Summerfield Sisters
Once upon a time in old Summerfield.

Constructing a Community

      Trains were running to Summerfield from Kansas City over 139 2/3 miles of rail, carrying materials for the railroad and lumber for the lumberyards.  After the track was finally completed, the first train from Kansas City arrived on Wednesday, February 6, 1889, bringing material for Russell & Shutt, lumber merchants.  The next day, 20 carloads of lumber came in for the Trekell lumber company.  Owner and operator Trekell had come to Summerfield from Courtland, Neb.  George McCulloch was also hauling lumber from Axtell by wagon.

      G. A. J. Moss of Mission Creek wanted to be the first person sending a load of cattle to market on the new Wyandotte Line.  During the second week of February, Fred Door sold the initial carload of the large 1888 corn harvest leaving the Summerfield station over the new railroad.  On Saturday, February 9, the Wyandotte agent at Axtell, also temporarily handling business for the new townsite depot to the northwest, took in $1,200 for shipments by customers at Summerfield.  Freight hauled the distance from Kansas City cost 25 cents per hundred pounds.  In early February, electrical wire for the new telegraph line was strung to provide instant communication between Axtell and Summerfield.

      By mid-February, the O'Neil brothers had transported a set of scales to Summerfield for their new elevator.  Daniel Swartout of Mission Creek let the contract for a new store building before dividing stock in the firm of Swartout & Miller.  Several businesses had already advertised in the new newspaper on Valentine's Day, February 14.  They were:
    Kansas City, Wyandotte & Northwestern Railroad
    Trekell Lumber Company
    J. H. Moore & Son, General Merchandise
    H. H. Lourey & Co., Groceries, Clothing, Boots & Shoes
    Smiley & McLennan, Pioneer Store
    Hord & McGinty, General Merchandise
    Weuster & Thomann, Drugs and Medicine (not yet open)
    T. Hutton, General Blacksmithing, Horseshoeing and Carriage Work
    Summerfield Livery and Feed Stable
    Beach & Son, Meat Market
    C. W. Reynolds, General Blacksmithing
    I. Jay Nichols, Real Estate and Loan Office
    Louis Stoll, Auctioneer
    J. A. Fisher & Co., Carpenters and Builders
    C. A. Gardner, Star Restaurant
    Russell & Shutt, Lumber and Coal
    I. Jay Nichols, Hardware, Stoves, Tinware, Farm Implements, Windmills, Pumps

      C. W. Reynolds was operating the Excelsior blacksmith shop on south Main, and Tom Hutton had the Climax shop on north Main.  The Buffman brothers moved Mission Creek's only blacksmith shop to Summerfield and named it the Challenge.

      Back in 1855, Richard G. Cunningham was born in New York, the third of James and Mary Cunningham's eight children.  Leaving his widowed mother's Illinois home in 1878, he went to Marysville, Kan., and worked ten years for L. W. Libby selling agricultural implements.  Afterward, Libby helped him get started in business at Summerfield.

      The popular newcomer was building a general merchandise store, and would later serve as Summerfield's first mayor.  Three years earlier, in 1885, Cunningham had married an Illinois schoolmate, Malina J. Stoll, who had relocated in 1878 with her parents, H. C. and Barbara Stoll, to Beatrice, Neb.  Malina and Richie Cunningham would spend many happy days in Summerfield with their two children.

      Mrs. S. L. Davis and Mrs. J. A. Gilchrist of Seneca, whose husbands were Summerfield grain dealers in addition to having business interests elsewhere, were the very first lady passengers riding the railroad to the new town.  John S. Smiley was appointed the first postmaster as the new post office officially opened on Monday, February 11.  Also in February, workmen were drilling a water well intended to supply the trains one mile south of Summerfield.  The walls of the excavated hole crumbled inward but no one was injured in the accident.

