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Silkville is a ghost town in Williamsburg Township, Franklin County, Kansas, United States. Its elevation is 1,161 feet (354 m), and it is located at 38°27’0″N 95°29’21″W (38.4500149, -95.4891477), along U.S. Route 50 southwest of Williamsburg.
The settlement was founded in the late 1800s by a Frenchman named Ernest de Boissière, who was a believer in Charles Fourier’s idea of a utopian socialism. Silkville was a sericulture-based settlement, and remuneration was based on the proportion of production for each settler. Silkville’s silk was praised at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, but loss of settlers and difficulty in selling the silk resulted in the settlements collapse. Today, only a few buildings remain.
Today, little remains of Silkville. Many of the original buildings were destroyed by a 1916 fire, and only three stone structures survive: the settlement’s school house, and two barns. The original chateau that Boissiere constructed—which, at the time of its construction cost US$10,000—was destroyed in the aforementioned fire, and a modern home was built over the west end of the ruin, utilizing some of the stone from the original. One of the modern day barns was once the settlement’s cocoonery, although it was reduced to a one-level building after a tornado damaged the top floor. In 1972, these buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places because of their significance in the history of Kansas. The aspects of the community seen as most significant historically were its nature as an intentional community and its practice of sericulture.
The settlement was established in 1870 by Frenchman Ernest de Boissière. Because Boissière had been born into a noble family and had political inclinations—which were heavily inspired by the specific socialist philosophy of Charles Fourier—opposed by France’s then-ruler Napoleon III, he was forced to flee. Boissière first settled in New Orleans, but soon received heavy criticism for his decision to financially support orphaned black children. He then decided to move to Kansas; he concluded that the state afforded him both the potential to practice his political ideas and create the type of community he desired. Boissière then purchased between 3000 and 3500 acres of land in the county from the Kansas Educational Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1869 and went about setting up his intentional settlement.