Archive for Monday, June 15, 2015

Edwardsville set to turn 100 next month

June 15, 2015

Maybe June and July should be officially designated as “cities’ birthday month.” A couple of weeks ago we celebrated Basehor’s 50th birthday. Likewise Edwardsville reaches a major milestone next month. Edwardsville became a city of the third class in late July 1915, making the community 100 years old!

Mike Webb, city manager, said that no special observation has been planned. He added he would like to have a special celebration but doesn’t have any volunteers or organizations to head up the event. Maybe a belated observance can be held in 2016 at the annual spring “Edwardsville Days.”

Edwardsville has been around a lot longer than 100 years, and at the turn of the 20th century, it was a bustling agricultural community. Edwardsville was known as the “potato capital” largely due to the work and expertise of Junius Groves, who was an extremely prominent potato farmer. He was a successful, creative businessman, and I believe that Mr. Groves is probably the most famous Edwardsville resident.

According to information I found, Edwardsville was surveyed in 1869 and was located on land owned by a Delaware Chief named Half Moon. Like most small towns that survived, Edwardsville was fortunate to have the Union Pacific Railroad in the community. Unfortunately for modern area residents, the railroad cuts through the city and many of us have spent long minutes waiting for freight trains to pass.

The city was named after John H. Edwards, a general ticket agent for the railroad.

At the turn of the 20th century Edwardsville was a busy community with numerous business, churches and a school. The Chieftain had an Edwardsville correspondent who reported on happenings in the community. Incidentally, the oldest continuously operating business in Edwardsville is the bank. Edwardsville had a high school until it consolidated with Bonner Springs in 1945.

The Chieftain is a bit sketchy on the events that led up to incorporation. One thing is for sure, Edwardsville had a much easier time than Bonner Springs in getting approval from the Wyandotte County Commission. It took Bonner Springs several years, but Edwardsville achieved the feat on the first try.

The commissioners set a mass meeting to act on the issue on July 20. Obviously the meeting gave its approval, but there was no follow up story in The Chieftain since the big news was the “Chautauqua.” A couple of weeks later the newspaper reported that Edwardsville, population 238, was now incorporated and scheduled the first city election.

Apparently there was no opposition and H. C. Barger, a local merchant, was elected mayor. Members of the council were J. R. Charlton, A. A. Kerns, William Eddington and O. K. Williamson. A. M. Smith was police judge.

Edwardsville built a city hall in 1917. The building, which is no longer in use, stands adjacent to the railroad tracks. Meetings were often halted as a freight train rumbled by, making it impossible to hear. Edwardsville moved to its present city hall in the 1980s.

Union Gas spearheaded growth in Edwardsville in the 1970s, including the Mobile Home Park and industrial park. In my opinion, Edwardsville’s industrial park has grown into one of the finest in the area.

Tom Cooley was the first Edwardsville city administrator and served until he became Bonner’s city manager. The city’s growth led to it becoming a City of the Second Class on March 26, 2012, and changed to a city manager form of government. Over the years the city has upgraded facilities and now has a modern government complex. Edwardsville has had an interesting past and is well situated to continue its progress into the 21st century.

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