HISTORY OF FREDONIA


  • 1794:  A stone discovered on a hillside southwest of Fredonia above the Fall River with this date carved into it gives evidence alluding to the presence of European explorers in the area.
  • 1857:  First European settlers came to the area.
  • 1861:  Creek Indian leader Opothle Yahola led 7,000 Native Americans, and 300 slaves, who were loyal to the Union Cause from Deep Fork, south of present day Tulsa to escape conscription into the Confederate Army.  They ran north through Montgomery County to Fort Row north of Fredonia in Wilson County, hoping to find the promised food and other aid from the Union Army.
  • 1864:  Wilson County boundaries were finalized by State legislature.  Wilson County held its first presidential election with 26 votes cast.  This was also the first year of the federal census.
  • 1868:  Fredonia Town Company was organized, the name chosen and the town was platted.  Dr. J. J. Barrett erected the first building on the southwest corner of the square. Fredonia post office was established Aug. 26th, 1868.
  • 1869:  A county election on June 8 selected Fredonia as the county seat.  Fredonia schools were organized on July 10th.
  • 1870:  The first newspaper of Wilson County, the Wilson County Courier, was published by John J. Jennings on January 20th.  The Courier noted that there were 23 completed buildings in Fredonia and that foundations for 50 more structures were laid. Lots adjoining the square were priced ranging from $60; to $20;.   Frisco railroad arrived, and the first school term of three months was held.
  • 1871:  City government first meets on May 5th.  The first religious building was the Congregational Church built on a lot given by the town company.  When the church closed, the building became the public library.  In 1969, the old building was razed and the present library is built on that same ground.  In 1871 another county election on May 23rd again selected Fredonia as the county seat.  Citizens of Neodesha contested the election.  Wilson County Bank was incorporated on September 9th; the bank is now known as First National Bank in Fredonia.
  • 1872:  Charges of fraud in the May 1871 election were filed in the District court.  Judge Gooin ruled the election invalid and directed that the county officed be removed to Neodesha.  This decision was appealed to the State Supreme Court.  On February 12th the town's first large fire consumed nine business structures on the west side of the square.  The fire was fought by bucket brigade.  Between 1872 and 1880, the Public Square, or some portion of it, burned at least half a dozen times.
  • 1873:  Another election was held January 28th, and Fredonia was again selected as county seat.
  • 1874:  In May, the State Supreme Court upheld the District Court's decision to disqualify the May 1871 election and remove the county offices to Neodesha. The city dug  three first class public wells.  The wells were curbed in with a roof overhead and provided with buckets, chains and pulleys.  These primary water sources for the town served equally as fire protection.
  • The Christian Church received it's first bell.
  • 1880:  A new $10,000 school house was built on the Mound at the foot of Main street.
  • 1885:  On September 7th another election was held, which passed a bond issue of $30,000.00 to build a courthouse in Fredonia.  That ended the county seat debate. The Gold Dust Hotel was completed.
  • 1886:  On May the 4th the West Side of the Square burned.  Only six weeks later the North Side of the square burned.  Between the two events, more than 24 buildings were damaged or destroyed.  After this terrible loss, the city government began to enact the ordinances for building that would become Fredonia's zoning laws ninety years later.
  • 1888:  First graduating class of Fredonia High School.  The Methodist Church became illuminated with electric light.
  • 1895: Fredonia is to have a telephone exchange and a hello girl.
  • ​1898:  Otto Mill was destroyed by fire June 12, 1898.  It was immediately rebuilt and modernized with the addition of a power house the Fredonia Electric Light Plant.  The plant furnished lights for the town until 1901 when it was replaced by natural gas.
  • 1900:  New Methodist Church was dedicated June 24, 1900.
  • 1901:  Business men were advised that rural delivery carriers have no right to deliver mailable  articles without proper postage.
  • ​1902:  In December Locomobile was received in Fredonia on good roads it can travel 15 to 20 miles an hour.
  • 1905:  Feb. 3 - The Wilson County courthouse is fully paid for.  Loyd C. Bunch , florist, opened a greenhouse.
  • 1906:  July there were seven automobiles in Fredonia and four more coming.  
  • 1907:  Fredonia's new Catholic Church was dedicated Oct. 10.
