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Small Town Kansas: Chelsea

Updated on July 22, 2018
Virginia Allain profile image

Kansas - It's dear to the heart of Virginia Allain. She grew up there & loves the big skies, the prairies, the small towns, & history.

Monte Manka and his brother in the wheat field (Chelsea, Kansas - 1934)
Monte Manka and his brother in the wheat field (Chelsea, Kansas - 1934) | Source

Chelsea Township, Near El Dorado, Kansas

I grew up in El Dorado, Kansas and remember hearing about Chelsea. It was a small town in the same county (Butler County).

I recently met online, Monte Manka, an 83 year old poet, who writes about his childhood memories of Chelsea. His poems made me curious about Chelsea, so I started to research it. With only a sparse population of 190, it's virtually a ghost town. Actually, the town itself is under the expanded El Dorado Lake, with some residents still living in the boundaries of the township. Here's what I was able to find out about Chelsea, Kansas.

Enjoy this trip down memory lane and the vintage photos provided by Monte.

The Prairie around Chelsea

This Book Includes Chelsea

Daniel Fitzgerald is a Kansas historian and columnist best known as the author of a six volume set on Kansas ghost towns. The first volume was released in 1976 and the last volume was just released in 2009. He is also the author of Sound and Fury: A History of Kansas Tornadoes, 1854-2008. His works have been nominated for six news emmy awards, of which four were won. The rock band Kansas also wrote a concept album, In The Spirit of Things, based on one of the ghost towns in his series.

Ghost Towns of Kansas: Volume Two
Ghost Towns of Kansas: Volume Two

This is the second volume in the Ghost Towns of Kansas series. Originally published in 1979, this 30th anniversary reissue documents the histories of a hundred exciting Kansas ghost towns that grew, prospered and died. This volume received numerous awards and accolades after it was released. The 30th-anniversary reissue has been lovingly edited and it includes a brand new introduction by the author. It's available for Kindle too.

 

Poems about Chelsea - by Monte Manka

Read some of the poetry of Monte Manka, a World War II veteran and former oil man, who describes his early years as a farm boy growing up in Kansas during the dust-bowl era.

A Blacksmith at Work

Source

The Chelsea, Kansas Blacksmith

Up 13 highway

To the east of our Chelsea farm

Lived a blacksmith by the name of Orlando Buchanan

With a shop that was extremely warm.

When Dad and I arrived at the shop

You could hear the clanging of the hammer

Hitting against the Anvil

While he was molding Plowshares for some farmer.

I marveled at this large man

When I was just a kid

His arms were big and muscled

To do the work he did.

(Click to read the whole poem)

History of Butler County, Kansas

History of Butler County Kansas
History of Butler County Kansas

Butler County, Kansas has a fascinating pioneer history with ranching and oil industry developing along with a number of towns (Augusta, El Dorado, etc.). This book brings you that early history. 900 pages, so this is very thorough.

 

Chelsea Kansas Phone Directory - from 1916

Photo courtesy of Monte Manka, who grew up in Chelsea.
Photo courtesy of Monte Manka, who grew up in Chelsea. | Source

Photos of Chelsea

Loaned by Monte Leon Manka

Manka Family Farm - Click on a photo to see it larger.

Mrs. Manka and Monte's Aunt Mary
Mrs. Manka and Monte's Aunt Mary | Source
Source
Wayne Manka and his wife
Wayne Manka and his wife | Source
Wayne Manka (note the lush lilac bushes)
Wayne Manka (note the lush lilac bushes) | Source
Wayne Manka home after the fire
Wayne Manka home after the fire | Source

Church group on the front steps of the Chelsea Church 1920s

Church group on the front steps of the Chelsea Church 1920s
Church group on the front steps of the Chelsea Church 1920s | Source

Chelsea Photos - Groups - Click on a photo to see it larger

1930s Chelsea School group picture
1930s Chelsea School group picture | Source
Source
Source
Source
Back Row: Melda Welty, Monte Manka, Barbara Sontag   Middle Row: Manuel Vidrois, Keith Redd, Georgiana Austin (Hidden)   Front Row: Manuel's little brother, Sheldon Redd, Leslie Manka, John Sontag
Back Row: Melda Welty, Monte Manka, Barbara Sontag Middle Row: Manuel Vidrois, Keith Redd, Georgiana Austin (Hidden) Front Row: Manuel's little brother, Sheldon Redd, Leslie Manka, John Sontag | Source

