Kansas Fictional Towns
Kansas Fictional Towns, Map of Kansas Literature

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By Author:  
Averill, Thomas Fox Glasgow
Clair, Maxine Rattlebone
Davis, Kenneth S. Beecher
  New Boston
Haldeman-Juliuses Fallon
Haywood, C. Robert Dalton
Henderson, Daryl Ditch Valley
Hinger, Charlotte Pinkerton
Hughes, Langston Stanton
Inge, William Freedom
Jaffe, Michael Grant Tarrent
Jennings, Richard Melville
Laura Moriarty Kerrville
Moses, Edwin Fox Creek
Parks, Gordon Cherokee Flats
Pennell, J.S. Fork City
Pickard, Nancy Hood County
Small Plains
Reiter, Laura K Brittsville
Siebel, Julia Ferguson Belleplain
White, William Allen Sycamore Ridge
Yoho, Max

Map of fictional Kansas towns. Hyperlinks to specifics. Kerrville, Kansas, from Laura Moriarty's The Center of Everything Glasgow, Kansas--Thomas Fox Averill Midlin, from Thomas Fox Averill's Leaving Midlin, Kansas, A Story in Postcards Fox Creek, from Edwin Moses' One Smart Kid Freedom, William Inge's Independence Epic, from Max Yoho's Revival Fallon, Marcet & Emanuel Haldeman-Julius' Girard Cherokee Flats, Gordon Parks' Fort Scott Sycamore Ridge, William Allen White's Emporia Small Plains, from Nancy Pickard's The Virgin of Small Plains Stanton, Langston Hughes' Lawrence Rattlebone, all black neighborhood in Kansas City, Kansas Ditch Valley, Daryl Henderson's Ashland Dalton, from C. Robert Haywood's The Preacher's Kid Dalton, from C. Robert Haywood's The Preacher's Kid Jericho, Paul Wellman's Cimarron Belleplain, Julia Ferguson Siebel's Colby Ludlow, from Julia Ferguson Siebel's For the Time Being Pinkerton, Charlotte Hinger's Hoxie Melville, from Richard Jennings' The Great Whale of Kansas Brittsville, Laura K. Reiter's Beloit Fork City--Joseph Stanley Pennell's Junction City Hood County, Nancy Pickard's Waubaunsee County Beecher, Kenneth S. Davis' Manhattan New Boston, Kenneth S. Davis' Manhattan Tarrent, from Michael Grant Jaffe's Dance Real Slow



The Fictional Town in Kansas Literature

   The fictional Kansas town is born of idealism (Beecher) and its opposite, speculation (Pinkerton and Jericho). It is both the picture of normalcy (Midlin) and of hidden decadence (Fork City and Epic). It is ethnically segregated (Rattlebone) or full of racial divides (Cherokee Flats). Most of all, the Kansas town is a force: young people want to flee it (Kerrville and Fox Creek), are seduced by its pedestrian charms (Fallon), find it a magnet for homecoming (Small Plains).

   In most of Kansas Literature, towns (like landscape) not only have character, but are characters. They can be adversary (Glasgow) or friend (Freedom). They can be depressing (Belleplain) or inspiring (Sycamore Ridge and Brittsville). They represent our need to reconcile with the past (New Boston) and our need to start all over in new communities (Tarrent). Above all, they are real places (Hood County) that test a character's sense of reality (Melville),

   Often, writers use the real towns in which they grew up, simply changing names, such as Langston Hughes' Stanton/Lawrence or C. Robert Haywood's Dalton/Meade. Sometimes, the freedom to re-name is the freedom to criticize (see the work of Julia Ferguson Siebel). Most often, the creation of the fictional town gives the writer freedom to be located without being slave to particular place, the freedom to create a Kansas that, even though it does not exist, often seems as real, as believable, as essential and true as Kansas itself.

