Walker, Kansas

 

As you drive on Interstate-70 between Hays and Russell, you can see the church steeple for St. Ann’s Church from quite a distance. The town of Walker and St. Ann’s Church is located at exit 172 just off I-70.  Although there are not any convenience stores or restaurants in this small little village, there are several interesting “explorer” sightseeing places to stop and see or drive by and check out.

 

Founded - 1872                      

Population - 52                       

Elevation  - 1,942 feet.

785-735-2721 or 785-821-3980

 

Links

 

Walker on Volga German.net

 

Blue Skyways

 

Walker on GenWeb

 

Walker – Legends of Kansas

 

 Walker – Hometown Locator

 

Walker - Places & Names 

 

Walker – Wikipedia

 

 

  

The founding of Walker, Kansas

 

The precise origin and the name for the town for Walker are not well documented, but apparently there was a Walker Station located near Walker Creek that was one of the stops on the Smoky Hill Trail. A military post, Fort Fletcher, was established on October 11, 1865, at a location about five miles south of the present day Walker. It had been named in honor of Governor Thomas C. Fletcher, of Missouri. In May 1867, because of difficulty with floods, as well as the distance from the railroad, Fort Fletcher was abandoned and a new post was established 15 miles to the northwest. In the new location, the military post was named Fort Hays, in honor of General Alexander Hays, who had been killed May 5, 1864, in the Battle of the Wilderness in Virginia.

 

With the completion of the railroad in 1867, the Kansas Pacific Railway began to run train, passenger and freight cars each direction daily. The trains were protected from Indian attacks through the network of forts in western Kansas and armed railroad workers. During this time of the railroad expansion, more settlers came to Ellis County, and in the early 1870’s many English settlers located in the Walker and Victoria vicinity.      

 

The community of Walker was founded in 1872 by a group of colonists who came from Ohio and established their homes south of where the Union Pacific Railroad came through eastern Ellis County. In May 1873, a group from Pennsylvania settled along Big Creek, and later in the same year, others came from New York and settled farther west along Big Creek.

 

A post office was opened in 1873, but closed just a few years later in September 1876.  From 1876 to 1878, Germans from Russia (Volga Germans) and other Germans from Ohio and Kentucky known as “Plattdeutschen” settled in and near Walker. Although these families that settled Walker did associate themselves with the Germans from Russia in nearby Herzog and members of St. Fidelis parish, their “Plattdeutsch” was not easily understood by the Volga Germans. They differed greatly in manners, habits, customs and there was little social mingling. Marriages between the two groups of Germans were mutually discouraged. With the influx of more settlers, the post office reopened in 1878.

 

Over the next 50 years, Walker grew to include a school, church, grain elevator and several stores and businesses. At one time, Walker had four general stores, a bank, two lumber yards, two implement and hardware stores, four elevators, a flour mill, a hotel, saloon, pool hall, two parks and a newspaper known as the Walker Gazette. There was also a Methodist Episcopal church at one time in Walker, but the group of German Catholic Plattdeutsche traveled the four miles west to attend Mass with the Volga Germans at St. Fidelis Church. The children also attended school at the parish school in Victoria, but in 1893, members of the Walker community were able to build their own school in Walker. They also wanted their own Catholic church in Walker instead of having to make the journey to Victoria for Mass services. On November 19, 1903, Bishop Cunningham gave the permission to establish an independent parish at Walker and on Christmas Day 1903, the first Mass was held at the school house. A priest from St. Fidelis would come over once a week to hold Mass services at the school house until they completed construction of their church in 1905.  

 

In 1915, construction of a rectory began south of the church and a new parochial school was built in 1924. Life changed in Walker when the Great Depression hit and it took its toll on the community. Many of the businesses closed and about the only remaining establishments were those involved in agricultural. 

 

When the United States became involved in World War II, an Army Airfield that was used for training bomber crews was built just to the north and west of Walker. The base was built in 1942 and remained in service until 1946.  During this time the little town of Walker and the Walker Army Airfield became an active and busy place.

