~ Vesper, Kansas ~
~ A Photographic History of Vesper, Kansas... Then and Now ~

~ Dedicated to Charles Smith ~
~ From the Book by Charles' Brother Harold Smith ~
~ Web Page and Video produced by Cousin Donald Smith ~

(Vespers Definition: Evening worship: an evening church service, particularly evensong)

By Laura Longero
The Lincoln Sentinel-Republican

Charlie Smith had a vision. He wanted to write a book about the town he grew up in. However his dream was cut short when his body was invaded by colon cancer, and his brother Harold decided to take on Charlie's wish.

Charlie and Harold Smith grew up in Vesper, and went on to have careers in education and engineering, respectively. Charlie moved back to Vesper with his wife, Audry, afer retiring from teaching in the California State University system and later moved to Lincoln. Harold lives in San Diego with his wife Margaret.

Harold told Charlie he would start on a book about Vesper, their hometown, and when Charlie recovered and healed from his illness, he could take it over. That never happened, and Harold wrote the book "A Town's Evening Song, History of Vesper, Kansas (1870-1970)" for his brother

Harold began the book in 2000, and started collecting old photographs, some of which were Charlie's. He obtained historical and factual information from old editions of the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, which he researched at the Lincoln Carnegie Library during visits to Kansas.

He talked with Emery Flaherty and his aunt Ferne Bolte for the personal and social information for his book. Some research he did on the Internet on Web Sites for the Kansas Historical Society and Lincoln County.

Harold said he had no intention of creating a great literary work, but took on the project as a labor of love. "Love for the town, which is almost gone, and love for my brother, who is gone," Harold said.

Harold had 250 copies of the book printed by Central Plains Book Manufacturing in Winfield, Kansas. He said one of the objectives of the book was to help out the state of Kansas, and thought that having the book printed there would do so even more.

Harold paid for the cost of printing 250 copies of his book. He also printed "Photographic History of Vesper, Kansas - Then and Now" which contains mainly photographs."

He then contacted Brenda Peterson, who is a member of the Lincoln County Historical Society as well as the President of the Vesper Alumni Association, about donating the proceeds of the sales of "A Town's Evening Song" to the Historical Society and alumni association.

~ Margaret and Harold Smith with his book ~

Peterson sold the book at the biennial meeting of Vesper alumni and the Memorial Day Monday sloppy Joe luncheon that is held by the Vesper men's Club. Book sales resulted in the amount of $1,600, which will go to the Vesper Men's Club, the group that maintains the Vesper Gym. $500 was given for the gym on the night of the reunion meeting.

~ Esther and Lee Smith ~

The remaining books were given to the Lincoln County Historical Society, which has them for sale. The historical society will retain the proceeds from the sale of "A Town's Evening Song", and is taking orders for the photography book. Peterson said it was a generous donation and that Vesper was "near and dear" to his heart.

Harold said he wasn't writing the book for economic gain and that is why he wanted to donate it to the alumni association and historical society. It was more work than he thought it was and perservered because of his brother's memory. "If it hadn't been for a labor of love, I wouldn't have done it," Harold said.

~ Connie, Harold and Charles Smith ~

~ Here are some selected photos from the Photographic Book ~

A threshing crew harvesting wheat near Vesper. To the left a coal fired steam engine, to the right a 1916 automobile.

Pat Healy is running the steam engine driving the 1910 thresher. Lee Smith and his brother Elmer worked with these crews in the summer prior to moving from Kansas City.

This is a header box, driven along side the header, catching the cut wheat from the horse powered header. The wheat then pitched into stacks to await the thresher...

Three elevators on the South end of town. To the left the S.D. Brumbaugh elevator.

A newer Farmway elevator, previously Co-Op built in the early 1950s.

An oil well drilling on the William Mueller farm. No oil was discovered here or anywhere else in Vesper township.

East bound Union Pacific railway passenger train at Vesper depot. To the right, loading wheat into a boxcar.

