Monthly Archives: March 2015

Legend of the Dog: A Dog’s Tale  


On the front lawn of the museum stands an iron, oversize mascot by the name of “Storm”. For a good number of years now, a story about this dog has circulated and has consequently become a local legend. What follows, however, is the result of intensive research through the LCHS files and personal interviews.

“Storm” actually began his work on the front lawn of a house that stood just north of the museum at the corner around 1865. The home located there was owned by Henry C. Keller, a son of George Keller, one of the founders of Leavenworth, who built the first hotel in town.

In 1967, more than a century later, Helen Yoakum, early museum volunteer and Society charter member, described the beloved mascot of the museum as “the iron dog, which installed at least 100 years ago on the southwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Marshall, served as a ferocious, yet kindly, guardian of the house during the residence there of the Keller and Cranston families . . . . the last owner, Eugene Burt, presented the dog to the historical museum where it proudly rules over a new domain.” The provenance indicated that the dog statue was ordered from New York to honor the dog that saved the lives of the two small Keller sisters in some sort of runaway horse and buggy accident. So, here on the museum lawn, the dog has stood since that time.

One will immediately notice that the dog has no tail. Back in 1965, it was said that the dog had lost it to pranksters one Halloween night many years prior. The tail was later found and re-attached, only to be lost yet again. When the house on 5th Avenue opened here as a museum, the statue graced the front lawn, with the tail attached, but as one might guess, it was soon discovered to be missing, once again. Attacks on the dog only worsened.

Not a decade had passed before vandals knocked the head of the dog off in late January 1975. With a monetary donation from a Keller descendant, Woodrow Odell, Tim Theel, and Carl Theel then executed an exact replica of the old iron dog, re-cast in Leavenworth and re-installed on the front lawn of the museum.

Along about 1983 a long-time resident of Leavenworth recalled her delight in driving down Fifth Avenue to catch a glimpse of the over-sized iron replica of the dog, and decided to write a story about it, interwoven with Leavenworth history, for a creative writing course in children’s literature.   After talking with museum personnel she began weaving the legend as she typed on an old electric typewriter she had used in college. Then, in February, 1990, while taking a three-day workshop on storytelling at the library, she again used the story and entitled it “Storm”.

With a desire to convey to children and new arrivals in Leavenworth the essential role of the Carroll Mansion Museum in preserving history, Donna Last, the author, also wanted to create an understanding that pets were loving, loyal and protective. She knew that people would drive down Fifth Avenue, just to see the dog, as she had done over the years.   Only a few months later, an article in the Leavenworth Times, actually submitted by museum officials, related the saga of the dog, merging a combination of descriptions from Helen Yoakum with Donna’s treatise.

The new account of the origin of the dog described the Keller family returning to their home at 409 Olive from a full day of shopping downtown. Packages filled a surrey drawn by a team of horses. Leaving “Rachel” Keller, a small girl at the time, in the surrey, the family carried groceries into the home. As the tale continued, the horses became frightened by the sight of a snake. When the dog saw the horses charging down the road, he ran ahead of the wagon and thereby stopped the horses by throwing himself in front of the team. He was instantly killed but had saved the child’s life. In his honor, the family had the iron dog made as a memorial to show their gratitude.

A few details of Last’s “dog tale” that has been perpetuated down through the years are not historically accurate. The Keller family did not live at 409 Olive (that was a different Henry Keller) nor did the 5th Avenue Kellers have a daughter named “Rachel”. And, a date of an 1892 accident is too late, given the fact that the Keller girls were mature women by then.

With clues provided by Ms. Yoakum, one can confirm the presence of both the Keller and Cranston families at Fifth Avenue and Marshall, then known as 308 Fifth Avenue. The Henry C. Kellers resided at that address for over thirty years followed by the Joseph Cranston family and descendants for over fifty years, based on information found in Leavenworth City Directories and Federal census lists. The Kellers and Cranstons saw the Carroll Mansion house occupied by the Fosters, the Taylors, the Scotts and finally the Carrolls.

