By the spring of 1887, the railroad tracks were laid and a depot was built on the south side of the tracks. The station was then called Giles City after Stelle Giles, who lived nearby. A town company was organized which also planned to build south of the tracks, however, W.A. Giles, who owned the land, would not sell the 40 acres that the company wanted. The company decided to build north of the tracks and purchased land from J. H. Williamson. Judge O.P. Hamilton surveyed the site and laid out the town in a cornfield. The city was named after Judge Hamilton’s wife whose maiden name was Claflin. The Claflin Town Company, with Stelle Giles as President, filed the townsite with the Barton County Register of Deeds on March 31, 1887.
The first business building was erected by J.H. Cannon who opened a general merchandise store and a bank in the same building. The first school was also held in this building. Soon the railroad was unloading building material for the S.H. Chatten Lumber Co. as well as coal for the community. J.H. Williamson erected the first hotel which held the post office when it opened on May 27, 1887. A livery and feed barn was built by E.J. Ingersoll and the Elmore Brothers put in the first stock of hardware and implements.
George Norris had a furniture store and later became Claflin’s first undertaker. Some of the other businesses that followed were a cafe built and operated by Cas Dermitt, and an elevator built by a Mr. Graham and operated by A. A. German that was powered by a blind horse, and Charles Bucker operated a general blacksmith shop. The Claflin Clarion, published by Charles Vert, began operation in 1888.
A schoolhouse for District 80 was erected in 1889 and the Farmers and Merchants State Bank was organized in about 1892.
In the early days, the Methodist and Christian churches were built and later, the German Lutheran and Catholic churches were erected.
The city was incorporated in 1901 and H.E. Hill became the first mayor.
In 1903, Miller’s of Claflin was founded by J.W. Miller. The store originally carried furniture, buggies, hardware, implements, and even windmills. A large store building was erected on Main Street in 1915. In the next century, while many locally-owned, family-owned, independent furniture stores began to be replaced by regional and national chains, Miller’s continued to enjoy success and growth. More than 110 years later, the store is still family-owned and has grown with an additional five showrooms to the south of the main store. Today, it is the largest furniture showroom in central Kansas, exceeding 100,000 square feet.
In 1910 the city reported a population of 554 and had two banks, two hardware stores, two hotels, three lumber yards, five grain elevators, two mills, a creamery, a machine shop, a weekly newspaper called the Clarion, Catholic and Protestant churches, and a good public school system as well as a Catholic school. At that time, it was a principal shipping and supply point for a large agricultural district
A new public school building was built in 1911 for $17,000 that replaced the earlier prior school that was much smaller.
Through the years, Claflin remained a small town with its population peaking at 921 people in 1950. Today, it is called home to about 600 residents. It is located about 20 miles northeast of Great Bend.
Blackmar, Frank W.; Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Vol I; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912.
Biographical History of Barton County, Kansas, Great Bend Tribune, 1912
Barton County History Thesis
Miller’s of Claflin