Early Hoisington Life
A petition was presented to the Board of County Commissioners of Barton County asking that Hoisington be made a city of the Third Class. The commissioners approved the petition and set the election for December 6, 1887. The first election was held in the offices of the Central Kansas Town Company.
The first council consisted of Alex Dennis, George A. Orr, S. Boxwell and John Barreiras. The police judge elected was A.H. Baker. The vote for mayor resulted in a tie between E.M. Carr and P. Johnston. Both received 76 votes. The winner by lot was E.M. Carr.
One of the early accomplishments of the city was the building of a Y.M.C.A. which was constructed between 1902 and 1903. The new Y was dedicated on March 17, 1903 with prominent railroad and Y.M.C.A. people present. A three piece band consisting of a trombone, bass drum and tuba lead a parade.
Helen Miller Gould of the railroad contributed an Aeolian or player piano and a library for the Y.M.C.A. A contest to recruit members was held with C.B. Jewell, chief dispatcher for the railroad, and J.H. Hartman, representing non-railroaders acting as chairmen. More than 500 members paid an annual membership of $5.00.
Located at Main and Railroad Streets, the Y, with its library, player piano and bath tubs with hot and cold water was the city's most popular spot for years.
J.E. Sponseller constructed Hoisington's first light plant in 1903. Arc lights were first used. Arc lights consisted of two sticks of carbon set perpendicular under a reflector. When current was turned on, the two carbons glowed where they touched and after jumping back and forth for several moments held their position and produced a glaring white light. These replaced oil burning lamp posts.
In 1904 the council called for a water works bond election. It passed by a 127 to 83 margin resulting in the issuance of $25,000 of bonds bearing 5% interest. This built the first water system and standpipe.
Hoisington, like most towns, had dirt streets, board sidewalks and flagstone crossings which were later changed to concrete crossings. They were mostly constructed by C.T. Hoagland, a retired Missouri-Pacific water service man. During wet times, Main Street became a mud-bog cut up by horses, buggies, carts and wagons.
The first paving consisted of brick on a concrete base and was laid on West Third Street in 1917. It was a controversial move with opponents claiming it was put widows in the poor house and the town in bankruptcy.
Hoisington was hit by a tornado on October 10, 1919. The tornado came out of the southwest shortly after 4:00 on that afternoon. The tornado killed Ellen Cravens, her baby and H.B. McCurdy. John Rearick was injured and later died as well. The tornado damaged the Y.M.C.A., destroyed many of the buildings on lower Main Street, then moved on to the northeast part of town damaging many homes. It also damaged some homes in the country northeast of town.
Early political fights were over orders to remove high racks from in front of stores, location of the post office, cutting down shade trees on Main Street, wet and dry issues, and school construction.
The first cars in Barton County were purchased by Charles Hall of Wheatland Township, John Beightle of Great Bend, and Ira Russell of Hoisington. Harry Mitchell, rural carrier on route 2, Hoisington, bought a Sears-Roebuck, high wheel, solid tire, chain drive and used it on his route for several years.
Hoisington residents organized a "town herd" during the early days. Boys were hired to round up all the cattle of the town each morning and take them to the Hennessey pasture northeast of the city and back each evening. As the herd entered the city each animal would branch off and head for her respective home. Town Herd Milk was 5 cents per quart or 25 quarts for $1.00. You furnished your own receptacle.
Jess Almond operated an early day hotel and equipped it with the first bath tub available to the public. Otherwise, citizens took weekly baths in a wash tub, behind a curtain.
The first school building within the city limits was a square 2-story building on the present site of the Roosevelt school. It was replaced with a 3-story brick building in 1902. Roy Rankin was principal in about 1907 when the building caught on fire. The school's janitor, Aunt Jane Hall, sounded the fire alarm by beating the steel triangle and all the children were outside the school before they even knew there was a fire. Before the fire department put the fire out, the building's roof was destroyed and was replaced with a new style roof.
A three-year high school was organized by J.J. Caldwell with its first graduation in 1904. With an enrollment of 292 students, teachers had particular trouble with some of the older students. To solve the problem, the school board hired a young and stout instructor, D.J. Lewis, who was ordered to "run the school or lose the job." Order was quickly brought to the school.
Entertainment during the city's early years was much different than today. No movie theaters, no cars, no radio or television; but instead there were one night shows and weekly stands at the opera house. The visiting medicine men would drive up the streets with a flourish and soon have a crowd around his carriage, dealing out cure-all herbs at $1.00 per bottle.
George Valerius operated a drug store on the corner of Second and Main and would gather a crowd by providing free music on his phonograph in the evenings. Soon Hoisington got its first movie theater with local girls hired to sing and play the piano during the movie.
Meeting passenger trains was also a popular entertainment. Train number 3 arrived in the evening and as many as 100 people would be at the depot to greet it.
Many of the top entertainers of the day performed in the opera house. Hypnotism shows were also popular. Hoisington being a railroad town, Brotherhood dances were popular and were presented regularly by the different rail workers organizations.
A balloon ascension was a popular event during outdoor celebrations. It called for the assistance of about 15 people to dig a hole in which the fire was kindled, over which the gas bag was held by willing hands. Coal oil was thrown on the fire to fill the balloon with hot air. The aeronaut would sit on a trapeze bar and when the balloon was released both he and the balloon would shoot into the air.
One of the last jumps made in Hoisington was from the corner of Second and Main by Dave Else. Dave cut loose when about 2,000 feet in the air. He knew he was a little heavy for the parachute and as he landed several blocks east on First Street, he raised his legs, but instead landed on one hip which was broken.
One bank robbery occurred in Hoisington. The First National Bank was the oldest bank in Barton County. Pretty Boy Floyd and his gang robbed the bank of more than $2,500 in bonds and money. C.P. Munns and M.W. Bennett were operating the bank at the time and were made to lie on the floor, face down, as the gang made their get-a-way.
Hoisington Historical Society
For more information on Hoisington's history, contact the Hoisington Historical Society. You can pay them a visit at the Hoisington Historical Museum at 120 E. Second St. or check out their website for additional information: