CARTER SPUR - History, it seems, wants to forget about the wicked little Rice County stop of Carter Spur.
It's been decades since the spot on the intersection where Rice, Reno and McPherson counties meet on Plum Street has been on a map. The Kansas State Historical Society doesn't mention it on its list of more than 5,000 dead towns, although Carter Spur was much livelier than some that have met the same fate.
Only a few old-timers recall the name, and most only recall a few bits and pieces of what happened here. And the only thing that is left of Carter Spur, something that marks the place of wild parties, of drunkenness, gambling and bootlegging, is a small piece of concrete slab next to the abandoned Frisco railway.
No one knows how the stop got started, how it met its final demise or even how it got the name of Carter, although an early 1940s story in The News recorded a Carter family living near Carter Spur.
It may have first been formed by the railroad, said Arlen Lindquist, who lives closer to Windom, a McPherson County town about 15 miles north.
Kenny Knight, who owns Knight Feedlot near Lyons, said he has a county plat map from 1919 that shows Carter Spur having two elevators. And a News story from 1927 said Lyons Flour Milling Co., of Lyons, had elevators in the now ghost towns of Pollard, Saxman, Wherry and Carter Spur, as well as the existing town of Chase.
But those who still remember some details about Carter Spur don't know it for milling, or even for the railroad. They know it for a store that sold gasoline and some grocery items like bread, milk and oil for kerosene lamps. They know it had a backroom where drinking and gambling took place, as well as dances.
"My dad would have skinned my hide if I would have went back there," said Hutchinson resident Vic Willems, who, at 84, remembers riding his horse in his early teen years to Carter Spur most Sundays in the late 1930s and early '40s to watch area residents practice their skills at roping and bull riding.
"They sold groceries, they had gas later on, and then there was the backroom where they played cards," he said.
The store, however, was a little more notorious than just a little whiskey and card playing.
There were fights and even a few murders.
In May 1924, a man named Verne Wagoner, an "alleged Reno County rum runner," shot and killed Pearl Kelly, whom The News back then described as a "Kansas City underworld character."
Wagoner claimed Kelly and two associates attempted to hold up a craps game. The state sought to prove Wagoner shot Kelly in a quarrel growing out of the craps game.
Area rancher Menno Enns said he remembered being part of a group on horseback in search of a body sometime in the late 1930s. He remembers the group found a shallow grave and alerted authorities.
Enns, 88, said his parents would stop at the store for some groceries as well as fuel. He, too, rode his horse to the rodeos, organized by local farmer Claude Borders.
In 1938, after the place was busted, Rice County Sheriff Claude Suttle said he found seven pints of whiskey and alcohol in the cars and a large number of empty liquor cartons.
"Something will have to be done," Suttle said. "That place is causing too much trouble."
Yet no one is sure when the little store closed, or who even ran it. Edith Enns, Menno's wife, said she remembers going into the store when the two were dating, maybe about 1942. She remembered seeing a picture of a woman painted into the front-room floor, which Menno called "the face on the barroom floor."
The two married and moved away while Menno served in World War II. They returned in 1946, and neither remembers the store there at that time. And Willems, who worked shortly after high school along the Frisco line that went through Carter Spur, as well as Medora, Buhler and Burrton, said he didn't remember the store still standing at that time.
Menno said eventually a man named Bill Blessing sold the site of Carter Spur to Hutchinson Dr. John Blank. Blank's wife had a big garden and sold vegetables, as well as cider, from a stand across the road.
The land is still in the family. Sharon Blank lives just a few hundred yards from the old Carter Spur site. She said there is a small piece of concrete, along with metal, among the trees where the store sat.
She said she moved to the area in the 1960s, marrying Dr. Blank's son, Don. She has heard the stories that her corner was a party spot.
She recalled a train going by once a day with just a few cars. The railroad eventually tore out the track, she said, estimating that happened at least 20 years ago.
The last mention of Carter Spur in The News was in 1967, by Alvin Dumler, who wrote a column called "The High Plains."
"Both Carter Spur and (nearby) Matheson have faded," he penned. "In the days of Sand Hill bootleggers and national prohibition four decades ago, Carter Spur had its moment of glory as our Wicked border town, sitting where the three counties met."
Reporter Amy Bickel is chronicling the "Dead Towns" of Kansas. If you have a suggestion for a town Amy should research, e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on Carter Spur, visit her blog at http://kansasghosttowns.blogspot.com.