ON A MISSION

“Being able to say we lived in a garage meant more than anything to me.”

124 North Mission Street

My wife and I have been trying like crazy to find a spot in Kansas to make our summer home. We’ve been searching fifteen years now and each time we thought things were figured out, a door suddenly closed.

Alta Vista, Kansas is one example of many such failures. An old limestone FORD dealership building I wanted to convert into a dwelling was too far gone to be financially feasible, this according to Joleen. I was all for it regardless of cost. Being able to say we lived in a vintage garage meant more than anything to me.

Maple Hill, Kansas came next. We’d already signed paperwork to purchase a nice building lot. Unbeknownst to us, the center of the property was a waterway of sorts. Unless a dam or barrier was built around it, the land would become a small lake during torrential rains which happens quite often. That idea was nixed.

We’d pretty much given up on our mission until the name Council Grove popped up. Council Grove is one of the most historically significant towns in all of the Sunflower State. It was founded in the 1840’s and was a stopping point on the Santa Fe Trail. I’d visited the place several years ago, thinking I was in an oasis of sorts.

Lush greenery was everywhere, with tall oak trees and a small river flowing through the center of town. A beautiful river walk had been constructed by locals along with a bronze statue commemorating pioneer women. There’s nothing else like it in Kansas. Never in a million years did I think we could live there, because there’s a list of buyers a mile long waiting their turn.

Out of the blue, a sister and brother decided to sell a residential lot directly adjacent to the historical district. I came across it shortly after being listed. The land had belonged to their parents, and once they passed away, both children decided they wouldn’t be needing the ground. I was on the phone within minutes.

Research shows it to have had at least two residences over the years. This goes back to the 1850’s. The last house was torn down approximately twenty years ago, with remaining oak trees having space to spread their branches and limbs. I stumbled across several articles in the Council Grove Republican showing where church bazaars were held on the shaded lot afterwards.

1982 article

We’ll be within walking distance of Main Street, Neosho River Walk, Hay’s House Restaurant, Hermit’s Cave, Old KAW Mission, plus a bustling Dairy Queen for tasty ice cream.

The house directly next door looks quite spectacular in design, almost spooky. I knew there had to be something special about it. Looking through newspaper archives I found that in 1953 it became a mortuary. Up until that time the house was a residence, plus meeting place for a Christian women’s group. Had the funeral home still been in operation at this point, I would’ve 86’d this sale in a heartbeat. Somewhere around 2000 the business was closed. Fortunately for us, a family now resides there.

Before any construction begins, I’m on a much bigger mission. I’ll go over every square inch of the lot with my metal detector. The old brick sidewalks are most likely once again hidden under grass. I know there’s old and cool junk lurking underneath those bricks and turf. Finding it will be priority one!

1953 newspaper ad

Author: michaeldexterhankins

ordinary average guy

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