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Take a stroll in Holyrood!

Holyrood, Kansas

Holyrood, population 447, is located in Ellsworth County.  Story has it that the town was named Hollyrood for a place in Canada.  But along came a wind storm and blew one "l" off the railroad depot sign.  The "l" was never replaced, and after fourteen years, the railroad officially accepted Holyrood as the spelling. (1)

Seeing this smiling Mom pushing her stroller for three down (up) main street told us everything!  We talked to her a bit and she is definitely rural by choice.  Where else can you push your stroller down the middle of the street but a rural town?!

Main Street is pretty wide.  There is even parking in the middle of the street.

An old building with a tin awning on main street with the grain elevator in the background is a connection from past to present.

The bell and nice looking sign is a worthy connection back to the early fire department in 1901. 

City hall is still located in this 1926 building "paid for by tax payers."

An activity enjoyed by Explorers is just driving around town to notice details.

You'll see this old Valentine Diner (now empty) on Main Street.  This red-brick building must have been important when it was built.  The arch and ornamentation make a statement.

The cemetery is on the west edge of town.  Read the stones and you'll see many with Germany listed as their birthplace.  Some writing is even in German.

H&B Communications is an anchor business in town and brings the town high speed internet!

They've restored a historic building for their offices.  This rural telecommunication company, like many others, is a great support to the community and rural area.

See you down the road, Marci

(1)  Source:  1001 Kansas Place Names.

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Written by Marci Penner.  We're going to every town in the state to research for a guidebook.  We want to share some information with you now!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.


Kanopolis, the home of Fort Harker

Kanopolis, Kansas

The name Kanopolis combines the Greek word for "city"  (polis) with the "Kan" of Kansas. (1)

Home to one of the state's three salt mines, Kanopolis, population 492, was also on the map for the Acme brick plant, which is now closed.

Tucked into this quiet, little town are the bones of a one-time significant fort.

Fort Harker Museum is located at 308 W. Ohio.  Fort Ellsworth was established in 1864 to protect travelers going to Santa Fe or Denver City.  Renamed Fort Harker in 1866, it was moved months later to the present site of Kanopolis and became a major supply post for military campaigns against the Plains Indians. 

The guardhouse is now the museum.  Open Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. year round.  Plus,  November-March Sunday 1-5 p.m.; May-September Sunday and Tuesday 1-5 p.m.; April and October Tuesday-Friday 1-5 p.m.

The fort closed in 1873, but four original buildings still stand.  It's amazing they lasted that long without being torn down!  One is a private residence. 

The junior officers' quarters (below) and the commanding officer's quarters (above) have been restored.  The buildings were constructed with Dakota sandstone.

Numerous interpretive signs help you see how the post used to look and what the purpose of each building was. 

There is something about the understated promotion and attention to these buildings that make it seem like you've walked into a great secret. 

Now, for a switch to the 1950s...

Since 1952, people have been coming to the Kanopolis Drive-In theatre to watch movies under the stars.  It was closed in 2006 but Josh and Amanda Webb re-opened it in 2011.

When the outdoor movie season arrives, check out the schedule here

Another good reason to come to Kanopolis is Orozcos Portales.

The huevos rancheros are a breakfast favorite at this popular Mexican restaurant that opened here in 1989.  Open Tuesday-Thursday 6 a.m.-7 p.m.; Friday-Saturday 6 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday 8 a.m.-2 p.m.

See you down the road, or maybe at Orozco's...
Marci, Kansas Explorer #2

(1) Source - 1001 Kansas Place Names

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Written by Marci Penner.  We're going to every town in the state to research for a guidebook.  We want to share some information with you now!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.


October 03, 2012
Heritage Real Estate Group, Liberal

Ellsworth, historically and structurally sound!

Ellsworth, Kansas

Ellsworth is a thriving community -- 3,120 people happily live in this county seat of Ellsworth County.

An observer would easily notice that history is the constant backdrop for the rituals of every day life in Ellsworth.  In front of the 1953 Ellsworth County Courthouse (210 N. Kansas) stands a classic Civil War statue memorials.

