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The Empire

That Missouri Pacific Serves

STAFF0RD (44 miles west of Hutchinson)
 
This wheat belt town on the Missouri Pacific's Larned branch bears the same name as the county in which it is located. Stafford is generally reputed to have been the name of an Army general prominent in Kansas' early days but it is not known if this town derived its name from the county or vice versa.
 
STERLING (166 miles northwest of Wichita)
 
Founded in 1872 by representatives of a company known as the Agricultural Colony of Kansas, this Rice County community was originally known as "Peace." Four years later, when the town was incorporated, the name was changed to Sterling. No information is available as to the origin of either the original or present name. Agriculture is the principal industry of the surrounding area and the town also is adjacent to oil fields and extensive salt mines. Its Sterling College, originally Cooper Memorial College, was founded in 1887.
 
STILWELL (32 miles southwest of Kansas City)
 
The founders of this farming community in Johnson County were three enterprising Irishmen, Jack Larkin, Mike Kelly and Mike O'Keefe, who bought the original townsite and sold it in lots to early settlers. Stilwell was named for the conductor of one of the first Missouri Pacific trains that ran through the town.
 
STOCKTON (95 miles west of Concordia)
 
The occupation of its early settlers inspired the name of this town in Rooks County. They were livestock men so this was a "stock" town that became "Stockton" when the "w" was dropped to shorten the name.
 
Livestock raising, along with wheat farming, is still an important industry in the area surrounding Stockton. More recently Rooks County has been the scene of considerable oil discoveries.
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TOPEKA (60 miles west of Kansas City)
 
The capital of Kansas and seat of Shawnee County is an important industrial city as well as the center of state and county government. Its name was derived from an Indian word, "Ta-pa-ge," the exact meaning of which is a subject of debate. Some say it means "a place where Indians grow potatoes abundantly" others interpret it as "noisy" or "Smoky Hill."
 
It is believed the first white settlers on the site of Topeka were Joseph and Louis Papan who arrived in 1842, married Kaw Indian half-breeds and operated a ferry across the Kansas (Kaw) River. (Charles Curtis, former vice-president of the United States, was a descendant of Louis Papan.)
 
A branch of the Oregon Trail crossed the river here and during the California gold rush approximately 90,000 "forty-niners" passed through, making a continual encampment of approximately 1,000 people near the present site of Topeka. In 1854, after the Kansas territory was opened for settlement, the town was laid out and settled, largely through the efforts and leadership of Cyrus K. Holliday. When Kansas was admitted to the Union, Topeka became the capital.
 
Topeka's strategic location, excellent transportation and abundant natural resources have brought about a substantial and diversified industrial development, including flour mills; printing and publishing houses; meat, poultry and egg packing plants; railroad shops, foundries and ironworks. Among the local manufactures are creamery products, trusses, tires, tents, awnings, dresses, serum and medicines, baskets and boxes, steel fixtures, culverts, tanks and steel jetties.
 
Points of interest in Topeka, in addition to the Capitol, State Hospital and other state institutions, include Washburn Municipal University, Bethany College, Federal Building, Grace Church Cathedral, Capper mansion, executive mansion, Gage Park and the "Underground Rail- road Station," which was a link in the escape route for negro slaves before the War Between the States.
 
Outstanding events in Topeka's yearly calendar include the State High School Basketball Tournament, the Mexican Fiesta, Community Fourth of July Celebration at Gage Park, Kansas Free Fair, Civic Concert Series and the Community Christmas Tree festival.
 
TORONTO (82 miles east of Wichita)
 
Pioneer settlers who reached this area from Toronto, Canada, brought with them the name of the older city and transplanted it at their new home in Woodson County, Kansas. This was in 1868, 13 years ahead of
 
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the construction of the Fort Scott & Wichita Railroad, predecessor of the Missouri Pacific.
 
Before the coming of the railroad Toronto was on a main wagon trail and mail was carried in the early days by stage coach from Humboldt through Toronto to Eldorado.
 
Industry in the surrounding area includes oil field operations, dairy, stock, poultry and grain farming.
 
TOWANDA (22 miles east of Wichita)
 
This Butler County community is believed to have been named after an Indian trading post, once located on the Whitewater River west of the present site of the town. Farming and cattle raising are principal industries of the area now.
 
TRIBUNE (168 miles west of Pueblo)
 
This name is part of a western Kansas trinity of names that pay tribute to that great American journalist who is best remembered for his famous advice, "Go west, young man, go west!" With a neighboring community in Greeley County calling itself "Horace," the inevitable choice of a name for this town was "Tribune," after Horace Greeley's distinguished newspaper.
 
The Kansas Tribune is a prosperous trading center and shipping station for the surrounding wheat, milo and livestock farms.
 
TURON (20 miles southwest of Hutchinson)
 
A small group of cabins, somewhat ambitiously described as "Pioneer City," was the forerunner of the present Turon. The second name given to the community was "Turin," after the historic city in Italy. When the railroad was built through here in 1887 the name was changed again to "Turon," reputedly to avoid a duplication of names.
 
Turon is in Reno County, an area of grain and stock farms, with some oil wells in its vicinity, too.
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UNIONTOWN (15 miles west of Fort Scott)
 
This Bourbon County community in the Marmaton River Valley is said to have grown up about a general store established by one Ben Gum as early as 1848. Ten years later the name Uniontown was adopted, possibly to denote its political sympathies in that era of strife between free-state and pro-slavery partisans.
 
UTICA (145 miles west of Salina)
 
"Wilberforce" was the name of this Ness County town when it was founded, honoring, so it is said, an English nobleman. To the busy farmers of the community, however, the name was too long and high-sounding, so they changed it to "Utica," after the city in New York state of the same name.
 
Utica is situated in a section of the west Kansas grain country where wheat, barley and sorghum are the leading crops.
 
VERMILLION (70 miles west of Atchison)
 
From a glance at a map of Marshall County you might infer this community was named for the neighboring Vermillion River, You would be right–it was. Vermillion is a trading center and shipping station for the surrounding farm country.
 
VERNON (76 miles northeast of Coffeyville)
 
Origin of the present name of this Woodson County community is uncertain although its earlier name is known to have been Talmage, possibly in honor of A. A. Talmage, an early chief engineer of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. Vernon now is primarily a hay and cattle shipping station.
 
VLEITS (73 miles west of Atchison)
 
When the present Missouri Pacific line was being constructed through this section of Marshall County in 1868 the railroad set out a box car to serve as a station for a small settlement, named "Ewingsport" in honor of an influential farmer. When the railroad asked the citizens if they didn't have a shorter name they obliged by calling their community "Vleits" in tribute to another farmer whose land adjoined the railroad right-of-way. Corn is the principal crop raised in the vicinity of Vleits.
 
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The book The Empire That Missouri Pacific Serves was published in the fifties by the Missouri Pacific and contains permission to reprint all or any portion.
 
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