Walker, Kansas - Immigrants to Airbase
This small town got its start in 1872 by settlers from Ohio.
Situated on the Union Pacific Railroad near Walkers Creek. The area was
primarily settled by English and German-Russian immigrants. A post office opened
in August, 1873, but closed just a few years later in September, 1876. Then a
number of Volga-Germans from Russia and and more Germans from Kentucky and Ohio, known as the "Plattdeutschen,"
came to the area in 1876-1878. With this new influx of people, the post office
reopened in 1878.
The first school building was constructed in 1893, which would
also later serve as a church. The first Catholic Mass was read in this building on Christmas, 1903
and soon residents began to build the
St. Ann's Catholic Church in the spring of 1904.
By 1910, the small town boasted a grain elevator, several retail stores, and a
population of about 65.
The building of a parochial school began in the fall of 1924 and
was dedicated the following August, with the Sisters of St. Agnes in charge of
the school. The building today continues to stand, now utilized as a community
Walker Airbase, 1942, photo from Keith Goetz, courtesy,
Little-Known Airfields of Central Kansas
The town thrived until the Great Depression when many of its
businesses closed. Those that remained were primarily involved in agriculture
until 1942, when the
Walker Army Airfield was built during World War II just 2.5 miles northwest of the town. Also known as the
Victoria-Pratt Airfield or Walker-Hays Airfield, it was constructed by the United States Army Air Corps.
Construction of the airfield included three concrete runways, the cantonment, originally designed for about 1,000 men but later
dispensary, a mess hall and a hangar. Later, four more hangers were also built.
The base began
operations as a satellite field of Smoky Hill Army Air Field located in Salina
but in February, 1943, the Second Air Force organized the 6th Heavy Bombardment
Processing Headquarters there and a few months later, began training
B-29 crews for combat duty. The base continued to expand in both mission
and size and by August, 1944, nearly 6,000 personnel were stationed at the
field. New structures included storage tanks,
warehouses, laboratories, a machine shop, hospital, garage, paint shop, and
various other structures.
With the victory over Japan in August, 1945, the mission changed and diminished,
with only the Salina base continuing combat crew training. Consequently, Walker
was reassigned to the Air Technical Service Command in September, 1945 and on
January 31, 1946, the base was made inactive. The War Department placed the
installation in a surplus category in the middle of 1946 and in December, it was
transferred to the District Engineers. Later, portions were leased and finally
sold to a private citizen in 1959. Today, its buildings are mostly in ruins but
its runways are still used for agricultural purposes.
Walker's historic German-Russian
St. Ann's Catholic Church still serves parishioners today, and the small town
still has an open post office. Walker is located about four miles northwest of
on U.S. Highway 40.
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
Walker Airbase Ruins.
St. Ann's Catholic Church in Walker,
March, 2009, Kathy Weiser.
Image available for photo prints & editorial
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