|City/Town: • Central Kansas • Elgin|
|Location Class: • Church • Commercial • Disappearing Towns • Government|
|Built: • 1869 | Abandoned: • N/A|
|Status: • Endangered • Disappearing Towns|
|Photojournalist: • Emily Cowan • Johnny Fletcher|
Table of Contents
Elgin was founded in 1869 by Lyman P. Getman, with one of the earliest most prominent families in the town coming a few months later. That being the family of Romulus (Rome) Hanks, cousin of Abraham Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks. He died in 1879 and is buried in the Elgin Cemetery. Lyman was given the postmaster position after the post office was established on February 27, 1870, and discontinued on July 30, 1976. Lyman owned a store in the nearby town of Sedan, Kansas, and established the first store called “Wade & Getman” in the fall of 1870 in the new town. The Atchison, Topeka and Sante Fe railroad established a station at Elgin in 1890. It was a station of importance due to it having a direct connecting line with Chicago, Galveston, and San Fransisco. This made Elgin a giant port of trading and cattle shipping, which helped grow the town quickly. It held many firsts for Chautauqua County including the first school, church, and sawmill. Businesses in Elgin consisted of a flour mill, five general merchandise and hardware stores, two livery stables, and nine saloons, and others such as a barber, physician, and surgeons, etc. The first newspaper the Elgin Clipper established in March of 1891 and edited by A.W. Collins.
It surged in residents and businesses over the next twenty years becoming the largest shipping point of southern cattle and an entrepot for the Osage Nation. In 1905 Eugene Hayes and R.W. Black established the first and only cattle plant dipping station at Elgin using Texas crude oil. Right after its completion, the plant dipped two thousand southern cattle in one day. Cattle dipping was meant to remove harmful insects, especially ticks that could carry diseases or kill cattle. Eugene H. attempted to use Kansas crude oil but was denied by the government, they insisted it be Texas crude oil. “I have tried for some time, to get the Secretary of the Interior to allow me to use Kansas crude oil, but he refused. I do not know why unless he thinks that the sulfur in the Texas oil is more effective,” said Mr. Hayes. By the early 1910s, the cattle shipping industry in Elgin had pretty much dried up. Once many of the pastures used by the Elgin stockyards were given to members of the Osage Tribe and the railroads had expanded well into Oklahoma creating closer ports for the southern cattle to be shipped out from. The town gracefully but reluctantly stepped down from her position which she held for so long as the “Cattle Capital of the World.”
Oil was discovered in Elgin in 1902 and soon the Black Well was erected producing around fifty barrels a day to start. The prospect of oil in Elgin caused another boom in residents and businesses for Elgin. By 1914 it had surged to around eighty-five barrels per day with multiple wells and a new refining company in the talks. By 1920 The Elgin Oil Refining Company had been organized to operate a 1,500 barrel-a-day unit refinery. Harned Bros drilled four wells in 1930 on the Wynona lease southwest of the town where all of them were producing 109 barrels per day. By the end of the 1930s, the oil boom had fizzled out and with the onset of the Great Depression, the town began a slow painful decline over the next 30-40 years. And although its new nickname is “The Town Too Tough to Die” the decline of Elgin is undisputable.
Elgin State Bank
Built: 1901 Abandoned: 1932
Elgin State Bank was founded and built in the summer of 1901, becoming a very big part of the growing town handling business for thirty years. The abandoned bank has gathered a few stories including bank robbery and embezzlement. The bank closed for liquidation in 1932 being as the bank was doing an unprofitable amount of business. It was hoped that conditions would improve but the continued withdrawals of funds made a death sentence for the Elgin State Bank. The bank was turned over to the Deputy Bank Commissioner and the bank expected to pay all depositors in full in a short time. “The officers and directors have worked hard on our bank and their efforts have been appreciated by the community. The loss from the town will be keenly felt. Perhaps some people could have helped more than they did, but the cause of the closing was in the main part, the condition of the times,” said a resident.
