In 1879, a railroad, the A.T. and S.F., was built from Wichita, Kansas to Wellington, Kansas. At about the same time, the Southern Kansas was under construction westward to Harper, Kansas. The first train passed through Dixon Township on August 20, 1880. Prior to the coming of the railroad, Argonia was served daily by a stage coach running from Wellington to Dodge City.
With the arrival of the railroad, the town of Argonia grew. A Town Company was organized and lots were given in the business section of town to all who would build to a value of $100 upon them. Lots were also given to residents at first. Those whose claims were close together laid out the town of Argonia in 1881 on 70 acres of land.
Beginning in the summer of 1882, Argonia experienced a boom lasting until 1888. Mr. & Mrs. L.A. Salter were among those who came during this period and their son, Francis Argonia Salter, was the first child born in the town on February 13, 1883.
G.B. Shaw and Company was the first business in Argonia. The company sold lumber, coal and lime. In addition they bought wheat and corn. By 1884 many other businesses had opened their doors. Argonia had a mill, several grocery stores, a small drug store, a furniture store, a meat market and harness shop. Argonia also boasted a milliner and dress maker, a blacksmith, an auctioneer and grain dealer. The town's carpenter first job was building the city hotel. There were hardware stores and an implement dealer in town. A restaurant also opened about this time. Wooden sidewalks were built in front of the stores and several businessmen put up awnings. The people of Argonia built a depot (above at right) and donated its use to the railroad. They borrowed money in their own names and built a mill. After it was finished, the town held an all-day religious service. To their great disappointment the mill burned before the machinery was placed inside. A sod school was built. It was used for classes and for religious services and other community events.
Argonia, incorporated in 1885, was named for the Argonauts of Greek legend, a band of heroes with whom Jason set out to fetch the Golden Fleece in the ship Argo. Alfred E. Parker, a young lawyer from Wellington, whose father was a member of the Town Company, proposed the name Argonia. In the winter of 1885 and 1886, the Missouri Pacific built tracks through town, bringing more people to settle. Records show that in 1886, Argonia was home to approximately 800 people.
In 1933 a bronze plaque, given by the Woman's Kansas Day Club, was unveiled in Argonia in honor of the "First Woman Mayor in the United States." Mrs. Salter was the guest of honor for the ceremony. The plaque was mounted and placed in front of the old township hall. Later it was moved and placed in front of the museum.
Located on the corner of Osage & Garfield in Argonia, the Salter House is open to the public by appointment. Contact Mary Beth Bookless at 620-435-6171 to make arrangements.
(Information from Grace Handy's history book was used in this description of Argonia's history.)