Town Descriptions:

Glasgow, Thomas Fox Averill (Scottish Lindsborg, see Averill page), The Slow Air of Ewan MacPherson

   Just after Thanksgiving, Ewan and Shirley and Cork began their plans for the next Burns Night ceilidh. Not even Christmas was more important to Glasgow. To best the year before, they raised enough funds to bring a contemporary Scottish poet to Kansas, to flavor their celebration of the past with a little of now. The poet scandalized the Glaswegians by not rhyming. (pp. 113-114)

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Midlin, Thomas Fox Averill (Little River - see Averill page), Leaving Midlin, Kansas

   Approach any central Kansas town and you see the grain elevator, water tower, church steeple, the vaulting county courthouse: anything trying to find sky. Say you're traveling west on Highway 52, toward Midlin, population 2,789, Home of the Midlin Lions. Farthest south in your gaze, just above the geen fuzz of elm trees - carefully planted and watered in the last century - is the cylindrical landmark of the Farmer's Co-op and Magnusen's Mill and Elevator. Then, as though marching toward the highway to intersect your drive, the flag-mounted cupola of the Chichkawh County Courthouse, the Midlin Water Tower, and the bell tower and steeple of the St. Cloud Church. (p. 5)

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Rattlebone, Maxine Clair (Argentine area of Kansas City), Rattlebone

   The Saturday-morning-only milkman who brought the new, homogenized bottles from Armourdale. The here-he-comes whose only name was Insurance Man, except for that one time on Mr. Mozelle's porch when he said something that made Mr. Mozelle draw back his fist before Mrs. Mozelle could stop him. Doll leaning on the register at Doll's Market, taking our pennies for B-B Bats and baloney by the slice. Mr. always-quiet Heltzberg bent in a stout C and carrying his stained leather satchel - thick with sheet music - on the shelf of his back every Wednesday afternoon by bus from way out in doo-waditty to Wanda's house and back to the bus stop. In the Rattlebone end of Kansas City, those were our white people. (p. 23)

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Beecher, Kenneth S. Davis (Manhattan), The Year of the Pilgrimage

   Of all such forgotten villages - barely recognized by the branch line of a railroad, snubbed entirely by major highways - the town of Beecher might, in late August of 1946, be taken as example. To reach it by automobile the traveler must turn southward from the Kansas River into a dusty graveled side road off the paved main highway from Kansas City. At first he sees, beyond the motor hood, no town at all. On either hand the fields lie level across the rich bottomland, while straight ahead lie limestone hills.
... until the bridge is reached, the bridge across Harcourt Creek. It is an old bridge. A decade ago it had been long condemned; it has been strengthened since so that, during the war just ended, it might safely bear the occasional weight of tanks from nearby Fort Riley. ...
... In the old fabulous days there wre giants in the earth and blood ran red down the valley of the Kaw. In that lost and fading time Beecher stood for something: Beecher and Kansas could bleed for an Idea. But the blood of Kansas is thin now, water of an indifferent kidney, too feeble to serve as seed for any church. The wild-eyed idealists are dead now and their inheritance is dissipated among the earnest advocates of petty prohibitions. The shriveled carcasses of mighty dreams have been shoveled under the sunflowers by Alf of the Balanced Budget and King Arthur of the Farm Bloc, yes, and the Topeka Bureau of the Kansas City Star (not a newspaper, by God, but an institution). (pp. 3-5)

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New Boston, Kenneth S. Davis (Manhattan), Morning in Kansas

   Viewed from above ... the town, topped by the leafy crowns of trees, appeared to be virtually all of a piece. Only the business district at the Eastern edge of the town and the State College's buildings of limestone on a long sloping hill at the western edge must stand out, from the tower, as nakedly distinctive features.
   But if one forsook the tower, descending to the streets and walking along them, one found this seeming homogeneity to be an illusion. There were difference beneath the town's surface uniformity ... The Negro community consisted of a few hundred souls confined, with perhaps three highly resented exceptions, to the weedy and shack-strewn environs of the great house on the southern borders of the town. North of it, as one moved from east to west, one proceeded quite steadily from an area of small, cheap, old houses through an area of medium-sized and medium-priced houses into an area where the houses were relatively large and new and expensive. . .
   The chief social tension in New Boston was between College and Downtown, ...
   Otherwise New Boston was similar, in its social structure, to a hundred other mid-american towns. (pp. 16-17)

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Fallon, Emanuel & Marcet Haldeman-Julius (Girard), Dust and Short Works

