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Plains, Kansas

Founded: 1885 Population: 1,163 
School District: USD 483
"Home of the SWH Mustangs"
 
Elevation: 2760 feet
ZIP code: 67869 Latitude: 37° 15' 37" N
Area Code: 620 Longitude: 100° 35' 32" W

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A Short History and Some Interesting Facts about Plains, Kansas

Plains, Kansas, is located in Meade county. Plains celebrated its centennial year in 1985, having been founded in 1885 on the prairie of western Kansas. In its early years Plains was a ranching community with cattle abounding all over the open prairie, but by the 1900's, with the advent of the steam engine, the prairie land around Plains was slowly being plowed under and planted to crops, mostly corn in the beginning. After WWI the gasoline tractor had replaced the steam engine and with the invention of the one-way plow by Charlie Angell of Plains, the sod was being plowed under and turned into farmland at a much faster rate.

The early settlers soon discovered the average yearly rainfall of 19 inches in this area was not enough to raise corn, but the type of deep, loamy soil, and the arid climate with most of the rainfall coming in the fall and spring and the hot, dry summers proved to be excellent for wheat. Wheat became king and the long lines of trucks waiting to unload at the grain elevators in Plains became a common sight during summer and fall.

In the early years, Plains was a boom-bust town. Booming in the 1800's and 1900's when the Rock Island Railroad came through Plains and many businesses, such as a bank, a newspaper, a drugstore, lumberyard, livery stables, and a barbershop could be counted along the main street. Plains' claim to fame is its wide Main Street which measures 155 feet 5 inches storefront to storefront and was once featured on Ripley's "Believe It or Not". Hard times befell Plains in the early 1900's with many businesses folding.

After WWI a new influx of people came to the Plains area to try their luck at farming and the town was booming again until the dust bowl days of the 1930's. Plains, being in the heart of the wheatbelt, was also in the heart of the dustbowl. From 1931 to 1937 about the only thing that grew on the farms around Plains was the mounds of dirt which covered farm machinery and sometimes entire farm buildings. The huge black clouds of dirt, several thousand feet high, would roll in from the blowing wheat fields and settle on the town. It would be so dark the cars would to turn on their headlights and chickens would go to roost at mid-day. The dirt was so fine it would sift in through the door keyhole. Some farmers just gave up, pulled up stakes and followed the "Oakies" to California and elsewhere, but many stayed and were rewarded for their perserverance as the rains came again in the 1940's and WWII brought higher prices for their crops.

The 1950's brought another drought to the area, but with better farming methods and equipment, the farmers were better able to cope with this disaster. The 1950's and 1960's saw the introduction of irrigation farming to the area. It was found that it was economically feasible to pump water to the surface from the vast Ogallala Formation located 200 to 400 feet below ground. The flat, nearly level land around Plains was ideally suited for irrigation. The early settlers would be amazed to see corn being produced around Plains with yields that they never dreamed of, as well as milo, soybeans, alfalfa, sunflowers, and many other diversified crops. The introduction of irrigation farming to the area stabilized the economy of Plains more than any other single event since the town was founded. Another event having a great impact on the growth of Plains in recent years was in 1973 when DEKALB Swine Breeders, Inc. broke ground for its first swine breeder farm south of Plains. Since then DEKALB has built many swine units and a main office employing a large number of people, many of whom live in Plains. The DEKALB farms produce hybrid swine sold to commercial pork producers around the world.

Agriculture is the primary industry of the area. In Meade County approx. 490 till over 600,000 acres of land.

Plains State Bank provides the banking services in the community. Energy requirements in the city are handled by West Plains Energy and People's Natural Gas. Southwestern Bell provides the telephone services. Water and sewage services are provided by the City of Plains; trash disposal is provided by Meade County Utlilities.

Students attend elementary school in Plains. Junior High School students attend school at the new Southwestern Heights Junior High attached to the SWH High School. High School students attend the Southwestern Heights High School just west of Plains. These students can also take advantage of college extension courses to prepare for future learning offered at SWH.

Plains is a sports minded community. There are several leagues for baseball, softball, and basketball. The municipal park has a swimming pool, golf course, basketball and tennis courts. Meade State Lake offers fishing, boating, hiking and camping just 15 minutes from Plains.

Web counter restarted June 3, 1999

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Last Updated May 30, 2003 / Glenn Evans / Plains, Kansas / gephx@surfbest.net

C & E by Glenn Evans/Phoenix, AZ
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