History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


McCracken, Kansas

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McCracken, Kansas, 1909Located at the western edge of Rush County, McCracken was established in December, 1886 along the soon to be completed Missouri-Pacific Railroad. It was named for J. K. McCracken, one of the first trustees. Immediately, lots began to be sold and within a month, the fledgling town was assigned a post office on January 31, 1887. That first year, the flourishing settlement also gained a bank, two grocery stores, a newspaper called the McCracken Enterprise, drug store, theater, and numerous other businesses. The Evangelical United Brethren Church of McCracken was also established in 1887.

Before the town was even developed, area Catholic parishioners had constructed a St. Mary's Church building in 1886 southwest of McCracken, which would later be replaced with an stone building in 1906.


In 1901, the post rock City Jail was built, which now serves as a museum. The following year, the Bank of McCracken was established and constructed of native stone. This building also continues to stand, appearing to be a residence today.

The early part of the 20th century was difficult for McCracken as fire swept through its business district, the first time in 1905, when the east side of Main Street was burned. Four years later, in January, 1909, another fire destroyed most of the buildings and businesses on the west side of Main Street.

However, the town rebuilt and persevered and by 1910, the city of some 371 people sported about 100 businesses, including a flour mill, grain elevators, several more churches, and a telegraph and express office.

Just southwest of McCracken, the Catholic congregation had grown to such an extent, that yet another St. Mary’s Catholic Church was required to meet their needs. Stone from the existing church was used for the basement and foundation before the work commenced to build the impressive church that continues to stand today. The building was completed in 1926.

Later, the small town would profit from shale quarries that produced what was referred to as “wonder mud,” which was widely used by drilling companies throughout the United States.

But, for McCracken the prosperity wouldn’t last and when the Missouri-Pacific Railroad removed the town from its depot list for passenger and freight trains, the city quickly declined.


Regrettably, in 1997, a restructuring of the area Catholic churches took place in the area and mass was no longer held on a regular basis at the impressive St. Mary’s Church. However, members of the parish formed the Saint Mary's McCracken Heritage Association to preserve the beautiful building, which is currently utilized for special occasions and services.

Today, the small town of McCracken supports less than 200 people.


McCracken Kansas Jail MuseumIts heritage; however, can still be seen at the McCracken Historical Museum located in the former City Jail on Main Street. The native stone jail was originally opened in 1901 and also housed the City Hall and Fire Department. The museum displays numerous items relating to McCracken’s history as well as a display of the 1973 movie, "Paper Moon," filmed in and around McCracken.


Across the street is is the old McCracken Grocery, a large two story building built in 1919. The former grocery still displays its ornate tin ceiling, original wood floors, and old fashioned shelves along its walls. Today, the old structure houses an antique store.


The McCracken City Library also provides a collection of memorabilia of early McCracken history.



© Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated October 2019.



Grocery Store in McCracken, kansas

The old 1919 McCracken Grocery Store now houses an

 antique store, Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.


 St. Mary's Church, McCracken, Kansas

The historic St. Mary's Church no longer serves a

 congregation, Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.

McCracken, Kansas, 1951

McCracken, Kansas, 1951.


McCracken, Kansas today

McCracken's Main Street today, like many other Kansas

 farm towns, doesn't do the business that it once did. Kathy

 Weiser, March, 2009.


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