Victoria began when a British man named George Grant wished to establish a
prosperous colony along the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1873. Grant
purchased more than 69,000 acres of land on the south side of the railroad,
with hopes of adopting
British agricultural methods and stocking the land with improved imported
sheep and cattle.
The new town was surveyed and platted in 1873
and named Victoria, after Queen Victoria.
Under his leadership, the colony was initially settled by 38 Scottish and
English immigrants. A post office was established in Victoria in June, 1873.
The settlement showed much promise as over the next couple of years, several
hundred British immigrants, many of them with their families, arrived in
Victoria bringing with them large numbers of fine sheep and cattle.
Soon, a stone depot, a grain elevator, a general merchandise store, and a stone
church known as St. George's Chapel, and about 25 homes were built in the new
who wanted to bring a more "genteel quality" to America, recruited numerous
immigrants who were of nobility. These men, were often sent money from their
families, and soon the "Victoria Hunt Club," a cricket club and a race track
were built. Free with their spending, there were dances and other social
activities, but these men showed little interest in agricultural pursuits. Soon,
when their parents realized their sons were
not spending their money wisely, they began to reduce their allowances and many
became disenchanted and returned to Britain. Other new settlers, who found that
land was not suitable for farming also began to return to their home country.
George Grant moved into an English Manor style house that he acquired through a
foreclosure. The house still stands today, occupied as the private residence
of a family whose ancestors were original immigrants in the area. When Grant
died on April 28, 1878, he had lost
most of his fortune. He was buried in front of the St. George Episcopal
Chapel and his grave can still be viewed on East 1st Street. He is best known
for the introduction of Aberdeen Angus cattle to the United States.
Though Grant's plans of a British community failed,
the town would not die, as just three years after he had established
Victoria, and large group of German-Russians settled just north of the Kansas
Pacific Railway, about ½
mile from Victoria, in 1876. When
these immigrants arrived, they quickly began to make improvements. They soon
named their new town Herzog and more and more German-Russians joined them over
the next two years.
the large number of people living there, Herzog became the largest and most
important of the German colonies in Ellis County.
The settlers met for religious services at the home of Alois Dreiling, and they
soon built a frame church adjoining the house. Sir Walter C. Maxwell, who was a
Catholic Englishman living south of Victoria, started plans to build a stone
church. That church building was completed in August 1877, but with the town
growing, it became too small.
The St. Fidelis
Church was founded
by Father Anthony Mary and construction began in November, 1881. Built
entirely by immigrants, the new church building, that held up to 600
parishioners, was dedicated on October 19, 1884.
By the turn of the century
the people once again found themselves in need of more room and under the
guidance of Father Jerome Mueller,
plans were made
beginning in 1905 to build a new one. The plans were revised in 1908 and the cornerstone
was laid in October, 1909. Two hundred twenty five families
of the St. Fidelis Parish helped to build this church which was complete in
1911. The exterior was
constructed of native limestone, quarried seven miles south of Victoria.
The stone was then loaded on wagons and hauled to the building site. The
50-100 pound stones were then laid by local masons. Called the "Cathedral of the
Plains," the church was completed in 1911.
When complete, the church measured 220' long, 110' wide at
the transcepts and 75' at the nave. Its ceiling is 44' above the ground and
the towers rise 141'. The seating capacity of 1,100 made it, at the time of
its dedication, the largest church west of the Mississippi River. Today, the church is considered one of
the "Eight Wonders of Kansas," for its
architectural grandeur and
By the turn of the century, Victoria and Herzog,
which had virtually merged, boasted two banks, two mills, a grain elevator, a number of retail
establishments, a telegraph office, a money order post office, and a population
of about 500. Herzog was "officially" merged into Victoria in 1913.
Today, this quaint little town supports about
1,200 people and its rich history can still be seen in its many stone
buildings, including the St. Fidelis Church, which continues to serve
The St. Fidelis Cemetery, located just north of
Victoria, displays a number of beautiful grave markers.
The Volga-Germans of Herzog are honored with a
Just off old US-40, a memorial honors six rail
surveyors who were killed by
in 1867. The killings led to the
Battle of the
Victoria is located about eleven miles east of
just a couple of miles south of I-70.
of Kansas, updated May, 2013.