Onaga, Kansas
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HISTORICAL SKETCH OF ONAGA CITY - 1947

Onaga Herald, May 8, 1947. The following historical and informational article of Onaga was prepared by Mr. J. W. Dunn and printed in the Onaga .....a thriving city with a population of 900, is located in northeast Pottawatomie County, Ks. on the Vermillion River near the north boundary of the old Potawatomi Indian Reservation, and 50 miles northwest of Topeka on the Topeka branch of the Union Pacific Railroad. The name of the city is derived from that of an Indian Chief called Onahe. This chief and his tribe formerly roamed over the Potawatomi Indian Reservation until they moved to Arizona where another town was named for him. The topography of the district is moderately rolling, broken by low hills studded with Oak, Maple, Ash, Elm and Cedar trees, which makes the landscape most enchanting.

There are several creeks entering the Vermillion River at or near the city. The Mill Creek and Hise Creek territory was originally settled by Germans, French Creek by the French and Swiss, Coal Creek by Irish, and the Vermillion Valley by Pennsylvania Dutch. The offspring of this sturdy stock have thus given stability to the city.

Onaga is situated at the crossing of K-16 with County Highway No. 951. The old Kansas Central Railroad, which formerly passed through Onaga, has been made one of the Company's main lines from Kansas City to Cheyenne and the Pacific Coast.

The main business streets have cement paving and most of the streets in the residence sections are paved with oil. The city owns its own oiling machine for street paving, and has a fire engine, hose, and a paid fire company of 18 men. The streets are all well lighted by The Kansas Power and Light Company, which also furnished natural gas for heating and cooking.

Onaga has a water treatment plant, a sanitary sewage system, and a swimming pool. A large bronze doughboy statue and a 60 foot flag pole adorn the main street.

The territory is blessed with good, hard limestone building material and soft sandstone so that most of the business houses are built of the hard stone and trimmed with the soft cut sandstone. the principal business houses are of stone and brick structure. The chief industry of the territory is diversified agriculture, although there are bituminous coal croppings on the creek banks from which early settlers dug their winter fuel supply.

Onaga has a new high school auditorium, a new vocational agriculture building and a grade school building. The high school auditorium is one of the largest in the territory, and accommodates indoor sports. It is built of stone trimmed with dressed sandstone.

The football field and baseball diamond, which make a beautiful edifice, are well lighted for night games and are located on the fair grounds, which is the seat of the county fair held each year. Near the ball diamond are a large stone stadium, dance platform and race track. A well-kept park is nearby with stone ovens for the accommodation of picnickers, and a splendid nine-hole golf course. A tract has been purchased for an airport and the ground has been leveled and seeded to brome grass preparatory for further development.

Churches are well represented by organizations of Catholic, Baptist, Nazarene, Congregational and Lutheran. Lodges and societies, likewise, are well represented by Modern Woodmen's Association, Royal Neighbors, American Legion and Auxiliary, Masons (AF&AM), Order of the Eastern Star (OES), International Order of the Odd Fellows (IOOF) and Rebekahs.

Upon completion of the old narrow gauge Kansas Central Railroad to the site of Onaga in 1877, and the erection of a depot at the foot of Leonard Street, the city was duly incorporated under the laws of Kansas, and Frank Challis was elected the first mayor. The first store was moved in from the County Post Office of Vienna, by Amos E. Landon, who was the first postmaster. The first stone building erected was the Henry Storch bank building, now the post office. Next in line came Rolf's Store, now occupied by Woods Drug Company, then the Ristow Saloon, now occupied by Dr. Shumate's office.

The first dwelling in Onaga was a small frame and sod shanty located near the center of Block 21, and the first school house was in the stone residence of Mr. Chas. Gorrel. The first business venture was the old brick kiln of Mr. Frank Pinet, who furnished soft brick to build chimneys for the early settlers. Mr Henry Hoover made the second business venture by buying a shingle machine. He made about 200,000 shingles from natural cottonwood and walnut trees. He boiled the shingles in water to keep them from warping and to make them last longer. He also made a farm wagon entirely out of wood. the wheels were blocks sawed off of large trees and smoothed by a drawing knife.

Onaga has always been a wide awake and progressive city. The following is a roster of businesses represented within the city at this time:

Post office; elevator and lumber yard; three implement stores; jeweler and watch maker; optometrist; barber shop; furniture and undertaking establishment; three feed stores; two hardware stores; harness shop; two beauty parlors; newspaper and job printing office; hotel; four cream stations; propane gas station; plumbing shop; radio and electric shop; two carpenter shops; cabinet maker's shop; First National Bank; two paint shops; movie theater; two cafes; beer parlor; two blacksmith and machine shops; real estate office; telephone office; locker system; hospital; four apartment buildings; Kansas Power and Light Company office; dance hall; dray line; two poultry and egg stores; dental office; four automobile agencies; bakery; two drug stores; pool hall; seven filling stations; two bulk gas stations; four insurance agencies; roofing firm; city library; railroad water softener; depot; community sales company; county fair; golf course and airport.

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