Breyfogle to Switzer

KCPT approached Local History Librarian Katie Stramel to help research some questions from their site curiousKC. The following family history is in response to a community member’s question posed to KCPT – “what is the proper pronunciation of Switzer Road?” We may not have the answer but we can tell you a little bit of history behind the famous Johnson County road.

Overland Park was developed by a great many families and one such family were the Breyfogles. Moving from Pennsylvania, Israel Breyfogle settled in Johnson County in 1866.

Israel Breyfogle. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Israel Breyfogle. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

He was a stock breeder and farmer and married Mary Devanney. Together they had seven children and lived on the Breyfogle homestead at 7108 W 86th Street, which was built around 1890.

One of Israel’s sons, Homer, worked as a bodyguard for William Strang up until Strang’s death. He served as deputy sheriff as well and lived at 6416 W 86th Street.

Louis D. Breyfogle farm house. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Louis D. Breyfogle farm house. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Another of Breyfogle’s sons was Louis who had two sons of his own – George and Louis Breyfogle, Jr. Louis started the Overland Park State Bank in 1910 with Frank and George Hodges, William Strang, John L. Pettyjohn and five others.

Overland Park State Bank in the 1930s. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Overland Park State Bank in the 1930s. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

John (Israel’s son) wanted to partner with his nephew George, who worked in real estate development and home building, and expand George’s business. Together with George’s wife Dorothy, brother Louis, Jr. and Louis’s wife Alma, they created the Breyfogle Partnership. They purchased some of the Strang property after it went out of business and built houses on small lots after World War II. Many of the homes were sold to veterans for a $50 down payment. The group also built commercial buildings leading to the growth of downtown Overland Park.

Portrait of Louis Breyfogle, Jr. reading. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Portrait of Louis Breyfogle, Jr. reading. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

In an interview recorded in 1975, Dorothy Breyfogle described the properties the Partnership developed, including:

  • Chandler Place at 77th and east of Metcalf (prior to World War II)
  • Breyfogle Gardens from 87th and Metcalf, north to 84th, including South Lake
  • Homes Crest from west of Craig to Antioch and 81st to 84th
  • Valley View from east of Metcalf to Antioch and south to 86th
  • Glenwood from Metcalf to Santa Fe and 72nd to 75th

She and George lived at 7700 W 83rd Street.

Patio of George and Dorothy Breyfogle. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Patio of George and Dorothy Breyfogle. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The Breyfogles had two roads named after them in the Shawnee-Overland Park area. These roads were eventually renamed Switzer. For more information on Switzer, check out curiousKC.

-Katie Stramel, Johnson County Library

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Mother Nature hits Morse

“Cyclone Kills Grandmother, Son and Grandson” the headlines cried from the Olathe Mirror of June 7, 1917. On this day tragedy struck the small town of Morse and several other Kansas and Oklahoma towns.

Tornado damage in Morse, ca 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Tornado damage in Morse, ca 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The tornado’s path was sprawling, first dropping down in the south central Oklahoma town of Marietta, killing three. It continued on to the small area of Drake, killing five. Hardest hit was Coalgate, known for its coal mining, with a loss of eight lives. When it finally reached Kansas the tornado struck Coffeyville, killing three. McCune and Montana were next, but no lives were lost and there was no recorded activity again until it reached just outside of Morse.

People of Morse, Kansas survey the damage caused by the tornado, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

People of Morse, Kansas survey the damage caused by the tornado, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Although many miles separated these towns it is believed to be a continuation of the same storm. The tornado was described as possessing abnormal conditions even bringing snow to western Kansas, with a possible four inches at the Colorado line.

A damaged home after Morse tornado, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

A damaged home after Morse tornado, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Morse, located five miles southeast of Olathe, got its name from the superintendent of the Kansas City, Clinton and Springfield railway, which arrived in 1872. According to the History of Johnson County Kansas by Ed Blair published in 1915, Morse had a population of 61 with a general store, lumberyard, blacksmith shop, creamery, bank, and a grain elevator with a post office on the premises. The Morse Church, established in 1884 as a Methodist church is still standing after 120 years.