 

Today, Walker is a small community of approximately 50 residents who are primarily involved with agricultural and church activities that are the lifeblood of the town. St Ann’s Church remains a vibrant parish and is served by the neighboring priest from St. Fidelis in Victoria.  Although there are not many businesses in Walker, the location on Interstate-70 keeps this small community connected to the world.      

 

 

 

HISTORICAL & ARCHITECTURAL SITES OF INTEREST

 

St. Ann Church   

Hwy 40 & Walker Ave.

Mailing address

601 10th

Victoria, KS 67671

785-735-2777

785-735-2721

 

During the early years of Walker, the Catholic members of the community traveled to Victoria to attend Mass services at St. Fidelis Church. When the parishioners of St. Fidelis started talking about building a larger church, some from the Walker area discussed the idea of building their own church in Walker instead of helping to build a new church in Victoria. The process of establishing a church in Walker began in the fall of 1892 when 5.5 acres of land that was owned by J.H and Etta Ward and George and Luella J. Ward was transferred to the Bishop of Wichita.  It was given to the diocese on the condition that a parish school and church would be built on the land. The school house was built during 1892 and 1893, and about ten years later they were ready to establish their new parish in Walker. A petition with twenty-four names was drawn up and sent to Rev. Bishop John Cunningham. The men who signed the petition had promised to quarry the stone, dress it, haul it and help with the construction of the church. On November 19, 1903, the Bishop gave the men permission to build a new church and advised them to seek the help of Capuchin Father Emmeram Kausler. Father Emmeram was the priest at Sacred Heart Church in Emmeram, Kansas, and had just finished supervising the building of their new church.  A priest from St. Fidelis came over to celebrate the first Mass at the Walker school house on December 25, 1903. This arrangement of having a priest come over from Victoria and using the school house for Mass services was used until the new church was built.

 

On January 10, 1904 a meeting was held to discuss the building of the church in Walker. Father Emmeram explained the difficulties and expenses involved with building a church. The people decided that to build a really good church they wanted a solid stone building, and that it would be Gothic in style. It was decided that every communicant had to quarry, haul and furnish ten loads of stone to begin construction. With $2,915 in the treasury they were ready to begin construction of their new church.

 

Organizers of the new parish included Herman Berens, Ulrich Berens, William Berens, Peter Braun, Peter Brungardt, Anton Dreiling, B.M. Dreiling, Nick Dreiling, Clement and Joseph Griese, George and Mike Kippes, B.M. Kuhn, Adolp Leiker, John Leiker, Theodor H Munk, Ignatz and John A VonFeldt, Mike Riedel, William Robben Sr. and John Scheck.

 

Excavation of the site began on March 28, 1904 with the limestone quarried from the farm of Henry H. Robben, located 5 ½ miles south of Walker. Construction of the church began that spring with the people of Walker providing much of the labor and man power, and with Father Emmeram Kausler serving as the building supervisor. The stone cutters, stone layers, carpenters, plasterers, painters and two helpers were the only persons paid during the construction of the church. Stone masons were M.K. Brungardt, Peter K. Wittman and Jacob Paul. The stone layers were Peter A. Dreiling, Adam Riedel and Joseph Linenberger. The carpenters were Alex Schueler, M.K. Brungardt and Frank Mermis.   

 

Bishop Cunningham laid the cornerstone on June 11th. By August, their church construction fund was depleted and the parishioners decided that every communicant be assessed $30. This assessment netted $3,105 and allowed them to continue construction. By the summer of 1905, the treasury was again depleted and another assessment of $20 per communicant was approved. The remainder of the money needed to complete the building was borrowed at five percent interest and the loan was paid in full in four years. The church with it’s contents was estimated to have cost about $12,000. The cost of altar, pews, confessional and statues amounted to $2,160, and the cost of the stained glass windows with freight amounted to $917.50.  

