Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Wilburn, Kansas, A Ford County ghost town

Last year, Hutchinson resident Wallace Smith came into The News office with an old photograph.

It shows a great uncle, Mort, holding a rifle and standing by a covered wagon. The back of the photo said it was taken at Wilburn, Kansas.

Smith said his grandmother, Stella, traveled with her parents some 900 miles from Brown County, Indiana to the Ford County town. Smith knew the town had since disappeared.

He wanted to know more, he said.

Wilburn ArgusEditor Frank Mathews wrote of the town’s promise in the April 2, 1886 edition.

A few months ago, Wilburn was not and where it now stands the wolf, the antelope and the coyote held unchallenged dominion, save by the buffalo and the wild horse  and the rattlesnake gave his fatal warning unheard by the ear of man. Today the scene has changed. One turn of the kaleidoscope of time and we see a different picture. We now have alone hardware, one clothing store, two grocers, a lumberyard, a shoe shop, a larger feed and livery stable, post office, a large well-conducted hotel, a blacksmith shop, two rustling real estates firms who are always willing to give you any information desired. We also have one of the best schoolhouses in southwest Kansas, and last but not least a newspaper and publishing office.

And yet we just begun to grow. Strange faces are daily seen upon our streets … to the young man of limited means in the overdone cities of the east, who would gain a foothold where wealth and happiness be his portion, to who would better their condition, we would respectfully, but earnestly say, come to Wilburn. We extend the invitation believing that there is a country that ere long will blossom as the rose and a town that will keep right along with the country.