Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Frederick, population nine, lingers as Rice County ponders town's future

Frederick, Kansas, population nine or 10, on a good day. 

I got an email in early June from a resident in the small town I live in. She said her aunt, Wanda Plautz would be excellent to talk to about the history of Frederick, Kansas.

But my research lead me to a deeper story. The town has been incorporated since the late 1800s. Now the third-class city of just nine residents must decide if it will live or die.

No one ran for election in April. Moreover, no one voted or wrote in a name. There is no official mayor or council.

Here's an excerpt from my story:

Frederick is on life support. 
Melode Huggans knows this. She's seen the signs since she was a little girl, visiting her grandparents, who lived on the same parcel she does today.
The school at Frederick
The schoolhouse is empty − stripped of its desks. A jail cell sits in the middle of a field of wheat stubble, the metal bars and innards rusting. Old playground equipment and paint-worn cars are barely visible amid the trees after decades of neglect. 
Now loved ones like Huggans are faced with a difficult decision on whether it is time for this town to face a natural death.
Ten people call Frederick home − on a good day, that is. It once had as many as 150 people, along with grocery stores, a lumberyard, blacksmiths and restaurants. 
Yet, on this July morning, Huggans pointed up an empty street in front of the home she and husband, Steve, have lived in for 19 years. This was the main thoroughfare, she said. But every business has vanished. There isn't even a foundation left. 
Frederick, an official Kansas third-class city, is almost a ghost town. 
In the April election, no one ran for mayor or for any of the city council seats. Not one resident wrote in a name, either. In fact, it appears no one even voted.
The old jail still stands
For the first time since the town's inception in 1887, Frederick has no leaders. The town's budget is due Aug. 25.
At a recent Rice County Commission meeting, commissioners and the county clerk discussed if it is time the town calls it quits and unincorporates. 
Huggans doesn't know the answer. She serves as the Frederick city clerk, but isn't sure the next time the former council will meet. Her husband is on the city council. But their thoughts have been on other things. Melode has been battling breast cancer, diagnosed in April.
Frederick, however, is a part of her life. 
"My grandparents lived here," she said. "It was a town when they lived here. My mom was born here, went to school here."

To read the rest of the story and see more photos and a video, visit

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