Centennial History of Argentine; Kansas City, KS 1880-1980
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This page: Shawnee Prophet | Whitefeather Spring | Min Rock | Santa Fe Railroad | Simmons Funeral Home | Silver City Record | Captain Kingscott Women's Relief Corps | Ben Hur Masonic Lodge |

Shawnee Prophet

One of the most dynamic and controversial and all but forgotten figures of Nineteenth Century American history is Ten-Squa-TA-WA or the Shawnee Prophet. He and his brother, Chief Tecumseh, are among the most fascinating of the great American Indian leaders. The Prophet spent his final years living near the mouth of the Whitefeather Spring in the present day Argentine at 3818 Ruby.

The Prophet was born in what is now Ohio, sometime around 1768. Around 1805, he became a religious mystic and a prophet among the Shawnee and developed a huge following. The Prophet with his brother Tecumseh tried to united the Indian tribes west of the Allegheny Mountains into a great Confederation of Tribes, to halt the advance of the hated White man. A great Indian capital was built by Tecumseh and his followers and they called it Prophet's Town. This village was near the junction of the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers in Indiana.

At this site on November 6, 1811, the famious Battle of Tippecanoe was fought between the Prophets' Indian forces and the army of General William Henry Harrison. The battle was a draw at best although the latter claimed a great victory. The dreams of a great Indian Confederation were forever ended, however.

The Prophet, later, however, fought on the side of the British in the War of 1812 and received a pension from them. Around 1828, he moved with the Jackson or Fish Band of the Shawnee to their new reservation in Kansas. The Prophet and some of his still loyal followers settled in the hills south of present day Argentine. This village was named Prophet's Town as was the usual custom wherever he resided and soon became the main Shawnee Indian village. This site was located somewhere east of the Junction Grade School Building and south of the Maple Hill cemetery. (N.E. 1/4 of the S.W.1/4 of Section 32, Township 11, Range 25 in Shawnee Township.)

The Prophet, though by then aging and becoming somewhat of a recluse was still a Shawnee of major importance. Sometime after 1830 or 1831, he and a few loyal followers left the main village and moved about a mile north to the mouth of Whitefeather Spring on what is now Mr. Jack Beemont's property. Here he established what was to be the last of the Prophet Towns. There he died in November of 1836, and was buried near the mouth of the Whitefeather Spring.

Submitted by Edwin D. Shutt II

Whitefeather Spring

The Shawnee Prophet's death on November of 1836 ended one of the most fabled sagas of American history. He was buried only a few feet from his cabin near the mouth of the Whitefeather Spring. The grave site and the spring's mouth are located on the property of Mr. Jack Beemont at 3818 Ruby Avenue. He has made a great effort to preserve the spring and recently saw it placed on the National and the Kansas Register of Historic Sites. It was entered on the National Register of Historic Places on August 27, 1975 and a large bronze plaque has been erected.

Mr. Beemon's grandfather, William Henry Harrison Tanner, married Alice Jane Cummings and moved to Argentine around 1892. They built the home still standing at 3818 Ruby Aveneu and this is where Jack Beemont lives today. [1980] The house is approximately 170-190 feet east, southeast of the grave site. Mrs. Alice Cummings Tanner was present in 1897 when Charles Bluejacket returned and located the grave. She was also present in 1921 when E. F. Heisler of the Kansas City Sun newspaper and the Wyandotte County Historical Society erected an approximate temporary marker in 1921.

The Whitefeather Spring was long a favorite swimming and watering hole of the Argentine community. It surfaces on the Beemont property and flows above ground for three blocks before entering a storm sewer at 39th and Strong Avenue. Mistakenly referred to sometimes as the Prophet, Chief Whitefeather or Jack Whitefeather Spring, it was actually named after the Shawnee Indian Susan Whitefeather. The government granted her the land upon which the spring has its origins.

The Whitefeather Spring is perhaps the most historical landmark of the Argentine and Turner communities. The spring has been flowing for at least several hundred years and serves as a timeless marker of an approximate grave site and the last Prophet's Town. In the Prophet's cabin above the spring, a painting was made of him by the American artist George Catlin in 1832. This painting hangs in the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

Submitted by Edwin D. Shutt II

Min Rock

Chief Bigknife, a Shawnee Indian, through a treaty with the United States Government, was granted 388 acres of ground along the south banks of the Kaw. It included an artesian spring located at 1007 Metropolitan, which was later discovered to include a number of important minerals conducive to good health. Chief Bigknife's home, a two-room house over 100 years ago, still stands at 1027 Metropolitan Avenue.

