ABOUT OUR CITY
The Kirwin City Hall hosts both the business office for the city as well as the Kirwin City Library. The City of Kirwin provides the water utility for the town and for some residents near the city limits. Any questions regarding the water utility policy should be directed to Melissa Johnson, City Clerk, at (785)543-6652. Brochures stating water rates and basic city ordinances are available to those interested in moving to the town or purchasing secondary residences.
The City Hall was erected beginning in the year 1915. The council was very excited at the prospect of having a centrally located building and felt the construction would add considerably to the charisma of the town. The city hall was completed in 1916. It is constructed of red brick with Indiana limestone enhancements. The portico over the east entrance has a landing above, which was originally intended as a bandstand. Red asbestos tile was replaced in later years with asphalt shingles in the same color, to retain the original appearance. On the north facade of the building, the initials "F.D." can be seen. This of course stands for "Fire Department," as a horse-drawn fire wagon was housed in the west side of the main floor. The east side of the main floor has always been used as the city office. In the upper story, there is a spacious children's library. This part of the building has seen many purposes over the years. Municipal court was held here, as well as a meeting room for many years. The east side of the upper story was the original library room, and still houses approximately 3,000 volumes of antique books and old newspapers. All in all, almost every newspaper ever published in the town is still intact, although fragile. Persons interested in researching family history and any other facts of interest regarding the town's history are welcome to peruse the available materials.
There is much information available regarding the town's history, and we feel we have a very charming and unique town, but unfortunately, it cannot all be listed here. Specific questions may always be sent to the librarian using the city/library e-mail address listed at the top of the page.
The following is a brief excerpt found in the publication "Kirwin Dam Dedication," which was printed for the dam's dedication ceremonies on June 10, 1955. This history and tales of Kirwin were compiled by C.S. Hurst from the old Kirwin papers on file in the Kirwin City Library.
In 1865 Col. Kirwin with a regiment of Tennessee Volunteers, was sent to the frontier to protect settlers. He established a post between Bow Creek and the North Solomon, a short distance above their confluence, it was called Fort Kirwin. There being no settlers within 100 miles needing protection, and the country swarming at that time with hostile Indians, he abandoned the post.
C.J. Van Allen was the first white settler in the county coming here in 1869, and in 1870 the town of Kirwin was located by William Swanton and John McBride, it was called Benton for a short time. In 1871 the Kirwin Town Co. was organized, the company consisted of C.J. Van Allen, W.T. Belford, Williams Pounds, B.F. Saylor, I.V. Lee, H.P. Gandy, A. Weaver, B.F. Lozier, W.L. Deane, A.B. Parsons, E.W. Warner and others, a company of about twenty-five. Thomas Cox, Sr., the first white settler in the valley marked out the streets with an ox team and breaking plow. The town site cost the City Commissioners $800. This year of 1871 the first post office was opened with Isaac V. Lee as Postmaster, the office was half log, half dugout. At this time, the Indians became so troublesome the settlers built a stockade in the east part of town, sleeping there at night. One night they were so frightened because they could see an Indian sentry just outside watching them. There was no sleep for anyone, and in the morning they discovered the Indian was a grindstone they had forgotten to bring into the stockade.
Phillips County was organized in 1872, having the required 600 inhabitants.
C.J. Van Allen built the first house above ground and Sam Bales the first frame house. The same year Kirwin Pummel, the first white girl, was born. The town gave her a lot for being named after it. Also, Chute and Wood started the first store.
In 1872 and 1873, Dean and Parsons built the first Hotel, the Kirwin House, and also started the Saw Mill. W.T. Belford started a general merchandise store and W.D. Jenkins started the "Kirwin Chief." In December 1873, town improvements in the amount of $21,585.00 were reported.
