The following story was written 25 years ago as part of the series created by the Eads High School history project—Kiowa County: A Retrospective at the Dawn of a New Millennium. This series was written by EHS juniors and seniors in 1999—as the new century was about to come on to the scene. Each student chose a subject they were interested in and then through first-hand interviews and primary sources did the research and wrote the article. Each article was printed in the Kiowa County Press. The high school staff that guided this project included Pete Conrad, EHS English teacher, and Betsy Barnett, District Media Specialist. The project won a state history award in 2000.
I stopped sweeping for a moment to gaze around at the house that I was helping my dad rebuild. It wasn’t much to look at for the moment. Most of the walls had been knocked out and there was a lot of plaster and lathe on the floor that I was helping to sweep up. Suddenly, my little sister, Elizabeth, stopped and picked up something from a pile of plaster on the floor.
“Look at this, Daddy!” she exclaimed.
We all went over to look. What we saw was a somewhat tarnished old penny with the date of 1916 on it. My mind drifted off to the story of this house. Before the house was here, a four-room house stood on the lot. A Mr. A. Thomas Cherry later bought the lot. He had the four-room house demolished and a bigger house built in its place. That was in 1918. According to Ellen Simmons, Mr. Cherry had one arm that he kept wrapped up so that it looked like he was wearing a sock on it. It is believed that he lost his arm in a corn picking accident. Mr. Cherry’s wife was in a wheelchair, but she was far from invalid. She could do tons of things on her own, such as cook and keep house. The Cherry house was a two-story affair, so a crude elevator was installed in the house, near the stairs, in order for Mrs. Cherry to find her way up and down both levels of the house. The elevator was supposedly the only elevator in town and was rigged up to a pulley with three sides made of plywood with the entrance area just a half piece of plywood. Consequently, if a passenger decided to stick their head or hands out of the half-door, they would definitely not do it a second time. Mr. and Mrs. Cherry had a son they named A. T. Cherry, Jr. A Mr. B.L. Greenwell foreclosed on Mr. Cherry on May 9, 1939, because he couldn’t pay off a loan of $2,000.
I began to sweep again, then my eyes fell on the dust that was lying in piles at the base of each wall. It was a fine dust almost like powder. It wasn’t half so bad now as it was when we were knocking out the walls. I could imagine myself standing in the house during the dirty thirties when the Dust Bowl was in the height of its destructive force. Many people put wet sheets over the windows to try to keep the dust out. The sheets didn’t help all that much.
During the late 1930s and early 1940s the National Youth Administration (NYA) School owned the house. The NYA is the girl’s version of the boy’s version of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps that originated around the time of the war. Young girls from the area—Eads, Kit Carson, Granada, Holly, etc..—were taught to cook, keep house, sew, and shop. While learning these skills, the girls were also paid a small salary and given a place to stay. Every two weeks, the girls would exchange living places. Some lived at the hospital, and some stayed at the old A. T. Cherry house while the girls from the house would go stay in the hospital. Some of the girls who participated in the NYA and lived in the house were Minnie Belle Lynn Inklebarker, who is Ellen Simmons’ sister, Ilene Walker Eder, Corky Copelan Buck, and Jene Abrams Warden. Their supervisor was Mrs. Letha Strombough.
August 17, 1946, the old A. T. Cherry house was deeded to Frank and Carrie Shedivetz. The Shedivetz’s were said to be really nice people. They had two sons, Donlad F. and Clayton Lee. Both Donald and Clayton were in the armed services. Clayton, born on August 11, 1916, coached basketball for two years after his graduation in 1939. Soon after that he worked for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He was inducted into the service in 1941. At the age of 25, he was given the rank of Second Lieutenant on April 23, 1943. When the Shedivetz’s died they willed the house to their two sons.
Donald and Clayton sold the house to Chester (Chet) Kelly on June 25, 1970. Chet and his wife, Gladys, owned the house jointly and each had a different idea of what to do with it. Therefore, the house sat vacant since its purchase in 1970. Ultimately Chet deeded his half to his sister Irene Kelly Gade on September 14, 1978. Gladys Kelly deeded her half to Marcia Marie Wilson of Kit Carson on December 3, 1993. From there, Marcia deeded the house to Mr. Steven D. Puls and Carolyn L. Puls on November 3, 1996.
For years, from 1970 and up until 1996, the house stood empty and fell into disrepair. The fire department used the house at one time for training exercises. A heavy black material was hung over the windows to shut out the light. Then a doll or something on those lines was put in the house and the firefighters had to go find the dummy in the smoke-filled house.
My family has been working on the run-down house, slowly but steadily since we purchased it in 1996. First, we fixed the exterior of the house applying new siding, repairing the broad and inviting porch and giving the entire place a white paint job with blue trim. Inside things are going slower. The old elevator was taken out and the stairway going upstairs made broader and with a higher ceiling. There are six bedrooms in the house with three being upstairs, one master bedroom on the main floor, and two bedrooms downstairs. Each level has its own bathroom. In the back of the house we have taken out an old, and very small bathroom, and are putting the kitchen across the entire end. The house has been my family’s hobby for the last four or five years and will continue to be so until we are finished putting life back into this wonderful old house.
The things we could find out if houses could talk would be pretty interesting. There are a number of different stories which could be told about each and every house in town and about the people who lived in them. Maybe, by doing research you too, can learn about what a house will say if it could. You are encouraged to pick a building you are interested in and learn its story. There are a lot of things that you could learn. Some of it might surprise you. For instance, one house in Eads was a mortuary at one time but that’s a different story that maybe someone will uncover. Who knows what you could find out from a house if you took the time to find out and “listen” to the story the house has to tell.