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J.B. Shields familyThe Ramona area was one of the last to be settled in Marion County. The first settlers arrived in the early 1880s. If the Kansas, Nebraska, and Chicago railroad had not been routed through this part of Marion County, Ramona would never have existed. The town was founded by the speculative Golden Belt Town Company, which filed a town plat in April 1887.

Mr. John Noll, who sold the land to the Golden Belt Town Company, suggested the town be named Shields, Kansas, in honor of J.B. Shields, Ramona's first school teacher, and a man beloved by the community. However the railroad discovered that there was already another town with this name, on the Missouri Pacific railroad line, in western Kansas. So the name RAMONA was chosen instead. There are three suggestions as to where the name came from, and they may have all had an influence: Ramona was the name of a beautiful Indian maiden; Ramona was the title of a well-known novel, by Helen Hunt Jackson, describing the mistreatment of the Indians by white settlers and the U.S. Government; Ramona was the name of a popular song of the era.

The first settlers arrived in the early 1880s and had names like Ausherman, Shirk, Strickler, Buttel, Sondergard, Weber, Oyster, Fike, Brandt, Applegate, Kramer, Brunner, Brechbill, Albrecht, Helbach, Bernhardt, Deines, Schneider, Hanschu, Domann, Sader and Schubert.  Some of these families had emigrated straight from Europe, and as the names indicate, many were of German ancestry. 

The history of land ownership in Ramona dates back to when the land was owned by Spain.  On July 16, 1799, Manuel De Lisa, a New Orleans merchant, petitioned the Lt. Governor at New Orleans for two grants of land (one for himself and one for his brother).  He asked for 6,000 arpens each. (An arpen is a French term of measurement and equals about one acre.) Marion County Deed Book B shows that Manuel Lisa had 6,439.32 acres in Marion County, and the Ramona area was part of this acreage.

When Manuel De Lisa died in 1820, he willed half of his land to his nephew and the other half to his wife, Mary.  After Mary died, her executor sold the land to A.W. Allen of Kansas City for $4,804.58 in 1870.  The land that was to become Ramona was sold several times before the town was platted in 1887.

Ramona has always been a small community, however, in order to incorporate in 1909, there had to be at least 250 citizens to qualify as a third class city. It petitioned for incorporation December 14, 1909 and the Board of County Commissioners gave its approval January 3, 1910.

Ramona flourished with a population between 250 and 300, until the 1930s, and then people began moving out. Today the population hovers around 125.  There are currently 46 households in Ramona. Only a handful of families who live in city limits have ancestral roots in Ramona; many  have chosen Ramona because they prefer the small-town atmosphere, and the cost of living is more affordable than in larger towns.

Alfred Sondergard, is the only Ramona resident (within city limits) who can claim that he’s lived his entire life in Ramona.  He was born in 1922,  and got married in 1942 to Darlene Helbach. “Al and I have lived our entire married life together here in Ramona,” said Mrs. Sondergard, “except when we were first married and Al was in the Navy and oversees.”  As of 2012, they have lived all their 69 years together, in a lovely little white house with black shutters, on E Street.

Jayme Brunner was also born in Ramona, in 1972, and has lived his whole life here.  His children—Kaitlin and Solomon—are fifth generation Ramona-ites.  They are descendants of G.H. & Eva Brunner.  Jayme’s father, Jim Brunner,  was another life-long resident.

implements_sm.jpgBetty Ohm is another long-time resident who began her life in Ramona when she married Harold Ohm in 1952.  For 48 years the Ohm family lived on Ramona’s main street, living in the back of the restaurant that they bought shortly before they married.  They sold the building when they retired in September, 2000. Harold and Betty continued to live in Ramona on B Street; Harold passed away in 2010, but Betty can still be seen taking her daily walks around town.

Henry Schubert was born on a farm west of Ramona in 1914, and moved into town later in life, after he married a Ramona school teacher, Gertrude Hicks, in 1945. Together, Hank and Gertie became the unofficial town historians, by virtue of the fact that they had lived here most of their adult lives. When the Ramona Centennial arrived in 1987, they were very involved in the celebration--Hank as President of the committee, and Gertie collecting the historical pictures and artifacts for the informal museum that was housed in one of the downtown buildings.

Years later, in 2000, when the Schubert's nieces, Pat Wick and Jessica Gilbert, moved to Ramona from California, Gertie shared the pictures and documents that she'd collected over the years, so her nieces could create the Dirt Gambler's Museum in Ramona. Dirt Gamblers MuseumGertie had a life-long dream to have a museum because she was passionate about history, and she was thrilled to finally see all the historical pictures on display.  When Hank and Gertie moved to Colorado in 2004 to be near their sons, Gertie left her entire historical collection with Pat and Jess. Because of her generosity, and her love of a place that she she called her own (even though she was not born here), this section of the website is rich with pictures, giving a glimpse of life in Ramona, from over 100 years ago.

California SistersMany stories about Ramona families were featured in The Ramona News, a quarterly publication that was produced by Pat Wick & Jessica Gilbert, from 2001-2008.  Pat, a prolific writer and photographer, has been recording the stories of the families who have resided in this area for several generations. Her photographs of the Ramona area span more than 30 years. The majority of color photographs on this website came from her collection.

Everyone with a Ramona address—whether in the country or in town— has an impact on this quaint prairie community.  Whether the family names are rooted in generations of history—like Fike, Brunner, Deines, and Hanschu—or planted here in recent decades—like Smith, Bailey, Svoboda, and Stroda—they all leave their imprint. Even residents who may arrive like the leaves in the hopeful Spring, and move on in some distant Fall, they, too, leave some part of themselves, to be forever imbedded in Ramona’s constantly-unfolding history.

Without a sense of caring, there can be no sense of community.

- Anthony D'Angelo

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Ramona Hotel

In the early days, commerce thrived in Ramona. With the arrival of the railroad, one of the first buildings on main street was a boarding house, operated by the Ausherman family. The Aushermans came to Kansas from Pennsylvania in the early 1880s, and settled north of Ramona where the Rosebank church is now located (200th Street). They farmed and operated a postal station on the route from Abilene to Marion, and when Ramona came onto the rural landscape, they built a two-story hotel on the west side of main street.

ramona_hotel.jpgThe hotel offered accommodations for railroad workers who were building the railroad lines through Kansas. While the Missouri Pacific railroad went through Hope and Herington, the Rock Island headed south to Lost Springs and Lincolnville. In 1887, the railroad line reached Ramona; Tampa and Durham followed.

