Saturday, March 12, 2016

Nonchalanta - a Dead town in Ness County.

The Nonchalanta hotel
A big thank you to Tom Reed, who hails from the ghost town of Ravanna in Finney County, Tom McCoy of Ness City and Harlan Nuss, who rents the pasture where Nonchalanta once thrived.

They gave me a great tour of the ruins here. They were kind enough to spend much of the afternoon talking to me and showing me around. 

Remember, this is private property. No trespassing!

This old stone house was once the site of the Nonchalanta post office.

Just give it a "d---" name
With the promise of free land, Fred Roth and his family came in covered wagons from Missouri to Ness County.
So did others. John Silas Collins, a circuit-riding Methodist minister, who arrived in 1879 and began work to prove up his homestead, according to an article by local historian, the late Jan Gantz, which was published in the Ness County News.
They began building sod homes and plowing up the grass. 
With pioneers came the need for a town. Homesteader Lewis Odom in 1885 decided to plat a town and asked another local, Dr. W.A. Yingling, to come up with a name.
"And I don't care a d--- what kind of name it is, just so it's a taking name," Odom told Yingling according to several historical articles. 
So, as the tale goes, Yingling called it Nonchalant, after the French word of that very idea, and then decided to add the "a."

Odom loved it and began promoting Nonchalanta with the idea the railroad was coming. One newspaper printed on May 23, 1885: "New town of Nonchalanta laid out." By September, lots were reported to be selling for $15 to $85, according to the book "Ness, Western County, Kansas" by Minnie Dubbs Millbrook.

Momentum continued and folks prepared for a promised railroad. Nonchalanta would soon have a livery, a drug store, three-story hotel, real estate office and a general store, Gantz wrote in her article. There was a Methodist church and newspaper. A quarter-mile away, a man named McCandish operated a small country store and post office that the government had previously dubbed Candish. By 1887, the post office was renamed Nonchalanta.

Photo courtesy of Cheryl McVicker Lewis. This is the Nonchalanta school. Her grandmother, Annie Slagle McVicker, was the teacher and Annie's siblings are in the photo.
In fact, said Wichita resident Cheryl McVicker Lewis, whose family homestead in the area, the Nonchalanta newspaper from August 1887 showed 22 businesses advertising in it. 

"And it said there were also several more carpenters, two more blacksmiths and several stone masons and plasters," said Lewis, who grew up near the town site and has researched local and family history. "There were plans to build 100 houses in the next six months."

Folks had began construction on the bank, as well as more stores, restaurants and a Grand Army of the Republic post. There was even talk of a summer resort called "Wildhorse Lake" - located around a natural depression where the wild horses would water, wrote Gantz.

Gantz also reported that lots were advertised in Folsom Heights - "a beautiful suburb overlooking the city."

Great tour by Tom Reed, left, Harlan Nuss, center, and Tom McCoy.
And, in 1887, according to the book by Millbrook, the newspaper advertised the town as "the magic young city of the plains, with six public wells with pure water, a hundred houses to be built in early spring and a railroad to be built during the coming summer."

Sam Howell was one of the business owners. According to family history, he worked on the railroads across western Kansas, drove freight and was employed on area ranches before homesteading and starting a feed store in Nonchalanta. 
There he met Susie Helen Corbet, a young girl working at the Nonchalanta hotel, which was operated by John Rogers, a man who would later become governor of Washington, according to Corbet's writings discovered by Lewis.

Susie and Sam married in Nonchalanta in April 1888 - the same year the school was finished.

The town was buzzing. 

"Dancing, baseball games and picnics were part of the entertainment," wrote Gantz. 
Nonchalanta Methodist Church. It was founded in 1887 and had a minister until 1918. The church continued with a Sunday School until 1925. The building was sold and moved to Ness City.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

"Eliza - A Generational Journey" - Morton City - an exoduster community

 Crystal Bradshaw's book chronicle's her five-great grandmother, who was a slave for 40 years. Eliza Bradshaw was part of an exoduster group in the late 1870s that helped the now defunct town of Morton City in Hodgeman County.

