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.
The 1890s: Things progressed quickly as Hutchinson and Reno County entered their third decade of existence.
1890: A record 10 million bushels of grain were sold through grain elevators in the county. The town of Pretty Prairie relocated closer to the railroad. After approval, the Hutchinson City Council let the first contract for a new sanitary sewer. Nelly Bly made a stop in Hutchinson during her trip around the world. Buhler opened its first school house and the Hutchinson Central School was finished at 5th and Maple.
1891: A deadlocked city council could not agree on a new mayor. After six rounds of voting, the council was split 4-4 on Arthur Little. Mayor R.A. Campbell cast the deciding vote. The four council members who voted no refused to confirm Little as mayor. Campbell then resigned and W.L. Winslow was appointed mayor. The Hutchinson News was sold for $1,900. Haven became an incorporated city and the Supreme Court allowed Hutchinson to continue to dump sewage into Cow Creek.
1982: A fire in Nickerson destroyed four city blocks. The Hutchinson Commercial Club was formed. The organization becomes the driving force in bringing business growth to the city. It is now known as the Chamber of Commerce. Kansas Salt employees strike, demanding they get paid $1.50 for ten hours of work. They were working 12-hour shifts. The mayor of Hutchinson offers aid to the communities of Wellington, Argonia and Harper after a tornado causes significant damage to those communities. Eleven people died. The Dalton Gang tries to rob a bank in Coffeyville. Four members of the gang were shot and killed, including Dick Broadwell of Hutchinson.
1893: Women are now voting but the votes are tabulated separate from the men. More than 1,000 residents left the area during the Cherokee Strip land run. RSVP Table Salt takes first prize at the World's Fair in Chicago. The statewide reunion of the general Army of the Republic meets in Hutchinson. More than 1,000 tents were erected in the city to accommodate the 5,000 visitors.
1894: L.B. Young received a charter to open Kansas Grain Company. An indictment is returned by a federal grand jury against the officers of the defunct Hutchinson National Bank. The men were later acquitted. Salt plants that had been shut down start to reopen again. Hutchinson Salt opens, providing jobs for more than 100 workers. On July 19, a Santa Fe train derailed three miles east of Hutchinson. The Salvation Army was established in Hutchinson. The population of Nickerson falls dramatically after the Santa Fe Railroad moves its roundhouse to Newton because of striking Nickerson workers. Fire in Haven damages the post office and four other buildings.
1895: The State Reformatory opens with 20 inmates arriving from Lansing. One escapes from the prison in a week. A horse-drawn street car ride costs 5 cents. Reno County has the state's largest corn crop at 750,000 bushels. A Santa Fe train was robbed in Sylvia. The Hutchinson City Council approved purchasing privately-owned water works.
There are problems at the reformatory as the board brought charges against Superintendent H.F. Hatch, who was also suspended. Later, the state gives the board at the reformatory the option to resign or be terminated. Hutchinson establishes the first paid fire department. The city discusses whether the Missouri Pacific and Rock Island Railroads are to blame for the high water in the area because their bridges and culverts cannot handle the flow of water. Santa Fe Railroad declares that one of its bridges is not safe because of the high water and is forced to transfer passengers around the area.
1896: Ex-slaves form an organization with 55 members. Reno County hosts its first poultry show. Hutchinson hosts the first meeting of the Kansas Anti-Horse Thief Association.
1897: A familiar name becomes part of Hutchinson as local salt plants are purchased and reorganized into one. The purchase is made by Joy Morton. The plants become Morton Salt. Joy Morton is named president of the company. Hutchinson Public Library opens. Hutchinson Bicycle Club is formed. Races are held east of town. A teacher at the reformatory starts teaching socialism to inmates. The board files a complaint. The teacher is a friend of Gov. John Leedy, who says if the board doesn't like it, they can find a new board. Long-distance telephone is established between Hutchinson and Kansas City.
1898: Rural Free Delivery (RFD) is established. South Hutchinson closes the post office in favor of the RFD. There was a bank robbery in Hutchinson in 1898 as the State Bank of Hutchinson was held up. The Nickerson Normal College opens. Ladies in the city of Hutchinson organize the Soldier Relief Society. The Elks Club is established. Joy Morton purchases a tract of land for a large salt plant that will produce 500 barrels per day. Emerson Carey and C.S. Winchester worked on building a packing house on South Main.
1899: Salt workers organize the largest union in the state of Kansas. The temperature drops to minus 32 degrees, the coldest day on record. New York Gov. Teddy Roosevelt visits Hutchinson. Remains of Hutchinson's first cemetery are moved to the Eastside Cemetery. Seven inmates of the Reno County Jail dig their way out.
Check back next Sunday for the next part in this series.