Rural Route No. 2 mail carrier Harry Cromwell... about 1910.

Rural Route carriers Frank Butler and Harry Cromwell.

First car (1914 Ford Model T) to replace Harry Cromwell's horse drawn mail wagon.

Rural Route Mail Carriers Frank Blazer, left, and Harry Cromwell, right, with Elmer Jepson, Postmaster, center, posed in front of the big stone building that housed the Post Office and State Bank.

Esther Cromwell Smith, Acting Postmaster at the Post Office located along with the grocery in the 'Big White Building'. Charles and Harold's mother. This picture does not do this graceful lady justice.

Presbyterian Church, built in 1904. Residences in 'Banker's Row', to the left are: Charles Doherty, Julius Morgenson, Steven Powers, Elmer Jepson, Frank Cromwell, Robert Cromwell, Adolf Morgenson and James Morgenson. The road to the left later became K-18 highway.

Presbyterian Church in 1952, after repair work of damage from the 1951 tornado.

Modern view of the Presbyterian Church, with original residences in the background.

St. John's Catholic Church, built in 1887 and dedicated September 24, 1893. Services were discontinued and the church building was sold and torn down in 1948.

Teacher and students of the "New Vesper/Vesper Station" school district No 49, prior to consolidation.

Death of the Sylvan Grove bank robber, Anthony McKee, buried in Vesper Cemetery and then later re-buried in his family plot. The robbery occurred November 12, 1894 and netted $1.734.

Students and Teachers at the Vesper Consolidated School, second year of operation. (1915-1916)

The school a few years prior to closure, about 1950. The grade school was closed in 1968.

Abandoned school building, about 1970 after beginning of demolition. The gymnasium to the right was sold to the Vesper Men's Club for a community building.

First motorized school bus. Alfred Bolte was the driver.

School staff who worked on the high school yearbook, "The Golden V", 1920-21.

High school basketball team of 1939.

High school baseball team of 1953. Back row first on left, Charles Smith. Front row third from left, author Harold Smith.

School Gymnasium ~ Later Vesper Men's Club

Business district about 1910 looking Northeast. The road in front of the buildings later became K-18 highway.

South of the Union Pacific railroad tracks about 1910.

Looking North up Main street from South of the Union Pacific tracks. The Jepson and Cromwell general store and Lee Smith's barbershop were on the left.

Again lookin North up Main street about 1910, General store and barbershop on the left.

Same view but at a greater distance, showing the right side of Main street.

From the corner of Market and Main streets, the "Big Stone Building" in the background, housing the State Bank, Grocery store, Post Office, Telephone Office and rooms for rent.

A group from Denmark, Kansas, preparing to depart on the train about 1915. There was no station at Denmark. There was one passenger train going in each direction per day.

Vesper Depot in 1950-1960.

Looking South down the left side of Main street.

Advertisement of the 'new' hotel that replaced the original which burned in 1907.

The hotel as shown on a post card.

Earl and Walter Baird's watch repair shop. in 1913.

Leidigh and Havens lumber yard established in 1901. Closed in 1930 and burned down in 1935.

The last grocery store in Vesper. Al's Cash Grocery. Owned and operated by Alfred Bolte and Ester (Cromwell) Smith.

Interior of the Jepson and Cromwell general store about 1915.

Livery and feed barn built by Billy Flaherty in 1905. Here in a 1916 photo, a 1916 Maxwell in front.

First and only car dealership in Vesper. Established in 1913 by Andrew Jensen, in the car here.

Kyle Swisher and Clifford Bollier's auto repair garage.

Lee Smith, left, and Frank Cromwwell, in front of the barber shop and hardware store which moved into this building in 1929.

Lee Smith and Frank Cromwell, with Esther Cromwell in the center, about 1929.

Lee Smith's new barbershop built after the fire of 1935 burned his business.

