Southwest Franklin County

by Catherine Jane Richards and Deborah Barker

Southwest Franklin County


Southwest Franklin County Driving Tour

Drive south on Main Street (U.S. 59). After passing 17th St. take US-50 Business Route over the overpass and proceed to Eisenhower Road. STOP Continue west and southwest on 50 for the next 6.5 miles; note ridges or channels in the field on the left along the fence as you descend the hill past radio tower.

#1 Trail ruts. At certain seasons of the year, these ruts are distinguishable, probably marking an early trail or road. Continue to the intersection of Haskell and Indiana Roads and old US 50, known as ‘Five Corners.” Turn left onto Indiana Road and drive south one mile to the intersection with Hamilton Road. Turn left. STOP

#2 . John’s Cemetery on the SE corner of this Intersection was founded in 1885. Here are buried many of the pioneer families of the area who were of German descent: Kraus, Brandenburger, Strafuss, Koenig, and others. Drive through cemetery optional. Continue one mile east on Hamilton Road, turn right on Iowa Road, and proceed I mile. Stop at intersection with John Brown Road.

#3 Acorn School. Located on the high rise here, Acorn School #74, built in 1900, is one of the rural school beauties. Records indicate an earlier school was built here in the 1870s. The school Is known to have had one of the first hot lunch programs in the county. In the early 1950s teacher Irene Herron began preparing lunches cooked on the old pot-bellied stove. The menu often included rabbit that the boys would bring in. Later a kitchen was added and lunches became a part of the school day. After consolidation in 1959, the Acorn Four-H Club, the Community Club and the Acorn ladies Club purchased the school for meetings and social events. Turn left. Continue one mile east on John Brown Road, turn right on Kentucky Road, drive .6 mile and stop at gravestones on left.

#4 Howard Cemetery. Hiram and Priscilla Houk Howard came to Franklin County In 1855, settling on Middle Creek on 160 acres east of the road. Born in Tennessee, Hiram moved to Kansas from Missouri and professed pro-slavery. His two oldest sons volunteered In Ohio for a newly-formed company of the Kansas State Militia for the union, but never served in the Civil War. Hiram served as Franklin County commissioner in 1856 and Justice of the Peace in 1858. The burials here include Hiram and Priscilla and several children and grandchildren. The farm and cemetery are still in the family. Return to John Brown Road, turn left, proceed west three miles to Idaho Road. Turn right and stop at cemetery sign.

#5 Caldwell Cemetery. A sign at the farm marks the Caldwell Cemetery west of the home, founded in the early 1900s, named for Jed Caldwell who lived In a large house located at the entrance. The house burned in 1905. The local newspapers listed the home as one of the finest rural residences, containing ten rooms elegantly furnished. The smaller house here replaced it. The cemetery was originally called Oak Grove Cemetery due to its proximity to Oak Grove School #27 which stood at the southeast corner of the intersection. Continue north into Homewood. In the area to the west was the little settlement of Middleton. The community appeared on some maps of the Kansas Territory in the 1860s but disappeared before the Civil War. Continue north into Homewood. In the area to the west was the little settlement of Middleton. The community appeared on some maps of Kansas Territory in the 1850s but disappeared before the Civil War.

#6 Homewood. On the left as you enter Homewood is the former rural school #99, built in 1906, that replaced two earlier schools in the neighborhood. The first settlers of Homewood were German immigrants who came in 1857. One of the early business leaders was Capt. Abraham Funk who came from Pennsylvania and operated a small trading post here. The Chippewa Indians traded at the store, and when they brought their babies, they would line the cradle boards along the wall while shopping. For a time the town served as a stop on the local railroad. Land around Homewood was first owned by a coal company, but when coal was discovered to the west, the land was sold to farmers. Turn left on highway 50 at the north edge of Homewood. Drive 2 miles to Florida Road, turn right and drive 1.6 miles,, just past Haskell Terrace. STOP

#7 Rice Barn. Edwin A. Rice, who acquired 240 acres here in 1871, is assumed to be the builder of the large barn on the left. Built on the slope, the barn has entries on two levels. The lowest level housed cattle and the main ground floor has stalls for horses and pigs on the west and granaries on the east. Flooring at two levels above the main floor provided hay storage with beautiful wooden chutes to carry hay and grain to the lower levels. Today’s farm owners are fortunate enough to make use of portable grain bins which can be loaded to bulk feed bin up at the barn or tow it directly to the feedlot where your animals are. But, the hay lofts back in the day were raised to a majestic height at the north roofline. In October 1877, the Ottawa Republican reported, “Mr. Rice had 100 acres in cultivation, 15 acres of oats harvested and 18 acres of wheat ‘harvested by grasshoppers.’ He owns 40 head of cattle. Underground water is plentiful in this area. County wells on the Rice farm and in the next section north served many farmers in the area during the 1930s. Continue .4 mile north to Jackson Road. The NB corner is the site of Coal Creek School #60. Turn left, drive west 2 miles to Colorado Road, turn left, stop or enter cemetery.

