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Long Time Gone: ABCs of Railroad Towns in Kiowa County

By Betsy Barnett

May 10, 2023

Information & Excerpts from the project at the Kiowa County Library “Heritage of the Plains—Railroad in the Development of Kiowa County.” Forward and compilation by Betsy Barnett.

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 ABCs of Kiowa County Railroad Towns, Part IV

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 its 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.”

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.

G is for Galatea

The town of Galatea was located 14 miles west of Eads. H. S. Mallory platted the town in November 1887. The town was never as large as its promotors envisioned, but between 1888 and 1915, Galatea was a very busy trading center for the surrounding community.

The post office was opened on December 2, 1887 and closed in October 1948. By May of 1888 the population was 330. At its peak Galatea had two grocery stores, a blacksmith shop, lumber yard, pool hall, saloon, restaurant, two hotels, livery stable, grain elevator, barber shop, and school. The Galatea Courier was a weekly newspaper published between 1888 and 1890.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad depot was no doubt the busiest of all establishments in Galatea as the railroad was the connecting lifeline to all points east and west. Feed, hardware, lumber and a myriad of necessary items came to the pioneer families who lived in the Galatea area through the services of the Missouri Pacific. From Galatea, the railroad shipped out sheep, cattle, horses, grain and wool from the local markets. Galatea suffered a catastrophic fire in 1916. That, in combination with a stock-killing winter in 1918, was the impetus for the town to quickly dwindle down to just a few buildings. By the late 1940s Galatea was a just a memory on the curve between Eads and Haswell in the minds of those who lived in the region.

H is for Haswell

The town of Haswell wasn’t established as early as the other towns along the railroad. For about a decade, up until 1907, Haswell only had a section house, coal chutes, and two cabins.

The “H” in Jessie Thayer’s alphabetical town names was “Haswell” but it is unclear whether it was the last name of railroad personnel or the fact that the town “had a well” which was unusual in the area where water well options were few and far between.

Adelia Blaine, later Mrs. Wirt Bailey, sold the original townsite to H.E. Dean who platted and sold the lots for the beginning of the town. Progress began in earnest and soon the Colorado State Bank, Hotel Holly, two general stores, two cafes, a large lumber yard, a garage, and barber shop were among the businesses in Haswell.

A school was built in 1908. The Methodist Church that is still active in Haswell today was built in 1916. The Booster Hall was built in 1912 with funds raised by women in the community who saw the need for a place in the town for social functions and recreation. This was an iconic building, eventually placed on the national historic register but ultimately torn down, where the community enjoyed dances, parties, musical programs and plays. The sports events were held there, as well, until the new school was built in the 1960s.

The railroad constructed the coal chutes in 1902 and the water storage tank in 1905. Both were important features in providing fuel and water for the big steam locomotives. There were large stockyards constructed in 1928 and 1929 east of Haswell. The stockyards consisted of 45 acres of land and cost $15,000 to build. They were placed directly beside the railroad for accessible loading and unloading. They were dismantled in the 1950s, but for those 30 some years the Haswell stockyards were a vital part of the regional economy.

Haswell had a newspaper from 1910-1933 called the Haswell Herald. The first publisher was Mr. George Newton and the last one was Mr. James LaVelle, a well-known citizen who lived in Eads.

I is for Inman

Inman was the “I” in Jessie Thayer’s list of towns on the railroad and was shown on county maps from 1892-1956. It was named for Colonel Henry Inman, author of the Santa Fe Trail. Inman was located between present-day Haswell and present-day Arlington.

J is for Joliet (Arlington)

The town of Arlington was originally named Joliet and was the “J” in Jessie Thayer’s naming of Kiowa County railroad towns. The Post Office was established in 1887 and is still active today.

Soon, the small community prospered and grew and the railroad built the largest stockyard between Hoisington, KS and Pueblo there.

Joe Barnett became the railroad station agent at Arlington in 1929 and described that in that year there were 120 carloads of cattle shipped from Arlington that fall. The Arlington Depot was closed in 1934 and was torn down a short while later.

The hey-day of Arlington was between 1913 and 1934 when the population went from 150 to about 500 people. During those years there were two general stores, a lumber yard, land gent office, garage, livery stable, blacksmith shop, pool hall, two-room school and a newspaper. The only church was built in 1916 and by 1976 the congregation voted to give it to the Colorado Boys’ Ranch at La Junta where it was moved and still stands today.

Through the 20 years of Arlington’s hey-day there were four newspapers published including The Arlington Review (1888-1891), The Blizzard (1889-1893), The Arlington Observer (1915-1916) and the Arlington Advance (1920-1921).

K is for Kilburn

The community of Kilburn, just a post office, was located about six miles southwest of Arlington. The post office was operational during the years of 1890-1891. By July of 1911, the people were informed the railroad was building a depot building at Kilburn which brought immigrant cars of people and all kinds of freight. As late as 1937, the local newspaper was printing news notes from the Kilburn community.

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