Morse Grain Company built in 1908. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Morse Grain Company built in 1908. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Prominent businessman J.W. Toynbee served as president of the Morse State Bank. J.W.’s older brother Miles had passed away years before but left a wife Mary and two children, Florence and Albert. Mary, Albert and Florence’s son Clarence were those lost to the tornado. Their home was in the next quarter section over from J.W.

Woman in front of State Bank of Morse. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Woman in front of State Bank of Morse. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Albert was found cradling Clarence with Mary not too far away, possibly wrenched away during the storm. Clarence had only just arrived at his grandmother’s for a visit.  His sister had just spent her time with grandma and Clarence now felt it was his turn.

The Toynbee family was a well-liked and respected family of the Morse area. “Mrs. Toynbee was one of the biggest chicken raisers in the country having fine barred rock stock.  Scores and scores were found dead on the farm and the feathers plucked cleanly from many of them, while a half dozen were wandering aimlessly about in their nude condition,” a resident stated in the Olathe Mirror. The twister took barns, chicken houses, and the garage, leaving a Ford roaster perfectly intact minus a head lamp.

Horse drawn buggies lined the perimeter of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery during the service for the tornado victims, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Horse drawn buggies lined the perimeter of the Pleasant Valley Cemetery during the service for the tornado victims, ca. 1917. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Over 1400 people attended the funeral with 175 vehicles and 160 horse-drawn rigs. Three hearses from Olathe, Paola and Kansas City were hired for the somber occasion.

Attendees of the funeral gather near the grave site of the victims, ca. 1917. JoCoHistory.org.

Attendees of the funeral gather near the grave site of the victims, ca. 1917. JoCoHistory.org

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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Tractors from another time

Driving down a Kansas country road in the fall, you might catch sight of a huge John Deere tractor with an air-conditioned cab. It is a beautiful sight to stop and watch. They move at such a slow even pace and in such straight lines. They are getting the ground ready for the winter wheat seed.

Floyd Moon and Edwin Rice take a tractor out in the snow, ca. 1925. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Floyd Moon and Edwin Rice take a tractor out in the snow, ca. 1925. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Today’s tractor has been computerized making it quite the modern convenience! A computer in the cab can do the work without much help from a human. This has not always been the case. An elderly lady who spent her youth farming told me they felt they were “living high off the hog” when her father got a tractor umbrella. Now we have radios, cd players and even TVs. Back then though, they enjoyed the company of their thoughts and occasionally saw wild deer, badgers, raccoons or perhaps an eagle flying overhead. I was also told about a young coyote who followed slightly behind a tractor for quite a time in hopes of a mouse popping up.

Farmall tractor, ca. 1943. Hazel Sharp, Ed Miller and Perry Sharp working in the grain fields. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Farmall tractor, ca. 1943. Hazel Sharp, Ed Miller and Perry Sharp working in the grain fields. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Those that grow up in cities may find it exciting to ride along an old country road and see what it is all about, like a carnival ride. So stop and watch while one gets the ground ready to plant the winter seed and imagine what it was like before.

Boys taking apart a tractor. Photo taken from a FFA Scrapbook, ca. 1939-40. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Boys taking apart a tractor. Photo taken from a FFA Scrapbook, ca. 1939-40. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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Remembering Glenwood

Glenwood Theatre, ca. 1968. Source: JoCo Museum.

Glenwood Theatre, ca. 1968. Source: JoCo Museum.

I always felt a sense of anticipation and excitement walking through the rectangular parking lot, over the gravel-filled medians into the Glenwood movie theater. Not only was I being transported to whatever fantasy world the movie created, I was also entering a forgotten and foreign world. The Glenwood had style: It featured a fire place and an indoor fountain, like those found outside at the Plaza. A vaulted ceiling with cathedral-esque windows allowed waves of golden sunlight to fill the lobby. And best yet, the actual theater might have been the biggest single room I had ever seen. Imagine that brief moment when the green preview shot would appear as a wobbly specter as the gigantic curtains parted way to reveal the majestic screen!

