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Old newspapers found in house razing

Managing editor

It endured nearly 100 years in a wall of the former Lehigh Hotel.

Who knew that behind some cedar siding, newspapers — Marion Record, Topeka Capital, Kansas City Times, anything readily available — were used for insulation?

Current property owner Chris Liles recently came across the unusual discovery as he was dismantling the house.

Unfortunately, the historic property burned a few months earlier, causing extensive damage to the second story and the rear of the house.

The Liles had lived there for 12 years, until that fateful day in November 2008, when a faulty furnace caused the family to flee their home.

It was a devastating event for the family.

“We all got out,” Liles said. “That’s the main thing.”

Now the structure is being partially razed and converted into a shop for family projects.

“I’ll bet there’s newspapers throughout the whole house,” Liles said, looking wistfully at the structure.

One of the newspapers that was pulled from a wall was a Marion Record, now known as the Marion County Record, and was dated July 4, 1912. The other newspapers found on the property are dated between 1912 and 1914, Liles said.

“I’m not sure how long the owner had to save up newspapers for the insulation,” he said.

Liles has enjoyed this minor distraction from the daunting task of cleaning up and removing debris from the property.

“Look at this item,” he said, pointing to the back page of the singed but legible newspaper.

The item was a news brief, which was common at that time, that read: “Howard Siebert, the young son of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Siebert, had a painful accident while coasting on the hill the other day. He lost control of his wagon and ran into a telephone post breaking the bones in his instep.”

“Isn’t it amazing what made the news back then?” Liles said with a smile.

Hmm. 1912.

That’s the year Democrat Woodrow Wilson defeated incumbent Republican President William Taft.

U.S. Marines invaded Nicaragua.

New Mexico became the 47th state to join the union and Arizona the 48th.

RMS Titanic sank after colliding with an iceberg and more than 1,500 passengers and crew died.

Boston Red Sox won the World Series.

Men’s suits cost $10, women’s dresses 75 cents. Advertisements in the Record were for buggy auctions, groceries (bread was eight cents a loaf and sugar was 10 cents for five pounds), and miracle elixirs.

Other newspapers retrieved from the house were given to a family friend, Sharon Mueller, to be sold in her antique store.

“She and her husband were so kind to us in helping to find furniture and other items after the fire,” Liles said.

For now, Liles and his wife, Cathy, and children live in Hillsboro but he hopes they might be able to return to Lehigh as residents.

Last modified April 1, 2009

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