The following historical information
was taken from The Small Town and Its Future by Floyd R.
Souders published in The Kansas Historical Quarterly Spring
The town of Cheney, Sedgwick County,
was named after B.P. Cheney, an officer of the Santa Fe railroad
company. The town was started in August, 1883, when the railroad
reached western Sedgwick County, and the entire town of Marshall
moved to Cheney. Most of the residents in the new town were located
on the first street west of Main, which was named Marshall in memory
of the old town.
Railroads provided a faster means of
bringing in manufactured good and shipping out the farm produce. They
were an essential factor in making a town grow during this period in
The Wichita and Western branch of the
Santa Fe had its problems in 1884. Once the Kansas wind blew railroad
cars from the siding into the path of a train. A safety valve on a
locomotive blew out. Some of the early locomotives didn’t have
enough power to pull the loaded cars up the grade. But nature calmed
down and mechanical problems were solved.
The Cheney Roller Mill, moved from
Marshall and located on the Santa Fe tracks, manufactured flour and
corn meal for many years and proved to be one of the early industries
which helped the town grow. As the business prospered, the building
was enlarged and later the firm was expanded again to become the
Cheney Mill and Power Company.
Establishment of a creamery helped the
farmers to develop their livestock interests. This firm manufactured
butter and also made cheese.
The business section of Main Street
made a good growth. Retail stores and service agencies supplied the
basic needs of the town and the surrounding rural area.
Churches were built, the Trinity
Reformed being the first constructed, followed by the Methodist. The
churches grew in influence with the early settlers by holding
frequent revival meetings.
The school district was organized and
the county superintendent reasoned that each district should not be
too large so the students could easily walk to school. The Cheney
district covered a little over 12 sections of land until the school
reorganization era of 1946. In 1907 a 12-year school was established
and the first Cheney high school graduating class in 1908 had two
There were a number of early day rural
schools in the area surrounding Cheney. One, called the Jewett ranch
school, was on a part of the famous Jewett ranch south of Cheney and
was already integrated in the 1890’s. There were two Negro boys
enrolled. Their father was employed on the ranch to help train the
illustrious line of race horses which included John Gentry, Patchen
Wilkes, and Joe Patchen, forerunners of Dan Patch.
Cheney’s first cornet band helped
start the community on a cultural binge. Holidays like the Fourth of
July called for special concerts. Other intellectual entertainment
included community sings, literaries, and debates.
Horse power provided the early day
method of transportation. Wagons pulled by teams of horses or mules
were used to go to town for groceries. When the sideboards were
added, the same vehicle was used to haul grain to market. Luxury
travel came, in time, with a little more wealth. Families hitched
their high-stepping teams to fancy carriages and buggies became as
popular with the young folk as sports cars are today. Mrs. Oscar
Sellon, wife of Cheney’s first photographer, was one of the first
ladies to have their own horse and buddy.
Harvesting wheat with the header barge
crew was a big operation in those days. Farms furnished employment
for many harvest hands during the summer months. One early day
threshing rig had a web stacker and a hand fed platform at the
cylinder end. Later steam threshers with power feeders and blower
stackers were used.
Farmers got their horses shod and their
implements repaired at Cheney village blacksmith shop. I.L. McHenry
operated the shop. His son, Guy, later became head of the
International Harvester Company in Australia.
At one time in these early days Cheney
had five saloons, but as more residents came and the influence of
church grew, these bars became unpopular. In fact, one night some
cowboys lassoed one of the buildings and pulled it down. This
occurred even before Carry Nation got into the act.
Every town had its troubles with fire.
One half of a city block was burned in Cheney and was a great
financial loss. However, the fire opened the way for better buildings
on Main street. Dirt streets prevailed in those pre-asphalt days.
Downpours of rain turned them into seas of mud so it is no wonder
that the good roads program developed in Kansas.
The pioneers of Cheney began planting
tress as soon as they laid out the town. They were set around
residences to provide shelter from the strong gusts of Kansas wind
and shade from the midsummer sun. Trees were planted on Main Street
and grew with the town.
It was popular to go to the Santa Fe
depot each morning to see who was off on the passenger train to
Wichita, the county seat.
Cheney’s department store was the
Dewey and Hessel Store where people bought groceries, kerosene,
shoes, dress goods, or threat and the ladies could get a hat made in
the millinery department.
Many large and comfortable residences
were built as the town grew and with as stylish to have a telephone,
and a picket fence around the front yard. Big families were also in
vogue and the city of Cheney continued to grow.
As time moved on, transportation
improved. Model S Fords with kerosene (coal oil) and carbide lights
traveled at a reckless speed of 23 miles per hour. The autos were
popular and there was no wasted space in the seats when grandpappy
decided to make a tour to a neighboring town, or to the Friday
afternoon ball game. But there was still horse manure, and dogs
roamed the streets. Auto owners in 1909 formed the Cheney Auto Club
and spent much time driving over the area.
Improvements in the City included
construction of the thrd new school building in 1917. This structure
is still in use today but will be replaced in 1969 when the new high
school building was completed.