Long Time Gone and the ABC's of Kiowa County Railroad Towns

By Priscilla Waggoner

March 3, 2020

Last week we took a look at the immense impact the railroad had on all the towns in Kiowa County. Now that the railroad is back in operation, we wanted to give our readers a clear picture on how the towns in Kiowa County popped up and ultimately developed. It was the railroad that built the towns as the Missouri Pacific expanded its reach toward the West through Kiowa County in the years 1865 to 1890.

There were sixteen stop sites established along the railroad route in Kiowa County. H. S. Mallory, President of the Pueblo and State Line Railroad, later known as the Missouri Pacific Railroad, gave his daughter Jessie Mallory Thayer the job of naming the towns and sidings along the line. Mrs. Thayer named these places alphabetically running from east to west beginning with Arden, originally located near present-day Sheridan Lake, then Brandon, Chivington, Diston, Eads, Fergus, Galatea, Haswell, Inman, Joliet (later renamed Arlington) and Kilburn.


The following excerpts are from the booklet, “Railroads in the Development of Kiowa County” produced by the Kiowa County Library and other interested citizens in 1983.

A is for Arden (Sheridan Lake) – The depot at Arden was 2 ½ miles west of Sheridan Lake and constructed by the railroad company in the early 1890s. Arden became a town of some consequence having several stores and various kinds of businesses. An advertisement from a local land company gave a glowing report about Arden, “Rich, dark soil with plenty of good water at a depth of 30 to 50 feet assures for Arden a rapid development into a busy and prosperous town.” Unfortunately, Arden only lasted two or three years and the buildings were moved to the present-day Sheridan Lake location.

B is for Brandon – The depot at Brandon was established in 1887, and in it’s early days, Brandon was quite a little town being the distribution point for the mail to the inland towns of Water Valley and New Chicago (two towns now gone). For a time, Brandon was the main point of the Big Sandy Valley, but a few years later, the town virtually died away when the post office was closed. However, with the coming of the immigrants from the East in 1906 and 1907, Brandon made a new start. A promoter named Sanger advertised and boosted the countryside and was responsible for the first land rush. A new town site was platted, town lots were sold, and Brandon became the true and genuine city of the Big Sandy Valley. The railroad was vital to Brandon’s development as it not only brought in carloads of settlers, but many carloads of livestock, crops and other goods that were shipped in and out. Unique crops were grown in the area. On the D. V. Burrel Seed Farm north of Brandon the crops included potatoes, onions, pinto beans and cantaloupe. Cucumber, melons and zinnias were specifically grown for their seed. The railroad also brought in the supplies for the Brandon Irrigation Project in 1910 that was a $200,000 venture.

C is for Chivington – Chivington was named after the infamous Col. John M. Chivington whose troops engaged in a bloody massacre of Cheyenne and Arapaho people who were peacefully camped at Sand Creek. When the railroad came, a post office was established on October 24, 1887, and the railroad located its division roundhouse there that fall. Chivington was a railroad boom town during 1887 and 1888 when it grew to over 1,500 inhabitants including all kinds of businesses and endeavors. According to the Chivington Chief, Vol. 1, Number 1, November 11, 1887, “Chivington! A pretty pick of the prairie! Chivington is scarcely a month old, is situated on the Missouri Pacific railroad 116 miles from Pueblo and 600 miles from Kansas City. The town company is one of the strongest combinations of capital in the West. Chivington is their pet and they are not sparing the pains nor the money to make her the commercial center of the plains. They are constructing with all possible speed, a magnificent hotel and railroad eating house!” Soon after the Kingdon Hotel was built.

D is for Diston –
Diston was a small business settlement built along the railroad line, located between Eads and Chivington, with its own bank, school, station for the railroad and a number of dwellings. It appeared on maps of Kiowa County between 1882 to 1956.

E is for Eads – Eads was established in 1887 during the construction of the railroad, with a water tank and depot built at that time. Through the early 1890s the town nearly died away, but in 1901 the county records were moved to Eads from Sheridan Lake (a whole other story to be told). The new courthouse was built in 1904, J.H. Slater’s Citizen Bank was established, and the Kiowa County Press moved to town. Mattie Kerr’s Missouri Pacific Hotel (located where Horseshoe Park on Maine Street is today) was a stopping place for many passengers for meals and overnight stays by persons from other parts of the county in town on business. During the fall, the town was alive with cattle being shipped from the stockyards to the markets in Kansas City. Ranchers were dependent on the railroad for salt, hay, bran, corn and other feeds during the winter months. Scheline and Mercer, local merchants, received coal, lumber and foodstuffs by train. Almost all travel between towns was by train, and there were lots of trips to Pueblo on business and pleasure. Many residents took advantage of low rates to visit families in the East, and over a dozen Kiowa County people visited the St. Louis Exposition on Excursion rates.

In 1905 colonization companies bought large holdings of Union Pacific railroad land in Kiowa County, and agents organized excursion parties in which a large group of land seekers came by train to view the prospects. The size of homesteads was increased to 320 acres in 1909, and a flood of new settlers poured in. Many came by emigrant car, with livestock and farming implements as well as their household goods to begin a new life. New carloads of posts and wire, lumber, cement, dairy cows and seed potatoes began to appear frequently on the tracks. Even the pipe for the Eads water system arrived by train. Also arriving with great regularity were carloads of Fords for Willey and Clark and later for the Sunday Garage.

In 1913, J.O. Buck had a new J.I. Case threshing outfit shipped to Kiowa County by train. By 1915 farmers were shipping out carloads of corn, milo, cane seed and feterita.
In 1922 John Deinlein shipped in a carload of wheat machinery, mostly drills, to be used on the rapidly expanding number of farms in the county.

The train even shipped out the county’s youth during World War I as the Kiowa County Press reported on September 21, 1917, “Thursday morning Kiowa County’s quota for this call boarded the special train, bound for Fort Riley, to become a part of the national army now being trained at the Kansas Post preparing to whip the Kaiser. Sixteen of Kiowa County’s young men were in the party and while in Eads they were shown every courtesy. The entire town was at the station to see them depart and extend good wishes. The band was there with music, the school children marched to the depot in a body and a general feeling of patriotism prevailed.”

More Kiowa County ABCs next week.


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