You can learn about the town's history by following the historical walking tour, starting at S. Main and Douglas.  Seventeen numerical signs and iron cut-outs will inform you about the cowtown days of 1867 to 1885.

The old “Insurance Building” with its signature oriel window is Ellsworth's landmark historical building, located at 210 N. Douglas.  The plan is for this restored building to someday be home to the National Drovers Hall of Fame.

The Dakota Sandstone Livery Stable is one of the buildings on the Hodgden House Museum complex, 104 S.W. Main.  The complex is open Tuesday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Because it's off the main drag, finding the old-time Preisker Park, 3rd and Blake, is a nice surprise.  It includes a 1940 National Youth Administration bandshell, a rock-lined creek, and a series of bridges -- a nostalgic and lovely place!

There is much to soak in at the Old Ellsworth Cemetery at 402 W. Douglas.  The "comfort station" at the north end of the cemetery is a 1938 National Youth Administration structure.  And, at the gazebo you'll find graves located in a circular fashion.

Some famous people buried here are Levi and Agnes Sternberg, Colonel Henry Inman, and Confederate Captain Millet.

Have you ever heard of Mother Bickerdyke, one of the 8 Wonders of Kansas People finalists?  She was a beloved nurse for the Union soldiers during the Civil War. 

Up on a hillside west of town you'll find the Mother Bickerdyke Memorial Cemetery, a resting place just for many of her Civil War nurses and wives of Civil War veterans.  "Mother" is not buried here.  The list of those buried is on the tall granite stone. 

From K-156, go west on K-14 and take the first turn north on Avenue L.  Follow the sand road past the TV towers to the hilltop cemetery.

Downtown Ellsworth is looking great.  Nice sidewalks, benches, flags, and landscaping frame the many historic buildings. 

You'll get hungry while exploring Ellsworth.  Some good places to go are Paden's Place (120 N. Douglas), Pretty Boy Floyd's, Spooner's (210 N. Douglas), Ellsworth Steakhouse (1416 Foster Road), and K.C.'s Restaurant (616 W. 15th).

Structurally speaking, you'll find many interesting buildings throughout the business district and residential areas.  Pictures include the oldest church in the city (left, 322 N. Douglas), the 1921 hospital (middle, 300 Kingsley) and (right, the old jail, 1st and Court).

This blog just shows a small sample of all there is to see and do in Ellsworth.  If you love history and architecture, that should be enough to get you to come to Ellsworth!

See you down down the road, or in some cemetery...
Kansas Explorer #2, Marci

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Written by Marci Penner.  We're going to every town in the state to research for a guidebook.  We want to share some information with you now!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.


Wilson: Can you top that?

Wilson, Kansas

Vitame Vas!  Welcome to Wilson, a town of 780, located in the northwest corner of Ellsworth County.

Wilson is famous for it's annual Czech Festival.  The history of the festival dates back to 1950.

A plaque, found in Lions Club Park, says "This memorial is dedicated by the sturdy Kansas Czech Pioneers who sacrificed so much that they and their sons and daughters might be free."

Sadly, the historic opera house, which included the museum, burned down a couple of years ago. 

Wilson has the only stone round jail in the state.  Built in the 1880s, it's found in an alley off Avenue E west of the new bank.  The middle round structure was probably a water tower for the steam engine that once came through here.  It's located beside the railroad track and tucked in among abandoned grain elevators.  The third shows a 1925 wooden water tower, now refurbished.  A windmill once stood beside it at a local residence and pumped water into the top of the water tower.

    Abandoned grain elevators and associated
    buildings signify changes in agriculture.

In honor of our soldiers, sailors, and marines of the World War, this Doughboy statue stands above a memorial to all deceased area veterans at Avenue E and 26th.

At the south edge of town at Avenue A and 27th is the local cemetery that dates back to 1870.  On May 30, 1902 this sculpture of a Union solider and memorial was dedicated by the local G.A.R.

