WHEN POSTON BECAME GRESHAM
By A. A. Hawley
In the winter of 1886-1887 surveyors came through trying to locate a line for the F. E. & M. V. R. R. The first survey came by way of Ulysses and went south of here across the farm of Ezra Felton.
Later they came through David City and Surprise. The first line ran about a mile north of here just south of T. W. Marsden's house. Later they straightened out their lines and came through this quarter section where the line was built. In the spring they commenced to build the grade, some of the men who helped to build the road are still living near here today. During the summer the rails were laid and the iron horse came through. The Fred Fuller estate sold this farm to the Pioneer Town Site Company for the location of the town.
Of course we wanted a name for the town, Judge Post being connected with the town site company we petitioned to have it called Poston. The government would not give us a post office by that name on account of it being similar to another office in the state. Many names were suggested, Joe Sherman, who was the first depot agent, suggested the name of Gresham. At that time Walter Q. Gresham was president of the C. & N. W. railroad. Joe thought that perhaps if we named it after him he might give us a boost or help in some way to make it a better town. Well if he ever did I don't know what it was.
On September 8, 1887, the plat of Poston was filed at York with Milton Sovereign as county clerk. Right here I want to digress a little bit. On September 8, 1887 a farmer from west of town came in and bought a lantern from Ernest Fuller who had a small stock of hardware in a small frame building that was then located in the street just south of where Diers Brothers store is now. When he got home he wrote with paint on the globe September 8, 1887, Otto B. Liedtke, and today here is the lantern with the name still there on the original globe. Isn't that worthy of a place in Ripley's Believe It or Not column?
We had two star route post offices at that time Palo and Eureka. I remember getting a letter addressed to me thus: "A. A. Hawley, Palo, Eureka, or Poston, a little town on the F. E. & M. V. railroad between David City and York." Well I got the letter at Palo.
On September 27, 1887, a number of deeds were written so it was impossible to tell which one was written first. I went to the records and found that the first deed recorded was on lot 8, block 3, for which $240 was paid. It was issued to E. E. Post and is the lot now occupied by the Sechtem Corner store.
Now let us see who were the first business men in Gresham. Beginning at the depot Joe Sherman was the agent, and Chris Neilson the first section boss. At the west end of main street on the north side in a very small building was a barber shop with Ed. Rummel as tonsorial artist. I had hoped he might be with us today but he has passed to the great beyond and was buried May 9th of this year at Hiawatha, Kansas.
Next in line was a livery barn with Joe and Doug. Bennett as proprietors doing a livery and dray business. Now I want to make as I go along some comparisons of then and now. All of our merchandise came in by freight or express and had to be hauled to our stores. Now you give your order to the truck man and he gets the goods from the wholesale house and delivers it to your store.
Next in line was Jack Gardiner with his pool hall. I do not know but I presume he had some business experience before coming here.
Then comes Walford & Imm with a general merchandise store. Both members of this firm were farmers. They carried a line of dry goods, boots, shoes, groceries and tobaccos.
Next in line was the firm of Bower & Hawley with myself as manager. We carried a line of furniture, wallpaper, window shades and undertaking. I was just off the farm with many things to learn about business. I want to tell you something about undertaking so you will appreciate more my experience in selling my first coffin. My earliest recollection of burials is they would cut a stick as long as the corpse and go to a carpenter and have him make a coffin of the required length for which he was paid $1 a foot. So if he was six feet long it would cost $6. I had a stock of coffins and one or two caskets for in those days more coffins were sold than caskets.
My first remembrance of burials they would place a coffin in a wagon box and cover it with a white sheet. They would dig the grave part way down and then bench off and dig a little deeper and lower the coffin in without even a dough box to protect it. Some farmer would take the lines off his team to lower the body down; then they would lay boards on the bench and cover that with an arm load of hay and proceed to fill up the grave. I want you to compare those methods with the present day with lowering devices, limousine hearses, burial vaults and tents to protect you from the weather.
A hardware store was next in line with Ernest Fuller as manager and his mother as silent partner. Mr. Fuller was a farmer with a few years' experience as a drug clerk and started out with a small stock of hardware in the building I referred you to a while ago.
On the corner next was the Bank of Poston with E. E. Post as cashier. He had living rooms overhead of the bank building as also had Ernest Fuller and myself living rooms over our places of business. In those days we had to economize.
Across the street on the corner east was L. B. Fuller with a stock of groceries and meats. He, too, was a merchant from the farm. He would sell goods during the day and at night would drive out to school houses and churches and hold singing schools.
Then came Ira O. Knapp as I remember he was in charge of a stock of general merchandise for a firm in Illinois. Mr. Knapp had been a merchant before coming here. He only stayed a few years.
The one to come next was a doctor and a druggist. Dr. R. S. Hirsch with his comical ways. He was educated in Germany in an Eclectic School of Medicine. He had practiced in this vicinity for some time before this town was started.
E. A. Barbee was the proprietor of the next place of business with a butcher shop but he did not come here until the fall of 1888. Later he bought a lot and built a home two blocks farther east where his widow still lives.
On the corner east of the butcher shop Jesse Davidson put in a set of scales and handled coal. On both sides of the street for a block farther east business lots were laid out. So you can see that this was expected to make a great business point. On the south side of the street going west the first place of business was Fred Weitzel's harness shop with Louis Meradith as manager. On the corner following was the implement store of Lind & Lash. They came from Stromsburg.
Across the street on the corner was Byers & Bullum with a hardware stock. Both of them were farmers. Mrs. Byers is still living in this town at the present time.
