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History of Longton
Calling Longton a town would be an exaggeration. Longton is a village. Its population was barely 600 at its largest, and not quite 400 according to the 2000 census.
Longton’s history began when three men left Ottawa, Kansas, on horseback, seeking homesteads in February 1870. They headed due south into the unsettled, unsurveyed corner of Kansas. The 110 miles took them eight days.
They found all they wanted: an ample water supply, plenty of timber for building and good land for farming. So, they returned to Ottawa and began moving their families to what would soon be Longton. Along the way, a covered wagon containing the Capper family joined them.
Upon their arrival, only one settler was living there. Ten years earlier, Robert Graves had attempted to settle, but had twice been chased away by Native Americans. However, now, within four months, two newcomers from Ottawa arrived to build a sawmill and profit by supplying lumber for building.
How did they get a heavy, cumbersome steam engine and boiler into an area laced with creeks, when no roads or railways existed and trucks were unheard of? They were brought the way everything was brought in those days – in horse-drawn wagons. It’s obvious that the people who started Longton had grit. They were persistent, can-do people who kept trying and didn’t give up easily. With little more than ambition and a willingness to work, they were looking for opportunity.
Five months later, six men formed the Elk Rapids Town Co. and applied for a post office, but were turned down. Elk City was a few miles east, and Elk Falls a little west, both on the Elk River. The postal system felt that a third location with Elk in its name invited confusion, so instead, they accepted the alternate name of Longton, as suggested by Herbert Capper, owner of Longton’s first hardware store and father of Arthur Capper. The name came from the village where Herbert Capper was raised in England and where his parents still lived.
Less than a year later, 27 houses had been built in the new community, and the following year, a two-story hotel, a drug store and a print shop opened, as well as two blacksmithing and wagon businesses.
After living in Longton for two years, Herbert Capper moved his family to Garnett, Kansas, where Arthur Capper graduated as valedictorian in his class of 10.
Did those two years in Longton influence who and what Arthur Capper became? According to Kansas historian Homer Socolofsky, Capper thought they did.
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