Dexter Historical Museum in Dexter, Kansas
Dexter Historical Museum, on Main Street. Open Saturday 2_4 pm or by appointment.  620_876_5700
All the following information was published in 1976 in a book called Dexter Scrap Book.

According to the old history books "the Dexter Town Company" was organized by enterprising citizens of Emporia in July 1870.  The incorporation was not perfected at that time, however, and according to records the Dexter town plat was surveyed on November 11, 1975 by W.W. Walton, county surveyor, with the instrument executed on Dec 24, 1875.  The seal of the Dexter Town Association was affixed and signed by Peter Smith, President of the association, and filed July 15, 1876, by E.P. Kinne, register of deeds.
 
The name Dexter was given to the area.  "Dexter" was the name of a great trotter.  The horse was owned by Mr. Robert Bonner of New York, who paid $35,000.00 for it.  Bonner and the horse, Dexter, were travelling through the area at the time the town was being organized.  The horse was so valued that the owner himself made the horseshoes worn by the horse.  Mr. Bonner found that if he elevated the back of the shoes the horse had better footing and was faster.  Dexter ran a total of 50 races, winning 48 of them for a total of $67,100.00.  The horse died in 1888 at the age of 30 years.
 
Dexter, incorporated city, Cowley County, Kansas, is located on Grouse Creek, elevation 910 feet in Dexter township at the present junction of two divisions of the Missouri Pacific Railroad.  It is southeast of Winfield, the county seat. 
 
James McDermott, prominent forefather of Dexter, Kansas
James McDermott  

A mile north of the present townsite, just south of Plum Creek, Captain James McDermott had a small log cabin that was used as a store and neighborhood post office.
 
McDermott was born June 6, 1841, the son of Hugh McDermott, Ireland.  He was a newsboy at New Orleans in 1853; he also served thru the entire Civil War.  He was acting Captain at the time of his discharge.  He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1868.  He continued to study and practice until 1870 when he moved to the Dexter area.  McDermott is considered the most prominent of our forefathers.

 

The 1870s

1870 Captain James McDermott, was the founder of the town of Dexter.  He was a member of the firm of B.S. Tyler & Co. who operated the first store in Dexter.
 
In September the first post office was established with I.B. Todd as postmaster.
 
J.A. Elliott, Levi Bullinton, William Clay, William Weaver, all from Grouse Creek, were in a party of 24 men who spent some time in hunting buffaloes in Sumner County.  In the hunt of three weeks they secured over 100 fine Buffaloes and vast quantities of other game.
1871 The first house erected upon the town site was built by Mr. McDermott in the southeast section of the town at the corner of Grouse & Cherry Streets; he moved into the house July 25th.
 
Dexter school was organized on March 30th.
 
The first mail arrived by regular carrier from Eureka.
 
Dexter township was organized April 11th from parts of Cresswell and Winfield townships and the territory that was published as Grouse prior to that.
1872 The first school was built.
 
Doctor G.P. Wagner become the towns first physician.
 
The Masonic Hall was built by Dempsey Elliott and the Masonic membership with rough lumber from Grouse Creek trees and finished lumber hauled overland from Thayer, Kansas, by an ox team.
 
At this time there were two stores, one belonging to Dick Bryan and the other to Dempsey Elliott, Mr. F. Henderson had the drug store.
1873 Several box houses and frame business establishments were erected.
 
Captain James McDermott was elected to the State Legislature.
 
Spotted fever or spinal meningitis, made its appearance on Grouse Creek.  About a dozen deaths were reported in the Lazette vicinity, north of Cambridge.
 
During the winter of 1873 & 1874 there were general prairie fires all over the country, and all the accumulated grass was burned, making fire so hot that the roots of the grass were largely killed out.
 
Penny post cards were being sold at the Post Office.
1874 This was the year of the grasshoppers which plagued the entire country.
 
There was hardly any rain from the middle of May to October.
 
First set of twins born in the area was on August 10th.  Mr. & Mrs. O. P. Darst were the parents.
 
The Masonic Lodge was organized in the spring and on October 22nd the Lodge was chartered with 17 members with the greatest number being Union Soldiers.
 
Lodge A.F. and A.M. November 19th
1875 Dexter Town Association was formed and the town plotted.  Peter G Smith was president and James McDermott secretary.
 
Carter Bro. saw & grist mill was built by Meigs & Kinnie one mile north of Dexter on Grouse Creek.  It was powered by steam.
 
At the time the town was layed out there were three or four stores, a blacksmith shop, a hotel, and various other business establishments.
 
Dexter Township census was 410.
 
