As I got a little older I started to take more interest in the old buildings wondering what they were and what they were used for, and the old houses which Oakland was full of, but most of it was just interest and little else. Then in 1972, I got married and as we moved about Oakland I took a great interest in the homes we live in, and there were many in all 15, homes some we owned and others we rented. But I was always interested in who own the house before me, and wanted to know who they were and what they did for a living.
We had just moved to a new home and I wanted to know something about it, and as I was working close to the court house I decided to go on my lunch break and see what I could find out little did I know this would lead me into the field of Genealogy later in my life. While I researched the homes I had lived in I began finding out little thing out about Oakland. I would take what I found and go the Kansas Historical Society which was on 10th, and Jackson and research what I had found. Well after a couple years I had note book after note book filled with information on Oakland. Then a co-worker asked why I didn’t I write a book about Oakland, well I know nothing about writing a book but I decided to give it a try, that was in 1967, I finely finish 35, years later. I know it wouldn't be published, so it was put away but not for gotten.
As the years passed I read a couple books on Oakland but I found them lacking in information or I would find errors in their information, so I decided it was time to get it out and do something with it. By this time I had a web site ( Civil War Days & Those Surnames), but I didn’t want to put it on the site, I thought it should have a site of it’s own. The site is called ( The History of Oakland Kansas & More), and can be read at http://oaklandkansas.blogspot.com/ . There are many stories in the book about Oakland’s history and it’s people. Here are stories of the old woolen mill, and how it affected the people of the community.
Note. All photos can be enlarged by pushing on them.
The Mid Continent Woolen Mill was erected in 1894 on the corner of Center and Winfield Ave. it’s cornerstone was laid with grate fanfare. This brick factory had fifty window’s it measured 170x60 feet and had a tall square water tower and outhouses. The factory also had a steam whistle pipe that could be heard all over Oakland. The Mill had a switch track put in to give access to the Santa Fe Railroad.
Origins are vague but the names of Bartholomew, Crosby and Copeland appeared. Mr. appleyard from Sebec Maine would manage the plant. It was projected that there would be 500 hundred workers however that number would stay under 200 hundred. The Mid Continent closed then to be reopened in 1897 under the management of J. E. Mc Afee, 125 employees reported back to the Mill. In 1904 “ After six months , Oaklanders residents rejoiced to the sound of the Mills whistle again.” In 1905 the decision of whether the mill would remain in Topeka or Kansas City. They decided in favor of Oakland, employment was to be 175 to 200 hundred . The Mills most advertised item was Sun Flower Pants “ Guaranteed not to rip, ravel, nor run.” In less then ten years the mill closed it’s doors permanently. In 1919 the Crosby bothers corporation owned the controlling stock and took over it’s rental and use.
The most distinguished tenant was A. K. Longeren who leased it on contract for his Airplane factory. It ran till 1924 where the doors closed again. Although they closed as a factory it’s history continue. The Chautauqua rented a part of it to store tents they rented to visitors. During W. W. l a potato-drying operation . The county least it to house indigents in the winter. A Saturday night dance hall during the 30’s but it soon faded. During W. W. l l the U. S. Engineering, Heating and Air Conditioning rented it. The Mill has passed from one ownership to the next but the Mills off and on History goes on.
The foundation of the new Woolen Mill in Oakland, was not sufficiently advanced yesterday to allow the laying of the corner stone, as was expected. Although eleven men are now engaged on the work, it will be more than a week before the corner stone can be put in place. Quite a number of parties were present at the site yesterday.
July 26, 1894
The laying of the corner stone of the new Woolen Mill will take place Saturday with interesting ceremonies. Several prominent speakers have been invited to be present and deliver addresses, among whom are Judge John Guthrie, A. K. Rodgers and Judge J. B. Johnston. Mayor Harrison will preside. All who are interested in such enterprises are invited to attend. The work is being pushed very rapidly towards completion, some twenty-five masons, carpenters, etc, being engaged on the building. Mr. Appleyard has already shipped his household goods and is expected to arrive in a few days.
July 29, 1894
The corner stone of the Mid-Continent Woolen Mill was laid yesterday afternoon with impressive and interesting ceremonies. About 500 hundred people gathered together to witness the proceedings, not withstanding the heat and dust of a hot July afternoon. The ceremonies were presided over by Mayor Harrison, who introduced the speakers and superintended the laying of the stone.
