Sunday, December 28, 2014

Saunders, Kansas, a dead town in Stanton County

Looking into Kansas. Saunders is in the background

Saunders, notice the dust storm haze.

The little border stop greets you as you enter Kansas -- along with a windshield of dust.

And on this late summer day, it seems, the dust is especially bad at Saunders, which sits right next to the Colorado border along a stretch of Highway 160 that, for miles, is nearly empty of people.

But for Minnie Watson, the whirling earth she experienced here during the 1930s was much worse than today. She and her family moved to Saunders in 1937. She was in second grade.

Her family had left Plains, Kansas -- an area still plagued by dust storms, although it wasn't quite in the heart of it like Stanton County. In a time when jobs were hard to come by, her father had secured the position of elevator manager for the Collingwood Co.

They moved into Saunders' single residence, which also was the elevator scale house and office.

Here, their power was from the wind, she said. While they had enough for lights and radio, it wasn't enough, though, to power a refrigerator or washer, which they had left behind at Plains.

It took a little while for the family to adjust to the stark landscape. Upon seeing their new home, "my mother cried and cried."

"It wasn't quite as dusty at Plains," Watson, 86, of Manter, recalls. "But at Saunders, it was just dirt."
To read the full story on Saunders, click here.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Yankton, Kansas a defunct town in Harper County

Photos by Sandra Milburn. Concrete still remains at Yankton townsite
A few clues about Yankton
I got an email after the 2014 Kansas State Fair from Dan Stringer, who said he once lived at the townsite of Yankton in Harper County. So, photographer Sandra Milburn and I picked Stringer up where he was living in Argonia and trekked to the former townsite near Attica. 
Harper County has more than 30 extinct villages – towns like Joppa, Pilot Knob, Shook and Ruby, according to the Kansas State Historical Society. While some have chronicled histories, the details of Yankton’s brief existence are few. There is no evidence of its birth or how and when, exactly, it died. 
        There are some clues however. 

Perhaps the town was started by the Oliver family. According to the book “Harper County Story” written in 1968, Yankton was a pioneer village in Ruella township. It had a post office, which opened Aug. 6, 1883. The postmaster was Stephen C. Oliver. He also owned the Yankton Hotel, livery and stable. 

Meanwhile, Marcus Oliver,   postmaster Oliver’s brother, was in real estate of the town, having “a number of city lots for sale cheap,” according to the book. He also ran a peanut stand in connection with his real estate business on the north side of the Yankton square.
Yankton even had a newspaper, the Yankton Gleaner, an eight-page paper devoted to Yankton and its vicinity. It sold for $2 in advance.
And, for a time, people came to the area and settled here, calling Yankton home. A.J. Barr was a bricklayer, plasterer and sod carpenter. R.S. Sullivan was a shoemaker and cobbler. L.A. Jones was a hairdresser.
There was also Dr. Joseph Brockway. He settled with his wife and six of his children – noting in a letter to family that his daughter was at a university in Iowa.
His family’s roots are deep, he wrote to the receiver – noting his family history goes back to “the Massachusetts colonial tradition.” Two family members were massacred at a fort on the banks of the Connecticut River at the close of the Revolutionary War, he wrote.
The letter, the property of the University of Kansas’ Kenneth Spencer Research Library, was dated May 1884 and gave no details about life in Yankton, except to mention he was writing from Yankton in Harper County, Kansas. Brockway did write that he hadn’t finished his doctorate and was taking classes at Ann Arbor University.
There are few mentions of Brockway in other publications. One genealogical document noted he also was an attorney. The Annual Report by the U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry lists Brockway fighting southern cattle fever on his farm south and west of Harper along Nine Cottonwoods Creek in 1883.
Brockway must have eventually left Kansas, although I'm not sure when. It could have been after Yankton's demise. An obituary for a Dr. Joseph Brockway in the Wichita Daily Eagle published in May 1911 said he died in Aline, Oklahoma, which is about 70 miles from Yankton.
Then the trail of Yankton’s story runs cold. Brockway’s obituary never mentioned Yankton. Even Postmaster Oliver’s obituary never mentioned Yankton or his time as a postmaster. It said he settled in the Attica area, just two miles to the west of the Yankton townsite, in 1882. He is buried in the Attica Cemetery.
What little details there are show the town was short-lived. The post office closed one year after it opened in October 1884.
Stringer said the stories he heard was Yankton was near the site of an Osage Village. In Souix and Osage, the name means “village at the end.” Yankton residents planned for a railroad. However, the tracks were laid to the north, going through the nearby town of Crystal Springs, instead.

