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Almena, Kansas

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from collection of Ardie Grimes

"But Not What We Will Have"

2 Auctioneers 6 Insurance Agents
2 Banks 1 Jewelry Store
1 Barber Shop 2 Livery Stables
1 Blacksmith Shop 1 Library
1 Bakery 2 Lumber Yards
3 Cream Buyers 1 Music Store
Cattle Buyers 2 Meat Markets
Carpenters 2 Millinery Stores
4 Churches 1 Newspaper
2 Drug Stores 1 Oculist
2 Dentists 1 Photograph Gallery
4 Elevators 1 Poultry Store
2 Furniture Stores 1 Plumber
1 Feed Store 3 Physicians
2 General Stores 3 Restaurants
1 Grocery Store 1 Racket Store
2 Hotels 4 Real Estate Agents
1 Hay Dealer 2 Railroads
2 Harness Shops 1 Suitatorium
3 Hardware Stores 2 Telephone Systems
1 High School and Common School 1 Transfer Line
1 Ice Cream Factory

Almena Plaindealer, 25 March 1909


My Home Town Almena

The following story was written by Armida Gishwiller, 14 year old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Louis Gishwiller. She is in the eighth grade of the Almena schools under the tutelage of Mrs. Truda Hamilton. We think it is a very creditable piece of work. Mrs. Hamilton is having her pupils do considerable writing which is excellent training. The Plaindealer is glad to help the school children by printing their stories. Others will be printed later.

Almena is nestled in the fertile Prairie Dog valley. It is in the northeastern part of Norton county in the northwestern part of Kansas.

For the time being let us imagine that we are standing on the "Standpipe Hill," to the south of our little city. Observing here we see the roofs of the many buildings half hidden by the numerous trees, for our town, as a western town, is indeed blessed with many trees. The winding Prairie Dog stream with the aid of two railroads divides the town in two parts. As we look to the southward we see many acres of grazing land but as our gaze moves inward to the east, north and west we discover broad fields of corn, wheat and alfalfa broken only by a few highways and groups of farm houses.

To appreciate the value of our little city we must turn back a leaf and learn something of its early history. Almena received its name from Mrs. Mary Hall in 1872, who being homesick, named it in remembrance of her old home in Almena, MI.  There was a post office, store, boarding house and other small buildings built in what is now South Almena. The post office was established in the Jim Hall home and Mr. Hall was made the first postmaster.  The first frame house was a mere shanty, ten feet by ten feet built by James Odell for bachelors quarters and a boarding house for land seekers.  The Richard’s, father and son, had the first store in Almena in a lean-to addition to the boarding house.  They had a variety of things, but not much of anything.  John Bartles had the first blacksmith shop in Almena.

The town was moved in 1886 north of the creek where only a few years before the poles that were used for setting up teepees of the Indians were still standing. The land east of Main Street had been used for the dumping grounds of the Indians and for curing buffalo hides. There were no trees only along the creek. The coming of the railroad marked the beginning of many changes. The Lincoln Land Company bought of Charles Lough and Rube Stevens the valley land and had the town platted. The railway working with the Lincoln Land Co. offered the two merchants and blacksmith across the creek free lots in the new town if they would agree to move. They accepted the offer and in this manner the new town had its beginning and grew very rapidly until today it is one of the most progressive towns of the west.