Courtesy of Crystal Bradshaw

It seemed, at first, that Eliza Bradshaw’s life was long buried beneath her tombstone in the town cemetery – which just marks her birth and death.
Crystal Bradshaw knew her distant grandmother was born into slavery. She knew Eliza was an exoduster who came to Hodgeman County with her family and 100 others in search of a life free of racism and poverty after the Civil War. On the sparsely populated, windswept prairie, they began building a small community they called Morton City.
But when Crystal was tasked to research her family history for one of her high school classes at Hodgeman County High School, she found few answers.
Courtesy of Kansas Memory
“A lot of people in my high school class knew about their family members but not many in my family knew where the Bradshaw side came from,” said Crystal, 21, now a junior at the University of Kansas.
For the past five years, Crystal has been combing newspaper articles and research papers to learn more about her family’s past. She compiled her information into her first nonfiction novel – “Eliza – A Generational Journey,” which she self-published this fall.
She saved her money from her three jobs to publish 50 of the 133-page books. Crystal works as a resident assistant in a college dorm and as a communications specialist and office manager for The Project on the History of Black Writing – part of KU’s English Department. She also earns money as a writer.
In the book, Crystal preserves the highs and lows of Eliza’s life journey – which parallels a harsh time in history.
Eliza was born a slave, growing up in poverty in a one-room cabin with no windows. At age 7 she was sold to another planter. At 17, she was sold again to a cruel slave owner. There were beatings. There were sorrows.
Courtesy of Crystal Bradshaw
And, even when freed, Eliza and her family faced more challenges because of their race and their new found freedom.
Crystal was shocked when she began delving into Eliza’s story, but was also disappointed that it had nearly faded away as the years went by.
“How do you let this rich history just slip away?” Crystal asked, adding. “That is why I didn’t want to just compile my research. That is why I wanted to write a book to preserve it so future Bradshaws can go and see where they came from.” 
To read more of Crystal's story, click here.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Morton City - a dead exoduster colony in Hodgeman County

In the years following the Civil War, a couple dozen black colonies dotted Kansas.

That included a short-lived settlement in Hodgeman County.

After Pap Singleton established Nicodemas in northwest Kansas, exodusters arrived in Kinsley in March 1878. They headed into Hodgeman County and began to form Morton City, which they named after Oliver P. Morton, according to the book "Exodusters: Black Migration to Kansas After Reconstruction" written by Neil Irvin Painter.

Benton Butler, James Board, Carrell Lytle, George Perry, Frank Harris and William Maxwell were black Union soldiers who moved to Hodgeman County sometime in the 1870s, according to a February 2003 article in The News. They are buried in the Jetmore cemetery with other pioneers. The men and their families were part of an early surge of migration before the "Great Exodus" from the South in 1879.

Most who left during the exodus were responding to the South's reconstruction, which resulted in violence and economic dependency for black residents, said Rita Napier in the article, who was then an associate professor of history at the University of Kansas.

A dream of free land spurred them on. Under the 1862 Homestead Act, the federal government provided acre to any settler, regardless of race or sex, who improved the land for five years.

"This is to lay before your minds a few sketches of what great advantages there are for the great mass of people of small means that are emigrating West to come and settle in the county of Hodgeman," one poster advertised. "And more especially the colored people, for they are the ones that want to find the best place for climate and for soil for the smallest capital."

Migration was led by Thomas Moore, said Crystal Bradshaw, 21, who wrote a book about her family history - which traces her five-great grandmother Eliza from slavery to Kansas.

According to Painter's book, the homesteaders had a hard time building the settlement and taking care of their homesteads. Eventually, they focused on just their homesteads.

However, only one settler, equipped with a team of livestock, could grow crops. Others had to make due with gardens and hiring themselves out to the area's established farmers.

Most of the settlers moved away - scattering to nearby communities, said Mary Ford, with the Haun Museum in Jetmore.

Wilburn Bradshaw continues to farm in the area, Crystal Bradshaw said. 
Crystal Bradshaw will have a book signing for her new book, "Eliza: A Generational Journey," from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 22 at the Hodgeman County Museum. 
Refreshements will be provided. 
The books costs $14.95; the ebook is $9.95. To order the Kindle version, visit Or visit Crystal's Facebook page at

