A Neat Ol' Bridge
Quite awhile back, my dad snapped some pictures of this old bridge. He says he remembers driving across it when he was younger and there were still a few boards left. While dad was out snapping pics, mom sent me a text saying my father was turning into a "shutterbug" (I think she was mentally adding on the part "just like you".) 

 Jeepers, that's high up!

Thank you, Dad!

A Place Lost In History: The Marion County Poor Farm
     In 1887, the Marion County Board of Commissioners bought the W. E. Glover farm for $4,500 in hopes of establishing a "poor farm" on it. They had $10,000 to put towards the buying of property and the building. The three-story limestone building was built in 1888 with help from one of the county's well known stone masons, Fred Scheaffler. It was built of limestone from Florence, KS and it's doors opened to the poor and public in 1890. The site it's on was chosen because it's on higher ground and in the middle of three towns - Marion, Hillsboro, and Peabody.

     In 1893, W.K. Palmer took charge as superintendent and it was said that he did an incredible job; while his wife worked alongside him and cooked for the people living there. It took tact, patience, kindness, and good and sound judgment to keep up the farm and care for the residents. During his time as superintendent, he averaged 12 inmates at a time; six men and six women. Back then the people who stayed there were called "inmates" instead of what we would call them today, residents or clients. It was said that most of the inmates were incompetent to a certain degree would require the same treatment that little children would.
     Each person was given tasks that matched his or her abilities and would be required to complete them. The farm had one hired man that helped the men and together they farmed 160 acres, made improvements around the farm, kept a large garden, raised hogs and cattle, and did their own butchering.

     The women spent their time sewing and mending, cooking, and keeping up the with the housework. The men and women were kept separate and never met other than at meal times and they were all required to wake at a certain hour and complete their duties. Not only did it serve as a place for the poorer people and mentally handicapped, but it also housed unwed pregnant mothers until their babies were born and then adopted.

     Not only were there frequent activities going on around the farm, but there was never a Sunday without the wonderful addition of a church service or special program from the surrounding churchs. Visitors were frequent around the home, as were the Boy and Girl Scouts. Christmas was also a special time, there was always a Santa Claus with a sack of nuts and candy for everyone and Christmas carols. Whenever birthdays were happening, you could be sure to find a giant cake for the special person to share with their fellow residents and friends.
     It was also said that the Marion County Poor Farm was better furnished then half of the private United States families, as they were always receiving the latest in modern improvements and machinery. Not only did the Poor Farm sustain itself without help from the county, but it also made enough to pay $200 annually to the county treasury.

     Art Loewen once told the writer of another article on Cedar Rest this: "I wish you would mention the fact that when TV first came out, the patients of the home all saved their nickels and dimes and chipped in to buy a set for their own enjoyment. That set was still there and in use when we retired in 1958."

While under the management of Mr. and Mrs. Godfrey Beisel, the State Department of Kansas notified the county that the building was going to need major renovations and repair. The residents were moved out and the farm was closed for two years. Then in 1950, the Marion County Commissioners of the Welfare Department moved towards reopening the farm and 120 acres of the land was sold to pay for the renovations. The total for enlarging the building, adding new equipment, and installing an elevator was $34,000.
     The then appointed managers were Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Loewen and then name of the home was then changed to "Marion County Rest Home, Cedar Rest" because of the attractive cedars on the property and also to remove the stigma of a "poor farm" or "poor asylum". Cedar Rest was used until the large fifty-bed Marion County Home was built in Peabody, KS.  

     The old house had a large basement which had a dinning room, kitchen, shower, laundry room, 4 bedroom ward, and furnace room. On the next floor, there was another 4 bedroom ward, several single bedrooms, and a sunroom. The next level's layout was quite similar to that of the second's.

     My Grandpa remembers living a mile away from the poor farm and having an elderly lady come over to their place from the farm and climb to the top of their windmill. She then proceeded to stand on the wooden platform at the top and threaten to jump into the stock-tank to kill herself. The caretaker of the poor farm then came over and thankfully managed to talk her down the windmill and take her back to the farm.

     Another story (this one I have no proof of) is that at some point in time, there was a caretaker (or gardener) stealing jewelry and valuables from the residents. An elderly man finally caught onto what was happening and cornered the caretaker on the top of a balcony one day. The elderly man with the wheelchair ended up pushing the thief over the edge of the balcony and down to his demise. Thus their problem was no more.

This picture of Cedar Rest was taken in 1908.

     In November 1964, after the residents had all been moved to the Peabody nursing home, the home and property was sold at auction. Several years later, Art and Virginia Miles bought Cedar Rest and remodeled the first floor into a restaurant called "Cedar Villa", it opened in 1968 and operated several years before being closed. During the remodeling period, several walls were knocked out and an area for diners, two bathrooms, and a new furnace were put in.

     The building then sat empty for several more years until Rev. Bill Cowel, Pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Marion, KS, bought it with the hope of turning it into a youth center for girls. Volunteers put a new roof of asphalt shingles over the original wood ones, but that was as far as the remodeling went. That dream of a girl's center was never completed.


     The pastor then sold the home to Nancy Marr and her husband, she's said that when they first bought it, it was falling to pieces; doors and windows were broken and everything was dilapidated. Thankfully, Marr's husband was handy and had several friends to help with the cleaning up. Remodeling included sandblasting the stone walls and installing new plumbing and wiring on the first floor and basement. The ceilings, doors, and windows were also replaced on the second floor and beds were added to the second floor bedrooms. 
     At first, the home was used as a weekend get-away from their lives in Wichita. But then in 1974, their family spent their first winter in the home. "It was real funny," Marr said, "like going back 100 years ago. It doesn't have many closets, because people didn't have possessions back then."

