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Remembering William Allen White: Peter Pan Park in Emporia, KS

I live in Houston and love writing reviews of the local restaurants and stores I visit with family and friends.

Lake in Peter Pan Park

Lake in Peter Pan Park

William Allen White

This article will address Emporia, Kansas, where the noted newspaperman William Allen White lived and the memory of his dear little Peter Pan. Let me explain.

Sometimes one learns a bit about people and history by accident. That is what happened when we were traveling from Houston up to Iowa to visit relatives one year. We spent the night in Emporia, Kansas, and this is what came of it.

I am always on the lookout for unusual things to do or see when in different locales. I read about Peter Pan Park, and we decided to check it out. In so doing, we learned much about an important public figure in Emporia whose statue resides in the park. William Allen White not only made an imprint on this town but was also a person known nationally.

William Allen White was born in Emporia and grew up in nearby towns in Kansas. He attended Kansas Universities, and when an adult decided to make Emporia his home.

In 1895 he purchased the newspaper in his hometown for the sum of $3,000. He became the Emporia Gazette's editor but was also an author and politician. He figured prominently in the Republican party and became a spokesperson for people living in the middle of America.

Five Republican Presidents became friends of his and slept in his home in Emporia. These nighttime guests were the following: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, and Herbert Hoover. That must have been quite something for the local townspeople to have American Presidents in their midst!

From 4 to 6 percent of the presidential office is not in administration but in morals, politics, and spiritual leadership . He has to guide a people in the greatest adventure ever undertaken on the planet.

— William Allen White

Peter Pan Park

This notation is what was on view near his statue in Peter Pan Park:

"Emporia is known for the eloquent small-town wisdom of editorials written by William Allen White, the late publisher of the Emporia Gazette. A memorial to White, who died in 1944, sits on the tree-rimmed shore of a lake in Peter Pan Park.

The name of this municipal park derives from an editorial White wrote after the death of his young daughter Mary in a horse-riding accident.

"She was a Peter Pan, who refused to grow up, White eulogized, affirming that her enthusiastic spirit remained even after her body was laid to rest."

Mr. White donated land in 1927 for the creation of this park.

I have tried to teach people there are three kicks in every dollar: one, when you make it; two, when you have it. The third kick it when you give it away - and it is the biggest kick of all.

— William Allen White

Park Amenities

The municipal park is beautiful. A small 4-acre lake reflected the vibrant multicolored leaves of the Fall season when we visited there in October. The bronze statue of Peter Pan shows a saucy little imp in a playful pose.

Playground equipment makes for some happy leisure time for little ones, and a 6,257-foot disc golf course with 18 holes keeps those who like to play this game try to get as low a score as possible to make the par 55.

With over 50-acres, there is plenty of room for the ball field, tennis, and horseshoe playing, plus the enjoyment of the splash pad.

Birders also like seeing the resident and migratory birds who frequent this park. Picnic tables and shelters accommodate people for family gatherings, parties, and the like.

Liberty is the only thing you can't have unless you give it to others.

— William Allen White

“If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own … how much kinder, how much gentler he would be.”

— William Allen White

The Fictional Peter Pan

Most people are familiar with the story of Peter Pan. It was one of my favorite stories and films when I was a child growing up in the 1950s. The idea of being able to fly like that intrigued me.

As stated at the top of this short article, spending just one night in Emporia, Kansas, sparked my education about William Allen White and the legacy that he left behind him. It also brought back my childhood memories of Peter Pan. Hopefully, you will have some fun with your memories as well.

If you happen to be driving through Emporia, Kansas, be sure to check out Peter Pan Park. The park is a little gem of a place that invites one to linger and enjoy its beauty. I am sure that the people living in Emporia visit the park often!


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2009 Peggy Woods