In 1874, the Land Office moved from Cawker City to Kirwin, and from Kirwin to Colby in 1896. It consisted of three entire counties and three half ones. Among the firms doing business then were Horace Moulton Drugs, L. Wands and George Noble, Livery Stable, E. W. Warner, who built the first lumberyard in 1874, and the Warner house in 1879, Tom Smith livery barn, W.C. Don Carlos and Son, attorney, and many others.
1875 brought M. Fisher of Campbell Fisher Lumber Co., W.E. Rowe and David Dodge advertised as the oldest land attorney in northwest Kansas.
The first church service held in the country was held by the Thomas Cox family. It was broken up by a herd of buffalo as the gathering was dismissed to go hunting. In 1873 the Baptist and Methodist churches were organized. The new Methodist church was completed in 1877. In 1875 the Congregational church was organized and held services over the Land Office until they completed their new building in 1881.
The Bank of Kirwin was established in 1879 by Cameron, Johnson, and Wyncoop. In 1880 C.W. Hull went into the bank and Wyncoop retired. The bank merged and became the First National Bank, with H.R. Hull, cashier. It was first located on the North side of the square, and in 1878 they build a new brick building on the east side of the City square. The Traders Bank was established in 1884 with H.A. Royce, cashier.
School District No. 2 was organized in 1873 with Miss Maggie Shurtz as school mistress. She taught the first school in her home in the south part of town. In the same year, the first school house was built at a cost of $1700, and was used until about 1880 when it was outgrown. A new school was built of Magnesium Limestone at a cost of $9000. In 1918 it became necessary to again build a school building and the present one was erected costing, $25,370. Kirwin Districts no. 2, 17, and 51 were consolidated in 1919.
The first grist mill was built by Skinner and Adams in 1872 on low ground south of town, and washed away in a flood and was rebuilt on high ground further west. It was destroyed by fire on August 10, 1879, and built again. It was then sold to J.W. and C.R. Jackson. It was still standing and was sold to the Government Reclamation Bureau by Clyde Jackson, a son of C.R. Jackson.
The Kirwin Elevator was built in 1884 by Moulton Brothers, costing $500, having a capacity of 15,000 bushels.
In 1875-76 William Strebel built the Kirwin Brewery and on April 15, 1879 Kirwin voted bonds for the C. B. and U.P., a branch of the Missouri Pacific. The first train reached here on November 3, 1879 with 1000 people present.
W. D. Jenkins established a paper, the "Kirwin Chief" in the summer of 1873. During the early days, many papers were started and lasted only a short time.
1885 was a memorable year noted for a number of events, such as the building of the Opera House. This was built by McGintys Coronet Band at the cost of $5000. This band was the oldest in Northwest Kansas being organized in 1879. It was composed of leading business men, Fred Greub and Eugene John being among them. This same year, J.P. Hurd built the second Kirwin Brick Yards and advertised, "The best bricks ever produced in this country." This first brickyard was built in 1877 by Billings and Mower. When the first train came to Kirwin, it ran over the yard and it was never rebuilt.
In 1874 Horace Moulton ran a Drug store in a frame building. In 1880 he built a two story stone building costing $10,000. In addition to drugs, he added watches, clocks, and jewelry to his stock. This eventually became the Masonic building.
In 1876 among other business firms in Kirwin, there were three lumber yards, five hotels, six drug stores, and six attorneys.
One of the early settlers was John Ellenberger, merchant tailor. He came here in 1879 and settled south of town on a farm.
Another old settler was August Stockman who came here in 1872 and started a general merchandise store the same year. In 1880 he build a new building of native brick. This building was next door to the bank. Many of the Stockman descendants still live in Kirwin.
These old papers are so full of marriages, births and deaths that it is hard to stop but space runs out. I must give a short sketch of the Kirwin Library. This is from the Independent of April 2, 1890. "Kirwin Library folk will give entertainment, The District School, by the Kirwin Reading Room Association." The next mention of a Library is in 1912 when the present library was started by a group of ladies, and has grown until it is one of the largest small libraries in Kansas.