  • 1909:  B.E. LaDow of Fredonia Gas Co. was granted permission to erect and maintain sufficient lamp post from the public square to the Frisco-Santa Fe Depot.
  • ​1910:  Dr. A. C. Flack moved into his new office, probably the finest building and most elegantly equipped office of any Wilson co. doctor.
  • 1911:  The Fredonia drug stores are now closing promptly at 8:00 p.m.
  • 1912:  The first block of Madison street west of the square will be laid with vitrified brick blocks  burned at the Excelsior plant.
  • 1913:  In May a large "vein of semi-anthracite coal"  better quality than others had found in Kansas  at that time was discovered near town.  With this discovery, it had the possibility of bringing in large amounts of money for the Wilson County area.  A cement plant opened in Fredonia in 1907, supplying jobs in community for more than 100 years, before it closed in 2012.  The new Methodist Episcopal Church was dedicated Sunday, Oct. 12.
  • 1914:  The City of Fredonia purchased the dam and water rights from Mr. Otto for the construction of a water plant.  The new High School building was completed.  Four generations of Fredonians graduated from FHS, ending with the Class of 1990.
  • 1915:  The new Wilson County jail opened.  It contained the sheriff's residence, office and the jail.  The new Wilson County jail cost the taxpayers $2,000.  This building now houses the Wilson County Historical Society.
  • 1918:  Fredonia's ambulance company is engaged in the great battle of St. Michiel in France.  Lincoln School is destroyed by fire.
  • 1920:  April bids were received for construction of the new Lincoln School expected to be ready Nov. 1 cost to be $75,000.
  • 1923:  Dr. A. C. Flack, early settler, physician, financier and all around Fredonia entrepreneur, can be credited for the original Fredonia Homcoming.  Between two and three thousand people heard Zack Harris, Ku Klux Klan organizer, talk on the immigration problem in the S. M. Smith cow pasture.
  • 1924:  The City of Fredonia sold $125,000 in bonds for the purpose of building the municipal power plant and distributng system.
  • 1925:  Ben Paulen of Fredonia became governor of Kansas.  Paulen began his political career more than 25 years before as a member of the Fredonia City Council.  Pratt brought Fredonia Portland Cement Co. Deal reported to involve one million dollars.
  • 1928: The economy in Fredonia was boosted by the opening of Archer Daniels Midland Company.  The plant was obtained in 1928 and operated as a soybean processing facility and supplied many jobs for the growing industrial town. In March 2003 the plant announced it would close its Fredonia branch immediately.  A large portion of jobs in the town involved working at these plants which caused Fredonia to be greatly affected by their removal.  The Self-Service Grocery on the southeast corner of the square announced it was open for business.
  • 1933: Local letters can be delivered for two cents.
  • ​1934: Bond issue for gymnasium and auditorium at the high school carried 2 to 1.
  • 1935: New Work Relief Project will employ women whose husbands are disabled or who are heads of families.  Wage scale will be 35 cents an hour and not more than six hours a day.
  • ​1936:  On July 18th a national record-setting temperature of 121 degrees fahrenheit was made.
  • ​1937:  Fredonia's population was 4,167.
  • 1939:  New theatre open.  A. W. Pugh will operate new Klock Theatre on sixth street.  More the 500 enter first annual Fredonia Relays.
  • 1940:  Dr. E. A Rindt of Herington opened his practice in Fredonia.  Hot lunches were first served to grade school children at Lincoln and Mound schools.  A beautiful little park was built on the East side of water plant by WPA.  
  • 1945:  The Thomas Sheedy heirs transferred title of the old Sheedy homestead, 2 miles north of the city, to the City of Fredonia to be used as an airport.
  • 1947: Ben Baldridge of Independence purchased City Drug Store from Wilson Sprague.  State Bank moved into modern quarters on the southwest corner of the square.  Dr. Lynn Beal moved into the offices of the late Dr. F. L  Ervay at 318 N. 6th street.
  • 1949: Fall River reservoir dedicated by Gov. Frank Carlson.
  • 1950: St. Margaret's Mercy hospital was dedicated June 11th.
  • 1953:  Dr. Hugh Bayles opened his offices at 716 Madison st.
  • 1955:  The South Mound Star and Cross light structure was erected by the Fredonia Lions Club.
