Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 16:2 (Spring 1996). Copyright © 1996 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


The Kansas State Historical Society maintains a file on about six thousand failed towns in the state, a figure large almost beyond comprehension in this modern age of one town per county. Dan Fitzgerald helps to put urban development in proper perspective by offering thumb-nail sketches of one hundred and six of these nearly forgotten communities. It is history from the grass roots, well done, and written in an unpretentious style that should appeal to scholarly and general audiences alike. The sketches range in length from one to seven pages, usually accompanied by an old photograph or plat map, and are rich in the names of individuals and businesses, stories of local events, and quotations from early diaries and memoirs. With few exceptions, readers also learn about the hopes for each new settlement and the reasons why these hopes were frustrated. Fitzgerald's selections represent a wide assortment of economic activities and do not duplicate any from his companion volume, Ghost Towns of Kansas: A Traveler's Guide, published in 1988. He has grouped the sketches by geographic region, but they can be read in any order.