Lee Smith in his new barbershop. Lee arrived in Vesper in 1926 and remained to be the last barber in town. A one chair operation, it was also the town's billiard hall.

Dedication ceremonies for the "Big Stone Building" and the opening of the Middlekauff state bank, April 28, 1914.

Willian Bruce Middlekauff and sons Rolland and Emery, prior to the dedication ceremonies of the new bank building.

Vehicle promoting Sutories Old Bakery, and giving rides to children about 1931.

A dog-drawn wagon carrying Connie Smith, daughter of Lee Smith, Lee's barbershop in the background.

Pat Healy riding an early Indian motorcycle.. The N.P. Heck Home Cafe and Bar, built in 1910. in the background.

Chris Jepsen, driver, Louis Jepson on his left, in the back seat are Clara Jepson, Cris' wife, with Olga Jepson, Louis' wife on her left.

William Flaherty's 1913 Studebaker. Pat McQuillan at the wheel, Billy beside him.

Emery Middlekauff in a 1915 R.C.H. auto, owned by Wayne Brumbaugh. Built from 1912 to 1916 by R.C.Hupp, a 3 speed, 4 cylinder, left hand drive, color bright red,

The Vesper Men's Club in the old school gymnasium, set up for bingo.

Log cabin built by Edward Jennings in 1875. His homestead was on 80 acres in Sction 12, Vesper Township.

The residence of Henry Reinert.

Residence of Henry Maurice and Sophia Cromwell, seated. Standing, left to right, Elta and Harry Cromwell, Ruth Cromwell, and Grace and Rusty Britegam.

Construction of the Frank Cromwell residence in 1913. The home was located between Robert Cromwell (brother) on the North and Elmer Jepson on the South.

Residence of Robert and Amelia Cromwell, built in 1910.

Residence of Lee and Esther (Cromwell) Smith, bult by Steven Powers in about 1912. Lee was the barber in Vesper from 1926 to 1955.

The flood of 1928 with water around the Presbyterian Church.

Flooding in the business district in the major flood of 1951. Lee Smith's barbershop in the center.

The Consolidated school building in the flood of 1951. The newly constructed gymnasium to the right. Much of the gym construction had to be redone.

Looking South down K-18 highway during the flood of 1987. In the background the then abandoned Union Pacific Depot.

Flood waters around the Presbyterian church in the 1987 flood.

Early in the fire in 1935 which destroyed the barber shop, the deserted hardware store and the deserted lumberyard office.

Second photo in the fire sequence of 1935, destroying the entire building which at one time housed the state bank and hardware store.

The complete destruction of the "Small Stone Building", one housing the old Farmer's Store, prior to that the state bank and drug store.

The last building to house the U.S. Postoffice reflects the complete cycle of the first post office, co-located in a log cabin with the school, to a modest structure co-located with the general store, to the "Big White Building", to the "Big Stone Building", back to this small frame building. This final post office building was closed in 1966.

The demise of the building that once housed the new barber shop after the fire of 1935 and later that served as the final cafe in town, now sits delapidated and finished.

Swisher's garage is another example of a building that once housed the town's automobile repair capabilities and also provided a place for "shade tree mechanics" to work on their vehicles.

The end of the last "modern" structure in the town, the Farmway Co-Op Service Station...

The remains of the old Ed Ives residence, deserted since 1960, reflects the deterioration of some of the residential area in the town of Vesper.

All that remains of the town's and school's baseball "Field of Dreams" is the backstop and the dirt.

Today, looking South down the old K-18 highway at the only business left in town, the Farmway Co-op grain elevator and outbuildings.

Today, looking East down the old K-18 highway.

Today, looking West up Market Street.

And, today, looking North up the road from the iron bridge over the Saline River.

~ A Town's Evening Song ~

This closing page of the book can also be considered as the closing page on the history of the town of Vesper
It is now time to reflect on the contributions of the town and it's residents to society
Each of us associated with the town, it's churches, consolidated school and sports teams
Must reflect on their impact to our lives. Even though the town has become "An Evening Song"
It must live on in our memories or it will become a forgotten song!

