There is something about abandoned places that makes them astonishing and unsettling simultaneously. Kansas, a state in the Midwestern portion of the United States, covers an area of over 82,000 square miles and has a population of around 2,940,865 people. Earning its part in the Union as the 34th state on January 29, 1861, Kansas offers many history lessons from present and past towns.
There are over 300 ghost towns in Kansas. Rooks County is home to at least 20 ghost towns, making it one of the state’s counties with the largest number of abandoned locations.
Whether looking for historical facts, visible and physical pieces of history, trying to understand what life was like in previous years, or searching for your next ghost story, ghost towns and deserted locations offer a unique opportunity to uncover the past.
Dunlap served as the new home for recently liberated slaves. During its peak, it had hundreds of residents. People could find various businesses such as hardware stores, grocery stores, blacksmith shops, ice cream parlors, flour mills, restaurants, banks, hotels, butter and cheese factory, and churches when the town was thriving. Today, its remains show a story of what used to be a busy city.
In 1869, Joseph Dunlap founded a town, naming it after himself. The new town’s location was in Morris County, on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway, near the Neosho River and close to nine miles southeast of Council Grove.
During the town’s first five years, it did not have much growth, but after the opening of the first post office in 1874, a man named Leonard Still established a new business just a few months later, marking the start of the settlement. In 1875, the town was incorporated.
The town’s most significant growth happened during the spring of 1878 when Benjamin “Pap” Singleton, a slave who escaped and gained freedom in 1946, relocated hundreds of free men from the post-Reconstruction South. In 1890, the population was 408, and by 1900 there were still 400 people in Dunlap.
The town started to decline during the Great Depression. Residents began to leave, seeking jobs in bigger cities. In 1931, the African American population was less than 100; in 1940, the total population decreased to 219. By 1960, Dunlap’s population had dropped to 134.
Following the Great Depression, a second significant event to the continue declining the town’s success was the end of passenger traffic on the Katy Railroad in 1962. By 1967, all the railroad tracks had been removed, sealing the town’s fate. A severe storm in 1978 caused substantial damage to the elementary school and other city buildings. The post office stopped all operations in 1988.
The last African American resident, London A. Harness, died in 1993. London’s burial was the last at the Dunlap African American Cemetery.
By 2010 there were a total of 30 residents. A census published in 2019 showed 28 residents remaining in Dunlap. Aside from a few residences, an active co-op, a volunteer fire department, and an original gas state at the town’s entrance. Besides some homes, there is currently a co-op, a volunteer fire department, and an old gas station that marks the beginning of the town.
Le Hunt, Kansas
Le Hunt was once a small community whose primary source of income was the United Kansas Portland Cement Company. The cement company purchased 1,500 acres of Kansas land in 1905 and established a company town for its factories and employees.
Named after Leigh Hunt, the president of Hunt Engineering in charge of building the factories, the city became home to over 1000 residents within the initial year. Once a bustling village, the town is now just an abandoned place with overgrown tree avenues, damaged sidewalks, factory ruins, and foundations concealed by grass and heavy vegetation.
Le Hunt is in Montgomery County. To get to this town, take US-75/US-160 west from Independence, turn right on Peter Pan Road and proceed two miles north. Then go 12 miles on 5000 Road on the left. You will continue for one mile when the route changes to county road 3525.
Only eight years after operations began, the town and cement company had financial issues due to a lack of business within the cement industry. The factory was set to close temporarily in 1913 and make necessary repairs while planning any potential future the company still had. Unfortunately, in 1914 the company filed for bankruptcy, and the community fell apart.
The Sunflower Portland Cement Company purchased Le Hunt the following year, in 1915, and offered employment opportunities for those who had remained in town. A company merger with the United States Steel Corporation in 1918 ended any hope of success in what remained of the company town.
The factories and plants were closed, equipment sold, and homes were physically relocated to different locations. By the end of the merger, Le Hunt had become a ghost town.
Bushong began under the name Weeks and served as a quick stop along the Missouri Pacific Railroad in the 1800s. It wasn’t until 1886 that the town name changed from Weeks to Bushong in honor of Albert “Doc” Bushong from the St. Louis Browns baseball team after winning the 1886 World Series.
As the Missouri Pacific Railroad was extending lines throughout the state, Joseph Weeks, the founder of the location, donated 40 acres of his land to include a railway and depot in that part of Lyons County. The area was more of a train depot than a typical town with homes and businesses.
After a large tank pond, cattle pens, and a stone quarry were established, the railroad purchased the land and operated as a delivery service from the quarry to Kansas City.
By census records, in 1887, the population was 75. In 1910, the population peaked at 250 residents. Tragically, in the early 1920s, a fire destroyed many buildings in the community’s central part. In 1923, the Old Methodist Church was rebuilt after the fire damage was cleared, but no other structures were reconstructed before a severe drought and heatwave overtook the area the following year.
The population quickly dropped from 250 to 150 as families relocated to other cities searching for work during the Great Depression. Bushong continued its downward movement throughout the next decade, slowly creeping into abandoned status until the last business closed in 1976. The census report from 2010 stated 34 residents, leaving the ghost town with a small residual population.