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Kansas Heritage: Ellis County

Aimed at preserving the heritage of central and western Kansas

Ellis County Map 1899

Ellis County map

Prentis, Noble Lovely. "History of Kansas". Winfield, KS: E. P. Greer, 1899

Czech Colony

A colony of settlers from Bohemia came to Ellis County via Chicago in 1885 and settled on land south of Ellis along the Trego County border in Township 14, Range 20, Section 31.

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Other Ellis colonies

There were about 26 different colonies that came to Ellis County between 1870 and 1879. Some were from other countries or ethnic groups which is the focus of this page.

Irish cattlemen had a settlement along the Saline River north of Ellis that was started between 1870 and 1875.

A German colony from Philadelphia arrived in 1876 and settled south of Walker near Fort Fletcher and the Butterfield stage route.

A German group from Ohio also settled 3 miles south of Walker in 1876.

A black colony came via covered wagon from Lexington, Kentucky to Ellis where the men got work on the railroad. They later went to Nicodemus (Graham County), but returned to Ellis.

A colony from Luxembourg settled in the Pleasant Hill township in 1880.

A group of Englishmen arrived to live at the Cochran Ranch in north central Ellis County between 1882 and 1885.

A colony from Bukovina in the Austro-Hungarian Empire settled north of Ellis around this time. St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church was founded by some of these settlers - the building was built in 1898-1899.

A French colony, all members of the Royer family, settled south of Zurich (Rooks County) in Ellis County sometime before World War I. They came from Chateau-Thierry sur Marne which is east of Paris.

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Antonino

Antonino was established in 1904 after parishioners of St. Francis Church in Munjor requested a new parish due to the distance from their homes to Munjor. The new village was nine miles west of Munjor. Its residents wanted to name it St. Anthony, but the post office refused that name because of a town in Harper County named Anthony. Antonino was chosen after a village that some of the pioneers had lived in while in Brazil. St. Anthony was the church's patron saint, but the National Archives records clearly show that "Saint Antonino" was the name applied for in 1905. However, because of postal regulations in place at that time, the post office took the "Saint" off the name.

The post office opened on May 17, 1905 and was closed on January 9, 1981.

The church was built in 1904-1905. Our Lady Help of Christians Catholic Church was a frame building, then in 1951-1952, a brick building was built to replace the old frame building. A stone school house was built in 1939.

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Catharine

Katharinestadt, Russia, was the largest of the German colonies along the Volga River, and emigrants from that town left on October 22, 1875, and arrived in Baltimore on November 23. They wintered in Topeka, Kansas, and came to Hays on March 1, 1876. They built homes on the land they had selected northeast of Hays, and the town of Catharine was established on April 8. Over the next couple of years, other groups from Katharinestadt settled in Catharine after making the trip from Russia.

Citizens of Catharine were better off than their neighbors in the other villages because of their wealth that came from living in Katharinestadt, which was the market place for the colonies in the Volga. Their homes in Catharine had conveniences that their Volga German counterparts did not have, and their standard of living was higher.

Between 1878-1883, several Moravian Austrians came to the community with their families to begin their new lives in America. Moravia was part of the Austrio-Hungarian Empire. These families were accepted by the Volga-Germans living in the town and became a vital part of the community. Some of their descendants, the Schmeidler and the Polifka families, remain in the area today.

The church, St. Catherine Church, was built in 1892 using limestone that was in a quarry not too far from the town.

Polifka farm
Polifka Farm

St. Catherine Catholic Church
St. Catherine Catholic Church

St. Catherine Catholic Church
Angels at the entrance to St. Catherine Catholic Church

St. Catherine Catholic Church
St. Catherine Catholic Church

St. Catherine Catholic Church
Sanctuary and Nave of St. Catherine Catholic Church

St. Catherine Catholic Church
Choir loft of St. Catherine Catholic Church

St. Catherine Catholic Church
Catharine School House - built in 1902

Sources

Forsyth Library Photo Archives
Color photos taken by Patty Nicholas, archivist

Dreiling, Norbert R. "Official Centennial History of the Volga-German Settlements in Ellis and Rush Counties of Kansas, 1878-1976." Hays, KS: Volga German Centennial Association, 1976.