Local lore has it that a certain Mr. Tucker became ill while traveling through the area. He drank the mineral water from the spring and shortly thereafter, became well. Tucker began selling and hauling the water by horse and buggy. At one time, this area was known as Tucker Town, and the spring was called Tucker Mineral Springs.

The property changed hands several times and eventually became the property of T.P. Knippenberg in 1916. He developed it, starting with 12 customers and 150 business establishments. In 1922, he gave the water the name Min-Rock and the spring the name East End Mineral Spring. Mr. Knippenberg died and the spring water went off the market. In 1946, the spring became the property of Mr. and Mrs. Wesley Hughes, who put the water back on the market in May of 1959. Mr. Hughes was an engineer for the Santa Fe. The Hughes' home is at 1015 Metropolitan Ave.

The name Min Rock is copyrighted with the state of Kansas. The water contains about 10 different minerals. It comes through the rocks from the hills to the south and from a radius of about 10 miles. It is estimated that the spring will run 75,000 gallons of water in a 24 hour period. It maintains a temperature of 53 degrees.

Condensed from an article in the Silver City Record of May 8, 1959.

Santa Fe Railroad

Many communities in America owed their origins and continued existences to the expansion of the railroads. The Argentine community is no exception. In 1875, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad came to the bottom lands of the Kaw between the present day communities of Turner and Argentine.

On 128 acres of ground, they established terminal facilities, transfer sheds, round houses, machine shops, repair shops and a coaling depot.

The Santa Fe Railroad also completed an enormous ice house in the early days. This ice house, one of the largest and the most modern in the entire Santa Fe system, was filled with ice from lakes in the northern part of thee country. It was 36 feet by 208 feet and had a capacity of 3,000 tons.

By 1890, the Santa Fe had 27.46 miles of tracks in the Argentine yards. The value of its property was approximately $9,000,000 and it had a payroll of nearly 500 workers. A small village quickly grew up by the railroad yards. It was this location that W. N. Ewing came upon in his search for a smelter site. The immense transfer yards of the railroad convinced him that this was the proper location. The smelter was thus built near the railroad tracks. The establishment of a smelter colony led to the need for the plotting of a town and in 1881 the town of Argentine was founded.

Today the Santa Fe Railroad's giant freight handling facility at Argentine is the hub of the 13,000 mile transcontinental freight service. As early as 1920, at least 6,000 freight cars and more than 500 passenger cars pm 144 trains passed through Argentine daily. Approximately 3,100 employees received an average monthly payroll of $240,000. The 6,500,000 bushel capacity grain elevator in the Argentine yards was at that time the largest west of Chicago and the second largest in the country.

The Pennsylvania Car Company of Sharon, Pennsylvania maintained a plant here. Freight cars were built, rebuilt and repaired. There was a construction capacity of ten to twelve new cars daily.

Today, an average of 6,200 cars are handled through the Argentine yards. The total working trackage can accommodate nearly 15,000 cars. Connections are made in Argentine by the Sant Fe with twelve other railroads.

In an average year, it has been estimated that enough oranges pass through Argentine by rail to provide each resident of the country with about six each. Enough potatoes pass through to provide 100 pounds for every citizen of the metropolitan Chicago area. Enough piggyback trailers and containers pass through the yards that, if placed bumper to bumper, they would extend over more than 1,200 miles of highway.

In July of 1967, the need for greater speed and reliablility led to the construction fo a new $2,000,000 freight classification yard completed in 1969 and in full operation by the spring of 1970. Computers are used in this setup. From the time a train bound for the Argentine yard leaves its place of origin, constantly updated information on destination, customer, weight loads and otehr basis of the data received, decides whether the car is to go in the Argentine yard and on what train.

The entire Argentine yard, including the new freight classification yard, extends for over nine miles along the Kansas River. The yards vary in length from 180 feet to 6,440 feet. Physically, the new facilities include a forty-eight classification yard holding 7,736 cars; a ten-track receiving yard holding 1,208 cars; a nine-track departure yard holding 804 cars; and an eleven-track transfer yard capable of holding 762 cars.

