To the Board of County Commissioners of McPherson County, State of Kansas:
We the undersigned electors of the unincorporated town of Moundridge in McPherson County, State of Kansas, being a majority of the electors of said town, represent that the number of inhabitants of said town is four hundred. And we hereby petition your Honorable Board to incorporate said town as a city if the third class by the name and style of "The City of Moundridge," with the following metes and bounds, viz. The South East Quarter of the South East Quarter of Section 22, the South West Quarter of South West Quarter of Section 23, the North West Quarter of North West Quarter of Section 26, the North East Quarter of North East Quarter of Section 27, all in Twp. 21S. of R. 2W. of the 6th principal meridian, according to the town plat of Moundridge, as it appears upon the record of town plats in McPherson County, Kansas.
Dated at Moundridge this 16th day of May, 1887.
C Hirschler W Lintner J T Crews H A Eymann
J C Wedel D I Schowalter Samuel S Ross Jas M Coutts
James Whetsel S M Hamlin A H Schwan H A Hanz
D E Deputy H G Hirschler H J Simpson H Newman
Wm Whetsel C W Santee J H Johnson A J Hazelton
JW Showalter H Newman Wm Whetsel T H Hosman
J J Toevs J W Galle John R Curtis C C Wedel
G H Rhiner August Becker H H Kliewer Chas Treichler
Chas H Krehbiel J E Moe C Timpken G E Curtis
W T Millan Fred Nichols Fabin Lagree P Spatter
P B Hunsberger George Brewer I C Ward A Schaller
A Siebrand Jacob Cornelson N E Danforth L Jacobs
J H Becer Arthur Probst P C Schowalter Frank Toevs
J W Beck Theodore Winsky Harry Best Frank Mell
J J Sellers Jacob Galle J B Hunsberger Daniel Lugenbill
David Kaegi L M Newman G Handtke D S Bonham
J C Hall Peter Kastner Daniel Krehbiel H Dalke
R M Sharp B H Unruh Henry Koelin Anton Keller
Mathias Lagree A S Lincoln D H Blanchard
On July 5, 1887, the Board of County Commissioners issued an order incorporating Moundridge as a third class city as requested in the petition. The final paragraph of the order read:"It is further ordered by the Board that the first election of city officers shall be held on the 15th of July, 1887, in J W Beck's furniture store in said city, and that J E Moe, J W Beck and P J Galle are appointed to act as Judges of said election, and that Dan Krehbiel and J J Sellers are appointed to act as clerks of said election, and that J W Krehbiel, Christ Hirschler and J J Toevs are appointed to act as a Board of Canvassers of such election returns."
Thus it was that the first city election was held ten days after the town was incorporated and 364 days after the plat was filed.
Since there were no unusual events such as the discovery of gold or mass migrations to trigger a "boom town" situation, it is difficult to explain the rapid development of the community. Perhaps it was simply a matter that all of the ethnic, social and economic ingredients were already present and well developed. It required only the railroad to unify them at a central location and a city was born.
Incorporation was an important step because it allowed Moundridge to develop its own unique character by establishing a unit of government at the local level through which community priorities and moral values could be expressed. The ordinances passed by the governing body provide a window to the past with a view of the pioneer community as it was a century ago, and a record of its responses to the problems and challenges of the intervening years.
Settling the Area
Moundridge is more than a third-class city in Kansas. It is a community of people in and around the town. To gain a fuller understanding of this community, one needs to look at those who transformed the open prairies into productive farms, enriching both country and the growing village.Towns and settlements did not develop all at once, especially in the great open prairies. The land to be known as Kansas long lay undisturbed in the heart of the North American continents.
The earliest recorded history of Kansas is of the Spanish explorer Coronado traveling from Mexico to the northern border of Kansas in 1541. Tradition says he crossed what is now McPherson County to the great bend in the Arkansas River.
Lewis and Clark touched the northeast corner of the state as they explored the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, which included this section. Their journals tell little of this territory.
Zebulon Pike, later immortalized in Pike's Peak, labeled the area part of "the great American desert."
Before the Civil War people took little note of the midsection of the United States. After divisive quarreling preceding the Civil War, Kansas was admitted as a free state on January 29, 1861. Most of the population lived in the northeast corner with only sparse settlements elsewhere. When the war ended a new era began, and people came to Kansas in search of a better life.
McPherson County, named after a Union general, was once part of a large section in Kansas Territory called Peketon County stretching to the Rockies. It was reduced to its present size in 1870, near the time the first individuals moved to what is now Mound Township. Only 38 persons lived in the county.
The Chisholm Trail which skirted the east edge would soon be forgotten except in history, as the cattle drives which made it famous were coming to an end. The Santa Fe Trail, established in 1825 and passing about three miles south of McPherson, was rarely used. Its modern counterpart, Highway 50, took over travel.
