Towns were being laid out in many townships in Anderson County in 1857. Settlement in the southeastern corner of Reeder Township was growing along Pottawatomie Creek. Several families came from Iowa to settle in the area. John B. Lambdin and his sons put up a sawmill near the site of Central City.
According to Judge James Y. Campbell in his history of Anderson County gives credit for laying out the town the town becoming Jerome to Dr. George W. Cooper. Location of the town was Section 35, Township 20, range 18. The plat for the townsite was filed at the land office in Lecompton on December 26, 1857. Kansas was still a territory at this time. Dr. Cooper had a lithographed map of Jerome, as the town was first named, showing steamboats paddling up and down the Pottawatomie Creek with busy wharves and streets lined with impressive buildings crowded with people. Many lots were sold in the town and years later landowners would come to Anderson County to look at their property.
Lumber was needed to build the town and J.B. Lambdin and sons built a sawmill near Jerome. Later in 1865 C.H. Lowry had a sawmill on Potawatomie Creek and S.W. Arrant built a small water powered sawmill on his farm.
Several buildings had been built and the Central City Hotel was a very impressive building two stories high and started in 1857 and completed in the spring of 1858. A two story building was a large structure for those days. The hotel, because of being on the Humboldt Road, did a prosperous business for several years. Early in 1858 W.S. Eastwood and H.N.F. Reed built the first store in the town. The Central City store was built by the Marshes and located across the street from the hotel. It was a trading center in the western part of the county for white settlers and the Sac and Fox Indians and other tribes of Indians. The store’s importance grew as more settlers arrived in the area. The Marshes moved to Humboldt in 1860 and John S. Johnson became the new store owner. A blacksmith shop was established close to the mercantile store in 1859. In 1865 a post office was established May 5, 1865. and J.M. Aldridge was the first postmaster.
A school was built two blocks south of Steven and Orville Marsh's store. The post office was also established and J.M. Aldridge became the first postmaster. The main street running east and west through town was named Wall Street.
The town had grown considerably by 1870 and the town's name was changed to Central City. In 1877 there was a harness and saddle shop owned by Lawrence Retzer and a shoemaker shop had been established in town. A barber shop was opened and someone started a portrait studio. The following doctors had established offices in Central City: Drs. J.M. Welsh, Josiah Lanter and J.B. Jones. A total of 21 or 22 businesses were in Central City at one time.
The town was a busy place due to its location on the main road through Kansas from Lawrence to Humboldt on into the Indian Nations. It was a trading point that excelled in the area and was actively in competition with Garnett for the county seat.
When the Leavenworth, Lawrence, and Galveston Railroad were considering running the railroad across the Central City Flats on a relatively easy route changed their plans and went over the bluffs north of Garnett into the city hope for Central City to be prosperous town on the Pottawatomie Creek was lost.
The route through Central City would have been much easier and shorter to build the railroad, however, there were rumors during this time of an engineer being given $700 to recommend to the Garnett survey to company officials. When they built the railroad through Garnett it thwarted Central City’s hope of ever becoming a railroad center.
Later Central City’s hope for a railroad grew again when there was the possibility in 1874 of the Paola and Fall River Railroad building a railroad just south of the town. The bridge abutments were built on Cedar Creek and grading was made west of Cedar Creek and a half mile north of present-day Mont Ida the grading can be observed today. However, in 1879 there was a successor to the Paola and Fall River the grade was dropped and the railroad built through Mont Ida. Central City continued to remain a good trading point until rural mail deliver and the automobile came to Anderson County and people could travel farther to buy supplies.
The voting precinct for Reeder Township was moved to Central City in 1859 from Cresco. It was moved because of the abandonment of Cresco for the Pikes Peak, Kansas, gold fields.
The Presbyterian Church in Central City was dedicated in 1871. The citizens of the town when a proposition to build was to have an undenominational church building. It was dedicated as a Presbyterian Church since the Presbyterian Extension Society had donated $250 toward the building. The Methodist church also held services in the building for two years. It was not uncommon for pioneer churches to hold services in the same building. Later the church building was bought by the Central City Grange.
In 1874 the Central City School was built of pine lumber by Thomas McKnight assisted by William and Charley Cooper. In the picture in the photo gallery those standing in front of the school were: Frank Woodworth, Ellsworth Ecord, Tom Hitchcock, Charles Woodworth, Everet Cooper, Nora Ottman, Lula Shaffer Byall, Harry Johnson, F.D. Garrison and Will Woodworth.
It was not too many years until the town’s real boosters, the Marshes, Porters, Johnsons, and others began to move away. Eventually the little enterprising town became a quiet little village and had little to recognize it as a town other than the church and school.
In 1898 new life seemed to come to Central City when Mulford Marsh opened a new store across the street west from the old Central City Store. Tom and Holly Hitchcock and Sol Furney were doing well with creameries, and Dick Brown was the blacksmith. However, when the creameries left the boom for the town ended. So ended Central City, no railroad had been the cause of death for the little town on the Central City Flat.
In 1934, Harry Johnson wrote an article in the Garnett Review, May 17, 1934, about “The Old Central City Church.” Mr. Johnson attended an event with his wife and granddaughter at the Central City church at the time owned by the Grange and used similar to a community building with the program staged by the Ladies Aid of the McCabe Methodist Church. It was an evening of entertainment with plays and other entertainment. They drove to Central City in their 1928 or 28 auto to the church lite by Coleman gasoline lights. The building was heated by the original 1870-80’s stoves.
The program was a play, “The Last Daze of School” written by the makers of White Rose gasoline who furnished the printed play and the hand bills for advertisement. Advertising for the company was shown throughout the play. Other entertainment included school children and local adults participating in the event. It was reported enjoyed by all.
Central City was located on either side of 1650 Road going west from NW Idaho Road between present day 1600 Road and 1700 Road west of Garnett. The cemetery was located north-northwest of Central City and about a quarter mile west of the present county road, NW Idaho Road. The stone pillars for the cemetery entrance remains in place on the road. One pillar has a marble slab engraved stating the stone pillars were put in place in 1870 and burials had started in the cemetery in the 1850’s. The other pillar has a marble slab with a list of the men who were charter members, probably of the cemetery board. Those men listed are: S. Lake, B. Bacon, M. Porter, S.J. Marsh, A. Sybertz, S.W. Arrant, M.B. Bierly, John Marsh, P.F. Engleman, C. Sturdivant, Oliver Marsh, E.M. McMasters, John Aldridge, James Aldridge, John S. Johnson, Julius Matthews, Daniel Hitchcock, James Donaldson, and B.F. Saintbin.
Dr. B. M. Lingo doctor in Central City.