History of Wichita, Kansas
From: History of Wichita and Sedgwick County, Kansas
Past and Present
O. H. Bentley, Editor-in-Chief
C. F. Cooper & Co. Publisher.
Chicago 1910


THE CITY OF WICHITA.
By
O. H. BENTLEY

The ardent friends of Wichita are those who live within its borders; those who sojourn away from it long to return. It is always eulogized by its absent friends. Favorably located at the junction of two rivers, it aptly illustrates the saying that large streams always flow past great cities. That Wichita is the city of destiny, was a belief always fondly cherished by its founders. Wichita today is the most prosperous and rapidly growing city in the state of Kansas. It is the second city in size in the state and most favorably located on the banks of the Arkansas river, in one of the most fertile and productive valleys in America.

The population of Wichita is cosmopolitan in nature and energetic in spirit; is enterprising and public spirited. The city, being built upon the plains, had no special advantages geographically over any other part of the state. It so happened, however, that an aggregation of men constituted its first inhabitants who were wide awake to every opportunity that offered, and embraced them with a full knowledge of their value and importance. Around this nucleus of pioneer heroes came later on other and younger men of the same character, who promptly joined hands with those who laid the foundation of the city, and together, and in harmonious accord, pushed the city to the front and held it there. Whenever a united effort was required to accomplish a given object for the upbuilding of the city, not a laggard or a "kicker" was found within its ranks. Thus, by reason of a remarkable unity of action and purpose on the part of all, a city has been builded of which its architects are justly proud.

Looking at the city as a whole, it possesses that rotundity not often found in cities of rapid growth.

Its foundation is laid upon the character and extent of the soil and climate of the surrounding territory. No county is blessed with a greater expanse of productive soil than that surrounding Wichita for hundreds of miles, which, as agricultural possibilities are developed, will always insure a most substantial trade for its merchants and consequent increase in the city's importance as a commercial center.

Within a radius of one hundred miles of the city there is already being produced annually 50,000,000 bushels of wheat, twice that many bushels of corn, and other cereals in proportion, together with a live stock production not exceeded in any section of the country of the same area. The jobbing trade of Wichita for the year 1909 reached the handsome aggregate of $30,000,000. Wichita is now making rapid strides as a jobbing center. There are four large wholesale grocery houses, two large and rapidly extending packing plants, with others in prospect, two wholesale dry goods houses, two wholesale hardware establishments, one being one of the largest in the interior West, one wholesale millinery house, one wholesale hat house, several farm implement houses, besides a large number of smaller plants covering every possible line of trade.

Wichita's wholesale territory covers southern and western Kansas, reaching as far east as Fall River, and a large part of Oklahoma and a portion of western Texas. This territory is being rapidly extended.

During the year 1908 the wholesale lumber dealers of Wichita handled 12,000 cars of lumber, valued at $4,000,000, while that manufactured into house furnishings by its five sash and door factories amounts to many thousands more. The city's manufactured products for 1909 sold on the markets for $9,000,000. Wichita is rapidly forging to the front as a grain and milling center. The number of cars of grain handled by members of its Board of Trade in 1908 was 22,600 and in 1909 approximately 25,000. Its milling capacity is at present 4,000 barrels of flour per day. The four splendid flouring mills now in operation have handled during 1909 the immense amount of 9,500 cars of grain and its products, the largest in the history of the city. This amount will be largely increased during the coming year. It is estimated that the wheat tributary to Wichita will aggregate 50,000,000 bushels annually, and by reason of favorable conditions now under consideration by the various systems of railroads serving this market may soon be increased to a greater sum. Wichita's bank deposits for the week closing with February, 1910, were $12,000,000, which is an average month. This volume of business is transacted by eleven banks, whose clearing house reports show an average weekly transaction of business amounting to one and a half million dollars. The volume of merchandise of all descriptions consumed in Wichita and shipped through its jobbing houses to its legitimate country trade, when measured in bulk, reaches the enormous sum of 50,000 carloads, not counting grain shipments, which have been given in a separate item. The Union Stock Yards handled in 1909 756,560 hogs, 184,659 cattle, 22,796 sheep and 3,645 horses and mules, or over 14,083 cars of stock. Much of this was converted into packing house products by the two packing houses, whose daily capacity is 10,000 hogs, 5,000 cattle and 2,500 sheep. Nine hundred men are employed by these two institutions alone, while their combined products amount to 50,000,000 pounds annually. According to the latest enumeration Wichita has 230 manufacturing concerns of all descriptions, whose aggregate output runs into many millions of dollars. The farm implement trade in Wichita has within the last few years assumed flattering proportions. There are now located here fifty houses and agencies handling farm implements, many of these being branch houses, while others are transfer agencies only.