The Argentine yard is one of only three terminal points on the Santa Fe Railroad that is equipped for the major servicing of diesel locomotives. These repair yards were constructed in 1954. In 1960, improvements were made on these facilities. A further enloargement was made in 1967 and 1968. Additional expansion of the diesel maintenance facilities is planned to meet growing needs of the railroad.

In 1961, a modern terminal office building and freight office was constructed on the North side of the yards. This structure consolidated into one unit offices for the local agent, the division superintendent, communications and freight house facilites. This three-story building also houses the offices of the Santa Fe Trail Transportation Company, a trucking facility whose freight handling operations are co-ordinated with the Santa Fe's rail freight facilities.

Om 1907, a depot was build in Argentine. This depot was located north of Strong Avenue on 26th Street. This two-story building was used for both passenger and freight trains. At one time eleven employees worked at this depot. This station, however, became obsolete after the construction of the new freight house at 42nd and Kansas Avenue in 1961. After the retirement of Luther C. Prather, the station master who had spent his entire career in Argentine, the depot was closed.

For over 100 years, the Santa Fe Railroad has employed generations of Argentians and played a vital role in the growth of Argentine and Kansas City, Kansas area. It has always been one of the largest employers in the city. As of February, 1974, the payroll of the Argentine yard was comprised of approximately 2,000 people.

Submitted by Edwin D. Shutt II

Simmons Funeral Home

George W. Simmons and his brother Geddes started a livery stable at 2113 Silver Avenue in February 1882. It wasn't too long before George expanded his livery stable to include an undertaking establishment.

When he was asked to account for his change to the undertaking business, he would explain it this way: "Well, I was practically forced into it. A man by the name of Charles Dolly died. He lived a short distance from my livery stable. Members of the family asked me to drive to Kansas City, Missouri to get a coffin. I preserved the body in ice until arrangements could be made for the burial in Argentine Cemetery. That was the first man I buried."

A precedent was set and soon after another death occurred. Again he was called to assist in the burial since there weren't any facilities for embalming and he was the only man in town who owned a spring wagon. The constant demands for the use of his rigs to carry the body to the cemetery made him decide to purchase a stock of caskets and to enter the undertaking business officially. George learned embalming procedures in 1887 from Professor F. A. Sullivan who had embalmed the body of Ulysses S. Grant.

George formed a partnership with his son G. Gilbert (Gib) around 1895. In April, 1935, they purchased Dr. Clopper's 20 room clinic-hospital from Dr. K.C. Haas. The clinic-hospital was erected in 1925 by Dr. Clopper, a physician in the Argentine district and a former mayor of the town.

Dr. Clopper experienced difficulties in operating the clinic as a hospital because the state of Kansas required that to run a hospital you had to have a staff of so many interns and nurses and Dr. Clopper was just too hard headed to go along with that. He had to mortgage his home to build the clinic-hospital and when he had trouble keeping the clinic open, the Exchange State Bank had to foreclose on the mortgage. Upon Dr. Clopper's death, Dr. K.C. Haas, a fellow Argentine physician, acquired the hospital as an investment only.

Mr. Simmons originally tried to acquire Dr. Clopper's residence at 33rd and Metropolitan but was unable to do so because the neighbors objected to having the location rezoned for business. Dr. Haas approached Mr. Simmons regarding the clinic-hospital since it was already zoned for business. Drs. Eldon Miller, Robt. Lee, Maurice Walker, physicians, and Dr. C. J. Brown, a dentist, had offices for a short time in the building.

The interior of the $40,000.00 building was considerably redesigned in converting it to a mortuary. Office, reception room, living quarters and work rooms were provided. Gib and his wife Carrie and their daughter Marjorie moved into the new living quarters in 1936.

Howard H. Simmons joined his father and grandfather in the late 1920's. Marjorie was associated with the firm for many years during the early 1940's. A great-grandson, Donald H. Simmons, joined the firm in 1958. His son, Gary H., representing the fifth generation, is also a part of the firm. Howard's wife, Anna E. Simmons, who has been associated witht the firm since the late 1940's, completes the family roster.

The funeral home is the oldest firm in the greater Kansas City area that is owned and operated by the same original firm and is just two years away from its own centennial.

