 2-blocks south of the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast. It is the only depot of this style left standing on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway's former Southern Kansas Lines.

1912 Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast, 420 North Depot Street. The only local hotel left among the 19 hotels built in Cherryvale's bygone era. This historic hotel, adjacent to the crossing tracks of AT&SF and Frisco railroads and across the road from the site of the old Frisco Depot, provided food and lodging for rail travelers and was vital in housing train crews. The restored AT&SF depot is located just 2-blocks south. A 3-block brick train platform, directly across Depot Street from the hotel, connected the two depots together. The hotel originally contained 32 rooms, a large lounge, a commercial kitchen, and large dining room which was often converted into a ball room, This stately structure is lovingly and thoughtfully being restored to the ambience of its past splendor and railroad history. Phone, 620 336-3350.

1913 Cherryvale Carnegie Library, 329 East Main Street.  Early 1909, the Cherryvale Women's Club set a goal to establish a library with an adjoining room for rural women to rest and visit after their long horse and buggy ride to shop in town. In 1912, a grant from the Carnegie Foundation provided the necessary funds for construction of a permanent building. The handsome, pressed brick building from local Cherryvale brick factories, with Carthage cut stone pillars, a concrete foundation, and oak floors with beamed ceilings was registered on the National Register of Historic Places in August, 1987. The library has extensive files and books on local/state history and a large video collection ranging from children's to educational to do-it-yourself to recent movie releases. There is also an incomplete collection of Cherryvale High School yearbooks. It is open Tuesday to Friday, noon to 6pm, and Saturday, 8am to noon year round. Phone, 620 336-3460.

White Rose Gasoline Station, Corner of East Main and Olive Street.  Possibly the first service station in Cherryvale, it was located on the graveled country main north/south route through town, which is now Olive Street. Later Liberty Street or Highway 169 was constructed as the major north/south alignment through town. The present owner of the property, grandson of the original owner, is considering restoring this site.

1927 Cherryvale Telephone Company Building, 215 East 4th Street.  The dream of Opal Conduitte Evans to establish a city museum became a realty in 1965 when her large and valuable collection of antiques and early Americana were presented to Cherryvale be the nucleus of a museum. This early telephone building was vacant at that time and became the Cherryvale Museum. The prized Martha Washington plate, given to Martha by the Dutch East India Company, is housed in a special security case. The infamous "Bloody Benders" murder hammers and other Bender memorabilia are also displayed. Special exhibits are shown monthly throughout the season. To celebrate Cherryvale's 100th birthday in 1971, a "Time Capsule" was encased outside to be opened during the 200th year celebration in 2071. Admission is free. The museum is open Sunday from 2 to 4:30pm from April to October or by appointment. Phone 620 336-3576 or 336-2786.

You know you're in a small town when the only traffic jams are caused when a farmer drives his combine down Main Street...

1999-2008 Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast.  Web Site created, compiled and maintained by Wayne Hallowell, Director of the Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast

The above information is part of the heritage of Cherryvale, Kansas and the legacy of the historic
Leatherock Hotel Bed & Breakfast
A Railroad Hotel bed & breakfast / Suites and Museum
420 North Depot Street         Cherryvale, KS 67335
Information and Reservations   620 336-3350

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