The hotel also offered lodging to traveling salesmen, called “Drummers,” who traveled by train with their trunks of merchandise samples, calling on Ramona merchants to take orders. The hotel also served meals for the traveling public, and the local business people, as well. It was a valuable asset to the community at that time. Eventually, the hotel was torn down by Henry Beltz, and the lumber was used to build a farm house northeast of town.

For nearly 100 years, Ramona had no hotel or boarding house, until 2000, when the California Sisters—Pat Wick & Jessica Gilbert—moved from California to Ramona, and turned the old Lutheran church parsonage, at 4th and D, into a bed and breakfast, called Cousins’ Corner. They opened their doors for business in 2001. Once more, the railroad—this time the Union Pacific—brought steady business.

A railroad crew came to the area to fix ties and repair crossings, and the crew supervisor heard we had a bed and breakfast. We were living in the house, doing remodeling, but when they asked to stay at the house, we had it ready for them within 12 hours, and my sister was ready to serve them bacon and eggs for breakfast.
Pat Wick

cousins_corner_sm.jpgThe sisters have operated their guesthouses for over a decade; their customers include railroad crews, itinerate constructions workers, folks who have roots in Ramona, and return for reunions and funerals, and city folks, who have no ties whatsoever to Ramona, but want to experience a slice of rural America.


old_barbershop_inside_sm.jpgThe barbershop building has been the site of several businesses through the years. The little building still stands on the west side of main street. In 1887, Reinhart Fiel built the structure for his harness and shoe repair shop. He was a master of his trade and served Ramona until his death in the 1920s.

The building was then remodeled for a barbershop, operated by Carl Kramer, who came to Ramona in 1906, from the Junction City area, and conducted his barbering business in several different buildings, until settling in the small building, which today is located at 207 D Street. In 1929 Carl sold his business to his son, Raymond.

I grew up south of Ramona. One day I came into town with my grandpa (I was just a little girl at the time), and while my grandpa conducted his business in town, I headed straight for the barbershop, all by myself. ‘I want a windblown haircut,’ I announced to the barber, Carl Kramer. I climbed into the barber’s chair and he began to cut. By the time he was done, I looked like I’d been stripped of hair. When Mr. Kramer said ‘That’ll be 25 cents,’ I realized I didn’t have any money, so I told him that I’d pay him the next time I was in town. When I got home, my mother saw the new haircut, and exclaimed, ‘What on earth have you done!’ and when I told the story (including the part about not having 25 cents to pay the barber) my mom wasn’t amused. She gave me a good spanking!
> Rachel (Koch) Epp - from an interview in the Ramona News, 2003


old_barbershop_inside.jpgOther barbers, who snipped their way into Ramona history, were Victor Bernhardt, David Spellman, and Glen “Curly” Bernhardt, the last barber in town. Curly cut his last head of hair in 1966.

barber_sm.jpgThrough the years the little barbershop building has had several owners—Clinton Hanschu, Reign Anduss and most recently Pat Wick, who turned it into a gallery and gift shop from 2005-2007. In honor of the many barbers that cut hair in the building, Pat called her shop “The Barbershop Gallery.”

The building no longer holds a business, but you can still see the barber, giving a little boy a haircut, if you look in the window—they’re “scarecrow figures,” but they’re reminders of the good ‘ole days when Ramona had a barbershop, and you could get a haircut for “two bits.”
Some of the first buildings on main street in the 1890s were ones that housed the various incarnations of S. C. Eskeldson’s businesses. Unfortunately, none of them remain.

My dad came to Ramona in 1890, when he was just 16 years old, from Denmark. Dad had to learn to read and write English upon his arrival in the United States. He did have family already living in Ramona—his sister, Kristina, was married to N.P.J “Pete” Sondergard—and so he had a place to stay. Eventually my dad and Pete became business partners. I was the last of the ‘tribe’ of seven kids, so by the time I was an adult, Dad didn’t have much to say, and so I don’t have many details about my father’s business life. But I do remember one thing he said, often: ‘You really don’t know people til you deal money with them.'
Steve Eskeldson (son of S.C. Eskeldson) - From a 2012 conversation with Jessica Gilbert; Eskeldson still lives on the family farm, northeast of Ramona.

Eskeldson and Sondergard

implements_sm.jpgbradleys_sm.jpgBoth S.C. Eskeldson and Pete Sondergard came from Denmark, and were brother-in-laws for a time. Sondergard was employed as a blacksmith for the railroad (in Herington) when he first came to this area, and decided to start his own business in Ramona. He asked Eskeldson—a wheelwright—to join him. Eskeldon’s skill was a very valuable one at the time—since replacement parts of farm machinery and wagons were not available, so one had to turn to a “smithy” to forge needed parts.

Soon Eskeldson and Sondergard added a dealership for McCormick-Deering Farm implements, which was very successful, because the population was increasing and the demands for implements was rising right along with it.

vehicles_hardware_sm.jpgEventually, Mr. Eskeldson built a hardware and implement building, where he continued his business. In 1915 he sold the business to Roy Bird, who later sold it to the Woodrow Wilson family, and finally John Biehler. Around 1922 Clarence Neis operated a restaurant on the first floor of the building, and there was a theater on the second floor. One year it was even used as the gymnasium for the Ramona High School basketball team.

When Pete Sondergard, Eskeldon’s business partner, retired in 1907 from the “smithy” business, he leased his blacksmith shop, and moved to Lost Springs to open a flourmill. Eventually, Otto Kuether purchased Sondergard’s blacksmith shop. The last “smithy” in Ramona was William Weber, who operated his shop from 1937 until his retirement in the 1960s.

ramona_garage_sm.jpgBeing progressive in his business ventures, S.C. Eskeldson decided to open a Ford dealership in Ramona, and call it the Ramona Garage. This time he partnered with Niels Sondergard—Pete Sondergard’s nephew—who was the mechanic for the garage.

