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.

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