The street railway system of the city consists of thirty five miles of splendidly equipped road, laid with heavy T rails, and a large share of it paved, two miles being laid in 1907 to the new Wonderland Park and the new fair grounds, with an added equipment of ten new cars. Forty passenger trains daily serve the city, running over fourteen diverging lines of road, and operated by five great systems. The public buildings are exceptionally fine for a young western town. They comprise the city hall, built of stone, cost $300,000; federal building, of stone, cost $300,000; Kansas Sanitarium, of brick, cost $50,000; Masonic Temple, stone, cost $250,000; county court house, of stone, cost $250,000; new fire stations, of stone and brick, built in 1907 at a cost of $31,000; Y. M. C. A. building, of brick, built in 1907 at a cost of $110,000. Wichita has fifteen public school buildings, twenty nine churches, fifteen news journals (two daily), five hospitals, two homes for orphans and indigents, water works, gas and electric light, two telephone systems, libraries, and a parking system comprising in the aggregate 300 acres of lawns and flower beds, forests and ponds. Fairmount College, Friends' University, Mount Carmel Academy and Lewis Academy merit special mention, because of their vigorous growth, large attendance and wide influence, and consequent results in advancing the educational interests of the Southwest.

Natural gas conditions in 1908 show a very great improvement Mains and service pipes to the extent of 150 miles are laid to every part of the city and manufacturers are being supplied with gas at a cost of 10 to 12 1/2 cents per thousand feet. In the neighborhood of 350 manufacturing plants and 5,000 homes are at present supplied with gas. The Edison Light and Power Company expended $385,000 during 1907 in its new plant and appurtenances and has the most modern electric light and power system in the United States today; electricity costing 40 per cent less in 1907 than in 1906. Wichita's hospitals, also, the Wichita Hospital and St. Francis Hospital, deserve the admiration of the citzens for the relief afforded by them to suffering humanity. In these two institutions are treated patients from all parts of Kansas, Oklahoma and even Texas and New Mexico The city spent in 1907 $100,000 for the storm water sewer now in course of construction, which when completed will cost $297,000. Drainage canal and concrete bridge crossing the same, $120,000. Paving in 1907, 12 miles, 20 miles in 1909 and 50 miles in 1910.

A knowledge of the growth of the city may be gained from the summary given below: The total cost of business houses constructed during 1908 was $800,000; public buildings, $200,000; dwellings, $1,000,000; thus making a total expenditure in business and residence construction of $2,000,000. Of these gratifying results the Wichita commercial bodies are not only very proud, but feel a deep and lasting interest because of efforts in bringing them about. By united efforts in placing the advantages of the city before the world, inquiries are constantly coming from all states in the Union for further details regarding special lines in which the inquirer may happen to be personally interested. The greatest factor, however, in keeping Wichita in the public eye is the unswerving loyalty of its general citizenship at home and abroad. The 500 "Knights of the Grip" having their headquarters and residences in Wichita never tire of singing the virtues of their chosen city, and to them is due much of the credit for its success, and they are still on their way. For the past two or three years another important factor in the npbuilding of Wichita has been the Chamber of Commerce, composed of some of the best business men of Wichita. This is the second commercial body of the city, and without jealousy, in connection with the Commercial Club, works incessantly for the general good of the city. The Chamber of Commerce has already secured new and most commodious rooms on the tenth floor of the new Beacon block, and when located in its new quarters will greatly add to its numerical strength and numerical importance. The Commercial Club, the senior commercial body of the city, is now erecting a magnificent structure six stories in height at the corner of Market and First. These commercial bodies are a tower of strength to the city and are its pride, and their endorsement usually carries any fair proposition with the taxpayers. The present outlook for the city, in every direction, far exceeds that of any previous year, and that Wichita will attain a population of 100,000 in 1915 seems more than probable to its people. The Polk-McAvoy directory people, who have just completed the annual directory of the city, place its population at this time at 60,000. Commercial men report a large increase this year over last, and all lines of trade are especially prosperous. The outlook for the future of Wichita as a large and commanding city in the interior West is superb.


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