Dave Perry sold a Civil War sword to the Masonic Lodge for $1.50 for use of Tyler.
1876 First masonic funeral was held for Dillon Haworth.
 
Dr Wagner built a new office, measuring 12 x 16 feet on the east side of main street.
 
Mr Stephen Bibler started business with a small quantity of groceries in an 8 x 10 feet building renting for $5.00 per month.
1877 This was a flood year.
 
H.C. McDorman brought in the first steam thresher pulled by a yoke of cattle.
 
A.J. Truesdell engaged in the hardware business, later added groceries.
 
Frank R Wagner operated a livery and sale stable.
1878 J.T. Nicholson ran the Commercial Hotel.
 
Mr. R. Hite was engaged in the mercantile business.
1879 Wesley Trevitt was the first school teacher to become a member of the Dexter Masonic Lodge, having transferred his membership from Highland, Kansas.
 
In the fall Captain A.B. Elliott, farmer and miller, with L.B. Bollington built a flour mill on Grouse Creek.
 
J.V. Hiner was appointed post master.  He was also involved in real estate, loan, and insurance business.
 
There were nine general stores, two restaurants, one drug store, and two millinery stores in town at this time.

The 1880s

1880 The house located on the southeast corner of Central & Maple, now owned and occupied by Mrs. Mollie Woods, was first located on the northeast corner of main & central streets, where it was a hotel built and run by O.P. Darst, a well known farmer and cattleman on Grouse Creek.
 
Dr Wagner took in a partner, Dr E.M. Hawkins.
 
The Dexter census was 146 with the township at 989.
 
Another dry year, said to be much dryer than 1874.
 
Publication of the Free Press newspaper began September 14th and was published for ten years.
1881 The first city officials were elected; J.D. Salmon, Mayor; H.D. Cooper, City Clerk; W.E. Merydith, City Treasurer; J.V. Hiner, Police Judge; Sam Nicholson, Marshall; and five councilmen: J.T Riggs, Rudolph Hite, G.M. Hawkins, S.H. Willis, and James Nicholson.
1882 Prior to this time the cemetery was located west of town on Grouse Creek.  Due to flooding it was moved to the hill east of town.
 
John Radcliff sold his farm.
1883 Charles W. Ridgeway was proprietor of a general store from 1883 to 1888.
1884 The Newspaper The Dexter Eye was established with W.G. Seaver, editor, and J.V. Vines, business manager.
 
The Dexter Coronet Band was formed with George Shelby conductor.
1885 The Dexter Christian Church was organized.  Rev. J.J. Goodwill was minister.
 
The first bank was organized and opened with A.A. Brown as cashier.
 
This was another flood year for Kansas.
 
Lodge I.O.O.F. June 17th.
1886 The first railroad came to town.
 
The Christian church appointed a committee of J.A. Millian and C.C. Brown for the purpose of obtaining a charter and making plans for building a church and parsonage.  J.A. Williams donated two city lots to the church.
1887 Missouri Pacific Railroad was completed through this section.
 
Interstate Commerce Bill was signed and a commission was appointed.
1888 The Dexter Baptist Church began as the Fairview Baptist Church.  It was located 2½ miles south of Dexter with 25 charter members.
 
Another newspaper appeared, the Dexter Post.
 
Namesake horse Dexter died at the age of 30.

The 1890s

1890 John Radcliff returned to the Dexter area and begin farming.
1891 Dexter gets telegraph service.
1892 In the winter of 1891/1892 ice was cut from Grouse Creek and stored in the ice house.
 
The Dexter Bank was robbed by the Dalton Gang.  The night before the robbery the gang spent the night with the Ketchum family, seven miles south of town.
1893 Sept 16th several area men made the Cherokee Strip Run; included were James W. Radcliff, Ross Day, George Laycock, William Greenwell, and others.
1894 Knights and Ladies of Security, January 9th.
1895 In April Mrs J. England opened a millinery shop, the first door south of the Commercial Hotel.
 
The Omega Society of Dexter High School elected Miss Maude Maurer president and Miss Myrtle Williamson was the new president of Rosetti Society.  The Alpha Literary was the Grade School society.
1896 James S. Day traded his farm to J.F. Trusdale for a 40 foot building with a stock of groceries & hardware.
1898 The newspaper, the Advocate, was established September 2nd to be printed for nine years.
 
Dexter Camp M.W.A. March 12th.
 
Area men who fought in the Spanish-American War were Thomas E. Grimes and Nathaniel T. Foster.
1899 J.H. May ran a livery, sale, and breeding stable.

