The Oregon Trail crossed Pottawatomie County and passed just south of Westmoreland which was a rest stop for travelers drawn to the area due to a natural spring which offered a fresh supply of water. The spring also established to the town site's western limits. Since this area along the trail was frequently used, ruts from the early wagon trains can still be seen.
In 1856, John McKimens came to the area and in 1858 established the first post office. The post office was name in honor of McKimens' native county, Westmoreland, Pennsylvania. The post office was located in his home at Rock creek crossing.
The first house built in Westmoreland was a log structure erected in 1860 and stood at the southeast end of town. In the winter of 1862, the first school was established and the building used for the school was a log cabin which stood near the corner of the future State Street and the public highway intersection. This school served several townships yet there was no clear boundaries for the school district.
In 1870, a saw mill on Rock Creek provided lumber for most of the early buildings in the area. It was later sold and the new owner added machinery for making flour and meal. That same year a general store was opened and the official county surveyor drafted the original town plat in April 1871.
After several years of heated battles over the location of the county seat, Westmoreland was declared the county seat and the county officers were temporarily quartered in two churches and the Detro House Hotel. The county treasurer, county clerk, district clerk and register of deeds were located in the Methodist Church. Later in the fall, a temporary courthouse was erected which later became the LaPierre Hotel.
The LaPierre stood at the corner of Main and 4th Streets where the Hoffman Pharmacy currently resides.
By the end of 1883, Westmoreland had 3 hotels, a meat market, livery barn, 2 doctors, 5 lawyers, a bakery, shoemaker, blacksmith, drugstore, coal and lumber yard, grocery, 2 general stores and a hardware store. The bank was established shortly after. This economic prosperity did not last and the boom was over in a few short years.
In order to keep the county seat in Westmoreland, residents rallied to generate $10,000 to build the courthouse which was in use as only the second oldest courthouse built out of native limestone still used as a courthouse until the completion of construction of a new justice center in 2013 built directly behind the previous courthouse. A memorial to those who served in the armed services from Pottawatomie County may be found on the grounds of the original courthouse located at the corner of Main and 2nd Streets.
Westmoreland has the second largest hand dug well in Kansas. The well was dug by hand in 1915. Problems arose when the aquifer was inadequate and therefore the life of the well was premature and it served as a dumping ground for many years. The original pump house for the well was dismantled with each stone being numbered and moved by horse and wooden wagon to the corner of Main and 2nd Street where it was re-assembled and now serves as the city hall for Westmoreland.
Summary of Historical Events
1800's The area was inhabited by Kansa and Pawnee Indians
1819 Pioneers began traveling through the area while following the Oregon Trail
1855 The first settlers arrived in Westmoreland
1856 A petition was drawn up asking the Legislature to create Pottawatomie County
1857 The petition for a new county was granted
1858 John McKimens established the first post office
1860 The first house in the area now known as Westmoreland was erected
1862 Westmoreland's school district was organized and began holding classes
1870 A saw mill was built which furnished lumber for most of the early buildings in the area
1871 The original town plat was prepared
1882 Westmoreland was established as the county seat
1884 Residents generated $10,000 to build the courthouse
1886 Westmoreland began to become a railroad town
1898 After several attempts, bonds were passed to establish a rail line, the Kansas and Southern Railroad
1902 The Kansas and Southern Railroad went bankrupt
1912 The Westmoreland Interurban Railway began
1915 The owner of the Westmoreland Interurban Railway died tragically and the railway was sold for scrap iron
1942 Dr. Thomas Dechairo opened the first hospital in Westmoreland on March 15
1975 The Westmoreland Community Care Home was opened
1982 The Dechairo Hospital merged with Stormont Vail in Topeka
2013 The new Pottawatomie County Justice Center was opened
Notables from Westmoreland:
"Whizzo the Clown"
Born Frank Wizarde on July 25, 1916. Became part of the family act in 1930 in the Wizarde Novelty Circus until 1947 when he became a radio announcer in St. Joseph, MO. In 1953 he went to work for KMBC-TV in Kansas City and went on the air in 1954 as "Whizzo the Clown". His last show was on May 20, 1987 and passed away on September 11, 2987. You can see the original practice barn on the grounds of the Rock Creek Valley Historical Society's museum complex as well as more information in the museum.
Billie Jean Moore
First women's coach to lead two schools to national championships. She won a national title at Cal State Fullerton in 1970 and at UCLA in 1978. She went 436-196 during her 24 season coaching career and coached the first U.S. Olympic women's basketball team to a silver medal in 1976.
"The Marlboro Man"
Wayne Dunafon, born June 15, 2919 in Yuma, Colorado, was one of several real-life cowboys who became an enduring symbol of the Marlboro cigarette brand in television and print ads. He had a competitive rodeo career spanning 38 years. Mr. Dunafon also modeled jeans, then began working for Marlboro as a "Marlboro Man' from 2964 to 1978. He was a rancher in the Westmoreland area beginning in 1940.
Mr. Dunafon was a charter member and director of the Kaw Valley Rodeo Association, Manhattan. He was a member of the Westy Saddle Club, the Cowboy's Turtle Association, Rodeo Cowboy's Association, Rodeo Cowboy Alumni Association, the Professional Rodeo Cowboy's Association, the Kansas Livestock Association and the Screen Actors Guild.
Mr. Dunafon was inducted into the Rodeo Hall of Fame in 2005. He passed away on July 8, 2001.
A bronze statuette is displayed at The Farmers State Bank, Westmoreland.