Thursday, May 8, 2014

Iuka--a Marketing Town for Isaac

An early store in Iuka, Kansas
Iuka...the name itself tells a great deal of history.  Union soldiers who fought to preserve the nation during the Civil War were given credit for their years of service toward meeting the five years required to mature a homestead claim, one year subtracted for each year served.  As a result, many Union veterans came to Kansas to stake their claims.  When the town of Iuka was formed, a former soldier who had fought in the Battle of Iuka suggested the name, which came from a Chickasaw Indian Chief.

Isaac B. Werner mentioned traveling to Iuka regularly, both to purchase supplies and to market his potatoes.  He also had friends in the town, specifically the Eggleston brothers.  Bob Eggleston ran a stable and Arthur Eggleston had a real estate business.

Pratt County was organized in 1878, and more than a few people have suggested that anything that walked--on two legs or four--must have been counted to meet the minimum population of 600 required to establish a county, most probably being of the 4-legged variety!  Two towns vied for the county seat, Iuka and Saratoga, and continuing the chicanery involved in organizing the county, citizens of both towns employed all sorts of rascality to gain the advantage.  (See "Cemetery on the Hill," 2-7-2013 in the blog archives.)

The story is told that when the governor came to investigate the legitimacy of the county, Iuka showed him such a good time that he never made it to Saratoga.  Instead, he named Iuka the temporary county seat while improprieties in the county's organization were investigated.  Having the temporary designation proved to be a great advantage, for each time there were voting and petitioning irregularities in the selection of the permanent county seat, Iuka retained the status quo.  As the roguery continued, another town joined the contest.

Early Iuka Methodist Church
Part of Iuka's advantage rested upon its claim to be the center of the county, but during the contest for the county seat, the boundaries of the county changed.  Seizing upon that change, the new town called itself Pratt Center and claimed the central location.  The investors living elsewhere who organized Pratt Center dressed their trickery in a more sophisticated veneer than the chicanery that had been employed by Iuka and Saratoga, but none of the three contenders could claim entirely 'clean hands' in the battle for the county seat.  (See "How Investor's Created Pratt," 9-27-2013 in the blog archives.)  The advantages of being by the Ninnescah River and especially the first rail lines passing through the other towns, ultimately resulted in Pratt gaining the prize from Iuka.

A few businesses and residences were moved into Pratt Center, but Iuka did not disappear, as many Kansas prairie towns did.  Instead, they built their reputation on service to the rural communities surrounding the town, especially as the place where farmers brought their grain for shipment.

It is an interesting conclusion to this bit of Iuka's history that in the 1940s the town named after a Civil War battle gained as a close neighbor the Army Air Base, which is now the Pratt Municipal Airport.  A stroll through the cemetery on the north side of Iuka is the best way to remember some of the early settlers who established this town on the prairie.

(Photo credits go to, where many interesting vintage postcards can be viewed.  Thank you, Eric Larson.)

1 comment:

The Blog Fodder said...

I suspect that the "fraud" associated with becoming a county and county seat was quite enjoyable to all concerned. Sort of make your own entertainment. Monday night football without violence.