#8 Central Cemetery was established In 1873 when J.W. Horn donated land to be used as a church site. The church was located just south of the cemetery and dedicated In 1874. The first pastor was Reverend Harmony who served until his death. The first two burials were miners who had died in the area coal mines, and were buried on the church’s dedication day. Continue south on Colorado Road two miles. After the first mile, look to the east. This area is known as the valley of Coal Creek where entrances to several coal mines are still visible. The veins of coal were very close to the surface. At Hamilton Road turn left and drive 1.5 miles to the settlement.

#9 Ransomville. Now known as the Ransom Farm, Ransomville was once a bustling community which peaked in the 1890s with about 65 houses and a population of 300. The town was founded by James Harvey Ransom when he bought land in 1879 and began mining the local coal deposits for use by the railroad. In 1882 a general store and post office were opened, followed by other businesses and a school. In 1906, Ransom brought registered Guernsey cattle to the farm, establishing one of the oldest Guernsey herds west of the Mississippi. The building on the north was the former store and post office. The mines and store closed In 1914, about the time of Mr. Ransom’s death. Private property. Continue east a short distance to stop sign and enter highway 50. ‘Turn right and drive southwest 1.4 miles to John Brown Road, turn right. Drive west, cross Colorado Road and then continue to old stone home on left.

#10 A.B. Fogle home. The Fogle family home, built in the early 1900s, replaced an earlier house. Most of the work was done by A. B. and son Dan In a three-year project. The white limestone used in the walls, posts and foundation came from a five-mile area to the south and east. Dan says he picked up a few red glacier rocks “to cool the color down.” Pine lumber mine tracks that Dan had removed from his mining operation were used in the framing of the home. The design includes an entry hall. two living rooms, kitchen, bedroom and bath on the first floor; four bedrooms and a half-bath on the second floor, and a full attic. Features designed and built by Dan included a water heating/cooling system piped from two hand-dug wells to radiators in each room, and a wiring system for lights, water pump and farm equipment. A cast-iron furnace provided heat. Woodwork was finished red oak on the first floor and pine on the second floor. All flooring was red oak. The metal tile roof from Nevada, Missouri, was provided by Dan’s grandfather, W.C. Fogle, owner of Fogle Mercantile to Williamsburg. Arza Bracken Fogle was a professor of physical education at Baker University. Private property. Continue west, curve southwest to stop sign, turn left and drive into Williamsburg.

#11 Williamsburg. In June of 1868, William Schofield and James P. Dane platted the town of Williamsburg. Schofield promoted a railroad, the Kansas City, Burlington and Santa Fe, which ran down from Ottawa. The W.C. Fogies, who arrived in 1869, were important citizens, operating a general store and involving themselves to other local industries, such as coal mining. At one time the Williamsburg Coal Company had a capacity of 25-30 tons of high-grade coal a day which was marketed directly to consumers within a 20-to 50-mile radius. There are several interesting homes and churches to view. In recent years, a barbecue restaurant, Guy and Mae’s Tavern, has brought state and regional recognition to the community. At the stop sign at William (old highway 50) and Dane Streets proceed a short distance to California Road. Turn left, and drive south .8 mile to Timberlake Ranch.

#12 Timberlake Ranch is a privately-owned recreational facility featuring soccer, football and softball fields, a quarter-mile track, volleyball courts, a rodeo area, swimming and fishing lakes and picnic areas. The site includes an old coal mine. During the Christmas season, the Ranch has hosted a lighting spectacle which benefits area nonprofit organizations. The ranch is rented to groups only, by advance reservations. Return north on California Road to US 80 and turn left. Along the highway to the left remnants of the old Santa Fe Burlington Branch railroad right- of- way are visible. Proceed 2.4 miles south to Silkviile sign, turn onto Arkansas Road, and stop at school.

#13 The stone Silkville school house on the SW corner was built by Ernest Valeton de Boissiere, the founder of Siikvllle. Continue south onto the ranch road that leads to present-day Silkville Ranch. This is private property whose owners have allow tourists to drive ‘in and out.’

#14 Silkville, begun in 1869, was an experiment in utopian communal living. It was created by de Boissiere who was a wealthy native of Bordeaux, France. He developed a silketaws..industry by importing silk worms and planting thousands of white mulberry trees–the leaves being the diet of silk worms. Workers skilled in silk production were brought in from France and housed in a huge three-story stone “chateau.” The silk produced was of high quality; at one time the commune was proclaimed the “Silk-producing Capital of America.” The enterprise lost out to cheaper foreign silk and workers were drawn away to higher wages elsewhere. The farm also had produced cheese and other dairy products before being closed down In the mid 1880s. De Boissiere turned his vast estate over to the Odd Fellows organization and returned to France where he died in 1894. The great chateau was used briefly as an orphanage, but was later gutted by fire. The white, hip-roofed farm house is a portion of the old chateau, now only about one-third Its original size. Some of the original stone buildings still stand. Several of the ancient mulberry trees still survive–living landmarks of one of Kansas’ most unusual communities. Private property. Return to the school house at the corner of Arkansas and Douglas Roads and turn right. Drive one mile east to California Road and turn right. Continue south for 4 miles. This road goes through part of the old Silkville estate of over 3000 acres, most of which is still together in one tract and under one owner. The stone fence on the left along the first half mile dates from the first years of the French commune.

