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In 1865, a Butterfield stagecoach station was built a half mile south of the present site of Wilson.
At that time, the Butterfield Overland Dispatch Coach was traveling
from Atchison, Kansas to Denver, Colorado. The dispatch built
“swing-stations” about every nine to eleven miles so travelers could
“swing in,” take care of necessities (a drink of water, refresh
their meager staples, change their tired horses for fresh ones) and
“swing out” on the trail again. This crude rest stop and relay point
was named Wilson Creek Station. Three years later, the Kansas
Pacific Railway built Wilson Station.
In June of 1871, the Post Office Department designated the site
Attica. That label lasted only six months, until the National Land
Company surveyed the area, re-naming it Bosland (from the Latin word
bos meaning “cattle or oxen”) in the hopes of attracting the cattle
trade. However, the settlement never became a center of the cattle
trade, and in June of 1873, the United States Post Office officially
changed the name of the town to Wilson.
A second wave of settlers began in 1874 as Bohemian emigrants
traveling by train from Iowa, Nebraska, Chicago, and New York came
to Wilson to work on the railroad. Francis Swehla speaks of arriving
in “Bosland” in May of 1874 and being the first of his nationality
to homestead land here. Swehla wrote letters in the Czech language
newspapers encouraging other Bohemians to come to the area.
These Bohemians were mostly craftsmen in the old country, but cheap,
available land caused many to adopt farming as their vocation. .
Gradually they drifted to town to start their own businesses.
Probably the Bohemian’s greatest contribution to the culture and
social life of Wilson was the erection of the Wilson Opera House in
1901. Two stories high with a seating capacity of 500, it frequently
hosted stage shows, public dances and motion pictures which drew
Wilson has been known as “The Czech Capital of Kansas” since 1974.
and Bosland were early names for the town before the US Post Office decided it was Wilson, in 1873.
During the 1870's, large numbers of immigrants from Czechoslovakia arrived to work on the railroad and gave the area a unique culture.
Francis Swehla was the first Bohemian homesteader in 1874; he was instrumental in bringing more Czech settlers the area which eventually lead to the Charter naming Wilson the Czech Capital
of Kansas, 100 years later, in 1974.
Learn More in William G. Cutler's ►
History of the State of Kansas