Friday, February 4, 2011

Black Wolf, Kansas, a Ellsworth County Ghost Town

Unlike some towns that hope for a railroad, the tracks were already laid when Black Wolf formed. In 1879, area farmers built a grain elevator near the railway and the government established a post office. Not long later, a wealthy man named Albert Jung staked a claim near Black Wolf. Jung didn't take kindly to farming, so he established a trading post.

The town, however, couldn't grow under Jung, who wouldn't sell the land. When he died, his brother, Phillip, and Phillip's son, Arthur, inherited the land, and the town began to prosper.

Phillip Jung built a hotel and general store. There also was a barn for selling farm equipment. Another hotel, the Wisconsin House, rented rooms and served food.

Black Wolf continued to grow into the 20th century. In later years, there were a few more stores, two lumberyards, three elevators, a blacksmith shop, a creamery and a school. The town also had a stockyard for shipping cattle.

In 1919, John Brickacek decided his town needed a bank, which he and other citizens promptly built. In the late 1920s, two masked men held up the bank, according to a Hutchinson News article in 1927. The bandits escaped with $500 in cash. Another story in The News indicates law enforcement officers were pursing the robbers a few years later.

There was entertainment, too. Through his research, Gene Macek found there were as many as five saloons in Black Wolf, but no shootings. Meanwhile, two outside dance floors accommodated folks in the early part of the century. There also was the large barn that drew residents from around the county. A $1 admission was charged.

There were several baseball teams from 1895 through the 1930s. Residents even constructed a swimming pool in 1922. But Macek, born in 1924, said it didn't last long enough for him to swim in it.

There once was a sign not far from the tracks that marked his little town's ambitions.

"Black Wolf, Population 45. Speed Limit 101. Watch us grow. Air and water free."

Yet, standing on a dirt road not far from where a few pioneer graves lie, Gene Macek watched as an afternoon train slowly chugged through Black Wolf. The sign rotted off the post several years back, he said. The store where his father would bring him to buy candy corn and salted peanuts burned down more than a decade ago. And the old barn that once drew hundreds to town for barn dances was moved to a farm around the same time. A grain elevator, two homes and the train, "that's about all we have anymore," Macek said.
Little remains of the town Macek's great-grandparents first settled near in the 1870s.

Gene Macek stands in front of the cooperative elevator at the ghost town of Black Wolf.

A Black Wolf baseball team.

This old sign fell down years ago.

Gene points otu a family member in this old Black Wolf photo.

Ellsworth County Independent-Reporter showing the old town.

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