Old maps may be only of their kind

Staff writer

William Meysing has been a history buff since he was old enough to ride a bike, and since his grandpa told him stories of pioneers who settled in Marion County.

So when he sent out several letters three decades ago, asking for historic information about the area, he was shocked at the history he received back.

“I was surprised to receive a manila envelope back with two maps, already yellowed and 60 years old, folded and enclosed,” he said.

An employee from the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad sent the maps of Marion Centre (now Marion) from 1878 and 1887 with a note enclosed saying, “We don’t have any use for these old papers, and we were going to throw them away, so you might as well have them.”

A month ago, Meysing who lives in Austin, Texas, returned to Marion County for a visit and to sure up a contract to sell the historical Billings property south of Main and Walnut Sts.

He brought the maps to the Marion County Record office. His goal is to get them digitally imaged so they can be available to everyone, even though private collector offered a sizable amount for them. One map will be available to view at the Record office next week after being digitally imaged by the historical society. The other will be donated to John Wheeler, the owner of the Billings property.

After the Record contacted the Kansas Historical Society, it was discovered no maps like the two were cataloged.

“What makes them unique is their age and the fact that both of these original old documents say Marion Centre,” Meysing said. “With all the floods in Marion over the last 100 years that decimated and destroyed most of the records that were stored in basement vaults in downtown buildings, these two old railroad town maps are remarkable.

“Any still-existing paper documents this old and original that had the name when it was called Marion Centre from the town’s inception in the 1860s are quite a treasure.”

Marion Centre became Marion sometime during the 1880s.

While Meysing grew up outside of Pilsen, Marion’s history as a pioneer town fascinated him because of stories told to him by his grandfather and because he could ride to Marion on his bicycle.

“He would talk of the Indian settlements near town and in the county and about how things were back then,” Meysing said. “I was fascinated and would often ride my bike to the Marion library or to the Indian sites to research and explore.”

After Meysing graduated from Centre High School in the late 1960s, he went to college, where he struggled as a premedical student. He left college and held many manufacturing jobs while conducting research about pioneer towns in the area. That is when he became in possession of the maps.

Marion and Florence are two of the oldest towns in the county and hold a rich history. Meysing’s goal is to find pop bottles and medicine bottles that say Marion Centre on them.

“Back in the 1800s there were soda shops that made their own bottles in every city, and the pharmacists did the same,” he said. “I have old bottles that say Marion on them, but have never been fortunate enough to find any saying Marion Centre. They are truly old.”

After receiving the maps, Meysing hoped he could use them to locate old landfills to search for the bottles but was unsuccessful. He even bought the former Billings Park and home from the late Rusty Longhofer and searched there.

“Rusty knew a lot about history back then, especially about the Billings property,” Meysing said.

Love for history helped Meysing find his passions and succeed in life, he said.

“I was able to take my passion and transform it into something useful and help myself grow,” he said.

Meysing’s passion for research led him to not only find items buried by time but also to become a successful businessman and president of Corporate Builders Inc.

“I’ve collected a huge amount of information and artifacts,” he said. “Now I just need to find the best outlet to display it all.”

 

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