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        The area where the present day Goessel, KS is located was not originally named Goessel. In 1874 a large migration 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 1894.

Immigrant House - Goessel, Kansas
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 Bethesda Home.

        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.

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