A Tale of Three Towns: Old Paxico, Newbury and Paxico
By Doug Hiegert
The land we know as Kansas, along with most of the Central Plains in 1850, was unorganized territory with various Indian reservations in what is now the state. Kansas Territory was opened to white settlement on May 30, 1853, and in 1859, Wabaunsee County was officially organized as Richardson County. Newbury Township, in which our three communities are located, was at that time still part of the Potawatomi Indian Reservation. An act of the Federal government in 1868 allowed the Indians to sell their lands, and in 1869 the entire reserve was opened to white settlement. The Federal government had also given part of the land to the Santa Fe Railroad Company for $1 an acre in an effort to attract settlers and start towns.
Old Paxico, the Strowig Mill and the Mill School
Old Paxico was located one mile east of Paxico on the north bank of Mill Creek. In 1869 John and Mary Copp moved to the north bank of Mill Creek. Mr. Copp was a farmer and eventually opened a general store and had a post office. In 1878 Mr. Copp sold a parcel of land on the south bank of Mill Creek to John Riederer and the Strowig brothers, William and Robert. They erected a three-story limestone mill in 1879. By 1912 or 1913 the mill was becoming less profitable to operate so operations ceased. The mill deteriorated quickly; the roof blew off, in 1935 half the dam was destroyed by flood waters, and the 1951 Flood took out the rest of the dam and the southeast corner of the building. In 1972 the last of the mill’s walls were pulled down. The early settlers around “Old Paxico” formed District 59 or the Mill School in 1876. The school house was also the community center for the area. In time, the Union Hall replaced the school as a meeting place. In 1881 a post office was established at the Mill or “Old Paxico”. The town was named after an Indian medicine man named Pashqua, but changed to a more common spelling, “Paxico”.
Mr. George Anderson, a St. Marys financier, thought the railroad would be laid closer to the creek than to Newbury so he purchased land from Mr. M. Gehrt on the site of today’s Paxico. He formed the Paxico Town Company with C.D. Brownell and Wesley Bolton. A charter was granted to the town company on the 30th of December, 1886. By mid-October 1886, the railroad had selected a spot on the Gerhard Nuttman’s land for the depot. In February of 1887 Anderson & Co. were busy putting up a two-story building to accommodate their stock which they planned to remove from their store in Newbury. Mr. Winkler and A.R. Strowig purchased lots to build a lumber yard. Plans were made to move the wagon and blacksmith shop from Old Paxico to the new townsite. George Banniger had also purchased the Union Hall at Old Paxico and planned to move it to the depot location for his store and post office. At noon on Friday March 18, 1887, the track layers on the Rock Island Railroad reached the new town of Paxico with the rails.
In 1886 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad abandoned their plans for an east-west route across Wabaunsee County and sold their right of way to the Rock Island Railroad. With the activity in the new town, Old Paxico began to fade from the scene. Newbury was beginning to slow as well, and an article in the Alma Enterprise of April 1, 1887 stated well the sentiments of the people. It read “Old gentleman Paxico and lady Newbury have lived an unhappy married life, continually quarreling but in the past few months matters have changed. A son has been born to them (New Paxico) and the old man has died. This, we hope, will terminate the war. Now let old mother Newbury shun no exertion to raise him well, feed him well that he may grow rapidly, and after he becomes grown she may expect that he will be grateful to his aged and widowed mother.”
Hotel Paxico was located where the Post Office now stands. The original building was built in Newbury and moved to Paxico in 1887 by Mr. George Anderson. The Grade School was organized in 1888. Paxico High School was formed in 1909, and a brick school building was erected in 1922. The high school closed in 1974.
Newbury and Sacred Heart Catholic Church
In 1869 Martin Muckenthaler journeyed to St. Marys, and Fr. Rimmele S.J. and an Indian guide brought him to the area of Newbury where he purchased 160 acres from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. He moved his family here in July of 1869. When Martin arrived the second time he met John Mock, Mock’s father, and Adam Glotzbach who were also attracted to the area by newspaper articles.
On April 27, 1870 a charter was granted to the Newbury Town Company. The Santa Fe Railroad owned half-interest in the town and named the town Newbury after the birthplace of an official of the railroad company. The company expected the railroad to be laid through Mill Creek Valley, so the town was laid out on a grand scale, covering almost a section of land with an eight-acre public square.
In 1871 there was an election to determine where the county seat would be located. The town company offered to erect a building and donate its use as the courthouse along with the public square to the county. Newbury lost the election, dashing many hopes, and some settlers moved. Around this time, a company of men from Ohio arrived, hoping to purchase land and settle in the area. Among those in the Ohio Company were P.H. Moser, Charles Stalker and Charles Stringham. They were businessmen and started some of the first businesses in Newbury.
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