LEGENDS OF KANSAS

 

History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

 
 

Extinct Towns of Ellis County, Kansas

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Chetolah

Rome

Smoky Hill City

Vincent

Yocemento

More Extinct Towns

 

 

 

 

 

 

  Ellis County, Kansas 1867

Ellis County, 1867, Alexander Gardner.

 

 

Chetolah - Anticipating a railroad being built through the area, the town was founded in 1886 by a Topekan named Thomas Fulgum, who made a number of investments in Ellis County. In 1887, a hotel was built, along with a store, a grain elevator, and a couple of dwellings. Fulgum, who was a horse racing fan, also built a horse track between two barns. The town was officially incorporated in 1888 by the Chetolah Land and Town Company. By the late 1880's; however, it appeared that the area would not gain a railroad and most of the townsfolk began to leave. Fulgum eventually lost his investment and left the area.

In the 1890's, Chetolah would come to life again when rumors of gold being found in the shale of the Smoky Hill River began to circulate. Two more towns would also be established in the immediate area -- Smoky Hill City in 1899 and Gold Mill in 1894. The hotel was reopened and a bridge was built from the mining site at Smoky Hill City into Chetolah. Soon, miners were crawling along the river beds in search of the precious metal and two gold mills -- the Close and Holliday, would operate in the area for three years, but show very little profit. Though gold and zinc was found in very small amounts, the cost proved far to much. For a few more years, miners scrambled up and down the river looking for the Mother Lode, but would be disappointed. The Ellis County gold boom sputtered along from 1895 to 1903, by which time most everyone realized that there was no gold in the shale.

 

The town was soon abandoned and the lumber from the gold mill and the hotel was hauled six miles to Antonino to help build the church. The only remnant today is a part of the old bridge. Chetolah was located approximately 12 miles southwest of Hays on the south bank of the Smoky Hill River.

 

Buffalo Bill Cody in 1903Rome - The first settlement to be formed after Ellis County was officially organized, Rome got its start when the Lull brothers of Salina established a general store on the west side of Big Creek, a little north of where the Kansas Pacific Railroad would soon come through the county. By the middle of June, 1867 several houses had been built. One of the town’s co-founders was Buffalo Bill Cody, who along with his partner, William Rose, expected the city to be the metropolis of the county and they would make quite a profit from the sale of lots.

 

Early in June, Bloomfield, Moses & Co. established a general supply store, and later Joseph Perry built the two-story Perry Hotel. With the Kansas Pacific Railroad laying track in the area and employing some 1,200 men, the town grew quickly and by the end of July, the fledgling settlement boasted over 2,000 citizens. These railroad men, along with soldiers, and buffalo hunters, provided ample customers for the many saloons and gambling halls that quickly sprang up.

 

Rome Kansas historical markerCody and Rose; however, would make a fatal mistake when they refused to take on a man named Dr. W.C. Webb as a partner in their town site venture. Unknown to them, Webb had the authority to establish town sites for the railroad, and when Cody and Rose refused him, he established the Big Creek Land Company, which platted the town of Hays City, on the other side of Big Creek about a mile east of Rome. A rivalry at once sprang up between the two places, but the railroad company threw its support to Hays City and Buffalo Bill Cody and William Rose were soon giving free lots away to anyone willing to build or erect a tent in the town. Despite their promotional efforts, many of the citizens and businesses of Rome soon moved to nearby Hays City to be closer to the railroad. When a cholera epidemic hit Rome in the late summer of 1867, any who remained, including Cody and Rose, left. A year later there was nothing left of the town. Ironically, when the Ellis County was officially organized and Hays City made the county seat, William Rose would become one of its first commissioners. Today, the only thing left of Rome is a historical marker.

 

Smoky Hill City - Back in the late 19th century, gold was on everyone's minds when Charles Holliday and his railroad magnate father, Cyrus K. Holliday, believed that the Smoky Hill River area of Ellis County contained valuable mineral deposits. The idea that the shale along the Smoky Hill River contained ore started in the mid-1800s as a swindle by Native Americans who said that they knew of tin mines along the river and in the 1890s, prospectors found ore bearing low percentages of zinc in areas of Ellis and adjacent Trego Counties.

 

 

 

Kansas gold rush

Several towns were formed during Kansas illustrious "gold rush."

 

Sure that there might be gold in "them thar hills," Charles Holliday bought land on the north bank of the Smoky Hill River to build a town he believed would become center of Kansas' first gold rush. A townsite was platted and filed in 1899 and Holliday immediately began selling lots. Some of the first residents came from nearby Chetolah, also now an extinct town, just across the Smoky Hill River and a post office opened in 1900. 