Friday, October 2, 2015

A story of Hitschmann, Kansas - a Dead Town in Barton County

Like many a town in the American west, Hitschmann popped up with the advent of the railroad.
According to a written record maintained by the Barton County Historical Society, Elfrieda Wydziak recounted how Hitschmann was born. It was 1917 and the Santa Fe Railroad wanted to lay a line from Little River to Galatia. 
Railroad officials started to contact all the farmers. But when they came to the first residence, J.A. Hitschmann, the farmer said he didn't want his land divided in two. 
Officials continued to meet with Hitschmann, according to Wydziak. Finally, they asked him if he would allow them to put the rail line across his land if they named the town for him in his memory.
He agreed.
The little town struggled in its early years. Frank and Bertha Hoffman took over the Hitschmann Cash Store in 1927 from Bertha's father, Veat Dolecheck, shortly after they married.
The first few years were hard, especially during the Great Depression, Frank Hoffman told The Hutchinson News in 1986 as he prepared to sell the entire town. But by the late 1930s, the oil boom augmented the business and Hitschmann.
The National Cooperative Refinery Association - or NCRA - began renting some of the Hoffmans' land and built small houses - or "shotgun shacks" as Wydziak put it - for its oilfield workers.
At one time, there was a lumberyard, two groceries, two elevators and a depot, according to Wydziak. Farmers could order baby chicks and pick the up when the train stopped through town.
There also was a stockyard. NCRA had an office in a Quonset hut.
And, during wheat harvest, Wydziak said that crews would work most of the day until it became too hot, then they would head to the Hoffmans' store where they played pool in the basement.
As the town expanded, the Hoffmans added on to their growing business - which sold groceries, clothing and other general store merchandise. They built on a dance floor. On weekends, folks would come in to dance to the jukebox.
Because no beer could be sold on a dance floor, according to the article in The News, Frank Hoffman cut a hole in the wall and sold beer through it.
"They always had ham sandwiches," Fred Swalley of Claflin, who used to haul water to town to fill the water tower, said of the store. "They were really good. Everyone drove from everywhere to eat those sandwiches. I ate a lot of them."
A school was built across the street from Hoffmans' store in 1948. Yager said his sister attended there, but his parents sent him and his brother to Holyrood because Hitschmann didn't have sports. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

A little family history from Corwin, Kansas - a dead town in Harper County

Desiree (Kirby) Rahman
Ingram homestead in NW Oklahoma c. 1897 - 1900  
Often after my dead town stories are published, I get tidbits from people who had relatives in a particular town. 

That was the case with Corwin, my latest story. The Harper County town today is a shell of its former, vibrant, self.

Here's some info and photos sent by Desiree (Kirby) Rahman. Rahman grew up in Hutchinson and her mother still lives in town. Here grandfather was the well-digger's grandson mentioned in the story. 

Here's what Rahman sent:

Charles Ingram's family, c. 1910 
The family moved to Alfalfa County, OK in 1895, after the Land Run. Here's a little more about Charles Ingram. Everything I have always says the family lived in Anthony, but apparently they were in Corwin... My grandmother was born on the farm shown in the "homestead" picture. If you look at the woman in the picture (my great-grandmother) she may be pregnant - if so, I'm guessing that she is carrying my grandmother which would date the picture as 1900. I don't know this for a fact, but it makes a good story!

Text from newspaper clipping, name of paper & date not included, probably The Cherokee Messenger & Republican, Cherokee, OK, Fri Jan 18, 1935

Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Ingram Observe Golden Wedding Anniversary January 13th.
Sunday, January 13, the children and Mr. and Mrs. C. M. Ingram gathered at the farm house five miles west of Cherokee, in honor of the fiftieth wedding anniversary of their parents.

Mr. Ingram and his wife, who was Miss Cynthia Millay, daughter of Rev. and Mrs. D. W. Millay, were married January 15, 1885, at the home of the bride’s parents, near Coloma, MO. Dr. S. D. Millay, grandfather of the bride, performed the ceremony.

The newly married couple left soon for Anthony, Kansas, where they made their home for several years. In 1895, Mr. and Mrs. Ingram, with their four children Edwin, May, Ida, and Edith, moved to the farm which is now their home. Here, the two younger children, Pearl and Charles, were born.
Mr. and Mrs. Ingram were typical pioneers. Mr. Ingram is widely known in this section of the country, having drilled wells since locating here; also being in various business enterprises and politics...

To read more on Corwin, click here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Frederick, population nine, lingers as Rice County ponders town's future

Frederick, Kansas, population nine or 10, on a good day. 

I got an email in early June from a resident in the small town I live in. She said her aunt, Wanda Plautz would be excellent to talk to about the history of Frederick, Kansas.

But my research lead me to a deeper story. The town has been incorporated since the late 1800s. Now the third-class city of just nine residents must decide if it will live or die.

No one ran for election in April. Moreover, no one voted or wrote in a name. There is no official mayor or council.

Here's an excerpt from my story:

Frederick is on life support. 
Melode Huggans knows this. She's seen the signs since she was a little girl, visiting her grandparents, who lived on the same parcel she does today.
The school at Frederick
The schoolhouse is empty − stripped of its desks. A jail cell sits in the middle of a field of wheat stubble, the metal bars and innards rusting. Old playground equipment and paint-worn cars are barely visible amid the trees after decades of neglect. 
Now loved ones like Huggans are faced with a difficult decision on whether it is time for this town to face a natural death.
Ten people call Frederick home − on a good day, that is. It once had as many as 150 people, along with grocery stores, a lumberyard, blacksmiths and restaurants. 
Yet, on this July morning, Huggans pointed up an empty street in front of the home she and husband, Steve, have lived in for 19 years. This was the main thoroughfare, she said. But every business has vanished. There isn't even a foundation left. 
Frederick, an official Kansas third-class city, is almost a ghost town. 
In the April election, no one ran for mayor or for any of the city council seats. Not one resident wrote in a name, either. In fact, it appears no one even voted.
The old jail still stands
For the first time since the town's inception in 1887, Frederick has no leaders. The town's budget is due Aug. 25.
At a recent Rice County Commission meeting, commissioners and the county clerk discussed if it is time the town calls it quits and unincorporates. 
Huggans doesn't know the answer. She serves as the Frederick city clerk, but isn't sure the next time the former council will meet. Her husband is on the city council. But their thoughts have been on other things. Melode has been battling breast cancer, diagnosed in April.
Frederick, however, is a part of her life. 
"My grandparents lived here," she said. "It was a town when they lived here. My mom was born here, went to school here."

