Ark City

Arkansas City, Kan. History


"This information was gathered from various sites throughout the Internet. The numbers behind the sentences correspond to the web page I got the information from during my research. It is a conglomeration of information that has it's resources on the corresponding webpages. Please visit those web pages as the people there have done hard work in making history more available to all of us.

Paul Reeves

At the bottom of the page are 'Places of Interest' where I have captured some of the history of the local area.

Arkansas City lies in the peninsula formed by the meeting of the wide Arkansas and swift Walnut Rivers, in Cowley County, one of 105 counties in Kansas. Prior to July 15, 1870, settlers in this part of the country were on Indian land and were obliged to pay head rights to Chetopa, Osage Indian Chief. But when Osage lands were opened for settlement on July 15, 1870, claims were accepted.[3] The city is located on US177 about 25 miles north of Ponca City, Oklahoma.

The name of this city is not pronounced like the nearby state of Arkansas, but rather as /ɑrˈkænzəs/ (the final "s" is pronounced). Over the years there has been much confusion about the regional pronunciation of "Arkansas," which locals render as /ɑrˈkænzəs/ rather than /ˈɑrkənsɔː/. Throughout much of Kansas, residents use this alternate pronunciation when referring to the Arkansas River, as well as Arkansas Street in the city of Wichita. Very few people from other states, and even much less from the state of Arkansas, use or have ever heard the anglicized pronunciation. Because of this, and for the sake of brevity, Arkansas City is most often referred to as simply Ark City.[1]

White settlers first congregated in the area where Arkansas City now stands in the 1860s. The natives referred to the place as "Nichonka," which roughly translates as "place between the waters" — a reference to the confluence of the Arkansas and Walnut rivers.[1]

Arkansas City was first conceived in the minds of fifteen men in Emporia. These men were prominent in business and politics and were aware of the financial rewards possible. Among these men were the Norton brothers and E. C. Manning.        

Christmas Day, 1869, the Norton Brothers and their party arrived at Manning's cabin with a letter addressed to him from men in Emporia suggesting he should cooperate with the party in establishing a town at the mouth of the Walnut River in Cowley County. Manning did so although he had previously visited the area and was convinced that the ]unction of the Walnut and Arkansas Rivers was too far south for the location of a county seat. The men from Emporia, however, decided to locate their town where Arkansas City is currently situated. They decided to call it Delphi, located their claims and returned to Emporia. On January 8, 1870, they formed the Cresswell Town Company (having decided to change the name) and had it incorporated in Topeka on January 10, 1870. In February, 1870, the Kansas Legislature was in session and a bill was introduced to organize Cowley County with Cresswell as the temporary County seat. The Lieutenant Governor, who presided over the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were both members of the Cresswell Town Company. Its newspaper began that year as well as a department store.[2]

The town of Arkansas City was renamed in 1871. Shortly thereafter, a post office, First Methodist school, saw mill, flour and feed mills commenced operation. The year 1872 saw incorporation of the town and the Santa Fe Railway extended its line from the north on December 3, 1879.[3]

The town had its own water works by 1881, utilizing a spring as a source and pumping the water to a reservoir on a hill in the south part of town. From this point pipes to the town residences distributed it. These were a few of the starts that were noticeable during the first years after this area came into the hands of the white man, but the Indian had been a contributing factor in the growth of Arkansas City. The town has played a vital role in the territorial development of Indian lands to the south in the state of Oklahoma.[3]

When history’s most fantastic races were made, Arkansas City was the starting point, i.e. the Run of 1889 and the even more exciting event in 1893 when the renowned Cherokee Strip was opened. The prize on this occasion was 8,000,000 acres of fertile ranch and farm lands. The starting point was the Kansas –Oklahoma border – four miles south of Arkansas City. Some months prior to the big land race, Arkansas City was the rendezvous point of 100,000 eager settlers who made plans and “big deals” before the first pistol shots were fired signaling the start of the race at noon on September 16, 1893. Jockeying for positions were every conceivable mobile vehicle of the time. Ox carts, bicycles, covered wagons, Indian ponies, and racehorses were all seen lined up. In addition, thousands walked and/or ran.[3]

