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Barclay, Osage County, Kansas History

John M. Wetherell brought a colony of Quakers to settle the town of Barclay. Barclay was named after Robert Barclay, a Quaker theologian from Scotland. In 1895 there were still 4,500 people of Scottish birth in Kansas, with about a fourth of them concentrated in the coal-mining counties of Osage (Barclay), Crawford, and Cherokee. Barclay was never very big, having a population of around 100 at its peak in 1910 according to Frank Blackmar's Cyclopedia of Kansas History in 1912. The 1964 atlas says it has a population of 50.

Thanks to Dorothy Rush of Topeka, who grew up in Barclay, for sharing this article with us.

The town of Barclay, Kansas, was established in 1872 on land which had been an Indian Reservation--that of the Sac and Fox Nations.

In November 1868 the United States Government had forced the Sac and Fox to move from their Eastern Kansas home to go to a Reservation in Oklahoma. As the Kansas land was offered for sale a wealthy Quaker from Pennsylvania, John Wetherall, purchased a large tract of land where Barclay is now located, and sent out the call to Quakers to create a settlement there.

In the early period of our country it was the custom of the Quakers to pioneer westward in groups, and in response to the Kansas Call Quakers came from Iowa, Indiana and Pennsylvania to develop the new Quaker community.

When John's wife in Philadelphia heard of John's purchase of the Kansas land she wrote him, "Come home, Thou art going crazy." However, she did join him in making Barclay their home.

The town was named after the eminent Scottish Quaker, Robert Barclay. The opening minutes of the "Barclay Society of Friends", on July 25, 1874 showed forty six members.

A church building was constructed in 1880, and a "modern" two story school building was built in 1887. The construction of a Town Hall followed in due time.

Barclay was on the main line of the Santa Fe Railroad ( the train had come through that part of Kansas in 1870), which was a big boost, and Barclay became a thriving community. It came to have two General Merchandise stores, a creamery, and rural mail delivery (via horse and buggy) from the local Post Office.

A large group of Mexican laborers became residents as they "worked the railroad" under the direction of the Sexton. His imposing residence was next to the depot.

A twice daily event was exciting for the children when the "fast train" came through and grabbed the mail bag from its position high on a post. The "local" train was a source of joy for travel to the big cities of Emporia and Kansas City.

Eventually, the thing we call "progress" took its toll on the Kansas farming communities, and there was no longer a need for a merchandising center in Barclay. The school joined the unified school district, and in the late 1970's the church membership merged with the Emporia Quaker Church, holding their meetings in Emporia.

Presently (1995) Barclay is a ghost town with only eight homes occupied on the "Barclay Square". The Town Hall has become a residence, the "new" brick one story school building is now used as a farm building, and all other "public buildings" have been torn down.

A walk through the cemetery on the hill brings memories of all the people whose names are shown there, and memories of the glorious past of the vital Quaker community which contributed to shaping so many lives.

Also see: Kansas Timeline
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or return to the Kansas Heritage Server. Site maintained in Dodge City, KS.