Ulysses Celebrates its Centennial
By Nance Woods
In December of 1908 there was a short notice in the Grant County Republican stating that “The United Order of Sackholders Met One Night This Week to Discuss a Matter of Grave Importance.” No other mention was given but within a month the citizens of Ulysses would be in the process of moving their town two miles to the west.
But let’s not start in the middle of the story. Founded in 1885, Ulysses rapidly grew and prospered. The original town boasted approximately 1,500 residents. However the town had purchased bonds for improvements that were never made. The bonds were issued and sold but unfortunately the proceeds were pocketed by grafters. By 1908 the town only claimed about 100 residents and those residents now owed $84,000 in debt. Those same residents considered themselves “Sack holders” and they had no way to repay the bonds that were now due.
The bondholders brought suit and took judgments for thousands of dollars against the city. After paying a 600% tax increase in real estate taxes and a 362% increase in personal property taxes, the citizens decided that it was time to take action. The decision to move the town was the only logical option. The unity the citizens displayed in reaching this decision deserves credit, and the determination they displayed in putting this gigantic plan in operation has become a portion of the history of Grant County. The decision had been made that the remaining citizens of Ulysses would take their belongings and move off the old town site and out of the school district.
The city fathers decided to move the town 2 miles to the west. They purchased a quarter of land that was then deeded to the New Ulysses Town Company. Once the city fathers had the land surveyed into a new town site, the town started the move. Beginning in February 1909, every man, woman and child took their homes, businesses, and belongings and moved to the new town site. The move took approximately three months to complete. Skids and teams of horses were used for the larger buildings and smaller buildings were loaded on wagons. Some of the larger buildings, such as the hotel, were cut into sections and moved a section at a time. When the move was completed the former citizens left the old site just as they had found it – a rolling tract of prairie.
The prairie winds still blow on the old town site. Tumbleweeds frequently pass through and now there are even a few houses on what was the original town. There are not many traces of the thriving town that had once been there. But on January 31, 2009, the citizens of Ulysses began a year-long celebration of that new beginning. You are cordially invited to join the City of Ulysses as the centennial is celebrated with events throughout the year.
July 4 - 1pm – Historic Adobe Museum Exhibit: “Ulysses, Celebrating 100 Years in Photographs” Children’s Photo Exhibit; Centennial Community Band/Orchestra; Recognition of the Descendants of the 1909 Pioneering Families; Ice Cream Social at the Historic Adobe Museum
Grant County Recreation Pool Activities – Fun for the entire family. Indoor and outdoor pools with giant water slide.
Grant County Chamber of Commerce – Fireworks at the Fairgrounds. A spectacular display worth taking the lawn chairs out into the evening. Fireworks donated by local merchants.
July 18 – 25 - Grant County Free Fair - Enjoy lots of fun and entertainment for the whole family. Rides, crafts, exhibits, parade, and games are all topped off by the Grant County Rodeo.
August 29-30 - Shelton Memorial Christian Church Celebrating 200 Years – D. Newell Williams to present historical lectures on the Christian Church in Kansas.
September 15 - Grant County Home Products Dinner – Every year Ulysses serves dinner to approximately 2,000 people. The dinner has been a tradition since 1941 and serves foods that are grown locally in Grant County. Each year diners feast on barbequed beef, scalloped potatoes, sweet corn, pinto beans, candied squash, tomatoes, wheat rolls, watermelon, strawberry jam, milo doughnuts and ice cream.
October 3 - Fall Fest – Safety Fest; Riley Car Show; Downtown Parade; Centennial Community Band/Orchestra; Medicine Man Show; Talent Show; Gunfighters: “Crooked Creek Regulators”; Grant County Spelling Bee; Kite Making and Flying; Sidewalk Vendors and Food Booths
October 4 - Old Fashioned Worship by the Lake – Sunday Afternoon, Pot Luck Fellowship Dinner. Sponsored by Grant County Ministerial Alliance
October 23-24 - Jedediah Smith Society Rendezvous. Tracing Jed’s Last Days
December 3 - Christmas Light Parade – A nighttime parade in which all the entries are lighted. This is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season.