Memorial to Early Efforts: Themian Park

by Kristine Schmucker, Archivist/Curator

The First Woman’s Group in Town: Themian Club

The day was ideal, “autumn sun, soft and yellow and the late rain making the air fresh and invigorating.” The event meticulously planned and presented. It was a fine October morning in 1919, to celebrate the silver anniversary of the Themian Club, the oldest woman’s group in Newton. The celebration was held in the lovely home of Mrs. H.L. Hart,  “just west of town.” Upon arriving the women found “four spacious rooms opening together, set with quartet tables and one long table, beautiful snowy linen, silver and crystal and basket vases of pink carnations and greenery – the club colors.” Present at the event were fifteen of seventeen of the past presidents of the club.

“The Club That Gets Things Done”

After a four-course dinner was served, the first president and charter member, Amelia C. (Mrs. S.R.) Peters, recalled the early years of the club.

“She remembered clearly about the earlier efforts of the woman suffrage society in Newton. How the sentiment grew after the war and the outgrowth was suffrage societies.” 

In Kansas, after municipal suffrage was granted in 1887, these societies disbanded in Newton.  In the absence of these societies, the women of Newton organized the Themian Club. Named after the Greek goddess of Divine Justice, Themis, they adopted for their motto a quote from Lincoln, “”do the best you can if not, the best possible.”  Among their early accomplishments was the establishment of a curfew bell to ring at nine o’clock every evening. They had a keen interest in civic projects and became known as “the club that gets things done.” At one point the club had 150 members.

The Themian Club was the first woman’s club established in Newton and throughout the years they promoted projects of public interest and welfare. Some of the projects included the Public Library, the Music Talent Audition to support young musicians, Penny Art Fund and Gifts to the War Veterans of War 1 including the Cancer Control project of the Field Army. The Themian Club supports worthwhile causes both locally and nationally.  (“History of the Themian Club,” von der Heiden)

Themian Park

One of the club’s biggest contributions to the Newton community was Themian Park. In 1875, two city parks were established one in Block 24 (West Park) at N Poplar & 7th, and in Block 30 (East Park) Broadway & Oak.

Over time the upkeep of the parks left something to be desired. The ladies of the Themian Club had a proposal for the City Council.

Amelia C. Doane Peters (Mrs. S. R.)

“The Question of Parks”

In the February 16, 1898 issue of the Evening Kansan Republican it was reported that the Themian Club and the Commercial Club met with the city council for the purpose of improving the city parks. The president of the Themian club, Mrs. S.R. Peters reported that the club “is ready to prosecute the work it commenced last summer. The park fund now has $109 to its credit . . .to be used in beautifying the parks.” If the city council and Commercial Club would match the funds “the two parks will indeed look metropolitan by next summer.” The ladies had already secured J.P. Rogers of Topeka to submit plans for the two parks when he submitted plans for Athletic Park.

July 1, 1898, the Themian Club held a formal opening of the refreshed West Park. Plans included musical entertainment with refreshments of ice cream and cake. The reporter noted that “the place presents a remarkably different appearance from that of last summer.”

Evening Kansan Republican, 1 July 1898

For several years the actual upkeep of Themian Park was the responsibility of the club members. After several years, the city took over the upkeep of the park.

Evening Kansan Republican, 21 March 1899.

Later Mrs. Amelia Peters, Themian Club’s first president, would recall that the club,

“agitated the question of parks. Secured Themian Park and had it named for the club. Hired a landscape gardener and planted the park to trees and flowers. Later the city council took over the parks, not showing favor toward flower beds and women pottering around.” (Newton Journal, 17 October 1919)

Newton. May 9, 1930. Young women wind a May Pole in Themian Park during May Fete.

The ladies of the Themian Club also worked on Military Plaza Park. However, in September 1898 they decided that it would “take a good sum to beautify the East park according to the plans, and the east siders are willing to wait till enough money can be raised to do the work properly.  The club will . . . give its attention to maintaining Themian park.” (Evening Kansan Republican, 7 September 1898)

This fall, get out and enjoy the two oldest parks in Newton, Themian and Military Parks.

Newton City Parks Quick Facts

  • April 1875 East (Block 30) and West Parks (Block 24) established.
  • In 1898, the Commercial Club had the honor of renaming the park in Block 30 Military Park and a year later in May 1899, the Themian Club was asked to rename West Park. They decided on Themian Park.
  • Military Park was also known as Military Plaza. The Themian Club worked on improving this park.
  • Nov 2, 1909 Athletic Park vote carried to purchase 30-acre tract of land from the Newton Driving & Athletic Association.


  • History of the Themian Club: 1894-1945 by Mrs. W.H. von der Heiden, Clubs & Organizations, Box 3A, Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • Themian Club, Clubs & Organizations, Harvey County Historical Museum & Archives, Newton, Ks.
  • “Three Beautiful Parks” 22 August 1922, 50th Anniversary Edition, Newton Kansan.
  • Newton Journal 19 October 1919.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 30 July 1897, 1 February 1898, 8 April 1898, 15 June 1898, 1 July 1898, 7 September 1898, 21 March 1899, 4 May 1900.

A Woman of Strong Personality: Mrs. Anna B. Butler

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Archivist/Curator

Mrs. Anna B. Butler

Her hat caught my attention, then I noticed her strong, confident face and I wondered, what is her story?

Born in 1861 in Adams, Illinois, Anna Eliza Balfour Butler eventually married Henry J. Butler. The couple had one son, Carl. The family came to Newton perhaps as early as 1885. The 1885 City Directory lists “Mrs. H.J. Butler, crayon artist” as a boarder at the Howard House Hotel, Newton, Ks.

