The City of Cheney was named after Benjamin P. Cheney, one of the men who served on the board of directors of several railroads that opened the west for settlement.


Benjamin P. Cheney

1909

1911

1959

2010

The following historical information was taken from The Small Town and Its Future by Floyd R. Souders published in The Kansas Historical Quarterly Spring 1969.


The town of Cheney, Sedgwick County, was named after B.P. Cheney, an officer of the Santa Fe railroad company. The town was started in August, 1883, when the railroad reached western Sedgwick County, and the entire town of Marshall moved to Cheney. Most of the residents in the new town were located on the first street west of Main, which was named Marshall in memory of the old town.


Railroads provided a faster means of bringing in manufactured good and shipping out the farm produce. They were an essential factor in making a town grow during this period in Kansas.


The Wichita and Western branch of the Santa Fe had its problems in 1884. Once the Kansas wind blew railroad cars from the siding into the path of a train. A safety valve on a locomotive blew out. Some of the early locomotives didn’t have enough power to pull the loaded cars up the grade. But nature calmed down and mechanical problems were solved.

The Cheney Roller Mill, moved from Marshall and located on the Santa Fe tracks, manufactured flour and corn meal for many years and proved to be one of the early industries which helped the town grow. As the business prospered, the building was enlarged and later the firm was expanded again to become the Cheney Mill and Power Company.

Establishment of a creamery helped the farmers to develop their livestock interests. This firm manufactured butter and also made cheese.


The business section of Main Street made a good growth. Retail stores and service agencies supplied the basic needs of the town and the surrounding rural area.


Churches were built, the Trinity Reformed being the first constructed, followed by the Methodist. The churches grew in influence with the early settlers by holding frequent revival meetings.


The school district was organized and the county superintendent reasoned that each district should not be too large so the students could easily walk to school. The Cheney district covered a little over 12 sections of land until the school reorganization era of 1946. In 1907 a 12-year school was established and the first Cheney high school graduating class in 1908 had two members.


There were a number of early day rural schools in the area surrounding Cheney. One, called the Jewett ranch school, was on a part of the famous Jewett ranch south of Cheney and was already integrated in the 1890’s. There were two Negro boys enrolled. Their father was employed on the ranch to help train the illustrious line of race horses which included John Gentry, Patchen Wilkes, and Joe Patchen, forerunners of Dan Patch.


Cheney’s first cornet band helped start the community on a cultural binge. Holidays like the Fourth of July called for special concerts. Other intellectual entertainment included community sings, literaries, and debates.


Horse power provided the early day method of transportation. Wagons pulled by teams of horses or mules were used to go to town for groceries. When the sideboards were added, the same vehicle was used to haul grain to market. Luxury travel came, in time, with a little more wealth. Families hitched their high-stepping teams to fancy carriages and buggies became as popular with the young folk as sports cars are today. Mrs. Oscar Sellon, wife of Cheney’s first photographer, was one of the first ladies to have their own horse and buddy.


Harvesting wheat with the header barge crew was a big operation in those days. Farms furnished employment for many harvest hands during the summer months. One early day threshing rig had a web stacker and a hand fed platform at the cylinder end. Later steam threshers with power feeders and blower stackers were used.


Farmers got their horses shod and their implements repaired at Cheney village blacksmith shop. I.L. McHenry operated the shop. His son, Guy, later became head of the International Harvester Company in Australia.

At one time in these early days Cheney had five saloons, but as more residents came and the influence of church grew, these bars became unpopular. In fact, one night some cowboys lassoed one of the buildings and pulled it down. This occurred even before Carry Nation got into the act.


Every town had its troubles with fire. One half of a city block was burned in Cheney and was a great financial loss. However, the fire opened the way for better buildings on Main street. Dirt streets prevailed in those pre-asphalt days. Downpours of rain turned them into seas of mud so it is no wonder that the good roads program developed in Kansas.

The pioneers of Cheney began planting tress as soon as they laid out the town. They were set around residences to provide shelter from the strong gusts of Kansas wind and shade from the midsummer sun. Trees were planted on Main Street and grew with the town.


It was popular to go to the Santa Fe depot each morning to see who was off on the passenger train to Wichita, the county seat.


Cheney’s department store was the Dewey and Hessel Store where people bought groceries, kerosene, shoes, dress goods, or threat and the ladies could get a hat made in the millinery department.


Many large and comfortable residences were built as the town grew and with as stylish to have a telephone, and a picket fence around the front yard. Big families were also in vogue and the city of Cheney continued to grow.

As time moved on, transportation improved. Model S Fords with kerosene (coal oil) and carbide lights traveled at a reckless speed of 23 miles per hour. The autos were popular and there was no wasted space in the seats when grandpappy decided to make a tour to a neighboring town, or to the Friday afternoon ball game. But there was still horse manure, and dogs roamed the streets. Auto owners in 1909 formed the Cheney Auto Club and spent much time driving over the area.


Improvements in the City included construction of the thrd new school building in 1917. This structure is still in use today but will be replaced in 1969 when the new high school building was completed.


Modern Cheney (Written in 1969)

A lot of changes have occurred on Main Street in 80 years. Now there is a super market in place of the old hotel which stood newar the depot. There are two beauty salons instead of the old-time saloon! Modern service stations have supplanted the three former livery barns. One is on the site of a livery barn that burned. Several horses were lost in the disaster.


Other businesses today (1969) include two mobile home areas, a drive-in café, an egg processing plant, two laundries, a radio and TV shop, a recreation room (popularly called the pool hall or beer parlor, descendant of that ancient saloon!), department store, post office, sundries store, restaurant, two electric company offices, a variety store, bank, two hardware stores, a jewelry-gift-flower shop, vacuum cleaner shop, insurance office, furniture store, blacksmith shop, a body and fender rebuild shop, drive-in cleaners, Ford and Chevrolet automobile dealers with garages, three oil companies, barber shop, real estate office, electric business, lumber yard, and another super market.

The City has two dentists and one physician. The newspaper, the Cheney Sentinel, is still serving the community after 77 years under the same name.


Store fronts are gradually being remodeled in the older business section and in recent years several new business buildings have been constructed. The residential secion has changed more than Main street with many new homes built, older houses remodeled, and some structure moved into town and refurbished.


The city clerk’s office and city library are located on Main street. The city has a well-equipped volunteer fire department, 24-hour police protection, water, gas, electrical and sewer service, two small parks, and a swimming pool. The streets are curbed, guttered and blacktopped.


Cheney has six churches, two built in recent years. The school facilities include the present high school building and a new one under construction, a gymnasium-auditorium, vocational building, elementary school building, and a parochial school.


The Sedgwick County Fair is located in Cheney. It is opened annually with a parade. Started in 1930, this fair is considered one of the best in Kansas with colorful parades, exhibits of fine livestock, garden and farm crops, flowers, baking, canning, handiwork, and art. Clean entertainment for everyone is featured at the fair and the youth grow up looking forward to it each summer.


A new business in the area is catfish farming. South of Cheney 60 acres have been converted into ponds at the Red Keel Fish Farm. Famous Ninnescah valley channel catfish are raised and sold for stocking ponds or for fish dinners.

Cheney lake, six miles north of town, has nearly 10,000 acres under water and is becoming a favorite area for campers, boat fans, fishermen, and hunters. Over one million people visit this state lake and park annually.


A limited access super highway 54 is being built one-half mile north of its present location two miles north of Cheney. With good roads the area will develop, as many more people working in Wichita will want to live in the country.