     In 1978, Marr and her husband divorced and she became the sole owner of the former poor farm. Today, you can still drive by and see the giant limestone structure sitting back in the trees. Although it once held it's own thriving little world, it now sits, quiet and lonesome. Just waiting.

A Place Lost In History: Chingawassa Springs 
     I was recently given a whole bunch of papers on the history of Rainbow Lake and the nearby Chingawassa Springs. In those pages I found some fascinating history and info that I wanted to share!

     Now, some of you might be wondering what Chingawassa Springs is. It's a group of mineral springs  located around four miles northeast of Marion, KS. The springs got their name from an Osage Indian Chief named Chingawassa, which means "Handsome Bird" who often camped by the springs with his tribe. Legend has it that Chief Chingawassa was an honest, friendly chief and was killed by a jealous Kaw chief and later buried near the springs by his avenging tribesmen.

      Although this is just a legend and there is no proof that he was murdered by a Kaw and buried there, there is some written history of Chingawassa himself. In Kansas Historical Collections, Vol. XVI (1923-1925), there is a treaty that was signed in St. Louis on June 2 with the name "Chingawassa, Handsome Bird, Great Osage Chief" as one of the signatories. In the same volume of Historical Collections, another treaty signed at Council Grove Aug. 10, 1825 has the name "Shin-gawassa, Handsome Bird, Chief Great Osage."

     In the "History of the Kansa or Kaw Indians" by George Morehouse (also in the Kansas Historical Collection), there is a story of a cunning and tricky chief called Wah-ti-an-ga, who was under the influence of liquor, and decided to follow the Indian agent H.S. Huffaker around one afternoon. It states, "A friend by the name of Ching-gah-was-see (Handsome Bird) did a handsome thing by watching his chance and telling Mr. Huffaker that the drunken chief had made his boast that he would not leave town till he had taken the life of Tah-poo-skah, that being the Indian name for Mr. Huffaker, meaning teacher. Wah-ti-an-ga claimed that it would be a great deed to kill so important a personage. It was fortunate that Handsome Bird informed him, for it is never safe to trust an Indian crazed or foolish with liquor. Ching-gah-was-see was a good Indian and a noted brave, and had the honor of having a spring named for him. The spring is a few miles north of the city of Marion and is noted for its medicinal qualities."

     This is the story behind the name of the springs, now for what happened after this.

     The springs were mentioned in Lt. Zebulon Montgomery Pike's journal he kept of his 1806 - 1807 expedition, but not by the name Chingawassa. Authorities have confirmed that these are indeed the legendary springs, due to the location details. Although the springs were known for many years before 1888, it wasn't until then that people became more interested in them.

     In 1888, the Marion Chingawassa Belt Line was built by Levi Billings. The small railroad started at the Santa Fe Station (now the Public Library) in Marion and ended at Chingawassa Springs. At the springs, Mr. Billings created a large summer hotel and dance hall, which ran from around the first of May through October. Before the hotel, a large depot and "eating house" were erected. At first the visitors would camp in tents, but then the hotel came and change all of that. Walks and rustic bridges were also built for people's enjoyment. A ticket from Marion to the springs was exactly a dime and the train would stop anywhere along the line to pick-up or drop-off passengers.
     During the fall and winter, the train hauled stone out of stone quarries both east and west of Marion, and if a farmer wanted his grain hauled to market, the train would deliver the cars anywhere along the line to be filled. For the handling of each of the cars, the price was only $2.00.
     On the opening day of the railroad, July 4, 1888, the train gave 2500 passengers round trip rides. The cash receipts for that day alone were $500.00 and it was a record never beaten.

     Al Nienstedt reminisced in 1941 about that railroad. He said, "One time in the fall, as the hotel was about to close for the season, the railroad crew went after the hotel crowd at the springs to take them to a show in Marion and then after the show back again to Chingawassa. The engineer overlooked his water supply for steam and as he passed our place stopped to get enough water out of our well, carried to the engine with pails, to go back to Marion.
     The engineer, Frank Wright, says to my sweetheart and future wife, "don't you and Al want to ride with us to the show and back?" To which we both replied we would be happy to go if they would hold the train long enough to make a change of clothes to our glad rags. The reply was that for 50 cents he would wait for both of us to make the change and bring us safely back. I said "It's a deal; here is your 50 cents." I will venture to say that this is the only time in history that a boy and his sweetheart held a passenger train and crew with their consent long enough to make a change of clothes and be taken to a show and back home to their own front yard."

     In 1889, it was noted in the Marion Record that the water was strongly impregnated with Sulphur and other minerals, and possessed healing properties that were tested in successful treatment of rheumatism and kidney diseases. Many sources have said that the water was so clear you could read every line of a newspaper lying at the bottom of the deepest spring, quite easily.

     Sadly, the outfit was a financial failure and in three or four years, torn up and forgotten. In 1893, the terse statement "The Chingawassa Railroad is no more" was recorded in the Marion Record. The cross ties were bought for fence posts, one of the coaches bought for a dentist office, and the other a lunch stand. The hotel was bought and the lumber used to build a barn and other things.

     In the Marion City Library, there are on file, the 160 shares of stock in the railroad purchased by the city of Marion, a season ticket and a round trip ticket to Chingawassa Springs. This is all that remains of the Chingawassa Springs Resort and Railroad, but those springs still bubble up from the depths of the earth.

     On a last note, it is said that if a person will stand, at sunset, above the stones that mark Chingawassa's last resting place and call: "Chingawassa: Chingawassa: what were you murdered for?" He will answer (and if you listen closely, you will hear him) "Nothing at all. Nothing at all."

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