Sesquicentennial of Chase County Courthouse (1873-2023)
A Photo Album
Click on photo to begin
Chase County History Videos narrated by historian Alfred E. Eckes
Video Link: https://youtu.be/YQP_s_4vUGE
The iron horse transformed transportation in Chase County, as it did elsewhere on the prairie. The steam locomotive, as the iron horse was known, enabled travel and commerce. With completion of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to Cottonwood Falls, the county seat, in March 1871, thousands of migrants began arriving by train to build new homes on the prairie. In this first video we will identify some of the individuals most involved in construction of railroads in the Flint Hills of Kansas, and their initiatives. Some are familiar figures, such as Cyrus K. Holliday, the Topeka lawyer who organized the line, and Santa Fe President William B. Strong who rapidly expanded the line to serve a vast, sparsely settled region from Chicago to California. Others loom large in Kansas history such as Samuel N. Wood, the Chase County legislator and lawyer who promoted the Santa Fe, and other railroad schemes, and predicted a “glorious future” for Cottonwood Falls as the “future metropolis” of Kansas.
"If Chase County Tombstones Could Talk"
Many of the remarkable people who settled and developed Chase County, Kansas, before and after the Civil War, rest in some 30 public and private cemeteries around the county. This video, narrated by historian Alfred Eckes, focuses on these pioneers. Some were ranchers, farmers, quarrymen, and homemakers who migrated from the Midwest and Western Europe. In the Flint Hills they struggled to build businesses and farms, and to raise families in an era when many children died from diseases and accidents. Others were prominent lawmen, law breakers, circus entertainers, and distinctive public officials. The last group included the all-female mayor and city council elected in Cottonwood Falls in 1888 at a time when women could not vote in state and federal elections.
“School Bells in Chase County, Kansas: From One-Room
Schools to Consolidation and Unification”.
Chase County grew rapidly in the decades after the Civil War. The county's population quadrupled to 8,246 from 1870 to 1900, as settlers arrived to stake out farms and work in the booming limestone quarries. Many had large families with eight to ten children. To serve their educational needs, the county established 66 districts with one-room schools where children could obtain a basic education, learning to read, write, and calculate. As this video shows, communities were proud of their local schools and reluctant to lose them. But professional educators and the Kansas legislature favored consolidation to provide country children broader educational opportunities. In the 20th century pressures to consolidate and unify school districts would multiply, as Chase County experienced a sharp decline in pupil enrollments. By 2010, Chase County, which once had 66 common or grade schools, and seven high schools, had only one elementary school and one junior-senior high school remaining.
“Living with the Forces of Nature in Chase County, Kansas”
Video Link: https://youtu.be/LbwCZ1Eb_hE
Nineteenth-century settlers in the beautiful Flint Hills had to cope with many weather-related hazards. These included extreme climate conditions in winter and summer, blizzards, strong winds and cyclones, extended droughts, and devastating floods. In this video Nathaniel Reynolds, who teaches meteorology at Wichita State University, considers the Flint Hill's unique weather, and the adverse icing and fog conditions that brought down Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne's airplane in March 1931. Farmer and rancher Chuck Magathan tells how extreme temperature changes impacted agriculture. He also explains how local residents built small water-retention dams to reduce flooding on the Cottonwood River.
“Chase County's Hidden Wealth: Quarries, Stone Cutters,
and a Construction Empire”
Video Link: https://youtu.be/1iCs_C9QLI4
Abundant deposits of native white limestone attracted stonecutters and quarrymen to Chase County in the 1870s. Some came to work on the new courthouse. They used beautiful Cottonwood limestone to construct buildings and railroads across the West from Chicago to San Francisco, and from Strong City to Mexico City. Barney Lantry built a construction empire from his headquarters in Strong City. Phil Santy constructed the splendid double-arch bridge at Clements. David Rettiger designed many beautiful homes and buildings -- including the Spring Hill home and barn on the Tallgrass National Preserve. Limestone quarrymen built the Strong City Opera House where John Philip Sousa, the famous band leader, performed in November 1902.
“Revisiting the Wild West in Chase County Kansas”
Video Link: https://youtu.be/xi30ieMIVjo
During the 1870s and 1880s, with the arrival of the Santa Fe railroad, Chase County became a major grazing area for beef cattle on the way to eastern markets. As in other more famous Kansas cattle towns there were lawless episodes. Strong City's bars attracted cowboys and limestone miners eager to have a good time. Shoot-outs occasionally occurred. Horse thieves and cattle rustlers in the area sometimes experienced justice at the end of a rope thrown over a cottonwood tree by angry ranchers.