Towns and Places

Pleasant Valley Community (1890 - present day)

(The article on Pleasant Valley first appeared in the Southwest Daily Times in November and December 1961 and is presented as originally published.)

     There is a valley beginning about nine miles northwest of Liberal in early days called the Scates community. At the time it was organized into School District No. 4, about 1890, this area became known as Pleasant Valley. The appropriateness of this name is easy to understand, for the approach to the Valley from any direction is made by topping a gentle rise, which descends to a fertile farm region, dotted here and there today with modern farmsteads, meter houses for the line of natural gas and grazing cattle. It is criss-crossed by a paved highway and graveled roads, telephone wires, and electric lines. Very little prairie grassland remains, for most of this valley is now broken up into fields of wheat and row crops and one or two irrigation projects. But the same gorgeous sunrises and sunsets dominate the valley picture; the same fascinating mirages are to be seen occasionally; and the same clear air makes all sounds appear to be magnified.

     The same beautiful prairie flowers bloom in profusion wherever they are allowed to grow. Just this past summer was to be seen one of the loveliest sights in western Kansas. It was in the meadow along the west side of the Packer homestead at the south rim of the valley. The profusion of wild flowers made it look like beautiful garden, with snow-on-the-mountain, wild asters, black- eyed Susans, buffalo roses, sunflowers, wild geraniums, blue stem, bells of Scotland, and the gorgeous waxy cactus blooms, not to mention several other varieties and colors of grass. Dotted over the valley also are the living reminders of the tree claims of long ago; a single mulberry tree, a crumb of cottonwoods, or a hedgeapple row. Also, if you know where to look, there are the still discernible buffalo wallows, which served their function for the herds which roamed this locality up to the earlier part of the past century.

     There are only a few buffalo grass pastures remaining, and these are fast being replaced by cultivated of the same birds and animals are to be found in the valley, but in beloved meadow lark still sings its cheery song, the hawk still swoops low for its prey, the mocking bird sasses the family cat, sparrows chatter and clutter, flocks of ducks honk overhead, and turtle doves coo their wistful notes. But the killdee (barometer for the early settlers) is seldom seen or heard. The flocks of snow birds and quails are becoming scarce, and the prairie chicken is seen no more. Now, dominating the feathered scene is the more showy pheasant, which must ever be wary of his enemies. Rabbits, coyotes, badgers, prairie dogs, skunks, ground squirrels, lizards, turtles and lizards are still to be found in the community. The antelope are gone.

     At the time of the settlement of the community by homesteaders in the middle 1880's, there was little to be seen but buffalo grass. There was not a tree of any kind, no bushes, no sage brush. The first homes were dug-outs, board shacks, or soddies. Some of the dug-outs, as in the case of the B.F. Packer and Walter Heath homes, were built into the side of the hills, which form the ridge of the valley. Other dug-outs were really that, as nothing could be seen of them except the roof with the storm door, which led down into the interior of dirt walls and dirt floors.

     Nearly all of the board shacks were of but one room and that one small and cheaply built. The soddies were mostly larger, some having two or three rooms. These nearly all had what were known as "car roofs,'' made of wide boards, covered with tarred paper, and that covered with a layer of sod.

     The few who had come to Pleasant Valley by 1886 and succeeded in breaking sod and planting a crop, were well repaid, for that was a good year. Rains were frequent and weather conditions ideal. But 1887 was a dry year, and by 1890, due to the drought, most of the settlers had left. This is the weather pattern which was prevailed since that time, cycles of dry years and cycles of sufficient rainfall, interspersed with hail storms, white blizzards, black blizzards and floods. Other menaces due to weather conditions were grasshopper invasions and prairie fires. John Fuller recalls the prairie fire of 1903 which originated north of Guymon, Oklahoma and swept across the prairies until it was seen that it would be a threat to Pleasant Valley. The men of the community prevented disaster to their farms by hours of hot and back breaking work, plowing fire guards across the south side of the valley.

     Farming has been, since the first settlement of the homesteaders, the chief occupation of the residents. The first farming was done with one furrow walking sod plows, known as "hot-foot grasshopper'' or "Katy-did" plows. The very earliest planting was done by broadcasting the grain by hand and covering the seed with a harrow. Later the Canton one-row listers made this task much easier. The listed crops were cultivated with horse cultivators and gathered by hand-topping and throwing into a wagon. Following this method of harvesting came the mowing machines, which cut the crop. Then a two-horse rake raked it into ricks or windrows. These windrows were then divided into unbound shocks to dry. Later the feed was pitched onto wagons and hauled to the barnyard and stacked.

     One of the exciting times of the year was the coming to the neighborhood of the horse-powered threshing machine. All the neighbors pitched in and helped each other with the threshing and the women cooked the meals for the crew. Then came what was thought to be the ultimate in labor saving devices -- the horse-drawn header and header barges, which required a crew of seven, and made the labor easier. Crops were then stacked in the fields and the coming of the threshing machine was now heralded by the steam whistle. The best known makes of the steam threshers were Rumley, Nichols and Sheperd, AultmanTaylor, Avery and Case. During this period the threshing was chiefly done for the community by A.H. Wooten and the LeMonnier brothers.