Dreiling, B. M."Golden jubilee of the German-Russian settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926." Hays, KS: Hays Daily News, 1926.

"At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992." Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Ellis

In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries the Austrian government sponsored a program of immigration to its most recent territorial acquisition, the sparsely populated Bukovina. Seeking skilled, able-bodies and dependable colonists, the emperor's emissaries combed the realm, offering various inducements for settlement. Among others who responded to the call were southwest Germans, collectively called Swabians, and Germans from the Bohemian Forest (today in the Czech Republic). These two groups made significant contributions to the economic development of Bukovina, in particular to its agricultural, lumbering and glass production enterprises. In time a population explosion created a land shortage, again setting people in motion. Promotions from the United States through the Homestead Act and the railroads attracted scouts from Bukovina to explore the possibilities of immigration to Kansas. Beginning in 1886 and lasting for about fifteen years, about thirty-five families from each of the two above-named German groups arrived in Ellis, Kansas, where they settled on the outskirts and in the western part of the town. Religious differences among them resulted in the emergence of two distinct communities: the Swabians were Lutherans and the German-Bohemians were Catholic. Nonetheless, their assimilation into American culture proceeded apace although the German language and customs persisted for several generations.

Through the Bukovina Society of the Americas, headquartered in Ellis, the descendants of Bukovinian immigrants are dedicated to the task of preserving their ethnic heritage through conventions, publications and the collection of relevant records and archival materials.

With the incorporation of Bukovina into Romania after World War I, the former Austrian crown land lost its name and identity. Partitioned today by Ukraine and Romania, the name "Bukovina" remains only a geographical expression.

Ellis is the boyhood home of Walter P. Chrysler who founded the Chrysler Corporation in his later years. The home is now a museum. Walt Disney has a family connection to Ellis - his grandfather, Kepple, moved his family to the Ellis area after buying land from the Union Pacific Railroad. Walt's father, Elias, moved to Chicago after he married in 1888.

Union Pacific Hotel

Union Pacific Hotel in late 1890's

Burnes Residence

Burnes Residence in 1913

Edwin Harris

Ellis Jr. High School Principal Edwin Harris in 1923

Sources

Information from the Bukovina Society

Forsyth Library Photo Archives

Emmeram

Emmeram was named after the famous church builder, Father Emmeram Kausler. The community consisted of the Sacred Heart Church and two schools. A town plot was filed with the register of deeds in 1902, but the town never materialized.

A post office was established on January 14, 1903 and closed a year and a half later on June 30, 1904.

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Hays

The site of the town to be known as Hays City was selected in late 1866 by W. E. Webb, W. J. Wells, and Judge Knight. Three sections of land were platted in June of 1867, and the Big Creek Town Company registered that land with the courts in Ellsworth County on July 23, 1867 to form a new town called Hays City. The land was purchased from the Union Pacific Railroad for half-price with the stipulation that a station and depot would be located on it. The town was named after Fort Hays.

Hays City was named the temporary county seat; in 1870, it became the permanent county seat. The population of Hays City had grown to 1,000 by 1871.

Hays City was a wild and rowdy town from the time that the railroad came through in 1867 until about 1873 when settlers started coming into the area to set up homesteads and farms. Among the businesses that were started in the late 1860's were saloons, gambling houses, bordellos, a combination grocery store/post office, hotels and a supply store. By 1872 most of the wild and rough elements were moving on, mostly to Dodge City, which many of Hays City's first residents helped found.

Civilization became a part of Hays City as settlers began moving in and the rowdy crowd moved out. However, there had been Irish Catholics living in Hays City since its beginnings, and by 1872, there were 3 general stores, a bakery, 2 blacksmith shops, 1 hotel and numerous houses. A colony from Pennsylvania moved to Hays City in 1873, and several years later, in 1876, Germans who had lived in the Volga Region of Russia began moving into the area.