The Weekly Times-Star 11 July 1902
Attempted Bank Robbery; Sheriff Taylor Saves Elgin Bank from Robbery
Six men now in jail and as many more suspects at large. John Swinney, Isaac Swinney, Lane Swinney, Tom Swinney, Geo. Niblock and Robert Niblock all lay in the Chautauqua Co. jail charged with attempting to rob the Elgin State Bank. Besides these men, Bill West, Chas. Clark, Chas. Smith, “Indian Joe,” Od Swinney and “Shorty Bill,” 0r Reed are still at large and wanted for the same crime. According to the facts gained by the officers in the disclosure of the plot it was one of the best arranged crimes ever contemplated in the country. For months the gang has been arranging and plotting until the time should be ripe, but not until last Sunday night did they make up their minds to carry into execution their diabolical work. The men under arrest were arraigned before a justice of the peace C.M. Ellis Tuesday evening and their preliminary hearing set for Wednesday, July 16 and their bond placed at $1,000 each. The history of the discovery of the plot goes back several months. For several years Sheriff Taylor has suspected the Swinney outfit of being apart of an organized gang of horse and cattle thieves, but could not get his clutches on them. But last winter Taylor got the chance to arrest Od Swinney for a minor crime -petty larceny- and had him in jail for several weeks. At the time Frank Pendarvis was in jail on a charge of forgery. He had shown a disposition on helping the officers and so Taylor took him out and talked to him explaining that he thought Swinney was apart of the gang of robbers and that he would like for him to get “next” to him if he could. Swinney too Pendarvis into his confidence and told him that the gang was then contemplating a bank robbery and unless they could find an expert “safe cracker” they would have to make a “daylight hold up” of the job.
The Ottawa Herald 17 June 1922
Elgin Bank Robbers Held Cashier 12 Hours, Taking Him to Oklahoma
Bartlesville, Okla.,– D.R. Hall, cashier of the Elgin State Bank was liberated early today on a lonely rod three miles south of Okesa, Okla., after being for more than 12 hours the prisoner of two men who yesterday held up the Elgin State Bank and forced him to accompany them in their dash for safety with $1,500 in cash and an undetermined amount of Liberty bonds. Hall walked to Okesa and telephoned Sheriff Henderson here, whereupon a posse was immediately formed and set out with the expectation that Hall might furnish information which would lead to the capture of the bank robbers. Hall was not harmed by his abductors, he told local authorities. Anxiety was felt here for the safety of Hall. He was last seen in the bandit var when a posse attempted to engage the fugitives between Bartlesville and Pawhuska. The bandits opened fire on the posse but the fire was not returned for fear of hitting Hall. Some distance from that point the bandits abandoned their car. It was later found by the posse but there was no trace of Hall. Hall and his wife were forced by the bandits to enter the car after the bank had been looted. Mrs. Hall was thrown out, however, about 5 miles from Elgin.
The County Liner and Cedar Vale Commercial 06 October 1922
Elgin Bank Robber Captured–Dick Gregg Identified by Cashier Hall as One of the Desperadoes
One of the pair of bad men who robbed the Elgin State Bank several months ago, was arrested near Pawhuska and positively identified by Cashier Hall and other men who saw him on the day of the bold robbery. He refused to come to Kansas without requisition papers and is in the Pawhuska jail, where he will remain until Sheriff Powell obtains the necessary documents. It will be remembered that two men robbed the bank and as a matter of protection took Cashier Hall and wife with them on their mad dash for liberty in a Ford runabout. Mrs. Hall was released about five miles south of Elgin and was instructed to tell the following posse not to follow too closely or they would kill her husband. They kept Mr. Hall with them nearly all night, Mr. Hall said the posse was so near them once that he could hear them talking, but he was told not to let out a cry or he would be murdered.