     Watermelons were raised for the seed and were one of the early productive crops. Other crops were cane, maize, millet and kaffir. Broomcorn and wheat were not raised until after the turn of the century.

     Today the valley is connected with the rest of the world by the most modern devices, radio, TV, dial telephones and daily mail service. We believe that Pleasant Valley had the first rural telephone line in the county and that it was erected in 1905 or 1906. It has been owned and maintained by the people of the community ever since. The line is known as the Pleasant Valley Dial Line Co. The first telephones were the wall type, double-cell battery phones. Several of these are still in the families of the original owners. A number of the code rings are the same ones that have been in the families for over fifty years.

     Much credit and gratitude is due to the rural mail carriers, who have served the community over half a century, all days of the week, except Sundays and holidays, through heat and cold, storms and bad roads. They have been, perhaps, the most faithful link when people have at times been cut off from the rest of the world. We here pay tribute to our rural carriers: Joe Maddox, Charley Smith, Lawrence Smith, Henry Krehbeil, Pete Zeigler, Red Patton and Clifford Marteney, and any others we may have omitted. We also pay tribute to the horses and buggies and later to the cars and jeeps which have made carrying the mail possible.

     Perhaps one of the greatest changes that has come about in Pleasant Valley since the settlement is the matter of transportation. The earliest settlers drove oxen or mules hitched to carts. Until the railroad built into Liberal in 1888, all supplies had to be freighted from the Santa Fe at Dodge City, Cimarron or Garden City. The round trips required about six days, especially when the wagon was loaded with buffalo bones to be shipped east for fertilizer, and on the return trip was loaded with supplies for the homesteaders. Then in a succession of ever-increasing splendor came riding horses, sturdy wagons (principally Weber, Peter Shuetter and Studebaker), then the easier riding spring wagons, buggies and surreys.

     Then was witnessed one of the greatest changes ever to come into the valley. Frank Green bought a motor-powered car, a Model T Ford. For days the people of the community thrilled with their first ride in a car.

      About 1915 the community had another cause for excitement and pride in the line of transportation. A car race was arranged and Pleasant Valley had an entrant, Sylvester Corrigan, who turned out to be the winner. The Liberal News carried a news item of this event and a poem regarding the participants. Two of the verses went like this:


           “John Baughman is barred

           We’re sorry to state.

           His boat is too big,

           It’s an Apperson 8!


          “Farmer Corrigan is a demon

          For Speed on the track

          Says he’s raring to go

          And will be the first back!”


     During the 1920s O.P. Byers purchased a right-of-way and built a railroad line from Liberal to Woods. This line, known as the K & O Railroad, cut diagonally across Pleasant Valley community from southeast to northwest. It was to have been an outlet for grain from the Rock Island at Liberal to the Santa Fe at Hugoton. The project was not a success and little remains as a reminder of the by-gone epoch in the community history.


K & O Railroad Train


     As is true in all pioneer communities, the establishment of school followed close upon the establishment of the first homes. The first record of an organized school in District 4 was in 1899. The office of the county superintendent records the name of the teacher in that year as well as the names of the members of the school board. So far, we have not been able to find for certain if school has been conducted in each following year for the records are not quite complete. This is a period of five years between 1894-1899 when no teacher's name is recorded. These were some of the dry years when most of the settlers left, so it is possible no school was conducted.

     There have been only two other school buildings during that period of time; the little white one-room schoolhouse and the present structure which replaced it in 1914. This site was also a part of the Scates ranch and was given to the community for the location for a schoolhouse. For a number of years school was maintained in the north end of the district also. This school was known as North Pleasant Valley. For a period of time, when a larger number of pupils made it needful, south Pleasant Valley was conducted as a two-teacher school. The Pleasant Valley school house has for over seventy years been a community center. As a school it has given a capable service to all the children of the district through the first eight grades, and in earlier days, even a few high school subjects were taught. Not only has the Pleasant Valley school house served its primary function as a school, but also was the meeting place for religious services until 1913. Many community gatherings, special basket dinners, box suppers, literary societies, lyceum numbers, etc. have been held there.

     Due to shortage of pupils, no school has been conducted for the past five years. In 1960 the district joined with the Wideawake district for school purposes. Since that time the building and site have been purchased by residents of the community for a community center. It now bears the name Pleasant Valley Community Center, Incorporated.

About Seward County Historical Society

The Seward County Historical Society provides historic and entertainment opportunities for the local, regional and international visitors to Southwest Kansas. From Dorothy's House to traveling exhibits and a repository of local history from the Spanish exploration of Coronado to current events, SCHS provides a venue and a committed group of staff and volunteers to insure local history is preserved and to reinforce the belief that Kansas truly is a place over the rainbow.

Get In Touch

Address: 567 E. Cedar, Liberal, KS 67901

Phone: 620-624-7624



Join Our Community

Sign up to receive email for the latest information.

The Seward County Historical Society provides historic and entertainment opportunities for the local, regional and international visitors to Southwest Kansas. From Dorothy's House to traveling exhibits and a repository of local history from the Spanish exploration of Coronado to current events, SCHS provides a venue and a committed group of staff and volunteers to insure local history is preserved and to reinforce the belief that Kansas truly is a place over the rainbow.

Copyright © 2021 Seward County Historical Society. All rights reserved.