Walker, Kansas

Walker, Kansas courtesy Google Maps

Walker, Kansas courtesy Google Maps

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Walker, Kansas got its start in 1872 by settlers from Ohio. Situated on the Union Pacific Railroad near Walkers Creek. The area was primarily settled by English and German-Russian immigrants. A post office opened in August 1873 but closed just a few years later in September 1876. Then a number of  Volga-Germans from Russia and more Germans from Kentucky and Ohio, known as the “Plattdeutschen,” came to the area in 1876-1878. With this new influx of people, the post office reopened in 1878.

St. Ann Church in Walker, Kansas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

St. Ann Church in Walker, Kansas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

The first school building was constructed in 1893, which would also later serve as a church. The first Catholic Mass was read in this building on Christmas, 1903 and soon residents began to build the St. Ann’s Catholic Church in the spring of 1904.

By 1910, the small town boasted a grain elevator, several retail stores, and a population of about 65. The building of a parochial school began in the fall of 1924 and was dedicated the following August, with the Sisters of St. Agnes in charge of the school. The building today continues to stand, now utilized as a community center.

The town thrived until the Great Depression when many of its businesses closed. Those that remained were primarily involved in agriculture until 1942 when the Walker Army Airfield was built during World War II just 2.5 miles northwest of the town. Also known as the Victoria-Pratt Airfield or Walker-Hays Airfield, it was constructed by the United States Army Air Corps. Construction of the airfield included three concrete runways, the cantonment, originally designed for about 1,000 men but later expanded; a dispensary, a mess hall, and a hangar. Later, four more hangers were also built.

The base began operations as a satellite field of Smoky Hill Army Air Field located in Salina but in February 1943, the Second Air Force organized the 6th Heavy Bombardment Processing Headquarters there and a few months later, began training B-29 crews for combat duty.  The base continued to expand in both mission and size and by August 1944, nearly 6,000 personnel were stationed at the field. New structures included storage tanks, warehouses, laboratories, a machine shop, a hospital, a garage, a paint shop, and various other structures.

Walker, Kansas Airforce Base

Walker, Kansas Airforce Base

With the victory over Japan in August 1945, the mission changed and diminished, with only the Salina base continuing combat crew training. Consequently, Walker was reassigned to the Air Technical Service Command in September 1945, and on January 31, 1946, the base was made inactive. The War Department placed the installation in a surplus category in the middle of 1946 and in December, it was transferred to the District Engineers. Later, portions were leased and finally sold to a private citizen in 1959. Today, its buildings are mostly in ruins but its runways are still used for agricultural purposes.

Walker, Kansas Home by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Walker, Kansas Home by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Walker’s historic German-Russian St. Ann’s Catholic Church still serves parishioners today, and the small town still has an open post office. Walker is located about four miles northwest of Victoria, Kansas on U.S. Highway 40.

©Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of Kansas, updated February 2021.

Also See:

Ellis County

Ellis County Photo Gallery

Kansas Destinations

Northwest Kansas

 

 

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