GORHAM — Nearly 101 years old, Hays resident Marian Layher has many great stories to tell. One of her favorites, however, is the tale of her maternal grandparents who traveled to Kansas by train and ultimately founded the city of Gorham.
Elijah Dodge Gorham arrived in Kansas in 1878 and was joined by his wife, Minnerva, and their daughter, Daisy, about a year later. The family platted the town in 1879, and Daisy was Layher’s mother.
Layher, accompanied by her friend Donna Fleischacker, traveled from her Hays home to Gorham last week on a mission. She wanted to donate two framed black and white photos of her ancestors to be displayed at Gorham State Bank or city hall.
“I just happened to get those pictures and then I got the frames,” said Layher, who turns 101 in early February. “It seemed to me like they would like them. I remember meeting Minnerva, but (E.D.) was dead by the time we came down here.”
“She especially wanted to get these over here,” Fleischacker said.
Layher lived much of her life in Colorado after her parents moved there, but remembers visiting cousins in small-town Kansas. Her fondest memories include riding her cousin’s horses.
Layher has an interest in her family history, and said she sometimes tries to write down memories and historical facts before she forgets.
“That was a long time ago,” she said.
Her husband died in 2006, and the couple had three children. One son passed away, but the other two live in the Kansas City area, she said, noting family is expected to visit to celebrate her birthday next month.
Fleischacker said the 101st birthday party also will include Layher’s favorite dessert — lemon cake.
Layher’s path later would lead her back to small-town northwest Kansas when her late husband decided to move to the Hays area for his job.
“When my husband first talked of moving to Kansas, I thought, ‘But I won’t see Colorado Springs. I won’t see Pike’s Peak,” Layher said.
She found consolation, however, in the presence of extended family members nearby and in the Kansas sunflowers — which she still loves.
“There’s something to be said about small towns,” she said. “You know where your kids are, and we actually did like it. Really like it.”