The area where the present day Goessel, KS is located was not originally named
Goessel. In 1874 a large
of Mennonites from Russia settled in Central
Kansas, Those in this area settled in a pattern of villages similar to their home in
Russia. The settlement now named Goessel was first a village called Gnadenfeld.
However, it was years before a trading center developed. The Mennonite Brethren
congregation built a church in 1890, the first public structure there. One of the first
businesses, a creamery station, opened around 1890. A blacksmith shop opened in
Immigrant House - Goessel, Kansas
In the early 1895, Dr. Peter Richert was looking to establish a Hospital in the
place of what is now Goessel, KS. He first needed a Post Office to receive
shipments of medicines and supplies. He also needed a name for the Post Office.
Oral tradition states that he sent in the name "West Branch” as this was the name of
the township. It was supposedly rejected because the Postal Department did not
want any more names with North, East, South, or West.
About that time, January 30, 1895, the North German Lloyd steamship "Elbe"
was passing through the English channel when rammed by another ship at 5:00 a.m.
It sank in 20 minutes and 22 half-frozen survivors made it to safety in one lifeboat.
350 people drowned. Through this scene of terror, Captain Kurt Von Goessel
calmly gave orders, and finally, saluted as he went down with his ship.
The story made world-wide news instantly, and was covered on the front page
of the New York Times on January 31. Yacht clubs around the world flew flags at
half-mast. Since his ship made regular runs from Germany to New York, he had
American acquaintances, including the music composer S.B. Mills, who wrote a
piano march titled "Elbiata" in his honor. He was described as having impeccable
character, and highly respected in nautical circles. He won medals for heroic
rescues at sea. He left behind a wife and children.
Back in Kansas, Dr. Richert read the story of the captain. Because of the world-
wide significance of the story, and heroic nature of the captain, Dr. Richert sent in
the name "Goessel", and it was accepted by the U. S. Postal Department in a
charter dated April 13, 1895.
In 1898 The Bethesda Hospital Society was formed, the first Mennonite
Hospital in North America. It continues today in the form of the
The downtown business district continued to develop with stores, small
restaurants, and business establishments. Some more notable have been the Franz
store, operating until the 1940's, the Klassen mill, 1906-1919, several service
stations, car dealers, garages, banks and Crossroads Cooperative, today Mid-Kansas. In
1906 the Goessel Preparatory School was formed, and operated until 1925. The Goessel Public High School was established the next year and continues today. In
1906, a tornado passed down Main Street, destroying about ¾ of the town, but the
citizens bounced back.
Today the town of Goessel has 565 residents, 3 Mennonite Churches, AGAPE
Senior Citizens Center, and active community recreation programs.
Supplied by Brian Stucky, Goessel.