In addition to Wilson Communication, a locally-owned company that provides the town with great phone and internet service and community support, there are a number of unique businesses that are great for the locals and visitors.

One of them is Kansas Originals Market, located just north of I-70 on K-232.  Since 1991, Post Rock Foundations has used this storefront to sell Kansas-made fine art, folk art, crafts, food products, and more.  Marge Lawson has been in charge of the operation since its inception.

Aside from some Kansas souvenirs, everything in this store is made by Kansas artists or entrepreneurs.  Open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

A 1950s soda fountain has been restored and is now open in Wilson!  Grandma's Soda Shop, 2524 Avenue E, is open Monday-Saturday 9:30 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday 11:30 a.m.-9 p.m.  Virginia and Jerry wanted to help keep a historic building in use and provide a place for kids.  They also serve homemade pizza with a secret sauce recipe, as well as homemade soup and deli sandwiches. 

Across the street from the soda fountain is Bloom! (2523 Avenue E) and the Sportsmen's Lodge.  Owner Avery uses bright colors in her paintings that are for sale and loves providing a place for people to paint their own pottery.  The gift shop also includes colorful purses and jewelry. Open Monday-Friday 12-6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m.-1 p.m.  The lodge is a great place for hunters, a family, or a group of friends.

Made From Scratch, 527 27th Street, is a popular eatery and attracts many people from I-70. A daily noon buffet is popular.  A German buffet is served at noon on Saturday and Sunday is pan-fried chicken day.  Everything is homemade and the chicken fried steak meets the Explorer criteria!  They even have homemade ice cream.  Open every day 7 a.m.-9 p.m.

Originally built in 1899, Wilson is fortunate to still be sporting this Midland Hotel with 28 beautifully restored rooms.  To add to the nostalgic nature, you can still hear trains go by, too.   In addition to providing overnight stays, the Midland Hotel, 414 26th Street, is open Tuesday-Saturday 5-9 p.m. for a delicious evening meal.  785.6582284. 

In the 1970s, many scenes from the movie Paper Moon, starring Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, were filmed here.  Photographs line the walls up the staircase.

Wilson has a bed and breakfast, too.

The original foot-thick stone walls of this house were erected in 1886.  With additions and restoration since then, Simple Haven Bed and Breakfast, 615 27th Street, now provides a master suite on the first floor and four bedrooms on the second floor, each with a private bath.  The owners live next door so you have privacy.  The breakfast, the rooms, and the hospitality makes this a place where you'll want to return many times.

There have been some incredible Ukrainian Easter egg decorating artists from this area. It makes sense that somehow the world's largest egg landed here, maybe waiting for the Ukrainian-style treatment.  Currently, it's nesting at Avenue D and 27th Street.  Stay tuned to see what happens to it!

If you're looking for the only round stone jail, the world's largest egg, a historic hotel, and a Czech heritage, you can't top Wilson!

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More information about Wilson contact Susan! 

See you down the road, Kansas Explorer #2 Marci Penner

Written by Marci Penner.  We're going to every town in the state to research for a guidebook.  We want to share some information with you now!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.


Milo Doughnuts

Ulysses, Kansas
In Ulysses, Kansas, located in the southwest corner of the state, you can find the elusive milo doughnut. Yes, that's in milo, the beautiful reddish-orange grain crop that finishes out the harvest season each fall.

Why are they elusive? Because you can only get them once a year in September at the Grant County Home Products Dinner. (actually twice if you count the Kansas Sampler Festival where Grant County hands out samples) This is hands down one of the tastiest morsels of fried and glazed sweetness I have ever had. 

This dinner is an incredible undertaking and has been going on every year for the last 50 years. Where else could you go where everything on your plate was grown in one county? This includes the flour milled from milo raised in Grant County for the famous doughnut. The dinner takes 700 volunteers to put on and serves over 1,500 people! Look at 'em elbow to elbow knowing that at the end of the line there's that milo doughnut with their name on it.