To read the rest of the story and see more photos and a video, visit

Monday, July 20, 2015

A few stories from Corwin, Kansas

To read more on Corwin, click here.

Fight with house wife

A heated argument in the general store of Corwin ended in an amputated finger and court battle in the 1910s. 
Mrs. John E. Cartmill, wife of a section hand at Corwin, went into George McMicheal's general store one day to settler her account. After reviewing the figures, she decided she had not received credit for a pound of bad butter she had returned. 
Both parties got into an argument. One of McMichael's daughters pulled out a knife and ran it into Mrs. Cartmill's hand. 
The lively fight ended in court, as Mrs. Cartmill had her finger removed, several hospital visits and wanted to recover her loss. McMichael left the mercantile business shortly after that. 
Bank robberies
The Corwin bank was built in 1916. Six months later, it had its first robbery.
It was just past 9 a.m. when two young men entered the bank and pointed their guns at Lloyd Glasgow, the cashier, and three customers. The robbers - Sam Mayfield and Jim Dunlap, had arrived in a big Buick roadster that Mayfield had stolen in Wichita two nights before.  
The customers and cashier were locked in a vault. When the robbers realized the cash drawers were empty, they released the prisoners and forced them to bring the money out with them. 
The robbers, with $780 in hand, made a quick getaway. 
The cashier called the sheriff, who put an alert out to every town and hamlet on every road that the car might pass. They were eventually caught by the Alva, Oklahoma, barber. The barber pulled a gun on the robbers, whose vehicle had ran out of gas. 
The next robbery occurred in the 1930s, which were desperate times. "Every day there were robberies on the front page of the papers," wrote Hewitt. 
Another robbery occurred in August 1930. The robbers locked the bank cashier and a woman in the vault.
Then, the Monday after New Years in 1938, cashier, Russell Goodan, never showed up for work. A few days later, it was discovered there was a shortage of $16,595. Goodan later surrendered in California, but with less than $3 in in his pocket. 
The embezzlement proved to be too much for the bank, and it closed not long later, merging with Waldron's bank.


  • Oscar Corwin is is given a post office appointment, putting an office in his country store in Harper County.
  • 1886 - Railroad starts laying tracts toward Corwin. 
  • Jan. 17, 1887 - Corwin Town Co. is organized.
  • 1904 - Corwin starts to receive telephone connections
  • 1893 - Cherokee Strip Land Rush hurts Corwin's population.
  • 1919 - A fire destroys Pryor's Store, as well as a lumberyard.
  • 1920 - The Farmers Co-op was chartered.
  • 1928 - Construction begins on compressor plant by Empire Gas Pipeline Corp.
  • 1957 - Post office closes
  • 1963 - Last full-time railroad agent leaves Corwin.
  • 1966 - School is consolidated.
  • 1972-1973 - Depot closes.

Other tibits

  • Oscar Corwin grew his own farm to 300 acres, which included a grain farm and an orchard. 
  • Business began to move to Corwin as the town started. By March 1887, the Andrew House was open for business, renting rooms for $1 a day. H.H. Funk sold hardware and implements. 
  • Mr. Hittle settled at the new Corwin where he built a residence and a store. Mr. Hittle bought prairie chickens from the early settlers for 20 cents each and shipped them to Kansas City and St. Louis.
  • Jim F. Andrews built a hotel and was the second postmaster. At one time Corwin boasted a race track. The track was built by G. R. Landers at the southwest corner of town.
  • Dutch Andrews, Jim's grandson, gave the following account: "G. R. Landers became a big cattleman and many farmers in the area sold corn to him for 10 cents per bushel. In the blizzard of 1903 all of Lander's cattle froze to death. Facing financial ruin, he boarded a train and was never heard from again. J. F. Andrews and others skinned the cattle and sold their hides for $2.50 apiece."
Source: "Corwin, Kansas the way it was" by Gay Hewitt.
Corwin, Kansas - this is downtown. It once was bustling. Today just the elevator sees much action. (Amy Bickel)