The tradition of celebrating a 60th anniversary came into popularity after Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. The color associated with the 60th anniversary is diamond white. “Diamond” comes from the Greek word “adamas” which means unconquerable and enduring.
The Leavenworth County Historical Society was established 60 years ago in the Centennial year of the founding of the City of Leavenworth, back in 1954. The impetus for the formation of an historical society was the realization that many historically significant buildings and sites were gradually disappearing from the landscape. The thought of forming a historical society in Leavenworth, however, was not a new one.
A 1905 article appeared in The Leavenworth Post, lamenting the razing of the trading post of Major Robert Wilson, built in 1844, out in Salt Creek Valley. It was noted that on June 10, 1854, the first squatters’ meeting in the territory of Kansas was held in that structure.
“There is no county in the state that possesses more historical associations and landmarks. Almost every day there is being obliterated some old landmark or relic that should have been preserved as mementoes of the earliest period in our county’s history. Almost every day some old settler is passing away and taking with him to the grave a fund of valuable reminiscence that could have been preserved for posterity and the future historian.”
Of course, the suggestion was not immediately heeded, for reasons unknown, until the “seed” was again planted by Robert Nebrig, Director of the Leavenworth Parks and Recreation Dept., when in July, 1951, he announced his hope to establish a group of citizens, representing area organizations, who could eventually form a “Greater Leavenworth Historical Society”. He and his department were attempting to gather information listing sites with historical importance in Leavenworth. “We hope that the historical society, if we can establish it, will later see fit to identify historical locations here with markers.”
Three years later, Nebrig’s vision began to materialize when the Kiwanis Club, of which Nebrig was a member, announced their sponsorship of a historic essay contest in order to garner public interest in the organization of a historical society for Leavenworth. Well before the contest deadline, the Leavenworth County Historical Society was organized, on December 6, 1954, in the Municipal Hall Court Room, on the second floor of City Hall. A slate of officers was elected and a constitution adopted. Forty-four members signed on that night and by the end of 1955, charter memberships numbered 115. The roster contained names familiar as contributors to local history: D.R. Anthony III, editor and owner of The Leavenworth Times; Miss Mary Ellen Everhard, photographer; Nettie Hartnett, for whom the school was named; and others representing old Leavenworth families: Baum, Catlin, Collard, Cory, Crancer, Feller, Lange, Tullock, and our own Miss Ella Carroll.
The original statement of purpose of the Society was “to discover and preserve for posterity as much accurate information as possible about Leavenworth City and County, to encourage pride in the achievements of Leavenworth pioneers who made significant contributions to the conquest of the west and the building of a united nation, to stimulate loyalty on the part of present citizens of the community and its potential progress, and to advertise the City and County of Leavenworth in such a way as to create national and international interest in the most significant region of Kansas.”
Nebrig’s dream of marking historical locations was also taking place in Leavenworth County as Society quarterly meetings were held at City Hall. However, it was quickly realized that in order to “discover and preserve” it naturally follows that a place is needed to store collected information and artifacts. It became the primary focus of the Society, early on, to seek a proper location for a museum. Members searched, in earnest over the next several years. The public library, then located at the Carnegie, offered use of their auditorium on the second floor as well as a small workroom and limited space for displays and storage of Society gifts and property. The offer was accepted and the Society held quarterly meetings there, until it was decided to expand the gatherings by including dinner, usually at the new Cody Hotel.
In 1959 the Society was invited to set up displays of rooms typical of the first fifty years of pioneer life in Leavenworth, within the expanded Fort Leavenworth Museum. Five rooms were assembled in the west section of Andrews Hall and included a country store, a bedroom, kitchen, school room, and a parlor. Committees, made up of representatives from various service organizations in Leavenworth, under the direction of the Society, furnished the rooms. This venture proved to be very popular and continued for five years, until Ella Carroll announced, on June 16, 1964, the munificent gift of her 16-room Victorian home to the Society for use as a museum.
Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014 marks the actual 60th anniversary date of the Leavenworth County Historical Society. The membership and invited dignitaries will mark this signifcant milestone with a reception at the museum, on December 6th, from 5 to 7pm, at which time a Proclamation will be read from Mayor Priesinger, proclaiming the date as Leavenworth County Historical Society Day. The Society also marked their 50th year of their ownership of the Edward Carroll House, earlier this year. The house is listed on the National and State of Kansas Historic Registry.
The public is encouraged to share memories and memorabilia of Leavenworth County people and places with the Society, who continues to discover, collect, preserve, and share the rich history of our community. An invitation is also extended to visit the Carroll Mansion Museum which, in itself, is a noteworthy piece of Leavenworth history, set in a Victorian atmosphere at 1128 Fifth Avenue. Hours are 10:30am to 4:30pm Tuesday through Saturday and closed major holidays and during inclement weather. For the Christmas holidays, the museum will be closed from December 21, to reopen on January Tuesday, January 6, 2015. Membership in the Society is open to the public. Phone: 682-7759, email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Web: http://www.leavenworthhistory.org.