Norwich, Kansas

History of Norwich


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The City of Norwich was in the area of the Osage Indian Trust Lands.  The townsite was purchased from William Willhower and James Skillen.  Town lots first sold on July 2nd and 3rd of 1885.  The sales totaled between $7,000.00 and $8,000.00 each day.  Most sales were made on a three payment plan, with one third cash.
Pioneers arrived daily on foot, horseback and in wagons and carriages.  Soon a stagecoach line was started, connecting Norwich, Harper and Conway Springs.  Also, P.C. Lear, who had a livery stable, made a trip by buckboard to Harper twice a week, rain or shine, to carry money to the bank and get supplies.
The surrounding farms and ranches, the beauty of the location and the arrival of the Denver, Memphis & Atlantic Railroad made it apparent that the site selected was a good place for a town.
New settlers hastily erected a building and began business.  Bricks were made, but after being fired they crumbled, probably due to some substance in the clay.
Bennett built a structure, which housed the hardware store.  There was a Norwich Hotel, which burned in 1929; an opera house, which burned in 1923; a bank's second floor was used for publishing the NORWICH NEWS, and the law office of E.N. Haag, who was also General Agent and Treasurer of the Norwich Town Company.
A man by the name of Everitt was a good carpenter, except when the town "druggists" sold him too much "joy juice."
The Stage brought a shoemaker.  There was no place for his business.  The town erected a small building for him, because there were many shoes needing repair.  He was called "Shoester."  His tall, straight stature showed the effects of military training he'd received in Germany.
Early barbers were: David Willhower, who gave it up to become Marshall; Herman Zieten from Paris; and Ike Hendry from Kingman, who opened a barber shop in 1887.
The first Post Master was Squire Ferris until Mr. Carter, who ran a general store, was appointed.  The first Police Judge was Nate Feris in 1888.  Mrs. John Holder was the first school teacher.  Frank Miller opened the first Butcher Shop in 1886.  After butchering, he peddled meat by wagon to the settlers.
Other stores included: grocery, hardware, furniture, lumber, livery, coal, sash and screen, blacksmith, boarding house, real estate, wagon maker, drugstore and shoe manufacturer.  There were preachers, teachers, an oculist, veterinarian and physicians, Dr. Eugene Wallace being possibly one of the most noted physicians in the community, having moved from Belmont in 1928 to Norwich, where he immediately established a ten bed hospital.
The City of Norwich, incorporated as a third class city, elected E.N. Haag, the first mayor and George Willis, probate judge.
Street lamps were erected.  The first religious services were held by evangelists or ministers from neighboring churches in schoolhouses or other small buildings.  The citizens, desiring a real church, took up a collection, and felt great pride when Norwich had a church, complete with a steeple and an organ.
It was noted there was no jail, so money was raised and a "lock-up" erected.  It was made of "2 x 6's", spiked one on top of the other.  It had a door and window for ventilation.
At its peak, Norwich had about fifteen hundred persons.  Today it's a progressive town of about five hundred people, also filling the needs of surrounding farm families.
The four churches in town are: Baptist, Christian, Church of Christ, and United Methodist.  There are new modern spacious grade and high schools in use.
The recreation center was recently remodeled with money from the City of Norwich and Kingman Recreation Commission.  Recreation Director is Dave Smith.  The Farmers State Bank of Norwich donated a wide screen TV and video recorder to the Center.  They show movies on Saturday night for the high school students.  Co-ed volleyball, weight training, men's basketball, elementary basketball, and women's aerobics are offered during the winter months.
There's a City Park with a ball diamond, swimming pool and tennis courts.  Various types of softball are offered during the summer.  The park is usually busy with community activities.
Senior citizens meet once a month to enjoy covered dish luncheons.  Beginning May 1984, Friendship Meals are to be served five days a week.
The Farrar Corporation was founded in the 30's by E.C. Farrar.  It began by installing furnaces and eventually went into farm repair.  In the 40's, it was one of the biggest blacksmith shops in the area.  By 1967 they had started a foundry which represented half their business in 1972.  In 1976 the new foundry was completed.  In 1984 they employed 80 persons to produce ductile iron castings for equipment manufacturers throughout the United States.  In 2002 Farrar Corporation employed 125 and opened a machine shop in Manhattan, KS.
The grocery store, owned by Cecil Eshnaur for 30 years, was sold to Kent Henson in 1971.  Later it was purchased by Jimmie Poe.  Doug Eshnaur, Cecil's son, purchased the store in 1983 and is currently operating it.
Harry Eshnaur started Eshnaur Hardware in 1946.  His sons, Lester and Bob, helped operate it.  It was sold to Bob in the late 60's; and again sold to Don Vavra and later sold to McBee Lumber.  In 1979, Gary and Deanna Vavra purchased it.  Gary and Deanna sold D&G Hardware to Sondra & Rod Nickell in October of 1999.
Additional businesses in Norwich include: a bank, appliance and general merchandise store, honey shop, barber shop, beauty salon, two restaurants, a truck stop, grain elevator, jewelry store, repair shop, book store, and car lot. There's also a City Hall, postoffice, library, Lodge hall, a solar house (Methodist parsonage) and Wheatland Manor, a Senior Citizen complex.

Adapted from:
Kingman County, Kansas, And Its People.
(Kingman: Kingman County Historical Society. 1984)
Used by permission

City of Norwich
(620) 478-2278 FAX (620) 478-2880
226 Main Street, Norwich, KS 67118
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Updated December 4, 2002 / John & Susan Howell / Wichita, Kansas /

Copyright 2002
City of Norwich