Long before white settlers came to the area, it was home to various Indian tribes for thousands of years. The most notable tribe was the Kanza, who lived along the area rivers until the Federal Government forcibly removed them in the 1820s to make room for the Shawnee. The Oregon Trail and Santa Fe Trail passed through the region, just a few miles south of modern Eudora.
In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act was passed, creating the Kansas Territory and opening the region to settlement. These early years of Douglas County and the entire region would come into conflict as Free State settlers and pro-slavery people fought over whether the state would become a free state or a slavery state. This conflict became known as the Bleeding Kansas Era.
Early in the summer of 1856, a company of Germans organized in Chicago, Illinois, to make a settlement somewhere in the west. From 50 members, it grew to 600 stockholders, and in March 1857, a locating committee left for the west to select a townsite. They spent some time in Missouri and Kansas and finally decided upon the site where Eudora now stands. A tract of 800 acres was then purchased from the Shawnee Indians, and the land was surveyed and named Eudora in honor of the Shawnee Chief Paschal Fish’s daughter.
After the committee returned to Chicago, 16 men, representing different trades and professions, were sent out by the association under the leadership of Peter Hartig. These pioneers arrived at Eudora on April 18, 1857, and quickly began to erect crude cabins and make other improvements. One pre-existing cabin built by Chief Paschal Fish was used as a hotel and locally known as the “Fish House.” The first building erected by the colony was a one-story log cabin, measuring 18 by 20, which for a while was used by all parties.
In May 1857, the association sent Charles Durr to St. Louis, Missouri, where he purchased, at the expense of $2,200, machinery for a circular sawmill and a “corn cracker.” The mill arrived at Eudora during the same month and was soon put into operation. That summer, Abraham Summerfield opened the first store, and on September 1, 1857, a post office was established in the store with Summerfield as the first postmaster. The same year, John Brender opened the first blacksmith, and wagon-making shop on the Santa Fe Trail, and the American Hotel was built on the west side of Main Street. The first school was taught in 1858 by C. Smith.
In February 1859, Eudora was incorporated under the territorial laws. The first election was held in March 1859, and Fred Faerber was elected mayor, Fred Schwartz became the Justice of the Peace, and Fred Soelte became the marshal. Councilmen were also elected. The same year, the association built a frame building to serve as the City Hall and was also used as a school.
In 1860, Charles Durr, who had been operating the sawmill and “corn cracker” for the town company, purchased the operation and continued to run it until 1870. Two years later, Durr, along with a Leo Vitt, built a steam flouring mill. The two and one-half story frame building that measured 30×50 feet was built at the cost of $7,000.
That decade the Gufler House was built on the north end of Main Street. It was a grocery and saloon with the Guflers’ living quarters in the back. Constructed of native lumber sawed by Charles Durr and was said to have been the site where “many a drunken brawl took place” here. At that time, the town had another saloon operated by C. Marfelius.
During the Civil War, Eudora strongly supported the Union, and many of its men enlisted to defeat the Confederacy. William Quantrill passed through the Eudora area in 1863 on his way to Lawrence, Kansas, to commit his infamous Lawrence Massacre. Several Eudora residents attempted to warn Lawrence of Quantrill’s proximity, but two men were thrown from their horses, one of them dying due to his injuries. After the raid, Eudorans were quick to aid the citizens of Lawrence as they started their recovery.
In 1864 Eudora had seven saloons. The first church to be organized was the Church of the Holy Family on October 1, 1864, with 32 members. A stone church measuring 24×40 feet was built the same year at the cost of $3,000. The German Methodist Church was organized soon after the Civil War with 25 members, and other churches followed in the next years.
City Hall continued to be used for school purposes until 1866 when a new two-story stone schoolhouse measuring 24×40 feet was completed at the cost of $5,700. In the autumn of the same year, a building was erected for African American students.
When the Civil War was over, Will Stadler and A.D. Kimber both built brick kilns at Eudora. In 1867, Leo Vitt purchased his partner, Charles Durr’s interest in the flour mill and operated it alone. Charles Lothholz’s lumberyard opened at Sixth Street and Oak Street in 1868, but Lothholz had been selling hardware earlier than that. Charles Lothholz’s lumberyard would continue to grow over the years, and his son, George, would later run the business until 1929 before he sold it the Friend Lumber Company of Lawrence. Afterward, various people owned and operated it until it burned down in 1990 by a fire set by vandals.
In 1869, grade work began by the Kansas Midland Railroad at DeSoto, and by 1871, the tracks reached Lawrence. The Eudora depot was built directly east of the Eudora Flour Mills in 1871.
The first train through Eudora arrived on January 1, 1872. The service between Kansas City and Topeka ran along the south bank of the Kansas River with principal stations at Lawrence, Lecompton, and Eudora. Eudora then became a shipping and supply point for a rich agricultural district. The line was later bought out by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. Today, it is part of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Corporation.
On the west side of Main Street, Anton Getker ran an undertaking and cabinetmaking business in the first building south of railroad tracks. T.A. Hartig and James Herz also were cabinetmakers. Henry Ziesenis started his harness shop and tannery before 1870 and owned the building at Eighth Street and Main Street on the northwest corner that also housed a post office, a cheese factory, and the town’s corn mill.
Charles Bartusch, a Prussian native, who had come to Eudora in 1862 with his wife Anna, opened a Brewery in 1874. It was located at the confluence of the Wakarusa River and Kansas River in Eudora along the railroad tracks. Producing 200 barrels a year, the location made it easy to ship the product.
As the city increased in population, the old school building proved inadequate, and in 1881 a new one-story brick building measuring 24×40 feet was completed at the cost of $1,700.
After eight years of operation, Barusch was forced to close his brewery in 1882 due to a state brewery prohibition. In the next years, it was utilized for various purposes until it was burned down in 1903.
