by Von Rothenberger
Dr. Daniel E. Tilden was one
of those restless souls who after many years of searching at
last found his home in the South Fork Solomon River valley
in what is now Osborne County, Kansas. Born in Madison
County, New York, in 1818, Tilden moved to Vermont and later
to Erie County, Ohio, where he opened a medical practice.
Here also the new Dr. Tilden met and married his wife and
brought his first three children into the world.
In 1853 the family moved to
Beaver Dam, Wisconsin, where twelve years later Dr. Tilden
volunteered for the Civil War. He served 18 months before
being wounded and discharged. After the war the family moved
to Valparaiso, Indiana, and then to Lawrence, Kansas, and
finally to Osborne County, where on April 1, 1870, Dr.
Tilden staked out a homestead and settled down at last.
A year later, Dr. Tilden
determined that a town in the area was needed. He consulted
with the local Indians as to where a good location on his
homestead might be, and in early 1871 he laid out and
platted the new town of Tilden on a site that the Indians
claimed was legendary for being avoided by tornadoes and
other violent storms.
Being young and vigorous and
near the relative center of the county, Tilden threw in its
hat as one of the four candidates for the permanent county
seat of Osborne County. In the first two elections to
determine the county seat Tilden placed fourth and then
third to rivals Osborne City and Arlington before dropping
out of the race. A consolation prize of sorts came Tilden’s
way when Osborne City was declared the county seat. The
rival town of Arlington, between Osborne City and Tilden,
disbanded and its buildings were moved to Osborne while the
post office was removed to Tilden. The new Tilden Post
Office opened on May 30, 1872, with Cyrus C. Tilton (not
Tilden) as the first postmaster.
After the defeats for county
seat the community’s residents decided that a good name
change would inspire the town to grow to new heights. The
town site was officially re-platted with the new name of
Bloomington on May 10, 1873, and the post office name was
officially changed to Bloomington on January 1, 1874.
Bloomington School District
#10 was organized in May 1873. After meeting in homes a
one-room schoolhouse was built in 1879 from local limestone
and used until May 1898, when a larger building was
The only bona fide gold rush
ever seen in the Solomon River Basin occurred in January
1880 when two men digging a well five miles northwest of
Bloomington claimed to have discovered the precious metal.
The two-day rush of farmers and other fortune seekers to the
area ended when two men with mining experience pronounced
the nuggets as being only pyrite, or “fool’s gold.”
During these growing years the
community could lay claim to some very interesting
characters that livened up the neighborhood. Charles Jesse
Jones claimed a homestead two miles southwest of Bloomington
in 1872. One of the first environmentalists, he foresaw the
over-hunting of the American bison and began saving and
raising buffalo calves–much to the consternation and
ridicule of his neighbors. “Buffalo” Jones’s many exploits
over the next 40 years stand out as one of the great unsung
legends of the American West and has earned him the title of
“Savior of the American Bison.” He also served as the model
for the hero in author Zane Grey’s popular Western novels.
In 1877 21-year old Howard
Ruede claimed a homestead 11 miles southwest of Bloomington.
Over the next year he faithfully wrote home to his family in
Pennsylvania of his struggles and experiences. Those letters
were posthumously published in 1937 under the title
Sod-House Days: Letters from a Kansas Homesteader 1877-78,
a book now considered to be one of the finest works ever
written on homesteading on the Great Plains.
Benjamin Franklin Matchett
arrived in Bloomington in 1885, an ordained Christian Church
minister. A native of England, Matchett had entered the
American Civil War as a spy for Union forces in 1862. In
1889 he was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives
for a two-year term and also served as the Speaker Pro Tem
of the Kansas House.
Phil Hahn was born in
Bloomington in 1932 when the community was at its peak with
about 75 residents. In the 1950s he went to work as a writer
for Hanna-Barbara TV cartoons. Over the next two decades he
became a top comedy writer in Hollywood, writing for such
series as Get Smart, M*A*S*H, Sonny and Cher, Three’s
Company, and many others, winning one Emmy Award and being
nominated for four others. In the 1980s he produced some of
the biggest TV shows of the decade, including the American
portion of Live Aid in 1985 and several Bob Hope specials.
By 1932 Bloomington consisted
of a church, a lumberyard, two cafés, a post office, a bank,
a general store, a grain elevator & stockyards, a railroad
depot, a telephone company, a blacksmith shop, and two
garages. The community never incorporated as a formal city
and within 25 years the population had dwindled to the point
that on August 31, 1955, the post office was closed. The
school followed suit in December 1968. Today Bloomington
boasts just one business, the grain elevator, and 13
residents who continue to preserve the 1879 one-room stone
schoolhouse and work to keep the spirit of the community