On our trip to the site, Stringer pointed out where he and his second wife, Phyllis, lived. It was once the Yankton hotel and saloon, with a brothel upstairs, he said. They ran a Christian ministry from the site, which is now being used by a local church.  

To read the whole story on KansasAgland, click here

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.

Friday, August 1, 2014

An old store photo from Carniero, Kansas.

I received this photo earlier this summer from Joy. It's of one of the old, Carniero, Kansas, stores. I love these old photos! here is a note from Joy.

I have roots in Carneiro and Kanopolis.  In fact my dad was born there to John and Ethel Ulrickson.  John, my grandfather was a blacksmith in the Salt Mine.  I want to share with you one of the pictures I have identifying a building that may still exist in Carneiro.  It was owned and run by O.B. Smith and Sons.  I believe he also became a judge in the county of Carneiro.  Time period - around the 1890-1900s.  

I don't think this is the same store that is still standing in Carniero - which is featured on the cover of our book - Dead Towns of Central and Western Kansas - but it could be. Thanks so much, Joy! And if anyone else has some great old photos, don't hesitate to share.

Here's an earlier post from Carniero.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Adams, Kansas - Clyde Cessna's hometown in Kingman County

Europa and Clyde Cessna, December 7, 1941. Photo courtesy Kingman Co. Economic Development

On a trip to a wheat field near Anthony, I stumbled across the Kingman County town of Adams. It's the hometown of famed aviation manufacturer Clyde Cessna.

Here's a link to some information the old Cessna home, which still stands near Adams.

A boy named Clyde

Early aviation in Kansas began with a farmboy named Clyde who grew up near the little town of Adams.

In 1881, James and Mary Cessna and their two boys, Roy, 4, and Clyde, 2, settled in Canton Township near Adams and constructed a sod home.

In 1904, Clyde bought 40 acres north of his parents homestead. In June 1905, he and Europa Dotzour, a school teacher, were married. In 1907, they bought their first "horseless carriage, which gave him interest in automobiles. The family moved to Enid, Okla, to manage an auto company, the Overland Agency.

Not long after moving, Clyde became interested in flight after seeing an exhibition at Oklahoma City. He traveled to New York to see how "those Eastern fellows were putting flying machines together." Through trial and error and many crashes later, Cessna made his first successful flight in late 1911. While living in Oklahoma, he found profit in flying in exhibitions, as many people would pay to see an airplane.

Cessna, however, knew that the days of exhibition flying were numbered. He wanted not only to fly but also to build and sell airplanes in an effort to make aviation a profitable and respectable enterprise, according to an article by Edward H. Phillips is an aviation researcher and author. Following his successful tour of Kansas, Cessna returned to Oklahoma in November 1913 and made a number of flights there. In late December he moved his family, equipment and two airplanes back to his 40-acre farm near Adams.

He continued designing, developing and flying exhibitions, including the Kansas State Fair. In July 1916, he crashed near Adams, damaging the aircraft and injuring himself, but three weeks later he was back in the air flying, according to Phillips.

In 1917, the Jones Auto Co. offered him space to build planes in Wichita, according to the Kingman County history book. With the help of his brother Roy and another brother, Noel, Clyde set up a plane manufacturing shop. It would be the beginning of aircraft manufacturing in the city to be know as the Air Capitol of the World.

But as American entered World War I, interest in Clyde's airplane manufacturing, as well as a flight school he offered, waned, and he and his brothers returned to Adams to farm and help in the war effort, writes Phillips. However, in the mid-1920s, according to the Kansas State Historical Society, Walter Beach and Lloyd Stearman offered Cessna a partnership in the Wichita Travel Air Co. However, a disagreement over monoplane versus biplane design eventually caused Cessna to leave and form his own company.

He was forced to close his business' doors on a Friday in 1931 during the Great Depression, according to a story in The News. The economy had crashed, no one was purchasing airplanes and the company couldn't pay employees. So the stockholders decided to close its doors for several years.