More Chelsea Photos - Photos courtesy of Monte Manka

Source
Source

Info about the Mays, Carter, Davidson, Colgrove and Welty Families of Chelsea

Early Settlers to the Town

Tim5184 - "My great aunt Elma "Carter" Mays was a long time residents of Chelsea and El Dorado. Elma was a retired school teacher and taught in the Chelsea school house. Her son from an earlier marriage " Woodson Davidson" is buried in the Chelsea cemetery. Woodson was about 10 yrs old when killed by a baseball that hit him in the throat May 17, 1928. The baseball game was between El Dorado and Chelsea. There isn't any record that Chelsea had a baseball team. Woodson was taken to St Lukes hospital, 226 West Central, in El Dorado where he died. The old St Luke's hospital building still stands. It is on the NE corner of West Central & Star street. If you look at the rear of the building you can see the elevator shaft.

Also a note Alonzo Carter had a foster daughter Mrs. Darrell Welty of Matfield Green,Ks. Welty has photo's posted by Monka. A friend of my G-G- Grand parents Joshua & Christina Carter talked a good friend into moving to Chelsea from Indiana, Miss Robie A Colgrove, a certified 18 yr old teacher. Miss Colgrove was one of the first school teacher in Chelsea. Joshua was the Chelsea school director from 1901-1904."

My great great grand parents Joshua, Christina Carter settled in Chelsea in the late 1870's. Many are buried in the Chelsea cemetery. The first school house was on the SW corner of Joshua "& Christina's farm property. The picture of Mary Early is the daughter of Cleao and Leslie Early, Cleao one of my great grandmother Eystela "Peal" Carter sisters. Cleao and Leslie Early are buried in the Fairview cemetery in Fairview Oklahoma.

This is the first time I've seen a picture of "Mary Early". In 1910 census Mary was 10 yrs old living in Fairview, Okl. Joshua & Christina came to Chelsea by way of train from Illinios to the train depot at Leon, Kansas with 3 box cars of livestock and belongings. They wagoned their belongings from Leon to Chelsea. Sons Alonzo and Sylvester both farmed and died in Chelsea as well as Joshua & Christina.

Monte Manka, would like to see other pictures of Chelsea if possible.

I know a lot of people that are buried there, Aunts, Uncles, Mom and little Brother. Monte Manka

© 2010 Virginia Allain

Can You Add to Our Information about Chelsea?

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    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      3 years ago from Central Florida

      The dam was completed in 1981 but I'm not sure how long it took to fill with water (and cover Chelsea).

    • profile image

      Bailey Nicholson 

      3 years ago

      Does anyone know when the town of Chelsea was flooded?

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      6 years ago

      @anonymous: its true i live by it

    • Virginia Allain profile imageAUTHOR

      Virginia Allain 

      6 years ago from Central Florida

      You will find links on this page to more of Monte Manka's poems and photos, many of Chelsea and El Dorado. You can also see additional poems with photos and some memory essays on the Our Echo website. He posts all his writing there.

    • profile image

      Tim5184 

      6 years ago

      @anonymous: Chelsea is under Lake El Dorado along with oil tanks and other structors that was not removed.

    • profile image

      Ms_Appleseed 

      7 years ago

      Where I live a town of 190 people is a pretty lively place. Our town has around 40 people in it and we do not consider it a ghost town by any means! It is like living in the country with some of your friends.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      I grew up in El Dorado, and I can't verify with documentation, but Chelsea was flooded over when they made the El Dorado lake. The cementary is still there, and there is a bridge dubbed "chelsea bridge" that was a fun spot for teens to jump off into the lake (though technically not allowed... never stopped me :) I have heard that there is a school house and some train cars under the lake from Chelsea.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      @anonymous: That is also what I have heard. I can not find any info to supprt the fact that it was flooded by the lake though.

    • profile image

      anonymous 

      8 years ago

      Accoding to Google Maps, Chesea is underwater, under El Dorado Lake. I don't think there's anything there anymore.

    • heytoto profile image

      Karen Kolavalli 

      8 years ago from Lexington, Kentucky

      I'm enjoying this very much! Just had time to dip my toes into it this visit, so I'll come back and read deeper when I have more time later.

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