City of Claflin, Kansas History


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The town of Claflin, called Giles City for a short time, then named after a prominent citizen's (J. Hamilton) wife's maiden name "Claflin". Mr. Hamilton has a street named for him along with J.H. Williamson who bought 80 acres of land in the 1880s which is now in the East part if the town, from Stelle Giles whom the original town was named for. The City of Claflin was incorporated in 1901 and the first city election was held on August 2nd.  By 1903 there was a public school, 3 banks, churches, a hotel, lumberyard and a dry goods store that still stands today as the Claflin Community Center.  In 1906 after several fires a chemical fire fighting apparatus was purchased and a volunteer fire department was formed.  The population by then was 440.

In 1903 J.W. Miller established a hardware, implement, plumbing, heating and repair business now Millers of Claflin.  In 1904 the Catholic Church was built on the lots where the latest church stands today.  In 1915 city workers removed the "hitching posts" from Main Street as the town grew with 162 students enrolled in Claflin Schools.  By 1918 a shortage of teachers developed in this area because of the war effort.  In 1920 the new Methodist Church, that still stands, was dedicated.  The Pastime Club was formed of "older men" with daily pitch and pinochle games played.  Early in 1921 a private company began supplying water to the business area of Claflin.  That same year the Claflin Lighting and Power System changed from "direct" current to "alternating" current.  The first oil well in the area was drilled in 1923 and a large fire burned out the East Side of Main Street.

After yet other devastating fires in the city the people of Claflin voted for a city water system that was completed early in 1927.  Heavy rains in August of 1928 filled Cheyenne Bottoms to the highest level on record.  The next record setter was in the spring of 2007.  In 1930 Congress passed a bill authorizing the establishment of a federal game reserve at Cheyenne Bottoms.  Claflin's population was 607. 

The thirties brought a natural gas distribution system to town, CWA workers landscaped the City Park and there were 5 grocery stores in town.  March 5, 1935 was declared "Black Friday" when a dust storm hit in the evening reducing visibility to almost zero.  Two "oil field" lumberyards opened as rotary oil drilling rigs replaced cable tools.  Wood derricks were erected over most well sites at that time.  The city sewer collection system was completed in the spring of 1938.

Also in 1938 Claflin's Walter Hickel, who later became governor of Alaska in the 1960s and again in the 1990s, joined a group of boxers in Salina and in a match with a Goodland team Hickel and another teammate won their respective fights.

The early 40s brought WWII and the selective service saw 117 men between the ages of 20 and 45 register in 1942.  The August 1945 issue of the Claflin Clarion paper stated that more than 200 men from Claflin were in the armed services.  8 have been killed in action and 3 are listed as missing in action.

The Claflin Golf Club was organized in 1943 and a 9 hole course was laid out 2 miles East and 1/2 mile North of Claflin where it still exists today as a 9 hole grass green facility.  The 1944 census shows 737 people  live in Claflin with school enrollment at 223.  In 1948 an auditorium and gymnasium and vocational/agricultural shop were added to the school.  The old gym was remodeled for a cafeteria and extra class rooms.  This building now houses Kindergarten through 6th grades.

1950 saw K-4 Highway moved from the South edge of town onto the Front Street path through the city where it is today with curb and guttering added and pavement.  The Baptist Church was completed in 1952.  Street signs were installed at intersections throughout the town in 1954.  In 1956 a new fire station was built when Fire District #1 was established for fire protection in and around Claflin.  Also that year the Claflin Wildcats basketball team went to the State Tournament placing 2nd after losing to Inman 67-66 in the championship game. 

1960 brought the Claflin Clinic building with Dr. Raymond Clapp being the first Doctor to practice there.  There were many more physicians over the years including Dr. Jeffrey a chiropractor who retired in the 1990s and sold the building to the City of Claflin where the current city offices are located.  In July of 1962 the Diamond Jubilee Celebration was held with over 3500 in attendance.  Claflin's population was 968.  1963 brought the completion of the new high school on the West side of town.  A new sewer plant was built that year West of town also.  A tornado struck the West side of Claflin in 1964 damaging the roof of the new school.

1970 saw the closing of the Immaculate Conception Parochial School with it's students attending Claflin Public Schools.  The population in 1976 was 943.  In 1979 the Claflin Housing Complex was built across from the intersection of 6th and Albro streets.

In 1981 the Claflin Clarion News, of which most of this history comes, was changed to the Tri-County News serving Claflin, Holyrood and Bushton.  The paper is now published by the Hoisington Dispatch.  Claflin's Frank Buehler, a retired business man here, was elected to represent the 113th district in the Kansas Legislature in 1982 where he served several terms with near perfect attendance and a perfect voting record.  In 1986 the Claflin Wildcat men's basketball team made it's forth straight appearance in the Kansas 1A state basketball tournament.

In 1998 a new fire station was built and the fire department moved to it's present location in the 300 block of West Front Street (K-4 Highway).
During the late 90s and into 2007 the Claflin women's and men's basketball teams made appearances in the 1A State Basketball tournaments with the girls team winning back to back championships in 2006 and 2007 and the men’s team winning state runner up in 2006.  The late 80s and through the 1990s saw Claflin's football teams play in 9 state championship games with 5 championships and 4 runners-up.

Today Claflin is still a bustling town with Millers of Claflin (Est. in 1903) the largest business.  Main Street has been fronted with replicas of several of the early store fronts giving a nostalgic look to the town.  With a population of about 750 and K-12 grades in the schools Claflin still has much to offer.  Cards (the same as in the 1920s) are played at Wildcat Pump and Supply daily (except Sundays) at 6:45am prior to everyone’s work day.  There is a full-time Police Department and a full-time Paramedic on duty at the fire station during weekday business hours and on call 24-7.