   ... but in Fallon, Kansas, a job was waiting for him on the Middle West's most popular weekly. In fact, between unfinished novels, Gordon had made his living for several years by writing many of this paper's editorials, for which he received five dollars a column (set in eight-point solid, eighteen ems wide), and he had frequent invitations to come to Fallon for steady work at thirty dollars a week, with - important item - traveling expenses included.
"But what on earth will you do in Fallon?" demanded Oliver, stirred into making an unwelcome call.
"Work," Gordon answered stiffly.
"I certainly can't imagine one doing anything else in Kansas. You know, of course, that a wretch found with a bottle of beer may receive a more severe sentence than that given to the gentleman who kills his neighbor.
"It'll be the same here soon enough.
"But Kansas is so prosperous and completely populated by taxpayers and auto owners," Oliver persisted.
Gordon was in no mood for humor. "I hope the environment will be uncongenial," he returned savagely. "Then I'll be driven to finish some of my stories and plays."
"Don't think it!" warned Oliver soberly. "I was born and raised in one of those small Middle Western towns, and I know them. It'll get you, sure. There's something in their atmosphere that's deadening to certain kinds of impulse. Before you know it, you'll be joining the No-Tobacco League, receiving honors in lodges, going to funerals, and becoming an all-around useful member of society."
Gordon smiled at the suggested incongruity, but there was no mistaking the real earnestness in Oliver's voice as he added awkwardly: "I know how you feel toward me just now and I can't say much, but you're too big to be lost. Don't do it. I swear to you, you're making the mistake of your life."
"I shan't stay over a year, at most," Gordon assured him, hastily... (pp. 6-7)

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Dalton, C. Robert Haywood (Meade), The Preacher's Kid

   Mom told us we would be living in a town called Dalton, located southwest of Dodge City and about twenty miles from Jericho. She said the District Superintendent had told Dad right in front of the Dalton folks that it was "not an easy assignment." Dalton had had six preachers in the last five years. So we were all going to have to work hard to help those people "see the light" - and, of course, to help keep Dad in a job.
That's how it happened that one spring morning we came chugging down Dalton's main street headed for the Methodist Episcopal Church. We knew how to find the church, but, of course, none of us had seen it yet. Dad turned left at Newell's Chevy Garage, like he'd been told, and there sat the church, just one block off Main Street. It was on one corner of a big lot which was totally covered with weeds, except for some patches of brown buffalo grass in front of the church. (pp. 10-11)

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Ditch Valley, Daryl Henderson (Ashland), Ditch Valley

   The town where my mother and father were together is bordered on the north and east by a small creek that branches off from the Big Sand. It rose high enough in the spring rains to cover the crossing down by our house. In the summer it ran so dry that you could follow it up past the grain elevator to the Shoemaker place in the park. When my sister and I were playing in the yard we could hear the cars and trucks ease over the crossing and slowly grind up the hill. At the time this story takes place, the sunflowers in the ditches were so tall that we could hardly see the road or who was coming until they were almost upon us. (p. 12)

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Pinkerton, Charlotte Hinger (Hoxie), Come Spring

   Pinkerton sponsored a celebration to attract homesteaders and other potential customers to the auction of lots. Graham wandered down the main street and studied the changes that had occurred since he first stepped off the stage. The street was faced with buildings - a new hotel, a saloon, a blacksmith shop, a dry goods and general store, a drug store, and a combination barber and bath house, along with fifteen rental houses.
Jack Tucker came up behind him and laid a hand on his shoulder.
"Something to see, isn't it?"
"God, yes," said Graham. "Doesn't seem possible."
People were beginning to trickle into the town. They had come for miles and miles. Some were lucky enough to have horses, but others were on foot. All were eager to see if the town really existed. They enjoyed the extravagance of a free oyster supper supplied by the town company. It was served with such generous hospitality that the luxury-starved homesteaders looked upon the company as the right hand of God Almighty, rather than the right hand of the railroad. (pp. 84-85)

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Stanton, Langston Hughes (Lawrence), Not Without Laughter

   Colored men couldn't get many jobs in Stanton, and foreigners were coming in, taking away what little work they did have. No wonder he didn't stay home. Hadn't Anjee's father been in Stanton forty years and hadn't he died with Aunt Hager still taking in washings to help keep up the house? ...
   Most young folks, girls and boys, left Stanton as soon as they could for the outside world, but here she was, Annjelica Williams, going on twenty-eight, and had never been as far as Kansas City! (pp. 31, 33)

