Monday, July 22, 2013

Yaggy, Kansas - A Reno County ghost town

On a July afternoon, I took a tour of what was left of the town of Yaggy with Dorothy Shultz Wall. Wall lived at the former town and orchard for six years - 1939 to 1945. Her father worked for the Yaggy family.

What we found was little. There are a few homes, including the white Yaggy plantation homes, which are on private property. Her childhood home is gone. Fields were thousands upon thousands of apple and catalpa trees once grew is now planted to wheat. Drought took the trees in the 1930s.

Little remains of Yaggy - it died, it seems, with the trees.

Town with 4 names
Yaggy is a town that had four names.
It was Salem in 1872, according to the book "Early Ghost Towns, Post Offices and Hamlets in Reno County, Kansas," by local resident Bert Newton.
The Reno County town was a station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad - located near the intersection of Yaggy Road and Nickerson Boulevard. It is believed that the railroad changed the name to Bath following a bad train wreck in that area on Oct. 2, 1882.
According to Newton, a Hutchinson News article from that date told of a mail train having to run onto a sidetrack at Salem, waiting for the Cannon Ball to pass. The switch, however, was incorrectly turned, allowing the Cannon Ball to tear "along at the rate of 40 miles an hour, to crash into the mail train."
Newton recorded that both engines and six cars were demolished and the jolt sent the "great crowd of passengers flying hither and thither, jammed up, injured, scared, crying, cursing."
William Cutler's "History of Kansas," published in 1883, still listed the town as Salem.
But the town would soon change again from Bath to Fruit Valley and, eventually, Yaggy, thanks to a man named Yaggy who saw promise in landscape with a bountiful underground water table.

Ideal for an orchard
Levi Walter Yaggy was one of the best known publishers in the United States. He owned Western Publishing House in Chicago, which had 17 branches and a thousand agents across the country, according to "Reno County, Kansas: Its People, Industries and Institutions," written by Sheridan Ploughe.
Yaggy was a mechanical genius who had patents on a few innovations, including an adding machine and a stubble turner, according to Ploughe.
But it was on a goose-hunting trip to Kansas in 1884 that he started Reno County's produce legacy. "L.W." observed a well being dug on the Thomas Parker Ranch.
"He found the water table was only two feet down, and to him that was a huge finding. Water is always a problem," said Laura Krantz Reed about her great-grandfather.
Realizing that the underflow of the Arkansas River would provide good access to water, L.W. bought the entire Parker estate - 1,350 acres - and planted catalpa and apple trees - the catalpa used to make fence posts and railroad ties.
By 1893, the plantation was blossoming and L.W. made arrangements to have the name of Bath changed to Fruit Valley, according to Newton's book. He thought it was more descriptive of the area.
An 1895 Rand McNally map labels the area as such, although another map from that time lists it as Bath.
But the post office didn't accept the name Fruit Valley, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. They dubbed the railway station and community center as Yaggy when the post office opened in January 1900, before closing that June.
The post office reopened a year later, but only for three months.

Edward and Laura
While the orchard began under L.W. Yaggy, his son, Edward, continued to grow into the national produce market.
Edward came to the area in 1897 for a three-month stay while his father was in Europe, according to an Oct. 30, 1988, story in The News. He stayed 40 years.
Reed said her grandmother, also Laura Reed, a concert violinist from a prominent pioneering Kansas City family, had come to visit a friend at Forsha Ranch. Edward was at the same event.
The two married in December 1905, and Laura continued to make concert appearances, playing with the New York Philharmonic. She also was involved in, and even led, the Reno County suffrage movement.
The Yaggy plantation continued to grow. In the early teens, the farm had 500 acres of catalpa trees, as well as 808 acres of apple trees, with apples shipped all over the nation.
"It's one of the most profitable production plantations of the sort in the country," Ploughe wrote in his book. "There are no fewer than one million catalpas growing on the place and 50,000 apple trees, 600 acres of which latter are now bearing and the rest coming into bearing."
In 1915, Edward Yaggy sold 210,000 bushels of apples - the principal varieties being Jonathan, Grimes Golden, Wine Sap, Roman Beauty and York Imperial. He added cowpeas, potatoes and sweet potatoes to the offerings. Yaggy soon became the largest shipping point for fruit between the Missouri River and California.
"It was the largest apple orchard under one fence in the United States," Reed said, adding that the red warehouse had 18,000 square feet used for grading and storing fruit.
The plantation employed 300 men during the busy season, and it had 30 employees full-time.

These photos are courtesy of Dorothy Wall. 

The Edward Yaggy plantation. His father came to the area in the 1880s and discovered it was perfect for an orchard.
Turkeys at Yaggy

Apples from Yaggy

Dorothy Shultz Wall's home at Yaggy. It has been torn down.

Yaggy School.Dorothy Wall believes the photo was taken around 1920. Her father is in the picture. He was 14.

Here's a cool old photo of the apple orchard. Dorothy Wall's grandfather is on the white horse. He was the orchard overseer.

Flood at Yaggy in the early 1940s.