Iola is a city and county seat of Allen County, Kansas. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 6,302; in 1910 it was 9,032. It is situated on the Neosho River with important natural gas fields in the vicinity.


Iola History
from the Iola City Web Site
In January 1859, a group of settlers gathered to discuss plans to develop a new town. Many of these people who lived in the county and in the nearby towns of Cofachique and Humboldt were looking to relocate Allen County’s seat. After much discussion, it was decided that the new town would be called "Iola", in tribute to Iola Colborn--the daughter of Mr. J.F. Colborn who had built the first frame-style home in the area. The land was surveyed and platted with wide streets and a four-block square downtown. In 1860, two small general stores moved from Cofachique to Iola.

Soon came a dry goods store, a grocery, clothing store, and drug store. In 1865, Iola became the seat of Allen County. By 1870, the population had increased to 1,500, and the railroads had arrived. However, due to various local and national misfortunes, the town population remained stagnant for the next twenty-five years. Then, in 1895, a great surge in population and expansion hit Iola--giant natural gas pools were discovered in the area.

In just nine years, from 1895 to 1904, Iola grew from a town of 1,567 people, to a city of over 11,000. With this great population explosion, came many of the homes and buildings still standing today. A water plant and electric generation plant were built; streets were paved, schools were constructed, and Iola prospered. In 1910 the Commission form of Government was adopted, and three City Commissioners elected.

Unfortunately, the natural gas began to run out, which forced many of the town’s industries (such as the smelters) to leave for richer fields. There was little positive change in Iola during the 1920s and 1930s. Two exceptions were the Pet Milk plant, which located here in 1924, and the development of H.L. Miller & Sons dressmakers around 1933. Prior to World War II, the Riverside Park complex was built, many of the older school buildings were replaced, streets and utilities were upgraded, and businesses and homes were constructed.

After WW II, Iola continued to expand its utilities, improve its water purification system, resurface and pave residential streets, and build a new hospital, National Guard Armory, business structures and homes. In the 1970's and 1980's the Thompson Poultry Company and the Lehigh Cement Plant began to decline in Iola; however, new industry such as Gates Rubber Company, Haldex, and Russell Stover Candies have reinvigorated Iola's economy.

The Early History of Iola
by Frank W. Blackmar (1912)
Iola, the seat of justice and largest city of Allen county, is situated a little northwest of the center of the county, at the junction of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, and the Missouri Pacific railways. Duncan's History of Allen County says that a meeting was held in Jan., 1859, at the residence of J. C. Clark, near the mouth of Deer creek, to locate a new town with a view to making it the county seat. A town company was organized with John W. Scott, president; John Hamilton, vice-president; J. M. Perkins, secretary; and James McDonald, treasurer. The town was named for Mrs. Iola Colborn, the wife of J. F. Colborn, who erected the first frame house, a log house having been previously put up by Bolivar B. Bayne.

In 1860 James Faulkner and Aaron Case removed their stores from the old town of Cofachique to Iola. Little progress was made during the war, but in the few years immediately following the growth was more rapid. In 1866 W. H. Johnson began the publication of the Neosho Valley Register, which was the first newspaper. The first bank was started by the King Bridge company, but when the bridge company went out of business the bank also ceased to exist. L. L. Northrup then started a private bank, which later developed into the present Northrup National bank. The city also has two state banks and a savings bank. Iola is well equipped with paved streets, a good waterworks system, electric lights, a street railway system, a fire department, gas for both heating and illuminating purposes, an opera house, two daily and three weekly newspapers, a public library, five fine graded public schools and a high school, and various religious denominations are represented by handsome houses of worship.

Eight large cement factories turn out about 25,000 barrels a day, employing about 3,000 men; the 9 zinc smelters produce about one-third of the world's supply; and a large spelter employs some 1,800 persons. There are also flour mills, brick and tile works, iron works, planing mills, ice factory and cold storage plant, rug factory, bottling works, creamery, broom factory, and a number of smaller manufacturing enterprises. Iola is connected by an electric railway with La Harpe, the line passing through the gas field, with branches to Bassett and Concrete. On Feb. 28, 1870, Iola was incorporated as a city of the second class by an act of the legislature. The population in 1910, according to the U. S. census, was 9,032, and the city was at that time composed of six wards. Four rural delivery routes emanate from the Iola postoffice and supply mail to a large agricultural district and a number of smaller villages.

Iola is located at 37°55'22N, 95°24'1W (37.922651, -95.400367). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.9 km² (4.2 mi²). 10.9 km² (4.2 mi²) of it is land and 0.24% is water.

As of the census of 2000, there were 6,302 people, 2,590 households, and 1,590 families residing in the city. The population density was 578.0/km² (1,497.0/mi²). There were 2,885 housing units at an average density of 264.6/km² (685.3/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.72% White, 2.82% African American, 0.70% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.73% from other races, and 1.81% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.81% of the population.

There were 2,590 households out of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.3% were married couples living together, 11.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.6% were non-families. 33.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city the population was spread out with 25.5% under the age of 18, 12.2% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 20.4% from 45 to 64, and 18.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 88.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 83.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,219, and the median income for a family was $37,795. Males had a median income of $26,407 versus $19,407 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,741. About 14.0% of families and 18.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.1% of those under age 18 and 12.0% of those age 65 or over.

Unified school districts
Iola USD 257 (web site)
Home of the 2006 Kansas 4A Girls State Basketball Champions.

Colleges and universities
Allen County Community College

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