The 1900s

1900 Several new businesses opened to better serve the needs of the community.
1901 The Fairview Baptist Church voted to move into Dexter, where they reorganized as The First Baptist Church on August 22nd.  They held their meetings in Beal's Furniture Store, the School house, and the Bolton Hall.
 
The Dexter State Bank was organized.
1902 Coal was discovered in May.
1903 Helium was discovered at Dexter.
1904 The First National Bank, the first brick building, was constructed in Dexter.
 
The Warrensburg train wreck, many local citizens were injured or killed.  Dr. R.D. Williams, physician & surgeon, Mrs. Bill Darst and her son were among the casualties.
1905 The Dexter Dispatch was established with W.L. Baldridge as editor.
 
It was this year that the coldest day on record was recorded at 27 below zero.
 
Tom Rucker put up ice cut from Grouse Creek.
1906 The grain elevator was constructed.
 
There were now four churches in Dexter: Baptist, Christian, Methodist & Presbyterian.
 
Dexter received telephone service.
 
The first cement sidewalk was in front of the Lodge Hall.
 
Bill Rose caught an 84 pound catfish in Grouse Creek.
 
J.H. Bray, a derelict, died of smallpox.  To protect the community, his tent & personal effects were burnt.
 
Dr. Roy D. Williams opened his office in the Dexter State Bank Building.
 
Dexter now had daily train service.
1907 First Auto in Dexter was owned by John Riggs.  It had buggy wheels & a chain drive.
 
Dexter piped Helium Gas into homes......(wonder what their reaction was when it wouldn't burn?)
 
Bandstand built over the well before 1907.
1908 Farmers & Merchants State Bank was organized in July.
 
Roy Catlin shipped fifteen cars of walnut logs cut from Grouse Creek Timber.
 
Twenty Two producing Helium Gas wells had been drilled.
 
The Coronet Band changed its name to the Concert Band.
1909 Several Stone Bridges were built on Grouse and Plum Creeks.
 
In May a building committee was elected for the First Baptist Church and in November the building of the church began.

The 1910s

1910 A ford agency was organized with Harry Radcliff the first agent.
 
Population of the town was 512.
 
Dexter made plans for electrical plant.
1911 Rebeka Lodge, October 12th
 
Skating rink was opened on Central Street in a tent.  Jess Taylor was operator.
 
The city now had two banks, a post office with two routes, express, telegraph, and telephone, a weekly newspaper, The Dispatch, a hotel, many important mercantile and shipping interests.
1912 The Dexter Chautauqua was organized.
 
The first electric light plant was built by Frank Gulick.
1913 The first Chautauqua was held; it was the beginning of a nineteen year tradition.
 
The school house on Maple street burnt down.  The fire was caused by fumigation.  Below is the burning structure.
Burning of the school house on Maple Street, Dexter, Kansas
1914 World War I began.
 
The first oil producing well was drilled west of the flint hills at 2700 feet.
 
Free silent movies were shown south of the Masonic Hall.
 
Dexter News, with W.R. Mouer, editor, was first filed on April 3rd.
1915 A new modern school building was started to replace the one that burnt down in 1913.
 
The Dexter Dispatch and the Dexter News consolidated and became The Dexter Dispatch News.  J.L. Alexander was editor.  The name was again changed after the second issue to The Dexter Observer.
1916 A fire in Dexter destroyed a picture gallery, a butcher shop, a mortuary, a blacksmith shop,and a lumber yard.  These businesses were located on the west side of Main between Central and Kansas streets.
1917 On January 13th Jesse Ridings bought a new Buick for $775.00
1918 World War I ended.
1919 D.W. Brown, a local boy, built a monoplane for a test run.

The 1920s

1920 The Helium plant was built during this era.
1921 The Christian Church was reorganized after being inactive for a couple of years.
1923 The Dexter Commercial club published a booklet on Dexter.
 
The Masonic Lodge bought the upper floor of the Opera House for $3,000.00.
 
D.A. Hale Mercantile Company sponsored a popularity contest; first prize was a new Ford car.  It was won by Irene (Hoyt) Duncan.  Second prize was a bedroom suite and third prize was a victoria.
 
The Helium Plant was constructed by a Kentucky corporation this year.  Not only was it used for helium production, but it served as a research center for nitrogen uses.
Helium plant in Dexter, Kansas.  Photo courtesy of Jack Shafer, used by permission.
Helium plant in Dexter.
Photo courtesy of Jack Shafer, used by permission.

1925 A Lodge meeting was interrupted to put out a fire for Cass Bolack, five miles outside of town.
1926 D.A. Shadid store opened in March.
 
The volunteer Fire Dept was created.  It consisted of a fire chief, and assistant chief and at least ten volunteers but not more than twenty.
 