The Fredonia Weekly Herald 27 April 1923
$40,000 EMBEZZLEMENT CAUSES 2 BANKS TO CRASH — Cashier Keeps Deficit Hidden For Two Years – Disclosures Made Causes Both Banks To Close CHAUTAUQUA BANK CLOSES
With Closing of Elgin State Bank Yesterday Chautauqua State Bank Goes to Wall This Morning
Topeka, April 26- As a result of the closing yesterday of the Elgin State Bank, the Chautauqua State Bank went down in a crash today when the state bank commissioner, Carl J. Peterson, ordered it closed. J.R. Burns, the cashier of the bank closed yesterday was president of the bank ordered to close today. Both institutions are in Chautauqua County near the Oklahoma border, seven miles apart. Although J.R. Burns, cashier of the Elgin State Bank had successfully concealed from the state bank examiners for the past two years a defalcation of $40,000, he decided to make a complete confession of his misdeed. He came to Topeka today, laid his story before State Bank Commissioner Carl Peterson, declared his willingness to return home and enter a plea of guilty of embezzlement and do what he can to make up the shortage. Commissioner Peterson ordered the bank to close and assigned a deputy bank examiner to accompany Burns back to Caney, the county seat, where according to Commissioner Peterson, Burns will be arraigned in court probably tomorrow. Examiners at once will go over the bank’s books and ascertain the exact status. Whether there are losses in addition to the $40,000 will not be known until the examination is completed. Burns stated that for two years he has been endeavoring to refund the bank, but has failed. The money, he stated was used as a personal loan to a contractor who was unable to repay him. Burns chose to make the revelation today, he said, because a state bank examiner was due to arrive on Friday. Four previous examinations failed to uncover the shortage. The bank had deposits of $200,000, was capitalized at $25,000, and surplus $5,000. It is possible that arrangements can be made to re-open the bank without liquidation, it was said. Elgin State Bank is under the protection of the state guarantee fund.
Olive Lodge No. 350 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons
Built in 1905 the Olive Lodge No. 350 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons served Elgin for decades. Records show a few Master’s of Olive Lodge being Chester C. Houston, who came to Elgin in 1892, being the Master of the Olive Lodge in its early years and H.C. Bowhan in the ’20s. It seems at least in its early years that the first floor was the lodge and the upper floor was a living quarter according to a snippet from a newspaper below.
The Weekly Times-Star March 12, 1909 “sell to the highest bidder for cash in hand, lot eleven in block twelve of Carpenter’s addition to the town of Elgin, together with the lower story of the stone building situated thereon and all the appurtenances thereunto belonging, subject, however to the rights of Olive Lodge No. 350 as created by a lease and right to maintain the upper story subject also to a mortgage of $400 to Alexander Bryan. All of the property is duly appraised at the sum of $1,550.”
In December 1930 a contract was given to C.C. Houston by the lodge to have their rooms repapered and repainted. Artist E.C. Puckett was hired to also work on the project of sprucing up the lodge rooms. The Olive Lodge had regular meetings and held ceremonies for new Master Masons. The Elgin Journal Nov. 3, 1921, On Wednesday afternoon and night of last week the Lodge completed the work that made Master Masons of Carl Fuhs, Allen Clinkscales, David McCorkle, and Darrell Shinn. In order to show everybody a good time the lodges at Sedan, Cedar Vale, and Caney were invited to participate in the work and they accepted a hundred of them and everybody enjoyed themselves.
Elgin Lodge No. 350 is making preparations to entertain their Brother Masons at their annual meet on Monday October 15, and at their stated communication on Wednesday, October 3rd they desire every member of the lodge to be present if possible. We understand the Eastern Star Lodge will serve another of their fine six o’clock dinners on the 15th and every Mason in the county knows they are fine, and the officers want to urge upon the membership to be present on Wednesday night of next week so that all arrangments will be complete.
Members of the lodge would attend elections in December to elect new officers for the new year. Officers appointed by Olive Lodge No. 350 for the year of 1932 included: Charles H. Anderson as Worshipful Master, F.E Barnett as Senior Warden, E.E. Shipley as Junior Warden, Frank Potter as Treasurer, J.V. Fralick as Secretary, Frank Revelette as Senior Deacon, George E. Hessert as Junior Deacon, and George Rucker as Tylor. The lodge disbanded and transferred to the Vesper-Olive Lodge #136 in Sedan.
