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  • Penny Raile

The Little City on the Republican


In 1886, a newspaper editor in Atwood, Kansas wrote in his local paper of the surprising changes in “the valley by the Republican.” He reported about a town growing at a rapid pace with houses and businesses popping up overnight and the constant sound of saws and hammering.


The town was Wano, Kansas which was located a mile north of present-day St. Francis. Wano, which first began as a trading post and post office in Cheyenne County, was established by A.M. Brenaman August 1880.


The name Wano was adopted when H.C. Thompson, the original locator of Cheyenne County, was to have exclaimed when he first saw the area “esto wano” which was then believed to mean in Spanish “very good.” (The writer of this article though wonders if what was actually said was “esto es bueno” which is a better translation of “very good.”)

Wano was officially platted on April 26, 1885 by three men, John Dunbar, Wm. W. McKay, and John Goodenberger. They liked the central location in the county, the nearness to water and the railroad surveys. By July of 1885, Mr. Dunbar had established a daily stage line carrying passengers and freight to the B. & M. Railroad in Benkelman, Nebraska. He also built the first livery and feed stable. Mr. McKay opened a real estate office and helped new arrivals locate farm land.


According to the Cheyenne County Rustler of July 10, 1885, this was when “the rush of strangers began.” Within one year there were fifteen new businesses including a livery stable, a hotel, a drug store, a bakery, a restaurant, a hardware store, a lumber yard, a land office, a printing office, a general store, a billiard hall, a harness shop, a carpenter shop, a furniture store and a blacksmith shop.


Wano, at the time was the only post office in the county. There were three good wells in the town with one lined with rock at an average depth of 18 feet. The March 1885 census listed 204 residents, 18 dogs and a school house worth $225. The population had residents born in nine different foreign countries; Canada, England, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Russia and Sweden.


Wano Meat Market, unknown man and children

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