I was so excited about seeing the milo doughnut next I was a little shaky trying to take this picture with one hand while the other held on to my ever increasing plateful of food. Look at that home grown beef, corn, pinto beans and squash.

And finally, staring me right in the face are the milo doughnuts in all their glaze glistening glory. I'm drooling just thinking about them!

As if the doughnuts needed company they are paired up with homegrown watermelon and a cup of ice cream. Like the rest of the food wasn't enough! Almost forgot, they add a homemade dinner roll (with flour from Grant County of course!) and strawberry jam!

Want to hear something funny? After all this anticipation, picture taking and visiting with others in line I walked off without my doughnut! As I was halfway down this football field sized room I realized I'd left it behind. I froze in my tracks wondering if I should try and even swim upstream against the hundreds of people coming through the doors behind me. Just then a volunteer saw the panic in my eyes and took pity. He rushed back for my doughnut and even delivered it to where I was seated. How's that for service?

This is what the final "product" looks like at the Grant County Home Products Dinner. I bet you're wondering how to get tickets for this event next year aren't you?

Courtesy Get Ulysses facebook page

These hardworking folks, Tom & Deb Thompson, owners of the local Daylight Donut shop in Ulysses, are responsible for perfecting the Milo Doughnut recipe and making them FRESH the morning of the dinner!

Courtesy Get Rural Kansas website, Ulysses page

Here's a little history on this whole milo doughnut extravaganza.
  • Almost 100% sure the idea for the doughnut came about in the 1960s from Dan Sullivan, Sr. He and his brother, J.P., wanted a way to promote their business, Sullivan, Inc., a grain elevator which is now Garden City Co-op.
  • Research is still going on as to who actually invented the recipe. We do know that when the Thompson's started making them at their Daylight Donut store in 1995 that they "tweaked" the original a bit using the Daylight Donut franchise recipe and Tom's secret ingredient which brings out that nutty flavor of the milo.
  • They were originally made for the county fair sometime between 1960 and 1963 and handed out to all who attended.
  • The milo doughnut was introduced at the dinner in 1967 or 1968. We'll update this information when it's found.
  • They were first made at a bakery (possibly a Rainbow Bakery) in Hutchinson and later in Garden City (at the Daylight Donut shop that Deb Thompson parents owned), Lamar, Colorado and now in Ulysses. The grain has always been milled by Sullivan, Inc., now Garden City Co-op, which donates the cost of making the doughnut for the dinner.
  • Fun Facts:
    • On the day of the dinner the Thompson's start making donuts for their regular customers at 2 a.m.
    • By 7 a.m. they are ready to start making the milo doughnuts which take anywhere from 5 - 6 hours.
    • They are fried in soybean oil.
    • The recipe consists of 1 1/2 pounds of milo to 15 pounds of dough. Because of its strong flavor it doesn't take much to create that unique nutty taste.
    • In 2012, they made 1,440 milo doughnuts for the dinner.
    • Volunteers arrive in the afternoon to pick up the doughnuts and prepare them for the evening guests.

Why don't they make milo doughnuts year round? When I asked that question everyone said they wouldn't taste as special if you could get the all the time. But I'm pretty sure they would taste just as good every day of the year!

Thank you to Marieta Hauser, (grand-daughter of J.P. Sullivan) director of the Grant County Chamber, for contributing to this history. I also want to thank her for "holding back" any extra doughnuts that weren't eaten. We picked up a few when leaving the dinner and shared them with members of the Kansas Explorers Club at an event in Piqua, Kansas just a few days later. They were greatly appreciated and devoured!

I also managed to save a special few for myself (they are hidden deep in the freezer) to hopefully last until next September. Somehow I don't think that's going to happen.

Thank you to Tom & Deb Thompson for putting as you call it, the "tender loving care" into every milo doughnut you make.

Written by WenDee LaPlant.  We're going to every town in the state to research for a guidebook.  We want to share some information with you now!  This is a project of the Kansas Sampler Foundation.