As early as 1860, Mr. and Mrs. George Keller, with sons, Henry C. Keller and Alfred B. and one servant resided in Leavenworth. George Keller was actually one of the founders of the town of Leavenworth in the spring of 1854. He built the Leavenworth Hotel, then the Mansion House at the corner of Fifth and Shawnee streets. Early on, he sold both. It was his granddaughter, Cora Leavenworth Kyle, who was the first born female child in Leavenworth, on December 6, 1854. When George retired in 1866, he farmed land he owned in Springdale, west of Leavenworth.

In the 1870 Federal Census, George’s son, Henry C. Keller was enumerated, being a Deputy District Clerk and married to Julia M. Marshall. Their daughters were Lena M. and Bessie. Julia’s mother also made her home with them and they were then neighbors of the Fosters! In 1880 their neighbors were the Taylors and in 1885, the Scotts, followed by the Carrolls in 1895.

By 1900, new residents of 308 Fifth Avenue became Joseph and Sadie Cranston and children William A., Edith, and Joseph A. Their young servant was Lena Somers. The dog was still standing in the yard and “came with the house.” The Cranston children soon adopted the dog as a member of the family. With their friends, they often played on the lawn and jumped on the back of their “pet” for a pretend ride.

Joseph Cranston was the chief of police and also the proprietor of the Old National Livery and Feed Stables at 320-22 Cherokee. The Edward Carroll residence up the street then included Edward and his second wife, Mary J., and children Frank, Edward Jr., Ella, Mary and Lucian. They had two servants. The Cranstons remained at 308 Fifth Avenue through the 1920 and 1930 census until 1959. In 1930 only Ella and her sister Mary Agnes resided at 334 Fifth Avenue.

Vincent T. and Ida M. Ingersoll resided at 308 Fifth Avenue from 1960 to 1969. The house then stood vacant for a few years before it became the property of Cushing Memorial Hospital.

Helen Yoakum added that “Mrs. Cordelia Wallace Story of Chillicothe, Ohio, granddaughter of the first owner, was a generous patron of the Leavenworth Museum.” Imagine, maintaining a family tie to the museum on Fifth Avenue that has spanned a century of time.

Over the years, efforts have been made to determine an actual history of the dog statue. Cordelia Story, society member, had corresponded with museum personnel and spoke of scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings about the family, but never offered a family version of the story. A granddaughter of Mrs. Story, herself an avid genealogy researcher, could not clarify any family history nor legends concerning the dog.

Stories about the dog have appeared often in more recent local news articles, over the years. Once, a couple, who had moved to Leavenworth from Monroe, Michigan, were flabbergasted when they saw the dog on the museum lawn, recalling that Monroe County Community College had the same statue. More shocking to them, however, was that there were several other dogs of the same design in Leavenworth! Actually, when Theel Manufacturing recast the dog back in 1975, several were made and sold.

Queries have been received at the museum about the sighting of this same dog statue throughout the United States, to include a near twin in the Paul Newman movie, “Slapshot” which was filmed in a small Pennsylvania town. Often, a similar piece of folklore went along with the statue and usually was an event where a dog saved someone’s life or the lives of residents of an entire town.   Recently, the drawing pictured here was discovered in an old Zinc Animals illustrated catalog, manufactured by J.W. Fiske Iron Works in New York. They weren’t the only manufacturers of this style of dog though. J. L. Mott of New York called their dog the “Firehouse Dog”, of an identical design.

Finally, in the late winter of 2012, descendants of Henry C. Keller visited the museum and related a family story of a dog saving a child in a runaway horse and buggy accident. Details were not known, since it was told by the grandfather to a child sitting on his knee during his growing up years, but it gives credence to the lore, long passed down through the years, that indeed, the statue was purchased as a memorial to a dog who gave its life in the protection of the family. The earlier mentioned Last story therefore is correct in its basic premise of the dog’s actions.

The Keller residence at 308 Fifth Avenue no longer exists and the location is now part of the parking lot for Cushing Memorial Hospital. But, the replica of the dog figure on the front lawn of the museum still stands as a lasting symbol of a romantic past of the Keller and Cranston families of Leavenworth and will continue to stand guard, despite the absence of its tail!


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