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Freedom, William Inge (Independence), My Son is a Splendid Driver

   Our home now was in Freedom, a small, prosperous town in the southeastern part of Kansas where the geography was nothing like that of the flat, dry western half of the state where Mother and Father had met.    ... As a child, I could not imagine my parents had ever lived anywhere except in the pretty and prosperous town that was now our home, with its spacious houses and wide green lawns, all tented over by the heavy foliage of great elm trees and maples, where the surrounding country was verdant and hilly. (pp. 9-10)

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Tarrent, Michael Grant Jaffe (Auburn), Dance Real Slow

   At 41,094, Tarent, Kansas, is the seventh largest city in the state - just ahead of Hutchinson and behind Salina. Tarent is twenty-two miles west of Lawrence, where the University of Kansas is located, and about sixty miles east of Kansas State, which is in Manhattan. The route to either is easy. Manhattan is 70 West into Topeka, then switch over to 50. Lawrence is 50 East all the way. I drive to one of the schools weekly to use the law library. Tarent's public library is small, and most of its legal section concerns itself only with basics. (p. 12)

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Melville, Richard Jennings (WaKeeney), The Great Whale of Kansas

   If America were a dart board and your dart landed on Melville, you'd be the winner, hands down. That's becuase Melville is smack dab in the middle of the United States, exactly halfway between the great Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, a place with no coastline, no beach, and no blue ocean views. (p. 4)

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Kerrville, Laura Moriarty (Yates Center), The Center of Everything

   My mother works at Peterson's Pet Food, right across from the slaughterhouse on Highway 59.
   We live just off the side of the highway in an apartment complex called Treeline Colonies, four flat-roofed, black and brown units of eight apartments each, sixty-three miles from Wichita, three miles from Kerrville. ...
    She [my mother] doesn't see where they got the "Treeline," though, because there aren't any trees except for the two redbuds in front of Unit A that still need to be propped up with string and sticks. ... There's a Pine Ridge Shopping Plaza, but there aren't any pines, and there isn't a ridge
   Please, God, let me be the one to go to Topeka. Please. I imagine God sitting in front of a computer with blinking lights, putting on headphones when my voice comes in like a radio frequency from far away. He turns dials, adjusts the headphones, watching words flash on a screen: Bucknow, Evelyn. Kerrville, Kansas, U.S. Fourth Grade. Science Fair.
   I like living in Kansas, not just because of the wheat, but because it's right in the center. If you look at a map of the world, the United States is usually right in the middle, and Kansas is in the middle of that. So right here where we are, maybe this very stretch of highway we are driving on, is the exact center of the whole world, what everything else spirals out from.
   I get up and go to the other side of the room and look at the pictures on the wall, at a map of Kerrville stuck up with tacks. A little red circle is drawn on the map, and next to it, YOU ARE HERE in red letters. I don't want to be here. I don't want to be here. (pp. 6, 8, 45, 85, 96)

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Fox Creek, Edwin Moses (Harper), One Smart Kid

   Also, we're both stuck in the middle of nowhere. If you had a monster map of the United States, big enough to cover the whole floor of a schoolroom, in the middle of it would be a good-sized dot, which is Wichita. A little way northwest is a small dot which is Hutchinson. Then quite a long way west and a little more north is a tiny dot for Remington. Finally, if you looked a few inches farther west yet, I mean about thirty miles, you'd see something you'd think was a speck of dust. But when you went to wipe it off you wouldn't be able to, becuase it would be Fox Creek, Kansas, population 492, one of which ever since I was born has been me. As soon as I'm grown up, or sooner than that if I can't stand it any longer, it's going to be 491 again. (p. 4)

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Cherokee Flats, Gordon Parks (Fort Scott), The Learning Tree