  • 1956:  Open house for the Fredonia new junior high school building.
  • 1958: Dedication of the National Guard Armory.  Dr. Ralph N. Sumner opened new office at 712 Madison.
  • 1960: State Bank of Fredonia was robbed.  Approximately $3,000 was taken from the cashier at gun point.  Dial phones to go into operation at 1:01 Sept. 8th.
  • 1961:  New courthouse was opened.  April 3 Wilson County Citizen changes hands.  Relphs purchase paper after 90 years in the Gilmore family.  Ben S. Paulen Elementary School was dedicated.
  • 1962: Open house at the new First National Bank building.  The new Fredonia swimming pool will open May 30.
  • 1963:  Fredonia City Hall was torn apart by a blast which completely destroyed the interior and roof.  The hot water tank was blamed.
  • 1964: Janell Smith qualifies for the U.S. Olympic team in the 400 meter run and will go to Japan.
  • 1965: Ground breaking ceremonies were held for the new clock tower.
  • 1967:  The new library, built on the grounds of the old Congregational Church, was opened to the public.
  • 1968:  The Fredonia Post Office celebrated its 100th year of founding.
  • 1969:  The office of County Superintendent of schools was eliminated.  Louise Rankin, the past superintendent turned over records to the Register of Deeds.
  • 1970: Fredonia was raked by storm.  Fredonia Cable TV tower broken off, Christian Church south wall blown in, Austin Eagle killed, property damage high.
  • 1971: The last drug store soda fountain in Fredonia - at Wiggans Drug Store - discontinued service.
  • 1973: Contract signed between Koppers Inc. of Pittsburgh, PA, and General Portland Cement for a $2 million system to control dust at the Fredonia plant.  Sides start up on the new two-million gallon water storage tank being erected on the West Mound.
  • 1975: Dr. K.R. Nevitt announced the sale of Wilco Veterinary Hospital in Fredonia to Dr. Charles Fox who will be here sometime in April to start work.
  • 1976:  The Wilson County Historical Society held their open house in the newly acquired facility on the east side of the square - the old sheriff's residence and jail.  Fredonia's Pizza Hut opened.  The ribbon cutting and open ceremonies were held for the new TG&Y store.  July 5th 7.19 inches of rain was officially measured, forced a number of Fredonia residents from their homes.  National Guardsmen and city employees were called out about 2:30 a.m. to help evacuate families from First Street, North Third Street and South 15th Street.  This was the heaviest 24-hour rainfall recorded since weather records have been kept, beginning in 1902, according to weather observer Lee Miller.  The Bicentennial celebration planned for the City Park Sunday was moved to the Armory due to the rain and flooding.  County damage to roads and highways was estimated at $600,000.  Construction began on the Edens apartment complex.  Fredonia Rest Home was closed Sept. 1 of this year.  State Bank President Glenn H. Beal, turned the first shovelful of earth to start construction of the new State Bank building.
  • 1977: Some 800 acres of sunflowers were planted in test plots in the county to determine if sunflowers could become a cash crop in Wilson County.  A 325,000 bond issue was approved by voters in USD 484.  The project includes remodeling the present gym building to include dressing rooms, a commons area and cafeteria space, as well as remodeling the high school to comply with the State Fire Marshal's requirements.
  • 1978:  A possible small earthquake may have occurred in western Wilson County at 1:28 p.m. on Monday, Jan.9 according to the microseismic readings taken by the Kansas Geological Survey at the University of Kansas.  Ralph Bateman, long time teacher and principal has been elected to the Kansas State High School Activities Hall of Fame.  The City, assisted by Fredonia Rotary Club and Fredonia Jaycees, plus individual citizens are replacing the old rusty street signs with new ones.  Dr. Oswaldo Bacani began practice at St. Margaret's Mercy Hospital.  Fredonia City Police moved from the Law Enforcement Center to the old police station building.
  • 1979:  Four bloodhounds and two managers arrived in Fredonia to aid in the search for 81 year old Argel Hunter, a Fall River township resident reported missing from his home.  Plans were laid for an Avenue of Flags at the Fredonia cemetery.  The three new Fairbanks - Morse engines installed during the past year at the Fredonia power plant, along with the two older Norberg engines, are now on line.   C. Fred Lorentz, Fredonia attorney, was notified by telephone by Gov. John Carlin's office that he had received the appointment as District Judge of the 11th Judicial District, Position #4.