This was a very prosperous business during the hey-day of the motel-T Ford. Many of us can recall when Fords were shipped in by railroad, four to a boxcar. They came unassembled. The chassis were stacked at one end of the railroad car, and the bodies at the other. The fenders and wheels were piled in the middle, at the doorway. Workers removed the fenders and wheels first, then the chassis and then a body, with the fenders piled onto the body. It was then pushed down the ramp and steered down the street to the garage, to be fully assembled and prepared for sale. My dad would buy a car and then sell it to one of the farmers, after teaching him to drive. No driver’s license was needed—just $300-$400 to buy the car.
Dale Sondergard (Pete Sondergard’s son) - Excerpt from A Century of Memories, written by Dale Sondergard for Ramona’s Centennial celebration in 1987

ford_sm.jpgCompetition from the new Model-A Fords and the 1928-29 Chevrolets impacted the Ramona Garage business, so S.C. Eskeldson sold his interest in the business to his partner, Sondergard, who took on new partners—John Dorsch and Jake Schnell.

implements_sm.jpgIn 1945 Oren and Lauren “Babe” Daetwiler bought the garage, and ran the business until 1955, when Alfred “Kink” Sondergard (son of Niels Sondergard) took over and operated the garage until 1987. The last owner of the building was Maurice Stroda. By this time, the garage was primarily a gas station and Maurice also operated a repair business. In 2001 a heavy snowstorm caused the roof of the grand old building to collapse, leaving only the back part of the garage, which can still be seen on the east, when you drive down main street.


kleopfers_sm.jpgThere were other garages and tractor dealerships through the years. In 1916, J.H. Brubaker built a large red brick building, on the east side of main street, to house a dealership for farm implements, automobiles and Avery tractors. Harvey “Barney” Kleopfer leased part of the building for an automotive repair business—Kleopfer’s Garage and Machine Shop—who was the first professionally-trained mechanic in the area.

tatge_sm.jpgIn 1927, the Tatge brothers—Harlan and Edwin—purchased the Brubaker building and established a dealership for John Deere farm implements and Chevrolet automobiles. Farm implement demonstration days were an annual event in Ramona. These occasions drew crowds from far and near.

I remember as a kid, what excitement there was in town, when the latest implements were showcased by the Tatge brothers. It was like a carnival was in town—there were hot dogs and other foods served, and the streets were filled with curious farmers.
Laurel Ehrhardt (From a conversation with his daughter, Pat Wick, 2006)

The Tatge brothers were very astute businessmen, providing employment for many in the community. They were an asset to Ramona for over 20 years.

New farm implements were difficult to obtain during and after WWII, so the Tatges searched several states for used machines, and hauled them to Ramona. They used the good parts from several machines to make one really good one. They deserve a lot of credit for such foresight and initiative.
Dale Sondergard - (Excerpt from A Century of Memories)

Ed Tatge eventually sold his interest in the implement company, and became an extensive wheat and livestock farmer in Colorado and Kansas. His brother, Harlan, moved the implement business to Herington and sold it, becoming associated with the Welsh Manufacturing Company at Herington. Prior to 1987, they purchased the old Ramona high school building and established a small manufacturing company called Tox-O-Wik Cattle Insecticide Applicator. This business continues to this day in Ramona, and is owned by Warren Gfellar, a businessman from Kansas City.

(picture coming)The last owner of the red brick building, called the Tatge building, was Norma Weber and her son, Jim Weber. The building was a Ramona landmark until 1995, when it was torn down because the structure became unsafe.

Just south of the Tatge building is a small building that, in Ramona’s early days, served as the post office in Ramona. When the post office relocated to a building on the west side of the street, Jess Oyster converted the building into a restaurant.


inside cafeThe Albrights had been operating the restaurant in the late 1940s and had closed the business, so the owner of the building was looking for a buyer. Harold and Betty Ohm purchased the property on March 21, 1952, just days before they got married on April 3. Betty opened the restaurant/bar herself when she arrived in Ramona—she was barely 19.

The Ohms turned this structure into their home, eventually raising their three daughters there—and turned their front room into what became affectionately know as “Ramona’s living room.” The cafe was the social hub of Ramona.

In 1952 there were 14 businesses in town, besides our cafe: Strickler’s Mercantile, Curly’s Barbershop, Lizzie Mohn’s cream station, Oscar Applegate’s real estate office, Grover Anderson’s grocery store, Jack Anderson’s post office/hardware store (in the same building). There was the bank, the central telephone office, a gas station owned by Henry Albright, Marie Hicks’s liquor store, Alvin Sader’s television repair shop, the Sader Café, the elevator, and the train depot.
Betty Ohm: (From an interview in the Ramona News, 2006)

ohms_sm.jpgBetty and Harold retired from the restaurant business in 2000. They stayed in Ramona, moving to a house on Second Street. The restaurant was sold at auction to Jeannie Weber Goza, who operated her own restaurant, Cheers II, for several years. This little historical building still stands on the east side of main street; it’s used as a residence.

Ramona has been blessed with many restaurant owners through the years: Clarence Neis, Ira Miller, Ezra Riffel, Shorty Mortimer, Wilbur Liddell, Ray Kramer, Dale Sondergard, Harry & Georgia Berger, Pete & Hannah Sader, Greg & Lori Stenzel, Harold & Betty Ohm, Jeannie Goza, Reign and Marlene Anduss.

Badger Lumber

badger_lumber_sm.jpgOne of the oldest structures in Ramona is the former Badger Lumber Company, located on the east side of main street, at the south entrance to town. (The Badger Lumber Company also had lumberyards in Herington, Marion, Elmo, Hope, Abilene, Tampa, and Durham.) Mr. Al Peterson was the first manager at the Ramona store, followed by Robert Telfer, who managed the operation until the Depression, when the store temporarily closed. It re-opened under the management of Les Hungerford, and operated for another ten years.

