John R Ellinwood (1838-1909)

John Ralph Ellinwood (1838-1909)

Born in Vermont and son of a nurseryman, John R. Ellinwood was one of the earliest Santa Fe Railroad builders while serving as assistant Chief Engineer under T. J. Peter.  In 1868/1869 Ellinwood began working the line from North Topeka to Carbondale, Illinois where work stopped for a time.  Ellinwood was actually in charge of the steel gang that pushed the rail head forward, but he may have had other interests at work.  According to his son-in-law, Jason Dosser, Ellinwood engaged in an extensive contracting business, taking contracts for grading the road and subletting them to others.  He also was a partner in a company that did grading.  In 1872 J. R. Ellinwood had direct charge of rail construction from Newton to Ellinwood and from Great Bend to the ‘Pawnee Fork” of the North Arkansas river near Larned.  In July of 1872, the railroad reached the town of Ellinwood, pausing only long enough to erect a modest depot before pushing construction on toward the western border, fighting a March 3, 1873 construction deadline so as to earn title to alternating sections of land adjacent to the rail route.

John R Ellinwood Display at the Historic Wolf Hotel

John R Ellinwood’s photograph and History of How Ellinwood Got its Name is on Display Available to View at the Historic Wolf Hotel.


In the fall of 1871, Milton W. Halsey, Aaron Burlinson, William H. Grant and William N. Halsey staked claims on Section 32, Township 19, Range 11 which was the section located immediately east of the site, Section 31, which would later become the town of Ellinwood.  By the end of 1871 these earliest area pioneers had completed construction of their respective dwellings (shacks and dugouts), weathered an extreme blizzard, and begun moving their families to their new homes.  Meanwhile, Milton Halsey got up a petition for a post office to be named Ellinwood, after his warm friend, John R. Ellinwood.  Ellinwood, then serving as locating engineer for the A.T.S.F. railway, was camped that winter on an island in the Arkansas located southwest of our present-day town.  Burlinson did not like J.R. Ellinwood, but he wanted the post office to be located in his newly provisioned store and he wanted to be named postmaster.  Halsey insisted on his choice of a town name until Burlinson finally agreed.  Approval for the Ellinwood post office was received in May of 1872.  The railroad reached Ellinwood in July of 1872.  Burlinson’s appointment as postmaster was official on August 5, 1872.  Shortly after receiving government title to his claim in June 1873, Burlinson sold it and departed the area.  The Halsey and Grant families became permanent settlers.  Other than lending the town his name, J.R. Ellinwood had little to do with the actual settlement of the town.  After a distinguished career with the railroad and the 1891 death of his wife Effie Ann Ashburn in Topeka, he retired to Ringwood, Oklahoma until his death in 1909.   John and Effie Ellinwood were married 13 Feb 1881, made their primary home in Topeka, Kansas, and raised three children including Carrie (Jason) Dosser, Ralph John, and Edgar George. –Excerpts from 1901 Ellinwood Leader 20th Century Souvenir and Ellinwood Echoes 1991, Contributed by Marlin Bryant. 

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