Then & Now: Bonita

By 1874, Johnson County was crisscrossed by railroad lines heading for Olathe. A number of small communities, including Bonita, Wainright, Elizabeth, Pleasant View, and Lackman sprang up at points along the tracks, but ultimately these fledgling settlements were not successful.

While the other communities appear to have been little more than names on a map, vestiges of Bonita survive today. The small railroad town of Bonita straddled the Olathe-Spring Hill Township line along the Missouri River, Ft. Scott & Gulf railroad.

Johnson County map, 1893

This 1893 United States Geological Survey map shows the location of Bonita.

First settled in 1879, by 1910 the tiny hamlet offered a general store, a railroad depot, a grain elevator, and a few residences, with a population of just 35.

Bonita, looking northeast

Bonita, about 1908

 The depot and post office were closed in the 1930s, and the small community was dealt another blow when it was bypassed by U.S. 169. Nevertheless, the general store continued to operate through the 1990s.

For nearly a hundred years, the general store in Bonita adapted to serve the changing needs of the surrounding area. In its earliest years, the store—at that time named Kuhlman Brothers General Merchandise—carried “everything except threshing machines”—and those could be ordered.

Kuhlman Bros. store

Kuhlman Bros. store in Bonita, about 1905

As gasoline became a necessity of rural life, the store–renamed Russell’s Grain and Feed–made that a part of its inventory, too.

Russell's Grain and Feed store

Russell's Grain and Feed store in Bonita, about 1968

And in its twilight years the store continued to function as a gathering place for local farmers.

Russell Grain and Feed store

Russell Grain and Feed Store in Bonita, 1996

The store, along with three remaining Bonita residences, still stands at the intersection of 175th Street and Woodland Road.

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Filed under Cities & Towns, Lost Cities, Research

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