When the enterprise closed, the lumber shed was removed. The store building was sold to Harry and Georgia Berger, who used the building for a restaurant, as did Pete and Hannah Sader, and Greg and Lori Stenzel. Don and Norma Bird bought the building in 1988, and Norma operated an antique business there until 2007.

hanschu_mkt_sm.jpgDaniel Merilatt, a farmer who lived east of Ramona, established the first general store in Ramona in 1887. He built a two-room building, located on the west side of main street, a short distance north of the first intersection in town (where the Ramona Senior Center is now located). Later the building would be used as the first bank, and later as a restaurant.

I remember ‘Butter and Egg Night’ in Ramona, when everyone came to town on Saturday nights to trade goods, enjoy fellowship with neighbors, or dine in one of the cafes. You could hardly find a place to park. We girls would go over to Lizzie Mohn’s Creamery, where she would weigh us. Or we’d go over to Billy Oyster’s Café to purchase a Mr. Goodbar for five cents.
Anna Mae (Sader) Stika - (From an interview in the Ramona News, 2002)

Strickler & Company

Strickler & Co., founded by the J.S. Strickler family, became Ramona’s most prominent general store. Joseph Strickler came to Marion County from Virginia, with his family of 11 children. He had successfully operated a grain elevator in Virginia for 15 years, so when he moved to Ramona, he built an elevator on the railroad property. Later he became a partner with J.B. Shirk in operating a general store, while continuing the elevator business.

strickler_inside_sm.jpgRamona ElevatorsAs the mercantile prospered, Strickler built a large store, on the west side of main street, at the south entrance into town. When Shirk retired, Strickler was sole owner of this prosperous business. His five sons, helped run the mercantile, as well as the elevator. The store served the community for over 70 years until an unfortunate fire, in February 1955, destroyed the building.

The elevator, still a prominent landmark in Ramona, later became a farmers’ cooperative. It dominants the Ramona skyline to this day, and is owned and operated by Agri-Producers of Tampa, Kansas. These days, there’s little activity at the elevator, until summer harvest rolls around.

The building that has housed many grocery stores in Ramona, still stands on the west side of main street.  Robert Greer, who used it as a combination cream station and grocery store, constructed the building.  This small grocerty continued in business, throughout the next 100 years and these families were some of the owners:  Robert Greer, Jim Nelson, Grover and Eva Anderson, Jake & Bertha Schneider, Salu and Hannah Brunner, and Clinton and Frances Hanschu, who retired in 2000.

When I was in my youth, I worked for a short time at the grocery store when it was owned by Saul & Hannah Brunner.  I remember Hannah coming around from the back of the meat counter and saying, 'Sell the Hamburger for three pounds for a dollar today!' Imagine that!
Anna Mae (Sader) Stika - from an interview in the Ramona News, 2002

When the Hanschu Market closed in 2000, Reign and Marlene Anduss from Peabody bought the building, and opened a restaurant in 2001. Marlene’s homemade pies were reason alone to drive to Ramona, and Reign’s fried chicken buffets had folks waiting in line on Sundays. The Andusses eventually moved to Ramona, and operated the café until December, 2006.

A.G. “Archie” Greer and his sister, Marie, built a store on the northwest corner of what is now Third and D Streets in Ramona.  The year was 1901. The Greers came from Ireland in 1890 and spent a decade working in New York City, before coming to Ramona. Archie was employed by a large mercantile firm in New York, and Marie was employed by several wealthy New York families—including the Vanderbilts who lived on the Hudson River.

tooltime TimRoutinely, throughout the years, the old bank building needed to either have the floors leveled and jacked up, or the roof tarred to keep it from leaking. In 2009, when Tim unexpectedly died of a brain tumor at the age of 48, the sisters could no longer maintain the building. Many of the historic pictures were moved to other buildings for safekeeping. The museum closed in 2009,and until the day the building is torn down, the sisters will keep displays in the windows to add life to main street Ramona.

Gas Stations

The Ramona Oil Company was started because automobiles were becoming more prominent. Howard Button built a bulk gas station, on the triangle of land just north of the railroad tracks (the intersection of 3rd and F, today). Two large storage tanks, and pumps, were on this land, with a pipeline running to the railroad siding, since gasoline was shipped in by tank car. Mr. Button was a farmer when he began this company, but as business flourished, he eventually gave up farming. The Durham Oil Company bought the business in 1929, followed by Newt Kleopfer, and finally, Ben Brunner.

Other Businesses

Besides gas stations, Ramona had a wide variety of other businesses through the years: shoe and harness shop run by Fiel and Lemley, cream stations owned by Lena Hackler and Lizzie Mohn, and another by James Nelson. a jewelry and watch repair shop by George Klover, and a drug store operated by the resident doctor, Doc Saylor.

Dr. John Harvery Saylor completed his medical training at Kansas University in 1904, and promptly came to Ramona to practice. He began his practice in the days of horse and buggy, and almost lost his life on one occasion, while trying to reach a patient during a snowstorm—his rig was struck by an oncoming train at the crossing east of Ramona, near the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. The horse was killed, and the buggy demolished. With a broken leg, Doc Saylor crawled to the church parsonage for help. Dr. Saylor served the Ramona community until 1925, when he left to serve as Marion County’s first Health Officer. As for other medical services in Ramona, they were sparse, except for a traveling dentist—Dr. C.J. Hood—who periodically brought his chair and equipment to town.

click on pictures for larger images and descriptions

old_depot_sm.jpgThe railroad was a vital part of Ramona’s history. In fact, the town sprang up because the railroad came through this territory. Ramona was established by the Rock Island railroad as the first station southwest of Herington, which was the dividing point. Settlers started arriving in the late 1870s and early 1880s. The arrival of large groups of immigrants, especially the Dutch-German-Russian Mennonites, was made possible by the railroad. Railroads advertised the advantages of Kansas throughout the eastern United States and even Europe, distributing printed leaflets in Dutch, German, Swedish, Danish, French and Russian, about the opportunities in the mid-west.

According to Marion County, Past and Present, "One year before the railroad came through, the population (in Marion County) stood at 767. Ten years later, after the railroad came through, the population in Marion County was 12,471…..the land was worth nothing until the railroad reached it.” One Kansas historian said that the railroad “turned the great American desert into an oasis.”

