Lincoln, Kansas

A Brief History
of Lincoln Kansas

Lincoln County
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        In 1870 George Green, the founder of the town of Lincoln, named it after Lincoln County, which had received its name in honor of the president, Abraham Lincoln.  A close neighbor and several cousins of Abraham Lincoln had settled here.  Green was also the leader of the fight to relocate the county seat from Abram to Lincoln.

        A U.S. Census was taken in 1870, and the population was listed as 516.  Lincoln then qualified for a separate county, having been a part of Ottawa County until then.  They voted for the first time and 155 votes were cast for the location of the county seat in Lincoln.  Another controversy followed of adding "Center" to Lincoln to indicate it was centrally located in Lincoln County.

        They immediately began to organize a new community.  The citizens had great visions and planned for a city. 
The Rees Mill and the Saline River, south of Lincoln, Kansas
  The Rees Mill and the
  Saline River, south of Lincoln
New businesses were constructed: a hotel, shoe store, grist mill, newspaper, a doctor, an attorney, and a general store and post office.  At this time citizens could not envision what native stone buildings would mean to the town: that one day every business on Main Street would be built of stone, including a magnificent courthouse and several churches.

        The town was organized in 1870.  The first post office was established on July 14, 1870 in the home of John S. Strange and he was the first appointed postmaster of "Lincoln Center".  The "Lincoln Center" name continued until the post office was discontinued on November 29, 1878.  By this time there was security in the name and location of Lincoln, and the town was called "Lincoln".  The first Lincoln post office was established on the same day, November 29, 1878, with John Z. Springer as the first appointed postmaster.

        After a stormy beginning caused by drought, hard times and feuds, prosperity followed the first decade of growth for the new county of Lincoln.  From a small town of 150 inhabitants in 1878, Lincoln's population increased eight-fold, until 1886 only one hundred more citizens were needed for the 2,000 necessary for a second class city.

        In 1886 the Union Pacific Railroad built a branch line called the Salina, Lincoln and Northwestern Railroad, and the citizens had an outlet to Eastern markets.  Mail service now came from the east to Lincoln.  Mail from the relatives back home greatly boosted the morale of the early pioneers.  In 1889 T.M. Hudson began driving a mail hack out of Lincoln to the smaller communities, and continued until the railroad was built west of town.

        By 1890 Lincoln and Lincoln County were becoming well established.  The land was settled, the businesses were thriving and the early homes were being replaced by magnificent residences, even cited as mansions.  Strides were being made in politics, social and cultural activities, and in education. Already in 1885 the Kansas Christian College was founded in Lincoln under the auspices of the Christian Church, and continued as a leading private college in the state for over a quarter of a century.

        The late 1890's were drought years and land sold for $10.00 per acre.

The old courthouse in Lincoln, Kansas
    The old courthouse
        After the fire, which destroyed the court house, visions came true.  In 1900 a new native stone Lincoln County Court House was built.  Today this magnificent rock structure is being used as the present courthouse and shows the strength of pioneer craftsmanship.

        On March 1, 1904 rural mail delivery was established out of Lincoln and was a great convenience to the homesteaders who formerly picked up their mail at a community post office.  The mail came weekly at first, and sometime later, daily, depending on the condition of dirt roads.  Rural delivery started by a hack type wagon, but soon most of the rural carriers had a car or truck.

An 8-foot snow in Lincoln, Kansas, in 1912
  Main Street, Lincoln,
  Feb., 26, 1912,
  8 ft. of snow.
        In 1905 prosperity was back and Lincoln was again a special place. Lincoln streets were graveled, the old crank type telephone brought service to city and rural residents alike. We can just imagine the visiting over the rural party line by early settlers. An electric light plant was built, and service to residents was completed by 1906. Dr. Lambert Kerr purchased the first Ford in Lincoln, and by the 1920's there were many families with cars.

        The people of Lincoln and the county survived several wars, the depression and the dirty `30s, droughts and floods, contagious diseases and death, and the courage of their pioneer culture was something they wanted to preserve, so the county organized the Historical Society.

        In 1970 Lincoln residents celebrated their centennial with a large celebration, and the towns of the county celebrated our country's Bicentennial in 1976. The celebrations renewed the dream of having a museum, and it became a reality when, in 1976, the Union Pacific Railroad gave to the Historical Society the old depot, built in 1887. The plans of converting this building into a museum didn't materialize as a storm destroyed the depot, which was being transported to a new location. Later the society purchased the stone home of the late Hans Jorgensen. This then became known as the Kyne House Museum, as it was built by the Kyne family, and the late Estella Kyne set up a trust to help finance its operation.

        Throughout the years, the post office in Lincoln moved many times. Whenever the rent was lower in another building the post office would move. The first postmaster received $12.00 per year. During the early years the postmaster's position was political and he would likely lose his job when a president from a different party was elected. The law was changed in 1938, so the postmaster could expect to continue being employed.

        Some of the early locations of post offices in Lincoln were in the middle of the west block of Main Street, in the eastern half of the east block of main street. The present location is on Third Street.

Chamber of Commerce
(785) 524-4934
144 E. Lincoln, Lincoln, KS 67455

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January 10, 2009 / Shirley Buchanan / Lincoln, Kansas /

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