Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Leoti-Coronado County Seat Fight - Leoti, Kansas

The following are two accounts detailing the Leoti-Coronado county seat fight - one from the Coronado newspaper, the other from the Leoti newspaper.

Leoti-Coronado County Seat Fight - Leoti, Kansas

Cleveland, Kansas: a ghost town in Kingman County

 Cleveland, Kansas, sign still rests by the highway. The former Cleveland bank.

The old bank building is a farm shed

The old bank vault still stands

What is left of the Cleveland school: A pile of rubble.

A view in Cleveland

The elevator is the only business left in town.
It's especially hopping with activity during wheat harvest.

Well, there is this resident selling eggs.

The train still rumbles through Cleveland.

Old house.

Students of the Cleveland School in the 1940s.
One of the town's first stores.

A picture of the Cleveland Methodist Church, which was razed in the 1960s.
Paul and Dorothy Handkins were married at the church on Dec. 31, 1944

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.

Mitchell, Kansas, a Rice County ghost town

The Mitchell post office opened in 1882, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. At one time, there was a grocery store, a hardware store, a lumberyard, a coal bin and a depot. Houses dotted several blocks and Conner figures, at one time, 120 people lived in Mitchell during its heyday.
Early settlers included W.H. Rife, who first settled on Cow Creek in 1870. Even Conner's family homesteaded in the area, although Conner said he isn't sure how the town was named Mitchell. Mitchell had a doctor for a time, Flavius Smith, who started practicing there in 1889, according to the Standard History of Kansas and Kansans.

Mitchell also got noted in a Chicago newspaper in January 1898 when Adolph Campbell, of Mitchell, "attempted to drown himself at the foot of Dock Street yesterday."
Mitchell did have a famous daughter. Actress Shirley Knight grew up in Mitchell, graduating from the eighth grade in 1950 with Conner, he said. She has starred in movies like "Endless Love," "As Good as It Gets" and "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."

Conner said he wasn't born yet when the bank was operating, although he had an uncle who worked as a teller there for a time. He doesn't recall the general store or the hardware store - they were all gone before he was born in 1936.
There was the elevator, however, he said. And, for a time, there was a train. He recalls his father riding the train doodlebug east to get a 1940s Farmall H tractor, then driving it home. The doodlebug also hauled cream and eggs to McPherson.

Farmer Delmer Conner took me on a tour on a January morning, pointing to a city block that is nothing but grass. The houses have burned, fallen down or were moved to a more prospering town, he said. A concrete bank vault still stands, the building around it having crumbled years ago. An old telephone building is hidden in the trees, just a shell of its former state.

The Methodist Church closed not long after the school, Conner said. He has the cornerstone, which says it was built in 1916. In the past year, a man had tried to renovate it, putting on a new roof, new doors and new windows. However, worked stopped a few months ago and Conner said he heard the building had been sold to someone else. 

Local farmer Delmer Conner sits at the school he once attended.

Mitchell School. It opened in 1926 and closed in the 1960s

Old elevator at Mitchell. It's now owned by a local farmer.
The old Methodist Church. It closed in the 1960s.

 Someone started to renovate the old church as a home and stopped.

The old telephone building, hidden in the trees

A merry-go-round stills stands at the school, not far from the ball diamond.

Bank vault.

The concrete vault is all that is left of the bank building.

Home where Hollywood Actress Shirley Knight once lived.

The church parsonage burned down, but the well still stands.