 

Two gold mills -- the Close and Holliday, would operate in the area for three years, but showed very little profit. Though gold and zinc was found in very small amounts, the cost proved far to much. For a few more years, miners scrambled up and down the river looking for the Mother Lode, but would be disappointed. The Ellis County gold boom sputtered along from 1895 to 1903, by which time most everyone realized that there was no gold in the shale.

 

Charles Holliday abandoned the townsite in 1905, but the settlement continued to survive for several more years. In 1910 it had a population of 75, but people continued to leave and in 1915, its post office closed its doors forever. Nothing remains of the town today. It was located approximately 12 miles southwest of Hays.

 

Railroad being built in Kansas

Often towns were formed when the railroad pushed westward, only to die later.

Photo taken west of Hays, 1867 by Alexander Gardner.

 

 

Vincent - This small village got its start in 1907 when several families of the St. Fidelis Church in Victoria, desired to have a church nearer to their farms. Twenty-two families were in favor of the movement and the new settlement was named for the first parish priest, Vincent Brandt, who moved from there in 1909. In the meantime, the residents worked on building the St. Bonifatius Church, as well as a school, and a grocery stores was moved there from Pfeifer. By the time the church was completed; however, only seven families remained. Today, the remote church, which calls itself the "Pearl of the Prairie," is still open. Only a few houses make up the village today. It is located about seven miles southeast of Victoria.

 

Yocemento - Founded in 1906 by the U.S. Portland Cement Company as the future site of a cement plant, the town site was platted in 1907 and its post office opened in March of the same year. Fifteen months later, in mid-1908, the plant was operational with most of its common laborers being Hungarians. These men and their families were mostly Catholic and at first, held services in their homes. However, in 1906 they built a frame church on a site west of the first bend of Big Creek. In 1910, the small community had a general store, a hotel, a restaurant, and a post office. Situated on the Union Pacific Railroad, some shipping was also conducted. It had a population of about 75 people at the time. Unfortunately, by 1917, the cement plant was losing money and they went into bankruptcy. The equipment and mill were sold to a Denver competitor.  Without work, almost all of the Hungarian population moved from the area, though some Germans and Russians remained. Its post office closed in February, 1917. Without a congregation the church was abandoned and later moved to Buckey in 1931, where it was used as a community hall. The old town site is located about six miles northwest of Hays, Kansas on U.S. Highway 40.

 

 

More Extinct Towns

Town

Post Office Dates

Additional Information from Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, 1912, and the Kansas State Historical Society

Bantam

1906-1910

Located about 12 miles northwest of Hays, the post office moved to Hyacinth in 1910.

 

Big Creek Station

1867

Post office moved from Fort Fletcher, only open four months. Post office moved to Hays City.

 

Coyote

1868

Post office only open about five months.

 

Czech Colony

None

A colony of settlers from Bohemia came to Ellis County in 1885 and settled on land south of Ellis along the Trego County line. The town never grew big enough for a post office.

 

Easdale

1878-1887

Post office moved to Pfeifer in 1887. Located in the South East part of Ellis County.

 

Emmeram/Norddorf

1903-1904

Named after the famous church builder, Father Emmeram Kausler, the community consisted of the Sacred Heart Church and two schools. Though a town plot was filed in 1902, the town never materialized.

 

Finch

1907-1908

Located on the Saline River, about 20 miles northeast of Hays

 

Fort Fletcher

1866-1867

Moved to Big Creek Station in 1867.

 

Halton/Mendota

1878-1909

Name changed to Mendota in 1882. A small town about 20 miles northwest of Hays on the Saline River.

 

Hog Back

None

Named for a ridge of land with a sharp summit and sloping sides located half way between Hays and Ellis. There was a railroad station located in Hog Back at one time.

 

Bantam/Hyacinth

1906-1914

Located about 10 miles northwest of Hays, the name was changed from Bantam to Hyacinth in 1910. The St. John Baptist church was built there in 1906, serving the community until 1967.

 

Martin

1875-1894

Located in North Central Ellis County on the Saline River.

Norfolk

1889-1909

Over Muncha

1880

Post office only open five months.

Palatine

1880-1897

Severin

None

Located five miles northwest of Catharine, the town was founded by former members of the Catharine parish. Reverend Father Severin, in whose honor the town was named, was its first pastor. The church was built in May, 1916, and was dedicated June 22, 1916.

 

Stock Range

1883-1895

A small settlement with a post office located in southwest Ellis Countyon the Smoky Hill River.

Sweetwater

1883-1885

Toulon

1889-1891, 1898-1901

A small village located on the Union Pacific Railroad, five miles east and one mile south of Hays. It was first settled In 1876 by people from Pennsylvania.

 

Turkville

1875-1918

Settled by a colony from Tennessee in 1876, who founded the first Baptist church in Ellis County. It was located in the northeast corner of Ellis County on the Saline River.

 

Tyner

1880-1881

Viola

1881

Post office open less than four months.

     

 

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.

 

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