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)

Corwin, Kansas, a dead town in Harper County

Rice County farmer Delmar Conner dropped by a book a couple years ago on the history of Corwin, Kansas.
He wasn't from Corwin, but he thought it sounded interesting.

So, on a hot June morning, on my way to a wheat field near Kiowa, I ventured to the tiny ghost town.

There isn't much there. And what is there is blocked out by trees. That includes the school and a few homes.

I was greeted by an elevator employee, who said he had been interviewed once before, when the nearby town of Hazelton was evacuated for a gas leak (or something to that affect.) He directed me down the road to Monty Whitaker, who has lived in the town for more than 20 years.

He estimated about 10 people live in Corwin, which includes a son and family.

Corwin once had grocery stores, blacksmiths, church and the bank. It had a school and an assortment of houses with families. The elevator, however, is the only business remaining.

To read about Corwin, visit our website, KansasAgland.Com. Here's a link to the story and photos.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Corwin ball team

Here's a little ditty about the Corwin, Kansas ball team. Corwin is a dead town in Harper County.

Yes, Corwin has a ball team
A crack jack nine.
They've swept the country over,
Are working mighty fine.
They've played twelve games this season,
And taken everyone.
They are a jolly lineup,
Chuck full of pep and fun.
With Silcot for a twirler,
And Paul behind the bat,
They rattle the other fellows
'Til they don't know where they're at.
They have a reputation
For playing classy ball,
And if their luck stays with them,
They can't be beat at all.

To read more on Corwin, click here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Cimarron Library's tour of Ravanna, Kansas March 22, 2015

Standing amid the ruins of Ravanna, it was hard to imagine the location once was bustling with activity.
Or that children once frequented what remains of the school here, which except for corner pillars that reach toward the sky, is nothing but rubble.
It was my second trip to the sight of what once was one of the county seats of Kansas' 106th county of Garfield.
Yes, a ghost town in a ghost county. 
Yet, thanks to a great program by the Cimarron Library, I ventured here again on March 22, 2015 - along with more than 100 other folks who wanted to learn more and tour a Kansas dead town.
The event, planned by the library's Executive Director Candis Hemel, was a success. Candis sent me an email more than a year ago telling me of her idea and asked if I would be interested in presenting. 
As people poured into the library room for the presentations, she admitted she hadn't planned on a packed house.