Silver City Record

One newspaper, founded in 1887, is still in existence in Argentine. This is the Argentine Republic which is now called the Silver City Record. It has also been called the Kansas City Advertiser and the Wyandotte County Record. Joseph Landrey was the founder of the paper. Mr. Landrey was a man of several trades. He left an Indiana newspaper and came to Argentine looking for work with the railroad. In December of 1887, he felt the need for the community to have a newspaper and thus he started a weekly paper. The first office of his newspaper was on Silver Avenue, just west of Simmons Livery Stable. Within a short time, the paper had a circulation of 300 subscribers.

Mr. Landrey's paper was simple, humorous and philosophical. An editorial in the first issue explaining the paper's founding read:

The Republic was not intended to supply a long felt want or fill a niche to the
literary world, but an actual necessity in the race for bread and oleo-margarine.
We shall endeavor to make the Republic useful as well as ornamental. We
have no room for beautiful snow, spring poetry or unfriendly words. We desire
liberal patronage and will use our utmost endeavors to please. The Republic is
in hearty sympathy with honest toilers and expects to win.

Joseph T. Landrey took over the newspaper after the death of his father in 1905. He was attending law school, entered the bar, and eventually was elected to the state legislative. He turned the paper over to his brother, Grant, in 1908. Grant S. Landrey was owner and editor of the paper until he sold it to Ernest Worden Wells in September of 1917, thus concluding 30 years of Landrey ownership.

E.W. Wells changed the name of the paper from the Argentine Republic to the Kansas City Advertiser in 1923. In the 50th anniversary edition in 1937 Wells wrote an editorial that would be appropriate today and which would probably be appropriate for any centennial edition in 1987. It was an editorial with concern for the good of the community. He wrote:

One of the reasons for the progress being made by the promotors in the north part of the city is
that they are constantly developing new programs and then keeping forever after their promotion
and completion. Did you ever hear of such a program for the south side communities: Argentine,
Armourdale and Rosedale. Any program we have heard of in the twenty years in which we have been residents of this part of the city has been a spasmodic movement without direction and led forward in the promotion of some particular project. It will take more than that to bring development to this part of the city...

In 1937, the paper was renamed the Wyandotte County Record. Upon his death in 1948, his son, Kenneth P., Wells, became the editor of the paper. He had a hot line to Shawnee Road, Brown Road, Junction, Highland Crest, Oak Grove, Morris, Turner, and Argentine. News coverage was slanted to local affairs and the community the Record served. For many years Wells wrote a column called "Small Talk" which was widely quoted. In 1961, he was awarded first place for excellence in column writing in the Kansas Better Newspaper Contest sponsored by the Kansas Press Association.

Around 1970, the paper was renamed the Silver City Record. In October of 1978, Kenneth Wells sold the paper to its sixth editor, Walter Lietzen, age 59, of 1921 South 29th Street. His son, Timothy Lietzen, 28, is President of the company and Publisher. Both work for the Union Pacific Railroad and are graduates of the University of Kansas William Allen White School of Journalism. The paper has always been a weekly and comes off the press every Wednesday afternoon. It covers all of Argentine and most of Junction, Turner and Highland Crest.

Submitted by Kathleen Lietzen

Captain Kingscott Women's Relief Corps No. 177

May 8, 1888, Captain Kingscott Women's Relief Corps No. 177 was organized with 14 young women of Argentine:
Charter members: Mary E. Bliss; Eliza Kingen: Laura Falkner; Edith Bliss; Mary McCarthy; Frances Wallace; Carrie Long; Ellen Kingscott; Dinee Carter; Nellie Marsh; Fannie Walker; Julia Blythe; Anna Hewitt; Sallie Payne.

They perform various services on Memorial Day and do volunteer work at V.A. Hospital at Wadsworth and V.A. Center, giving parties on holidays for the patients.

For several years they were in Memorial Day parades and marched from 21st and Ruby to Maple Hill Cemetery. They also had Memorial Services at Emerson Park and on 12th Street Bridge at 12th and Metropolitan Avenue.

In 1979 they placed 1,000 United States flags on graves of veterans in Maple Hill Cemetery for Memorial Day. Captain Kingscott Women Relief Corps No. 177 have 4 members serving as National officers and 3 members serving as Department officers.

Submitted by Ruby Gillespie, Department President

Ben Hur Masonic Lodge, No. 322

to be continued ...