Kansas was especially appealing because there was a state law that allowed men who belonged to non-resistance groups—like the Mennonites—to be exempt from military service. Other advantages were the freedoms offered in the United States—political, social, religious and economic—and the ability to own land, which was often restricted or impossible in European countries.

old_train_station_sm.jpgThe Santa Fe railroad went so far as to charter a Red Star ocean steamer to bring Mennonite goods and implements to the United States, and when they reached New York, the railroad transported them by rail to Kansas, for free! While the railroads lost money for a few years because of all the free services they provided, in the long run, their strategy paid off, because when these thrifty, hardworking farmers became prosperous, they did a lot of shipping!

Trains could transport supplies and food to settlers, and haul produce to market more quickly than wagon trains—traveling 20 miles per hour—while a wagon could maybe travel 20 miles in a day. The cost to ship freight was less expensive by train—a stagecoach might charge 20 a mile, where trains charged 5 to 7cents. (From Marion County, Past and Present.)

 The Rock Island Depot was one of one of my favorite places in town.  In Ramona, we walked everywhere, and leaving for a trip was no exception. I remember toting suitcases down the street as we walked to the depot. In the center of the depot was an old potbelly stove, which provided warmth, as we waited to board the train that would take us to see relatives in Wisconsin, Illinois and other far-off places. Since my father worked for the railroad, we had a free pass to travel.

Anna Mae (Sader) Stika (From an interview in the Ramona News, 2002)


In the mid-1880s, two railroads—the Rock Island and Santa Fe—built tracks that crossed each other, just northeast of Ramona. This crossing became known as “Jacob’s Crossing,” named after the Jacobs family—some of the first folks to settle in this area.

To service the trains with water, the Santa Fe built a large water tank on the right-of-way, so steam locomotives could replenish their water tanks. The train companies also built a pump house and a dam to hold back the water on Lyons Creek. Water from the dam was pumped to the tank that towered about 42 feet in the air.

In the early days, Mr. Ramsey, from Strong City, came every day on the motor car, better known as the “doodlebug,” to pump water into the tank. Later, two farmers from the area—Charles Daetwiler and Ted Beltz—took on this job.

Dale Sondergard: (Excerpt from A Century of Memories.)   


In 1902, my grandfather, Abraham Lincoln Beltz, moved near Jacob’s Crossing, and built a new creamery near the water refueling station for the Santa Fe and Rock Island Railroads. He also built an icehouse down near the creek where the dam was located. In the winter he and his boys could cut ice blocks to store in the icehouse, so they could keep their butter and ice cream cold for shipping. They named their business “The Pleasant View Creamery” and operated it in the country for another 20 years, buying cream, milk and eggs from local farmers.

Mike Beltz: (From an interview for the Ramona News, 2008)


 The dam on Lyons Creek also created a nice wide body of water, so we had a good swimming hole in the summer, and a great place to ice skate during the winter.

Dale Sondergard


There was a caboose depot near the water tank, which provided a place to wait for the doodlebug, or other passenger services. Tickets were purchased from the conductor, once you got on the train. Folks used the train to get to Abilene or Hope for medical appointments, or to go shopping in Herington.  This custom continued well into the 1940s.  

The Santa Fe railroad also had a stockyard on their right-of-way at Jacob’s Crossing. Cattle were shipped to this station and kept there to rest overnight, or contained by ranchers for dehorning. Weighing was done at the other end of the journey since there was no scale at this site.

As locomotives changed from steam power to diesel, the need for the water tank was eliminated. Eventually the stockyard was razed, the caboose depot burned to the ground when transients took hay into the building to keep warm and bed down, and the dam on the creek was blown. Lyons Creek is back to being just a small spring-fed stream.

train_crossing_sm.jpgDale Sondergard


A Union Pacific steam engine, built in 1944, came “whooshing” through Ramona in 2006. A group of train lovers gathered at the tracks to await the majesty of this 62-year-old antique. As they sipped coffee and enjoyed donuts, memories were brought to mind.

The last time a steam locomotive traveled the rails from Herington to Ramona was in 1953. I remember when there used to be two steam-driven passenger trains—Engines No. 39 and No. 40—that came by Ramona every single day. 

Warren Fike


 When Warren and I were dating (1946), I lived in Tampa and he lived in Ramona. I longed for him to write me the occasional love letter, and would often run down to the post office after school to see if I had any mail. You see, Warren could mail a note in the morning from Ramona, and it would reach Tampa by the afternoon mail, because the trains transported the mail twice a day—once in the morning and again in the afternoon.

Paula Fike


I can still see Mr. Klover, standing there by the railroad tracks waiting for the train to come. Do you know, that’s how he died; a train hit him. He was deaf and didn’t hear it coming.

Martha Ehrhardt


train_crossing_sm.jpgTrains still rumble through Ramona—Union Pacific freight trains—shaking the earth so intensely that folks feel it several blocks away. And whistles still blow in the dead of night, so loudly, that one is awakened from sleep. And because Ramona has a double track, the trains regularly sit on both tracks, blocking entrance and exit from town. When that happens, folks say, “the iron curtain has dropped.”

It’s been more than a century since the first trains clattered and puffed through Ramona, and over the years, much has changed. There’s no passenger service, no depot, no mail delivered, no herds of cattle pushed aboard or automobiles rolled out of boxcars.  Nevertheless, part of Ramona’s identity will always be wrapped up in trains. There’s just something about their power that intrigues us, no matter what our age.

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ramona_hotel.jpgThe United States Post Office was established in Ramona on August 9, 1887,  by the Ausherman family, and was located in their hotel. Mr. Tom Urie—one of the early telegraph operators for the railroad—lived at the hotel, and also assisted with the postal work. He married the Ausherman’s daughter, Metta, who was the first United States postmaster. The post office remained in the hotel for over 20 years.




ramona_poA more permanent location, built especially for the post office, was constructed around 1910, and Mr. John Weiss was the postmaster. The post office operated here until 1935-1936, when it moved to the west side of the street, into a leased space on the southwest corner of the intersection. The post office is still located here in 2012.




 postmaster Diepenbrock


It was a wonderful, heart-warming experience being Ramona postmaster. I felt like the bartender at Cheers (the television show), because the community people came in, and we visited and shared stories. I remember one time when a customer played a trick on me—Collin Bailey put a black plastic rat in his postal box, and then waited in the lobby until I discovered it. I think he delighted in hearing me scream.

