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Livingston County History
Celebrating 150 Years, 1821-1981
Published by The Retired Senior Volunteer Program
Before the advent of good roads and automobiles, Chula was quite a thriving little town and the people who live in Chula now think it still is one of the best little towns on map.
The Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad was completed through this area in 1886. Two men gave a three block square plot of ground each to the railroad for starting a town in 1889. The first plot of Chula was January 2, 1890. The town was incorporated by Livingston County Court on October 7, 1893, and called the City of Chula.
In the meantime Chula was growing and prospering. The first post office, located in the postmaster’s home, and a general store were started in 1889; then a blacksmith shop, a lumber yard and a mill. The stockyards and a new depot nearby with a brick platform were built in 1891. Three churches - Methodist in 1890, Presbyterian in 1893, and Baptist in 1895 - were built.
Some of the merchants who advertised in the 3rd annual fair booklet, September 22, 1898, were: Long and Moore, hardware; C. M. Powell, lumber, implements and vehicles; Chula Milling Company; E. L. Treadway Cash Store; J. H. Owen and son, furniture and undertaking; George A. Gardner, general hardware; Lilly and Scovil, groceries, clothing orders taken for tailor-made clothes; W. P. Woods Commercial Hotel; H. B. Williams, blacksmithing; Earnheart and Harris City Meat Market; T. J. Woods Barber Shop; The Schneider Drug Store; Chula Hotel; C. O. Wilson, Photographer; A. M. Broyles, harness and saddles; F. C. Veseart, blacksmithing; W. K. Thompson, jeweler and optician; Fowlers Restaurant; E. F. Ogan, physician; J. W. Alexander, physician; J. N. Ballenger, notary public; M. Broyles and Son, first class livery. Chula also had an excellent ball team and the ball games were played at the fair grounds. Remembered players were Ruby Gibson, Ruby Veseart, Chester Powell, O. S. Leavell, Glenn Wright.
Chula always printed a newspaper - first remembered editor was Ed. Smith; in later years it was called “The Chula News,” printed by C. S. Steele. The original name of the paper was “Chula Home Press” and the subscription price in 1929 was one dollar per year. In 1929 C. M. Powell, who had been in the lumber business in Chula forty years, sold the business to Chula Farmers Mercantile Company. Some of the merchants who advertised in the Chula Home Press, June 28, 1929, were as follows: C. A. McGee, notary public and insurance; Garr’s Gardens, for cut flowers and potted plants, 25~ to $1.00; J. B. Kilburn, hardware; L. L. Lauderdale, dry goods, groceries; M. C. Booth, furniture and undertaking; Carlyle’s Drug Store; H. P. Tharp and Company Groceries; Elmore’s Poultry House; W. E. Payton, insurance; V. Sayer, harness and shoe repairing; W. E,’O’Hara, barber shop; J. S. Schneider, dry goods and groceries; and Hogan and Veseart garage. Billy Owens owned the movie theater; Manning and Schneider bought hogs and cattle for shipping. If they couldn’t buy the livestock they would ship them to Kansas City for seven cents per hundred weight.
The Milwaukee depot was torn down several years ago but at one time it had four passenger trains which stopped at Chula each day. The Southwest Limited would stop morning and night if passengers desired. Depot agents were Billy Wright, Walter Carson, “Shorty” Phillips and Ross Adkins. Telegrams were sent from and received at the depot.
There were four rural mail routes out of Chula and the mail went through in all kinds of weather. Sometimes the roads were so bad the carriers rode horseback to deliver the mail. Carriers were Sam Gibson, L. L. Harris, Rollie Gentry, John Kelley, Bill Fanning, Vern Parker, Reggie Garr, Archie Gale, O. L. (Brick) McCoy.
Mr. and Mrs. O. B. McCoy and family owned and operated the telephone exchange for many years. Later they sold it to Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Bartruff. Millinery store owners were Katie Doolin, Mrs. Oliver Wilson, Clara Moore, Kathryn O’Conner. Postmasters were “Uncle” Bob Thompson, “Uncle” Bob Davis, Stanley McKemy, Alfred Jenkins, Wade Manning, Lucy Manning and the present postmaster Donald Raney.
Chula had several doctors until later years. Dr. Alexander, Dr. Ogan, Dr. Carlyle, Dr. Broyles and Dr. Graham took care of their patients, day or night. Price of house calls was $1.50; babies were delivered at home for $25.
For many years Chula had Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist Churches. The newest church in town is the Catholic Church. The Methodist Church disbanded during the 1970’s. The Eastern Star and Masonic Lodge had their lodge hall above L. L. Lauderdale’s store. The Modern Woodman Lodge met every Monday night. The lodges are now all disbanded.
“Uncle” John Cummings owned a livery stable where you could hire a horse and buggy or one could have his own horse cared for while he went to Chillicothe or Kansas City on one of the passenger trains. Wagons which were called drays delivered all freight and express to the merchants. Dray men were “Uncle” Ben Calloway and Ernie Gift. Billy Owens had an ice house and put up ice in the winter and delivered it to homes and stores during the summer or it could be bought at the ice house. There were two banks in Chula at one time. Billy Payton was cashier of the Exchange Bank of Chula and helpers were Ruby Gibson, Jimmie Graham, and Fern Payton. The Farmers and Merchants Bank’s cashier was Floyd Ross, and his helper was Arthur Broyles. Both banks were closed by 1927.
In 1952, Chula Farmers Co-Op bought the Chula Farmers Mercantile Corporation lumberyard. The Co-Op built their initial grain elevators in 1956. Storage tanks and the fertilizer plant were built later. More elevators have been added within the last year.
Gone from sight but not from the memories of many are the windmill, the well, and the watering trough that were located in the center of Mansur “Main” Street. These were relocated when the state hiway department did resurfacing of that street in 1936. The hitchracks that people used to tie their horses and teams to are no longer here. They were located along the east side of the Presbyterian Church and along the west side of the Baptist Church.
The initial one room school was used until 1895 when it was replaced by a three room building. That building was replaced in 1915 by a two story brick building, which housed grades one through twelve. In the summer of 1958 a new school was built but wasn’t ready for regular classes until January 1959. This school houses kindergarten and grades one through eight. High school students are transported to near by high schools by bus.
Chula residences are especially fortunate to have both natural gas, which was available in 1955, and city water for use since 1959.
The truck bed manufacturing company that was in operation during the 1960’s has been replaced by an antique storage. Since passenger trains terminated their stops here during the 1950’s and so much express was transported by trucks, the depot closed its doors in 1962. Five years later the building was razed.
The Chula Rural Fire Department was organized December 4, 1963. In 1964 the fire house was built and a more modern fire truck replaced the older model. In 1971, the post office was completely remodeled and made modern with air conditioning. The community center built in 1975 is beneficial to all age groups. During the fair each year one can find displays of 4-H groups, hand crafts, country store and foods. The “Young at Heart” club have their monthly meetings there. Many families have family reunions at the center also. Chula’s newest project is a city sewer system which is already in progress.
Chula has a mayor, town council, and committee members.
-- Cleo Johnson and Marian Lewis