   ..the contours of the village resembled those of an egg, the broader top half representing where the most well-to-do resided, and the lower half being where the poor and the near-poor lived. The Frisco tracks, running north and south across the lower section, drew the social and economic line between the six thousand residents who made up the village. There were no well-to-do blacks . . . but there were poor whites who shared, to a certain degree, the status of their dark neighbors east of the tracks. ...
    The stone courthouse and jail (squatting smugly, medieval-castle-like, in the square) stood out . . . in the bright Saturday morning sun. ...
The Regency Theater (featuring William S. Hart this week - this month - this year) and the Mottsy Funeral Parlor stood together at the north end of the business section on Main Street. ...
Jack had mixed feelings about this place. Like all other Kansas towns, Cherokee Flats wallowed in the social complexities of a borderline state.
   Here, for the black man, freedom loosed one hand while custom restrained the other. The law books stood for equal rights, but the law (a two-pistol-toting, tobacco-chewing, khaki-puttered, leather-legginged cop called Kirky) never bothered to enforce such laws in such books - "Mainly 'cause I can't read," he often bragged.
And though the white and black children were separated in the primary schools and the churches, they played together on the dusty streets, outlying hills and plains. The black boys and girls and the white boys and girls went to the same picture show - the whites downstairs and first balcony, the blacks in the peanut gallery or buzzard's roost. There was no written law against a black man's eating in a white restaurant or drugstore, but there could be trouble, lots of it, if he tried. So seldom, if ever, did he try - especially if he wanted one of the odd jobs that meant his existence.
To Jack Winger, Cherokee Flats and the whole state was a plateau of uncertainty. "Livin' here is like havin' a good lay with a woman you don't quite trust," he boomed at the superintendent of schools one day. (pp. 24-25)

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Fork City, Joseph Stanley Pennell (Junction City), The History of Rome Hanks and Kindred Matters

   But what sort of people squatted in Fork City anyway? They all sold each other wheat and bacon and corn and beef and farm machinery and squeaky shoes; they all talked in the same Goddamned flat, nasal voice about the same Goddamned trivial things day-in-day-out year-after-year - eating sleeping and growing more rustic and pompous and proverbial (as if the secrets of Life with a capital L were to be found in the saws mouthed over a corner rail or a gutter: You kin ketch more flies with molasses than you kin with vinegar. Where there's that much smoke, there must be some far. First ketch your rabbit. Time is money.) They begat their kind, hating each other because of the no-privacy of the place, stunned because of the dullness of the virtues they felt obliged to wear, beckoned at and tempted by the rich vices that each kept each from enjoying except in deep, painful secret. (p. 3)

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Hood County, Nancy Pickard (Wabaunsee County), Bum Steer

   For the next hour, we flew on instruments at 8,000 feet over landscape that all looked the same to me when I got glimpses of it through the clouds: flat, gray, and wet. But then the weather and the land both began to change: we passed the back edge of the front, so so speak, and the sun appeared, shining down on rolling terrain. On top of the hills, there were gray circles that looked like salt on the rim of enormous margaritas. When I asked the pilot what they were, he said, "Limestone." Ah. Gray rocks. In Flint Hills. I saw brown dots that I assumed to be cows. No trees. Or, practically no trees. Water holes. In fact, lots of water standing in pastures where the rain had passed through. A barn here and there. Even fewer houses. As we descended, I saw long, long fence lines.
    It looked like no country I'd ever seen before.
    Suddenly, I felt as if I were flying into another century, the one with sod houses, covered wagons, and cowboys.
    We landed in a pasture and rolled bumpily down a dirt strip to a stop a few yards from a barbed-wire fence. I breathed again and looked around. Straight ahead was a metal airplane hangar with a tin roof. Farther left, there was a green pickup truck with a cowboy standing beside it, and to our right were a few red cows. That was it.
Welcome to the real Kansas, I thought. (pp. 49-50)

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Small Plains, Nancy Pickard (Alta Vista), The Virgin of Small Plains

   More than halfway, actually, since he stood at the intersection of I-70 and Highway 177. To the north was Manhattan, to the west lay Denver, and toward the east was Kansas City, where he had lived for the past seven years. Small Plains was straight south from where he stood. If he remembered correctly, the cemetery was on 177 north of town. He could run in, take a look, and then get right back in his car and head home without even having to drive through Small Plains. (p. 107)

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Brittsville, Laura K. Reiter (Beloit), One Was Annie

