Rose Hill Historical Society Honoring Early Rose Hill, Kansas

Railroad Changes Face Of Rose Hill

By Chris Wendt

Published in The Rose Hill Reporter, Thursday, September 6, 2012

Like most small prairie towns of the midwest, Rose Hill began to grow with the coming of the railroad across the flatlands. But it also had its share of growing pains.

Local history records that the first white settlement was formed along the Eight Mile Creek in 1869 and saw the occasional cattle herds come through on their way from Wichita to Abilene. South of Rose Hill was a 30 mile strip of land known as Indian Territory or the Osage Indian Reserve. What is now Butler County was taken from the Osage in 1870 at the same time Central Kansas was opened to settlers.

Rose Hill Depot 1906

The Rose Hill train depot and elevator in 1906. Frank Webster & crew unload gas pipe. The horse in the background is Old John.

Indians still roamed the area along with traders, trappers and hunters and immigrant settlers were moving west along a great trail that spread across the flint hills. The nearest railhead was then located at Emporia where furs were traded for farm machinery and food.

According to an old letter written by Leon N. Reyer, a former Rose Hill native, the first person to file a land claim was Mac Bride for property south and east of the original town in 1873. The last to file a claim was Bob Hodgen who took ground across from where the Friends Church would stand by 1882.

The James McCluggage family made a land claim in 1872 just south of Rose Hill and decedents still remain there today. But it was slow business as farmers fought hordes of insects, drought, prairie fire and Indians.

A Rose Hill post office was started in June 23, 1874 by Levi Williams and education followed. The Rose Hill School District was organized November 19, 1873. One acre of land was purchased from Lewis and Mary Julian for $40 on the corner of Silknitter and S.W. Prairie Creek Rd. for a school house. H.C. Stanley followed with a general store on the same corner as the school in 1879. This was located on the Potts farm where the Rose Hill Cemetery is now. Staley went on the become postmaster in 1880.

The coming of the Atchinson, Topeka, Santa Fe Railroad in 1887 put Rose Hill on the map. According to the Douglass Tribune of November 5, 1886, speculation was rife in the town. The railroad defeated a bond to build to build a Wichita Southwestern road through Pleasant Township in December and railroad construction began in March of 1887. The Mulvane Record stated July 9, 1887, that track laying was in progress between Augusta and Mulvane and they would meet in Rose Hill.

The railroad was completed in Rose Hill and opened for business October 1, 1887. It was hoped that a passenger train would soon follow. Rose Hill then moved one mile west from its original site to its present location to be right on the rail line. The Douglass Tribune of September 7, 1888 stated that a depot was nearing completion and stockyards were added in 1902.

No records were found of when passenger service began but there is a photograph from 1922 of several ladies gathered at the back of “Old Polly,” as the passenger car became know.
Old Polly Train
According to an article in the Douglass Tribune by Mina Silknitter in 1887, the Ferdinand Meeker Store at the corner of Berry and Main was the first store building in New Rose Hill. It had been built of stone from the White Quarry east of town.

Rose Hill continued to bloom and flourish and went on to build a new school, several businesses, acquired modern amenities and became an incorporated city February 10, 1955.