History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Ellsworth County Extinct Towns

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Terra Cotta - One of the first establishments in the area was the Spring Creek Stage Station, which was built when the Butterfield Overland Dispatch began to run along the Smoky Hill Trail in 1859. Located about 1 ˝ miles west of the future town of Terra Cotta, the Butterfield Stage would continue to run until 1870. There are no remains today. The station site was located ˝ mile west and ˝ mile south of the  Junction of K-140 & K-141 Highways.


In 1867 a man named Thomas Mullen moved to Kansas from Illinois and purchased a quarter section of land about six miles southwest of Brookville. Mullen established a business shipping clay and sand from his property. Running diagonally through his quarter section, the location of the Kansas Pacific Railroad made it ideal for shipping out his products. The shipping location was called Mullen’s Siding. Before long, there were about 15-20 people living near the siding and the small village was called Rock Springs. In 1876, a school district was organized in the area and the Rock Springs School building erected that summer.


In 1878, Tom Mullen, along with a man named S.M. Simpson from Lawrence, Kansas laid out a townsite and when it gained a post office on July 2, 1878, it was called Terra Cotta, meaning “colored earth” for the red clay in the surrounding hills. Monroe Loomis became the town’s first postmaster. Monroe and his brother, Frank Loomis, also built a grocery store, elevator, lumber yard, and later, a hotel. S.M. Simpson, in the meantime, sold out his half interest to the townsite to a group from Connecticut.


Terra Cotta


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Crumbling building near Terra Cotta, Kansas

Though there are no "official" remains of Terra Cotta, the folks who lived in this building, a few miles north of the town, probably called themselves residents. Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.




Later, the Loomis brothers sold the hotel to a man named Bliss, who in turn, sold it to a man named Fletcher, who added a grocery store. Bliss, in the meantime, started a blacksmith shop. A cheese factory was established by Dave Burrall and a Mr. Williams. However, the vast majority of the population made their livings from farming and ranching. The town soon grew to a population of 75 people.


In 1885, large stockyards were built at Terra Cotta and between 1886 and 1912, more cattle were shipped from Brookville and Terra Cotta than from any other place between Kansas City and Denver. But, Terra Cotta’s life would be short. In 1887, a prairie fire swept through the area and burned down the hotel. The following year, a recession hit and several families and businesses left. The elevator was moved to Shady Bend, in Lincoln County, some 30 miles to the north. Mr. Bliss moved his Blacksmith Shop to Venango, about nine miles south of Terra Cotta, Mr. Fletcher moved his grocery store to Kanopolis, and Tom Mullen ceased a large part of his clay operations.


By the early 1890s, almost all the businesses had left. However, the post office remained open and Mrs. Tom Mullen became postmaster in 1897, running it until it was discontinued in 1913. In 1900, though the businesses were gone, the Union Pacific Railroad built the new Terra Cotta Depot. By 1910, there were only 20 people living in the town and on March 31, 1913, the post office closed its doors forever.


Though Terra Cotta showed much promise, the town was short lived and today, nothing is left of the old townsite except the railroad tracks. The 1900 depot now stands in Ellsworth as part of the Hodgden House Museum complex.


Venango - In 1875, the Federal Government appointed postmasters to disperse the mail in Ellsworth County and a post office was established called Venango on February 15, 1875. Living in the area was a man named Ellis Hughes who began to homestead in the Smoky Hill Valley in 1868. Becoming the first postmaster, Hughes named it Venango, for the county in Pennsylvania that he had come from. Though there were several settlers in the area, the town never amounted to much and the post office was housed in a sandstone structure which also served as Hughes' home. The post office closed on January 31, 1902, at which time, residents received their mail from Marquette, about seven miles away in McPherson County.


During construction of the Kanopolis Dam, the former post office was used as a project office for the Corps of Engineers. Today, Venango's location is approximately in what is now the Venango swimming area near the north end of the Kanopolis Dam.



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Post Office


Additional Information from Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, 1912, and the Kansas State Historical Society




Established in Barton County.

Arcola NA



Moved to Lorraine in 1888.

Ben's Ranch




Moved to Geneseo, in Rice County, in 1887.



Name change from Attica to Bosland after 5 months. In 1873, Bosland became Wilson.

Bradley Springs


Moved to Winston in 1883.



A country post office located in Mulberry Township, near the northeast corner of the county, about 15 miles from Ellsworth and about 5 miles north of Carneiro. 



Post office only open three months. Moved to Trivoli.



A small hamlet situated on Elkhorn Creek, about 12 miles northeast of Ellsworth. In 1910 the population was 25.



A rural post office located on the Smoky Hill River in Empire Township, about 12 miles southeast of Ellsworth.








Mule Creek


Moved to Crawford in Rice County in 1887







Was also in Rice County for a time (site moved).



Spring Creek Stage Station


A relay station on the Butterfield Overland Dispatch Stage line, it was located about 1 ˝ miles west of the old townsite of Terra Cotta. The stage line ran from 1859-1870. There are no remains today. The station site was located ˝ mile west and ˝ mile south of the  Junction of K-140 & K-141 Highways.

Summit Springs







1875-1896, 1903-1909

Post office moved from Delila in 1875. This  country hamlet was located 15 miles southeast of Ellsworth and after its post office closed, received mail from Kanapolis.



Moved from Bradley Springs in 1883.

Yankee Run NA Now a public use area at Kanopolis Lake.







Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated April 2019.


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