Created By: Reno County Museum
In the distance, two tall white homes still stand, just as magnificent as they ever were.
The school was moved away and the general store was torn down. And the few thousand acres of fruit trees that bore apples that were shipped across the countryside died more than 75 years ago.
Town with 4 names
Yaggy is a town that had four names.
It was Salem in 1872, according to the book "Early Ghost Towns, Post Offices and Hamlets in Reno County, Kansas," by local resident Bert Newton.
The Reno County town was a station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad - located near the intersection of Yaggy Road and Nickerson Boulevard. It is believed that the railroad changed the name to Bath following a bad train wreck in that area on Oct. 2, 1882.
According to Newton, a Hutchinson News article from that date told of a mail train having to run onto a sidetrack at Salem, waiting for the Cannon Ball to pass. The switch, however, was incorrectly turned, allowing the Cannon Ball to tear "along at the rate of 40 miles an hour, to crash into the mail train."
Newton recorded that both engines and six cars were demolished and the jolt sent the "great crowd of passengers flying hither and thither, jammed up, injured, scared, crying, cursing."
William Cutler's "History of Kansas," published in 1883, still listed the town as Salem.
But the town would soon change again from Bath to Fruit Valley and, eventually, Yaggy, thanks to a man named Yaggy who saw promise in the landscape with a bountiful underground water table.
Ideal for an orchard
Levi Walter Yaggy was one of the best known publishers in the United States. He owned Western Publishing House in Chicago, which had 17 branches and a thousand agents across the country, according to "Reno County, Kansas: Its People, Industries and Institutions," written by Sheridan Ploughe.
Yaggy was a mechanical genius who had patents on a few innovations, including an adding machine and a stubble turner, according to Ploughe.
But it was on a goose-hunting trip to Kansas in 1884 that he started Reno County's produce legacy. "L.W." observed a well being dug on the Thomas Parker Ranch.
"He found the water table was only two feet down, and to him, that was a huge finding. Water is always a problem," said Laura Krantz Reed about her great-grandfather.
Realizing that the underflow of the Arkansas River would provide good access to water, L.W. bought the entire Parker estate - 1,350 acres - and planted catalpa and apple trees - the catalpa used to make fence posts and railroad ties.
By 1893, the plantation was blossoming and L.W. made arrangements to have the name of Bath changed to Fruit Valley, according to Newton's book. He thought it was more descriptive of the area.
An 1895 Rand McNally map labels the area as such, although another map from that time lists it as Bath.
But the post office didn't accept the name Fruit Valley, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. They dubbed the railway station and community center as Yaggy when the post office opened in January 1900, before closing that June.
The post office reopened a year later, but only for three months.
Edward and Laura
While the orchard began under L.W. Yaggy, his son, Edward, continued to grow into the national produce market.
Edward came to the area in 1897 for a three-month stay while his father was in Europe, according to an Oct. 30, 1988, story in The News. He stayed for 40 years.
Reed said her grandmother, also Laura Reed, a concert violinist from a prominent pioneering Kansas City family, had come to visit a friend at Forsha Ranch. Edward was at the same event.
The two married in December 1905, and Laura continued to make concert appearances, playing with the New York Philharmonic. She also was involved in, and even led the Reno County suffrage movement.
The Yaggy plantation continued to grow. In the early teens, the farm had 500 acres of catalpa trees, as well as 808 acres of apple trees, with apples shipped all over the nation.
"It's one of the most profitable production plantations of the sort in the country," Ploughe wrote in his book. "There are no fewer than one million catalpas growing on the place and 50,000 apple trees, 600 acres of which latter are now bearing and the rest coming into bearing."
In 1915, Edward Yaggy sold 210,000 bushels of apples - the principal varieties being Jonathan, Grimes Golden, Wine Sap, Roman Beauty and York Imperial. He added cowpeas, potatoes and sweet potatoes to the offerings. Yaggy soon became the largest shipping point for fruit between the Missouri River and California.
"It was the largest apple orchard under one fence in the United States," Reed said, adding that the red warehouse had 18,000 square feet used for grading and storing fruit.
The plantation employed 300 men during the busy season, and it had 30 employees full-time.
Yaggy never was incorporated, nor did it get very big.
Instead, it served as a community center. Local youth attended the Fruit Valley school. Henry Edwin Shultz was the plantation overseer, working and living for years on the plantation.
But, by then, the trees were nearly gone, Reed said. The drought of the 1930s took out most of the trees. The family didn't replant them.
Reed's mother, Laura Coates Yaggy, had married Robert Krantz in 1928. They eventually moved back to the area, as well, to take over the plantation.
"In the late 1930s, the trees were dying or had died and my grandfather had passed away," Reed said. "It happened that my father purchased the Yaggy plantation from my grandmother and he turned it into a cattle ranch and also grew wheat."
Edward Yaggy died in September 1940, according to an article about his death in The Hutchinson News. It was estimated by his wife that he helped produce 1.25 million bushels of fruit.
While the trees were largely gone, the little community survived for a time. Wall said she remembered a little store that had fuel pumps, and she and Reed attended Yaggy School just down the street.
"My memories of Yaggy School, it's where I went for eight years," said Reed, who now lives in New Mexico. "We would play all over the place - lots of times it was on the railroad track; my mother thought it was safer. Sometimes I would ride my pony to school. ... We had a softball team, and I remember playing first base on the softball team and we'd be in Reno County tournaments."
The school was a chicken restaurant that eventually was moved to Plum Street. In the past decade, the apple warehouse was torn down. Today, Lucinda Piligian owns the homes, which are now available for rent.
Like the trees, Yaggy, too, has disappeared.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Reno County Ghost Towns