Early History

Maple Hill

The name “Maple Hill” was coined by Isabella (Bourassa) Higganbotham, who was appointed the settlement’s first postmaster on May 1, 1862, providing mail service to the few families in the area. Maple Hill Township was established ten years later.

Settlement increased dramatically with the arrival of several wealthy Eastern families.  William A. Pierce, son of a Boston merchant, purchased a 1,200 acre ranch in 1873 and ten years later, and allowed a small village to be built on his property.   By 1884, a general store, post office and blacksmith shop were located just southwest of the K-30 bridge over Mill Creek.  The Pierce Family also gave 40-acres for the building of the Eliot Union Congregational Church (now known as The Old Stone Church) and a cemetery.

The Eliot Congregational Church at Maple Hill, Kansas

The Eliot Congregational Church at Maple Hill was constructed in 1875 by settlers who came to the Maple Hill area from Newton, Massachusetts. The church as destroyed by a tornado on April 26, 1991, but it was rebuilt after suffering severe damage.

Maple Hill’s history parallels that of hundreds of other towns that sprang up along newly constructed railroads during the late 1800s.  On March 16, 1886 the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railroad (later to become The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad through foreclosure) received a charter to build on routes through Kansas and Nebraska, including Wabaunsee County.

Developing a town was a very profitable venture, and a spirited dispute arose between ranchers William Pierce and George Anderson Fowler.   Fowler owned a 14,000-acre ranch in Maple Hill Township and was one of the owners of Fowler Brothers Packing Company in Kansas City.  The railroad ties and lumber for the new depot were actually moved from one proposed location to the other by ranch hands.   Finally, terms were reached and the 160-acre town site was plotted on Fowler’s land, 1.5 miles northeast of the Pierce location.

Bird’s-eye View of Maple Hill from Elevator

This bird’s-eye view of Maple Hill, looking east was taken from atop the grain elevator. At the far left edge, the Maple Hill High School is visible.

Fowler was a very generous man, donating land and funds for both the first and second schools built in the town and also contributing land and financial support for both the Methodist and Congregational Churches which were built in the town.  He built a large steam-powered grain elevator and mill and held a huge auction to sell town lots in August 1887.  Three trains carried potential buyers to purchase lots.  Food and libations were served under a huge tent, the perimeters of lots were plowed, and sales were brisk.

District 39 - Maple Hill School

This real photo postcard shows the District 39, Maple Hill High School which opened in 1905.

Original buildings from the Pierce townsite were moved to the new Fowler townsite.  Businesses and many new homes were constructed.   The railroad was completed through Maple Hill in 1887, and as developers had planned, farmers and ranchers began to move to the area.  By 1890, the population of the town of Maple Hill was 190 with Maple Hill Township standing at 882.

By 1910, the following businesses were operating in Maple Hill:  The Stockgrowers State Bank founded by Franklin Adams, The Windler Hotel built by W. B. Small, Rufus A. King Livery Stable, Frank Stevens and W. V. Herron barbers, Harry R. Williams coal dealer, Star Lumber Co. and J. Thomas & Son Lumber, Charles F. Payne druggist, Gilbert Stewart meat market, David Stewart, Russell Updegraff and Joseph N. Dolley general stores, Dr. J. M. Kemper and Dr. C. E. Yates physicians, Charles P. Banker Hardward and Implements, and Charles E. Greaser, café.   The town had a two-story combined elementary and high school.

Windler Hotel, Maple Hill, Kansas

The Windler Hotel was built by W.B. Small in 1887 in Maple Hill, boasting the modern amenities of gas lighting and steam heat. This photo was produced by C.D. Small a professional photographer from North Topeka, Kansas.

A series of five disastrous fires destroyed most of Maple Hill’s Main Street business district between 1900 and 1920.  Only brick buildings were allowed in the business district  after 1926.

Growth continued until the Great Depression when the 1930 population was 256 and declined over the 1940s and 1950s.   With improved roads between Topeka and Maple Hill, growth began in the 1960s and population reached 620 in 2010, making Maple Hill the second-largest town in the Wabaunsee County.


 

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