Hays City became incorporated in May 1885, and a city government was established with a mayor, city commissioners, a city marshal, a city clerk, and a police justice being appointed to serve the town.

On March 30, 1895, a fire devastated the town. Over 60 businesses were destroyed and many others were damaged. The community was rebuilt through the efforts of Hays' citizens.

Downtown Hays
Downtown Hays in the 1880s

Lumber yard
Lumber Yard Office in 1885

I. M. Yost Mill
I. M. Yost Mill Co. in 1900

Brunswick Hotel
Brunswick Hotel in 1914

Hays in 1928
Hays in 1928

 

Sources

"At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Forsyth Library Photo Archives

Herzog

Emigrants from nine villages in Russia left Saratov on October 24, 1875, arrived in Baltimore on November 23 and traveled to Topeka where they wintered though March 1876. They founded Herzog on April 8, 1876. The new town was located one-half mile north of the English colony of Victoria. On August 3, 1876, the largest single group to leave the Volga region arrived in Victoria and settled in Herzog. More groups of emigrants came over the next couple of years to settle in Herzog with the last major group arriving on September 15, 1878. Because of the large numbers of people living there, Herzog became the largest and most important colony in Ellis County. Herzog later absorbed its English predecessor, but kept the English name when it was officially changed in 1913 to Victoria.

The settlers met for religious services at the home of Alois Dreiling, and they soon built a frame church adjoining the house. Walter C. Maxwell, who was a Catholic Englishman living south of Victoria, started plans to build a stone church. That church building was completed in August 1877, but with the town growing, it became too small. A new church building that held up to 600 parishioners was dedicated on October 19, 1884.

As the town grew, the parish outgrew its church building. Plans were made beginning in 1905 to build a new church; those plans were revised in 1908, with the cornerstone being laid on October 4, 1909. Two hundred twenty five families of the St. Fidelis Parish helped to build this church which was complete in 1911. It received the nickname of "Cathedral of the Plains" from William Jennings Bryan when he visited St. Fidelis in 1912.

The church is 220 feet long, 64 feet wide in the nave and 96 feet wide in the transept. Each of its twin towers is 141 feet high.

The church was named a minor basilica in June 2014. It is now called the Basilica of St. Fidelis. 

St. Fidelis Church 
Basilica of St. Fidelis

St. Fidelis Church 
Basilica of St. Fidelis

St. Fidelis Church
Nave and Sanctuary of the Basilica of St. Fidelis

St. Fidelis Church
Altar from the original church building

St. Fidelis Church
Sanctuary and Nave of the Basilica of St. Fidelis from the Choir Loft

Sources

    Color pictures taken by Patty Nicholas, archivist

    Dreiling, Norbert R. "Official Centennial History of the Volga-German Settlements in Ellis and Rush Counties of Kansas, 1878-1976." Hays, KS: Volga German Centennial Association, 1976.

    Dreiling, B. M. "Golden jubilee of the German-Russian settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926." Hays, KS: Hays Daily News, 1926.

Munjor

Settlers from part of the largest group to emigrate from Russia were founders of the town of Munjor after arriving in Herzog from New York in August 1876. They went to a site along Big Creek just north of the present location of Munjor, which they moved to a couple of months later. Several more groups joined them over the next couple of years, with the last group coming in September 1878.

Munjor's first church was a frame structure built in 1877, and it was added onto several years later. The frame church was replaced in 1889 by the present stone building, which was dedicated on Trinity Sunday of 1890. It has been enlarged over the years, but it has also been damaged by fire and the elements of nature. The steeple that was originally on the church was damaged, and has not been replaced.

A parochial school building was also built in the late 1880's, and was used in the past by USD 489 of Hays as part of its district.

St. Francis Church
St. Francis Church with steeple

St. Francis Church
St. Francis Church

St. Francis Church
Sanctuary of St. Francis Church

St. Francis Church
Nave and Sanctuary of St. Francis Church

Sources

Color pictures taken by Patty Nicholas, archivist

Dreiling, Norbert R. "Official Centennial History of the Volga-German Settlements in Ellis and Rush Counties of Kansas, 1878-1976." Hays, KS: Volga German Centennial Association, 1976.