 

 

The church was completed in November 1905 and a Mass of dedication was celebrated on Thanksgiving Day, November 30th. Bishop Cunningham presided at the solemn Pontifical High Mass. Several secular priests and many Capuchins were present for the ceremonies. Assisting with Mass was Fr. Koeller from Gorham as archpriest, Fr. Stollenberg and Fr. Carl Weber as deacons of honor, Fr. Richard Die and Francis Laing as deacon and sub deacon and Fr Anthony Burkart and Edward Heyl as master of ceremonies. Fr. Raphael Schwarz, Superior of Munjor, preached at the Mass. After Mass, the two bells presented by the people were blessed. The parish census at that time numbered 43 families.

 

The name “Saint Ann” was selected because the people had great confidence in Saint Ann. Even though there were difficult times during the construction of the church, it was attributed to St. Ann that the parishioners maintained peace and harmony during this time. It was ascribed to the powerful protection of St. Ann when one of the men working on the tower fell 54 feet and was not hurt.

 

Nineteen Capuchin-Franciscan friars ministered as pastors of St. Ann during its first 70 years.  Since 1974, the Capuchin pastors have no longer been in residence and priests from St. Fidelis in Victoria or St. Mary in Gorham would hold Mass services at Walker.

 

In 1996, the Church’s pastoral council, along with their Pastor, Father Frank X Grinko, OFM Capuchin, formulated a plan to allow for significant restoration of the Church. The steeple was repaired and painted, followed by cleaning and pointing the limestone walls and repairing church windows. Work then began on the interior of the church. Tim Linenberger of Salina was hired to do the painting and stenciling. Care for maintaining the integrity of the church’s traditional look and retaining as much stenciling as possible was a primary concern. The steps to the Sanctuary were extended several feet into the body of the church to allow more room around the Altar of Sacrifice. Members of the parish cleaned and touched up with gold paint the Stations of the Cross. New carpeting and linoleum were chosen to complement the colors of the walls and stenciling. 

 

The two year restoration project cost $84,500. Members of the parish, former parishioners and friends of the church worked together to support the project and raise the money needed to pay for the restoration. On November 21, 2004 the parishioners celebrated their 100th Anniversary with a special Mass that brought back friends and relatives from near and far to help celebrate this grand occasion.

 

Today the church remains active, vibrant and faith filled, despite a small number of parish members. Mass continues to be celebrated every Sunday morning in the summer and Saturday evening during the winter months. Arrangements to visit and tour the church can be made by appointment.  785-735-2721 or 785-821-3980

 

 

 

 

Walker School

Hwy 40 & Walker Ave.

Walker, KS 67674

 

The old red brick school building that stands north of the church was built in 1925. It was used until 1971 when it was closed, and students from Walker and the surrounding rural areas either went to Victoria or Gorham to attend school.   

 

The property to get a school established in Walker was donated by George and Luella J. Ward and J.H and Etta Ward in 1892. The agreement made with the diocese was that the school would be operated as a Catholic school for four months and as a public school the remainder of the term. This system was put into effect on January 1, 1893 in a two story stone building that cost $1,096.69 to build. The 32’ x 40’ building, which was built under the direction of Capuchin Fr. Matthew Savelsburg, had two large classrooms on the first floor and a residence for Sisters on the second floor.

 

On October 1, 1901, an arrangement for a six month Catholic school term started. Jerry Basgall of Pfeifer agreed to teach for $25. The parents of each student were asked to pay 25 cents a month in order for their children to attend the school. In 1902, two Sisters of St. Agnes took charge of the school, but a shortage of Sisters prompted the Agnesians to withdraw in 1906, and the Sisters of St. Joseph of Concordia taught until 1923.

For thirty years, the two story stone school house served the needs of the community, but in 1924, the parishioners decided they needed a larger school. Construction of the new red brick school began in the fall of 1924 and many materials from the first stone school house were used whenever possible. The native stone blocks were used as the foundation for the new school. The school was dedicated in August 1925 and there were four rooms on the top floor and the auditorium measured 35’ x 65’ x 25. In 1928, St. Ann’s High School opened and used the top floor class rooms. There were 22 students in high school that first year and for the next eleven years there were between 18 to 31 students that attended St. Ann’s High School. The grade school was operated as District No. 10 and later under the jurisdiction of USD 432 from 1966 until it closed in 1971. Declining enrollment in the late 1960s and the rising cost of keeping the school operating eventually led to the school board’s decision to close the school.

