by Lowell Manis
A LITTLE OFF TRACK
Have you heard of Joseph G. Waters? Likely not. If I told
you he was an attorney you would likely say, “turn the page.”
He was however an interesting person. He was for a time Chief Attorney for
Santa Fe, and in those days, anybody who held a top job with Santa Fe must
have been somebody.
This was a man you took his job most seriously. He in fact
was such a company man that when his daughters were born he named them “Santa”
and “Fe”! On their markers in Topeka Cemetery there they are,
Santa to the north of Fe so you have to read it “SANTA” “FE”.
I often wondered if he had two sons, would he have named them Atchison and
He could not however get over being an attorney. As a railroad
man, he was opposed to the creation of the City Railway Co., and said so when
he wrote for Sam Radges in 1880, something called “The History of Topeka.”
He went so far as to say it would disfigure our boulevards and avenues and
crowd and hamper our already overburdened streets. And yet, when asked to
serve as attorney for the “East Side Street Railway”, he accepted
and defended the investors against the promoters, who took the money and ran.
The fee must have been good so his opposition to the City Railway only ran
as deep as his pockets. I guess lawyers never change. The East Side Street
Railway officially died on May 15, 1895. It’s name was chanted to “the
Topeka & Vinewood Park Railway Co.” which made a name for itself
in Topeka Railway history.
Many a dollar was made and lost in Topeka Railway history.
A few got rich! Most were just glad to be a part. And many lost money in the
system, but made good money in real estate from where the railway went, such
as Highland Park. There was a special trolley that was put into service just
for Highland Park called “Old Betsy.” For a ten dollar fee, you
could load up a casket and go to the old east gate at Topeka Cemetery, unload
it to a cemetery wagon and stop in for a funeral. Passengers were often few
on the casket runs.
General Joseph Kennedy Hudson, founder of Highland Park was
recognized as such and immortalized by the name “Hudson Hill”
by the time that Highland Park progressively became a great and desirable
neighborhood. Some say he got lonely, living on the hill on his large farm
and not having neighbors to talk to. Did you know that at one time Highland
Park was the largest unincorporated city in America? It was also the best
place in America to “Trick or Treat”. You could carry away goodies
by the grocery sack! It was also said that you could sit on your front porch
in Highland Park and see the bell tower on SBA hill and witness the most beautiful
sunsets anywhere in the world. To this, I would agree; for I have witnessed
sunsets from my porch at Lake Shawnee that are far and above anything I have
ever seen anywhere. Only in Kansas.
Another interesting character involved in the Topeka Railway
Systems was our sixth governor, Thomas Anthony Osborn. He was President of
the “West Side Circle Railway Co. of Topeka” chartered March 10,
1887. It was chartered to operate on the streets of Topeka, though most of
it’s tracks were outside of the city.
Mr. Osborn was also one of the incorporates of the “Kansas
Medical College of Topeka”--the first medical college in Kansas, July
3, 1889. In 1913 it became part of KU, which is today the KU Medical Center,
and training facility in Kansas City. Wow--another Topekan hits the mark.
Oh by the way, Mr. Osborn is also in Topeka Cemetery. His 909 Quincy home
became “Bethesda Hospital”, a name I seem to have heard from somewhere.
One of their best known patients was the surviving member of the “Dalton
Gang”, not in Topeka Cemetery.
If we today would seek out challenges the way they did in
days gone by, the Japanese would never have kicked our butts in the Auto Business.
Manufacturing would still be in our nation and no one would have heard of
Wal Mart, because cheap products would not have been allowed within our shores.
We are better than what we have allowed to happen in the name of greed. Our
form of government is far better than the people running it, and we have too
long lived below our own abilities and ambitions. I dream of the day that
America will once again pick up the torch and shine with all the glory she
is capable of.
In my heritage alone there flows a source of many streams,
and as those streams merged, gave me life. I am certain I am a better person
for it. I am an American, and deeply proud of it! One of my blood line signed
the greatest document written, the Declaration of Independence, and in fact
helped write it. He, and many others gave us an opportunity to achieve greatness.
We have tasted it, and it was sweet! I cannot be alone in wishing to savor
it, once more!
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