LEGENDS OF KANSAS

 

History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs

 

Towns & Places of Ellis County, Kansas

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Towns and Places

 

Antonino (unincorporated)

Catharine (unincorporated)

Hays (County seat)
Ellis

Fort Hays

Fort Hays State University

Munjor (unincorporated)

Pfeifer (unincorporated)
Schoenchen

Victoria
Walker (unincorporated)


Extinct Towns

 

 

Ellis County, Kansas 1889 map

Ellis County map, 1899.

 

 

 

 

Antonino - Located in the Smoky Hill Valley about eight miles southwest of Hays, Antonino was established in 1904 after parishioners of St. Francis Church in Munjor requested a new parish due to the distance from their homes. Its residents wanted to name it St. Anthony, but, when they went to establish a post office, the name was denied because of a town in Harper County named Anthony. Antonino was chosen after a village that some of the pioneers had lived in while in Brazil, and a post office was established in May, 1905. Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church, a frame building, was built in 1904-1905. Antonino never grew much, but a school was built in 1939 and maintaining its parish congregation, a new brick church was built in 1951-52. Though Antonino is still called home to a few people, its post office closed its doors forever in February, 1884. The church still serves parishioners today. Antonino is located about 8 miles southwest of Hays.

 

Munjor - Another of the many villages in Ellis County that was settled by German-Russian immigrants, they first arrived in Herzog (Victoria) in August, 1876. They then  established a small village along Big Creek before moving a couple of months later to the present location. They soon organized the Munjor Land Company, a town site was surveyed, and each lot holder became a member of the company.

 

More immigrants joined them over the next couple of years. The residents built the St. Francis Catholic Church -- a small frame building in 1877, to which they added on to several years later. In September, 1881, the tiny community got a post office.

 

In 1882, the Munjor Land Company was replaced with the Munjor Town and Grazing Company, which required that no portion of the land holdings could be burdened with debt, transferred, or sold without the consent of two-thirds of the shareholders. The organization was unsuccessful; however, as disputes erupted that split the village into  two factions. After a futile attempt to settle matters in the courts, the company was dissolved. In 1889, the frame church was replaced by a more substantial stone building which was dedicated the next year. Over the years, it was enlarged. A parochial school building was also built in the late 1800s that was later used by the Hays public school system. By 1910, Munjor's population was about 100, but evidently fell over the next decade as the post office was closed in 1919. 

 

Unfortunately the church was destroyed by a fire in February, 1932. However, reconstruction soon began and it was soon restored. However, the steeple was never replaced.  The village obviously saw a growth spurt in the 1930s as it once again obtained a post office in May, 1936. Its life; however was short. Five years later, in September, 1941, it closed its doors forever. The St. Francis Catholic Church continues to serve parishioners today and the old parochial school building is now utilized as a parish hall. The village is located about seven miles southeast of Hays, Kansas.

 

Ellis, Kansas by Richard Bauer, courtesy WikipediaEllis - Ellis got its start as a water station along the tracks of the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1867. Later the railroad purchased the site for $1200 through the Homestead Act. On June 27, 1870, the fledgling town gained a post office. The townsite was laid out by the Kansas Pacific Railway Company in 1873, Ellis is located on the north bank of Big Creek just one mile east of the west line of the county. In its early days, Ellis was a typical railroad town with most of the men employed by the Kansas Pacific Railway. As it was surrounded by a rough, broken country, unsuited for agricultural pursuits, its trade was very limited. The railroad built substantial stone structures including a two-story stone building that served as a depot and hotel, a roundhouse that could service up to 14 locomotives, and several outbuildings. In the early years.

 

The first person to start merchandising in Ellis was a man named Thomas Daily, who erected a one-story double storeroom, one room being devoted to the sale of clothing exclusively, and the other to general merchandising. Daily was born in Ireland and came to America with his family when he was still a boy. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he made his way to Ellsworth, Kansas in 1868, where he engaged in merchandising a short time, and was also in the employ of the United States Government. A few years later, he made his way to Ellis in 1870, where he erected the first store in town, which he enlarged a few later.

 

The first school was established in 1873 and the first church organization, the following year.

