The "Electric City"

City of Horton

Horton's History

   Horton was founded in 1886 and named after Albert H. Horton, chief of justice of the Supreme Court. By 1887 Horton was incorporated as a third class city by the district judge.

    Horton is an agricultural community located in northeast Kansas, on the south central edge of Brown County, at what is known as the "Junction" of the Chicago, Kansas, and Nebraska Railroad. Elevation is 1,134 feet above sea level. Population zoomed to approximately 4,000 shortly after the town was started, reached its peak in 1923 (5,012) and is now down to about 1,700 with the closing of the Rock Island Shops.

    A poster that was issued in 1886 to advertise the town of Horton, soon after it was laid out and the first lots sold, was headed "The Prodigy of the West- the Wonder of Kansas". It contained a great deal of information about the "Magic City", as Horton was called. It exploited the town as the best place for capitalists to make money.


    Pioneers who settled in this area before Horton was founded have infiltrated into the families of railroad workers who flocked to the "Magic City" to work for the Rock Island, leaving a heritage of ancestors of which we can be proud.


    The local economy is diversified with 3 major industries; health care, government, and manufacturing. Major employers of Horton include 1) Horton Indian Agency, which was transferred to Horton in 1938, staffing a maximum of 21 employees. 2) Horton Hospital, the first hospital opened to patients on April 3, 1906 at 8th and Second Avenue East, the second hospital was opened in 1926 at a cost of $50,000. In 1964 the current 35-bed hospital opened at a total cost of $615,809.18. 3) Horton Health Foundation, named the "Forest Henney Medical Arts Building" for Mr. Henney as a result of his significant financial contribution in the form of an unrestricted trust. It housed one family practice office, one specialty office, the Horton pharmacy, dental office, community room, and hospital laundry. 4) Tri-County Manor, a 25-bed not-for-profit nursing home that was first opened in 1975. With a new addition in 1982, the capacity is now at 110. 5) Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), relocated to Horton from Troy in the early 1930's. A new Area Shop was built in Horton in 1955 that was primarily responsible for construction and maintenance activities in Atchison, Brown, Doniphan and Nemaha counties. 6) Brown-Atchison Electric Cooperative Association, Inc. (REA), started in 1937, is related to the farm electrification movement which started with the establishment of the Rural Electrification Administration. The Brown- Atchison Electric Cooperative was the first REA financed cooperative to energize lines in the State of Kansas. 7) Battery C 154 Field Artillery Battalion, the parent unit was constituted July 1917, at the 1st Field Artillery Regiment, Kansas National Guard. 8) Horton Housing Authority (Arbor Knoll Homes and Orchard Heights), Arbor Knoll was opened in 1969 consisting of 15 buildings of housing, 50 units, an office/community building, and a laundry and maintenance shop. Orchard Heights was built in 1979 and 1980 with 10 buildings that house 17 family units.

Some Firsts:

    The first building, L.H. Duff's meat market, was built September 28, 1886. The first automobile in Horton was similar to an Orient Buckboard, purchased by Ebb T. Wells around 1905. Horton's first airplane was built a few years before the World War, about 1916, by Frank Peters, who was a young mechanic at the shops. The first half block of paving was finished in September 1914 on Front Street (8th Street). The first radio set was bought by H.A. Luebbe in 1921.

    The W.R. Honnell House, now the home of Chuck and Bernetta Schecher, on the Horton Heights was built in 1886 and used as a show place when lots were first offered for sale in Horton.


    At one point there were 900 employees at the Rock Island Shops and 13 hotels! The Hotel Windsor was the first commercial hotel built in town in 1887-1888. It stood just east of our current City Hall, and was a popular hotel for many of the shop workers to stay. The Hotel Grand was built in 1888-1889 at the corner of 10th and Central. It had a dining room and bar, and a grand ballroom with crystal chandeliers. It was at one time run by "Beefsteak" Jones who was known for serving the finest steaks in the country. Harry Waters operated a hotel and restaurant at the corner of 8th and 1st Avenue East. He was know for his roast beef and brown gravy meals. The Rock Island Hotel, a wood frame building at 615 Central, was a popular boarding and rooming house. Other hotels included the Cunningham Hotel on Central, the Harris House on 1st Avenue East, the Omaha Hotel on the corner of 4th and 1st Avenue East, the Ben Marshal "Joint" on 7th and 1st Avenue East, the Laclede Hotel on 7th Street, and the Hannah House on the corner of 9th and 2nd Avenue West.

