Map shows the north half of present-day Lyon County, KS. The double line is the Kansas Turnpike; n-s thru Admire is Hwy 99. The dotted line angling across the top is the route of the Santa Fe Trail, ca. 1821-1870.
Bushong, near the west county line, started as a railroad station called Weeks, after Joseph Weeks who had donated the land to the rail company. That name didn’t last long. Bushong, Kansas was named in late 1886 for Albert John “Doc” Bushong, a catcher in Major League Baseball. He was usually a reserve player. His greatest success came with the 1885-1886 St. Louis Browns, for which he was the starting catcher for two league championships. In 1886, the St. Louis Browns of the American Association beat the Chicago White Stockings of the National League. The team owner honored his players by arranging to have western towns renamed for them, and Weeks became Bushong, Kansas.
Doc Bushong was the first player from the University of Pennsylvania to play in the major leagues. He did not play baseball at the university but did earn a degree in dentistry. After his baseball career ended, he was a practicing dentist. He is credited by many with invention of the padded catchers’ mitt, in an effort to save his hands for dentistry. He never visited his namesake town in Kansas.
On January 31, 1887, the post office was established and the population of Bushong was seventy-five; in 1923 the town population was 150. Like the other newly-established railroad towns in northern Lyon County, Bushong flourished until the next year, when severe drought and heat caused many settlers to move from the area in search of greener pastures. For a few years trains stopped at Bushong for passengers. For awhile after that service was discontinued, trains could still be stopped by “flagging” to load freight or livestock. In 1907 a broken rail caused a train wreck in Bushong, and three cars were derailed. One passenger had a broken rib, another had several teeth knocked out, and a third had his face badly scratched. The railroad discontinued the depot in 1957, and the depot building was torn down.
When the railroad arrived in 1886, a large tank pond was built one mile east of town which supplied the steam engines with water. The first station agent was R. D. Cottrell, who also built the Bushong hotel and operated it with his wife for a few years; after his death she remarried and continued with the hotel for a few years. Other early businesses were a general store, grain flour and coal, real estate agents, building contractor, blacksmith, lumber, boarding house, a hog fence factory, and a limestone quarry near town. The Bushong State Bank was chartered in 1916, but failed during the Great Depression and closed in 1932.
A newspaper, The Bushong Bulletin, was published for a brief time; the following is an excerpt from the first edition, with other articles promoting settlement in Kansas:
Bushong Bulletin, Aug. 6, 1899
“. . . (We have received) the horrible news that a small boy on Monday last climbed a cornstalk to see how the corn was getting along, but the stalk is growing faster than the boy can climb down and he is plum out of sight. Several men are trying to cut the stalk down with axes, but it grows so fast they can’t hack twice in the same place. The poor boy is living on nothing but raw corn, and he has already thrown down over four bushels of cobs. It is to be hoped he will soon be rescued from his perilous position, but on such fertile land (as is found in Kansas), it is very foolish for anyone to climb even a fence post.”
Bushong street scene, ca. 1903
Bushong’s early telephone system was part of the Farmers Mutual Telephone Assn., a co-operative company with everyone helping to construct and care for lines and poles. The company was sold in 1960. Electricity was approved around 1927, and on June 9, 1936 Bushong voted to sell their utility to Kansas Electric Company of Emporia.
In 1899 a Methodist church was started; it had one large room with a pot-bellied stove in the center and an organ. In 1923 a new church building on the same site was dedicated, with the bell from the old church in the belfry.
Bushong Methodist church in 1899
Bushong Methodist Church in 1923
As in other communities, one of the early concerns in Bushong was providing education for the children of the community. The first school building as shown here was a two-story wood-frame structure with one room in each level, with elementary instruction provided, grades 1-8. In February of 1894 a diphtheria epidemic caused twelve deaths in 48 hours, and the school was closed. The school was in use from 1886 to 1948, when the pupils were moved to the brick high school building, and the old school building was sold and removed.
Bushong Rural High School was established by a special election, and classes were held in the upper room of the grade school in 1913, later in other town buildings. The first graduation was in 1916 with students Maurice Spear and Tressie Swarner. An ongoing dispute over whether or not the community really needed and could afford such a school resulted in a 1917 petition with enough of the opposing taxpayer’s signatures that the county commissioners had to decide on whether or not to allow a vote to determine if the school district would continue or be disorganized. The special election was denied on the grounds that the school district had accumulated property since it was organized.
The brick High School was erected in 1918 with four rooms, and later additions were made, including a gymnasium first used in 1926. Because of loss of enrollment, in 1955 Bushong consolidated with the other area schools. High school pupils went to nearby Allen until Northern Heights opened in the fall of 1957, consolidating the high schools of Bushong, Allen, Admire and Miller. Grade school continued at Bushong until 1966, when all area 3rd and 4th graders went to Bushong and the other grades to Allen and Admire. The school finally closed in 1970, and the building was purchased by the city for use as a Civic Center. Currently the building is abandoned.
High School, 1918–1955, elem. until 1970 (photo 1920)
Bushong School with addition on north, 1930’s
As the area populations changed and student enrollments dropped, the town schools went through a series of consolidations, as follows:
- 1955 – Bushong HS students to Allen
- 1957 – Northern Heights High School opens for all area high school students
- 1966 – all area 3rd & 4th grades to Bushong, other Bushong elem. to Allen
- 1970 – all area elementary students to Admire, other town schools closed
- 2010 – Admire elem. school closed, students sent to Reading and Americus
Our Land: A History of Lyon County, Kansas, 1976, publ. Emporia State Press. Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Vol. II, 1912, edited by Frank W. Blackmar, Standard Pub. Co. Chicago (available online, see below).
ON THE INTERNET, as of 2016:
http://www.kshs.org/p/county-atlases-or-plat-books/13859 KS State Hist. Society, county plat maps
http://www.ksgenweb.com/archives/1912/ Cyclopedia of Kansas, 1912
http://www.kancoll.org/books/cutler/ 1883 History of Kansas by Andreas/Cutler
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