"The Story of Craig County,
Its People and Places"
J.H. Hargrove is said to have
been the father of Centralia. In 1898 he first ascended Blue Mound,
made a survey, then located the town on prairie land with the only elevations
in the region, Blue Mound, Potato Hill, Leforce, and Notch Mounds surrounding
the town. Hargrove lived about one half mile northwest of the town site.
He was from Missouri and was believed to have named the town after Centralia,
Hargrove started a post office
at the new town site. Sam Bradfield and his son-in-law, Adam Holden,
came from Bluejacket the same year and built a livery barn. Mont
McGee came from Edna, Kansas, and started a grocery store, while the Mowry
Hardware was started by another Edna man and managed by Bob Allen.
A little later Henry Hyman opened a grocery store and Joe Lehman started
a grocery, as did Messrs. Shinn and Rogers.
The first house built in town
was a block north of the park, and Adam Holden's house was built across
the street in 1899.
The old Coffeyville, Kansas, to
Vinita road was located about two miles northeast of Centralia. That
road angled southeast across the flat prairie land. Plans called
for a railroad to be built from Vinita to Centralia to Coffeyville, to
be called the "Vinita and Western". It was staked out and part of
the grade built about nine miles northwest of Vinita as far as Woodley.
1906 and 1907 maps showed the line which was never completed.
The town's height of prosperity
was 1907-1915. By the latter year, it had grown in size to 750 people.
There were two banks: the Farmers & Merchants headed by Frank Conkright,
and the First State Bank which had originally been organized by the T.R.
Montgomery family as a national bank. People who were associated
with the banks in Centralia other than the above mentioned included Fred
Hartley who went to a Grove bank, Bill Reynolds who later was an officer
in the Vinita First National Bank, Howard Nix who was president of Vinita
Production Credit Association for many years, Caney Spence who later became
a Craig County official. By 1930, both Centralia banks had closed.
Over a period of prosperous years,
businesses in Centralia included grocery stores operated by Henry Hyman,
Joe Lehman, George B. Parks, J.F. McCoy, Everett Christian, and J.F. Clawson.
There were Ben Pennington's and Comstock's Groceries across the street
south of the park and Mrs. May's grocery west of the park. Livery
stables were operated by Sam Bradfield, Adam Holden, J.H. Hargrove, and
Frank Nix. Blacksmiths included John Mowry, Mr. Haskett, and Mr.
Jackson. Other businesses during the prosperous years included John
Rich's General Machine and Wagon Work, C.E. Vanbibber well driller, White's
Hardware and Undertaking, Day's Variety Store, Tolliver's Dry Goods, Johnston's
Millinery and General Store, and Dry Goods, Noah Harrison's Dry Goods,
C.W. Miller's General Store. A newspaper, the Centralia Standard
was established in 1902 by T.F. McCain and continued publication for several
years. People who stopped overnight or for meals had the facilities
of O.H. Johnson's Hotel, Carpenter's Hotel, and Hyman's Hotel. "Mall
Daniel had a boarding house which was a popular eating place in the 1920s".
Early settlers were always concerned
about having a good water supply. There was a well in the Centralia
town square which continued to be used for many years to water stock in
a trough. In 1912, it is told that Les White switched" a well in
a street northeast of the center of the town which became known as the
"town well". A pump was put on it and later an engine to pump the
water. It was used by all of the towns people. John Mowry had
a motor at his blacksmith shop which ran an electric light plant providing
power for home lights and streets. It was owned by the town and operated
The business district was built
around a square; the only such one in Craig County. The central park
contained a court house and there was a jail house behind it. Mr.
Bowsman was the town marshal. The community had a library for the
The town sponsored annual fall
festivals which included a carnival with a merry-go-round priced at five
cents a ride. The fair was held in the town square, and there was
a large display of buggies and other vehicles. Luanna Mabery Monroe
told that the fair festivities included horse races "in the middle of Centralia's
The first school building was
a four-room frame structure in the north section of town. Early teachers
included Mrs. Grace Anderson and Miss Clara Haggerman. In 1910, a
four-room brick building was constructed in the southeast part of town
and the early frame school was torn down. Tom W. Smith was Centralia
superintendent at the time. He later became Craig County Superintendent
The schools in those early days
were heated with large coal-burning pot-bellied stoves for which the teacher
was responsible. The youngsters brought half-gallon syrup buckets
filled with lunches of ham, homemade light bread or biscuits left from
breakfast, some-times baked sweet potatoes and fruit. They either
walked to school, sometimes for miles, or some came by horseback or buggy
and stabled the horses for the day at the livery barn.
