This page was last updated 3 July 2011 -- rak.

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Arlington's first building

The area that became Arlington had first been named Twin Springs for the two big springs just northeast of the current town. Indians had camped at those springs, as had early settlers traveling west because water was always flowing here, even in the dead of winter and in the awesome heat of summer. The water attracted plenty of water fowl and other game, so anyone camping there had plenty to eat.

The constant water flow led to one of Arlington's earliest businesses. In the spring of 1877 G.T. Emprey and A.K. Burrell caused a dam to be built across the Ninnescah River creating Lake Cable, a 300-acre lake a mile north of where they laid out the plat for the town of Arlington that same year. Then they dug a mill race which cut through the east edge of town. On that race right at Main Street they built a water mill for grinding grain. By the end of 1877 they were grinding grain. The mill was a large 3-story building and continued to operate until it burnt down in 1895. The line drawing shown here was copied from the cover of Joseph A. Fehr's 1937 history of Arlington, printed by the Wichita Eagle Press.

Arlington, Kansas was laid out in 1877, nine years after Reno County was created from Marion County, seven years after the first white settler in Reno took out homestead papers, and 7 years after Hutchinson was laid out. George Emprey and A.K. Burrell, the two men who laid out the town named it after the famous Arlington Heights of Washington, D.C.

The "city" was incorporated (every incorporated municipality in Kansas is a "city", in this case a city of the third class)) in 1887 and J.E. Eaton was elected first Mayor (see Eaton House). Arlington Township was organized in the area surrounding the city on January 4,1889. The first Arlington school was built before 1893 by which time the the town had grown to 500 to 600 people.

Arlington never had a very large population. Over the years it has varied, I think, between 450 and 600 folks. But in the 1930s and 1940s it serviced a large farm population from miles around. In those days each square mile of farm country would have at least 3 farms and farm houses; two out of three of those houses would house an average of maybe 5 to 6 people -- some up to more than a dozen.

Once a week each family would decide who would and who would not go into Arlington on Saturday night. Being left behind was a most severe punishment. In this way, on Saturday nights, the population would often swell by more than 2,000! Farmers had things to sell (eggs were big) and things to buy (food stuffs and other items that could not be produced on the farm, like crushed oyster shells to feed chickens so their egg shells would be good and sound, etc). The men would get together to share their complaints (about the weather, about bankers (showed up to take your farm away), about the government, about whatever! The womenfolk get together to share the week's gossip. The younger set would have a blast -- momentarily freed from the drudgery that was their lot the rest of the week. Despite that, not much damage was done either to person or property -- although there was more than a little romantic activity going on in the fairly overgrown "city" park.

At ages 4 to 5 I was often there with my grandparents on Saturday nights. It would be difficulat for anyone else to imagine the excitment I felt. I would meet up with another boy my age whom I had first met in Arlington on a Saturday night. This was a world in which there was very little cash. When he could afford it, granddad would give me 3 or 4 pennies. The other guy got the same treatment from his folk. We would rush off to the candy store and buy all the penny candy we could. You might be surprised at how much a penny could buy in those days.

Having secured our sugar fix for the week, we would be off running, chasing each other in a game with absolutely no rules. Arlington had a main street that was and is very wide since the guys who founded the town dreamed that this would be a another Chicago, where two great cross-continent railroads would meet and goods from all over the country would be transshipped to other places all over the country. Well, Chicago never happened but the big wide Main Street was there and, on Saturday nights was absolutely packed -- standing room only. So we two kids running as hard as we could would weave in and out of all those legs just as if we were wild animals chasing each other in some fantasticly over-grown jungle. It was hard to think about Saturday night in town ending, but eventually we would tire and the older folk, having completed their business, would wind their way back to the farm.

My grandparents Kraus had moved to a farm 4 or 5 miles southeast of Arlington in 1910. My grandparents Kraus joined them in 1912. Dad was born and grew up on 3 successive farms south of town farmed by his parents. As soon as he married he and mom chose to live in Arlington itself where he had attended high school. After granddad was diagnosed with cancer, he and grandma, literally over my screaming, crying, sobbing protests, auctioned off their animals, equipment and implements, bought a house in Arlington and moved into it. Dad and mom lived in Arlington when I was born, moved away for a few years, then moved back when dad and his brother-in-law bought the local grocery which included an egg buying business and a frozen locker plant. From the fourth grade on through high school, I attended Arlington public schools. There were 25 in my high school graduating class -- the largest class since my dad's graduating class -- we 25 were 1/3 of the high school! A year after we graduated Arlington high school was closed forever.

Today none of our near relatives any longer live in Arlington, athough a good number of us populate the Arlington Cemetery.

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