Dreiling, B. M."Golden jubilee of the German-Russian settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926." Hays, KS: Hays Daily News, 1926.

Contact Us

Bukovina Society
103 W. 8th St.
Ellis, KS 67637

Ellis County Historical Society
100 W. 7th St.
Hays, KS 67601
(785) 628-2624

Volga German Society
P.O. Box 1314
Hays, KS 67601

Homesteading in Ellis County

Ellis County was organized in 1867. The county was named after a first lieutenant of Company I, Twelfth Kansas Infantry, George Ellis. On April 3, 1864, Lieutenant Ellis was killed in action at Jenkins Ferry, Arkansas. The early fort, Fort Fletcher which later became Fort Hays, and the Kansas Pacific Railroad attracted the county's first settlers. Eventually more settlers came, including those of English, Scottish, Danish, Bohemian, Bukovina German, Hungarian, and Volga German descent.

Sources

William G. Culter's History of the State of Kansas (1976) was first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.

Nobel L. Prentis' A History of Kansas was published in 1904 by Caroline E. Prentis.

Volga Germans in Ellis County

The Volga-German story begins in Germany. The Seven Years War had brought disaster and poverty to many Germans. Catherine the Great was now Czarina, empress of all Russia. Catherine felt that people would abandon their country and help settle the wild uninhabited areas in Russia to escape the aftermath of the Seven Years War. She issued a manifesto offering travel costs, religious freedom, 30 years of tax exemption, and most of all, freedom from military service forever. Tired and war weary, approximately 25,000 Germans set sail for Russia seeking peace, freedom and prosperity.

Nearly 200 German villages and towns were established in Russia, and the people prospered. In 1873, only 100 years after moving to Russia, the promised freedoms were threatened. A new law now required the induction of German sons into the Russian army. This law alarmed the German people, and other problems soon developed.

In 1874, scouts were sent to America. The first Volga-German settlers arrived in Ellis County in the spring of 1876. They brought with them to America, their customs, traditions, heritage and faith. The following communities were established in Ellis County by these settlers: Antonino, Catherine, Emmeram, Herzog, Munjor, Pfeifer, and Schoenchen.

Scouts

In 1874, Russia passed the military law, which required participation from all the colonists to the military service. This went against Catherine the Great's manifest that exempted the German colonists from military service if they went to live in the Volga region.

The colonists met in Herzog in the spring of 1874 for the purpose of electing 5 delegates to visit America. The delegates, representing the different communities, were to look for places that they felt was best to create new settlements. One of the delegates chosen was Balthasar Brungardt from Herzog, but he declined and was replaced by Nicholas Schamne from Graf. Peter Leiker from Obermunjou, Jacob Ritter from Luzern, Peter Stoecklein from Zug, and Anton Wasinger from Schoenchen were the other four delegates.


After arriving in New York, they journeyed to Clay County, Nebraska where they looked over the land for one day. Upon returning to Russia after being in America for ten days, they reported that the land was very good and brought with them samples of soil and prairie grass to show the others. Two more scouts, Joseph Exner of Obermunjou, and Jacob Bissing of Katharinestadt, came to Larned, Kansas and spent a week looking over the land in December 1874. Their report was less favorable.

However, after four men from Herzog and twenty-one men from Katharinestadt were drafted in late November and early December 1874, the emigration to the United States began. Eventually, four of these scouts emigrated to the United States to settle in their new homes. Peter Leiker, Peter Stoecklein, and Anton Wasinger settled in Munjor. Nicholas Schamne escorted two groups of emigrants to America, but he died before he could be an emigrant himself.

NOTE: Picture came from the Center for Ethnic Studies

Sources

Dreiling, Norbert R. "Official Centennial History of the Volga-German Settlements in Ellis and Rush Counties of Kansas, 1878-1976." Hays, KS: Volga German Centennial Association, 1976.

Dreiling, B. M. "Golden jubilee of the German-Russian settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926." Hays, KS: Hays Daily News, 1926.

