John R 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. 

Barton County’s First Christmas Tree

“On the night of December 24, 1874, Ellinwood had the first Christmas tree in Barton County. It occurred somewhat after this manner:
Our town, being so fortunate as to have five or ten of the most wide-awake, go-ahead ladies to be found in Kansas, thoroughly alive to every interest of the town and country, determined to make one happy time for the children during these grasshopper times. Accordingly a committee consisting of Mrs. Hollinger, Mrs. Landis and Mrs. Bay, went to work in good earnest thus showing their motherly aptitude in providing for the little ones of the community, made all necessary arrangements, and in due time had a very respectable evergreen in position, in the school house, profusely decorated and literally loaded down with beautiful cornucopias and large, neatly ornamented and embroidered stockings well filled with candies, nuts and goodies of all kind. These, and the materials of which the cornucopias and stockings were composed, were bountifully furnished by Messrs. Landis & Williamson, but very little help having been given by other parties. The expense of the tree was defrayed by Mr. Geo. W. Hollinger. Indeed the profuseness and generosity with which the tree was furnished is very creditable to the liberality of our citizens.
Reaching Ellinwood’s handsome school house at an early hour we were astonished to find the house literally jammed from parquet to dome — not even a seat in the gallery could be obtained for love or money. We have attended many a similar gathering — have often seen the lamps shine “o’er fair women and brave men,” but never such a crowd as this. Not our least surprise as the large number of handsome young and married ladies (the committee by no means excepted) who adorn this vicinity.
The exercises of the evening were conducted by Mr. Chalfant with a masterly hand; and considering that the programme [sic] which had been previously arranged was “noncomeatable[sic]” on account of the failure or lack of promptness on the part of those who had parts assigned them, the impromptu programme [sic] was carried through very creditably and successfully…”

Click Here to read the full article by Veronica Coons, Reporter, Great Bend Tribune

Our New Website

Welcome to the new Ellinwood historical society website and blog.  Here we will be posting the latest news, society info, projects, and the amazing history of Ellinwood.  With a wealth of history, the society aims to educate, inspire, and cultivate the imagination of the past.  A rich history and an even richer future will bring the ghosts of the past into the focus. Please forgive our mess as the website is still under development.  (You may see gibberish under some of our post headers – the words are saving place for copy that we will be updating. We are adding more content, stories and photos and that helps us save place for the information that will (eventually) make its way into that area.) We hope you enjoy what you see and read here.