As the result of a search for stone arch culverts in Butler County, Kansas, we discovered two intriguing stone arch culverts on the Logan/Little Walnut township line. These two culverts are located on 120th Street, west of 120th’s intersection with Teter Road. Both span small ravines, and both are located a short distance from each other. For exact locations, please see our Stone Arch Bridges of Butler County, Kansas page.
These culverts proved to be unique in several ways. First, rather than the usual straight approaches, they utilize diagonal wing walls. Secondly, the build quality is outstanding, especially so for a township culvert. Though not easily visible in the photo above, at the time of our visit to these culverts, it was readily apparent that the builder had done extensive stonecutting work, for not only did the stones fit quite well, but, on the arch of the easternmost culvert, toothed chisel marks were readily visible on the surfaces of the stones. Given the amount of care that obviously went into the erection of these culverts, it is not surprising that they remain in excellent condition, though the easternmost has seen some slight damage to the arch, visible in the photo above.
Once these culverts were found and their exact location was thus determined, it proved easy to find good newspaper documentation about them and the excellent builder who erected them.
In The News…
The first reference we found to the culverts was in the 1914 edition of The Leon News:
“We will receive bids July 11, 1914 for the filling of two culverts by the yard on the township line between Logan and Little Walnut at the Leidy farm, according to the instruction of trustees.
“F. M. Tabing,
“G. W. Dunn,
“Trustees.”“Notice,” The Leon News, July 2, 1914.
This exciting find certainly appeared at a glance like it might refer to the newly found stone culverts. A look at the trusty 1905 plat book of Butler County digitized by the Kansas Historical Society confirmed that these stone culverts are at the edge of what was the Leidy farm; hence the two culverts to be filled in 1914 were the same two we found on 120th Street.
The Leidy Road
The fact that these two culverts were to be filled in at the same time also logically suggested that they were initially built at the same time. This is confirmed by a brief remark found in the October 30, 1913, edition of The Leon News:
“James Kiser and his men are working on the culverts on the new road south of Fremont Leidy’s as the weather permits.”“Little Walnut,” The Leon News, October 30, 1913.
This useful piece of information not only indicated the actual construction date and builder of the culverts, but also that the reason they were built at once was to open a new road. Incidentally, the 1905 Butler plat book above mentioned showed no road actually going through by the Leidy farm on the Little Walnut page. Oddly, however, there appeared to be a road shown on the Logan page at this point.
In regards to the actual grading of the culverts, as advertised in the July 2, 1914, edition of The Leon News quoted above, the following reference turned up:
“The Kiser crew are grading the culvert on the new road through Fremont Leidy’s.”“Little Walnut,” The Leon News, September 24, 1914.
This reference again mentions the fact that this was a new road at the time.
We find in the January 8, 1914, edition of The Leon News in the Little Walnut Township Treasurer’s report that “J. S. Kiser” (James Kiser) was being paid by the township for work on a “culvert on twp. lines,” presumably referring to one or the other of the Leidy culverts.
James S. Kiser was born in Indiana in 1850. After a stay in Iowa, he moved to Kansas in 1878, finally ending up in Leon in 1881. Like his brother L. L. Kiser, with whom he worked early on, James Kiser was a builder and contractor. James Kiser frequently worked with his sons, and Kiser & Sons were credited with building many of the old buildings in Leon. Also note that “Kiser & Sons” built the last stone arch bridge known to be built in Butler County; see Stone Arch Bridges of Butler County, Kansas: Builders and Locations Part 4. His obituary appears in the June 27, 1930, edition of The Leon News, and gives a good summary of his life. A photo of James Kiser and his wife appears in the April 11, 1930, edition of The Leon News. It is clear that James Kiser was a highly respected citizen of Leon. To judge from the two outstanding stone arch bridges he left behind on the Logan/Little Walnut township line, he was also an excellent stonemason.