Located about 11 miles east of Ellsworth, this tiny unincorporated town started as a stop on the Smoky Hill Trail in 1866 when the Kansas City and Santa Fe Stage and Mail Line began to travel from Kansas City to Denver, Colorado. Called Alum Creek Station, it was established at the point where the Smoky Hill Trail crossed Alum Creek. A post office called Alum Creek was established in December 1872.
Though a few settlers came to the area, it would not be until Edward W. Wellington came to Kansas in the late 1870s that a town would be established. Massachusetts-born Wellington, a Harvard graduate and attorney, purchased 12,000 acres of land in Ellsworth County and developed an extensive sheep operation named the Monte Carneiro Ranch.
The word “Carneiro” means sheepfold or mutton in Portuguese. Over the next several years, he returned to Boston several times and married Clara Edwards in 1879. He also brought back to Kansas with him several friends from Boston and Harvard as his new associates. At 19,000 acres, the Monte Carneiro Ranch was one of the largest ranches in central Kansas, and Wellington built several houses and buildings to accommodate himself, friends, and employees. He also established a Real Estate and Loan business and, eventually, an entire block in Ellsworth.
In 1882, Wellington and his associates and other area ranchers established the townsite along the Union Pacific Railroad as a shipping point for their livestock. The town’s name was officially changed to Carneiro in June 1882. Before long, stockyards, a hotel, and three general stores were built. In 1885, a school building was constructed. The United Methodist congregation held services in the basement, and the Christian Church held services on the main floor.
In 1895, the Methodists built a new church that still welcomes members today. In 1910, the village boasted a money order post office, telegraph, express offices, a couple of general stores, a Methodist and Christian church, and 76 people.
In 1916, the old school was razed, and a new school was built, serving all grades until the early 1940s. Afterward, it served only as a grade school until the 1960s, when it was closed for good. On September 30, 1953, Carneiro’s post office closed its doors for the last time.
Today, less than a dozen people live in this sleepy little town; its stores and school are closed, but the United Methodist Church continues with about 20 people in attendance each Sunday. Also gone are the large sheep ranches, replaced today with cattle and wheat fields. Once their businesses are closed, and most of the homes are abandoned, many old farming towns take on a disheveled, tired, haphazard appearance – often filled with rusting vehicles and farm implements. Not so – Carneiro. Though numerous abandoned buildings exist, this small town is surprisingly tidy, with many mowed lawns and manicured homes.
The Carneiro Cemetery is about a mile west of town.
Carneiro is located on Kansas Highway 140, about 11 miles east of Ellsworth, Kansas. Nearby are Kanopolis State Park and Mushroom Rock State Park.