Almena has a population of over six hundred. It has two general mercantile stores owned by G. H. Eckhart and Son, and Smith & Clark; one clothing store owned by E. E. Keckley and Son who have been in business for over thirty years.  Their store is one of the best men’s clothing stores in the west for a town of this size. There is an exclusive grocery store owned by M. P. Ward & Son.   Frank Whitaker owns and runs one of the most modern up-to-day barber shops in the west.  There are two hardware stores owned by Wolf & Kingham and D. C. Sevier, one drug store owned and operated by R. W. FairchildMrs. Voight owns a variety and millinery store, Mr. Morris owns a furniture store and the undertaking parlors.  There are two café’s owned by Nedrow’s and Mrs. Peterson, which afford comfortable eating places.  E. M. Gishwiller and Howard Reddick operate the butcher shops.  There are two banks, State and First National, four creameries, and one Farmer’s Union Store.  Mrs. Ray Johnson and Nina and Fern Van Winkle conduct the telephone exchanges, the Central State and the Farmers Richard Lindsey and Orth Arnold own blacksmith shops, there are three garages, Tellesen Bros., Wray Bros., and Shelton’s and also an authorized Ford service station operated by Mr. Bartholomew.  Recently a new planing mill and a Kozy Klosure factory was installed by Maurice Brown. The Foster Lumber yard is managed by Mr. Timmons.  There are four elevators which accommodate the farmers.  Our sick are cared for by three doctors, D. A. Bennie, Herbert Bennie and W. W. Scott.   There are two real estate offices and two law offices.  Mr. Jordan runs the city bakery and Mr. J. L. Fearing owns the photo gallery which is among the best in Kansas.  Mr. J. A. M. Young owns the harness shop and Mr. Montgomery manages the hotel.

Otto Hempler runs a city confectionery, George Blackwood the feed store and Philip Grout is our accommodating post master. The city draying is done by the Dixon Dray line, Kent service station and distributing station and the Standard Oil service and distribution station are located in our town.

Almena is connected with the rest of the world by means of the Rock Island and Burlington railroads and the Pikes Peak highway and the Axtell, Alma and Almena highway which connects the O L D with the Pikes Peak road.

There are four churches in Almena. The Methodist church which was recently built is a beautiful brick structure which cost around $20,000 and is one of the finest church buildings in the county. The parsonage is one of the most modern and beautiful homes in Almena and cost around $6,000. The Congregational, which was rebuilt a few years ago, the Free Methodist and the Church of God are the other churches.

Almena has several organizations such as the clubs, six lodges, American Legion Post, named Paul Linnell Post, on account of Paul being the first from Almena to die across the ocean.  There is also an organization called the Civic League.  There is a public library which affords all kinds of reading for young and old people which is open every Tuesday evening and on Saturday afternoons.  A weekly newspaper is published by Charles Rose, The Plaindealer, whose name alone indicates its motto.

Almena affords many places of amusements such as the Lyric Theatre which shows pictures four nights a week, other entertainments are also given in the theater building. Almena has a city park or rather a camping ground near the bridge which crosses the Prairie Dog Creek, and affords a pleasure for the tourists.  Opposite the city park on the south side of the creek is the baseball diamond with a grandstand for people looking on. South of town on Mose Cole’s farm above Eagle Point are the golf links, which afford plenty of exercises for Almena’s gout complaining citizens.

Almena has a large cemetery about 2 miles west of town.  The name is Mt. Hope. The land was given by J. A. Gishwiller and contains six acres. The first to be buried in the cemetery was Charles Gishwiller in 1883.

There are many beautiful and modern homes in Almena.  Many homes have now installed radios.  Almena has a municipal water and electric plant.  Nearly every home in Almena uses electric lights and city water.  We have many miles of water main and in 1922 the city installed a modern and sanitary sewer system.

Almena boasts of more cement sidewalks than any other town its size in the state of Kansas.  No doubt most of Almena’s growth and modern development should be accredited to Dr. A. Bennie who was a former Mayor of our town for many years.

Last but not least we have one of the best schools in the vicinity.  It is a brick building part of which was built in 1888 and the last part in 1907.  It is a grade school and high school combined with about two hundred and seventy-five pupils, and hundred and seventy-five in the grade school and one hundred in high school.  There are baseball, basketball and volleyball court and other playground equipment such as slides, teeters, swings and trapezes.  We also have a pretty lawn in front with trees surrounding the ground.  There are six teachers in the grade school and six in high school.  The building is well equipped with electric lights and hot and cold water.

The Almena people are greatly interested in education and at present are constructing a fine high school building which will be the largest and finest building in town.  It is a $65,000 construction located about four blocks west of Main Street.  We hope it will be finished in time for graduation exercises this spring.

Armida Gishwiller
Almena Plaindealer, 24 January 1924

©March 2001  Ardie Grimes
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Last Updated 09 July 2001