 

Old school house is used as a gathering place after Mass on Sunday for coffee and rolls. It is used for family reunions and community gatherings, parish meetings and activities, wedding or anniversary receptions, Knights of Columbus meetings and other special events or church functions. To arrange a visit and tour the school, please call 785-735-2721.

 

 

 

St. Ann Rectory

In the summer of 1914, permission was granted by the bishop to build a rectory for the parish. On  February 23, 1915, Fr. Ulrich contracted with Tony Jacobs from Hays to build the two story rectory and basement. He started work immediately and completed the task in late fall.  The rectory was blessed on November 15, 1915. There is no longer a resident priest at Walker  1975, the capuchin Fathers from Victoria and St. Fidelis Church took over the duties at St. Ann’s Church. Currently the old rectory is used as a private residence and is not open for tours, but visitors to the church are welcome to view the interesting architectural features of the rectory from the south church grounds.  

 

 

 

 

St. Ann Cemetery

North Walker Ave

 

The cemetery for the parish is located approximately ½ north of Walker on the east side of Walker Avenue. This is one of the most beautiful and meticulously groomed small cemeteries in the area. As with many of the other cemeteries of the Volga Germans of Ellis County, The St. Anna Cemetery also has the interesting looking iron crosses. What is notable about these intricate crosses crafted from steel, is that some are painted silver and others are wrought iron black. In the other cemeteries of Schoenchen, Victoria or Munjor, the iron crosses are typically one uniform color throughout the cemetery. There are 16 of the iron cross grave markers.  Another feature that makes this cemetery a gem in the country is the eye-catching limestone gateway entrance with the three arches that welcome visitors to the cemetery.    

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walker Air Base

Intersection of 370th (Vincent Ave) and Vineyard Ave

 

The Walker Army Airfield was located in Ellis County, about 2 ½ miles northwest of Walker. Although the land where the airbase was once located is currently on privately owned property and not open to public access, the road leading west from the town of Walker and north past what use to be the main entrance gates is a county road that goes on the west side of the old airbase. The old abandoned smoke stacks, several remaining hangar buildings and many concrete foundations are visible from the road.  Absolutely no visitor access is allowed on the property.

 

 

In 1942, airfield sites with runways long enough to handle the B-29 Bomber were established at Great Bend, Pratt, Salina and Walker. The Walker Army Airfield began operations as a satellite field of the Smoky Hill Army Air Field located in Salina. In this capacity, Walker was used merely as a spill over field in the performance of Smoky Hills' mission of processing heavy bombardment crews for over seas shipment. Land was purchased by the government from individual land owners and additional areas were leased from the Union Pacific Railroad for the location of storage yards. In planning the field, the water supply was a particularly difficult problem. Principally because this site was judged by the state's geologist to have the most difficult water situation of any spot in the state. A proven supply was made available from the City of Hays system located 12 miles away.

 

Construction on the Walker Airbase began on September 14, 1942, and within two months there was enough completed to allow for limited occupancy with the arrival of military personnel from the Smoky Hill Army Air Field. In February 1943, the airbase was given its own independent mission when the 2nd Air Force organized the 6th Heavy Bombardment Processing Headquarters. Later that year, training of B-29 crews for combat duty began and in August, the first B-29's were brought in for training purposes. The base was somewhat of a final staging area after crews had been assembled. The men came to the Walker Airfield to learn to work together for the bombing runs and practice gunning. The training program of the 17th Bombardment Operational Training Wing continued to be the mission of the airbase until September 30, 1945. With the victory over Japan in August 1945, the number of training stations were decreased and eventually, disposition of property became the main activity of the base during 1946. The base became officially inactive on January 31, 1946, and it was transferred to the U.S. Army District Engineers on December 19, 1946

