Garden City has had many town characters over the years, but certainly one of the most remarkable was a Jewish Russian named L. Toper. His spry, slight figure was a familiar sight throughout the town. He enjoyed telling stories of his past and always ended the stories with his familiar phrase, “by golly”. But Toper’s stories weren’t tall tales of an old man, his life had been full of adventures.

Born Laza Danski in 1829 in Russia, he was drafted into the army at the age of 8. Sick of the cruelties of war after fighting for 28 years and becoming a Captain, he deserted. After his escape from the army, he wandered through several countries. He sailed to America in 1880 and arrived in the United States with a new name and a new wife. L. Toper eventually settled into a Jewish agricultural colony homestead in Finney County in 1887. The settlement was northeast Beersheba along Pawnee Creek. The colony stretched over several sections of land, each family homesteading 150 acres. Dugouts and sod houses were constructed for homes, a synagogue, and school. Soon though the settlement died out and by the 1890’s none of the colonists remained and the land reverted to the prairie. Luckily Toper was able to sell his land for $2.50 per acre and with his earnings he moved to Center Street in Garden City Kansas.

Mr. Toper was a familiar sight through out town picking up scrape iron and junk to earn a living until his wife passed away. She died at the age of 72 and was buried in the Jewish Cemetery northwest of Town. After he was 90 years old, he drew heavily upon his life savings to make a pilgrimage to Palestine to visit the shrines of the Holy Land. He then returned to Garden City with new stories about his travels.

One day after he had reached his 100th birthday, “Old Tope” was asked, “How long do you expect to live?” “By Golly, I dunno,” he replied, “I’m living today, but tomorrow maybe not.” A month after his 104th Birthday Mr. Toper passed away. He was laid to rest next to his wife.

For more information on visiting the Jewish Cemetery and the Jewish settlement in Finney County go to

Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau

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