At the high point just before dropping down to the blacktop road (Allen) which is also K-31 and the Anderson Franklin County line, note a dramatic view to the northeast. Turn left or east and proceed 1.1 miles, and turn right at curve onto the access road and drive up to the church.

#15 Emerald Community. This hill, ornamented by the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, is the focal point of the Emerald Community-part of which Is In Franklin County, part in Anderson. Emerald was first settled by immigrants from Ireland, the “Emerald Isle,” who came to America in the 1850s. The first church was made of logs in 1861, followed by one of stone, now in ruins to the north of the manse. In 1899 the present brick structure was dedicated, but It was gutted by fire on September 29, 1939 and had to be refurbished. The crucifix over the main altar was carved by hand in Rome and took five months to make. The cemetery is a short distance behind the church. Return on the access road from the church (check traffic!) and cross the blacktop north into Franklin County on Colorado Road. The Emerald post office was first located near here. Drive 2 miles north to Clark Road, turn right or east and drive two miles to the intersection of Clark and Florida Roads. Stop.

#16 The unusual mound formation to the northwest is reminiscent of Fowler and Wadsworth Mounds in other parts of the county. Drive east another mile to the intersection of Clark and Georgia Roads. On the southwest corner once stood Sac Creek School. Drive east another mile to the intersection of Clark and Georgia Roads. On the southwest corner once stood Sac Creek School

#17 Sac Creek School, #61. The schoolhouse was one of three rural “banked” schools designed by architect George P. Washburn. These schools were planned with a bank of windows on one side to reduce glare. Proceed yet another mile east to the stop sign and turn left onto Idaho road. Drive north two miles and turn right or east on Douglas Road. Drive one mile to the intersection with Indiana Road.

#18 Mt. Olivet Church. At one time the Mt. Olivet Church stood here on the SW comer and the accompanying cemetery Is still In use on the Si corner. The cemetery, dating from 1891, has an unusual feature In that the pine trees and graves to the south are placed not in rows but in an arch-like pattern. Drive through the cemetery optional. Drive 2 miles further east to the intersection with Kentucky Road. Note the forlorn Central School #26 building to your right. Proceed .5 mile further east and stop at fence opening on felt at top of hill.

#19 Dietrich cabin site. On the hillside to the north once stood the cabin of Jacob and Catherine Dietrich, now a museum In Ottawa’s City Park. Built in 1859 to replace an earlier cabin destroyed by a prairie fire, the home had a commanding view of the valley to the north and east. The Humboldt Trail passed nearby and travelers frequently stopped to rest or spend the night. After Jacob’s death, Catherine walked the three miles back and forth to Ohio City, then the county seat, to do laundry for court and county officials in order to support her family of four. The cabin was donated to the Franklin County Historical Society in memory of the Dietrich pioneers, and moved into Ottawa to help celebrate the Kansas Centennial In 1961. Proceed 1.5 miles east and turn left or north at the intersection of Eisenhower and Douglas Roads. Greenwalt School #66 once stood here on the northeast corner. Drive three miles north to the stop sign and turn right or east onto John Brown Road. Pass along the north edge of Princeton and turn onto the main street at the old railroad right-of-way that faced the business district.

#20 Princeton was first a siding of the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad. The tracks were laid 2 miles west of Ohio City, the county seat at the time, located to the northeast. The railroad spelled Ohio City’s demise. The county officers moved to Ottawa and many of its residents moved to the siding location where they established the town of Princeton. The town thrived through the early 1900s but declined with the times. Many of the original buildings were lost in a number of serious fires and the railroad tracks are also gone–abandoned and sold as salvage. There are two early churches and a few interesting homes. Return to John Brown Road, drive east and enter cemetery.

#21 Princeton Cemetery. The large monument at the center was dedicated to the local soldiers of the Civil War on Flag Day ceremonies in 1907 by the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union Civil War veterans’ organization. The tall monument in the southeast corner has often been reported to be the upright burial of a wife, but it is only the tall maker, on an elevated mound, of Dr. George Davis, an early area physician. Princeton Cemtery also contains the marker of a Mrs. Cromwell and infant whose original burial site fell on a range line which, at a later date, became a road south from Ohio City. In 1912 the grave was moved to the Princeton Cemetery and Mrs. Cromwell and her child were reburied in a lot provided by Sheriff W. Latimer. The Cromwells had settled in Ohio Township in 1859. At Highway 59 turn north and return to Ottawa. The Dietrich Cabin museum in Ottawa at 5th and Main in City Park is open June-August, on Sunday afternoons from 1-4 pm. Admission is free.

Comments are closed.