Herrington and Hillsboro: Mennonite Country
One of the centers of the local Mennonite community, Hillsboro (pop. 2,704), 13 miles west of US-77, serves as market center for the area's highly productive farmlands. Tabor College, on the east side of town, is the most visible sign of the Mennonite presence; though it's a coed non-denominational college about half the students are local Mennonites.
The tidy town of Goessel (population 506), 15 miles southwest of Hillsboro, was also founded by Mennonite farmers, and now holds the worthwhile Mennonite Heritage Center, 200 N Poplar Street (10am-5pm Tues-Sat, 1-5pm Sun; $3; 316/367-8200), where numerous buildings, including two schools, a barn and a bank, have been moved for preservation. The flat black earth around Goessel is among the world's greatest producers of wheat, in particular the hearty hybrids able to withstand the Midwest winter. The original seed, known as "Turkey Red," was brought to Kansas in the early 1870s by Russian Mennonites who immigrated here after their 100-year exclusion from military service was rescinded.
Zigzagging east from Hillsboro and then north along US-77/US-56, after another 37 "level" miles US-56 reaches the town of Herrington, whose central square holds a monument to Father Padilla, part of Coronado's expedition that passed through southern Kansas in search of the mythical Golden City of Gran Quivira.
Box on Prairyerth, Wm. Least Heat Moon's study of Chase County, KS