City Hall and the Library:

    The original City Hall, located midway between Central and 1st Avenue East on 9th Street, was a clapboard two-story structure built when the town first started to provide a meeting place for the city council, a jail, and a "reading room" for the exchange of books and other educational material. In 1911, discussion was started about looking for a better site to build a more permanent and larger structure that would be less of a fire hazard. Since there was no urgency the project was tabled from time to time. In 1913, when J.F. Bailey was elected mayor, he tried pushing through an ordinance prohibiting playing baseball on Sunday. There were so many protesters at the city council meeting that the building had to be evacuated when parts of the support beams gave way! The protesters succeeded in reinstating baseball on Sunday, at the expense of putting plans for a new city hall on "rush order." The new city hall was built in 1914. The town bell, which was mounted on top of the building, was used for nearly 70 years to summon the town marshal, sound the fire alarms or weather alerts. It was removed from the roof and placed on a permanent mounting on the city hall lawn when the bell mountings were weakened by years of exposure to the elements. The "reading room" was soon too small to be used, and arrangements for a public library were being made by the Women's Federation of Clubs in 1925. In 1939, the current library was erected at a cost of $25,000.

The Railroad:

    The history of Horton is vitally connected to the nation's development of transportation. The decade of the 1880's showed a marked increase in the laying of railroad tracks across the nation. On August 5th, 1886 a railroad meeting was held in Everest to consider the proposition from the C.R.I. & P road relative to locating a depot near Everest. The road asked for reasonable depot ground and a mile of right-of-way. The meeting agreed to tender the road $500. This tender was refused and Everest lost the depot. The C.K. & N. built a depot two miles southeast, named it Pierce, and located its main shops and headquarters town on a cornfield seven miles west, naming the spot Horton. In October of 1886 the Horton Headlight read; the Chicago, Kansas, and Nebraska Railroad which is in reality an extension of the great Rock Island system west of the Missouri River, will soon be running its trains into Horton. In November 1886, the first train steamed into Horton. The last of the railroads in Horton were removed in 1985. The "Marsh Arch", was one of the very few remaining arches that the railroads installed as a guard rail on the overpass in the country.


    There were several places in town for people to go for entertainment. Schrader's Candy Kitchen was the "in" place to take your date for an ice cream soda or to arrange a chance meeting with a crush! The display cases were filled with a wide assortment of homemade candies, handmade cigars and a soda fountain stocked with their own brand of ice cream and toppings. There was an old band shell that stood where the community building is now. Bud Nadeau organized a band to play there that was said to be one of the best bands in the area. With a dining room, bar and grand ballroom, the Hotel Grand was where the "elite" attended many social functions. The Liberty Theatre was a popular place to go, especially on bank night, when hundreds flocked to town to see if their ticket stub was the lucky winner of the set amount of money, once $275.00. Thompson's Grove, one mile south of Kennekuk, and Bourke's Grove, on the south edge of Horton, were favorite spots for picnics and outings. Bourke's Grove had a ball diamond with a good sized grandstand, a movie screen that showed silent movies, carnivals, circuses, rodeos, aerial shows, a swimming pool, and a rink that was used for roller skating and dancing. Other leading social events were the formal balls, masquerade and charity, and the after the opera parties. The social leaders attended all the concerts, lectures, and performances at the opera house which included musical shows. plays, and minstrels. Other social functions reported were the art parties, cob-web parties, match hunts, candy socials, taffy pulls, church socials and dinners, box suppers, blackberry and ice cream socials. When television became a household item in the 1950's, there was less and less socializing and patronage to the local theatre declined. In recent years new trends emerge. Exercising groups, summer leagues, and choice entertainment, as well as "Tail-gating" has become popular.

    The nice thing about Horton is the location. Luckily for Horton, there of plenty of towns and cities not far from home that have a good variety of lodging, dining, and entertainment.