More on the Czechness of Kansas
The Early History of Wilson
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Wilson, is the name of the thriving town located about one mile and a half north of the Smokey Hill River, (sic) in northwestern portion of the county and almost on the line between Russell and Ellsworth counties. It is the last station on the Kansas Pacific Railway in Ellsworth County. While the town is known by the name of Wilson, and is so set down on all the maps, the plats and records in the office of Register of Deeds fail to show any such town. The name of the town as shown by the records is "Bosland," but for some reason of other, this name has been discarded and "Wilson" substituted, and by the latter it is generally known.
The originators of the town were impressed with the idea that it would become the greatest cattle point in the West, and in casting about for a name, stuck upon "Bosland" as being the most appropriate, believing it would be as attractive to cattle as the co-bos, co-bos, of the milkmaid is to the cows. This idea proved to be rather delusive, because "Bosland" never became famous as a cattle point, and the name was soon lost in that of Wilson. The town was located and surveyed in September, 1871, by the National Land Company, but prior to that time, it had been known as Wilson Station, the railway company having built a depot there in 1868. This name was derived from the township in which the depot was located, that being Wilson.
The first building erected in town after the site was surveyed and platted was built by Phillip Gabel, on the west side of Michigan Avenue near the railroad track, in which he opened the pioneer store of Wilson. The first settlement around Wilson was made in the spring of 1871, about six months before the town of Wilson was located, and the first person to make permanent settlement on a piece of government land in the vicinity was J. T. McKittrick, he having located on the northeast quarter of Section 20, Township 14, Range 10, west of the Sixth Principal Meridian. The town of Wilson proper is situated on the west half of the northeast quarter of Section 19, Township 14, Range 10. Subsequently, Tyler's addition was added.
Wilson has had a good, healthy growth since it first started; people who came, came with the intention of making their settlement permanent. The town has superior advantages to many other towns in Central Kansas. It has an excellent agricultural country to support it, and located as it is in the northwest corner of the county, draws a great deal of trade from the southern portion of Lincoln County and the eastern part of Russell County in its vicinity, and which are being successfully operated. This advantage, in a country like Central Kansas, where fuel is so very scarce, cannot be over-estimated.
In the fall of 1871 and spring of 1872, a good many settlers located in and around Wilson, most of whom, however, settled upon claims in Russell County, a few miles west of town. Those people were mostly from Pennsylvania, and among them were Mr. Himes, with three sons; Jacob Sackman, Michael Ship, John Sellers, Michael Boland, Henry White and John Dellinger. Of this party, Mr. Himes and two of his sons crossed the Ellsworth County line and located in Russell County. The other son, S. P. Himes, remained in Wilson and entered as clerk, in the store of J. Beebe & Co., which had been built and opened a short time previous to his arrival.
At the time Wilson was laid out as a town, a man named George Wright was employed as express agent, and he in company with on J. Briggs, went into the lumber trade and started a lumber yard. Among the first settlers in town, was Jacob Fowle, since deceased, who put up a building on the south side of the railway track, being that now occupied as a grocery store by Stuckie & Lewis.
Scarcely had anything of a settlement been made in the town, when steps were taken to erect a schoolhouse, and in 1872, the erection of one was commenced, but when it was part way up it was blown down by a wind storm, and work upon it was not resumed until 1874, when a very fine stone school house was erected in the southeast part of town. It is a very neat stone building, surmounted with a cupola. It is rather small, and contains only two rooms, one above and one below. It is only used, however, for pupils that are well advanced in their studies, another building being used for the primary department, and pupils not sufficiently advanced to attend the higher school.
The years 1877-78 were years of marked improvement in the town, and a good many buildings were erected both as stores and residences. These years were also remarkable for an immense immigration into the section of country in which Wilson is located. To accommodate the new-comers, a large wooden building was erected about twenty rods west of the town and north of the track, which was partitioned off into rooms, and there the new comers were quartered, until those who concluded to remain in town could build houses, and those who concluded to homestead it could select claims and put up suitable buildings to live in. This building was known as the "barracks," and when there was no further use for it, it was torn down and converted to other uses.
Like the first buildings in all new frontier towns, those in Wilson were rather inferior, and mostly only one-story high. The "Wilson House" is a stone building, and was built in 1877 by A. Jellison. It is a very neat two-story house and stands on the south side of the railroad track opposite the depot. H. M. Keyser and family arrived in Wilson in the spring of 1878, and upon their arrival, Mr. Keyser purchased two lots, and immediately commenced the erection of a good two-story frame building. This was the first two-story frame building in town.
