The town was founded in 1855 by its first settler, Ransom A. Van Winkle, who built a steam sawmill, the first farmhouse, and the first school in which he became the teacher. The town was named for his girlfriend. An abolitionist from Kentucky, Van Winkle took an active part in the Free-State efforts, despite the pro-slavery sentiments of other Atchison County citizens. When Arrington gained a post office in June 1862, Van Winkle became the first postmaster. Later he would hold several offices in Atchison County and become a member of the Kansas Legislature.
The town grew slowly until the arrival of the Leavenworth, Kansas & Western Railroad. By that time, the town boasted a large flour mill and a sawmill, which had been purchased by a man named David Heneks. Heneks also purchased some 80 acres of land on both sides of the Delaware River.
In 1867, John Reider built a steam-powered mill on the Delaware River that operated as a sawmill and a grain mill. In 1874 W. H. Stockton joined Mr. Reider, and these two men built a two-story frame mill, but they operated it only one day, as it was mysteriously burned the following night. Shortly after that, Reider associated himself with Albert Ingler, and remembering his previous disastrous experience with fire, the two built a stone mill. This firm conducted a successful business for several years, drawing patronage for a distance of 60 miles, but in 1879, Ingler met an untimely death by drowning as he was crossing the river. Mr. Reider sold his interest to David S. Heneks.
Heneks discovered the first mineral spring near the mill dam in 1881. Later, he discovered two more springs, and they were among the earliest developed in Kansas. There are numerous springs on both sides of the Delaware River, but those with the most abundant flow are below the bridge that spanned the river and in the vicinity of the mill. The water from one of these springs — the one nearest the bridge — was piped to a bathhouse on the north side of the bridge. This was the beginning of the building of the Arrington Mineral Springs Resort, which brought several people and much prosperity to the town.
The entire property consisted of 40 acres, with the controlling interest held by Heneks. On the left bank of the river was a beautiful grove in which the springs were situated. On the east side of this grove were twelve cottages. A bath-house and engine-house with a steam pump were operated in connection with the springs. The resort also included a hotel.
This town was officially platted in August 1884 with original promoters including Ransom A. Van Winkle, David S. Heneks. John Ballinger, D. D. High, D. A. Benjamin, J. M. Roberson, Michael Baker, J. S. Hopkins, Ira Tabor, and George W. Drake.
By the late 19th Century, the Arrington Mineral Springs Resort hosted hundreds of guests each week, and the town had boomed to nearly 1,000 people. At that time, the town boasted a good hotel, several churches, several stores, and a physician. Unfortunately, the mineral springs resort hotel burned down, but a new hotel was built in the village in 1902.
However, in 1903, a flood devastated the town, and the resort was closed. Afterward, the town rapidly declined, boasting only a population of 210 by 1910, but it still had a post office, a school, and a couple of stores.
David Heneks continued to run the mill until 1906 when John W. Young became its owner. Afterward, it changed hands several times but stopped operating in 1908. By 1916, it was standing in ruins. The town still boasted three general stores, an elevator, and a bank. During good crop years, as many as 125 cars of grain and livestock are shipped from its station.
But, over the years, the population declined, and the businesses closed. The post office shut its doors for the last time in May 1973.
Today, were it not for the sign indicating the town and the few scattered homes about, it would be difficult to know that a town had ever existed. However, street signs still designate the names of the dusty roads throughout the old town. It is located about 26 miles southwest of Atchison on Kansas Highway 116.
Blackmar, Frank W.; Kansas Cyclopedia, Standard Publishing, 1912
Cutler, William G.; History of the State of Kansas, A. T. Andreas, 1883
Ingalls, Sheffield, History of Atchison County, Kansas, Standard Publishing Company, 1916
Kansas Geological Survey, 1902