Elgin Grace Episcopal Church
Built: 1905 Abandoned: 1956
The Elgin Grace Episcopal Church was an abandoned store in 1904 when eight women who didn’t have a place to worship saw a vision. The Bishop offered $50 towards the purchase of the building, over the next year and a half the building underwent $600 in renovations and updating. The date 1905 was engraved above the door, six arched windows were installed and the inside was fully renovated. On March 09, 1906, at 10 a.m. the Elgin Episcopal Church conducted a wonderful Consecration service. Within a few weeks, the congregation had grown to seventeen adults and eight children baptized. Rev. R.C. Talbot, the Rector in charge, held service once a month and a Sunday School every Sunday. The church dissolved in 1956 and members transferred to other neighborhood churches or the Episcopal Church in nearby Sedan. The Grace Episcopal Church was sold in 1962 and used as hay storage.
Many of the buildings on the downtown strip have fallen to the ground or into extreme disrepair. Only three original buildings dating back to the early 1900s still stand at the time of this article being written. The downtown strip sits on Grand Avenue and grand it is, featuring a large and wide brick road.
Geo Rucker General Merchandise
Built:~1908 Status: Demolished
Geo. Rucker General Merchandise and Dry Goods was presumably built around 1908 when George Rucker was prominent in Elgin. In November 1909 George Rucker Dry Goods & Groceries was listed as one of the businesses in Elgin. Although little is known about the store itself George “Geo” Rucker was most well known for the trouble he caused that would oftentimes end up displayed in the local papers. The Freemans Lance 15 Aug 1894, reported “Last week James Rucker, L.L. Crossfield, and George Rucker were arrested by the U.S. Marshall for selling whiskey to the Indians. The trial took place in Independence. The Indians were not acquainted with those men and no evidence was found so the court had to release the parties.” Just a year later Geo. Rucker and his brother got into a true Wild West shootout.
The Freemans Lance 28 Feb. 1895 got the story, “Last week a telegram was received by the Sheriff calling him to Elgin at once, as things were in a chaotic state there. One of the Rucker boys who got in a row with Bob Register, claiming he was selling Boone Hampton, whom George was on his bond, too much whiskey. This was denied by Register and taken as an insult. Rucker now expressed himself in a language more forcible than elegant and was willing to back it up with his gun. Register got his gun and as Rucker was coming back when he got in front of the Hudson House firing begun-Register being in front of the Lawson Hotel. James Rucker also took a hand and the bullets flew thick and fast, as both hotels bear evidence of the fact. The only damage done to anyone is to George Rucker who was shot in the leg. They had their preliminary trial before Justice Wait who bound Geo. Rucker and Register over to the district court bond being fixed at $500 each. There was not sufficient evidence to hold James Rucker.”
George Rucker was arrested again on charges of selling liquor on Sept. 30, 1915, by Sheriff Powell and was released on a bond of $500. But it was in 1902 when Rucker and his wife went to Independence that the businessman and criminal saw the fate for Elgin. Saying that “Elgin has lost all chance for another railroad and as soon as the proposed roads are put through the reservation south of there, the noted shipping point for cattle will be a thing of the past.”
Built:~1908 Abandoned: 1993
The building itself is one of 3 remaining in the downtown strip. The last business that resided inside was Margaret’s Cafe, which was the last business in Elgin, sporting a sign with the towns’ motto reading “Elgin A Town Too Tough To Die”. Before it was Margaret’s Cafe it was simply Elgin Cafe that opened up in 1962. Ran by Margaret and Leonard Roberts, Margaret was well known for her home-style cooking, hospitality, and homemade desserts. Next door to the Cafe was a museum storefront, the Roberts lived upstairs. “I seem to recall a pair of chaps purported to be Belle Star’s. I best remember the huge head of a black longhorn steer mounted over the doorway. The plaque stated his name as “Blackie” and that he had roamed the surrounding hills for many years,” said Shawn Adley. The cafe walls were covered in old newspapers and photographs depicting the town’s rich history, it was a stopping point for all visitors.
Elgin Historical Museum
Built: ~1908 Abandoned: 1995
“James Shirley Brim was instrumental in establishing the Elgin Historical Museum that stood next to the Margret’s Café. It opened its doors on July 4, 1965, during Elgin’s Homecoming and Reunion Celebration. The museum closed its doors in 1995 following a public auction of its contents,” said Jim Chase, a local historian.