Glenwood Theatre, 1966 ca. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Glenwood Theatre, 1966 ca. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

At the tender age of five in the year 1983, when we found movie times in the newspaper and had to wait in line to get tickets to a highly-anticipated blockbuster, my parents took my brother and I to see Superman III. You didn’t see a movie at the Glenwood: You experienced it. My personal list includes: Dune (1984, yes I saw Dune at the age of 6), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Mosquito Coast (1986), Raising Arizona (1987), Tim Burton’s Batman (1989, opening day), Independence Day (1996), Batman and Robin (1997, Yuck!), and Contact (1997). Basically, the formative years of my movie watching developed at the Glenwood Theater.

The Glenwood (lower left) at Glenwood Manor Motor Hotel. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The Glenwood (lower left) at Glenwood Manor Motor Hotel. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

The last movie I saw at the Glenwood was Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in the summer of 1999. There was so much excitement and I was so eager to return to my childhood years of wonder. Sadly, not only was that movie terrible (even though I saw it four times) but the theater itself closed a year later. I couldn’t help but feel as though those two events were inextricable, as if the movie gods said, “Try as you might, those halcyon days will never return. But you’ll always have the ticket stubs.”

Learn more about the Glenwood and nation-wide cinema treasures: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/1854

-Scott Stone, Johnson County Library

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Who’s Lackman?

Have you ever wondered where some of the names in our County come from? One that stuck out recently with the Johnson County Library was the name Lackman, which refers to William Lackman. A librarian recently wrote about the County’s street names and mentioned Lackman briefly. Here’s a look further into the family and their importance to Johnson County History.

Margaretha and William Lackman, ca. 1905. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Margaretha and William Lackman, ca. 1905. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

William and Margaretha Lackman were German immigrants who settled in the Kansas City area around 1880. He was a farmer and financier and bought a large piece of land – approximately 210 acres – in present-day Lenexa. Lackman is best known for two things in Johnson County history: 1. his estate; and 2. an interurban electric rail line.

Lackman began building his house in 1881 and spared no expense. He brought in European artisans to work on the house – Italian artisans to produce the ornate plasterwork and German workers to produce the furniture, embellish ceilings and a walnut staircase in the house.

Fireplace at Lackman-Thompson Estate. Source: JoCoHistory. org.

Fireplace at Lackman-Thompson Estate. Source: JoCoHistory. org.

His house was admired by citizens of the County and these admirations were noted in the Olathe Mirror. One citizen said, “W.M. Lackman has the finest dwelling house and nicest barn in this county any where, we are glad that some of our citizens have got some taste about them.”

Lackman was also known for an interurban rail project which he began in 1901. He and David B. Johnson were granted a charter to run a rail line from Kansas City to Olathe, which was appropriately named K.C. – Olathe Electric Line. At this time, Kansas City had an established railroad system and Olathe was quickly growing as the County seat. The rail line would run from K.C. touching on Rosedale, Merriam, Shawnee, Lenexa, Pleasant View and Olathe. Lackman Station, seen in the picture below, was on the east of the Lackman property.

Lackman Station, 1900-1910 ca. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Lackman Station, 1900-1910 ca. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Lackman and Johnson raised money for this venture by selling stocks. They surveyed the land, purchased the right of way and grading was in progress by the spring of 1904.

Unfortunately, everything did not go as expected for this endeavor when two of Lackman’s employees ran off with the $40,000 company bankroll, leaving him bankrupt. He sold the business to William Strang who completed the project and ran the Strang Line from 1906 to 1938.

In 1908, Lackman sold the farmhouse, all its furnishings and surrounding property to Frank Thompson for $32,000 (today’s equivalent approximately $3million). His family disappeared from Johnson County history and the Thompson family lived on the estate until 1991 when it was given to the Johnson County Community College. The Johnson County Museum was able to successfully register the estate on the Kansas Historic Register and it is the only Lenexa structure on the register. It now belongs to the city of Lenexa and houses the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council and Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Photograph of Lackman home. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

Photograph of Lackman home. Source: JoCoHistory.org.

To summarize, William Lackman was a valuable figure to Johnson County history. The Lackman-Thompson Estate still stands as a “reminder of Kansas history and the role its first occupants played in the shaping of the state, the region and the nation.” His interurban rail provided the beginning of innovative transportation from Kansas City to the suburbs of Johnson County, helping “make this area of Kansas the suburban mecca it is today by making it easy to sell, trade and transport goods in Kansas City”.

-Katie Stramel, Johnson County Library

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Drum roll please!