 Marlyn Diepenbrock, 1998 - 2000


I form a bond with all my customers—I know their families, I see them every day, I know what’s happening in their lives, and I feel connected to them. And then I become protective of them—especially the older citizens in town—I become like extended family. If someone doesn’t come in for a couple of days to get their mail, I call them. If I don’t hear from them, I check with relatives. This happened a few years ago when one of our older residents, Neal Elgin, didn’t come get his mail. I called his relatives in Texas and Missouri and they asked me to go in the house and check on him. My husband and I found Neal; he had died of a heart attack.

 Kathy Matkins: Postmaster 2000 - 2015


The rural carrier is a vital part of the postal system in Ramona. Daniel Merilatt was the first rural carrier; he served for only one year. In 1888, he was followed by Frank Liddel, who continued until his death in 1929. Mail delivery was accomplished primarily with horse and buggy in this era. Even after Liddel bought a reliable Model-T Ford, he still used his team of horses when bad weather made the muddy roads impossible to travel.

Eventually, it was bad weather that caused Mr. Liddel’s demise; his car got stuck in a snow bank and he was so determined to deliver the mail that he walked the rest of his route.  Exhausted, he arrived at the post office in Ramona, walked in the door, collapsed, and died.

Mr. Liddel’s dedication brings new meaning to the code of the U.S. Postal Service: “Come rain, sleet or snow, the postal service will deliver.”

steve_jirak.jpgSteve Jirak has been the rural carrier for 29 years (as of 2012), and still delivers the mail to the rural Ramona-Tampa area. He began his career in 1983.  

 My worst day in 29 years of delivering mail was my first day. The high that day was 7° below zero—the worst blizzard I’d ever experienced. I couldn’t see where I was going, because it was so cold that the defroster couldn’t keep the windshield clear. I was driving my brother’s 4-wheel pick-up,  and ended up hitting a 10’ snowdrift at 30 MPH. The impact was so great that the radiator was pushed into the fan blade. It took me 2 hours to dig myself out. (In those days we had no cell phones to call for help.) The truck got me home, but I couldn’t finish my route. In 29 years—and 11 cars—it’s all been easier than my first day. I figure if I can survive that, I can handle anything!

Steve Jirak, Ramona Rural Carrier


In 2011 the United States Postal Service announced massive closures of post offices, citing losses in revenue in the last decade, as electronic technology becomes the favored method of sending information. The rural post offices were the first on the closure list because populations in small towns are dwindling. Ramona was proposed for closure as early as January 2012.

po_poster_sm.jpgA “Save the Post Office” campaign was launched by concerned citizens, with Jessica Gilbert as chairperson. She wrote letters to everyone from Postmaster General Donahoe to the President Obama. Concerned citizens attended an area meeting in October, where postal officials came to hear citizen’s concerns, and people barraged their senators and congressmen with letters, asking them to protect the postal service, which is so vital to Ramona.

Ramona got a momentary reprieve when Kansas Senator Jerry Moran, introduced an amendment to the 21st Century Postal Service Act, which “would prevent the Postal Service from closing any post office until new service standards are in place.” These standards would address demographics—such as population and age—in addition to revenue production. In December 2011 the community received word that the predicted post office closure was put on hold until May 2012.

postoffice_sign.jpgThen in May, word came that the post office would remain open until 2014.  However, small post offices can expect reduction in business hours, and other changes that reduce the U.S.P.S. expenses, yet keep service in small towns.

For many in the community, the closure of the post office would move Ramona one step closer to becoming a ghost town, since the post office is the last full-time business on main street.

If you want to help save the post office, buy your stamps from Ramona. Revenue helps determine what offices get closed. Call Kathy Matkins 785-965-7171 (open 8am-4pm); she knows the true meaning of “customer service.” She has “stamps-by-mail” customers from coast to coast. Every sale helps keep Ramona on the map.





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Ramona's first schoolOn March 22, 1884, a few Ramona settlers met at a private residence to discuss organizing Ramona’s first school. Chairman of the committee was Mr. J.M. Crow, and Joseph Miller was appointed Secretary.  Other officers were: Mrs. Al Merilatt, Director, Joseph Miller, Clerk, and J.R. Noll, Treasurer.

Three months later, an election was held to vote for a bond issue, so a school building could be constructed. The first grade school was built a mile west of Ramona, on the corner of what is now 360th and Pawnee. School District #90 was established that same year. Originally the school was called Noll School, since the school was built on J.R. Noll’s land, but two years later when the town was formed in 1887, and named Ramona, the school name was changed to Ramona School.

J.B. ShieldsSome stories say that J.B. Shields was the first teacher at this school, and others say it was W.M. Brock. In the Ramona centennial history book, published in 1987, it is believed that Mr. Shields was first, and Mr. Brock, followed.

Mr. Shields lived four miles southeast of Ramona, and was often seen walking to school, no matter what the weather. He was so revered by the community that his last name was considered when the town was being named. However, there was already a Shields, Kansas on the railroad line, and so the name Ramona was selected, instead.

In 1899, the school site was changed from out of town, to a plot of land on the southeast corner of Ramona, on land owned by J. M. Potter. The community soon outgrew the building, and it was sold to the Church of the Brethren. They moved the building north of the schoolyard—between the school and the Strickler residence, on the north corner of the block—and remodeled the building as their church. A two-story school building was constructed to take its place. In 1905, it was struck by lightening and could no longer be used.

1905 School BuildingOut of the ashes of the burned school building came a much larger building with two stories, and four large rooms. In 1909 a high school was added to the elementary school that was already in this building. The first classes to graduate were in the spring of 1913.  

By 1924 the school was, once more, too crowded, making it necessary to build two brick school buildings—one for grade school pupils, and another for high school students. School Superintendent Richard Allen, initiated the first steps in the process by appointing a committee of three businessmen—Dr. J.H. Saylor, Jess Buttel and J.H. Brubaker—to promote the building program.  The first step was to consolidate the five surrounding rural districts with the “home district” #90 that was established in 1884. Meetings and elections were held, but in the end, only one of the rural districts—Lincoln—chose to consolidate with Ramona.