  • 1980: Phillip L. Rindt, M.D. has joined his father, Dr. E. A. Rindt, in his medical practice here.  Parkview Village housing project was dedicated with State Representive Rochelle Chronister making dedicatory remarks.  Mr. and Mrs. Brooks Denison, owners of Denison, Inc., announced the recent sale of their business to Mr. and Mrs. Howard Alger of Chanute.  Oil well drilling has become one of the busiest enterprises in Fredonia. The completion of a 10-barrel a day well owned by Archer-Daniels-Midland, has sparked a flurry of drilling along the north city limites.  Governor John Carlin announced the appointment of Jim Taylor, Fredonia, as sheriff of Wilson County.  A car drove over the curb and through the front window of the new 7-11-Eleven just hours after the new store opened its doors and began testing its computerized equipment.  The Fredonia Daily Herald announced it was shutting down publishing the paper.  Fredonia Yellowjackets were the only undefeated Class 4-A team in the state of Kansas, gave them the first ever change at state Class-4A Championship.  The Hiawatha Redskins held on to their lead in the final minute 12-10 ending the Yellowjackets 1980 football season.
  • 1981: The City of Fredonia was enlarged by the annexation of property west of the present city limits.  May 18, a heavy weekend rainfall in the watershed of Fall River and Toronto reservoirs made it probable that the city would temporarily lift the emergency water restrictions and the $10.00 per thousand cubic feet surcharge on water useage instituted May 1.  Commissioners stressed if water levels dropped to critical point it would be reinstated.  Dr. Evans Sumner will join Dr. Charles Fox at Wilco Veterinary Clinic Oct. 1.Dr. Sumner received his degree at Kansas State University.  Dutch Elm disease has resulted in a large number of stately old elms being removed all over town.  The Fredonia Cinema building on the east side of the square was completely gutted by fire.  A bomb threat caused a cancellation of the annual Christmas pageant.  The auditorium was evacuated in an orderly fashion.  The bomb threat proved to be a prank call.
  • 1982:  New Year's Eve celebration were rudely interrupted when a major fire broke out in downtown Fredonia Shortly before 6:00 p.m.  The second major blaze in as many months on the square destroyed Coast to Coast and severely damaged four other businesses and two offices.  Wiggans Drug Store and Mode O'Day received intensive damage. Receiving severe smoke damage were Dryer's Shoes and Rice's Jewelry, the real state office of J.L. Elins and law office of Rex Lafferty.  A furnace malfunction in Coast to Coast was ruled to be the cause of the fire.  Bunch Greenhouse was sold after being the business name since the early 1900's.  Dan Schoolcraft be came the fourth generation Schoolcraft to be part of the 79-year-old Schoolcraft Lumber Co.  Six months after the disastrous New's Eve fire, Wiggans' Drug Store is back in its remodeled building and Coast to Coast is reopening in its new building on the west side of the square.
  • 1983: Larry Wilson, son of 
  • 1991:  The Gold Dust Hotel Building was selected for the National Register of Historical Places.  A complaint filed with the American Civil Liberties Union threatened the continuance of the 65-year-old Christmas Pageant.
  • 1994:  Mill Dam building renovated.
  • 1995:  On March 3rd the Kansas governor Bill Graves signed a resolution stating "Highway 75 from the Oklahoma and Kansas state lines to the steps of our state's capital be so designated "the Opothle Yahola Memorial Highway" and certain areas in Southeact Kansas, the Verdigris, Neosho and Fall River Valleys and that of the Big and Little Sandy Creek Valleys as the "Opothle Yahola Historic Trail."
  • 1998:  On May 30th the Opothle Yahola Memorial Trail was dedicated in a ceremony at Caney.  The highway signs are in place.  Also happening the same year on August 24th the new US Highway 400 was opened from Wichita to the eastern edge of Fredonia, intersecting with K47.  Several months later the highway was completed to Joplin, Missouri.
  • 2007:  In late June and early July, Fredonia experienced record flooding.  On the night of June 29, at least 10 inches of rainfall was recorded and additional rainfall fell over the weekend of  June 30 and July 1.  It was reported by Topeka television that over 100 people had lost their homes due to flooding.