Here's what you should know about El Dorado's history before it celebrates its 150th birthday

Greg Williams
Butler County Times Gazette
Between 1910 and 1920 where Mr. and Mrs. Eliga Carter at Gordon oil field, El Dorado, Kansas.

The City of El Dorado is turning 150 years ago and they are getting ready to celebrate. There will be many things going on for the celebration like a parade, concert, car show, games and much more.

The celebration will be on Saturday, Sept. 11, and will include a Sept.11th memorial ceremony. On Wednesday, June 16, El Dorado will announce the headline for the concert. 

El Dorado was platted by B. Frank Gordy in 1868 but the community continued as a settlement until 1870 when 51 petitioners asked that the town be incorporated as a village. On Sept. 12th, 1871, D.M. Bronson presented a petition for incorporation and El Dorado changed from a village to a city for the third class.

How the town was founded

One of the first settlers to arrive in El Dorado was William Hildebrand. Once settler arrived in El Dorado, they began building the town and of the first buildings was Conner Cabin. The cabin would unofficially serve as the first Butler County courthouse and one of the first post offices in El Dorado.

Eventually, in 1864, El Dorado would replace Chelsea as the Butler County seat.

Community leaders would assemble at the Conner Cabin for meetings and other legal issues. Records were created and kept there because there was no public building at the time.

In 1877, the Florence, El Dorado, and Walnut Valley Railroad Company built a branch line from Florence to El Dorado; in 1881 it was extended to Douglass, and later to Arkansas City. The line was leased and operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

However, the line from Florence to El Dorado was abandoned in 1942. The original branch line connected Florence, Burns, De Graff, El Dorado, Augusta, Douglass, Rock, Akron, Winfield, and Arkansas City.

El Dorado was a big part of the oil industry in the early 1900s

In the 1910s, the El Dorado Oil Field was the first to be found using science and geologic mapping. Within three years, the field was responsible for 12.8 percent of the national oil production. Now, El Dorado has one of the largest museums in the state dedicated to the oil industry. 

The oil industry helped the growth of El Dorado as they went from a population of 3,000 to over 10,000. When the U.S. entered World War I, the oil industry accelerated. The El Dorado oilfield produced 29-36 million barrels a day, equating to 64% of Kansas output and up to 9% of the national output.

Women and Blacks in El Dorado in the early years

In 1912, El Dorado had the first woman bailiff in Kansas and the United States. Eva Rider assembled the first women’s jury of Kansas, which was composed entirely of El Dorado women and served in the District Court of Butler County.

It was a dispute over real estate valuation that a male jury failed to resolve a year earlier. It was said no jury ever showed keener appreciation of its responsibility. The women were praised for their unusual attention to the evidence.

In 1916, there was an anti-black race riot in El Dorado after an incident between a black shoe shiner and a white oil worker. A large number of black families moved out of El Dorado and went to Wichita or Oklahoma and Texas. 

During World War II, El Dorado held German and Italian prisoners

In 1943, after World War II, German and Italian prisoners were brought to Kansas and other Midwest states. Large internment camps were established in Kansas and Fort Riley was one of the larger branches. 

Under Fort Riley, El Dorado was one of the 12 smaller branch camps. The prisoners helped solved the labor shortage caused by American men serving in the war efforts. Prisoners commonly volunteered to help work on local farms.

On June 10, 1958, a tornado hit El Dorado and killed 13 people. In 2008, the city built a memorial at Graham Park in remembrance of the dead.

Notable athletes from El Dorado

Now, the City of El Dorado continues to succeed in the oil industry as El Dorado Refinery is the largest in Kansas. El Dorado is home to Butler Community College and has won five NJCAA national championships. 

The program has produced current NFL players Chris Carson, Michael Gallup, Demarcus Lawrence, Ben Powers and Byron Pringle. 

Butler's men's basketball program also has a rich tradition, including a national championship in 1953, NJCAA national tournament runners-up in 1992 and 1993. Notable former Grizzlies include Stephen Jackson, Tony Allen and Kasib Powell.

El Dorado has a summer amateur baseball team full of college players. The El Dorado Broncos play in the National Baseball Congress but canceled their 2021 season. Several former Broncos have gone to play in the MLB, including Nate Robertson and Heath Bell.

Many other notable people from El Dorado include Kansas state judge Granville Pearl Aikman, Brigadier General in the U.S. Civil War Alfred W. Ellet, actor Steve Brodie, maternal grandfather of President Barack Obama, Stanley Douglass, and others. 

El Dorado has a rich history and they'll be celebrating all of it for its 150th birthday on Saturday, Sept. 11th.