Founded in 1994, the Ellis Railroad Museum features items and photographs from Ellis's railroading past. A 5000 square foot model train exhibit is also on display.
Outside the museum is a miniature railroad that runs on a 1 mile loop track, called the BK&E Railroad. This stands for the "Buddy King and Ellis Railroad", named for its primary donor the late Francis "Buddy" King, a former mayor of Ellis who died in office in 1994.
The Early History of Ellis
by William G. Cutler (1883)
The town known by the name of Ellis was laid out by the Kansas Pacific Railway Company in 1873, and was surveyed and platted by Holland Wheeler, a civil engineer in the employ of the company. It is located on the northeast quarter of Section 8, Township 13 south, Range 20 west of the Sixth Principal Meridian. It is situated on the north bank of Big Creek and just one mile east of the west line of the county.
It is what is usually known as a railroad town, and the fact of it being the terminus of the third division of the Kansas Pacific Railway, it is depended, chiefly for its support, on the employees of the company. The roundhouse and machine shops of the company being located there, gives employment to a great many men, and aside from the support derived from these sources, the town has very little to rely upon. It is surrounded by a rough, broken country, altogether unsuited for agricultural pursuits, so that its country trade is very limited.
The railway runs through the center of the town from east to west, and that portion north of the track is designated the North side, and the opposite portion on the South side. All the business portion of the town is north of the track, and confined chiefly to the street fronting the railway, whilst the greater portion of the residence part is south of the track. The buildings of the railway company are all good, substantial, stone structures, and quite extensive, the roundhouse having stalls for fourteen locomotives. The building erected by the company for a depot is a very fine two-story stone building, and is both a depot and hotel combined. All the business houses are rather inferior buildings, there being only one two-story stone business house in town, that of Kelly & Ormrod (sic) The others are all one-story buildings, some stone and some frame.
The first man to start merchandising in town was Thomas Daily, who erected a one-story double storeroom, one room being devoted to the sale of clothing exclusively, and the other to general merchandising. There are but few business houses in the town, but what there are, is amply sufficient for the trade. The business men of the place are Thomas Daily, Nichols & Bros., Reading & Bowen, G. F. Lee, Kelly & Ormrod (sic) and Eli Sheldon. The majority of the residences of the town are plain, unpretentious, but neat and comfortable looking buildings, and such as would indicate the home of the thrifty, industrious mechanic.
In 1882, a very fine improvement was made to the town in the erection of a very fine two-story stone school building in the southern portion of the town. It is a very neat, well-finished structure, surmounted by a belfry that is quite ornamental in design. Although there have been for some years several church organizations in town, there never has been a church building erected. After the new schoolhouse was completed, however, in 1882, the members of the Congregational Church Society purchased the old frame school building, which they are now converting into a church. There is a Masonic Lodge in town, and one of Odd Fellows has been organized recently.
Like most of the other towns west of Abilene on the Kansas Pacific Railway, Ellis had for a brief period the advantages and disadvantages of the cattle trade. This was during 1877-78, and the history of the place during that time was about similar to that of other places similarly situated. If business was increased by the trade, crime was also increased, and a certain class of characters attracted to Ellis by the cattle trade could be very well dispensed with in any society. So long as Ellis remains a terminus of a division of the railroad, and the company maintains its shops and roundhouse there, it will be a town of some importance, but aside from these it has very little to support it.
Ellis is located at 38°56'10N, 99°33'33W (38.936211, -99.559269). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 3.2 km² (1.2 mi²), all land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,873 people, 788 households, and 527 families residing in the city. The population density was 583.2/km² (1,509.9/mi²). There were 858 housing units at an average density of 267.2/km² (691.7/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.51% White, 0.05% African American, 0.85% from other races, and 0.59% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.98% of the population.
There were 788 households out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.9% were married couples living together, 8.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.1% were non-families. 28.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.83.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.6% under the age of 18, 7.6% from 18 to 24, 27.4% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 21.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 89.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $30,380, and the median income for a family was $35,956. Males had a median income of $26,544 versus $19,926 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,248. About 10.8% of families and 11.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.0% of those under age 18 and 10.3% of those age 65 or over.