I received this very nice email about this web page and would like to share this persons memories of Vesper with you:

To Don Smith - Hey feller, figure you are still kicking. My daughter found your Vesper site on the net and sent me a link.
I appreciate the picture novel of Vesper memories.
As a kid, my sister and I visited Vesper with our parents for about a week in the summer of 1950 or 1951 to see our grandad,
Edwin Burke Ives. We stayed in his house (saw picture on net which is now gone) across the tracks from Grandad's general store (Stone Building).

At the age of 14, I traveled alone by train from San Antonio, TX to Vesper to be with my grandad for several weeks.
In fact I celebrated my 15th birthday in Vesper on August 15, 1953.
Grandad had moved to a room on the second floor of the store, where he fixed me up in an adjacent room.

Leona worked for my grandad and lived in a house back to the southeast of the store (last street/1st or 2nd house on left going south.)
She fixed meals for us at her house. Leona had a son close to my age (maybe 1 or 2 yrs older) at the time,
who was a very talented young artist/painter. Can't recall name, but would recognize it.
Do you have any idea of his full name and about where and what he is these days????

I can remember that we hiked straight south of town for a ways and went swimming in a cow pond on the left not too far from the road.
I can remember the large upstairs meeting hall in the Stone Building that had a stage
with a classic vintage canvas type curtain with advertisements and sponsorships painted on it.
It was in full color, but slightly drab and worn. There was a classic two holer out back that was a necessity.
The basement was full of damp mud and glass bottles.

My dad sold the building after Grandad passed away to avoid liabilities.
I think it was torn down for the stone in the building.
We were dismayed that lots of rubble was left on the site with the vault still standing in tact.

My sister and I still have several inherited property lots located behind and south of the store
and a couple of small tracts across the now gone railroad tracks.
Some of the property is currently being free-shared by Richard/?Dee Ann? Ansell.
At one time a nearby resident's son put some old cars on a couple of lots just north of the tracks
and it took the Lincoln Sheriff to get them removed.

Thanks so much for your time and effort to salvage some history of what once was a thriving little rural community.

Dr. Dan Ives, Retired School Superintendent, Rosenberg, Texas

And another email sent to Cousin Harold

Harold, I found the Vesper website while doing some research on something totally unrelated
You probably don't remember me since I was 6-7 years younger than you. I am the son of Ralph Cromwell
Back in the day, my nickname was "Shorty" but once I gained adulthood, my adopted name became Gerry Cromwell
I've always been fascinated by our upbringing in such a small community.

I sometimes find myself amazed that from that background, I have been so fortunate to have lived a life of vast experiences
My business career took me to many cities including Boston, Los Angeles, Detroit, St. Louis, Kansas City,
Washington DC, Atlanta, and Charlotte NC. Additionally, spent 3 1/2 years running a company in Tokyo Japan

I now live in Sarasota FL mostly in retirement, although I still own a business in Charlotte NC

Anyway, gosh so many memories from looking over the pictures
I recall the fabulous baseball team that you and your brother played for in about 1952 or 53
So many good players on that team and I seem to recall, one of those teams was in the State finals and lost to Silver Lake
Gerald Woody did an awful lot for Vesper as an educator and his interest in developing good baseball teams
I can still remember the starting line up for the most part... Catcher: Charles/Dale Sheldon after Charles graduated
First Base - Dean Dohe, Second Base - you (Harold); Third Base - Paul Sheldon and Dale Dohe; Short Stop - Bennie Sheldon
Left Field-- not sure, maybe Dale Dohe? ; Center Field and Right Field - memory fading on those positions

I applaud you for undertaking the project and seeing it to completion. That, as well as the monetary contributions you made

Gerry Cromwell, Class of 1961

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