In Feb an ordinance granted to E.E. Fulton, his successors or assigns, the right to construct, operate and maintain a telephone exchange and telephone lines in the city of Dexter.
1927 The Dexter natural gas Helium plant was taken over by the Government.
 
The first cylinder of helium was shipped this year; there was a big celebration with over 2,000 helium balloons released.
 
The Mayflower Blimp of the Goodyear Rubber Company flew over the city to land on the hill east of town where it was refueled with helium.  Several local citizens were given rides in the dirigible.
 
The city ordinance concerning a water works system was passed.  Whereas, at an election held in the City of Dexter, Kansas on the 18th day of November, 1927, the Mayor and councilmen of the said city were authorized to construct and install a system of water works in said city and direct to issue bonds in the amount of twenty six thousand dollars ($26,000) to pay the cost of the construction of said system of water works.
1928 City Ordinance concerning gas to homes was passed in August.  "An ordinance granting to the Western Distribution Company, a corporation, its successors and assigns, a franchise to manufacture gas; and to operate a natural or manufactured gas distribution plant and system in the city of Dexter."
1929 It was approved that special improvements consisting of cement curbs and gutters, where necessary, be constructed on both sides of main street.

The 1930s

1930 The Dexter sign on the hill east of town was constructed.
1931 "An ordinance providing for the sale of electric transmission line owned by the City of Dexter and extending from said city to the city limits of the City of Winfield, providing a consideration for said sale and submitting the proposition of such sale, the sum of $16,000 was received by the City of Dexter."
1932 The beginning of the Great Depression.
 
A skating rink was opened and operated by the Lang family.
 
Glenwood Happy Circle Club was organized with 13 members with Mrs. Perry Elliot as the first president.  This was a social club whose members made dish towels and tacked comforters.
1933 The pool hall owned and operated by C. Dixon was destroyed by an explosion.
1934 The Masonic Lodge celebrated its 60th birthday.
 
The Dexter Township census was 1,036.
1935 The old Lodge Hall, where meetings had been held for 49 years was torn down.
 
The first Dexter High School Alumni Meeting was held.
 
Everyone began to sign up for Social Security numbers.
1936 The big cottonwood tree at the bank corner, a local landmark, was cut down.
1937 This was the first year the eighth grade received their diplomas at the local school.
 
The W.P.A. Water Reservoir was constructed east of town.
1938 The first Rodeo was held on the hill east of town.
1939 The volunteer Fire Dept was reorganized.

The 1940s

1940 The Dexter Home Demonstration Unit was started with ten members.
1941 Pearl Harbor, December 7th
 
Albert Chambers, the "acting" post master, was appointed to post master.  Dexter was made a 3rd class office.
1942 The helium plant was dismantled.
 
Bill Chamberlin, a 1939 Dexter graduate, was killed in action overseas.
1943 Gasoline rationing books were issued.
 
The American forces landed on Attu Island in the Aleutians.  It was the first American territory regained from Japan in World War II.
1944 George Ghramn, a 1936 Dexter High School graduate, was killed in action.  He was a P-38 pilot.
1945 World War II ended.  The Germans signed a treaty with unconditional surrender terms.
 
The Army Mothers Club had placed the Dexter Honor Roll on the corner of Main & Central during World War II.
 
Adolph Hitler's death was announced and the Nazi concentration camp at Buchenwald was liberated by American Soldiers.
 
President Franklin D Roosevelt died.
1947 Robert N. (Bob) Brenner bought the first airplane in the Dexter area.
 
Dexter purchased two school buses for picking up rural school children.
1948 Dexter rural area was now receiving electricity.
 
The contract was signed for the construction of Dexter School Auditorium.
1949 Dexter installed dial telephone.
 
The Masonic Lodge celebrated the Diamond (75) year of continuous operations.
 
Emery Jones built a locker plant in town.
 
The Missouri Pacific Rail Road went on strike.  All trains were at a standstill.  Cattle were driven over land to other rail roads.

The 1950s

1950 C.Joe Duncan and wife, Irene, buys the grain elevator from the Shrader estate.
1951 Hot Lunch Program was started at the Dexter School.  Mrs. Vesta Glass and Mrs. Eva Fulton were the first cooks.
 
The rock quarry was opened east of town.  The rock was used in the construction of the present K-15 highway.
 
The City Council passed a plan of coverage for extending the benefits of the Title II of the Federal Social Security Act to the employees of the City of Dexter.
1954 Merchandise valued at $700-800 and about $30.00 in cash were taken in two burglaries in Dexter.  The businesses broken into were the Joe Duncan Hardware and the Maggard Grocery.
1955 Plans and fund raising for the city park was started by the Dexter H.D.U.
1956 Henry's Candy Kitchen was started as a part time operation by Pat Henry, Sr.
 