These two districts voted to build a new grade school in Ramona, costing approximately $35,000. The school was completed and occupied on January 10, 1926. This modern building had two stories, with seven classrooms, two restrooms and a steam heating system.

Elementary School 1926A high school building was also needed for the community, so organizers had many meetings establishing the boundaries of the school district, which had to be approved by the county commissioners. On April 20, 1925, the vote was held and a large majority was in favor of such a school district. The school board was authorized to issue and sell bonds in the amount of $45,000. Work began that summer, and the school was completed a year later.

The building was a wonderful educational facility. The first floor had an academic classroom, a two-room suite for Home Economics and the Manual Training Departments, and a large auditorium/gymnasium.  The second floor contained three classrooms, a study hall (capable of seating 100 pupils), a library, rooms for the Science Department, the superintendent’s office and a balcony for the auditorium.

1926 School BusOn February 19, 1926, the grand opening of the school took place when the new Rural Ramona High School was dedicated. About 600 people attended the celebration, and everyone came with baskets of food, and dinner was served cafeteria-style. Lunch was followed by a program in the auditorium.

The first year the enrollment was 42; in following years the high school enrollment would swell to more than 60, on average. The first class to graduate from the four-year high school were as follows: Oscar Christenson, who began his teaching career in the Ramona system and retired from a professorship at the Oregon State University in Monmouth, Oregon; George Haire, farmer; Harry Harmon, career accountant, Topeka, Kansas; Balford Shields, attorney, Chicago, Illinois; Simon Shields, farmer; Roland Urie, doctor, Parsons, Kansas; Viola Musick, teacher, Mankota, Minnesota; Ernest and Iva (Ecker) Musick, mercantile store in Canton, Kansas.

Ramona High SchoolAthletics was always popular among the students and the community, but in the early days the facilities were quite limited. Basketball began on a dirt and sand court in the schoolyard, and games were held in the livery barn loft, the Brubaker garage, and the second floor of the old Eskeldson Hardware building. When the new high school opened, the large gymnasium was a wonderful gift to the students and the community.

Baseball DiamondBasketball games drew townspeople to the school facility in the winter, and during the summer, baseball games were held in the school field or at the south end of town in a large field (today, known as Freedom’s Field). Competitions between area schools—especially with neighboring Tampa teams—were particularly 1947 Basketball Teamcompetitive.

There was a lot of competition between Ramona and Tampa—they didn’t like each other at all. We’d be playing a game and make a goal, and we’d run by the Tampa coach and say, ‘Whadaya think of that, Frank?’

John Heiser, RHS graduate, basketball player 1949, back row center - Ramona News, 2005


My uncle Clarence Bentz worked hard to get me to agree to go to school in Tampa so that I could play on the Tampa team. Every Saturday night he’d ply me with banana splits and milk shakes, and talk about how great it would be for me to play for Tampa. Doc Moffitt also tried to get me to switch from Ramona to Tampa. Eventually, I did go to school in Tampa, but that ‘switching business’ put me on the s--- list for many years!

Tony Meyer, Ramona student who transferred to Tampa to play basketball (Ramona News, 2005)

When I was in high school the Red Chiefs (Ramona’s team) only beat the Tampa Tigers once—and that was because Tony (Meyer) wasn’t playing. He had the mumps!

Henry ”Hank” Schubert, RHS graduate  (Ramona News, 2005)

We played Tampa and beat them four times, in state tournaments and regular league play. After I graduated from Ramona High I became coach of the team, because during the war there was a shortage of men around, and no one was available to coach. They needed someone to take the boys to the games, and I had a ’29 Ford pick-up; I’d load it full. The bus would also go to the games, but it was filled with cheerleaders and spectators. There was gas rationing in those days, and we had to apply for gas stamps. It helped that I was farming, because I could get rations much easier with the pick-up than with a regular automobile. I had to do farming, plus run to all those ball games—we were always having blowouts with the tires, because they were such poor quality. The army got the best tires, you know.

Lauren Brunner, RHS graduate, coach of the Red Chiefs (Ramona News, 2005)

Coach BrunnerIn the 1950s, enrollment was beginning to decline; more towns were unable to support their schools on their own, and consolidation became the solution. The last graduating class at Ramona High was 1957. The consolidated school—serving Ramona, Tampa, Lost Springs, Lincolnville, Burdick—was named Centre. The grade school facility was located in Lost Springs; the high school was built on Highway 77, southeast of Lost Springs.

Centre School K-12Declining numbers and impending building repairs to an old structure, brought about another “consolidation” of sorts, in 2011. The Centre Elementary (K-4) in Lost Springs closed, and the students relocated to the high school facility on Highway 77. The school is now called Centre K-12.


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sondergard_home_sm.jpgIn 1901 the Mutual Telephone Company was organized in Ramona, and a president and secretary-treasurer appointed to serve as corporate officers.  As to the location of this first Central Office, the stories suggest it was in the home of N.P.J. “Pete” Sondergard, who built an addition to his home for this very purpose. The first telephone operator in Ramona was most likely Pete’s sister-in-law, Miss Ida Andersen.

Pete’s nephew, Niels, bought the house after his marriage in 1910, and he and his wife, Lena, became the telephone managers for the next 15 years. In 1924, Wilford and Marie Hicks bought the Sondergard home, and became the next Central Office managers. Marie continued in this role until 1949.

phone_sm.jpgThere were four divisions for rural telephone service; each rural line was responsible for maintenance of their lines and the collection of the monthly service fees paid to the company.  Telephone lines connected each residence that wanted service and several homes were connected to the same line; they were called “party lines,” and although each household had an assigned ring—one long and a short, or two longs, etc—everyone could pick up the phone and be on the line at the same time. This feature came in handy when there were emergencies and news needed to reach everyone as quickly as possible.


The switchboard and crank telephones were still being used when I was 10 or 11 years old. I remember that our number was two longs and a short.

