History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Otis, Kansas

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Otis was founded in 1886 by Major E. C. Moderwell, an investor in the Missouri Pacific Railroad, from Salina, Kansas. The town was named for his son, Otis. It had already been determined by by the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, that as it headed westward it would barrel right through what was to become Otis.


As the streets were laid out, some were named for children of the original founders. A new train depot and section house were built by the Missouri-Pacific Railroad and a post office opened on August 12, 1887. Moderwell donated a plot of ground where the first grade school was built and the present school still stands. Before long, there were a number of new businesses opening up in the flourishing city.


The Methodists first held their services in the school house until they built a new church in 1895. The Trinity Lutheran Church was founded by settlers who had immigrated from Russia.


Otis, Kansas Main Street

Otis' Main Street today, March, 2009, Kathy Weiser.

This image available for photo prints & editorial

downloads HERE.




By 1910, Otis had several businesses including a bank, telegraph and express office, and boasted a population of about 400.


The following year, a cigar factory was built that was in production for a number of years. When natural gas was discovered in 1928, Otis soon had 50 producing oil and gas wells that brought prosperity and more people to the town.


In 1943 the Otis Helium Plant was constructed to extract helium from natural gas. One of the largest of it's kind, this gaseous helium plant was originally constructed by the United States government and an entire community was developed south of town to house the plant workers.  Ultimately it would be dismantled and the houses sold and moved off the site.


In 1962, the privately owned Kansas Refined Helium plant began operation, built by George Angle. According to Angle's wife Jean, he hired Messer-Grieshiem of Germany and Sultzer, a Swiss company which developed the world's first helium liquefier for the Otis operation, making it the first liquid helium plant in the world.  The Angle's sold the plant in 1981, and still in operation today, it is run by Linde Cryogenics and has doubled in size from it's original construction.  George Angle died in 2009.  The plant remains a testament to the states rich natural resources and support for private enterprise.


A wind turbine company has also recently been located in Otis, placing the small town on the forefront of alternative energy production in western Kansas.

Today, the population of Otis is just a little more than 300 people.


Gas station in Otis, Kansas

It appears it's been a while since this old service station filled up an automobile,  Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.


Compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.



Primary source: Rush County Org, Jean Angle.


Old building in Otis, Kansas

An old building in Otis, Kathy Weiser, March, 2009.


Otis, Kansas Door

While these old buildings are sad, they are also somehow hauntingly beautiful, Kathy Weiser, March, 2009. This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE.


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