History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Atchison County Towns - Page 2

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Muscotah - Located about 26 miles west of Atchison, the first town site was situated about 2 miles northeast of the present town. It was surveyed by Dr. W. P. Badger and Major C. B. Keith, proprietors, who had settled there in the spring of 1856. The survey was completed in the fall of that year, and in 1858, Mr. Keith opened the first store. Dr. Badger soon became the local Indian Agent, a position he held from 1858 to 1862. The town name is of  Kickapoo Indian origin and means "beautiful prairie" or "prairie on fire." The village gained a post office in December, 1861. In 1867, the Union Pacific Railroad purchased land on the present-day town site with Dr. W.P. Badger acting as agent for the railroad. The land was surveyed that fall and the first general store was opened by a man named Armstrong. Soon, other residents and businesses moved closer to the tracks and the former town site was then referred to as "Old Muscotah."


A Congregational Church was built in 1869, which also served the congregation of the Methodist Episcopalians. A school was built in the 1870s and the Methodists built their own church in 1879.


Muscotah, Kansas

Muscotah is filled with abandoned businesses, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.




By the early 1880s, Muscotah had grown to the largest town in the county, boasting over 500 residents. it also had four general stores, a grocery store, three drug stores, three blacksmith shops, a bakery, meat shop, two shoemaker shops, two cabinet shops, one pump dealer, a nursery, three hotels, two livery stables, a grist mill, a school, one lawyer and three doctors.


By 1910, the town remained prosperous and continued to maintain a number of businesses. At that time its population was nearly 500. Like other small Kansas towns, Muscotah declined over the next century. Though it still maintains a post office and about 200 people, the village is filled with abandoned buildings. It is located about 26 miles west of Atchison on U.S. Highway 159.




Pleasantly situated on a slight rise in the beautiful valley of Stranger Creek, Potter got its start as a station on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. However, the area's history dates back to the 1840's when Paschal Pensoneau, an old French trader, established himself on Stranger Creek in about 1839.


The building of Potter was the third and the most successful attempt to establish a town in the vicinity. The first attempt was at Mount Pleasant in 1854. It was one of the first towns started in Kansas, and established the first post office in Atchison County.  It prospered for a time and was a candidate for the county seat but,  gradually declined, and after the establishment of Potter, quickly became a memory. In the early days, even before Mount Pleasant was established, a town was laid out near the big Mercer Spring, just northeast of the present site of Potter, which was called Martinsburg. However, outside of a small store and a few cabins, the town never advanced further.


Early in 1886 the Leavenworth, Northern & Southern Railway, later a branch of the Santa Fe Railroad, and known as the "Pollywog," was built and a station located where Potter now stands. A town was platted and initially called Bennett Springs, after James Gordon Bennett, the well known eastern journalist. The mineral springs on the Masterson farm near the townsite were attracting considerable attention at the time, and it was thought that a popular resort could be built up there. The medicinal properties of the water were discovered by Dr. Rice, a local physician, and subsequently analyzed by experts, who confirmed Dr. Rice's conclusions, and a number of people claimed to have used the waters in liver, kidney and other complaints with good results.


Potter, Kansas

One store remains open in tiny little Potter, Kansas, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.


Henry C. Squires, afterwards a Potter banker, conceived the idea of establishing a health resort here, and named it in honor of James Gordon Bennett, who, it was thought, would use his influence towards getting eastern capital interested in the project. The expected financial backing was not forthcoming; however, and the proposed development of the springs was never made.


In the meantime, the railroad people had christened the town Potter, in honor of Joseph Potter, who owned the property owner on which the town was laid out. For a time, the tax rolls continued to carry the name Bennett Springs, but it was known to all as Potter. The first lots in the town were sold to James Stalons, who served for many years as a Justice of the Peace as well as a Minister. The first house on the town site was built by Thomas J. Potter in 1882. four years before the town was laid out. The first business was a general store established by Charles Klein.


Potter gained a post office in February, 1888 when it was removed from nearby Mount Pleasant. At that time, the town name "officially" became Potter. As the principal station on the Santa Fe Railroad, between Atchison and Leavenworth, the town prospered over the next several years. It gained its first newspaper -- the Potter Press in 1898. In 1900, the Potter Leaf was established, which was changed to the Potter Weekly Kansan three years later.


By the turn of the century, it was the largest banking town in the southeastern part of the county and boasted several general stores, implement and hardware houses, a school, church, and 250 people.


Though the town did not continue to grow in population, it seemingly grew in businesses. Buy 1916, it was boasting two banks, two grain elevators, two general stores, a hardware store, grocery store, furniture store, drug store, two barber shops, a cement tile factory, a millinery store, a telephone exchange, two physicians, a dental office, lumber company, the Potter Weekly Kansan newspaper, and a large rural high school -- the first of its kind established in the state.


Like so many other flourishing agricultural and railroad towns that flourished a century ago, Potter declined over the years. The town is unincorporated today and very small, but it still maintains a post office and one open business. 


Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated May, 2019.


Potter, Kansas

Potter's old school now serves as a residence, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.


Also See:



Atchison County

Atchison County Photo Gallery

Haunted Atchison - The Most Ghostly Town in Kansas



Blackmar, Frank W.; Kansas Cyclopedia, Standard Publishing, 1912

Cutler, William G.; History of the State of Kansas, A. T. Andreas, 1883

Kansas Towns


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