Galleries Below Click Thumbnails to View Gallery of Each Building
“2 Jan 1930, 1 – The Elgin Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420148265/?terms=oil%2Belgin.
“2 Jun 1905, 1 – The Weekly Times-Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/419087169/?terms=oil%2BElgin.
“20 Jul 1870, 2 – The Lawrence Tribune at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/488824872/?terms=rome%2Belgin.
“20 Nov 1891, 2 – The Cedar Vale Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/419595482/?terms=railroad%2BElgin.
“22 Nov 1928, 1 – The Elgin Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420146930/?terms=cattle%2Bshipping%2Bslows%2BElgin.
“25 Mar 1871, Page 2 – Fort Scott Daily Monitor at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/58308303/?terms=L%2BP%2BGetman%2BElgin.
“27 Feb 1914, 1 – Cedar Vale Commercial at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/366796527/?terms=oil%2BElgin.
“28 Mar 1920, 10 – The Morning News at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/365849265/?terms=oil%2BElgin.
“7 Apr 1905, 1 – The Freeman’s Lance at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/366812773/?terms=oil%2BElgin.
“7 Mar 1891, 4 – The Elgin Clipper at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420151094/?terms=railroad%2BElgin.
“7 Oct 1904, 6 – The Weekly Times-Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/419095600/?terms=oil%2BElgin.
“Kansas : a Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. : Blackmar, Frank W. (Frank Wilson), 1854-1931 : Free Download, Borrow, and Streaming : Internet Archive.” Internet Archive, archive.org/details/bub_gb_o8X5krq3fP8C/page/n567/mode/2up?q=elgin.
“Kansas Post Offices, 1828-1961.” Home – Kansas Historical Society, www.kshs.org/geog/geog_postoffices/search/county:CQ.
“11 Dec 1930, 1 – The Elgin Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420148827/?terms=elgin%2Bmasonic%2Blodge.
“11 Jul 1902, 3 – The Weekly Times-Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/367183038/?terms=elgin%2Bbank%2Brob.
“12 Mar 1909, 2 – The Weekly Times-Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/381944912/?terms=elgin%2Bolive%2Blodge.
“14 Dec 1922, 1 – The Elgin Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420147585/?terms=elgin%2Bolive%2Blodge.
“21 Jan 1932, 1 – The Elgin Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420149417/?terms=elgin%2Bolive%2Blodge.
“27 Apr 1923, 1 – The Fredonia Weekly Herald at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420587031/?terms=elgin%2Bstate%2Bbank.
“27 Sep 1928, 1 – The Elgin Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420146743/?terms=elgin%2Bmason%2Blodge.
“3 Nov 1921, 1 – The Elgin Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420155489/?terms=elgin%2Bmason%2Blodge.
“6 Oct 1922, 1 – The County Liner and Cedar Vale Commercial at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/419638350/?terms=elgin%2Bbank%2Brobber.
“7 Apr 1932, 1 – The Elgin Journal at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/420149567/?terms=elgin%2Bbank%2Bclose.
“A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans.” Google Books, books.google.com
“15 Aug 1894, 3 – The Freeman’s Lance at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/366750640/?terms=george%2Brucker%2Bdry%2Bgoods%2Belgin.
“28 Feb 1895, 3 – The Freeman’s Lance at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, newspapers.com/image/366752430/?terms=geo%2Brucker%2Bgeneral%2Belgin.
“29 Nov 1902, Page 4 – Independence Daily Reporter at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/92405816/?terms=geo%2Brucker%2Belgin.
“30 Sep 1915, 1 – The Sedan Times-Star at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/419870198/?terms=geo%2Brucker%2Belgin.
“23 Mar 1906, 1 – Cedar Vale Commercial at Newspapers.com.” Newspapers.com, www.newspapers.com/image/366712533/?terms=episcopal%2Bchurch%2Belgin.
“Flickr Search — “elgin”.” Flickr, www.flickr.com/search/?user_id=27621820%40N06&view_all=1&text=elgin.
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