Sunday, January 1, 2023

53 Miles West of Kansas City



Stull was originally founded as the Deer Creek community at the headwaters of Deer Creek. The community was settled mainly by people of German ancestry and by 1857, six families were living in the vicinity. In 1859 the Evangelical Emmanuel Church was organized. There was apparently a great need for sermons as Reverend C. Berner noted that he held two meetings in Deer Creek, a very dark community where no one seemed to know about conversion. By 1867, the members had collected enough money to construct a church. Land was donated by Jacob Hildebrand for both the church and an adjoining cemetery. The church cost $2,000 to build and stood until being demolished in 2002.
Stull church. Photo by unknown. Taken from the Territorial Capital Museum
in Lecompton, Kansas.

Church rubble. 2014.

A post office was organized on April 27, 1899 but was discontinued in 1903. The post office asked the town to submit a list of names for the post office and, showing a lack of imagination, the post office chose the name Stull, named after Sylvester Stull, the town’s first and only postmaster.
Stull Post Office announcement, Lawrence Daily Journal, May 13, 1899

The first business in Stull was established in 1899 when J.E. Louk opened a general store in the living room of his house. The telephone switchboard was operated in the back of the house as was the post office. John Kraft moved to Stull in 1904 and entered into a partnership with Louk but 18 months later Louk sold his share to Kraft. H. Clark Swadley built another store across the street from the Kraft store but it closed when Kraft bought the store and moved in. In 1938, Kraft sold the store to Charles Houk who operated the store until 1955. In the 1920s, Stull nearly had a bank and the Kaw Valley InterUrban Railway was going to be extended from Lawrence to Emporia but for one reason or another neither materialized.
May 11, 1899 Jeffersonian Gazette article on the
Louk grocery store and post office.

In the late 1910s, Stull petitioned for a highway route from Lawrence
to Topeka through Stull. The road instead was built through Big Springs
and is now U.S. Highway 40.

Stull was fairly isolated before automobiles and modern roads as it was a two hour trip from Lecompton, three hours from Lawrence and four hours to Topeka. School was held in the Deer Creek School, sometimes called the Brown Jug because it was painted brown. Baseball was also popular in Stull as was holding picnics and fairs in Lane’s Grove half a mile south of town.
Deer Creek School, District 48. 1879-1963.
Illustrated by Goldie Piper Daniels.
Despite being barely a small town for all of its existence, Stull was not without its share of tragedies. In 1908, young Oliver Bahnmaier wandered away from his house and was found later in a field that his father had burned. Charles Kizer died of exposure after walking home from work one weekend. Another man was reported missing by his family and was found by the search party hanging from a tree. In recent years, Stull has gained a reputation of being haunted and a meeting place for the Devil and a stairway to Hell. These claims have, unfortunately, led to rampant vandalism in the cemetery and trespassing.
Oliver Bahnmaier obituary.
Lecompton Sun, April 9, 1908.
"If they make it we have it, if we can find it" was the motto of the John Kraft store. John Kraft and his family moved to Stull in 1904 and went into partnership with J.E. Louk in a store. Soon, Louk sold his share and the Kraft store served the community until 1938 when they sold the business to the Charles Houk family, who ran it until 1955. His son, Christian Kraft, built a machine shop where his family's store was which stands today.
John and Louisa Kraft. From FindAGrave.

From the book Soil of Our Souls: Histories of Clinton Lake Area Communities by Martha Parker and Betty Laird: "The people who settled on the fertile land near Deer Creek were mostly farmers. They brought with them a rich heritage which has been imparted to the present generation living in the Stull community."

A view of the large pine tree in the old section of Stull Cemetery. Sadly, it was removed in 1998. From a file 
at the Territorial Capital Museum in Lecompton.

A poem from a student at Deer Creek School was found among their records when Goldie Piper Daniels was doing her research on rural schools of Douglas County, Kansas. It's unknown who wrote it.
Today I started to school.
I learned some words and a number of rules;
I drew some pictures with colored chalks,
The teacher said I mustn't talk.

At recess we played some games,
I learned most all the children's names;
Most of them seemed to be all right
But one big boy tried to start a fight.

It makes me tired to sit so still,
I don't like school and never will.
But the little boy that sits in front of me
Is just as cute as he can be.