After the Railroad
Fort Wallace had been gone
for many years, the railroad was no longer the lifeblood of the town
and now Kansas was faced with a severe drought. People left by
the droves, headed anywhere where they thought there might be a better
life. Long standing businesses folded while ranching and
agriculture became the major occupation of people in the county. A
great period in the history of Wallace County was over. More
"trivial" events, like sinkholes and jackrabbit drives now stole the
attention of the citizens of the county.
A great cloud of dust arose in the sky and a loud
rumbling was heard on Tuesday, March 9, 1926. An alarm was spread
throughout the county and a party was sent out to investigate.
They discovered a new landmark, a hole 50 wide that
descended sharply into the ground had just appeared. The rumbling
continued for days as this "small" sinkhole grew to its final size of
450 feet long and 300 feet wide. No one ever figured out just how
deep this "bottomless pit" really was. Water began filling up the
hole and engineers from the Union Pacific Railroad estimated that over
6000 tons of earth and rock and fallen into this sink hole.
Luckily, no property or livestock was lost to the sinkhole.
Nothing is left now of the Smoky Hill Basin except for a grove of
The Jackrabbit Drives were a major event in
county history. The first major drive was in 1931, and the
rabbits were so numerous that many farmers and ranchers built high
fences to trap the rabbits and then proceeded to club them to death.
Boxcars were filled with these rabbits. A similar, but less
severe, infestation of jackrabbits occurred in the early 60s as well.
Coal-Oil Canyon (located partially in Wallace County but
mostly in Logan County) is one of the greatest archaeological finds in
Kansas. Two local men were hunting rabbits on day in late
December of 1955 and found a pot shred. Later excavations revealed an
entire Indian settlement, complete with pottery, arrowheads, broken
bones, and other artifacts. Archaeologists now believe that the
Coal-Oil Canyon site was a hunting encampment used by Indians in
prehistoric times. Evidence points to the fact that this one site may
have been used periodically over a space of over one hundred
Education has always been a major part of life
in Wallace County. Between 1885 and 1894, 42 school districts
were created, and 39 of these had only one teacher. The average
number of students for each school was 10 pupils. By 1903 we had
just 19 schools that were operating, and today there are just 2 schools
open in the county. Several of the old schoolhouses are still standing