About as many buildings went up in Wilson in 1878, as had been erected in all the years that preceded it. In the fall of that year, the Kansas Pacific Railway Company commenced the erection of a magnificent stone depot. The lateness of the season at the time of its commencement did not admit of its being finished that year, but in the spring following it was completed. The building is one hundred feet long and thirty feet wide, and is among the finest depots on the entire line of road between Kansas City and Denver.
In regard to improvement, 1879 was nearly a repetition of what had been done in 1878, and while the buildings that went up were not quite as numerous, they were of a better class. To supply a want that was badly felt, H. Greenough erected a steam flouring mill, which he fitted up with the most improved machinery, and set in motion in May, 1879. It is not an extensive institution, but is sufficiently large to supply the demands of the surrounding country. It has three run of stone, and is capable of grinding five hundred bushels of wheat per day. In that year also, Schermerhorn and Thompson put up a very fine frame store building on Michigan Avenue, in which they put a stock of dry goods and commenced business. In the January following, Thompson sold out to Mr. Lang, after which the building was greatly enlarged.
Wilson was now commencing to look something like a town. It had a first class depot, a good schoolhouse, two or three hotels, a flouring-mill, a bank, a printing office, several business houses, tow or three church organizations, but no church buildings. The following year, however, saw a handsome stone edifice erected by the Presbyterians at a cost of $3,000, and up to this time there is no other church building in town. The church has a membership of fifty and is under the pastoral charge of Rev. D. R. Hindman. The Methodist and Evangelical churches have organizations, but no edifices. The former occupy the Presbyterian Church every alternate Sunday, and the latter hold service every other Sunday in the schoolhouse. Rev. Father Kelly, whose residence is at Ellsworth, holds Catholic service at Wilson once a month.
Some substantial improvements were made in 1880, aside from the erection of the Presbyterian Church. Messrs. Nesmith & Walmer erected a fine two-story stone building on Michigan Avenue, as did also Barton & Carbiener. The former is used as a grocery store and the latter as a hardware store.
Wilson is a progressive, prosperous town, and is inhabited by a thrifty, enterprising, and energetic people, who are not discouraged by difficulties, or rendered reckless by prosperity. For a town only twelve years old it has made wonderful progress, and gives evidence of what a few determined people can do. The business of the town is represented by M. H. Keyser, F. Deissworth, Schermerhorn & Lang, and John Tobias, dealers in general merchandise. Jellison & Hindman, Stassen & Danner, Nesmith & Walmer, Stuckie & Lewis, and B. F. Himes, dealers in groceries; N. Lewis, boots and shoes; James Briggs, books and stationary; James Latta, drugs; Barton & Carbiener, hardware and furniture; E. Y. Dollenmeyer, watches, clocks and jewelry; Weatherby & Co., millinery; Claussen & Co., hardware; Anspach & Youngman, bankers; and several others engaged in miscellaneous business, such as dealers in real estate and agricultural implements, lime and cement, coal, grain, lumber, meat markets, and in fact, every branch of business to be found in a live, progressive town. There are three grain elevators in the place, though which an immense amount of grain passes annually, while the extent of general mercantile business transactions establishes the fact that Wilson in the full enjoyment of business prosperity. According to the Assessor's return for 1882, the town has a population of 503, but yet it never has been incorporated.
As of the censusGR2 of 2000, there were 799 people, 333 households, and 205 families residing in the city. The population density was 550.9/km² (1,436.7/mi²). There were 406 housing units at an average density of 279.9/km² (730.0/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.87% White, 0.13% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.13% of the population.
There were 333 households out of which 27.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.6% were married couples living together, 5.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.4% were non-families. 35.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 21.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.26 and the average family size was 2.89.
In the city the population was spread out with 22.5% under the age of 18, 5.4% from 18 to 24, 21.5% from 25 to 44, 22.3% from 45 to 64, and 28.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46 years. For every 100 females there were 83.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 81.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $34,821, and the median income for a family was $47,768. Males had a median income of $28,173 versus $23,000 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,622. About 2.0% of families and 7.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.0% of those under age 18 and 12.9% of those age 65 or over.