 

Sources

Information from the Ellis County Historical Society

Fort Hays

The Smoky Hill Trail, established in 1859, was the shortest way to the gold fields of the western part of the Kansas Territory, now Colorado. Its route went through Indian land, and as a result, the Indians took exception to the white people encroaching on their hunting lands. Very few people were using the Smoky Hill Trail until 1865 when David Butterfield established the Butterfield Overland Despatch to run freight and stagecoach services via the route. The BOD was almost 600 miles between Atchison, Kansas and Denver, Colorado. Of the 40+ stations along the trail, four of them were in Ellis County. Forks of Big Creek (five miles south of Walker), Big Creek Station (eight miles west of Forks of Big Creek), Lookout Station (eight miles west of Big Creek Station), and Louisa Springs (seven miles west of Lookout Station). Louisa Springs was abandoned for another station further down the route in Trego County called Stormy Hallow. Butterfield asked for military protection and received it when several military posts were established along the trail later in the year. Fort Ellsworth (later named Fort Harker) was already in place having been set up in August 1864. Fort Fletcher (later named Fort Hays), Monument Station and Camp Pond Creek (later named Fort Wallace) were all established in October 1865.

The Indians took advantage of the low number of troops and the distances between the forts by continuing to create problems for the BOD. In March 1866, David Butterfield sold his company to Ben Holladay, who then sold it to Wells Fargo and Company in November 1866. By this time, the railroads were coming through and the military leaders shifted their attention and aid to them because the railroads were becoming a significant development in the opening of the West. The Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, which became the Kansas Pacific Railway in 1870, built its tracks along the Smoky Hill Trail. Once the line was built to Denver in 1870, the mission of the forts was changed to guarding the railroad.

Fort Fletcher was located fourteen miles southeast of the present city of Hays. After being abandoned on May 5, 1866, Fort Fletcher was reactivated on October 17. A month later, its name was changed to Fort Hays to honor General Alexander Hays from Pennsylvania. General Hays was killed at the Battle of the Wilderness on May 5, 1864.

The military headquarters wanted to move Fort Hays closer to the railroad that had reached Ellis County by 1867. Before they made the decision to move, however, a flood hit the post on June 7; seven soldiers and two civilians were killed and the fort grounds were destroyed. On June 23, 1867, Fort Hays was occupied at its new location about one mile south of the railroad near the now extinct town of Rome. Just east of Rome, there were three sections of land that had been purchased by the Big Creek Land Company from the railroad. That land was registered on July 23, 1867 at Ellsworth County; at the same time, the Big Creek Land Company made an agreement with the railroad to provide a station and a depot in the new town called Hays City.

Even though Fort Hays was established to protect the travelers along the Smoky Hill Trail from Indians who lived in the area, the Indians did not attack the fort nor did the troops get into a major Indian fight. Later on, as the troops provided protection for the railroads, they did get into some skirmishes with Indians who were protecting their rights to hunt buffalo.

After 1869, the Indian raids in the area declined, and the troops continued to provide security as settlers came into the area. It was in 1889 that the fort was abandoned and by 1900, there were plans to transform the fort's lands to house an experiment station and a Western Branch of the State Normal School.

Old Fort Hays

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Oliva, Leo C. "Fort Hays: Keeping Peace on the Plains." Topeka, KS: Kansas State Historical Society, 1996.

Forsyth Library Photo Archives

Pfeifer

Pfeifer was founded on either August 21 or 24, 1876, by emigrants from Pfeifer, Russia. It is located about 10 miles south of Victoria along the south bank of the Smoky Hill River. The final group of emigrants to Pfeifer came June 20, 1878 from Kamenka, Russia. The original settlement was in Section 25 of Ellis County, but in 1884, the town was moved to its present location in Section 36.

Residents built the town's first church, a small frame structure, in 1879. Then in 1891, a new stone church was dedicated on September 14. Plans for a bigger stone church were begun in 1911, and the construction began in April 1915 and was finished by May 1918. It still serves the community of Pfeifer today, but there are no services held on a regular basis.