"Clyde was upset with stockholders for closing the door; he didn't see that was the way to go," granddaughter Janice Cessna Clark , of Reno, Nev. told the News in. "So on Monday morning, Clyde, and his son Eldon, opened Cessna Aeroplane Company with the purpose of repairing and servicing planes and to build gliders."

After closing the plant in 1931, it reopened again three years later. And several years after that, he sold his shares to two nephews and returned to Adams to farm.
From the Kansas Sampler Foundation
Cessna died at his home near Adams on Nov. 20, 1954 and is buried just north of the town in the Greenfield Cemetery at Belmont. 
While Cessna is known as an early airplane manufacturer, Clark remembers a grandfather working hard in the scorching Kansas heat to bring in the wheat each June at the family farm near Adams. The town of Rago, also claims the manufacturer, although he lived closer to Adams.

"He was devoted to his farming," Clark said in 2011 of her grandfather who only had a fifth-grade education but was in tune with the technology of his day. "He was a mechanical person; he ran a saw mill and dug ponds. When I knew him he was inventing a mechanical pitchfork. He had an extraordinary ability to translate ideas into mechanical inventions."

Located just a few miles west of Adams, the white, two-story Cessna home still stands, although it is on private property, said Bonita Bradley, who lives in Adams.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A little history on Fort Zarah, Allison Ranche and the town of Zarah - Barton County, Kansas

Photographer Lindsey and I ventured here more than a month ago. We found little left of any of the sites, although we really didn't know where to look.

I want to thank Robert Yarmer for his help in sharing his wife's family history. Here's a little bit from my latest dead town story.

In the summer of 1855, when prairie pioneers Williams Allison and Francis Booth came to what would someday be Barton County, there was nothing here but windswept prairie, Indians and buffalo along with the occasional schooner heading toward Santa Fe on the Santa Fe Trail.
Fort Larned wouldn’t be established for another few years and there was little settlement west. Nevertheless, the two men decided to build a settlement along Walnut Creek on the trail – offering supplies and respite to those making the journey.
These days, there is little left of the settlements that sprang up along the trail just east of Great Bend – a few stones in a field, remnants of dugouts and a handful of civilian graves deep below a field of greening wheat.
The autumn 1966 cover of the Kansas Historical Quarterly features a water color of Fort Zarah on the Santa Fe Trail as illustrated by Henry Worrall.
Allison Ranche, along with a town of Zarah that would develop a short distance to the north about 15 years later, have both disappeared – meeting the fate of more than 6,000 other settlements that once populated the state in the latter half of the 1800s.

A trading post
William Allison, a man with just one arm, and Francis Booth had become familiar with the route as former conductors of the monthly mail, according the Kansas State Historical Society. They had encountered Indians along the trail and knew of the hazards of the prairie.
Therefore, 132 miles beyond Council Grove, they established a trading post on Walnut Creek, located in the domain of the nomadic Plains Indian tribes and of the buffalo range.
The July 1855 issues of the Independence, Mo.-based publication, the Occidental Messenger, gave this account of the pioneers.
‘Mr. Wm. Allison and Booth, known as famed prairie men, have determined to make a settlement at Walnut Creek on the Santa Fe road. A short time since . . . they started on an expedition to the gold region; their mules and provisions giving out, and not being able to purchase any on the road from any train, they abandoned the idea of going further toward the Wichita diggings, and returned here, determined to settle on Walnut Creek. Booth left a month or two since, and Allison this week, and from last reports of Booth’s progress, he was busily engaged in building houses and corrals.
This is the first attempt at building by citizens made West of Council Grove, and we hope it may grow up in a short time a flourishing settlement. The men at the head of this enterprise are well known here, and distinguished for their energy and determination, they have no fear about them. ... This settlement will be another stopping point on the route to New Mexico and will make, in a little while, the road less dangerous by lessening the distance between civilized points and affording those in danger or want an opportunity to obtain relief.”
On August 25, the Occidental Messenger also reported that Allison and Booth’s post was nearing completion, with the men hoping to open trade to Indians and any travelers who needed “provision and aid as they journey.”
In December 1856, a post office was established at the ranche, with Allison as postmaster, according to the historical society.
In February 1857, the Santa Fe Gazette published this notice that Allison and Booth had established a trading house and general depot at Walnut Creek on the trail, having on hand groceries, provisions, forage and corrals, according to the historical society article. However, by September, the partnership ended. An article in the Santa Fe Gazette a month later reported: The Mexican who brutally murdered Mr. Booth and Walnut Creek last month, by splitting his head open with an ax, was arrested in San Miguel County last week.”
Meanwhile, according to the historical society, Allison continued to prosper as train traffic boomed. Those venturing toward Pikes Peak in search of gold took the mountain branch of the road to head to Colorado.
Despite his success, Allison died in 1859 of heart failure.

