HORACE --- Over barking dogs and the wind you can hear it.
Metal striking metal, hissing steam, the crunch of coal and the shouts of working men. They are the ghosts of Horace, a rip-roaring railroad town in its 20s and 30s.
Now 92, the Greeley County community has slowed down. It's sleepier than most sleepy communities. The beat of the community revolves around the Missouri-Pacific Railroad which made Horace a division town at the turn of the century.
With a population of about 200, the only downtown business is a liquor store, thriving because at Tribune, 1-1/2 miles to the east, city ordinances ban liquor stores. Besides grain elevators, the only other business is the Railroad Cafe.
Other structures in the downtown hearken back to the old days, with almost all now empty waiting for time to take its final toll. They once were a bank, grocery store, post office and hotel.
The largest occupied building, the old Railroad YMCA building built in 1904 for transiting railroad men to use may be seeing its last days. A new modular dormitory is rising behind it with completion expected in only a few weeks. The fate of the old building is not known.
Inside the old YWCA building, now operated by a Chicago firm, two railroad men were playing cards, much like their predecessors generations ago.
"Little Chicago was what they called it," said Kelly Bennett as he mulled the cards in his hand. "They used to have muggings, murders and the whole works here. My dad told me."
Originally from Tribune, Bennett's father was a railroader as was his grandfather and some of his uncles. Living in Pueblo, Colo., he carries on the tradition working for Mo-Pac for about 10 years now.
"I've always been around railroads," Bennett said. He and his young card playing partner, Corky Harrison, also of Pueblo, pulled in from Colorado at 12:55 a.m. They were killing time until after midnight when they go back to work.
Horace is the midpoint for Pueblo and Hoisington, other division towns.
The railroaders either stay in the old YMCA, drive to Tribune or sack out in mobile homes or any one of the tiny one-room houses scattered around the community. Some of the railroaders fined accomodations in old dugouts, another reminder of the past.
Articles and phographic scenes of Horace's and Tribune's bygone era can be seen in the "Sands of Time" museum in the courthouse at Tribune.
The "Sands of Time" was an endeavor of love by Margaret L. Pile. Retired now, Mrs. Pile began collecting articles and photos while she was clerk of the district court.
Hundreds of photos, just a small part of the number of photos contributed, line the walls of the museum along with memorabilia from Greeley Countians. Coming from Reno County to Tribune as a child of 6 in May of 1913, she lived a large part of the county's history. She recalls this in her book "And Greeley County Began."
"It just thrills me because I feel like I've been a part of it," she said while gazing around the impressive museum collection.
Skirting the Colorado border, Greeley County was the last county to be organized in Kansas. It previously was a township of Hamilton County, to the south, until Nov. 6, 1888 when Greeley County was recognized as such and Tribune as its county seat.
Horace and Tribune, both founded in 1886, battled for the county seat right along with Reid, now a ghost town, situated to the west. Both Horace and Tribune were transplanted towns, originally built to the north around White Woman Creek. They moved south a few miles to the railroad line.
During those early years, Horace was larger than Tribune. It boasted railroad shops and a roundhouse, blacksmith shops, newspapers, banks, generaly grocery and dry good stores, lumber yards, well drillers, millinery store, hardward stores, jewelry store, Baptist church, livery barn, doctor, real estate offices, restaurants, several rooming houses, a harness maker, billiard parlor, ice business, saloons among many other businesses, according to Mrs. Pile's book.
But there was one thing Tribune had over Horace in the county seat battle. "It was the water," Mrs. Pile said. There were few wells in Horace while Tribune had many providing plentiful amounts of water.
While it is a sleepy town, Horace is far from being on its last legs. Otto Epp, editor and publisher of the Greeley County Republican at Tribune, said the railroad business appears to be picking up for Mo-Pac, which is a good sign for Horace.
Railroad man Bennett mentioned earlier, "As long as the division point stays here, Horace will stay around."
(Hutchinson News ~ April 12, 1979 ~ Submitted by Lori DeWinkler)