Black Wolf -
Another Farm Town Ghost Town
Situated on the north bank of the
Smoky Hill River,
Black Wolf got its start as a
station on the
Union Pacific Railroad in the late
1870's. Located half way between
Ellsworth and Wilson, the town also supported
limited coal production in the 1880's, as well as numerous farmers and ranchers
in the area.
The town was said to have gotten its name from an
named Black Wolf, whose tribe had a camp on Cow Creek to the north of the town.
In 1879, there was little of the town other than the railroad
siding and the post office, which was established in April.
Black Wolf in early days.
However, by the next year, several business buildings had been
erected and streets laid out.
A grain elevator was built in 1879 by two men by the name of Jung
and Giessler. The O'Connell & Foote lumber yard was established which carried a
full line of building supplies. The two also later built a hotel called the Wisconsin House, as
well as a two-story building, which contained a mercantile store on the lower
level and housed the post office. A farmer named John Riley soon began to sell
farm machinery, and later built a livery stable. Other businesses included a lime kiln called
Graham & Beths, and a blacksmith shop owned by
The Black Wolf School was built in 1880.
The Black Wolf Coal Mine was located two miles south of the town
in the bluffs near Black Wolf Creek. This and other mines located along the
Smoky Hill River, were never large operations, as the coal was situated near the
surface and sold only locally. However, the local coal would be utilized for
By 1910, the town
boasted a population of 100 people, a money
order post office, telegraph and express offices, telephone connections, a grain
elevator, and good local trade. However, just ten years later, the population
had dropped dramatically and the town was already working to revive itself. A
sign was posted in 1920 stating:
Speed limit 101 M.
Watch us Grow
Air and Water Free
In the 1920s, Black Wolf gained national attention when two
masked robbers walked into the Black Wolf State Bank and demanded cash from
cashier Ray Artas, who was at the bank alone. At the moment of the robbery, Mrs.
Artas, who worked at the bank as a bookkeeper, arrived. Her husband told her to
leave “Fast! This is a hold up!” However, she refused, thinking her husband was
joking. The robbers locked the Artases in the vault and made their escape with
$500 in cash.
Though the town of Black Wolf had suffered previous floods, the worst came in
1938 when high flood waters descended from the Smoky Hill River. Though the
elevators and the Black Wolf store tried to pump the water out of the places, it
was impossible, as the flood reached a crest of 12 feet above the river bridge.
For days, the only way to get around the town was by boat.
For years, Black Wolf was noted for its Saturday night dances. In the summer,
they were held on outdoor platforms, in colder weather inside a machinery barn.
These large dances usually lasted until daybreak so the people could see their
way home. When electricity finally arrived in Black Wolf in 1945, the popular
dances began to break up by about 2:00 a.m.
Sunday afternoons were slated for baseball games, which were held in a cow
just south of the Black Wolf Bridge.
But, like many other small farming communities, Black Wolf's hey days would soon
come to an end. With better roads and automobiles, more and more people began to
drive to Ellsworth
to do business, and the few retailers in the small town began
to leave. When the Union Pacific Railroad
depot closed in 1952, it was the final
death knell for the town. The building was later sold and moved out of town in
1956. On August 31, 1953, the post office closed its doors forever.
The following year, the Black Wolf State Bank was closed and the
general store auctioned off its inventory and closed. In 1962, the
Black Wolf Elevator for the Wilson Flour and Milling Company closed.
The closed Black Wolf store was gutted by fire in 1997, the old Black Wood Bank
building was razed, and in 1999, the Black Wolf Barn and Dance Hall was moved to
a private residence near
Ellsworth. The Black Wolf School, built in 1913, was
moved the the
Hodgden Museum Complex in Ellsworth and can still be seen today.
Black Wolf is now only a ghost of its former self, with no
business buildings. However, there remains several
residential homes, a Co-op Grain Elevator and the still active tracks of the
Union Pacific Railroad
of Kansas, updated May 2019.