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.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Kiowa County dead towns: Reeder, Janesville, Brenham

Greensburg resident continues search and digging around several long-dead towns

GREENSBURG - Traveling down a dirt path sandwiched between a wheat field and pasture, Ed Schoenberger abruptly motions to stop the car.

"You're now in downtown Reeder," he says as he steps out of the vehicle - facing the cold wind that whips across the wide-open prairie on this early March day.

But all around him, there is nothing here but farmland and grass. Reeder, once a bustling community where residents dreamed of a railroad, has disappeared.

Underneath the ground, however, the memory of Reeder still exists. Reeder began in 1885 but only lasted a handful of years, with the post office closing in 1891. The railroad never came, and the community eventually died with its remains buried in shallow graves below the prairie grass.

Schoenberger pulls out his metal detector and begins finding century-old trash - largely sardine cans that settlers left behind.

Reeder's tale mirrors countless towns across Kansas, including several in Kiowa County. Schoenberger has been working to preserve those memories through his research and amature archeolgoy.

Meanwhile, Schoenberger is also researching the towns of Janesville, Brenham and others, finding artifacts along the way.
Greensburg resident and historian Ed Schoenberger uses a metal detector to find items at at the townsite of Reeder. 

Sardine cans and fruit cans were common in the 1880s and are often found when metal detecting around townsites.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Redwing, Kansas

Anyone ever been to Redwing? It'll probably be the next thing I will research. I visited here this summer.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Saunders, Kansas, a dead town in Stanton County

Looking into Kansas. Saunders is in the background

Saunders, notice the dust storm haze.

The little border stop greets you as you enter Kansas -- along with a windshield of dust.

And on this late summer day, it seems, the dust is especially bad at Saunders, which sits right next to the Colorado border along a stretch of Highway 160 that, for miles, is nearly empty of people.

But for Minnie Watson, the whirling earth she experienced here during the 1930s was much worse than today. She and her family moved to Saunders in 1937. She was in second grade.

Her family had left Plains, Kansas -- an area still plagued by dust storms, although it wasn't quite in the heart of it like Stanton County. In a time when jobs were hard to come by, her father had secured the position of elevator manager for the Collingwood Co.

They moved into Saunders' single residence, which also was the elevator scale house and office.

Here, their power was from the wind, she said. While they had enough for lights and radio, it wasn't enough, though, to power a refrigerator or washer, which they had left behind at Plains.

It took a little while for the family to adjust to the stark landscape. Upon seeing their new home, "my mother cried and cried."

"It wasn't quite as dusty at Plains," Watson, 86, of Manter, recalls. "But at Saunders, it was just dirt."
To read the full story on Saunders, click here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Yankton, Kansas a defunct town in Harper County

Photos by Sandra Milburn. Concrete still remains at Yankton townsite
A few clues about Yankton
I got an email after the 2014 Kansas State Fair from Dan Stringer, who said he once lived at the townsite of Yankton in Harper County. So, photographer Sandra Milburn and I picked Stringer up where he was living in Argonia and trekked to the former townsite near Attica. 
Harper County has more than 30 extinct villages – towns like Joppa, Pilot Knob, Shook and Ruby, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. While some have chronicled histories, the details of Yankton’s brief existence are few. There is no evidence of its birth or how and when, exactly, it died. 
        There are some clues however. 

Perhaps the town was started by the Oliver family. According to the book “Harper County Story” written in 1968, Yankton was a pioneer village in Ruella township. It had a post office, which opened Aug. 6, 1883. The postmaster was Stephen C. Oliver. He also owned the Yankton Hotel, livery and stable. 

Meanwhile, Marcus Oliver,   postmaster Oliver’s brother, was in real estate of the town, having “a number of city lots for sale cheap,” according to the book. He also ran a peanut stand in connection with his real estate business on the north side of the Yankton square.
Yankton even had a newspaper, the Yankton Gleaner, an eight-page paper devoted to Yankton and its vicinity. It sold for $2 in advance.
And, for a time, people came to the area and settled here, calling Yankton home. A.J. Barr was a bricklayer, plasterer and sod carpenter. R.S. Sullivan was a shoemaker and cobbler. L.A. Jones was a hairdresser.
There was also Dr. Joseph Brockway. He settled with his wife and six of his children – noting in a letter to family that his daughter was at a university in Iowa.
His family’s roots are deep, he wrote to the receiver – noting his family history goes back to “the Massachusetts colonial tradition.” Two family members were massacred at a fort on the banks of the Connecticut River at the close of the Revolutionary War, he wrote.
The letter, the property of the University of Kansas’ Kenneth Spencer Research Library, was dated May 1884 and gave no details about life in Yankton, except to mention he was writing from Yankton in Harper County, Kansas. Brockway did write that he hadn’t finished his doctorate and was taking classes at Ann Arbor University.
There are few mentions of Brockway in other publications. One genealogical document noted he also was an attorney. The Annual Report by the U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry lists Brockway fighting southern cattle fever on his farm south and west of Harper along Nine Cottonwoods Creek in 1883.
Brockway must have eventually left Kansas, although I'm not sure when. It could have been after Yankton's demise. An obituary for a Dr. Joseph Brockway in the Wichita Daily Eagle published in May 1911 said he died in Aline, Oklahoma, which is about 70 miles from Yankton.
Then the trail of Yankton’s story runs cold. Brockway’s obituary never mentioned Yankton. Even Postmaster Oliver’s obituary never mentioned Yankton or his time as a postmaster. It said he settled in the Attica area, just two miles to the west of the Yankton townsite, in 1882. He is buried in the Attica Cemetery.
What little details there are show the town was short-lived. The post office closed one year after it opened in October 1884.
Stringer said the stories he heard was Yankton was near the site of an Osage Village. In Souix and Osage, the name means “village at the end.” Yankton residents planned for a railroad. However, the tracks were laid to the north, going through the nearby town of Crystal Springs, instead.

