Dwight

This weekend Dwight marks its 125th anniversary.  It was in 1887 that the town company was organized, they purchased the land for the town site from Dwight Rathbone and Jessie Hammer.  The Dwight Land & Townsite Co. based out of Kansas City Missouri quickly busied themselves with the development of Dwight.  They built a majority of the buildings and leased them out.  Although Dwight was a swinging little town so early, it wasn’t until 1905 that it was incorporated.

Dwight Chapel. (Courtesy of Sharon Haun.)

In the autumn of 1887 a special train came to Dwight from Kansas City.  The people of Dwight gave a grand welcome with a band concert and a baby show and then commenced selling lots.  Ed Bouton, the manager of the Townsite Co., was asked what they were going to call the town.  It was said that after Mr. Bouton looked around, his eyes fell on the Dwight Chapel and so he suggested it be called Dwight.  Dwight Chapel was the Methodist Episcopal Church that was built in 1883.  Reverend J. S. Ward was the first pastor of this church, he lived in Skiddy and drove over on Sunday.

In the summer of 1886 the Chicago, Kansas & Nebraska Railroad Co. made a survey through Dwight and in the fall of that year began construction on the line from Topeka to Herington.  The C. K. & N. went through foreclosure in 1891 and the line was taken over by the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific.  The C. R. I. & P.  was reorganized as the Oklahoma, Kansas & Texas in 1980, which merged with the Missouri Pacific in 1988 which finally merged with the Union Pacific in 1997.

The first newspaper in town was the Dwight Wasp.  Hal Sweetland, who was a large man with a handlebar moustache and thick accent, was the first editor of the paper.  The first hotel was built in 1887 and at various times operated by a Mr. Brooks, Maggie Kern, and Mrs. Vendoline Goss.  The hotel also served, for a short time, as the first school.  A large room on the ground floor was fitted with tables and chairs and a Mr. Miller was the teacher.

The first general store was owned by Jessie Hammer.  An Englishman named Pantry ran the first grocery store and had the post office in his home.  The post office was managed by a lady named Kate Clark.  The post was eventually moved to a store downtown.  The first Bank of Dwight was operated by Sam Boyd.  The first doctor was a Mr. Curtis followed by Drs. Moore, Day, Brechbill, Edgerton, Mikula and Brethour.

The only other history I am prepared to give you at this time is of the 1900 fire in Dwight.  It was in December and a fire started in the living rooms at the back of a store owned by George Gudge.  The building and all contents were a total loss.  The fire also spread to the S. Swenson Lumber Co. which was also destroyed.  There was an amusement hall which had just been finished over one of these stores and three families were also living in rooms above at the time.  The hall was a loss and all three families lost most of their possessions and clothing.

One anecdote concerning this fire goes as follows.  The wife of one of the families living above hastily gathered her best dishes into a dish pan and told her husband to carry it downstairs.  Then pointing to a bundle of bedding said, “Throw that out of the window.”  In his hurry and confusion the husband threw the dishes out of the window and carried the bedding down the stairs.

Another destructive fire was in 1910 when the Graham building burned.  The upper floor was used for the Modern Woodmen of America, Masons and Eastern Star, and the Royal Neighbors.  All orders lost their possessions in this blaze.  The Eastern Star did not have insurance but fortunately the rest were able to replace their losses.

The Cottage Hotel owned by Mrs. Bolinder also caught fire and burned to the ground.  Smoldering shingles were carried by a south wind toward the depot which also burned down.

Rock Island water tower. (Courtesy White City Library.)

Dwight has been steadily holding their own for 125 years!  So come to Dwight this weekend and see what the fuss is about.

Addenda October 26, 2012:  The post office at Dwight was established March 19th 1887 and remains open to date.  Before the office was opened at Dwight, it was located at Damorris, which had been established since November 30th 1880.  Kate L. Clark was the first appointee of both offices.

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