Peacock and Rath
Following Allison’s death, George Peacock took over the ranche.
Peacock’s time at the post, however, was short. Kiowa war chief Satank was arrested after almost passing out from drinking too much at Peacock’s post. Satank escaped but asked Peacock to write a letter of introduction saying he was a good Indian. Not counting on Satank having the letter translated, Peacock instead headed warning to those who read it – saying the Indian was treacherous and dangerous.
According to the state historical society, in the fall of 1860, Satank led warriors to the ranch and killed Peacock and five other men and stole all of the livestock.
Trader and buffalo hunter named Charles Rath took over the trading post next, and he expanded the operation, even helping establish a toll bridge across Walnut Creek.
Meanwhile, as attacks subsided, the military abandoned Fort Zarah in 1869.

Unearthing remains of the ranch house at Walnut Creek Crossing of the Santa Fe Trail (near Great Bend) as supervised by State Historical Society archeologists May 31, 1969. The photograph was taken looking north along the west footings.
The town of Zarah
Not long after Fort Zarah’s abandonment, a town by the same name was formed on the edge of the fort’s property, just north of Allison’s Ranche, Yarmer said.
It was 1870, says Yarmer, adding his wife’s great great uncle, Titus Buckbee, a cattleman, was one of the founders.
Back then, Yarmer said, “everyone wants to start a town, sell lots and be a mayor. That was where the money was.”
Buckbee had been in the Civil War before venturing west. His prison stay at Andersonville during the war hindered his health, Yarmer said.
Zarah would have a blacksmith, a grocery and a livery, among a handful of other stores. In 1871, Buckbee became the town’s postmaster, becoming the first postmaster since Barton became a county.
It also had a murder. Buckbee’s brother-in-law Zach Light was minding the store for Buckbee when a man came in asking for crackers, according to the book “Deadly Dozen: Forgotten Gunfighters of the Old West, Volume 2” by Robert K. DeArment. The man wanted cheese for his crackers. Light said he had none.
“This is a hell of a town,” the man said, adding Zarah was letting Great Bend “get away with things.”
Light said if he didn’t shut up, he would shoot, according to the book. And he did, hitting the man in the forehead. Light fled and, despite being arrested by authorities, never stood trial for the killing.
The town went on for a time, but Zarah’s existence wouldn’t last. Great Bend leaders were working to gain the county seat title. Formed in 1871, town leaders knew survival depended on whether they could secure the honor. An election in 1872 decided the towns’ fates. Ellinwood would receive 22 votes, Great Bend 144 and Zarah 33.
Also, Yarmer said, Santa Fe Railroad had reached Barton County that year and didn’t put a depot in Zarah.
“Politicians from Illinois – they knew how to grease the skid,” Yarmer said, adding the story is these Great Bend officials “bought cases of whiskey and dined the railroad. Zarah tried to do the same, but didn’t have the moxie to do it.”
Angry, Zarah folks moved most of the buildings to Ellinwood’s downtown. Fires destroyed the buildings, Yarmer said.

Little left
Today, there is little left of this area’s early settlement. A sign on the side of the road near Great Bend tells the history of Fort Zarah, although the park isn’t located on the actual fort site. A display at the Barton County Museum also shows artifacts found from digging exhibitions, Neuforth said.

Friday, February 28, 2014

School photos from Saratoga, Kansas, a dead town in Pratt County

I was cleaning out my email and noticed this old photos of the Saratoga school that was sent to me last summer. To find out about Saratoga, a dead town in Pratt County, click here. A clump a trees at the site mark where the school stood.

These photos are courtesy of the Pratt County Historical Society.