Friday, May 09, 2008

Ghost Towns

Finney County Kansas

Lawdog posted a story about some kids who:

HOUSTON -- Three teenagers are accused of digging up a corpse, removing the head and using the skull as a bong to smoke marijuana, Houston police said.

Well, these kids were certainly creative at any rate. The National Endowment for the Arts may give them an award considering their thinking above and beyond the normal pot smoking techniques.....

At any rate, that story jarred a memory. Some guys who are several years older than me dug up an old Civil War vet from the cemetery at Ravanna, KS. They got into some hot water for it. My memory of the incident was the kids were looking for old medals in the grave.

Ravanna is a ghost town. That is one of the legacies of the plains - there were a lot of failed ventures out here. For one reason or another, they didn't make it. Usually, the railroad bypassed the city and it withered and died. Now, there are just broken foundations and abandoned cemeteries. There are all kinds of cemeteries out here - the sense of community might be strong in an area and the citizens would set aside ground for one, even if there was no town.

Ravanna was the county seat for Garfield county. Looking at the map, Garfield county originally was the north eastern "leg" of the current Finney county.

In 1892 the Supreme Court decided that Garfield county was illegally organized, it having less than 432 square miles as required by law. In 1893 it was annexed to Finney county. Thus, Finney county as it has stood since that time is twenty-four miles from east to west and thirty-six miles from north to south, and with the addition of Garfield township, which is eighteen by twenty- four miles, has an area of 1,296 square miles.

That was the death knell for Ravanna. It was no longer the county seat, so there was no reason for the rural folk to go there for legal business. Plus the Santa Fe had run their tracks along the Arkansas River, running through Dodge City and Garden City. Ravanna was hit with a double whammy. The only towns still alive on that old map are Garden City, Pierceville, and just barely hanging on - Kalvesta. A lot of these old towns are marked with a grain elevator if the railroads happened to run by. So, whilst cruising the countryside, you might happen across a grain elevator that is still a going concern, maybe even a few occupied houses nearby. Often, there are abandoned and decrepit buildings in the vicinity - markers of a failed community.

Civilization can be a thin veneer out here on the prairie.

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