With the end of the Civil War, the movement west gained momentum. To McPherson County first of all came individual families from the east looking for a better life away from the strife of war and in search of economic opportunities. Among the early families going west were the Thornton Coles, who arrived in 1871 from Chandler, Cass County, Illinois. Other families from Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Virginia and West Virginia followed. By 1872 Mound Township had families named Caldwell, Pack, Fisk, Craven and Scott. Unlike the earlier restless travelers, these families came to stay.
Incoming families with names reflecting European ancestry were those German background settling chiefly in Meridian Township. There were the Heintzelman, Hetzkes, Wilkenings, Moddelmogs and others.
Another nationality is shown in the Canadian families arriving in this area from 1871-1876. Family names included Blair, Manny, Chavez, Delphon, Chartrand and others.
The largest population boom in the sate came with two waves of European immigrants to McPherson County. Swedish Lutheran people fleeing from a famine in their homeland settled the Lindsborg region. An even larger group, German-speaking Mennonites from Russia, came to the southern part of the county. Leaving Russia because of increasingly harsh governmental policies, they were part of an estimated 11,000-12,000 Mennonites coming to this state, chiefly to McPherson, Marion, Harvey and Reno counties. Names included Graber, Kaufman, Schrag, Wedel, Waltner, Gaeddert, Koehn, Schmidt, Jantz, Friesen and more.
One other group of Mennonite families came from Illinois and Iowa in 1875 and 1876. They established the town of Christian, which is told about in the first chapter of this volume. Names in that group were Krehbiel, Hirschler, Rupp, Galle and Schowalter.
Most settlers had little cash. The Homestead Act of 1862 was a lifeline for those who wanted to put down their roots for a permanent home, as well as those who had money to invest. It offered free homesteads on unappropriated public lands to any citizen or alien who filed his declaration of intention to become a citizen. He or she had to be twenty-one years of age or be the head of a family. A tract of 160 acres or less could be acquired without cost by the individual's living on the land or cultivating it for a period of fiver years. The five-year period could be set aside if the individual could pay $1.25 an acre.
The plats of land from the 1882 and 1884 Edwards Atlases record land owners in Mound and adjoining townships are to become a part of this website in the near future. Much family history is revealed as one studies the names of people who settled the land with such high hopes.
French Settlers: Where Have They Gone?
The French community which was once a part of Moundridge had its origins in the area around Paris, France. Its path of migration led from France to Quebec, Canada, particularly around Montreal, and thence to Kankakee and Iroquois Counties in Illinois. After twenty years there, some of this group moved west again, part of them settling in Meridian Township east of Moundridge.
These people, originally Roman Catholic, followed their priest, Fr. Charles Chiniquy, to Kankakee County, Illinois, in 1851. Here they built homes, a school, and a church called St. Anne.Constant dissension between the French Fr. Chiniquy and the Irish Bishop O'Regan during this decade culminated in an abrupt break with the Roman Catholic Church in 1858. The instigating factors had been Chiniquy's increasing disillusionment with his church, a nightlong salvation experience, and Bishop O'Regan's futile attempts to excommunicate Chiniquy.
In retrospect, the rebel priest was to say, "(My) people, with me, had left their country...in order to live in peace in Illinois, under what we then considered the holy authority of the Church of Christ. But we are absolutely unwilling to be slaves to any man in the land of liberty."
The converts adopted the name of Christian Catholics; later, in April 1860, they officially became Presbyterians. Charles Chiniquy now became a proselyter for his new faith, establishing several new congregations.
In 1871, twenty years after their migration from Canada, a group of Chiniquy's French Canadian settlers were on the move again, this time traveling west across the Mississippi River Basin to Kansas.
The first of the French Canadian settlers arrive in Meridian Township, McPherson County, Kansas, in August and September of 1871; others came later. Most of them purchased their land from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. The hub of their lives lay five miles east and one south of Moundridge. At that intersection, the Elivon post office was located to the northwest. A store reputedly located there. To the southeast was their church. The French School was a half mile north of Elivon on the west side of the road, while their cemetery was four and a half miles east of Moundridge.
Their cemetery, school records, descendants and townspeople provide a catalog of French family names: Ponton, Lacost, Duby, Lagree, Lively, Manny, Chartrand, Chavez, Belair, Delphon, Curby, Carifel, Coyer, Brouilette, Gilpin, Gravel, Genet, Belgard, Nattier, Lacquement and Bachand.
And where have these people gone? Dispersal began early. Within three years, the German settlers from Russia arrived and some bought land from the French settlers. Some of the French moved into Moundridge and established businesses. Others bought land in Harvey, moving southeast toward Newton. Still others located north in the Canton area. Oklahoma and Colorado lured others. Today only the Tatro and Manny names remain.
