Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kansas Ghost

Wheeler, Kansas
            Located in the far Northwestern corner of Kansas, Wheeler is one of those little places that reaches out and grabs the curious like me to go have a look.  Turning off the highway I drove a short distance to where the town of Wheeler used to be and I was pleasantly rewarded.  Here is a collection of old building and relics in various states of neglected decay.  There appears to be about 5 homes still lived in and one of them is the old schoolhouse. 
            The grain elevator is still in operation, which probably keeps the town from completely disappearing.  There are some classic old elevators standing and a feed store.  Probably built around 1900 to 1910. Just enough aura to transfer the imaginative back to another era on the plains of hope and settlement. 

            One of the old store fronts is in pretty good shape, the other in a state of slow crumbling.  Yet in their day they served the townspeople and others in the area that traded there.  There are vacant lots where other stores stood and homes.  There is the main road into town and two little streets, each a block long.  The schoolhouse sits at the intersection of these last two streets. The school had a long veranda/porch added to the front and facing east probably makes nice cool shade during the heat of summer. 

            I went surfing for some info on the town.  Not much was found except that it was founded in the Township of Orlando.  The Post Office was there from 1888 to 1961 and other then that?????  Nothing was found on Orlando except that it was 35.9 square miles and the town of Wheeler was located in the township. 
            Townships were usually used for school boundaries, years ago, for taxation and also for census purposes.  Being unincorporated, Wheeler had zero population but the in 2010, Orlando had 63 souls to be counted for the census. 
            Like many little towns on the prairie, Wheeler had its peak population in 1930, before the ‘Dirty 30’s” began.  The dust storms chased many early settlers out of the country, off to, hopefully, greener pastures.  Few people hung on and the ones that remain today have consolidated much land into their farms and ranches. 
            One of the other interesting things I noticed is the style of different states how they refer to their districts.  Many use county, rather then town and now a township.  Wheeler quite often was referred to as Cheyenne county place in Orlando township. 

            The railroad tracks are still there but it looks like the rails have not seen a train is a few years.  The highway was realigned and the discontinuance of rail service has a major impact on the small prairie towns. 

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