City of the Plains
A Story of Leonardville

A Book to Commemorate the Centennial Celebration in 1982

In 1982 Leonardville celebrated its Centennial Anniversary. A book was written to commemorate the occasion.  Many, many people helped to create this book by researching old newspapers, collecting and copying photos, loaning their scrapbooks, and writing about memories of their families, schools, churches, events, etc.  From this vast wealth of information Phyllis Swanson, compiled and wrote the book titled,  

"City of the Plains - A Story of Leonardville."

Also, for the year preceding the centennial celebration, the local weekly paper, The Riley Countian, ran a column called "True Tales Told by Real People."  The call went out for memories of the past, and many responded.  These were included in the book, along with histories of the Leonardville Library, Leonardville churches and country schools in the area.

It is a wonderful book and a great story about Leonardville!  We are happy to present the first few chapters of the book here.  If you haven't read your copy for a while, we hope you will enjoy the story again.  If you don't have a copy, there is a one available at the  Leonardville City Library.


City of the Plains

A Story of Leonardville


Phyllis M. Swanson



It looks like a hundred others in the Midwest -- main street with two filling stations, Phillips 66 and Co-op; a deserted general store, two cafes, a post office with the flag flying in the brisk Kansas wind, a bank, a grocery store, a beer parlor.  The first sign of the town as a traveler approaches is the red-topped water tower, a bean can on stilts, some call it.  A siren sounds at seven in the morning, another at noon signals time for lunch or dinner, much as the old train whistle marked the time for housewives to put the potatoes on the stove.  If the siren sounds at any other hour, anxious eyes scan the horizon for signs of smoke, or for clouds that may bring a dangerous storm, even a tornado.  On Sunday mornings the church bell from the old Methodist Church, now placed on the lawn of the United Methodist Church, peals its welcome and reminder -- time to remember the Sabbath.  No longer is it used at funerals as was once the custom, its muffled toll counting out the years of the one who had died -- one, ten, twenty-eight, eighty, or more.

Most of the working adults leave in the morning for Manhattan, Clay Center, or Ft.  Riley; most of the school children board the yellow bus for classes in Riley or in the high school halfway there.  The streets are quiet most of the time, but at noon Highway 24 is lined with cars and pickup trucks belonging to those who eat at Ole's or the Cafe.  Friends and neighbors pick up their mail at the post office. "Hot enough for you?"  "Nice day!"  "How much rain did we get?"

A traveler hurrying through might wonder what it is like to live here, why does it survive, why was it built here on the prairie in western Riley County.  As each person is different from every other person, so each town has its own unique history.  This is a story of Leonardville, City of the Plains...


===  Next Section - Chapter 1 - Beginnings  ===

<<< In Closing    +++++    Chapter 1 >>>

Table of Contents


Chapter 1 -- Beginnings

Chapter 2 -- Corn Carnivals

Chapter 3 -- New York Orphans

Chapter 4 -- Hello Central

Chapter 5 -- High Jinks on the High Plains

Chapter 6 -- Growing Pains

Chapter 7 -- The Twenties

Chapter 8 -- The Thirties

In Closing

 Author of the "City of the Plains, A Story of Leonardville"


Phyllis M. Swanson

1918 - 2007

Phyllis was born in 1918 and grew up in Leonardville, the daughter of Edward and Frances Sikes.  She graduated from Leonardville Grade School in 1931 and Leonardville High School in 1935.

She was the granddaugther of William H. Sikes, long time merchant and an early settler of Leonardville.  W. H. Sikes started a general store in Leonardville in November of 1881.  The family owned and operated the "Sikes Store" in Leonardville for over 90 years.

Phyllis graduated from Stephens College and Kansas University.  She had been Leonardville City Treasurer for many years, had written a column for The Riley Countian newspaper titled "Little Old Lady from Leonardville" and had compiled the Leonardville Centennial book titled "City of the Plains,  A Story of Leonardville" in 1981.

Phyllis was married to Raymond Swanson of Randolph in 1942. They lived the majority of their lives together in Leonardville and were the parents of four children.

Raymond passed away in 2004 and Phyllis passed away in 2007.