In 2011 Zickos Corporation made the decision to close its doors. After more than 50 years, William Zickos, known as the father of acrylic drums and John Brazelton, President, ceased production of their acrylic drum set. Because Zickos and Brazelton valued their top quality product, they chose not to sell out to one of their competitors. They believed in their product and wanted to keep the integrity of the Zickos name.

From left to right: William Zickos, Gregg Gerson, John Brazelton, 2001 ca. Photo courtesy of gregggerson.com.

From left to right: William Zickos, Gregg Gerson, John Brazelton, 2001 ca. Photo courtesy of gregggerson.com.

In 1959 Bill Zickos worked at Toon Music in Prairie Village by day and by night he played drums for the Ed Smith Band at the New Orleans Room on Wyandotte Street. While working at Toon Music, he tutored 30-40 aspiring drummers. It was during this time Zickos had the idea of taking clear plastic sheets and molding them into a drum set. What he got was a drum that was not only innovative in style, but also produced a crisper, louder sound.

drums

At a time when Rock and Roll was up and coming, that louder resonating sound would prove to be very popular. One unique aspect of clear plastic drums was the way lighting illuminated through the clear acrylic creating a tapestry of color. This unique light show was very attractive to young musicians just starting out in this new rock and roll genre. When money was tight this was an advantage. One humorous point of interest was that the drummer, due to the transparency of the drums, would now be required to wear pants during a performance.

drum set

During the early years of production Mr. Zickos’ drum students were the first employees hired to build these unique drum sets. They were also the first to own them. While traveling from show to show they would become the original Zickos drum promoters. One such student included Mike Thompson, today a local well known talent in the Kansas City area.

Mike Thompson playing on a Zickos drum set. Photo courtesy of Mike Thompson.

Mike Thompson playing on a Zickos drum set. Photo courtesy of Mike Thompson.

For several years drums gained in popularity with other local drummers. It is believed that during one of these local performances the unique style and cool, crisp sound was noticed by Ron Bushy (drummer for the popular rock group Iron Butterfly). Bushy was so impressed he purchased a set for himself.

Photo courtesy of drumarchive.com.

Photo courtesy of drumarchive.com.

This drum set would later become a focal point of a drum solo during the classic 18 minute song, “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vidda.” Soon other groups would take notice and purchase Zickos innovative new drum set. Groups such as The Who, Beach Boys, Three Dog Night soon followed leading Zickos to open Zickos Corporation on 85th Street in Lenexa. Keith Moon of The Who, during an episode of Wide World In Concert: Midnight Special, played a 5 minute solo in which one of his acrylic drums was filled with water and goldfish.

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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A Favorite Pastime

Baseball. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd and an umpire yelling, “You’re out!” It is one of America’s favorite pastimes, and with the recent Kansas City Royals’ World Series success, a fan can feel the excitement in the air. What could be more exciting at this time of the year?

Zarah Baseball 2

Frank Russel and Harold Hines, players of the Zarah Ball Club, circa 1920-1925.

One hundred years ago, fans made a day out of a Sunday baseball game. It was a great outing for the entire family. Parents took their young children, and it created a lasting memory. They packed a picnic lunch and traveled to the park on the Interurban, our area’s own electric-powered streetcar system. The Hocker line ran farthest west, almost to the town of Zarah where Starwood Park was located.

Zarah Baseball 1

Edward “Babe” Garrett, player on the Zarah Ball Club, circa 1920-1925.

The Johnson County Baseball League included 8 towns: Olathe, DeSoto, Wellsville, Edgerton, Merriam, Overland Park, Shawnee and Lenexa. Even local companies, to improve relations with employees, created baseball teams. Eventually, with the desire to travel anywhere by owning an automobile, our Interurban’s popularity declined, but baseball has lasted!

Zarah Baseball 4

Kenith Anderson, player on the Zarah Ball Club, circa 1920-1925.

Today with spring upon us, each community is beginning to form its own annual team, bolstering community pride. So get out there and root for your home team!

Take Me Out to the Ball Game

By Jack Norworth (lyricist), Albert Von Tilzer (composer), Edward Meeker (singer), Edison’s National Phonograph Company (publisher) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

-Terri Bostic, Johnson County Library

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