Situated along the
Neosho River in northeast Woodson County,
Neosho Falls is the oldest town in the county. A semi-ghost town today, this
small town of less than 200 people, was once the county seat of Woodson
County and described as the most important city in the area.
Its name was taken from the nearby Neosho River, coupled with “Falls,” when one
of the first works of early settlers was to build a dam across the rapids,
creating the small torrent of water over the dam that still exists today. The
settlers who would establish the city were Colonel National S. Goss and Isaac
W. Dow, who arrived in the area on April 6, 1857 from Iowa. In a
one-horse rig, the two skirted the Coffey County line and just west of where
Neosho Falls would be built, found the cabin of Judge John Woolman. The only
other person living in the area at the time was a man named John Chapman, who
resided on Spring Creek, just north of the Falls.
At that time, Woodson County was the reserve of the New York
Indians and not open to official settlement.
This; however, did not stop more settlers from coming to the area. In August,
another settler named E, Fender built a cabin on the north bank of the river, and the area’s
first physician, Dr. A. McCartney, and others came in the Fall. That same year,
a post office was established and National Goss became the postmaster, a position
he held for two years.
Ever the entrepreneur, National S. Goss, along with T. L. Clark, B. F. Goss and
William Brown, built a sawmill on the north side of the river in 1857. Soon
after it was built, National S. Goss and T. L. Clark would become its sole
owners and would expand it two years later.
In the Spring of 1858, more settlers arrived, including two men by the names of
Ruggles and Stevens, who built a cabin on the south bank of the Neosho River
and began to sell goods. Later in the year, the two built a frame store
building as well as the Falls House Hotel. Before long, another store building
was erected by J. Fisher, who put in a stock of drugs.
Though the land was still part of the New York Indian Reserve, it was never
occupied by any of the New York tribes, their only settlement being a temporary
one near Fort Scott. Finding that the Indians would not settle on the reserve,
the Woodson Board of County Supervisors began to organize the county in May,
1858. On May 22nd, the men met at Neosho Falls and passed an order for the
conduct of all county business in that settlement. That same month National S.
Goss & Co. donated a jail building to the county to use for as long a time as
Neosho Falls should remain the county seat. In August, the Board of County
Supervisors again met at Neosho Falls and proceeded to lay off the county into
the townships of Neosho Falls, Liberty, Owl Creek, Belmont and Verdigris. That same year, the first school was taught in the private property
of E. H. Curtis, who afterward figured in the war as the Colonel of a
In 1860, the U.S. Government put up for sale and homesteading, all the lands
that had been part of the New York Indian Reserve. News of this movement
quickly circulated throughout the county and the squatter settlers hastened to
the land office to make the appropriate entries.
On November 5, 1867 an election was held to permanently locate the county seat.
The vote resulted in 129 for Neosho Falls, two for Center, and two for Coloma,
giving Neosho Falls a landslide victory. As in many other Kansas counties;
however, not everyone was happy with the placement of the county seat, and less
than a year later, another election was held on September 21, 1868, which
pitted Neosho Falls against Chellis. Neosho Falls won again, but the county
seat “fights” would last for the next eight years, ultimately leaving Neosho
Falls out in the cold.
The first newspaper in the county was the Frontier Democrat, which was started
in October, 1869 by Isaac Boyle, who published the paper at Neosho Falls until
January, 1870, when it was sold to William H. Slavens, who changed the name to
the Neosho Falls Advertiser.
there were once several churches in Neosho Falls, the only one
today is the Methodist Church, Kathy Weiser, June, 2009.
A public schoolhouse was built in 1869, and the first classes taught in 1870 by
teacher, I. S. Jones, who would later become a Probate Judge of Woodson County.
The year 1870 was a busy one for Neosho Falls, as the town was incorporated, a
bank was started by Isaac W. Dow, and the Union Pacific Railroad pushed through
town, establishing a depot and a large storehouse in the southern part of the
town. It later became the
& Texas Railway. That same year, the
Falls House, the only hotel in town, was practically rebuilt and enlarged
dramatically, and the first churches were built in the city.
Elections for city officers were held in the early part of 1871. By this time,
the school building erected just two years early had already proved inadequate
and a large addition was made to it at a cost of $500. The following year
another building was also added.