 

 

To learn more about the Walker Airbase, we encourage you to see the model of the Walker Army Airfield that is on display at the Forsyth Library on the campus of Fort Hays State University. This miniature replica of the military base was completed in October 2000 by Fort Hays State University student Steve Arthur. Arthur began research on the model in March 2000 and it took more then 2,000 hours to complete but was ready in time for the annual homecoming activities the last weekend of September. The Forsyth Library director John Ross wanted to use the homecoming weekend as a recognition for area veterans and asked Steve if he would build a model of the Air Base. Steve had an interest in building models from the early age of ten and particularly enjoyed building models of planes and W.W. I or W.W. II pieces. Both men knew they would like to do something to pay tribute to those stationed at Walker. At one time, there were 25,000 people based at Walker and many of those ended up becoming permanent residents of Hays and the surrounding towns. Steve did not begin the actual construction of the model until June 2000, which he then was able to fit into his schedule between full-time studies at Fort Hays State University, his job with the library’s archives and his family activities. During his research he posted an inquiry on a B-29 internet site and was amazed at the number of responses he received. W.W.II vets supplied him with information about the base, what it looked like, size and location of buildings and even details such as the color of buildings. The miniature airbase display shows the relationship of locations for several of the hangars, barracks, supply buildings and other structures that would have been located west of the main airbase runways. The actual base was much larger then what the model depicts, but visitors can view the areas around the two large hangars that are represented on the model display.  Website link

 

 

A memorial marker for the Walker Air Base is located on the north side of the Hays Public Library at 13th & Main. It pays tribute to the men and women who served our country at the airbase. The Hays Public Library and the Ellis County Historical Society Museum also have materials and photographs of the airbase. A framed painting of the Walker Base is at the Hays Welcome Center at 2700 Vine, and you can drive around the perimeter of the former airbase property just to the north and west of the town of Walker. Because this is private property, no visitor access is allowed, but from the county gravel road, you can see many of the building foundations, two hangars and other taller structures that are now crumbling and falling down. For more information about the Walker Army Airfield and the B-29 Bomber in Kansas, visit these websites. 

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walker_Army_Airfield_(Kansas)

 

http://www.shptv.org/b29/walker.html

 

http://www.airfields-freeman.com/KS/Airfields_KS_C.htm#walker

 

 

 

Blue Hill One Room School House

Severin Ave and 370th Road

 

Located 10 miles north and 1 mile west of Walker is an old one room school house.

Although no records and history of this one room school house could be found, it is a very good example of a typical rural school house that served the residents out in the country during 1940s and 1950s. Because this is private property, no visitor access is allowed, but from the county gravel road, you can see many of the architectural details.

 

 

Just to the north of this area is land that is part of the Dickinson Ranch. As you drive north on 370th Ave, you can see for miles to the north as the scenic rough terrain of the Saline River Valley provide impressive views of the hills, pastures, canyons and ranches that make this part of northeast Ellis County an interesting drive through the countryside.   

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dortland Farm

1093 Walker Ave., Walker, KS 67674

 

Located about 1 ½ miles south of Walker at the southwest intersection of Springhill Road and Walker Ave is the historic Robben Farm. Although the house is not set up for tours and the owners ask that visitors do not trespass on their property, this interesting looking old farm house is worth driving by to look at from the road. The house, barn and other structures are built of native limestone and are a testament to the work ethic of the original German settlers to this area. The house was built in 1914 by Henry Robben. The residence is now owned by Robben’s daughter, Irene Dortland, who was born in the home in 1920 but later moved elsewhere. She and her husband, Alvin Dortland, returned to the restore the property after Irene's parents has passed away. To date, the Dortlands have spent 25 years restoring structures on the farm. The couple believes that their good health has been a result of their ongoing work on the property. To this end, Alvin spends much of his time outside, maintaining the tin siding on the barn, the original stone posts that hold the fencing and the mortar on the limestone outbuildings to keep out damaging moisture.

