You know the towns… but do you know how they got their start or why they were given their name? If you don’t, you are not alone… Fortunately, we will be learning the abridged history of 13 Kansas towns, including:
We’re aware that these uncertain times are limiting many aspects of life as we all practice social and physical distancing. While we’re continuing to feature destinations that make our state wonderful, we don’t expect or encourage you to go check them out immediately. We believe that supporting local attractions is important now more than ever and we hope our articles inspire your future adventures! And on that note, please nominate your favorite local business that could use some love right now:
1. Baxter Springs
Baxter Springs was originally settled in the mid-17th century by the native Osage who relied on the springs' healing waters. A few centuries later, European settlers (including the town's namesake, A. Baxter) settled the town, which eventually became an important hub during the Civil War because of its many military and trading posts.
2. Neosho Falls
The small but beautiful town, which sits along the Neosho River, was founded in 1857 and was gradually built upon and improved by brothers Benjamin and N.S. Goss. Interestingly enough, the brothers would eventually go on to organize a company of cavalry to fight for the Union during the Civil War.
3. Sharon Springs
Founded in 1868 as Eagle Tail Station, Sharon Springs was later renamed (after Sharon Springs, New York) and was finally incorporated as a city in 1890.
Named for politician and journalist William A. Phillips, Phillipsburg was organized in 1872. The historic Fort Bissel (pictured) was also built in 1872 as a way to protect the town from supposedly hostile Native Americans. It closed in 1878 and was later reconstructed in the town's city park, where it can still be seen today.
5. Arkansas City
Originally settled by Native Americans sometime in the early 16th century, Arkansas City was later founded by white settlers, who named the town after the nearby river. During the late 19th/early 20th centuries, the town was a bustling metropolis for the Florence, El Dorado, and Walnut Valley Railroad Company.
Much like Arkansas City, Hutchinson was an important railroad town during the late 19th/20th century, serving as a stop along the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway. The city was founded in 1871 by Indian Agent Clinton "C.C." Hutchinson, who contracted with the Santa Fe Railway to created a town over the Arkansas River.
Another prominent stop along the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway was Pratt, which was named for a Kansas Infantry Civil War officer who was killed during the Battle of Wilson's Creek (Caleb S. Pratt).
One of the oldest towns in Kansas is that of Hiawatha, which was founded in 1857. The name Hiawatha comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's poem, The Song of Hiawatha, which tells the tale of Onondaga and Mohawk Indian leader Hiawatha.
9. La Crosse
The famous "Barbed Wire Capital of the World" was founded in 1876 and named after La Crosse, Wisconsin. When the town was incorporated, the intention was for it to become the Rush County seat; however, a full-out war ensued between La Crosse and nearby Rush Center, who had served as the temporary seat. In 1888, it was decided that La Crosse would in fact be the county seat, which it has proudly served ever since.
10. Medicine Lodge
Medicine Lodge was named for... you guessed it; a Native American medicine lodge constructed within the trees by the native Kiowa people. The area would go on to become the home of the famous Medicine Lodge Treaty, in which the USA and Kiowa, Comanche, Plains Apache, Southern Cheyenne, and Southern Arapaho tribes agreed to bring peace to the area by moving Native Americans to reservations in Indian Territory.
11. Garden City
It may have taken some time to get the tree-less, tumbleweed covered Garden City established, but once the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad put a switch station in the town (in 1879), people came flocking to the area to homestead.
Originally called Mud Creek, the town was founded in 1857 and was later named Abilene after a passage in Luke 3:1. In the next few years, Abilene would go on to become an important switch for the Kansas Pacific Railway, as well as the final stop along the famed Chisholm Trail.
Another historic railroad town is that of Pittsburg, which was founded in 1876 because of a railroad line being built through the area. The town was named after Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.