A Town of Many Names

The town of Marena, in Marena Township, was one of the contestants for the county seat in Hodgeman County in 1879. It was small, but so were the other contestants. As a matter of fact all of the towns existed largely in the imagination of their promoters. The Shook family was closely associated with the town of Marena. It was located at the north edge of the present site of Hanston, south of highway 156. When the railroad was projected the Hann family gave some land along the right-of-way for a town site, with the understanding that the town was to be called Hanston. The Handbook for Hodgeman County of 1887 describes the two towns in extravagant language as lying side by side "in the garden of the Buckner valley - occupying a fine plateau twenty feet above the river and environed with magnificent farm country." It also offers a word of advice to the rival towns: "Only unity and the cordial co-operation of the two town companies are needed to build in this beautiful valley a city of 2000 souls in the next five years." At that time, according to the Handbook, Marena consisted of a store, blacksmith shop, village school and a group of cottages, while Hanton embraced a store, a lumberyard and a few houses. There was intense rivalry between the two towns and their promoters. When Kansas had a Republican governor Mr. Shook, a staunch Republican, had the post office and the address was Marena. Under a Democratic administration the post office was given to Mr. Hann and the address became Hanston. The railroad wearied of the alternating post offices and, avoiding any part in the controversy named the railroad station Olney. So the patrons got their mail at Marena or Hanston and picked up their freight at Olney. Marena was as absorbed into Hanston but the Santa Fe has never changed its designation.

A Busy Day at Hanston
A Busy Day at Hanston

A Mr. Merritt, at Hanston, installed one of the first large cream separators in the country. Farmers hauled their whole milk in to town and had it separated at the station, which bought the cream, and the farmers took the skimmed milk home to feed to the calves and pigs. Later, home separators became common in the county.

Through the years a number of businesses have operated in Hanston - livery barns, lumber yards, elevators, grocery and dry goods stores, hotels, a photography shop, barber shops, restaurants and a bank. The fortunes of Hanston have fluctuated through the years but the town still serves a loyal community. The modern High School and consolidated grade school make it a focal point of interest to a large constituency, several new homes have been built in the town, and its commercial houses and bank enjoy a healthy business.

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Last updated 03/26/1998