 

Although the house and adjoining property is not open to the public and is not available for tours, as you pass by on the road, you can admire the stone water tower that sits in the front lawn. You will also notice some of the other architectural features on the exterior of the house, barn and sheds.

 

The physical restoration and the preservation of heirlooms that have been in the family for several generations has been a source of pride for the Dortlands. Among the highlights of the house are a tin ceiling and items from Irene's ancestors: a bed that was a wedding gift to her mother, her grandfather's rocking chair and her mother's sewing machine. Her father's rock garden still looks just as it did more than 50 years ago. 

 

Alvin and Irene Dortland, celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary Oct. 24, 2009.

 

 

 

 

 

Fort Fletcher Original Site

Located 4 ½ miles south of Walker where Big Creek intersects with Walker Avenue, is the approximate location for the original site of Fort Fletcher. Although the actual historic site is on private property and visitor access is not allowed, if you look to the west after you cross south over the bridge, you will be able to see the trees along Big Creek where the fort was located.

 

As early as 1859, a Frenchman had established a trading post near this location where the North North Fork Big Creek flowed into Big Creek. The trading store was located on the Government Post Road that led to the gold fields in Colorado. In the fall of 1865, the United States Army established a military post approximately ¼ mile south of this area as a frontier outpost to protect military roads, defend construction gangs on the Union Pacific Railroad and guard the U.S. mail routes. The post became operational as a fort on October 11, 1865 and was named Fort Fletcher, in honor of Governor Thomas C. Fletcher of Missouri. The fort consisted of a few log huts, tents and some dugouts. The army garrisoned the fort with the "Galvanized Yankees" of Companies F and G, 1st U.S. Volunteer Infantry under the command of Lt. Col. William Tamblyn, supplemented by detachments of the 13th Missouri Cavalry. Troops stationed at Fort Fletcher spent much of their time away from their post guarding stage stations, escorting travelers and protecting the freight wagons of the Butterfield Overland Dispatch (B.O.D.) traveling along the trial.  

 

 

 

 The sketch is by Theodore R. Davis as he saw Fort Fletcher it in late 1865 soon after its establishment.

On November 20th, troops from Fort Fletcher encountered their first contact with Indians. Colonel Tamblyn reported that a party of about 60 Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians made an attack on Bluffton and Downers Stations, destroying all the property at both stations. These two locations were stations on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch located approximately 30 to 40 miles west of Fort Fletcher. Tamblyn reported that at Bluffton Station the men had escaped without injury, but at Downers Station, the Indians killed the express messenger and two other employees of the B.O.D. They cut the tongue out of one of the men and burned him alive.  A detachment of 20 soldiers to protect what was left of Downers Station was attacked on Friday November 24, 1865, by a party of about 80 Indians. The skirmish lasted about two hours and resulted in the soldiers killing six Indians and wounding several others. There were other reports of Indians attacking B.O.D. stagecoaches and troops along the trail that week. 

 

On January 14, 1866, Lieutenant Bell and twenty men of the 13th Missouri Cavalry were sent to Fort Fletcher for supplies. Two additional companies of Tamblyn's command and small detachments of the 13th Missouri Cavalry were stationed along the line farther west, Company A at Monument Station 100, miles from Fort Fletcher, and Company I at Pond's Creek Station, 50 miles beyond that.

 

Despite the presence of the soldiers in the area, the Southern Cheyenne and Southern Arapaho Indians continued to attack traffic along the trail. David Butterfield, the owner of the B.O.D., went bankrupt as a result of these attacks and the line was abandoned. Since the Smoky Hill Trail was no longer in use, Fort Fletcher was closed on May 5, 1866.

