White Cloud, Kansas – Not Quite Ghostly

By 1883, White Cloud boasted four general stores, two grocery stores, three drug stores, a hardware store, a furniture store, two restaurants, two hotels, a livery stable, a barber shop, a gristmill, a saw-mill, two shoe shops, two blacksmith shops, a jewelry store, a billiard hall, a harness shop, a wagon shop, a meat market, a printing office, a millinery store, two attorneys, four doctors, and several construction proprietors.

According to Sarah Ann Lock, a descendant of Captain John Lock, Steamboat Ferry Owner; and Sawmill owner, John Adams, the billiard hall/restaurant close to the river on the north side of the street was once owned by her lively fiddle-playing great-grandpa LeRoy Butrick. Though Sarah is Tulsa, Oklahoma resident, she says she will always be a “White Cloud girl!”

White Cloud Overlook

White Cloud Overlook

Though the population had dropped dramatically with the coming of the railroad, White Cloud, in 1910, still supported two banks, a weekly newspaper, and an opera house, as well as several other businesses. Stages ran daily to Forest City, Missouri. However, there were only 735 residents.

In the early 1900’s, a ten-year-old boy, impressed by a traveling missionary’s sermon about lepers, decided to raise money to help a boy suffering from the disease. Raising a pig named Pete, Wilbur Chapman, sold the pig, donating the $25.00 from the sale to the boy with leprosy. His compassion caught the imagination of the public and started the “Pig Bank Movement” to help lepers and the name “piggy bank” was coined. A plaque commemorating the boy and the idea of the “piggy bank” is mounted on the Community Christian Church on Main Street.

White Cloud today is known for its many historic buildings, in fact, the entire downtown district has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places. One poignant reminder of White Cloud’s heyday is the Poulet Mansion, where you can still see the elegant design and intricate details of this beautiful building. However, this building, as well as several others, are slowly falling into disrepair.

Main Street, White Cloud, Kansas

Main Street, White Cloud, Kansas

The only evident industry in White Cloud today is a grain elevator, where grain is still shipped downriver on barges to St. Joseph, Kansas City, and St. Louis. There are no open retail businesses, but the bank and the post office hang on.

White Cloud is not quite a “ghost,” as the population has maintained at about 175 for the last decade. However, it is easy to see that its prime is long past, as evidenced by the abandoned stores on Main Street and the “closed” signs hanging in the windows. Still, this quiet little town, seemingly unaffected by the passing of time, is a lovely place to visit and get away from the hassles of the city.

For two weekends each year, one in early May, the other in late August, the streets of White Cloud are again busy. The small, near ghost town, is overwhelmed by visitors to the famous White Cloud Flea market, which has been named one of the “10 best flea markets in the Nation” by McCall’s magazine.

For a few days, the old main street again is crowded with traders and customers, only to return the next day to a sleepy little village, with nothing more than a few bits of trash blowing down the empty street.

The Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska retains the rights to 2,100 acres of reservation, which straddles northeast Kansas and southeast Nebraska. The tribal headquarters are located just west of White Cloud. The tribe has engaged in gaming operations with the opening of a casino in 1998.

Hunting and fishing are abundant in the area, but much of the surrounding land is on the reservation and visitors should check with the tribe for permission and regulations.

In the nearby town of Highland, Kansas is the Native American Heritage Museum, which exhibits information and items of the Iowa Tribe. Housed in the old Iowa, Sac and Fox Mission building, the Museum is operated by the Kansas State Historical Society.

In early 2003, the Kansas Department of Transportation designated Highway K-7 from Leavenworth to the Kansas/Nebraska border as the Glacial Hills Scenic Byway. White Cloud is one of four communities along the byway.

White Cloud Kansas Flea Market

White Cloud Kansas Flea Market

Contact Information:

Ioway Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska
Route 1, Box 58A
White Cloud, Kansas 66094
Phone: 785-595-3258

Native American Heritage Museum
Highland, Kansas
Phone: 785-442-3304

Doniphan County Chamber of Commerce
1-913-365-2604

The White Cloud Flea Market is held two weekends each year, on the weekend that includes the 1st Sunday in May, and the weekend that includes the 1st Sunday in September. Check their Facebook page for more detailed information HERE.

Directions to White Cloud:

From the junction of Highways K-7 and US-36, take K-7 North to White Cloud

 

© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February 2018.

 

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