Runnymede, Harper County
In late 1885 or early 1886, Francis J.S. "Ned" Turnly of Drumnasole, county Antrim, Ireland, arrived in Kansas and purchased land for farming. It was his intention to establish a town and provide farm and ranch training to English immigrants. He made trips back and forth from Kansas to England to promote his idea and eventually more than 100 British, Scottish, and Irish immigrants settled in a town called Runnymede.
Turnly located his ranch in Canton Township, Kingman County, between Harper and Norwich. In 1888 he along with several more recent arrivals located Runnymede near the Kingman/Harper County Line. The first business was a general store and a post office. In subsequent months several other businesses were established including a hotel, livery stables, drygoods store, grocery store, lumber yard, creamery, and soda pop factory. Runnymede items appeared in local newspapers beginning in 1886 (Harper Sentinel, Norwich News, and Wichita Eagle), documenting town activities.
Despite the respectable business ventures of Runnymede citizens, they were often regarded as frivilous and irresponsible. Those who had recently come from England were in fact quite wealthy and could afford to have a good time. They constructed courses for steeplechasing, a polo field, billiard parlor, and tennis courts.
On November 28, 1889, the cornerstone was laid for the Runnymede Episcopal Church. It was a small wood-frame structure with minimal Gothic Revival detailing. It was erected in a little more than a month and dedicated in May 1890. The pride of the English colony was the Runnymede Arms, which opened as a hotel in December 1889.
As popular as the town was to English immigrants, it was not enough to attract a rail line. Turnly was part of a group that was in negotiations with the Wichita & El Paso for several years. However it became clear in 1892 that the railroad would not be coming, and Turnly realized that the town would not be able to survive. Turnly left Kansas in July 1892 never to return.
Shortly thereafter, buildings that had been part of the town were removed to other locations, including the hotel, which was relocated to Alva, Oklahoma, and the church, which was taken to Harper. Today the church is listed in the National Register of Historic Places in remembrance of the historic town of Runnymede.
Entry: Runnymede, Harper County
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: July 2011
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