CORWIN -- From the scale house on a mid-June day, Calvin Guyle peered out the dusty window, looking for customers.
But at this moment, the single street that leads through the Harper County town of Corwin -- or what is left of it -- is completely quiet.
"This town used to be hopping," Guyle said. "Now it is just hopping with grain trucks."
And that, he added, happens just once a year.
For a few weeks in June, this was Guyle's home away from home, more or less -- a little office where time seems to have stood still. A Royal Crown pop machine sits in the corner, a once-welcomed quencher for thirsty farmers. It now looks as if it hasn't spit out a glass bottle in decades.
In the back room is the town's former bank door and safe, which was relocated after it closed in 1938.
Corwin once had grocery stores, blacksmiths, church and the bank. It had a school and an assortment of houses with families. The elevator, however, is the only business remaining, along with about 10 souls who call Corwin home.
It was largely a grassland when folks like Oscar Corwin searched for a place to settle. He came from Pennsylvania about two decades after the Civil War ended -- enticed by the prospect of land to homestead.
In August 1883, he received a postmaster appointment and opened an office in his country store.
Customarily, if the post office was not at an official town site, it was give the name of the postmaster, thus the name Corwin.
By 1885, Harper County's Blaine Township had 157 residents. Many were veterans. More growth followed with the building of the railroad through the area.
"The state was soon to be covered from border to border by a giant spider web of railroad tracks," wrote Gay Hewitt, in a 1970s-era history book called Corwin, Kansas: The Way it Was."
In 1886, the railroad started laying track out of Anthony toward Corwin. The first freight shipped over the line was a windmill from Anthony to Corwin from Charles Ingram, a county resident who drilled water wells.
Depots were built in both Ruella, now a ghost town, and Corwin, and Corwin's store and post office were eventually moved closer to the depot. At this location, a town company purchased 80 acres, and by 1887, Corwin had gone from just a railroad crossing to an actual town.
Businesses sprang up -- from general stores to blacksmiths. One resident plowed around the town site and planted ornamental trees to add to the appeal, Hewitt wrote.
Population augmented in the late 1880s as talk began to escalate about the Oklahoma Territory opening up for settlement. On the day of the Cherokee Strip run in 1893, Corwin was empty, Hewitt wrote. Some from the town participated in the rush. Some didn't' come back.
"Not only did Corwin lose some of its residents to the run, but lumber was in such short supply for all the new inhabitants that some of the buildings were sold and moved to the new territory," wrote Hewitt.
Corwin was never incorporated, but for a few years residents did appoint a mayor. The population never exceeded 250 people.
Watching for Carrie Nation
The "Kansas Cyclopedia" of 1912 reported Corwin, a village along the Missouri Pacific Railroad, had, at one time, a hotel, two groceries, telegraph and express office, two blacksmith shops, two restaurants, two livery barns, a church, a bank, a lumberyard, a two-story school building that included two years of high school and a winning baseball team.
Corwin even had a newspaper for a brief time, the Corwin Dispatch.
In 1901, there was some concern expressed in the news that Carrie Nation might be visiting the town "which is good reason to believe that there may have been a saloon in town," wrote Hewitt.
"She had already been on a rampage at Danville, and no small town was beneath her dignity if there was a saloon located there. She never arrived."
In 1910, the population was 125.
Hewitt wrote the town still was bustling in the teens and 1920s. The second story of Pryor's store was a popular place for social engagement. There were dances, wrestling matches, and Little Page's moving picture company showed movies there in 1912.
Corwin's death knell was nothing more than progress.
Folks began buying cars as early as the 1900s. People began traveling farther to do business.
In 1919, an oil burning heater in Pryor's store exploded, which destroyed the building, and damaged the nearby lumberyard.
The bank closed in 1938 after several robberies. Other stores followed. The post office's final day was in June 1958. The school closed about seven years later.
The final straw came about 30 years ago when the gas plant near town closed, said Monty Whitaker, who has lived in town for more than 20 years.
"When that shut down, everyone left," he said.
All is quiet on this June day, before the afternoon rush of grain trucks, which elevator man Guyle figured would be clanking onto the scales mid-afternoon.
Guyle seems to be the only one moving in town, walking from the elevator to the office as he prepared for the harvest activity.
There is no more railroad. The depot was moved away. Whitaker said he owns the property where a Presbyterian church once sat; it closed sometime in the 1980s.
"This is all that there has been since I moved here," said Whitaker, adding, "A lot of these little towns like this, they just dried up."
In all, just three or four homes are lived in; everything else has fallen into disrepair. A handful of paint-stripped structures are barely visible through the forest of trees that now line the main street.
The block school still stands, which is easier to view after the leaves fall, said longtime area resident Marilyn Alexander, who grew up on a farm near Corwin with her brother, Ivan Koblitz.
Their memories are still vivid.
"I remember driving a '37 International truck to haul wheat, and I hauled it to a metal elevator in those days, said Koblitz, 75, who farms and ranches near town.
He also recalls when the transportation that picked him up for school was a station wagon.
"We played softball," he said of some of the activities at Corwin school, adding there was a field near the school. "We played basketball. They had a nice gym in the new building."
Alexander said she always rode her horse to town.
"I remember the train coming up there and scaring my horse to death," she said.
She also remembers going to the local store after school where she would charge a pop on her parents' account -- until they found out what she was doing.
"It was a cute little town," she said.
While everything else is crumbling, Alexander was able to keep a few of Corwin's relics.
She bought the teacher's desk. They have the home plate from the ball diamond. They donated the slipper slide to the park in Hazelton. Her brother has the merry-go-round.
She used the bricks from the old school, which was demolished in the late 1940s, to build an extra room in her home. She also has a piece of the current school's blackboard.
When the school closed, it was used for a community building for a while, Koblitz said. Soon, it was purchased by a family that began using it more as a junk area.
He and his grandkids hiked around the school last year, he said. It's not in good shape.
Yet for Whitaker and his spouse, Kelly Thell, this is home.
They stood on their front porch on this June day, Thell carrying her bearded dragon on her shoulder. A sign on one of the trees tells folks to beware of rattlesnakes. Cattle skulls line a fence behind the house.
A son and his family live just through the trees.
"I like the peacefulness," said Thell, adding, "We like it here."
Kansas Agland Editor Amy Bickel has been chronicling Kansas' dead towns since 2010. For more on Corwin, visit www.KansasAgland.com.