 

Beginning in 1875, Ellis became a shipping point for cattle herds, driven up from the south and continued to be so for nearly five years. The busiest years were 1877 and 1878, at which time, like many other Kansas cowtowns, it had the reputation of being a "tough place." Law-abiding people were glad when the trade moved elsewhere.

 

Another general merchandise store was built in 1877 by R.S. Ormerod, who had arrived in the Ellis in January, 1873. Being a machinist by trade, he worked in that capacity for the Kansas Pacific Railroad five years, then went into merchandising. Born in England in 1853, he came to American with his parents in 1863, and settled in Peoria, Ilinois, where they lived until coming to Kansas. The store, known as Kelley & Ormerod, a two story stone structure, opened in 1878. Other early merchants were the Nichols Brothers, Eli Sheldon, Reading & Bowen and G. F. Lee.

 

By the early 1880s, the railroad building continued to dominate the town, with only one other two-story stone business building being that of the Kelly & Ormrod General Merchandise Store. All other buildings and homes were one story, some made of stone and more made of wood frame. The majority of the residences of the town were plain, unpretentious, but neat and comfortable looking buildings, indicative of the homes of thrifty, industrious mechanics.

 

In 1882, a very fine improvement was made to the town with the construction of a two-story stone school building in the southern portion of the town. It was a very neat, well-finished structure, surmounted by a belfry that is quite ornamental in design. By that time there had been, for some years, several church organizations in town, but there had never been a church building erected. After the new schoolhouse was completed, the members of the Congregational Church Society purchased the old frame school building, which they then converted a church. John Henry, an UP train dispatcher in Ellis, invented the electric streetcar in 1882.

 

On January 10 1888, the City of Ellis was incorporated as a Third Class City. At about this same time, two characters well known in the Old West, were often seen in town -- Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill Cody.

 

By 1910, Ellis boasted two banks, four grain elevators, the railroad repair shops, a weekly newspaper called the Review-Headlight, four churches, good hotels, a modern public school building, several well appointed mercantile establishments, an international money order post office, and a population of 1,404, a gain of 472 during the preceding decade.

 

Over the next decades Ellis continued to slowly grow. Today, Ellis is a City of the Second Class with a population of more than 2000 people. The town is the site of Walter P. Chrysler Boyhood Home and Museum. Chrysler, founder of the Chrysler Corporation, grew up in Ellis. When he was 17, he began his career working in the railroad roundhouse, where he became a machinist's apprentice and developed his expertise for metal working and machinery.

 

Founded in 1994, the Ellis Railroad Museum features items and photographs from Ellis' railroading past. A 5,000-square-foot model train exhibit is also on display. Outside the museum is a miniature railroad that runs on a one mile loop track.

 

More Information:

 

City of Ellis

815 Jefferson,

Ellis, Kansas 67637
Or phone 785-726-4812

 

 

Schoenchen - Another of the several villages  established by Volga German immigrants, Schoenchen got its start when a conflict arose among the first settlers of Liebenthal, in Rush County. When several proposed moving the Liebenthal to another location that had a better water supply, it split the group, and part of them moved out of the county altogether, settling in what would become Schoenchen. The town was originally called San Antonio, but several of the settlers wanted it to be named after their villages in Russia -- Schoenchen and Neu-Obermonjour. As a compromise, they named their new village Schoenchen, and the church was named for the patron saint of the church in Neu-Obermonjour, St. Anthony.

 

The settlers built their first small stone church in 1880, but when the foundation settled badly after a heavy rain, they abandoned it. It was replaced by a frame structure in 1881 and in 1900 they began building the large stone St. Anthony's Church which continues to stand today. It was dedicated on June 13, 1901. The tiny village finally obtained a post office in 1902. In 1916, a new stone parochial school was built and placed in charge of the Sisters of St. Joseph. In 1917, the population must have fallen as Schoenchen's post office was closed. However, the city voted bonds for the building of a new high school in 1926. The town once again gained a post office in May, 1938, which remains open today, serving a community of about 215 people.

 

 

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

 

St Anthony Church and parochial school in Schoenchen, Kansas

St Anthony Church and parochial school in Schoenchen,  Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.

Image available for phhoto prints & editorial downloads HERE.

 

 

1920 business building in Schoenchen, Kansas

This 1920 business building in Schoenchen is long  closed, Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.

Image available for phhoto prints & editorial downloads HERE.

 

 

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