Tonganoxie Historic Site to have open house Sunday; silent film with local ties to be shown
Everyone is invited to Sunday's open house at Tonganoxie Historic Site.
All the buildings -- the Honey Creek School, Reno church and the museum -- will be open from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. Sunday.
Two new items, a peace pipe and a silent film, are among the historic selections Sunday's visitors will see.
More than 140 years have passed since James M. Phenicie settled in Reno, yet his legacy lives on in a recent donation to the Tonganoxie Community Historical Society museum.
The museum has created an exhibit for a peace pipe tomahawk Phenicie found in the 1860s at Nine Mile Creek near Reno. It was used by local American Indians as a ceremonial pipe.
Phenicie's granddaughter Margaret (Sanders) Leighty, who died in 2002, and her husband, Julius "Pete" Leighty, who died last April, donated the item. The peace pipe tomahawk had been in the Phenicie family for three generations. The Leightys, of Tonganoxie, did not have any children.
Margaret wrote about the peace pipe tomahawk in memoirs she left with the estate. She described how her grandfather and his brothers found it while they were cutting timber for the Union Pacific railroad near Nine Mile Creek. They said it had belonged to an American Indian chief. Later, Margaret wrote, James smoked the peace pipe with American Indians who lived near Reno.
Suzy Ross, volunteer at the Tonganoxie Community Historical Society, said the item's connection to the community added to its historical significance.
"Every artifact we get is a treasure to us, but this one is unique because it came from the Delaware Indians, and it's from the 1860s," Ross said.
American Indians used the peace pipe tomahawk, but they did not manufacture it. Its origins can be traced to France, Ross said.
Thomas Foor, Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act coordinator at the University of Kansas, said the item's maker was not nearly as important as its purpose.
"Even though they didn't produce it themselves, they were very important to groups for their sacred nature and what they represented," Foor said.
Most of the peace pipe tomahawks in the United States were commercially produced, and American Indians would acquire them through trade, Foor said.
"Lewis and Clark carried 12 of them to give as gifts to the native tribes as they passed through," Foor said. "There is a long and distinguished past to these. They were quite valued by Native Americans."
The museum will feature the peace pipe tomahawk in a Delaware Indian exhibit near an already established collection of Phenicie family history at the museum.
Shawna Gilmore, trust and financial services officer at First State Bank and Trust, is helping administer the Leighty estate. The Phenicie family legacy is important to the community, Gilmore said, because the Phenicies were one of the first families to move to Kansas and settle in Reno.
William G. Cutler's "History of the State of Kansas" describes Phenicie as "an active and enterprising farmer and a highly respected citizen" of Reno. Cutler wrote that Phenicie was taken prisoner at the battle of Chickamauga, Ga., in September 1863 while serving in the Union Army. He and his brother William were held prisoner for 19 months and were released in the spring of 1865. That fall, James left Indiana and moved to Reno. William followed him in 1866.
The bank purchased several other Phenicie family heirlooms during the Leightys' estate sale in September. Gilmore said the bank spent $200 on the collection, which it donated to the museum.
Gilmore said the bank donated the additional items because they were important to Margaret, and the bank's staff considered them important to the community's history. Included in the donation is a teapot from China that is more than 200 years old. Margaret's memoirs show it was purchased by her great-great-great grandfather, a sea captain from Aberdeen, Scotland.
Silent film showing
Tonganoxie silent film star Jack Hoey grew up in Tonganoxie.
And though he was born in the early 1900s, it's possible to see a video of his life.
After serving in World War I, Hoey ventured into a career as a silent film star.
"He contracted to make five silent movies," said Susy Ross, who volunteers at the Tonganoxie Historic Site. "Before all five of them were made, talkies came in, so they bought him out of his contract."
Of the five movies Hoey had planned to be in, three or four movies were made.
And Ross has managed to buy a copy for the historic site.
The movie, "Tracy the Outlaw," is a rare silent film that details the true life story of Harry Tracy, one of the bad men of the old west, who escaped from a Texas gambling hall and was hunted by posses from state to state. The movie stars Jack Hoey and Dorris Chadwick.