      Charles A. Jewitt, former chief clerk to A. S. Dodge, was named general freight agent the previous fall after Dodge vacated the position to go with the "Katy," the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroad company.  Also performing as general passenger agent, Jewitt accompanied other railroad officials, Newman Erb, general manager, Elias Summerfield, general superintendent, Frank Matthews, chief engineer, and B. L. Brown, assistant engineer, to Summerfield on Tuesday, February 12.

      Along in the group were S. L. Davis, contractor, attorneys Simon Conwell and Abijah Wells, John P. Taylor of Seneca and Sam Beaty of Vermillion along with Edward Butt and Seneca Mayor Charles G. Scrafford, one of Seneca's founders 32 years earlier.  All went to Summerfield on the 80th anniversary of Lincoln's birthday to inspect the new town.

      Two days later, the railroad company advertised four daily trains running into Summerfield.  The line went from Kansas City, Mo., to Wyandotte (present day Kansas City, Kan.), Valley Falls, Tonganoxie, Oskaloosa, Holton, Circleville, Goffs (renamed Goff in 1894), Seneca, Baileyville, Axtell, and Summerfield.

      The regular trains started running on Monday, February 18.  The passenger trains were to start much later, on Sunday, May 27.  Charles H. Obear, previously agent at Seneca, came to operate the express office at the new depot, which was 24 ft. wide and 80 ft. long.  With freighting in regular operation by this time, Mr. Rosell shipped the first load of hogs to Kansas City on Friday, February 22, George Washington's 157th birthday.  Elias Summerfield was back in town on the last day of February to observe all the progress firsthand.

      Plans were set in March to build a water supply for the trains on A. B. Weed's farm south of Summerfield.  The 700 by 1000 ft. reservoir would be named Lake Elias, also in honor of the railroad superintendent who had already given his surname to the new town.

      Dr. D. M. Morrison, who lived at Mission Creek four years earlier, came to Summerfield from Chetopa, Kan.  He had graduated from Chicago Medical college.  Dr. J. H. Murphy left Barnes, Kan., and opened an office in Summerfield around the first of March.  Murphy had attended Rush Medical college in Chicago, Ill., and had lived in Blue Rapids, Kan., the previous four years.  The D. W. Alspach family was also planning to move to Summerfield and open a millinery shop after their March 23rd sale.  The United Presbyterian Church was planning their building; and later, in May, John P. Taylor sold the church a single lot for only one dollar, providing the congregation an excellent location on which to build.

      In early March an unfounded rumor was circulating that Kansas had another town named Summerville, suggesting a compulsory renaming of the new post office because of such close similarity.  In actuality, the Ottawa county town was named Sumnerville and had been around since 1867.  At the new town in Marshall county, John Smiley handled the mail, having secured the appointment of postmaster for Summerfield.  In late April, a report came that Captain James Hemphill was assuming the position.

      The Knowles family moved from Indiana to Nebraska and settled in the Mission Creek residence formerly occupied by C. H. Hibbert.

      On Thursday, March 7, the railroad company advertised a free 14th of March excursion to the flourishing townsite with the purpose of promoting the new town and to sell city lots.  Between 1500 and 2000 people responded, about half of whom came on the new railroad.

      Approximately five months after plans became public, the railroad was completed and the resultant marketing center was booming.  Apart from the railroad company, other businesses operating in Summerfield were:
    five general stores
    five hotels and restaurants
    three lumber dealers
    three stock buyers
    three blacksmiths
    two grain buyers
    two real estate agents
    two hardware stores
    two banks
    two barbers
    two dray services
    a newspaper
    a drugstore
    a doctor
    a livery stable
    a meat market
    a harness shop
      Two more general stores, another drugstore, another restaurant, and an additional livery stable were in the works. 

      Following his Saturday sale on March 9, G. C. Moore planned to open a store at Summerfield.  Ed Miller of Bigelow, Kan., had opened the third lumberyard in the new town and C. J. Mohrbacher bought a partnership in R. G. Cunningham's business which carried a large stock of farm implements, wagons, buggies, and general merchandise.