Next west was Clem & Kingsolver with a stock of general merchandise and drugs. Mr. Clem was appointed the first postmaster of Gresham. Mr. Clem had been a farmer. Mr. Kingsolver had been a farmer, druggist and a licensed preacher of the United Brethren church.
Kreischer & Co. was the next firm. This firm was composed of C. P. Kreischer, Adam Boorman and a Mr. Dascher. They carried the largest stock of merchandise in town and our friend, Mr. Hans Sterup, was their first clerk. Malone Brothers from Ulysses had the next general merchandise store with John Malone as manager.
A Mr. Rhodes from Ulysses put in a stock of jewelry with U. S. Leisure as jeweler. Next to him was F. O. Bond with a restaurant. He moved a farm house in from the country, cut it in two and placed the parts a short distance from each other and built in between in order to give him a larger dining room as that was the only eating house we had that winter. He had plenty of patronage. I heard him asked what his initials F. O. B. stood for and he said, "free on board."
On the corner following was a blacksmith shop with Marvel & Burns as smiths. Next to it on the east side was J. J. Blodgett with a stock of implements.
Across the street west was the livery barn of Fuller & Ryan. This firm was Sam Fuller and George Ryan. Mr. Ryan is one of the few still living today who started with the town.
On the corner south on the east side of the street was a blacksmith shop with E. W. Raikes as proprietor. Across the street west of the livery barn was the lumber yard of S. C. Oakes & Co. with S. C. Oakes as manager and Will Meradith as yard man. They also carried a stock of coal. During the cold weather the winter following we had completely exhausted this coal stock. When a carload was set in on the siding in just forty-five minutes that car was unloaded.
Across the railroad tracks on the west side was the lumber yard of Haines Brothers, Wm. and Art Haines. Will came here from Montana and Art was one of the party that surveyed the railroad line through here and was instrumental in getting his brother to come here.
Then we have the G. W. Lord elevator with J. A. Dickenson as office man and S. A. Tobey as elevator man. Farther east was the elevator of B. F. Willis and N. E. Van Sickle as elevator man.
Our stock buyers were Walford and Nihart and I'm glad to state Mr. Walford is still with us today.
As far as I can remember this is all of the business firms we started with. Later in the fall Dr. Hylton came here and began the practice of medicine. He was of the allopathy school. Dr. Hilbrook of the homeopathic school had practiced in this vicinity before the town was started but at the time the town was built he was away to school and graduated the next spring. He returned and Dr. Hylton and he practiced together. Later they dissolved partnership and Dr. Hylton became one of the firm of Hylton & Clem.
By the first of the winter in 1887 there were 34 families located here. A list of these families includes: Jesse Davidson, Levi Fuller, S. A. Tobey, S. C. Oakes, J. J. Blodgett, Eli Douglas, Sherm Alcock, Winfield Marvel, J. A. Dickenson, Dr. R. S. Hirsch, Ben Willis, G. Bader, Paul Dullum, I. N Kingsolver, R. E. Byers, Wm. Haines, Adam Boorman, Wm. Reed, Joe Bennett, Dudley Thomas, John Malone, Mr. Sanborn, E. W. Raikes, Mr. Roseberry, N. E. Van Sickle, Mr. Gordon, Mr. Keifer, E. E. Post, Ernest Fuller, F. O. Bond, Mrs. S. M. Fuller, A. A. Hawley, Chris Neilson, Joe Sherman.
The first church organized in Gresham was the Methodist Episcopal with Watson Baughman as pastor. The first meetings were held in a carpenter shop that was located where Adam Schmitt's [Schmidt's] blacksmith shop is now. They put planks on boxes for seats and used a center table for pulpit. In the spring of 1888 they commenced making preparations for building a church.
On April 20th the lot was bought and the following named persons were elected: S. C. Oakes, secretary; J. R. Downing, president of the board of trustees; and L. D. Campbell, treasurer. The building committee was L. B. Fuller, chairman, with B. F. Willis and J. R. Downing the other members of the board. The size of the church was to be 28 by 40 feet; 14 foot posts with a 17 foot ceiling. With a donation from the board of church extension of $250, private subscriptions and a loan from Swan Lindstrom the church was built and dedicated in August of 1888. Elder Beans was the presiding elder then. Now we have district superintendents. In 1912 the church was remodeled and modernized with a full basement with a furnace, class rooms, etc. It was rededicated in December, 1912 by Bishop Bristol.
On March 20th, 1890, the Presbyterians bought a lot and erected a church. December 19, 1900, the United Brethren did likewise.
On June the 15th, 1895, we were incorporated as a village a privilege granted by the county board and recommended by Lamphere, Cox and Sackschewsky. The following named residents were appointed as the village board: J. E. Hart, W. N. Hylton, Herman Diers, C. S. Bristol, and S. A. Barbee They met and elected Herman Diers as chairman and I as village clerk. H. E. Valentine was street commissioner; Albert Allis, village marshal, and J. A. Oberg, village treasurer. Of this board and officers so far as I know, C. S. Bristol, H. E. Valentine, Albert Allis and myself are the only ones living.
Of the men who started in business with the town John Walford of Gresham, Joe Bennett of Los Angeles, Calif., Geo. Ryan of Orange, Calif., R. C. Imm of Silver Creek, Nebr., Wm. Haines of California and Art Haines of Oklahoma and myself are the only ones still living. There are also Hans Sterup and J. M. Fuller, clerks, still with us.