Industry which now plays an important role in this southern Kansas town, first made its appearance with the construction of two steel barges for navigation on the Arkansas River in 1886. Those were the days when steamers plied the Arkansas between Arkansas City and Fort Smith carrying as much as 100,000 pounds of Kansas flour on every trip. At the turn of the century, Arkansas City was a rival to Wichita in size and enterprise, boasting several busy rail lines, an elegant opera house, numerous fine hotels, a manufacturing base and a bustling agricultural economy.[3] There was even a famous health spa at nearby Geuda Springs, served by an electric railway running a triangular route from there to Ark City and Winfield. A popular swimming hole called Paris Lake was located west of downtown; the lake — and the hot springs at Geuda as well — was mired with silt in a flood in around 1919. Nearly 20 years later the WPA would build the Paris Park pool in the same spot.[1]

Ark City’s illustrious history includes a Kansas Governor, Robert Docking, and two federal judges. By heritage its residents are not afraid of work – a healthy, strong, industrious people that welcome the opportunity to prove to everyone that they are welcome in Arkansas City, Kansas.[3]


  • 1872-Arkansas City delegates traveled Emporia by stagecoach, to urge railways to track to Arkansas City.
  • 1878-The first fire-station was constructed.
  • 1879-The first train arrived on Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.
  • 1883-The first telephones were put in use.
  • 1884-Chilocco Indian School opened.
  • 1885-The city started laying pipes for city waterworks.
  • 1886-The first property annexation took place. The south east 40 acres of the far Henry Endicott was taken into the Town company.
  • 1890-The first bridge was built over Walnut River. The city started macadamizing the streets. The city started laying the first sewer lines.
  • 1892-The Arkansas City Gas and Light company offered to furnish the City with twelve streetlights.
  • 1893-Boom days. The Cherokee Strip land rush took place on September 12.
  • 1902-The first auto appeared. (Owned by William Rowan.)
  • 1903-Heneberry Packing Company opened.
  • 1907-Electricity replaced mules on city trolley.
  • 1908-Purity Cafe opened at 309 South Summit. Public Library opened. Paris Park created.
  • 1909-Salvation Army organized in Arkansas City.
  • 1910-Oil is discovered in Cowley County Arkansas City Population is 7,508.
  • 1911-First Chautauqua was held.
  • 1914-Wilson Park Rotunda built.
  • 1915-Arkansas City Country Club founded.
  • 1917-America enters into World War I.
  • 1918-World War I ends. Purity Cafe bought by Gochis Brothers.
  • 1919-American Legion Post 18 started.
  • 1920-Arkansas City Population is 11,253. Construction started on Osage Hotel.
  • 1923-Flood.
  • 1924-Burford Theater opened.
  • 1925-Gas Service Company started using natural gas. Farmers State Bank robbed of $75,000. Explosion at Millikin Refinery killed two men.
  • 1926-First Arkalalah.
  • 1927-Helium was discovered in Dexter. Spencer-Ralston V.F.W. Post 1254 founded.
  • 1935-Dust bowl days arrived.
  • 1936-Auditorium-Gymnasium opened.
  • 1938-Purity Cafe moved to north of Home National Bank.
  • 1940-Strother Army Air Force field was started. Norman Austin pioneered frozen foods with Zero Lockers.
  • 1941-Maurer-Neuer bought Keefe-LeStourgeon Packing Co.
  • 1942-Acton Manufacturing started.
  • 1945-World War II ended.  Strother Army Air Force field was deactivated. The properties were turned over to Arkansas City and Winfield jointly.  Fairchild Aircraft was the first commercial tenant.
  • 1946-Arkansas City purchases Mercy Hospital.  Kiwanis hold first Pancake feed at Arkaialah.
  • 1947-Deibel's started cafe downtown on Summit Street.
  • 1951-General Electric started operation at Strother Field.
  • 1952-Arkansas City experienced its first earthquake.
  • 1955-Skyline Corporation started producing mobile homes.
  • 1957-Deibel's restaurant moved to North Summit Street.
  • 1958-City builds first Sewage Treatment Plant.
  • 1960-John Morrell and Company acquired Maurer-Neuer Meat Packers.
  • 1964-Middle School opened.
  • 1965-Spooksville was started.
  • 1966-Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum opened.
  • 1968-Purity Cafe burned down.
  • 1970-January 1. Arkansas City High School band played in the Rose bowl parade and the announcer mispronounced the name.
  • 1971-APCO refinery fire.
  • 1973-City builds Water Treatment plant.
  • 1980-Chilocco Indian School closed.
  • 1981-School District sells Auditorium-Gymnasium to Cowley County Community College.
  • 1982-John Morrell Packing Co. closed.
  • 1983-Ark City Packing Co. opened. New Senior High School opened.
  • 1989-Ark City Packing Co. closed


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