The Elivon post office was short-lived. In 1886, the Missouri Pacific Railroad laid their tracks through a village three miles south of the French hamlet. There were reports that Elivon was moved there, the Newton Kansan reports that "the town of Hesston (would) most likely be changed to Elivon." However, the Journal of Moundridge reported in the March 10, 1887, issue that the town of Elivon had been moved to Moundridge, the post office having arrived that week. The focal point for the French was now Moundridge.
The Freedom Baptist Church was built shortly after the French arrived from Illinois. The first minister was, Anaclet Chartrand, "the priest' who came with them." Reverend Charles Chavez, apparently their second minister and a graduate of the University of Montreal, was an example of the group's religious pilgrimage in that he was "first a Catholic, then a Presbyterian, and then a Baptist." Some of the French settlers were still Catholic when they came here, and Chavez converted a number of these.
In May 1903, the church was moved into Moundridge, located on Thornton Street across the alley and east of the Auditorium. It had seen its best days. By 1911, services were no longer being held there, but it was not until February 1916 that is was disposed of. It was sold and moved "onto the lot just east of A. F. Regiers. It will be used as a German school," the Journal reported. Many of the congregation had been attending the Canton Baptist Church, and so the proceeds from the sale of the property, the twenty-eight-inch bell, the pulpit and over one hundred chairs were turned over to the Canton church.
In August 1919, the Moundridge school district purchased the building, housing a Manual Training program in the little church with the tin-paneled ceiling. It was a school building almost as long as it had been a church. And then, in January 1962, the former church, the Christian Avenue German school building which had been moved there in 1930, and the connecting tile building built in 1935 were all destroyed in a fire termed "the most disastrous fire since May 27, 1887, when the entire west side of the Main Street block burned.
The French School District 51 was established in 1887; it district clerk in those early years was Alphanso A. Chartrand. In 1902 a larger building replaced the original small school. District 51 lost its identity in the school year 1953-54, when students from Happy Hollow and Maple Grove joined the French pupils for a few short weeks until they could all move into Meadowland, the new unified school. The French school building was sold at auction and moved to Newton where it was converted into a house which still stands on Poplar Street.
Only the cemetery remains, still cared for, some graves still decorated. All cemeteries leave haunting echoes of the past. This one has a visible reminder of human frailty in a lonely white tombstone, obviously out of place where it hugs the east fence. "Louisiana, wife of A. A. Chartrand," the inscription reads. She was just short of her twenty-seventh birthday. Her grave is not in the cemetery; because of some dissension, her husband refused or was not allowed to bury her there, so he interred her on their own ground just outside the cemetery fence.
Over the years, the fence disappeared and cultivation came closer and closer to the tombstone. The obelisk fell from its pedestal; a plow, it is said, knocked a chunk from it. At some point, the pieces were placed just inside the cemetery fence and there it stands today, the obelisk standing uncertainly upon its base, its top carefully placed alongside it, a reminder of man's fallibility - and durability.
The people are gone, but the beautiful names, their descendants' memories and their legends live on.
(Surnames in the French Baptist Cemetery East of Moundridge, McPherson Co, Meridian Township, Ks on Arrowhead Road)
German-born immigrants also made their way to this locality, many of them to Meridian Township. They came not in groups but by individual families. Many came to Kansas in a roundabout way, not directly from Germany.
August Moddelmog and his seventeen-year-old bride came to America by way of Canada. Having little money, they worked their way to Kansas, finding jobs wherever they could. They arrived in Kansas in 1876, homesteading here.
Two of the German families who stopped in Indiana before establishing permanent homes in Kansas were the Wilkenings, the Henry and Henry A families. Henry and his son were from Dorfe Scheeren, Germany. They came to America in 1854 after a stormy eight-week voyage, traveling on to Indiana.
H. A. Wilkening settled in Dearborn County, Indiana, and in 1878 left for health reasons at the advice of his doctor to come to this area.
One quarter in Meridian Township was filed in the name of a woman, Wilhelmenia Linke, the great-grandmother of Mrs. John Otte. Coming to Meridian Township also were the August Koemann and Henry Groneman families. Cord Gerken came from Cold Camp, Missouri, to settle here, but left for Oklahoma when land opened there. George and John Schneider bought land in 1872.
William Heintzelmann came from Germany in 1872 as did William Neuhaus. The Buehler family came in the same year, Adam settling in Meridian Township. A second Buehler family came about a decade later.
The Fenskys were another of the families coming directly from German. August Ferdinand Fenske was born in 1855 in West Prussia, Germany, and came to Kansas in 1883. Two sisters and a brother were included in the family, Teresa, Lena and Frank. In 1891 August married Eva Franz who had been born in Poland and had come to America in 1879. They made their home on a farm northeast of Moundridge, purchasing land owned by Dave J. and Katharina Regier. Great-grandson Luke Fensky is now farming that land.
