As we celebrate the 150th birthday of Hutchinson and Reno County, we want to go through the years, decade by decade, to see how things have changed and — remarkably — how they have stayed the same. This would not be possible without the efforts of Steve Harmon, the Reno County Museum, and the Hutchinson Public Library, who have made a great effort to supply us with the information and photos that you’ll see in this 15-part series. We hope you enjoy it.
As Hutchinson and Reno County moved into its second decade, many events and special visits occurred. In 1880, Ulysses S. Grant visited Hutchinson. A masked ball was held to celebrate George Washington's birthday and the city’s population jumped above 2,000. It was a time of drought and area ministers prayed for rain. It rained eight days later.
1881: Cottonwood Grove was renamed Turon. Wheat continued to be a vital part of the local economy as the harvest topped 204,000 bushels. The first hospital was built in Hutchinson and telephone lines were erected from Hutchinson to Arlington. The assessed value of Hutchinson climbed to $720,000 while the real estate value for taxation was $170,000.
1882: The first opera house was opened in Hutchinson. The price of a stagecoach from Hutchinson to McPherson was $2 and the first sugar factory was built. A train crash near what is now known as Yaggy killed five people. And it was the year the city of Hutchinson purchased its first fire engine and started a volunteer fire department.
1883: The first Amish community was established near Yoder. One hundred Mennonite families also settled southwest of Hutchinson near the community of Arlington. While many only know of one newspaper in town, The Hutchinson News, there were actually four newspapers in town in 1883.
1884: Hutchinson continued to modernize. Wooden sidewalks were phased out as the city council banned all wooden sidewalks for stone or asphalt. The first stone-paved road was also established. And the city of Hutchinson grew by three residents as the first set of triplets were born. There was a town called Netherland in Reno County in the 1880s, but in 1884 it was renamed Lerado.
1885: The city of Hutchinson is selected as the site for the state reformatory. Plevna gets its first school built. And since streets were being paved in the city, the first curb and gutter system was ordered by the city council. The council also passed an ordinance to provide a water system for the entire city. The Main Street bridge over the Arkansas River was finished at a price of $24,000. The Hutchinson Daily News started Aug. 17.
1886: Weather headlined the year when a blizzard hit the area. Mail deliveries (from Newton via stagecoach) were stopped for three days and coal supplies began to run low for residents. Hutchinson Water, Light and Telephone was chartered as a business in Hutchinson. We have Blanchard Street in South Hutchinson these days. It is named for Ben Blanchard, who founded the city of South Hutchinson in 1886.
The town of Reno Center moves closer to the Rock Island Railroad and becomes the town of Partridge. The community of Haven was also laid out in 1886. Despite efforts to control flooding in the city, Cow Creek puts portions of Hutchinson and Reno County under water again.
1887: Ben Blanchard, who founded South Hutchinson a year earlier, hits a salt deposit while drilling for oil. The site is now a small monument in South Hutchinson. The first mail delivery was established in 1887 with four letter carriers. Mule-drawn trolleys were also established in Hutchinson and the city got its first electric street lights. Two new towns started to develop in the county. The town of Langdon was platted and the town of Medora was registered. And the first Rock Island train reached Hutchinson. The Rock Island served Hutchinson until 1980. It's now run by the Union Pacific. The city also established its first sanitary sewer system at a cost of $40,000.
1888: Abbyville was incorporated and the Hamburg post office was opened. The town later became Buhler. The first salt is produced by using brine wells to bring the salt up from underground. Ten plants immediately spring up as salt becomes a booming business in Hutchinson. The Barnum and Bailey Circus came to Hutchinson. More than 30,000 attended. It was also the year that the Hutchinson Stock Yards opened.
1889: As the decade closed out, a familiar name took over the telephone system in Hutchinson when Bell Telephone purchased Hutchinson Telephone. The takeover brought phone service to Hutchinson from El Dorado, Wellington, Arkansas City and Wichita.
And, not so uncommon today, in 1889 there was a railcar shortage that slowed the shipment of the wheat harvest. While wheat was big in the area, the salt business was growing quickly as more than two million barrels of salt were shipped out of Hutchinson.
Check out the third part of this series next Sunday.