Some eight miles down the track of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad from Welda another station was located in 1870 on an eminence known as High Divide or Ozark Ridge, dividing the waters of the Arkansas and Missouri rivers.
This station, located on the highest point in elevation on the railroad between Kansas City and the Gulf of Mexico, was named Divide and a town was platted on section 6, township 23, range 19, Ozark Township, by the railroad company. This plat was recorded with the probate judge of Anderson County by 0. Chanute on August 2, 1870.
Some time heretofore, after the mail route had been laid out in 1858 from Lawrence to Humboldt via Garnett and Colfachique, and a stage coach carrying express and passengers as well as mail followed the route, a stage station was built a little west and south of the present location of the Star schoolhouse, and was called the "Halfway House." Such a stopping place was needed on the long stretch of prairie between Garnett and Humboldt, and this tavern was kept by a man named Wagner until the railroad and the station at Divide succeeded it.
During the fall of 1870 a post office was established in the depot at Divide and the station agent, Mr. Wyman, kept the post office. Owing to the difficulty in securing water, few improvements were made at this townsite for nearly two years. However, a store was built in 1871 by A. W. McFort, a corner building on the south of Broad Street, but this was of short duration for little was heard of it the next year when the colony arrived.
Back in Ohio and Indiana, four men, Col. Henry Wilson, Col. N. Bostwick, J. G. Norton and J. J. Fairbanks were making plans to organize a colony to bring to Kansas or the Colorado Territory where they expected to found a town. The colony was organized in these states in 1841 and, after examining possible locations, they selected the station of Divide as the site for their town. In March, 1872, the new settlers began to arrive and by the middle of May about one hundred people had come to the vicinity of Divide. After the arrival of the colonists a town company was formed and an election held. Col. Henry Wilson became president; J. J. Fairbanks, vice-president; J. P. Ewing, secretary; and D. W. Ream, treasurer.
The name of the station and site was changed to Colony after this settlement of colonists. At the time of their arrival many of the colonists made improvements but the colony soon disbanded and most of the newcomers returned to their former homes in the east, abandoning the lands they had improved.
However, town improvements were made slowly by those who remained. J. J. Fairbanks built a house, the first dwelling house in the town, early in the year 1872. Another early residence was built by A. G. Perkins.
During that summer Mr. Fairbanks and D. W. Ream opened what was considered the first store of the town in the building that later housed the Grandview Hotel, Colony's first lodging house. Dr. J. M. Ford opened up a dry goods and grocery store and had a good business, besides being a practicing physician.
The remaining colonists settled up and improved the land around Colony and made good farms on the fine, undulating prairie, and Colony soon became a thriving town. By 1877 the town numbered about eighty-five residents, and had one store, one blacksmith shop, a wagon shop, a hotel, a real estate office and a post office.
Because of the expanse of virgin prairie in this vicinity, Colony soon became a hay center and John Fairbanks brought the first power hay baler to the neighborhood. By 1880 Colony was the most important hay shipping point in the county, and it still retains that industry and distinction.
Colony's first smithy was Maj. A. G. Perkins, who kept his blacksmith shop for several years. An early agent and operator at the station was Charlie Cramer, one of the first settlers. During his spare time it was said that he knitted woolen stockings for his family. He was agent until 1884 when he resigned to become cashier of the Bank of Colony, the first bank in the town.
J. B. Rhodes moved his family to Colony from his farm near Elizabethtown and succeeded to the business of Dr. Ford, who had kept a store of groceries, dry goods and drugs. In this store the post office was located and Mr. Rhodes acted as postmaster. In the same building was the general store of another early merchant, J. McD. Martin.
At one time Colony had a driving park with a half-mile track, located on land to the northwest of the town and owned by I. A. Gray. A judges' stand and a string of feed barns were built. The first telephone line in Colony was built by George White and extended from his house to that of I. A. Gray. In the early nineties a telephone line, financed by prominent citizens of Garnett, Colony and Westphalia, was strung from these towns. The wires were supported on green timber poles which soon rotted and the line went into disuse.
The Yates Center branch of the Santa Fe (recently abandoned) was constructed in 1886 and succeeded the stage route between Colony and Neosho Falls. The Missouri Pacific was built across Ozark Township the same fall. For a time the west end of this road was known as Adana on the literature of the company.
The earliest schoolhouse of this vicinity was located about three miles from Colony. However, in 1876 a schoolhouse was built in Colony and that fall school was opened in it, taught by Frank P. Ewing. The first number of the Colony Free Press was dated January 9, 1882, and was edited by J. J. Burke and Clark T. Richardson.
In 1877 a Methodist Episcopal society was organized as a part of the Deer Creek circuit. The society erected a church in the southwest part of town in 1880. The building was moved to its present location about 1893. The Rev. Richard T. Harkness was an early pastor of the Methodist Church.
A Baptist society was organized in 1881 and a church building erected in 1882. The church building was removed to a farm about one and one-half miles southeast of Colony in 1933 and is now used as a residence.
The Sacred Heart Catholic Church was dedicated on September 18, 1898, by the Rev. John Redeker of Westphalia. Up to this time church services had been held in the residences of John O'Mara, Adam Meier and Felix Bouray. Today, Colony is considered one of the best towns in the county. Its inhabitants number more than five hundred.
Federal highway No. 59 goes through this town. Although it might be said that the chief industries of this section of the county are farming and hay raising, it also has fine oil and gas fields, opened early in the 1920s, the products from which largely supply the town and are sold to large pipe line companies and sent all over this part of the country.
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