Dr. Enos J. Broomhall came to Anderson County in 1857 and settled in western Washington Township. He homesteaded land and bought land from James Harper. The first home he built was located on the northeast edge of what would become Mont Ida. Later in the 1870’s he constructed a large two story home beside the stone house for his wife, Angelina, and their three children, Ida, Eva Belle and Grant, would live.
The first town built southwest of Garnett on the new St. Louis, Kansas, and Arizona Railroad was Oneida. On October 11, 1879, a town company was formed and a charter was filed on October 14th. Charter members of the new town were O.F. Garrison, St. Louis; W.A. Johnson, Garnett; F.M. Shaw, Paola; E.S. Hunt, Garnett; W.H. Conover, Garnett; F.G. Barber, Garnett; and Enos J. Broomhall. The town was surveyed and platted by the railroad on land donated by Dr. Broomhall in 1880.
When establishing the post office in Oneida in December, 1880, it was discovered a town by the same name existed in Nemaha County. The town’s name was changed to Mont Ida, the Mont after Mont Lewis an early settler and relative of Enos J. Broomhall and his oldest daughter Ida.
Frank Gray opened the first business, a general store, and the post office was in the building and Frank Gray was the first postmaster. Dr. J.B. Jones moved his drug store from Central City and began practicing medicine with Dr. Broomhall. In 1881 Mont Ida became a telegraph station and S.B. Cooper was the depot agent and telegrapher. Several other businesses opened in 1881 including Stoner’s blacksmith shop, J.L. Lesh’s hardware and implement store and three hay presses with operators William Parkinson, John Campbell, and the Graves Brothers. The post office was moved to M. Sybertz store and he became postmaster. With a growing population a schoolhouse was built in 1881 and was District #39. Maggie Moore, a local resident, was the first teacher.
The railroad needed water to refill the locomotive boilers and used the railroad grade to build a dam to create an eleven acre lake known as Crystal Lake. Water was pumped into a water tower from the lake. A large coal chute was constructed 1920 west of the water tower and depot for refueling. The old water tower was replaced in 1921. Several years prior to 1910 the railroad put a dam across Cedar Creek and pumped water to their water tower from the creek. Crystal Lake was drained in 1910. Besides the depot the railroad also had stockyards to hold cattle and a siding to load cattle and hay from the hay presses.
By the 1890’s the railroad track east of Mont Ida was changed from the old low water bridge as the trains had to pull three miles of steep upgrade to get to the town. A new trestle bridge was built across Cedar Creek creating an easier grade and to straighten the track into town. They also east of Cedar Creek built Birch Switch with a Y design. Trains shift cars and even turn around by changing engines and backing into the Y.
The town was growing and in 1911 the Mont Ida State Bank was established. J.W. Becker bought the controlling interest in the bank and along with his wife operated it until his death in March, 1933. After his death Mrs. Becker closed the bank in November and moved to Garnett.
Lightning struck the school in 1928 and it totally burned. Construction began on a new school and while it was being built Miss Hazel Jones held classes one through four in the Methodist parsonage and Miss Anna Nichols taught classes five through eight in the Church of the Brethren. The new school was a two story brick building, steam heated with electric lights and it cost $18,000 to build. It was dedicated November 17, 1929. Miss Jones spent eight years teaching at Mont Ida.
Mont Ida had two churches, the Church of the Brethren and a Methodist Episcopal Church both built on Broomhall Street. The Brethren Church was organized in 1872 in the home of Peter Struble. Brother Jesse Studebaker was the first pastor. In May 31, 1891, a new church building was dedicated. In August, 1920, a severe wind storm damaged the building extensively and a new church was built. The fire of 1922 destroyed the new church and it was again rebuilt.
The new Methodist Episcopal Church building was dedicated December 20, 1885, with Rev. E.C. Boaz of Baldwin conducting the service. The church closed in the 1950’s and the Amish Church obtained the building in 1961 and established the South District Sunday School House. It is used for Sunday School, Bible School and the women of the church meet to quilt and do mission work.
Business owners were Holly Hitchcock, Harry Lowry, Harley Duncan general merchandise, and the post office with Bert Sybertz as postmaster, were all operating. John Ruggles Livery Barn was where the first gas station and Ratliff’s Garage were located. Dr. C.B. Harris, Sr. came from Westphalia and practiced medicine from 1906-1910. His office and home was across the street from the bank. Dr. Harris, Sr. moved his practice to Garnett in 1910.
After Dr. Harris moved to Garnett his office was used as by the telephone company and the switchboard was operated by Lena Ratliff and Grace Reed. Mit Weaver’s daughter also helped at the switchboard.
Fire was an ever present danger and the town once totally evacuated as a prairie fire starting near the town of Aliceville was rapidly approaching. However, only one home was destroyed in the fire. In 1929 Swarthout's Lumberyard and Hardware business burned.
Jake Kaub gave land for the town cemetery located a half mile south of the Brethren Church. He stipulated the lots could not be sold or reserved and instead the lot would be given at the time of a person’s death.
Mont Ida’s golden years were from 1890-1925. It had become an important grain, hay, and cattle shipping center. Main Street was lined with many businesses and they had a depot, hotel and bank. The first telephone switchboard was located in the hotel and operated by Bill and Stella Neal. Business was good and the town flourished.
Today little remains of the town of Mont Ida. The only business is Mont Ida Meats where livestock is butchered and processed for individuals. The Church of the Brethren continues to hold weekly services and the school are operated by the Amish. Four families live within the town.
Platt map of Mont Ida showing railroad and Crystal Lake.
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