 

 

 

On October 11, 1866, Fort Fletcher was reopened at the confluence of Big Creek and the North Fork of Big Creek which was approximately one-fourth mile north of its previous location. The Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division, was being constructed westward roughly paralleling the Smoky Hill Trail and the construction workers needed the protection of the U.S. Army. In December 1866, Fort Fletcher was renamed Fort Hays in honor of Brigadier General Alexander Hays, who was killed during the Civil War. At this location the fort buildings were constructed of wood, stone and some log homes. It soon became apparent that the post's new location was unsatisfactory for two reasons: the railroad was following a route much further north of the old Smoky Hill trail and the post was located in a floodplain that could be destructive. As the construction of the train tracks were laid near Fort Hays, it became clear they would pass approximately five miles to the north of the post. The Army wanted the fort to be used as a supply depot for other forts in the area and therefore needed it to be located close to the railroad line. On April 19, 1867, General Custer arrived at Fort Hays and was in command of the Smoky Hill line temporarily to reestablish and protect the mail route. General Winfield Scott Hancock arrived at the fort several weeks later on May 3rd. He did an inspection of the post and made the decision to move the fort. He determined that the fort could better serve the railroad if it were moved further west to a site near where the railroad tracks were to be built across Big Creek. That decision proved to be the correct thing to do, because a month later, a massive thunderstorm created a flash flood that nearly wiped out Fort Hays and nine soldiers and civilians were killed. The new and final location of Fort Hays would be located just south of present day Hays, Kansas. The new Fort Hays site was officially occupied on June 23, 1867.

 

The new fort, like other Plains forts, was not a true fortification but appeared to be more like a frontier settlement. There was no wall around the post, and the only defensive structure was a blockhouse. The post was designed as a base for supplies and troops who could be dispatched into the field to protect vulnerable people and places when Indian resistance appeared. With the arrival of the railway at Hays City in October 1867, the goal of a large supply depot to service forts to the south and west was realized.  Smoky Hill Trail website link

 

 

 

Fort Fletcher Camping Area

This area that was once a military post was used as a camping and picnic area in the 1970s. The same reasons this spot made a good location to build a fort, were the same advantages it was used as a picnic and camping area. The fort was built on a space of level ground completely surrounded by the deep ravine of the creek banks. There were plenty of large trees on all fours sides that provided shade and help break the strong winds. The soldier’s quarters were built on the edge of the ravine and laid out in the shape of a square. At first, the men lived in tents and later, rude huts of logs and sod were constructed. Although the location seemed like an ideal place to build the fort, they had not anticipated the low lying area would be vulnerable to flooding. On June 7, 1867, a large thunderstorm pounded the area and brought on a devastating flash flood. The fort was then relocated and most of the structures were moved. Any remaining building materials left behind were salvaged by local farmers to build sheds or barns on their properties.

 

The Fort Fletcher Campground consisted of 120 acres and provided overnight camping for tents, trailers or campers. Electrical hook-ups with showers, toilets and laundry facilities were also available. The abundant trees provided plenty of picnic areas and the recreational opportunities included: fishing, hiking, swimming, bird watching, playground equipment and enjoying a cook-out on the picnic grills. The campground area has been closed for years now and is on private property. Access to the property is not available and is not open to the public.

 

In the fall of 1931, a marker was erected at this location by W.D. Philip and his sons. Research done by Howard Raynesford and Charles Baugher traced the location of the Butterfield Trail and this location where the flood swept through on that June night in 1867 that killed nine soldiers and civilians. Mr. Phillp constructed the marker with a 5’ base, 4’ high and fourteen inches square. It is not known if the marker still exists at this location. 

 

  

Fort Fletcher Stone Arch Bridge

Length of largest span: 35.1 ft.
Total length: 155.8 ft.
Deck width: 23.9 ft
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Located 4 ½ miles south of Walker where Big Creek flows under Walker Avenue is a historic four arch stone bridge. The bridge is constructed of native limestone blocks and was built in 1935-36. On May 18, 2001, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. This location is an interesting place to visit not only because of the impressive construction of the four arch bridge that is over 75 years old, but because of the historical significance of Fort Fletcher that was located just to the east of this area.

