The small town of St. George is located seven miles east of Manhattan, in Pottawatomie County. Its current population is around 500, and it continues to grow. Black Jack Creek forms the west boundary and on the east is Blood Creek.
Much of the documented history of St. George has been lost. The historical society wants to regain this information and make it available to the public. We hope to gather information from the public itself, giving significance to the town and keeping people interested in our history.
The settling of St. George can be told by two different accounts. In April 1855, a group of settlers headed for California in search of gold camped in our general area. Among these emigrants was the George W. Gillaspie family, J. George Gillaspie, and the George Chapman family. Rumor has it that after reaching the area, Mrs. Gillaspie refused to go any further, and so the three families decided to homestead in Kansas, at this very spot. The two Gillaspie families located on the south of the Kansas River, and the Chapman family on the north side (where St. George is currently located). Mr. Chapman’s nickname was “The Saint,” and with all the Georges around, they chose to name the place St. George. The other story of St. George’s settlement claims that the Gillaspie families received a land grant from the government from the War of 1812, they moved here in 1855, and that the town was named in 1857 in honor of George Chapman. His death was the first in St. George.
For more on this, Mike Atkinson a descendant of George Gillaspie has shared some family history with us including a family letter from the early 1850s. You can read the full story for more.
The first Pottawatomie County Court House was erected in St. George by August Becker in 1857. He served as Justice of the Peace and postmaster. Some of this building still stands, and is located on the east end of First Street.
In 1859, the first school was organized. It was a small building made of cottonwood, with 25-30 pupils in attendance the first year. In 1908, a brick building replaced the wooden school, housing both a grade and 2-year high school. On September 18, 1919, it became a four-year high school.
In 1866, the Kansas Pacific Railroad, now called the Union Pacific, came through St. George. The St. George Depot was built in 1868, and the trains made regular stops day and night.
By 1906 St. George had its first telephone service. The first telephone company was located approximately where City Hall stands. Later, the phone company moved east on First Street on the opposite side of the road. It was locally operated until 1963, when Wamego bought it. The St. George Bank was also chartered in 1906. It still stands on First Street and is now home to offices for Sunflower Builders.
By March of 1912, the businesses in town included two General Stores (the first one was built in 1861), the bank, a lumber yard, two blacksmith shops, a hardware store, hotel, restaurant, a livery stable, and others. Electricity came to the city in 1912, and this prompted the building of the Opera House, which later became the seed company. The building was torn down some years ago, and a new building now stands in the lot.
An elevator was constructed in 1879, and in 1915 the current elevator was constructed by William Dalton. It continues to be used privately to store grain. Later, during the 1920’s the 8-sided wooden silos were constructed to store grain, corn, and other dry goods. Today, they are the last wooden silos in the state of Kansas.
Highway 40 was laid down through St. George in 1928 and was paved by 1930 being one of the first highways to have a permanent hard surface.
During the Flood of 1951, the bridge connecting St. George and Zeandale was washed away, and was never rebuilt. However, you can still see the bridge piers in the river. The mural on the side of the general store shows how the bridge once looked.
In 1976, during the bicentennial, the town underwent a makeover. The side of the general store (which was still operational then) was painted by students from the high school. The mural was redone and updated last year by community members and volunteers from K-State. As well, the newest Post Office was opened, between the general store and the bank. The original post office was located between what is now the Green Chicken and City Hall. Black Jack Spring Tank was refurbished. The spring had run for countless centuries, even back during pioneer times. In 1936, the spring was re-routed to its current spout and a concrete tank was constructed to hold water.
The flood of ’93 brought the community together, and many hours of labor filling sandbags helped keep the town safe. Water reached the blacksmith shop but never made it past First Street, which couldn’t be said for the Flood of 1951.
Recently, the streets and sidewalks of St. George have been redone and are now nice and smooth. The town has grown significantly, with the addition of Twin Oaks and the newer Powercat Ridge. New developers are coming in every day and building houses and businesses. In the fall of 2008 the elementary school moved into their new location at the corner of Military Trail Rd. and Blackjack Rd.; the local bar, the Green Chicken, despite two fires, is still going strong. History continues to be made here in St. George.