Ellsworth County Historical Society
104 W. South Main
Ellsworth, KS 67439
School was held in this one-room schoolhouse from 1880-1967 (article in the Ellsworth Reporter in 1980) and the building was given to the Historical Society from Mrs. Gerald Vodraska in memory of her late husband. It was moved to the grounds from where it was located, 8 miles west and north of Ellsworth. At one time there were 76 school districts in Ellsworth County. Houses were heated with wood or coal and the teacher had to be there very early to get the fire going for the children. Pictures of some of the 81 schools in Ellsworth County are on display in the school along with many other related items.
Commanding Officers Quarters
In 1868, General Sheridan moved his command from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Harker for the purpose of protecting settlers and conducting campaigns against the Native Americans. In 1869, Brevet Colonel Joseph Tilford with two troops of General Custer's 7th Cavalry were stationed at Fort Harker before leaving on a campaign in February 1870. Then in May 1870 General Custer himself passed through Fort Harker with the rest of the 7th Cavalry on their way from Fort Leavenworth to Fort Hays and ultimately to their defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
A report published in 1870 indicates that the main buildings of Fort Harker were located near the center of the Military Reservation and were laid out around a parade ground that measured 252 yards long and 120 yards wide. At the west end of the parade ground there was a 2-story guardhouse that held six small cells on the second floor. This building still stands today and houses a museum. Behind the guardhouse there were four wood framed buildings that were used as stables for the cavalry. On the eastern side of the parade ground there were eleven buildings that were used as officer quarters. Three of those were built of the same native red stone as the guard house. The largest of the three was the commanding officer's home, which had eight rooms and a kitchen.
The Hodgden House was built in 1875 by Perry and Phoebe Hodgden, very influential residents in the development of Ellsworth. His was the first private home to be built of stone after the fires of 1874 and 1875 consumed most of the buildings and residences on north and south Main Streets compromising the heart of the town. In 1961 the house was once again restored to its original elegance. The Ellsworth Historical Society established a museum on the site in 1963 and has continued to make acquisitions and enlarge their exhibits since that time. The house is filled with artifacts from those early days.
In 1878, Tom Mullen, along with a man named S.M.Simpson from Lawrence, Kansas laid out a townsite and when it gained a post office in July, 1878, it was called Terra Cotta, meaning "colored earth" for the red clay in the surrounding hills. In 1885, large stockyards were built at Terra Cotta and between 1886 and 1912, more cattle were shipped from Brookville and Terra Cotta then from any other place between Kansas City and Denver. But, Terra Cotta's life would be short. In 1887, a prairie fire swept through the area and burned down the hotel. The following year, a recession hit and several families and businesses left. The elevator was moved to Shady Bend, in Lincoln County, some 30 miles to the North. Mr. Bliss moved his blacksmith shop to Venango, Mr. Fletcher moved his grocery store to Kanopolis, and Tom Mullen ceased a large part of his clay operations.
By the early 1890s, almost all of the businesses had left. However, the post office remained open and Mrs. Tom Mullen became postmaster in 1897, running it until it was discontinued in 1913. In 1889, though the businesses were gone, the Union Pacific Railroad built the new Terra Cotta Depot. By 1910, there were only 20 people living in the town and on March 31, 1913, the post office closed its doors forever.
Though Terra Cotta showed much promise, the town was short lived, and today, nothing is left of the old townsite except the railroad tracks. The 1990 depot now stands in Ellsworth as part of the Hodgden House Museum Complex.
Fort Harker Guardhouse
Fort Harker, located in Kanopolis, Kansas, was an active military installation of the United States Army from November 1777, 1886 to October 5, 1872. The fortification was named after General Charles Garrison Harker, who was killed in action at the Battle of the Kennesaw Mountain in the Civil War. Fort Harker replaced Fort Ellsworth, which had been located 1.6 km from the location of Fort Harker and was abandoned after the new fortifications at Fort Harker were constructed. Fort Harker was a major distribution point for all military points father west and was one of the most important military stations west of the Missouri River.