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Delia History
The History of Delia

The Indians came to this part of the State of Kansas in 1846 after selling their reservations in Michigan, Chicago and Notre Dame to the government. Along with these Indians came fourth and half breeds and some French. The earliest settlement was at St. Marys where the Catholic Mission was founded for the Potawatomi. This was the beginning at St. Marys College. St. Marys was the trading center for years. The railroad went from Kansas City to Denver going through St. Marys in the year 1886.

In 1868, the present Potawatomi Reservation was set aside for the Indians in allotments along creeks and streams. The first white settler around this area was Squire Edward McNeive who arrived in 1868 from Lillis, Kansas, with his family and traded with the Indians. Their first living quarters was a log cabin along Cross Creek, south of the present railroad tracks.

Squire McNeive purchased the land he was living on from the Indians on August 22, 1868; the United States had given a patent on the land to Merr-ma-qua. After a time, for some unknown reason, O-Shke-Ma-etal gained possession of the land. He then gave Ann Nolan a warranty deed for the south ½, NE ¼, in October 1892 for the price of $400.

In 1872, the Cunninghams arrived by train at St. Marys and came to the present site of Delia which was situated in the southwest part of Jackson County in the State of Kansas. David W. Cunningham was born in New York City on November 10, 1860.

Ann Nolan sold the warranty deed for $612 to Delia Cunningham on April 10, 1893. Delia was a shrewd lady who later sold the land to her son, David, for almost twice what she had paid, which was $1200.

There were many different nationalities at this time, including Irish and Bohemian settlers. As there was no homestead land in this township, most of the land was in large tracts. Some important people in the community were Senator Pomeroy Shinburne, who was a landowner along Soldier Creek; Eli Nadeau, a wealthy Indian; and Mrs. Stach, who owned many acres of land, raised stud horses and operated a dairy farm. Mrs. Stach was described as being a second “Carrie Nation.”

The Cunninghams farmed the land for many years and then, in 1904 and 1905, a total of 40 acres were sold to the Union Pacific Railroad (formerly the Northwestern Railroad) for $400. The Delia Townsite was organized with David W. Cunningham, Jr. as president, and James C. Cunningham as secretary. The Cunninghams sold 15 acres for $825 on November 12, 1905, to the Delia Townsite Company. A later addition of 12.6 acres for $905 on February 23, 1906, was made.

The Delia Townsite Company was chartered September 22, 1905, the town surveyed October 22, 1905, and plat of town recorded December 1, 1905.

The Delia Townsite settlement started on the south side of the railroad tracks, but Albert Sarbarch from Holton got into an argument with David Cunningham as to which side of the tracks Delia would be located. David wanted Delia to start on the north side, but Sarbach went ahead and built his grocery store on the south side of the tracks and for a time this side was known as David. However, as the community grew, more and more people settled on the north side of the tracks and David Cunningham’s wish became a reality and the north side of the tracks became known as Delia, which was name for his mother, Delia. To this day, a lot of old timers say it is really David, not Delia.

Lots sold for $40 to $200. The first lot was sold to Mrs. Katie Simecka in 1905. The first dwelling house was that of Mrs. Katie Simecka, which was moved from the Martinek farm six miles southeast of Delia in 1906.

Mr. Isaac Lawrence opened the first store on Main Street on the north side of the tracks, which is still standing today. Mr. Ed Reser owned and operated the first store on the south side of the tracks. His business consisted of grain buying and running the post office. When the town finally settled on the north side of the tracks, the post office was moved to the Bryan Building which was located on the west side of Main Street.

Mr. E.I. Zirkle operated a general store on the west side of Main Street for 40 years. Mr. R.J. McCoy was the first blacksmith to come to Delia. During his 29 years in business, he operated a shop in three different locations. When he retired in 1938, Mr. George Olejnik, Jr. built a new blacksmith shop east of Main Street which he operated until 1975. Fred Foster bought out Mr. Olejnik’s business and has since added a new metal building. He converted the old blacksmith shop into a hardware store and purchased the stock from the Macha Hardware Store, which went out of business due to the owner’s illness.

In 1907, in slightly over two years, Delia had a railroad depot, two hardware stores, at least two grocery stores, two doctors, a blacksmith shop, a livery stable, post office, lumber yard, a restaurant, and a barbershop. Grain, mostly corn, was piled on the ground by the railroad tracks and later shelled and scooped into boxcars. Some was scooped into boxcars on the ear. Prevailing wages were twenty cents an hour, or two dollars a day for extra hard labor.

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