April 14, 1905
We understand that the Jenson Manufacturing company of Topeka contemplate moving their plant to the Woolen mill building in this city, for the manufacture of all kinds of creamery supplies. This company employs a large working force. The project should be encouraged by every citizen of Oakland, and undoubtedly will be. Every inducement should be given this company to locate here. A representative committee should be appointed by the Mayor and council to confer with these people about the matter. The people of Oakland should “ Wake Up” if there is a movement of this kind on foot, let us meet it half way.
May 26, 1905
In A interview with a Journal reporter, Tues day , Mr. Neil, formerly one of the heaviest stockholders in the woolen mill, said, The Topeka Woolen Mill is for sale, and in all probability it will be brought up again by local interests and kept here. I have not yet had an opportunity to confer with any of the members of the old company here and do not know just exactly what they will do in the matter. But I feel sure that the plant will without much question be again owned by Topeka parties and kept and operated right here. This is good news to the citizens of Oakland. Now that the woolen mill is, in all probability to remain here, means a grate factoring institution heretofore, will probably be given a chance to resume their old places. It is assumed that the old stockholders will again own and take charge of the plant.
June 9, 1905
At a meeting held in Kansas City last Saturday, it was decided not to remove the Woolen Mill plant to that city, but to reopen it here in Oakland to be known as the Hersehbarger- McAfee Company. It is thought that Oscar Neil will no longer be connected with the mill, which is regretted by all the people of Oakland. All of the old stock now on hand has been sold to the new management, and it is thought that by July or August the looms and spindles will be put in motion.
In a late interview, George Neil says: Within two weeks, or by July 1st, at the lasts, the mill will again be in operation in Topeka. A total of 128 people will be employed. My son Ocar Neil will no longer be connected as manager, or in any other way.
J. F. McAfee who is and experienced man, and one of the best in the business, will be general manger. He is an exceptionally good man for the place. It was decided Saturday, to withdraw the offer of sale from the market because, primarily, it is a good proposition from a business stand to operate here, and no satisfactory bids were received. The fight, which resulted from the misunderstanding has all been patched up and everything is all right now. We can make money by running the mill here. The company thinks this is every bit as good a location as Kansas City in the long run.
Mr. McAfee came yesterday and at once set to work to get everything in readiness. He is employing people to go to work again. I tell you those people living down in Oakland were happy Monday when they found out that we were coming back here again and would re-employ them.
“ A new switch will be put in down there by the railroads for us to handle our cars. That is something we have needed for a long while, in fact always did need. It caused us considerable inconvenience the way we had to handle our products. The people in Oakland, espalier the municipal officers, have offered us any help they can give us.”
“ I am glad the institution will be operated in this city. I am immensely pleased that we will stay here. We know that it will be a good proposition. Topeka was anxious to keep the mill and I am glad that it had its wish fulfilled.”
“ To be or not to be; “ that’s the question-whether, the Woolen mill soon start up, or whether it will be allowed to freeze up. We have heard of the game of “ Freeze out “ and it looks like this is the game that is being played now.
Now that the long delayed question as to whether the woolen mill remain in Oakland or be taken to Kansas city, is settled at last and the mill is to remain in Oakland is causing rejoicing from every citizen in this community. Not only will the mills be retained here but will be nearly doubled in capacity. This means the employment of from one hundred seventy-five to two hundred people, and it is more than likely that all, or quite all, will live in Oakland in close proximity to the mill. The blowing of the whistle will be a cheering sound to all who were so accustomed heretofore of hearing it.
The company has been thoroughly reorganized and on last Wednesday a charter was taken out, the capital stock of which is placed at 60,000. W. P. Homes and E. E. Homes, of Kansas City, and interested largely in the recognizance. George Neil, J. E. McAfee and Oscar Neil, of this city and Topeka, are heavily interested. George Neil, in speaking of the matter says: “ We have purchased new machinery, the buildings will be enlarged to almost double their former capacity, and we will start up within a short time. “ The starting up of the mill means a great deal to Oakland. Vacant lots will be picked up and buildings erected thereon.
September 29, 1905
The Oakland mill which has been so still for about six months or so, will soon start up with a buzz and whirl.