A history of Lone Elm cannot be told without mentioning Isaac K. Reeve. Reeve arrived in Kansas in 1869 from Pennsylvania and settled near present day Independence, Kansas. Those times were hard with poor crops and then his wife died from typhoid fever. Reeve left Kansas and went to Michigan and worked in the lumber camp to make money to return to Kansas.
In 1873 Reeve returned to Kansas to the town known as Divide. There he rented a horse at the local livery stable and rode all over the southeast area of Anderson County. He was looking for suitable land to settle. The prairie grass was as tall as his horse in places where he rode. His sister and husband, J.B. Rhodes family, lived near Elizabethtown southeast of Colony. Reeve purchased several hundred acres of land from the railroad for $1.50 to $2.50 per acre where Lone Elm is located today.
After buying his land he returned to Pennsylvania and married Hannah Louisa Winters and they returned and built a home a half mile southwest of present day Lone Elm. In 1879 Isaac and Hannah Reeves welcomed a daughter into their family, Bessie Arlene. Bessie married Tom Church and their son was Olin Church.
A post office was established close to I.K. Reeve’s home in a cabin and he became postmaster in 1879 and remained postmaster for five years. Five years later the post office was moved to the home of Jonas Kulp who became postmaster.
The St. Louis and Emporia Railroad passed through Reeve’s land. Reeve and his wife made a plat for a town and I.K. Reeve and H.L. Reeve filed the plat May 5, 1886. The new town was named Reeve. The Lone Elm post office was later moved from the Kulp farm into town. Because the post office was named Lone Elm and the town Reeve to prevent confusion the town’s name was changed to Lone Elm. It was named after a lone elm tree standing close by the town site. Lone Elm maintained a post office until 1956 when it was closed.
The town of Equity was a mile north and a half mile east of Lone Elm and they expected the railroad to run through it. When the railroad missed Equity most of the buildings and houses were moved into either Lone Elm or Kincaid and continued doing business. Reeve erected several buildings in Lone Elm to encourage businesses to move into town. He was also the original stockholder of both the Lone Elm State Bank and the Bank of Kincaid.
Business picked up in the little town and it boasted Carrier and Schuessler’s hardware, implement, and furniture stores. Buck and Nester both sold groceries and general merchandise and Stoll operated the local lumberyard. A livery barn was owned by Lamay. A drug store was operated as well as the post office by Mr. Reiber. The local doctor was Manley Forsythe and the town also had a local veterinarian, Frank McVeigh.
The railroad ran along the south side of town had a stockyard built on the north side of the tracks. Lone Elm became a shipping center for livestock, grain and hay. Two freight trains, one from the east and one from the west ran through the town daily. The passenger train went through in the morning and returned in the evening.
In 1933 the Lone Elm Bank was forced to consolidate with the Kincaid Bank as several fires heavily damaged the community. The coming of truck transportation and the depression was a heavy blow to the little town. The railroad was abandoned in 1933 and really took its toll on the economy in the area.
Entertainment took place in Lone Elm also. Pitching horse shoes, sledding in the wintertime, and attending the occasional movie were good entertainment. Early Memorial Day gatherings at the local hall would see over 60 Civil War veterans gathering for the services. School plays, box suppers, the local literary society programs and the occasional movie was also held in the hall.
Chautauquas were held in large tents. Chairs from the local churches were set up in the tent as well as some tables. The chautauquas were usually held in August and some people would buy season tickets for the events. Other entertainment included medicine shows in the winter with plays and then bottles of “medicine” were sold to cure any ailment usually at about $5 per bottle. The “special formula” for the medicine was mostly alcohol. Mabel Church, the stepmother of Olin Church, formed a youth group for the young people in the community. She organized picnics, parties and other activities for the youth.
Saturday nights were big deals in small towns. People brought their eggs and cream to town to sell and they spent time visiting with their friends and neighbors until after midnight sometimes. Carl Ellington operated a local store and bought eggs and cream and after everything closed down he loaded the produce truck with the eggs and cream, sometimes well after midnight.
Before Lone Elm became a town Walker schoolhouse was north of the town site and another school was south of the town site. One of the school buildings was moved into town and became Lone Elm District No. 67. The school was surrounded by a wooden fence and pipe. It was heated by two large coal stoves and water carried in a bucket to drink and there were two three-holers out back for restrooms. About 1915 a new school was being built just north of the original building.
The new building had four classrooms upstairs two half basement rooms downstairs. On the front of the building was, “High School 1916.” The fall of 1916 Mabel Sleeth came to Lone Elm to teach the four upper grades and offered four courses for the ninth grade. Continued work was carried on for the high school and in 1923 the first high school class graduated. The high school closed in 1946 from lack of students. In later years the Lone Elm Elementary School closed because of consolidating small schools to form a larger school.
Lone Elm had a Methodist Church and a Presbyterian Church at one time. Today there are no churches in Lone Elm. The old Presbyterian Church was made into a barn and the Methodist Church is the present Community Building in Lone Elm.
There was a filling station operating into the late 1950’s by Wilbur Keplinger. Art Minkler operated a farm machinery and car repair shop starting sometime in the 1930’s or 1940’s and closing in 1990 when Mr. Minkler died. The Lone Elm Depot was purchased and moved to Garnett. It sets on the west side of Highway 59 next the the Anderson County Hospital property. It was a residence for many years and presently is owned by a real estate business.
Information for this article was taken from Anderson County Histories compiled by the Anderson County Historical Society and a booklet, Lone Elm Days by Olin Church. A big thank you goes to Linda and Andy McAdam and Gary Holloway for their contributions of history and photographs.
Isaac Reeve and his daughter, Bessie Arlene. Lone Elm was originally named Reeve after Isaac Reeve.