   Brittsville had the advantage of being laid out in the Solomon valley, surrounded by bottomland along the good-sized river which flowed into the big Saline. The water, wood, and rich earth available there under the Homestead Act coupled with the three hundred and twenty acres the Britts and their co-investors were ready to divide into lots made the place very attractive to settlers. Still, it was remote, not yet a railroad stop, and it had, in 1865, only twenty-two permanent familes. . . . In truth, the hasty eye could not find much to rest on. The model windmill for the agricultural implement company didn't arrive until the mid-eighties, so nothing yet rose above the single-storied bildings - except, on a couple of them, a false front built five feet high or so above the actual roof line. The Hardware and Stove Store, the General Mercantile, and Britt's Land Agency had slanted porch roofs supported by poles, but horses as well as people could get under them. (p. 188)

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Belleplain in Sutton County, Julia Ferguson Siebel (Colby and Thomas County), The Narrow Covering

   The town was Belleplain, the county seat of Sutton County, planned and laid out thirty years before by the railroad, its streets crosshatched square with the compass on a sweep of the tilted plains. Central Street was a line strung north and south between the railroad's passenger station and the freight spur a half-mile away. The six or eight residential streets all hung westward off that line, like streamers blown out by an east wind, or as if the westbound momentum of the first comers had carried them on across Central Street before they could stop and look around for a good lot to build on.
   Over a thousand people lived there by the time Mrs. Beecher and the girls came, and the trees that had been planted when the town was new reached nearly as tall as the houses. (pp. 19-20)

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Ludlow, Julia Ferguson Siebel (Colby), For the Time Being

   To the north the town of Ludlow, in the state of Kansas, stretched along its length of railroad track from the grain elevator, which showed as a flat dark oblong below Cassiopeia in the east, to the two church steeples pricking the sky toward the dipper in the west. Between lay the flickering lights and trees of the body of the town, too low to cover any stars. The undulant treeless plains spread out from there everywhere to the full curve of the horizon. (pp. 4-5)

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Jericho, Paul Wellman (Cimarron), The Bowl of Brass

   For a time Archelaus sat still in his office gazing out of his window at the broiling street. Familiar business signs caught his eye: General Store, Cox & McCluggage, Proprietors. The Acme Lumber, Feed & Supply Co. Hippocrates Morse, M.D. Exchange State Bank. Bon Ton Restaurant, Meals Family Style or Short Order. The New York Store, Dry Goods & Notions.
To an unusual degree Henry could say that this was his town. He had built it, and he still owned it, or much of it. Those varied mercantile and professional enterprises he regarded almost with a feeling of paternity. Except for Henry Archelaus none of them would be in existence now. Nothing would be here except the prairie dogs - and the prairie. (p. 19)

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Sycamore Ridge, William Allen White (Emporia), A Certain Rich Man

   He pointed the way and she turned into it, and the band followed. They crossed the ford, climbed the steep red clay bank of the creek, and filed up the hill into the unpainted group of cabins and shanties cluttered around a well that men, in 1857, knew as Sycamore Ridge. The Indians filled the dusty area between the two rows of gray houses on either side of the street, and the town flocked from its ten front doors... (p.3)

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Epic, Max Yoho (Southeast Kansas town), Revival and The Moon Butter Route

   After belaboring us with what must have been every case of drunkenness and every puddle of vomit in the whole Bible, Reverend Willyard set about to give us an equal dose of the phenomena of the "miracle." That was important because he figured it would take a miracle of about eight hundred cubits - squared - to even give the citizens of Epic, Kansas a chance.
   "Citizens of Epic, Kansas, I am here to tell you that after walking the streets of this town for the last few days, you had just better be glad that I'm not God! Oh, make no mistake, He was right there looking over my shoulder. He saw everything I saw, and I reckon He was shaking His head in sorrow and disgust! What did I see? And what did God see, looking over my shoulder? We saw SIN! We saw what appeared to be a fine little town, but in the bowels of this town, we saw the cancer of every vile and rotten form of corruption which old Satan ever visited upon a people! We witnessed usury! We witnessed men bearing false witness against their brother! We witnessed fornication and theft! We witnessed men lying with animals of the field!"    (p, 112 & p. 190)

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