Rockwell Merchandise & Grain Co

Rockwell Merchandise & Grain Co. At The Corner Of Eighth And Washington Sts. In 1910

Many Notables Were Hosted By Josephine Rizer

Josephine Keith, born in 1846, was the daughter of a prosperous book and music store owner. At the age of ten she had been sent to the Convent of Visitation in Washington, D.C. for her education. She spent the next eight years there. When the war threatened to engulf the nation’s capital, she and her sisters of the convent sent word to her parents, who were then living in Denver, that the school was being closed and the convent was going to become a hospital during the war.

When she was introduced to a young Army officer, Robert Rizer, in the millinery shop owned by her parents in Denver, it must have been love at first sight. They were wed on April 9, 1865. Immediately after the ceremony, the couple left in company with Capt. Rizer’s regiment to cross the 600 miles of untamed territory between Denver and Fort Riley.

The 19-year-old bride would never forget this honeymoon trip. The only woman, she traveled by horseback with the troops “through hostile Indian country and vast herds of buffalo stretching as far as the eye could see.”

Four weeks later the travelers finally arrived in Junction City. She recalled riding along what is now Madison Street and stopping briefly at the City Hotel on the corner of Madison and 8th Streets. At the river, the group boarded the ferry and crossed onto the fort. Mrs. Rizer was then taken to the home of Chaplain and Mrs. Charles Reynolds where she stayed until a set of rooms in the stone officer’s quarters facing the parade field were made available.

The Rizers decided to settle in Junction City and moved into a little house at the corner of 7th and Washington in the fall of 1865. Robert went to work as a bookkeeper for the firm of Streeter and Strickler. A year later, their first child, Harriet, was born.

Ten children were born to this couple, but only five daughters survived to maturity. A house was built in the 300 block of West 6th Street near where the Geary County Historical Society Museum now stands. For 70 years, the house was the center of cultural and social gatherings in this growing community.

Josephine Rizer was a gracious hostess and visitors in town were always taken to the Rizer home to partake of the Rizers’ hospitality. Army officers, frontiersmen, former president U.S. Grant, Chief Sitting Bull, “Buffalo Bill” Cody, “Wild Bill” Hickock and others were among the notables entertained in the Rizer’s parlor on 6th Street.

“The Rockwell Building Underwent a Rebirth” Part 1

The Rockwell Building, which is located at the northeast corner of Eighth and Washington Streets, has a rich business heritage. For 60 years, the B. Rockwell Company made Junction City one of the busiest trading centers in the state.

Capt. Bertrand Rockwell arrived in Junction City in October of 1865 after being mustered out of the Union Army. He had come with the purpose of finding a location to establish a business. He also realized the railroad would soon be coming up the Republican Valley and go through Junction City.

The first store was a frame building, 20 feet wide by 50 feet long with a room partitioned off in the rear for use as an office, storeroom and sleeping quarters for the owner and his father, Major George Rockwell. The building was located near the U.S. Land Office. The “general” store was open from 5 AM to 11 PM in the summer and 6 AM to 11 PM in the winter.

In addition to selling Eastern goods, they bought butter, eggs, turkeys, chickens and other products from farmers for cash or in exchange for store goods. By 1866, a warehouse was added on the site, but this soon became too small when the purchase of grain was added to the store inventory. A grain warehouse was added near the train depot.

A branch store was opened in Abilene in 1875, under the management of Bertrand’s brother, George. It was known as the G.A. Rockwell & Company. The store was open for 8 years before it was sold so George could return to Junction City to take charge of the grocery department in Junction City.

Stories have been previously shared in this space about the Rockwell family and their contributions not only to business in downtown Junction City and selling grain beyond the borders of the continental United States, but also their contributions to our community. In Part 2 of this series, there will be a description of the inside of the Rockwell Building.

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