MORE EARLY DAYS OF ONAGA
Onaga Herald, February 11, 1932
At the general election in 1876, Mill Creek Township voted bonds
in the sum of $20,000 to aid the building of the L.K. W. Railway,
with the provision that if the road were completed to the section
line now the eastern boundary of Onaga, by September 20, 1877,
$13,000 of said bonds were valid and binding. The road was to be
completed to the western boundary of the township at a certain
date, when the remaining $7,000 would be valid and binding and,
accordingly, late in the afternoon of September 20, 1877, a locomotive
was run across the said section line, thereby making $13,000 of
said bond good, although the 1/4 mile had no road bed. The ties
being simply laid on the ground about 5 feet apart and the rails
spiked to them. A large crowd gathered to witness the event.
Frank Hubbell, anticipating the patronage of a frontier town,
had erected a small frame building on the present location of the
clothes cleaning shop which is just south of the present State
Bank where he sold groceries and a limited amount of dry goods.
This was in July, 1877. Immediately, Amos E. Landon erected a rather
commodious hotel, on the present location of the Myers Mercantile
Company. This hotel was some years later destroyed by fire.
The first blacksmith shop was erected in the fall of 1877, on
the present site of the White Eagle Filling Station by Lige Ledlington.
The first livery stable was erected at the same time by Kim Randall
on the present location of Jack Hill's Garage. At the same time,
the first saloon was erected on the east side of Leonard Street,
about where the present gas supplies are exhibited. The saloon
was owned and operated by T. J. Roosa (an elder of the Methodist
Church); however, saloons sprang up like mushrooms in the night.
August Ristow started a saloon and billiard hall in the building
now occupied by Pink Witham's Meat Market. This building was the
second building of the town, the first being erected in 1879, by
Henry Rolfs and operated as a grocery store (now operated by the
Kester Drug Company).
The first general store was erected and, in fact, is the building
where the Onaga Feed Store now stands. This building was erected
in 1878, and Abe Hyman occupied it for more than 30 years. The
first residence was built by Jim Decker, on the present site of
Mrs. Eustis' home. It was subsequently moved on the next street
east, which at present is being occupied by James Martin. The first
church was erected in 1878. It is the present Methodist Church
and was built by popular subscription with the expressed understanding
that its doors were always open to all denominations. the building
of the other churches followed soon thereafter ...Congregational,
Catholic and Baptist.
Andy Clark located here as a stock shipper at the very beginning
and remained as such for many years, finally mysteriously disappearing
during one of his shipments. The first lumber yard was founded
by the Thomas Brothers, and was located near the present one. The
educational interests were located in the old stone house in the
southeast part of town, which is now being used by Charles Gorrel
as a residence. Soon, a four-room school building was erected on
the site of the present one, of which only three rooms were used.
Mr. Hyman often told the other settlers of the city that his capital
stock when he went into the mercantile business in 1878, consisted
of 75 cents; however, he accumulated a competency here and moved
to Leavenworth, where he was murdered a few years ago by two black
Onaga was the terminus of the Railroad for a few years, consequently
the west boundary of the township was not reached in time to claim
the $7,000 of bonds which were never paid. The first butcher shop
was run by Ami Fouri, who could speak but little english and was
a firm believer in economy, as he did all the work in the erection
of his shop and, one peculiarity of his craftsmanship, he began
the shingling of his building at the top and shingled down. The
first newspaper established was the "Onaga Journal",
May 19, 1878, by S. A. Stauffer, whose son is now the editor of
an Arkansas City paper. The organization of Onaga, as a city was
in 1879, and for some reason that I do not know, it was disorganized
and was re-organized in 1883, with W. F. Challis, now of Wamego,
as its first mayor. One other fact about the city of Onaga, is
that it is the only city in Kansas that has ever had a black man
for mayor of the city. Armstrong was elected by a majority of four
votes over F. B. Foote, his contestant. Of the mayors of Onaga,
J. A. Kester, one of our oldest druggists, held office longer than
any other man up to date.
In the early nineties, an increasing need for a mill was felt.
Farmers now planted larger acreage, made possible by the wider
use of farm machinery. The Onaga Roller Mills was opened for business
in the summer of 1896. Its patronage extended over a wide area
as wheat was received from Soldier Creek and Louisville. The Phoenix
Mill was built by a local company at a cost of $2,000. It opened
for business in 1898. Its equipment included a 15 horsepower engine
one set of French burrs, a corn sheller, elevators and meal and
buckwheat screens. Prior to 1898, Onaga's only means of rapid communication
had been the telegraph. During this year, the TriState Telephone
Company sold shares of stock in the town and connected Onaga with
a long distance line to Kansas City. Dr. E. F. Richardson installed
a private line between his residence and office in January, 1898.
This was the first telephone line in town.
(Delivered on Kansas Day, January 29, 1932, by Gale E. Krouse.
Material taken from the records of the city clerk and Mr. S.
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