A bet on limestone that never paid off

FROM A BYGONE ERA - Remnants of this lime kiln may still be seen against the Highland Cemetery bluff east of the Gentry home near Tunnel Mill Dam. The man in this old photo from Cowley County Historical Museum files is unidentified. (Special to the Courier)

The Courier headlines read:

A Company Formed to Develop the Future Leading Industry of this Section - A New Quarry Opened and Switches Being Put In


And this was the article that appeared in the Courier on that day, Jan. 31, 1884:

"It has always been the thought of good businessmen in Winfield, from the time the town started, that one of the most certain and enduring elements in the future wealth of the city, was the seams and layers of pure magnesian limestone that crops out at the surface at such convenient distances from the future great city of the Walnut Valley.

"Up to the time of the completion of the first railroad, the quarries were worked for local purposes. The stone worked easily and could be put into foundations and good buildings cheaper than any other material.

About this time our magnificent system of sidewalks was commenced, which has made the city celebrated. Flagging twenty feet square, and the surface as smooth as if it were dressed, was taken out, and published the fame of the Winfield quarries.

"When the railroads were completed, it was naturally anticipated that switches would be put in by the railroads and that capital and energy would at once combine to develop this important industry; but months lengthened into years, and while Wichita, Wellington, and other cities wanted the stone, the demand could not be supplied, and they were obliged to go to Strong City and other places for both cut and dimension stone. Without railroad facilities, it was simply impossible, with the best endeavors on the part of the quarrymen doing business here, to supply the ever-increasing demand.

"About two months ago an advertisement was inserted in the Kansas City Journal, offering to sell the brick and tile works located here, and in answer to that Mr. J.E. Parkins, of Kansas City, came here with a view of buying the yard. From the very first, his attention was attracted to the character of our stone. He talked with businessmen and showed that he had upwards of thirty years' experience in quarrying, and in the erection of government buildings and railroad work, and that our stone was as good as any in the world; and he stated that with the completion of his contract of the Kansas City post office, he would open up these quarries.

"A company was at once organized and the Land quarry was purchased. The tract embraces ten acres, and is east of the Southern Kansas railroad, and about a half mile north of the cemetery. (Column note: we believe this refers to the old quarry near Union-Graham Cemetery.) A large force of hands are now at work grading for a switch, and room will be provided for twenty cars. The foreign output for this reason will be about ten car loads a day, and the necessary force to supply that demand will be at work during the coming month.

"The brick and the works near the Santa Fe depot now form a part of the Winfield Stone, Brick & Tile Company's property, and the large engine now there will do the work of sawing, cutting, and turning the stone, in addition to its former duties. The stone that is to be dressed will be loaded in cars at the quarry and carried to the town yard, where skilled workmen put it into all the various shapes in which cut stone is used. It will be worked into many forms never before attempted here.

"Additional machinery for making brick will be put in and a quality of brick, both pressed and common, will be furnished that is second to none in the market. A storehouse for the sale of lime, cement, and kindred products, will be at once erected. The quarry and the yard will be connected by telephone

"The officers of the company are as follows: M.L. Read, President; J.E. Conklin, Secretary; M.L. Robinson, Treasurer; and J.E. Parkins, General Superintendent.

"About fifty men will be employed, and everything will be done that knowledge, united with skill, energy with well-directed impulse, and capital without limit can do to make the stone interest the leading manufacturing industry of Cowley County. In this work we are all interested, and the COURIER wishes the Winfield Stone, Brick & Tile Company an unlimited amount of success."

Credit due - Many thanks again to history researcher Bill Bottorff for forwarding the above Courier article. By the way, Bill isn't alone in all this research and preservation of the history of Winfield and Cowley County in general. There's a whole cadre of dedicated folk out there working individually and with him and through our public library and our museum.

Winfield veterans - Did you know that on Feb. 11, 1946, the Courier published as a special supplement eight full-size pages containing the names of more than 2,000 Cowley County folk who served in World War II?

Old biography - Loren Wade has shared his copy of "Biographical Sketches of Leading Citizens of Cowley County" published in 1901 by Biographical Publishing Co. of Chicago. Most of the photos are portraits of leading citizens. But one exception is a fascinating photo of the old William Greenwell homestead in Dexter Township. It shows a small, one-story farmhouse and a huge barn, two and one-half stories with twin cupolas.

A radical new look - Buffy and I were pleasantly surprised the other day to discover the major transformation carried out by The Edge Performing Arts Center in the first-floor and basement spaces formerly occupied by Foster's Furniture on Main Street. We went on a tour offered during the Block Party.

Shop Winfield! - I learned a good lesson the other day. If you don't try shopping first in Winfield you'll never know. I was desperate for a printer ink-jet color cartridge. Previously I have purchased them at Wal-Mart here or in Ark City because they were so much cheaper. But neither Wal-Mart had my brand. Someone said, "Why not try Galaxie?" (on Main Street in Winfield). They not only had my brand but it was considerably cheaper than Wal-Mart's usual price. I was amazed at the large variety of home and office supplies which previously were available only at Pierce's. And, not being familiar with the store, I appreciated the courteous and helpful service.

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This document was last modified October 21, 2000 and is copyright © 2000 by the Winfield Publishing Co., Inc. All rights reserved.