 

 

 

In 1933, residents from the Walker area and south of this area petitioned the county commission to construct a bridge over Big Creek and this area near the site of old Fort Fletcher was determined to be the best location. The bridge was constructed in 1935 by the Works Projects Administration and completed on January 30, 1936 at a cost of $14913. At 156’ long, this is the largest stone arch bridge in Ellis County. Over the years, there had not been much maintenance and upkeep of the bridge and in the late 1990’s it was in need of repair. Because of the historical significance of the bridge, it was decided to try to restore it instead of tearing it down and totally replacing it. In September 1999, the Ellis County Public Works Department submitted an application to apply for federal funding to help pay for the restoration. The funding was approved in the spring of 2000, and the total cost of the project was estimated at a little over $500,000. The project was completed in 2001 and allowed the historic bridge to retain it’s architectural integrity yet also to  be reinforced and brought up to the needed standards for the heavy volume of oil field and farm traffic with wheat trucks and combines using the bridge on a regular basis. Although the land surrounding the bridge is private property and is not open for public access, a good view of the bridge is possible along the immediate right away area on either side of the road. More information about Fort Fletcher and the bridge is available at the Ellis County Historical Society Musuem – 100 West 7th – Hays, Kansas.

 

  

 

 

 

 

COMMERCE and BUSINESSES

 

Before the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, Walker had many thriving businesses over the years including: Joe Stroemel Lumber Company, Schrenkler Lumber Company, Peter Braun Hardware and Implement, The Walker Lumber Company, B.M. Dreiling Hardware Store, Nick Schmidt Grocery, Fox Grocery Store, Schlyer and Arnold, Henry Schrenkler Grocery Store, Joe Stroemel Grocery, Walker Grain Company, Heyl Elevator, Farmers Union of Walker, Bill Robben Blacksmith Shop, Walker Oil and Supply, Farmers Grain and Coop Union, John A Mermis Implement Dealership, Union Pacific Railroad Depot, Farmers State Bank, a flour mill, a hotel, saloon and a newspaper known as the Walker Gazette. The first post office in Ellis County was located south of Walker at Fort Fletcher and later the Walker Post Office was located at the intersection of Hwy 40 and Walker Ave (the road that leads north off Interstate 70 into Walker)

 

Currently, the Co-op Grain elevator is the only remaining downtown business and operates during the harvest season. 

 

 

 

 

 

RV Furniture.com 

Danny G Dinkel

1003 390th Ave

Victoria, KS 67671

785-735-2461

www.rvfurniture.com

 

 

Dickinson Ranch

Kirk and Coleen Dickinson

2324 370th Ave

Gorham, KS 67640

888-603-2855

785-998-4401

www.dickinsonranch.com

Hours: By appointment only. Call for hours, tours and events. 

Admission: Call for fee information

 

The Dickinson Ranch is located approximately 11 miles north of Walker along the scenic hills of the Saline River Valley. Call for directions and for an appointment to visit.

 

In 1881, the first Dickinson’s came to Ellis County, Kansas from the states of Connecticut and Pennsylvania. They were looking for excellent grass, spring water and bluffs for protection from the North winds. At one time they ran over 5000 head of sheep. Later, they began raising Hereford and Shorthorn cattle. Currently, they run 100 sheep and 450 registered Angus, Red Angus and Simmental cows. They also farm 1500 acres of crops including wheat, sorghum silage, milo and soybeans. The cattle are run on 5000 acres of grassland with several miles of river bottoms and large ponds for water. This area creates an ideal atmosphere for engaging in many outdoor activities.

 

 

Visit the “Historical Dickinson Ranch” just north of Interstate I-70 in the Saline River Valley surrounded by the majestic Blue Hills.  This is a true working ranch that is over 100 years old and has supported six generations of families.

 

What’s available at the Ranch?

Lodging in a ranch house separate from the main headquarters

Hunting: deer, prairie chicken, turkey, pheasant or coyotes

Fishing: large mouth bass, crappie, blue gill, perch

Trails: horseback, hiking, biking

Tours: large or small groups, small parties and bus tours

Home cooking: catering private parties and company outings. 

Our specialty is smoked meats with all the fixings and home made pastries and breads.

 

 

 

 

 

 



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