The church is in the form of a cross and is 165 feet long, 75 feet wide in the transepts and 50 feet wide in the nave. The main steeple is 165 feet high, and the two other steeples are 100 feet high.

Holy Cross Church
School Building, Holy Cross Church, and Monastery

Holy Cross Church
Sanctuary and Nave of Holy Cross Church

Holy Cross Church
Holy Cross Church

 

Sources

Most of the color photos taken by Patty Nicholas, archivist


Dreiling, Norbert R. "Official Centennial History of the Volga-German Settlements in Ellis and Rush Counties of Kansas, 1878-1976." Hays, KS: Volga German Centennial Association, 1976.

Dreiling, B. M."Golden jubilee of the German-Russian settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926." Hays, KS: Hays Daily News, 1926.

Schoenchen

Schoenchen's story is a little bit different from the other colonies, as it began because of a conflict among the first settlers of Liebenthal, which was settled on Section 21 in Rush County. There was a proposed relocation to Section 16 because it had a better water supply, among other things. Some of the townspeople began building their homes in the new section, when Johann Schaefer donated four acres in Section 21 to be used for building a church. This angered those who had begun building their homes in Section 16, so in April and May of 1877, they moved their residences to the present location of Section 28 in Ellis County.

More controversy followed with the founding of the new community. The original name for the town was San Antonio, but settlers (originally from Schoenchen and Neu-Obermonjour) wanted the town named after the villages in Russia from where they had emigrated. The compromise was the village was named Schoenchen and the church was named for the patron saint of the church in Neu-Obermonjour, St. Anthony.

One other difference with Schoenchen was that the village cross was not used for religious services like it was in the other Volga colonies. The settlers used homemade wooden crosses on Sundays and Holy days until the priests came to the area. The other villages had a cross in each town at which the congregation gathered around for religious services until the first churches were built.

Schoenchen's first church was a very small stone structure that was completed in 1880, but abandoned shortly thereafter due to the foundation settling badly after a heavy rain. It was replaced by a frame structure in 1881. In 1900 they began building the present church, and it was dedicated on June 13, 1901.

St. Anthony Catholic Church
St. Anthony Catholic Church

St. Anthony Catholic Church
St. Anthony Catholic Church

St. Anthony Catholic Church
Sanctuary of St. Anthony Catholic Church

St. Anthony Catholic Church
Nave and Sanctuary of St. Anthony Catholic Church

St. Anthony Catholic Church
Choir Loft of St. Anthony Catholic Church

Sources

Forsyth Library Photo Archives

Color pictures taken by Patty Nicholas, archivist

Dreiling, Norbert R. "Official Centennial History of the Volga-German Settlements in Ellis and Rush Counties of Kansas, 1878-1976." Hays, KS: Volga German Centennial Association, 1976.

Dreiling, B. M. "Golden jubilee of the German-Russian settlements of Ellis and Rush Counties, Kansas, August 31, September 1 and 2, 1926." Hays, KS: Hays Daily News, 1926.

 

Turkville

A colony from Tennessee came to Ellis County in 1876 and founded the town of Turkville in the northeast corner of the county. This group of Baptists founded the first Baptist Church in Ellis County, and Reverend Allen D. King was the first pastor. Most of its members were from King's extended family.

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Vincent

The town site for Vincent was planned and platted in 1910 after St. Boniface Church was established in 1907. Parishioners of St. Fidelis Church in Victoria wanted a parish closer to their farm homes southeast of town, so they built a church about 7 miles southeast of Victoria.

The town never materialized, although a school was built and a grocery store was moved there from Pfeifer. The town site was named after the first parish priest, Fr. Vincent Brandt, who moved from there in 1909.

Fr. Callistus Ractenwald served at St. Boniface for over 52 years. During that time, he handcrafted items for a display of Bethlehem which is still assembled each year by nearby families at Christmastime.

St. Boniface Church

St. Boniface Church

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Photo taken by Mitch Weber, University photographer  

Victoria

The colony of Victoria was established in 1873 by Scotch and English families under the leadership of George Grant. Mr. Grant purchased approximately 25,245 acres of land from the Kansas Pacific Railroad for $50,000, with a cash payment of $10,000 and the railroad holding the mortgage on the balance.