In 1883, Swain and Company bought the mill and changed it to a roller business, but the building burned down the next year.
The W. A. Fuller Hardware Store that was lit with natural gas opened in 1884. Dealing in hardware, implements, stoves, windmills, and pumps, the store was open for the next 42 years using the slogan, “We sell goods, sure to please you.”
In October 1888, Charles Lothholz built a 43-foot by 12-foot cable operated ferry across the Kansas River.
The same year, the Eudora Mineral Springs Resort was established northwest of Tenth Street and Cedar Street by the Wakarusa River. With hopes of rivaling Excelsior Springs in Missouri, the developers constructed a few buildings and a wooden dance pavilion near the property’s 10 natural springs advertising “games of all kinds,” fine meals, and Buch’s Orchestra. The resort claimed that the water included iron, magnesia, sulfur, salt, and soda that could “cure all diseases arising from bad blood, rheumatism, gout, liver complaints, disease of the kidneys, dyspepsia, indigestion, general debility, nervous and female diseases, and all other chronic diseases.” But, the resort’s life was short as it went under in the summer of 1889 and was sold at a sheriff’s sale for tax default. Eventually, the springs were absorbed by the Wakarusa River when it changed course.
Jake Schaffer, Henry Hagenbuch, Cajeton Sommer, and Mr. Blechel built and co-owned a new elevator and coal-fueled mill in 1890 that was also lost to fire in July 1893.
The Eudora House was owned by S. E. Brune, who had a photography studio just south of the hotel. It continued to provide lodging until it burnt down in 1893. The Bismarck Hotel southeast of the depot at the northwest corner of Sixth Street and Main Street also housed train travelers.
The Eudora Creamery Company got its start in 1893 in a five-room structure. In the next couple of years, improvements were made, and in a one-year period between 1894-1895, took in 1.4 million pounds of milk and churned out 62,217 pounds of butter. It was sold to private owners in 1900 and, by 1925, was run from Kansas City headquarters. What was left of the building in Eudora burned down in 1906.
The city’s first phone system began in 1902, consisting of a line from Hesper to Vinland to Eudora. Long-distance calls were possible through the Lawrence exchange.
In 1903, ten days of continual downpour caused the Kansas River to flow over its banks on May 26, 1903. Cresting at 27 feet on June 1, the river waters carried away nearly everything from farm wagons, livestock, furniture, store supplies, and bridges. In the Fall of 1903, 10 feet high street lights were erected, and the same year, a gas company began operations.
In 1908 the river flooded again, destroying crops and more than 50,000 bricks at the Stadler brick plant. In 1909, Horace Woodard opened a sorghum mill and sold a gallon of syrup for 50 cents each.
By 1910, Eudora had good public schools, several general stores, hardware and implement houses, a drug store, wagon and blacksmith shops, a money order post office, express and telegraph facilities, two banks, and a population of 640. That year, several area farmers organized a Farmer’s Elevator Company which was put up near the Santa Fe tracks.
The next year “Bootlegging” upset many people in the community
1916, the Kaw Valley Electric Line began to operate following what is now Highway 32. This trolley car line made daily trips back and forth between Massachusetts Street in Lawrence and Eighth Street and Washington Street in Kansas City for the $1.08 one-way fare. Passengers in Eudora could board the train at either the Delaware or Landsdown stops.
In 1917, a local newspaper stated:
“Eudora has a dentist, no joints, one hotel, one tailor, a city hall, a coal yard, one jeweler, two garages, three doctors, a livery barn, two tin shops, an opera house, a variety store, seven churches, one fine bakery, two restaurants, two state banks, four rural routes, one harness shop, one butcher shop, two barber shops, one grocery, one cream station, a small brick plant, Road Tool Company, two hardware stores, two shoe repair shops, two blacksmith shops, up-to-date drug store, an 80-barrel flouring mill, a wallpaper and paint shop, two large department stores, a large lumber yard, furniture store, ice plant with a daily capacity of six tons, Mutual Telephone Company, two of the largest horse and mule markets in Eastern Kansas, a licensed embalmer, two building contractors, eight secret societies, and a chemical fire engine.”
By the time World War I began, fewer people were speaking German in the area, and the war really ended it as an everyday language because war with Germany made those of German origin a point of scrutiny.
During the Great Depression, the town’s population dropped slightly, but by 1940, it was on the rise again. Business boomed in the next decades to keep up with the rising population.
In 1951, the most devastating flood hit Eudora and the surrounding area when the Kansas River waters peaked at 30 feet.
The town’s two elevators consolidated in 1954, and the next year, a brick city hall building was erected.
By the 1960s, businesses included two lumber companies, cleaners, two gas stations, a garage, a Chevrolet dealership, two restaurants, a grocery store, two insurance agencies, two banks, and several barber/beauty shops. In 1963, a Catholic school was built that also served as the new Holy Family Church. The Santa Fe Railroad closed the depot in November 1967 because there were no passenger trains anymore.
In 1979, the former Bismarck Hotel was gutted by fire and was then razed.
The continued growth of Eudora and new housing subdivisions necessitated enlarging the public school facilities. In 1994, Eudora West Elementary servicing fourth through sixth grades opened. A year later, voters approved the construction of a new Eudora high school south of the city at 2635 Church Street with a capacity for 350 students.
In recent decades, Eudora has again grown tremendously due to its proximity to Lawrence and Kansas City and its location along Kansas Highway 10. Called home to about 6,400 people, Eudora is located about seven miles east of Lawrence.
City of Eudora
4 E Seventh Street
Eudora, KS 66025
Blackmar, Frank W.; Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Vol I; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912.
Cutler, William G; History of Kansas; A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL, 1883.
Eudora, Kansas History