On our trip to the site, Stringer pointed out where he and his second wife, Phyllis, lived. It was once the Yankton hotel and saloon, with a brothel upstairs, he said. They ran a Christian ministry from the site, which is now being used by a local church.  

To read the whole story on KansasAgland, click here

Friday, August 8, 2014

Feterita, Kansas - a dead town in Stevens County

Stevens County Sheriff Ted Heaton and his family are the last residents of Feterita, a dead town in Stevens County. Here's a little history on the town that thrived for a while in the 1910s and 1920s.

Photo By Calvin Mathis

Meadows to Feterita
It was an era where towns were established about every 10 miles - the distance a farmer could typically travel by horse and wagon in a day to do business. In addition, one thing that helped secure the location of a town was whether it would get a train.
The train came through in 1913, according to an article written by longtime resident Susie Ausbun in the book "The History of Stevens County & Its People."
"All the farm people and our entire school drove up to see the first train go through. It was traveling so slowly with all the railroad VIPs on it. People were walking behind, some had trailed it from Hugoton."
With the train, a town was planned about seven miles west of Hugoton, Ausbun wrote. Organized around 1918, it was originally called Meadows and was platted under that name.
"We had a big celebration, people came from all over the country when we auctioned of lots to form the town," Ausbun wrote. "For every 25 lots sold, one was given away to names drawn from a large box. Anna Nichole, my sister, won one."
According to the June 21, 1918 edition of the Hugoton Hermes, "The opening of our new neighboring town, Meadows, was a success. Business lots sold for from one hundred to two hundred dollars. Residence lots sold for twenty-five to seventy-five dollars. There is a new Farmer's Equity Elevator and a switch almost completed. Stakes are on the town site at present, but construction will begin soon on several buildings, and Meadows will soon e a thriving village."
Photo by Amy Bickel
People began to build on their lots, Ausbun wrote, noting, "Many little shacks went up." A store opened on Main Street.
However, when the post office organizers wrote a letter to the government to get a permit to open, they heard back that there was another Meadows.
"After a lot of discussion, the name Feterita was passed by the post office department. Feterita was the name of a grain crop raised at that time in the area. A lot of people were disappointed in the name and the town was still called Meadows for a while then Feterita began to become familiar."
The post office opened in 1919 but closed in March 1920. It reopened in December 1922 but closed again by April 1937.
"I can remember a little grocery store over there and two elevators and a family or two lived over there," said Gladys Renfro, who helps run the Stevens County Oil and Gas Museum. "All the people who lived there are all gone."
Shirley Kramer, who farms with her husband, Jim, in the area, said her mother was Ausbun who wrote the history.
She said when she and her family would go by Feterita, "we used to laugh we were going to Feterita Junior College."
Except for a small elevator operated by Elkhart Equity Exchange, there hasn't been anything happening at Feterita in his lifetime, said Neal Gillespie, director of the Stevens County Economic Development.
"In my lifetime it has been a bump in the road," Gillespie said.

Friday, August 1, 2014

An old store photo from Carniero, Kansas.

I received this photo earlier this summer from Joy. It's of one of the old, Carniero, Kansas, stores. I love these old photos! here is a note from Joy.

I have roots in Carneiro and Kanopolis.  In fact my dad was born there to John and Ethel Ulrickson.  John, my grandfather was a blacksmith in the Salt Mine.  I want to share with you one of the pictures I have identifying a building that may still exist in Carneiro.  It was owned and run by O.B. Smith and Sons.  I believe he also became a judge in the county of Carneiro.  Time period - around the 1890-1900s.  

I don't think this is the same store that is still standing in Carniero - which is featured on the cover of our book - Dead Towns of Central and Western Kansas - but it could be. Thanks so much, Joy! And if anyone else has some great old photos, don't hesitate to share.

Here's an earlier post from Carniero.