The early deed to the land dated 1893 shows Fenske was by then spelled with a Y, Fensky. It is not known when or why the spelling of the family name was changed.
Another family whose name changed in spelling in America was the Bahre family. Charles Baehre, born in Germany, came to Kansas by way of Illinois in 1892. After living in several different areas in Kansas, the Bahres came to Spring Valley Township, where they stayed.
Herman Hetzke was another German-born Kansan. He went first to New York, Ohio and Illinois before settling here. He came to Kansas in 1875 to Meridian Township, where his descendants still live. He was a farmer who invested in the town of Moundridge as part of his many investments.
These families and others coming independently of each other were almost all Lutheran Church of Moundridge and Immanuel Lutheran of Canton.
Mennonites Come to Kansas
Large numbers of Mennonites, Lutherans and Catholics were drawn to Russia in the late eighteenth century by Catherine the Great. She saw in these solid groups, industrious people who could build up her newly acquired land in the southern part of her country. To entice them to come, she offered liberal concessions on taxation, allowed private education for children on the immigrants own terms, freedom from military service, and permission to live and govern as they wished in their own closed communities.
After Catherine's death, the concessions gradually eroded. By 1870 it was apparent that the revolutionary unrest and russianization programs would force everyone into the mainstream of nationalism and militarism. Mennonites began to search fro a new home, as did many Lutherans and Catholics.
To the railroad companies must go much of the credit for bringing the immigrants to Kansas. Railroad companies vied with each other to get the lucrative trade that thousands of new residents would bring. It was the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe (AT&SF) that won out.
Mennonite communities in Russia sent a group of their leaders to America to determine possible sites for settlement. Santa Fe focused on these men with persuasive skill.
In an article written in 1956 for Kansas, The First Century, Dr. Harley Stucky credited the railroads with influencing the immigrants. He wrote: (excerpts) "With the development of the Santa Fe Railroad, millions of acres of fertile grassland were opened to the inquisitive eyes of would be settlers. When the Santa Fe tracks reached Newton in 1871, thousands of Mennonites were intrigued by the possibilities of living a rich and happy life in Kansas, according to the dictates of their own conscience.
"The promotional activity of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe must be mentioned, particularly as it relates to the coming of the Germans. With the completion of the Santa Fe from Atchison to the Colorado line in 1872, the company had earned it magnificent land grant of nearly 3,000,000 acres.
"In its bid for colonists the Santa Fe met all competition. It cut rates and land prices. It granted passes to many leaders to investigate their lands. Often it gave settlers a three-month free travel periods, extended them credit, hauled personal belongings and equipment free or at low rates, and guaranteed its colonists other help in the event of disaster."
So the Mennonites came to Kansas. It is estimated that 5,000 people arrived here in 1874, with at least another 5.000 by 1880. Mennonite families with names of Swiss Volhynian heritage were Stucky, Kaufman, Goering, Graber, Wedel, Schrag and others. Polish-Russian family names included Unruh, Koehn, Ratzlaff, Schmidt and others. Prussian Mennonite namers are Regier, Schroeder, Claassen, Harder, Toews and others.
One contract drawn up by AT&SF and signed by Christian Krehbiel on behalf of the Mennonites priced land at 56 percent of its assessed evaluation and allowed the buyer five years to pay. In another instance, deeds for land in Mound Township given by Santa Fe to four individuals named Wedel, Jantz, Buller and Durst showed prices ranging from $2.50 to $7.75 an acre. A creek flowed through the cheapest land, suggesting not all was cultivable.
The immigrants lived in long barrack-like houses provided by Santa Fe for the first winter before they could erect their own homes. One immigrant house was built near Inman, another near Goessel, and a third on the quarter on which Hopefield Church is located. A marker was erected at Hopefield in 1943 commemorating the coming of the Swiss Mennonites to this area. The marker expresses gratitude to God and the Santa Fe for that significant event. Coming from Illinois in 1874-76 were additional Mennonite families who were influential in establishing the village of Christian. There were Mennonite families in Mound Township and every township surrounding it. When Christian disbanded, the village businesses moved to Moundridge and contributed to the growing community.
Mennonite farmers brought with them Turkey Red Wheat, a hard winter wheat which was superior in milling quality to the softer kinds in use. The hard wheat became the parent stock of may varieties in the following years and helped make Kansas the nation's leading producer of hard wheat.
Churches established by immigrants in the 1870s and 1880s in McPherson County include First Mennonite Church of Christian, Hopefield Mennonite, Eden Mennonite, Hoffnungsau and Bethel Mennonite of Inman, Canton Mennonite (now Emmanuel), Garden Township, West Zion Mennonite and Lone Tree Church of God in Christ, Mennonite. Their continuing histories as well as some of the rural school records tell more of their story and record additional family names.
Even a quick glance through today's telephone listings provides ample evidence of the continuing presence of Mennonite families in the community.