In 1925 after consolidation of
several outlying districts, the four-room brick school was remodeled into
a ten-room building with a large gymnasium. While the new school
was being constructed, classes were held in houses, churches, and in the
lodge hall over the First State Bank. It was largely through the
efforts of J.W. McCollum, superintendent, that consolidation was accomplished.
The Centralia schools closed in 1968-69 when the district was annexed by
Bluejacket and White Oak.
A fire January 11, 1907 destroyed
much of the business district, including the two-story hotel run by Mrs.
Ollie Carpenter. The volunteer fire department was unsuccessful in
saving it. One-third of the business district of Centralia was destroyed
by fire on July 22, 1917. The buildings were frame except for the
two-story brick bank, and the southwest corner of the business district
on the square was demolished by the blaze.
The church was the center of community
social life. For some years, the congregations shared a building
which the Methodists owned. By 1915, the Church of Christ, Missionary
Baptist, and Primitive Baptists had their own buildings. There was
also a Holiness Congregation. Members of the Primitive Baptist Church
included the O.E. Odells, Charlie Christians, and the Chaney families.
The Methodist congregation included the Montgomery's: T.R., T.C. Howard
and Jack, the Andy Martins, Jim Armors, Judge F.L. Haymes. The Church
of Christ members included the George B. Parks, James 0. Nix, and, Legg
Mrs. Lizzie (Gleason) Oskison
recalled that two of the first automobiles in Craig County were owned in
1910 by Centralia men: Richard Oskison, her brother-in-law, and T.C. Montgomery.
"They about scared the horses to death coming down the road. The
cars didn't have doors." There was a Camp Fire Girls organization in the
town in the 1920s, with Miss Mary Bragg, teacher, as the leader.
Girls included Margarite and Ruby Lee Parks, Jewell Carlock, Bernice and
Opal Webb, and Leona Chaney.
The fires in downtown Centralia,
the 1929 depression and the resulting closing of the banks in the town,
the abandonment of the promised railroad spur from Vinita to Coffeyville
which was planned to go to Centralia, and the re-routing of the Ozark
Trail all contributed to the demise of Centralia.
There were 43 residents there
in the 1980 census and only Newman's Store is still operating.
((Thanks to Ray
Page for the photo & information))
(Photo- James Washington Lafayette
(J.W.) Blair, who is standing second from left. The others are: J.H. Van
Ausdal, Rob Allen, Less White, W.E. Ware, W.W. Clapper, Henry Heiman.)
I have recently come into possession
of a photograph of the Centralia City Council taken between 1897 and 1904.
My GGrandfather James Washington Lafayette Blair is in the picture, and
he lived in Centralia during that period. According to a later newspaper
he was city clerk and postmaster while at Centralia. Others in the
photo are: J.H. Van Ausdal, Rob Allen, Les White, W.E. Ware, W.W. Clapper,
and Henry Heiman. However, the photo does not identify who goes with
which name. If you know of anybody that would be interested in
having a copy of the photo or could identify who is who in it I would appreciate
it. I'm not sure who I should send this inquiry (information)
to, but thought I'd start with you.
(Debra Hyman, identify's the tall blond man with moustache in the back, as a
strong family resemblance between him and heir father who is his nephew.)
I have a journal that my
great aunt, Beulah Blair kept, in which she noted where they were on each
of her and her twin sister, Beunah (my grandmother) birthdays. She says
they were in Centralia in Feb, 1897, stayed until their next birthday in
1898, went to Chetopa, Kansas, the next year, were in Centralia in 1900,
went to Kansas City, were back in Centralia by 1903. According to
the 1900 census, J.W. was in Centralia, as was his brother, Daniel W. Blair.
According to family records, their father, John C. Blair died in Centralia
Nov. 29, 1901. However, in 1900 he was living in Caney, KS. J.W.
and his wife, Winona, had a traveling notions company, and traveled over
Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, in two covered wagons and a buggy selling
notions from town to town. In a local newspaper here in New Mexico
I found an excerpt from the Centralia paper that said J.W. Blair had been
the city clerk as well as postmaster in Centralia, but didn't give a year,
but obviously it had to have been between 1897 and 1903.
created 10-30-99 mgc updated 2011
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