July 20, 2018
You are reading “Our Past Is Present” from the Geary County Historical Society.
Royal R. Clemons brought his family from New York and settled on a farm in 1868. In 1870, he was appointed the first postmaster for the rural settlement, which at that point had no name. A meeting of area residents was called to make an attempt to name the little community. Finally it was decided that since the post office was located in Mrs. Clemons chest of drawers, she should be allowed to choose the name for the town. In a spell of homesickness, she selected “Alida,” which was the name of one of her girlhood friends in New York.
In 1872, the Junction City and Fort Kearney Railroad was built through the area and that motivated John Grasberger to build a log store along the railroad track. Soon after Royal Clemons and George Wilson were working with him to build a grain elevator and later a stock yard, a blacksmith and lumberyard near the frame depot.
About the same time a number of Swiss-German immigrants settled in the area including the Lehman and Gfeller families. In 1890 P.H Gfeller, Royal Clemons and George Wilson formed the Alida Co-op and Elevator Company and bought out the Grasberger store.
In the early years of the Alida settlement, church services were held in homes and later the schoolhouses in the area. In 1881 the St. John’s Evangelical Church building was constructed two miles southwest of the town. For the century of its existence, social life in Alida centered around the school and church buildings with box suppers, pie socials, school programs and church services meeting the needs of generations of Alida students over a 75 year period.
The grain elevators were always a landmark for Alida. Over the years they were rebuilt and improved three different times with the last being just two years before the town was demolished to make way for the construction of Milford Lake. And in the end it would be the elevator that would provide Alida with its last claim to fame.
There were four businesses and approximately six residences plus the landmark grain elevator on the site. In March of 1964, it was announced that a group of Junction City developers led by Dr. L.W. Wisby had secured permission from the U.S Army Corps of Engineers to turn the one-time Alida grain elevator into a “swanky” hotel and dining facility. Permission from the Corps had been granted for this restaurant, but was later rescinded after they said further studies indicated the base of the 15 foot concrete elevator would not support the planned structure after the site was inundated with water after Milford Lake became a reality. So, the elevator was to be imploded. The demolition took place October 7, 1965. It took several tries to implode the elevator as it toppled into the waiting pit. Then the demolition contractor still had to break up the debris with a bulldozer so none of the debris protruded more than four feet above ground.
It appeared that like the hardy souls who had lived on and worked the fertile fields around Alida for four generations, the landmark elevator was not going to exit easily. Today, as we travel on or around Milford Lake, we need to remember that there are dreams and history that lie at the bottom of that man-made Lake.