April 3rd a tornado struck the Maple City and Otto area.  Six homes were destroyed and six others were heavily damaged.
1957 The Dexter Lions Club was organized.
 
There was discussed the possibility of new life for the city in production and marketing of helium through governmental projects to obtain new fuel for satellites and missiles.
1958 The Ike Hoyt Athletic Field monument was erected.
 
Henry's Candy Kitchen was now operating full time with several employees.

The 1960s

1961 A new pumper fire truck was tried out by the Dexter Volunteer Fire Dept with Arnold Shirley, councilman and fire chief.  It was to replace a 1935 model.  Working in Grouse Creek, the pumper truck discharged two tons of water in a two hour test.  The truck was equipped with a 500 gallon tank.  It was decided to purchase the truck and equipment.
 
The 1961 census showed a drop of 65 from the 1950 census; Dexter population was now at 289.
1962 Summer swimming program at Winfield local children signed up were Mary Lou & George Shadid, Diana Love, Iris Shirley, Marianne Brenner, and Gary Edwards.
 
Bonnie Young purchased the grain elevator from C. Joe Duncan.
1963 Due to more interest in swimming lessons, a bus was secured for transportation from the school activities committee to use for transportation.
 
The new disposal and sewer plant was constructed and lines laid.
 
Albert Chambers, the post master, retired after 23 years of service.
1966 The Dexter Rug Hooking Club was organized with Mrs. E.L. (Virgia) Jones as instructor.
 
A trash and garbage disposal pickup was inaugurated for the city.
 
The Grain Elevator was purchased by Holt Grain Co. from Bonnie Young.
1967 Motha Jarbo Scholarship was established for an eligible high school senior planning to continue their education.
1968 Micky Gandy, a 1963 Dexter High Graduate, was killed in combat action in Viet Nam.
 
The Title I Program was started in the Dexter Schools.  It was a summer program to help students improve in reading & physical education.
 
The Historical Marker was placed at U.S.166 & K-15 highway junction, telling of the Dexter helium discovery.
1969 The Christian Church Bible Study was organized with 12 members.  Mrs. Venita Broyles was president.  They meet every Tuesday morning.
 
The Y-Bar Cafe east of town on the highway was built by Ed & Hazel Young.

The 1970s

1970 Dexter received the No Death Award.  It was presented by the State Highway Commission Safety Consultant for no traffic deaths since 1934.
1971 The City was drilling test wells for the second city water well.
 
A new modern school building was constructed for the first thru sixth grades.
1972 Lines were laid into Dexter from the second city water well, located one mile North of town on Robert Brenner.
 
Delbert L. Daniel recorded a religious album, "Peace in the Valley."
 
The Senior Citizens Club was organized.
 
R.I.P.'S Club was organized.  This is a Reduce Inches Pounds Sensibly Diet Club with 17 members.  Hazel Young is the President.  There are 11 members who meet every Tuesday evening.
 
Mark Massey, a local boy, was killed in a tractor accident on May 17th.
1973 In July the first boy arrived at the Mark Massey Boys Home.
1974 Mr & Mrs Robert L (Bobbie) Brenner of Dexter were declared winners of the Kansas area Pizza Hut Honda Civic Putt-Putt.  They won a new 1974 Honda Civic Automobile.
 
In February plans for a nursing home had been approved for Dexter.
 
The first of the Dexter-Cedar Vale school consolidation hearings began in August.
 
Radcliff Ranch Inc. moved the head office from Wichita to the Merydith Addition on K-15 in the Northeast part of Dexter.
1975 The Land was purchased for the rest home.
 
Dexter residents received the convenience of long distance direct dial through the efforts of Southern Kansas Telephone Co, in September.
 
Mrs Edna Dale Clark retired after 38 years of teaching in the Dexter area
 
Lighting was installed at the tennis courts.
 
The grain elevator was remodeled.
 
Shadid's Store was sold to Delbert and Eva Kemp.  The Farmers and Merchants State Bank honored the Shadid's for 49 years of service to the community.  The reception was Jan 31st.
1976 The Civic Club had extensive repairs made on the Civic Building.
 
The Dexter Tennis Association was organized.
 
The area around the swimming pool was named the "Swimming Pool Park"  There were trees planted and playground equipment added.
 
The second vote for the Dexter-Cedar Vale school merger was defeated in June
 
The Grouse Valley Manor Nursing Home was completed and plans are being finalized for operation.

 

 

 

Dexter's History
 
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