Saturday, March 12, 2016

Nonchalanta - a Dead town in Ness County.

The Nonchalanta hotel
A big thank you to Tom Reed, who hails from the ghost town of Ravanna in Finney County, Tom McCoy of Ness City and Harlan Nuss, who rents the pasture where Nonchalanta once thrived.

They gave me a great tour of the ruins here. They were kind enough to spend much of the afternoon talking to me and showing me around. 

Remember, this is private property. No trespassing!

This old stone house was once the site of the Nonchalanta post office.

Just give it a "d---" name
With the promise of free land, Fred Roth and his family came in covered wagons from Missouri to Ness County.
So did others. John Silas Collins, a circuit-riding Methodist minister, who arrived in 1879 and began work to prove up his homestead, according to an article by local historian, the late Jan Gantz, which was published in the Ness County News.
They began building sod homes and plowing up the grass. 
With pioneers came the need for a town. Homesteader Lewis Odom in 1885 decided to plat a town and asked another local, Dr. W.A. Yingling, to come up with a name.
"And I don't care a d--- what kind of name it is, just so it's a taking name," Odom told Yingling according to several historical articles. 
So, as the tale goes, Yingling called it Nonchalant, after the French word of that very idea, and then decided to add the "a."

Odom loved it and began promoting Nonchalanta with the idea the railroad was coming. One newspaper printed on May 23, 1885: "New town of Nonchalanta laid out." By September, lots were reported to be selling for $15 to $85, according to the book "Ness, Western County, Kansas" by Minnie Dubbs Millbrook.

Momentum continued and folks prepared for a promised railroad. Nonchalanta would soon have a livery, a drug store, three-story hotel, real estate office and a general store, Gantz wrote in her article. There was a Methodist church and newspaper. A quarter-mile away, a man named McCandish operated a small country store and post office that the government had previously dubbed Candish. By 1887, the post office was renamed Nonchalanta.

Photo courtesy of Cheryl McVicker Lewis. This is the Nonchalanta school. Her grandmother, Annie Slagle McVicker, was the teacher and Annie's siblings are in the photo.
In fact, said Wichita resident Cheryl McVicker Lewis, whose family homestead in the area, the Nonchalanta newspaper from August 1887 showed 22 businesses advertising in it. 

"And it said there were also several more carpenters, two more blacksmiths and several stone masons and plasters," said Lewis, who grew up near the town site and has researched local and family history. "There were plans to build 100 houses in the next six months."

Folks had began construction on the bank, as well as more stores, restaurants and a Grand Army of the Republic post. There was even talk of a summer resort called "Wildhorse Lake" - located around a natural depression where the wild horses would water, wrote Gantz.

Gantz also reported that lots were advertised in Folsom Heights - "a beautiful suburb overlooking the city."

Great tour by Tom Reed, left, Harlan Nuss, center, and Tom McCoy.
And, in 1887, according to the book by Millbrook, the newspaper advertised the town as "the magic young city of the plains, with six public wells with pure water, a hundred houses to be built in early spring and a railroad to be built during the coming summer."

Sam Howell was one of the business owners. According to family history, he worked on the railroads across western Kansas, drove freight and was employed on area ranches before homesteading and starting a feed store in Nonchalanta. 
There he met Susie Helen Corbet, a young girl working at the Nonchalanta hotel, which was operated by John Rogers, a man who would later become governor of Washington, according to Corbet's writings discovered by Lewis.

Susie and Sam married in Nonchalanta in April 1888 - the same year the school was finished.

The town was buzzing. 

"Dancing, baseball games and picnics were part of the entertainment," wrote Gantz. 
Nonchalanta Methodist Church. It was founded in 1887 and had a minister until 1918. The church continued with a Sunday School until 1925. The building was sold and moved to Ness City.