Elbing, Kansas
a condensed history*

by Jim VanDyke

In 1887 the Chicago, Kansas, and Nebraska (Rock Island) Railroad began to lay track between Wichita, Kansas and Peabody, Kansas. The track passed through the land of Jacob W. Regier in section 17 of the Fairmount Township in Butler county in south central Kansas. The Regiers sold eighty acres of section 17 to the Elbing Town Company for $5,000. The 1/4 mile by 1/2 mile plot ran along the west side of the CK&NR tracks. The railroad wanted to call the town "Regier" but Mr. Regier suggested three other possibilities: Elbing, Danzig, and Marienburg—cities in Prussia where he had lived. Elbing was chosen. The town was founded May 18, 1887. Within a few months people began to build houses and businesses in Elbing. By November four passenger trains (two in each direction) served Elbing. The trains also provided mail delivery and pick-up twice daily.

School District 160 for the Elbing community was established in 1887 and provided public education for several local primary school students. The original frame building was replaced by a red brick building in 1919. The brick building, now in private hands, has not been used for classes since the 1980s. Now, Elbing students who attend a public school travel to nearby Whitewater, Kansas for grades K-8 or to nearby Burns, Kansas for grades 9-12.

The Methodist Episcopal Church, Elbing's first church, was built in 1905, but the church disbanded in 1937. The Missionary Church, built in Elbing in 1910, and was here until the 1960s when the congregation moved to nearby Newton, Kansas. The building was razed in 1975. The Zion Mennonite Church, which built in Elbing in 1924, is the only church which remains in town.

Elbing grew slowly. By 1895 it had a few businesses and 50 residents. By the turn of the century telephone service was available to the residents of Elbing on a party-line basis—four families for each telephone line. By 1910 the population had reached 100 and the town had several businesses: general store (with a post office), hardware store, implement store, bank, blacksmith shop, lumber yard, barber shop, cafe, and hotel. The town also had a doctor. Electricity did not come to Elbing until 1929 and residents had to provide their own water from wells or cisterns until the city installed a city-wide water system in 1967. The city sewer system was installed in 1972. Before that each residence had its own septic tank.

In 1919 the first of several oil wells were drilled near Elbing. As a result of the oil boom, Elbing grew dramatically for a brief time. Although the town’s population increased for a few years, the new residents had little lasting effect upon the town. The oil field rapidly declined and a fire destroyed much of Elbing in 1933. Although new residences were eventually rebuilt, Elbing never regained its businesses. For several decades downtown Elbing included only a grocery/hardware store, a gas station/garage, a Post Office, and a grain elevator. Elbing's grocery/hardware store closed in the 1980s. Today the garage, grain elevator, and a catering/family center are the only downtown businesses.

In 1946 Berean Academy was founded at the south end of Elbing. Although it began with fifteen students in grades nine and ten, it quickly expanded to include grades nine through twelve. By the 1970 Berean Academy had an enrollment of 300 students. Today, Berean Academy includes grades K-12 and has an enrollment of over 300 students. It offers a pre-K program in Newton. The academy was established as a Mennonite school, but in 1966 it dropped its Mennonite distinctives to become an interdenominational Christian school. Berean Academy, probably more than any business or group of people, has sustained the life of Elbing. Although the town has several residents who are retired or are employed in nearby towns, a significant number of families reside in Elbing because of their connection to Berean Academy. Some live here because they teach at the school and others make Elbing their home so that their children can attend Berean Academy.

Today, Elbing has less than 300 residents. It still has only three north and south streets (Main, Regier, and Johnson); and, with the exception of about twenty acres that was added at the south end by annexing Berean Academy, it is still 1/4 mile wide and 1/2 mile long. The area surrounding Elbing is mostly devoted to grain farming—primarily red winter wheat, corn, soy beans, and sorghum grain. Nearby farms also raise a few cattle and hogs. Since the 1970s almost forty houses have been built in Elbing, so only a few of its original lots remain unoccupied. The town has a small Post Office and fire station/city hall building. Elbing still depends upon a volunteer fire department.

The Elbing railroad depot was removed in the 1970s and for a few years the railroad track that passed Elbing was rarely used. Today, one or more freight trains pass each day but no passenger trains use the tracks.

Current residents provide for most of their medical needs in Newton or Wichita. Since only a few businesses remain in town, most residents also travel to Newton or Wichita to do their shopping.

*Much of this information was found in Elbing-Next Stop which was written by Arnold and Helen Regier and published in 1994.

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