George Grant had anticipated turning Victoria Colony into cattle and sheep ranches for the sons of nobility. He brought to Victoria what is believed to be the first Polled Angus (Aberdeen Angus) cattle in America, but it is not known for sure that he actually brought these particular cattle over to America. The Junction City Tribune stated after Grant's death that there were Polled Galloway cattle on the Grant land, but no mention of Polled Black Angus

Most of the English colonists in Victoria were "remittance men" meaning that their families from Britain sent them monies. However, the Brits were not frugal with the money, plus they showed no interest in farming or raising sheep. A "Victoria Hunt Club" was organized, as well as a cricket club; a race track was built, and there were dances on a weekly basis. The young men socialized with the troops stationed at Fort Hays. Soon, their parents realized their sons were not spending their money wisely,and they began to reduce the remittances. The young men became disenchanted with the area. Some returned to Britain, while others went to South America.

George Grant moved into a villa that had been constructed for Walter A. Shields on property that he had acquired from the federal government south of Victoria. It resembled an English Manor house, and it had running water, bathrooms on each floor and a steam heating plant. Mr. Shields signed a agreement in July 1875 to turn over the property to Mr. Grant as security for an earlier agreement that had been made on his behalf by his mother. The earlier agreement was that Mary M. Shields signed a contract with Mr. Grant to purchase for her son one and one-quarter sections on adjoining land on May 11, 1874. Mr. Shields was not able to pay what was due by May 1, 1876, so the land and the villa became the property of Mr. Grant. The place still stands today and is the private residence of a family whose ancestors came to this area in 1876.

George Grant was almost penniless when he died on April 28, 1878, having lost most of his fortune.

George and Alex Philip, the Scotsmen, remained with their families. George Philip opened a general merchandise store in Victoria, then moved to Hays 13 years later, in 1886, to operate the U.S. Land Office. George Philip established a hardware business in Hays in 1895, which proved to be very successful. Alex Philip also became very successful in his ranching endeavors.

The Volga-German settlers from nearby Herzog moved into Victoria, combining the two communities.

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Forsythe, James L. "George Grant of Victoria: Man and Myth". Kansas History. Autumn 1996: 102-114.

Walker

A small colony of settlers from Ohio established the town of Walker in 1872. The Volga-Germans from Russia and the Germans from Kentucky and Ohio, known as the "Plattdeutschen", came to the area in 1876-1878. Walker was a thriving community but the 1930's depression closed its primary businesses.

St. Ann Church was built in 1904-1905 under the supervision of Fr. Emmeram Kausler and dedicated on Thanksgiving 1905.

St. Ann's Church
St. Ann Church

The first school building was built in 1893, and a second building was built in 1924-1925. The building is no longer used for parochial school events, but is still in use as a community center.

Walker was also the home to Walker Army Air Field which was located 2.5 miles northwest of the town. The air field was built in 1942 as a satellite field for the Smoky Hill Army Army Field in Salina. By the middle of 1943, it was used for training crews to fly the B-29 bombers. On January 31, 1946, it was placed on inactive status.

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.

Photo taken by Mitch Weber, University photographer

Yocemento

The U.S. Portland Cement Company, with I. M. Yost as president, platted a town site for its cement plant in 1907. Fifteen months later, in mid-1908, the plant was operational. There was a general store, a hotel, and a restaurant at that time.

Many of the town's residents were Hungarians and they were employed at the cement plant. It was these citizens who built the Catholic Church in 1906. Later the church was abandoned as people moved away, and the building was moved to the Buckeye community in 1931 to be used as a community hall.

By 1917, Mr. Yost and the stockholders began losing money on the cement mill, and they went into bankruptcy. The mill was sold to its Denver competitor. Much of the mill was dismantled, but there are parts of it that are still standing as remodeled family homes.

Sources

“At Home in Ellis County, Kansas 1867-1992.” Hays, KS: Ellis County Historical Society, 1991.