Henry died of “nervous prostration” in the late 1890s. Very little information can be found about him.

Mrs. Anna B. Butler was active in the Newton community. In 1898, she was the president of the newly formed French Club and active in the Themian Club, where she also served as president. Meetings were often held at her house 203 E Broadway. She was active in developing Themian Park in Newton.

“Practiced Law Here”

In 1902, Anna is listed as a lawyer in the Newton City Directory. Her obituary also makes note of her profession in Newton.  “Mrs. Butler was a former resident of Newton and practiced law here.” (Evening Kansan Republican,  7 Jan. 1919)

What did it mean? “Practiced Law Here?”

While women were admitted to law school as early as the 1860s, there were other ways to become a lawyer. In the late 1800s-early 1900s, a person could “read” for the law and were “examined” by a designated group of attorneys and judges, usually at the county or judicial district level. Once they passed, they could practice law.  Most of the early women lawyers in Kansas “read for the bar” in a lawyer’s office rather than attending law school. It is likely that Anna was one that “read for the bar.” Kansas apparently had a fair number of women lawyers. Linda Diane Henry Elrod writes, “by the end of the nineteenth century, Kansas had enough women lawyers that an 1898 newspaper article indicated that Kansas had more successful women lawyers than any other western state.”

In 1906, Anna sold her household goods and moved to Manhattan to be closer to Carl while he was in school at the university.

Evening Kansan Republican, 26 May 1906.

“Renewed Faith in Manhattan”

While she return to Newton to visit frequently, Anna and Carl put down roots in Manhattan, Ks. Anna became well known as a savvy businesswoman and land agent.

Morning Chronicle, 26 July 1911

She also did not waste time getting involved  in Manhattan, purchasing several properties along 14th Street.

In 1911, the Manhattan city council  proposed to enlarge 14th Street to connect the new city additions with old. The main property owner affected was Anna B. Butler. According to the newspapers, she argued for a different route than the one that went straight through her property. After she presented her ideas, “the matter was thoroughly – at times heatedly – discussed.” In the end, The city council went with the initial proposal with compensation for Anna to move one house and cover the damage to the property.

This  incident did not stop her. She continued to invest in the Manhattan  community. According to the Riley County Democrat, 5 April 1912, “Mrs. Anna B. Butler is exhibiting renewed faith in Manhattan by building three new houses on West Laramie street.” In 1916, she built another house at 14th & Laramie in Manhattan for $2,500 to use as a rental property.  (Morning Chronicle 15 July 1916)

She was “vitally interested in a business  way in the growth of the town. She was a woman of strong personality, deep convictions upon spiritual matters and a fine business woman.  . . . the center of her life interest was her son Carl. Between the two existed a sympathy, understanding and love of the highest type between mother and son.” (Manhattan Tribune, 9 January 1919)

In the winter of 1918, she traveled to Berkley, California to be near her son Carl, who was in the aviation branch of the service near Riverside CA. She died January 6, 1919 after sudden  illness which was later revealed to be stomach cancer. Her body was brought back to Newton for burial.

Both Henry and Anna are buried in Greenwood Cemetery, Newton, Ks.


  • Newton Journal: 17 January 1919
  • Newton Daily Journal: 12 February 1898, 21 February 1898
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 28 May 1906, 15 August 1907, 12 September 1910, 15 September 1910, 15 July 1913, 7 January 1919, 13 January 1919, 15 January 1919, 22 August 1922
  • Riley County Democrat: 5 April 1912
  • Morning Chronicle: 26 July 1911, 15 July 1916
  • Manhattan Tribune: 9 January 1919
  • Manhattan Republican: 29 June 1911, 19 October 1911
  • Manhattan Mercury: 8 January 1919
  • Elrod, Linda Diane Henry. “Washburn Law School Celebrates a Century of
    Welcoming Women” Washburn Law School, Vo. 42. p. 854-907.

“One of the Highest Honors:” May Fete Queen

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

Several years ago, a scrapbook kept by Leonette Lyon Hoffman while in high school at NHS (late 1920s-30s)  was donated to HCHM.  Included in the photos was a section on the “May Fete Queen.” Further research revealed that crowning a “May Fete Queen” was in connection with end of the school year festivities that included the May pole and playing bagpipes in Themian Park.

3rd Grade girls from Lincoln School. May Fete, May 1917

A clipping from May 21, 1917 gives the order of events.

Evening Kansan Republican, 21, May 1917.

“The First Brunette:” Frances Goerz

Leonette included the May celebrations in 1928 including the selection of a May Fete Queen. Young ladies were  recognized for their involvement in various school and community activities.  The Newton Kansan noted that to be chosen for the May Queen

is one of the highest honors that can be bestowed upon any senior girl in the Newton High School for when the queen is voted upon many things are considered such as ranking well in school, popularity and beauty. . .   Miss Goerz has taken part in nearly every school activity in her four years.”

These included “successful class parties”;  officer in the Girl Reserve and Girls’ Athletic Association, and National Honor Society. Frances was in charge of all costuming for the Senior Class play, “Icebound” and notably, she was the first brunette queen to be chosen.

Frances Goerz

She was also the daughter of the prominent Rudolph A. & Martha (Krehbiel) Goerz family, granddaughter of Rev. David Goerz.

In addition,  “Miss  Margaret Jackson, a blonde, is chosen as maid of honor.”

The queen’s court consisted  of eight  attendants chosen from the Junior and Senior class.

May Fete events associated with the end of school seemed to be popular in Newton ca. 1917 through 1930.



  • Scrapbook, Leonette Lyon Hoffman, HCHM Archives.
  • Evening Kansan Republican: 21 May 1917, 23 May 1917, 24 May 1918, 25 May 1918, 24 May 1919.