This week we continue to take 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.
LONG TIME GONE AND THE ABC’s OF KIOWA COUNTY RAILROAD TOWNS – (Part III)
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.
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 the 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.”
Progress in Eads continued into the 1920s with the influx of new settlers, improvements in farming machinery, good weather, and given a push by the need to grow crops for the war, farming gradually began to reach commercial proportions in Kiowa County. The first elevator in Eads was established when A. A. Neiman bought the old Eads schoolhouse and moved it to trackside to do business as the Eads Elevator and Milling Company. Later on, this first grain elevator closed down as J. D. Infield provided the real impetus to grain shipment when he built the current-day elevators in Eads, Sheridan Lake, and Towner. The Eads elevator held eighteen thousand bushels of grain and was equipped with wagon dumps and all modern conveniences.
F is for Fergus – The Pueblo and State Line Land and Town Company platted the town of Fergus, located between Eads and Galatea on 160 acres of land purchased from the Union Pacific Railroad. The Company advertised the town as being ideally located in an area of government land open to homestead and that the Kansas Pacific portion of the Union Pacific Land Grant would soon be put on the market.
The growth of the town of Fergus was quite limited and barely survived the promotional stages. The Fergus post office operated for 1888 to 1890. A news item from the Kiowa County Press published in June 1925 states, “The entire town of Fergus, consisting of one perfectly good section house, was moved to Eads the week of the 25th.”
Before closing down, the railroad maintained a mile-long siding referred to by the most people as Hawkins Switch. In the early 1930s a farmer by the name of Hawkins, from Texas, purchased many sections of land in the Fergus area. At that time the railroad changed the name of Fergus to Hawkins.