In the meantime, the newspaper, changed hands and management a number of times
and became the Woodson County Post in January, 1873. That same
year, the sawmill, which had since passed into the hands of Cobert & Cozine,
was sold to W. L. Parsons. Another mill – a woolen manufacturer was built the
same year on the south side of the Neosho River by the Hillings Brothers. That
year, Isaac Dow’s bank failed, leaving the town without one for the next
Later in 1873, yet another county seat election was held on November 3rd, in
which the county seat was moved to Kalida, a town that was located about two
miles southeast of Yates Center. Just a few months later, on February 23, 1874,
Kalida would lose its short lived county seat status to Defiance. The following
year, yet another election was held between Defiance, Neosho Falls and Yates
Center. The tally was so close between Neosho Falls and Yates Center, that a
second election was held for the final decision. The hotly contested race
culminated in a vote on September 12, 1876 that resulted with Yates Center
having 488 and Neosho Falls having 426. The county seat question was never
In 1876, the American Hotel, which had been built some years previous, was
closed, as it stood too far from the business center. It was moved nearby the
railroad tracks and converted into a freight warehouse. Another hotel called
the Pierce House, also burned that year and was never rebuilt.
The largest enterprise for the times was the Neosho Valley Fair, which was held
here beginning in 1875. Four counties participated—Allen, Anderson, Greenwood
and Woodson—and it had a decided influence in the development of the area. The
fair gained a reputation far and wide and in 1879 the fair had as its guests
President Rutherford B. Hayes and his wife,
William T. Sherman and a
number of state officers.
Neosho Falls reached its peak population in with 1,200, but over the next
several decades would continue to fall.
In 1881, the grist mill was rebuilt, a substantial 30x36 two-story building
taking the place of the old one. This mill had the capacity of 100 barrels of
flour per day. The following year, the woolen mill was sold and never reopened
for that purpose. However, 1882, also brought a new bank to town started in
August by Haughwout & Goodrich.
By the turn of the century, Neosho Falls was described as one of the important
towns of Woodson County. Located at the junction of the Atchison, Topeka &
Santa Fe and the
& Texas railroads and on the Neosho River, it
was a significant transportation center. At that time, the town boasted a
number of retail businesses, a couple of banks, manufacturing facilities, which
included flour mills, sawmills, and sorghum mills, and the Woodson County Post
newspaper was still in circulation. By this time, oil had also been discovered
in the vicinity, bringing with it much prosperity. In 1910, the town had a
population of 571.
However, in the first half of the 20th century, Neosho Falls began to
experience one set back after another. As electricity replaced water power,
many of the mills were closed down and though a hydroelectric plant was built,
its tenure was short and it was soon abandoned. The city was struck with a
disastrous flood in 1926, which caused one death and tens of thousands of
dollars in damage. The Depression hit the town, like so many others, very hard
and Neosho Falls lost its only newspaper in the 1930s as well as its only bank.
In 1935, the Santa Fe Railroad pulled out of the town, though it was still left
& Texas Railway line and depot.
Prosperity returned to Neosho Falls when new oil
was struck south of town in 1937. Two years later, anticipating a return to
prosperity, a large new combined elementary and high school was built. But, for
Neosho Falls, re-growth wouldn’t last. A devastating flood destroyed much of
the town in 1951.
In 1957 the
& Texas Railway pulled out of the area and the population
continued to fall. The high school closed in 1961 and the grade school in 1969.
Today, this small burg has a population of
141 people (2010 census).
Though long past its peak activity, it continues to operate a post
office, a church, a Senior Center, community building, and one retail business
– a tavern and several oil businesses with leases that continue to produce. One
resident tells us "Neosho Falls may not be the "boom town" that it once was,
but, we like it just the way it is."
Neosho Falls is located about 20 miles northeast of Yates Center. From there,
go east to Piqua on Kansas Highway 54, turn north on Xylan Road for about 4
miles, left on 180th Road for one mile, right on Willow Road for 1.3 miles to
Compiled and edited by
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
old gas station hasn't seen a customer in many years, Kathy Weiser, June, 2009.
Once a prospering business, this abandoned building
can barely be seen behind the trees and vines, Kathy Weiser, June, 2009.
testament to concrete, the old school continues to stand, though the sounds of
children's voices have been gone for decades, Kathy Weiser, June, 2009.
One of the only remaining open business is the Oasis
Weiser, June, 2009.
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