      On Thursday, March 14, several new businesses advertised in the Summerfield Sun.  They were:
    Harry Maitland, Notary Public, Real Estate, Insurance
    D. M. Morrison, Physician and Surgeon
    C. J. Weis Dealer in Harness & Saddlery
    Moore & Shankland, Lunchroom & Confectionery
    Anderson & Johnson, Billiard & Pool Hall, Fine Cigars, Good Cider and Soda Pop
    Weston & Shadle, Hardware and Furniture
    Cunningham & Mohrbacher, (R. G. "Dick" Cunningham and C. J. Mohrbacher)
      Many residents from Mission Creek and the Johnson Creek area in Nebraska jaunted into Summerfield for the first time on March 14, expecting the railroad to have already extended across the state line into their own home state.  Over two weeks previously, railroad surveyors had laid out the route through Pawnee county, crossing the B & M railroad tracks at David Knouse's residence in Plum Creek township, and extended the proposed line into Gage county all the way to Beatrice.  Now the company was awaiting support from communities on the Nebraska side.  But the insightful Oskaloosa Independent had published an opinion the railroad line would temporarily stop at the state line because of "the unfavorable attitude of the laws in Nebraska" and their board of commissioners.  Hundreds more from Kansas joined the interested Nebraskans in Summerfield that day.

      Around two o'clock that Thursday afternoon, seven special coaches filled with more than 700 happy customers rolled into Summerfield behind a big steam engine of the KC W & NW line.  Originating in Kansas City, the run had picked up free-fare travellers along the way until only standing room remained.  At noon the Seneca Cornet Band and their friends had gotten on at Seneca, and the train continued over older track shared with the St. Joe & Grand Island railroad, taking aboard more passengers at Baileyville and Axtell.  From Axtell the excursion rode the exclusive brand-new rails of the Wyandotte Line.

      The railway patrons cheered wildly on arrival at the new townsite and their exuberance was taken up by those assembled to greet them at the station's platform.  The hungry mass of riders left the train and stampeded for several new dining establishments in Summerfield.  After their mid-afternoon lunch, the newcomers joined a crowd of almost 1000 others already in town who had spent the earlier hours trading with the village merchants.

      The Seneca musicians' lively music led the gathering to north Main street where auctioneer William R. Speak, "the old reliable," kept the crowd in good humor and began the sale of business lots.  Missouri-native Speak had auctioneered for 17 years and reportedly had worked an amazing load of 32 sales the previous six weeks.  The Axtell resident guaranteed satisfaction or no charge to call a sale anywhere in Nebraska or Kansas.  From Main they went to Front street where more lots were bought.  43 lots were purchased from I. Jay Nichols, the townsite company's business agent, at the sum of $3,300 before the visitors travelling by rail were compelled to catch the six o'clock departure on that late winter Thursday afternoon.

      J. R. Sitler, Thomas Hynes, George A. Ely, John Hill, E. P. Billingsley, R. B. Rundle, W. A. DeVine, William Menehan, and W. J. Joyce were among the many souls present on the day long remembered by those attracted there.  Almost 2000 came by rail, wagon, buggy, horseback and on foot, but even with such a sizeable number it was reported there was neither drunkenness nor disorder.

      The next day, March 15, brick arrived for building the proposed State Bank of Summerfield.

      Ten miles north of the state line, little Gaylord turned exactly 12 months old at the Lloyd household on Tuesday, March 20.  His father, Darsie, clerked in a store and uncle Ernie worked at a nearby bank there in Burchard, a fairly new town of less than eight years existence.

      Around the end of March, John Poland was contracted to dig the town well in Summerfield.  There was serious talk at this time of the railroad extending onward to Beatrice, Neb., from Summerfield, which was being called "Magic City" by some of the townspeople.

Copyright 1996 Dick Taylor   All Rights Reserved
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part six
Promises of Prosperity