Gary Fike

All the rural lines were connected to the Central Office, and the operator had to connect people up so they could talk to each other. A trunk line was built to connect Ramona with neighboring towns, and also to Marion so long distance service could be secured through the Bell Telephone system.

Long before there were televisions, with soap operas and reality shows, there were party lines. My aunt Verna (Ehrhardt-Pritz) was notorious for picking up the phone, even though she knew the ring was not for the Ehrhardt house. Verna’s sister, Naomi (Fike) said that Verna literally wore the carpet bare in front of the telephone because she stood there listening so much!

Jessica Gilbert

switchboardRamona had free service to Herington, Hope, Lost Springs, Tampa and Pilsen, but one could connect to other Telephone Exchanges beyond this area. For example, to connect with your cousin in White City you’d be connected like this: Ramona to Hope, Hope to Navarre, Navarre to Woodbine, Woodbin to Latimer, Latimer to White City. Quite often the reception would be very poor, after going through so many switchboards.

I worked the switchboard and helped my mother, Marie, from the age of 12 until I was 18, and went away to college. I also worked as lineman when my uncle, Sam, went into the army in 1942. If someone wanted a telephone it was my job to string up a line to the house and install the phone. During ice storms lines were always breaking down, and it was my job to go out and splice the line and put it back up on the pole. (I had to use a ladder to do this, because I never learned how to use those spurs to climb the pole. But my dad had a pair in the garage that he used.)

Rev. Eugene Hicks (Excerpts from “Two Longs and a Short,” by Rev. Hicks, the Ramona News, 2002.)

switchboard_sm.jpgThe switchboard was the nerve center of every small town—fires, emergencies, and family problems were all handled by the local operator. For example, if a call came in about a fire, the operator would alert all the neighbors, and everyone in the area went to help—there was no fire department in those days.

When my mother had a heart attack, the operator called me at work in Herington and said, ‘Henry, I heard your dad calling the doctor, and I think you’d better get home quickly.’ That’s how Ramona was in the early days—before we had 911, we had each other.

Henry “Hank” Schubert

Working the switchboard was fun, and I got to know everybody. I remember one time someone called from Lincolnville for Mr. Bernhardt, and my mother said, ‘Which one? There are a lot of Bernhardts in Ramona.’ The man replied, ‘I want nine-finger Bernhardt.’ My mom knew instantly who this was and got them connected on the phone. We all knew Mr. Bernhardt, the custom corn sheller, who’d lost a finger in the business.

Rev. Hicks

I was one of those high school gals who worked on the switchboard in 1937-38. There was a little closet-like phone booth that was attached to the switchboard, where someone could have a little privacy when they made their calls. Most of the young men in town would come to the switchboard office to make their dates with their girlfriends, since they didn’t want everyone listening on the party line when they made calls from home. I heard a lot of great conversations through the thin wall of that phone booth.

Virginia (Brunner) Shields (From Ramona News, 2002)

louise_switchboard_sm.jpgThe building that housed the first Central Office is still standing today—on the southeast corner of Third and D Streets in Ramona. The telephone operation moved from this house, in 1949, to a building on the west side of the street, just north of the bank building. The only remnant of this location is the water pump, painted red.

With the new building, came new operators—Louise (Schubert) Poppe, and her father, Emil Schubert. Other operators were: Josephine Liddell, Mildred Sader, Helen McRae, Eula Beltz, Godfrey and Olga Schneider.

In 1969, the telephone service was sold to Tri-County Telephone Association, which began operating a dial service in October of that year.

In the early 1900s Ramona had six churches: River Brethren, Dunkard, Methodist-Presbyterian, Holiness Mission, St. Paul Lutheran, and Trinity Lutheran.

In 2012, there is only one church remaining, and that is Trinity Lutheran Church, located on 4th and E in Ramona.

River Brethren Church

rosebank_church_sm.jpgMany of Ramona’s earliest settlers, in south Dickinson county in 1879, were members of the River Brethren Church, now known as the Brethren in Christ Church, or the Rosebank Church. The River Brethren church had their church services in schoolhouses—Rosebank being one of them. They organized a congregation the same year that Ramona was founded, 1887.  

rosebank_church_sm.jpgBefore long the schoolhouses couldn’t hold all the new members, so a building committee was formed with Abe Mellinger, Annie Brechbill, Anna Mellinger and Annie Epler who began collecting funds. When they had $200 in hand they commenced building in October 1890 and finished in four months. The reason for the swift completion of the church was due to crop failures—farmers had time on their hands and they gave their energy to the church. The new church was called Rosebank, after the school, and also because there was a bank of wild roses growing near the church site.

On April 4, 2006, church members voted to officially close the church; the building sat empty for five years, until Thane “Jay” Plank, youngest son of Rev. Cecil Plank—one of the early ministers of the church—decided to buy the building in 2011, restoring and maintaining it.

When I’d come visit (I lived in Nevada at the time), I’d talk to friends about the church building. ‘You should buy it, tear it down and use the wood to build a house,’ some said. But I don’t like to see buildings that are over 100 years old come down. I like keeping the building there; in my heart I know that it will be used for something good. It’s a landmark in the community and I’m dedicated to keeping it nice.

Thane “Jay” Plank: (2012)


Dunkard Church

Ramona's first schoolThe roots of the Dunkard Church began in Peabody, Kansas; two Dickenson county members, J.D. Trostle and P.R. Wrightsman, were influential in starting a church in the Ramona area.

Brother J.B. Shirk did all the preaching in the Ramona area and was one of the first to settle here, coming from Illinois. The Strickler family from Virginia was the second to arrive. Services were held at the Shirk schoolhouse—a country school that was later known as Highland School.

Charter members when the church organized in October 1890 were: J.B. Shirk family,  J.D. Meyers, E.E. Shaver, Lydia Liddel and Harvey Shirk, J.P. and May Strickler, Orville Button family.  These members had migrated from Illinois, Virginia, Maryland, Iowa and Pennsylvania.

In 1903 the congregation bought a schoolhouse, moved it into Ramona and remodeled it for their church. According to lifelong resident, Hank Schubert, this Dunkard Church would have rested somewhere on the southeast side of “B” street in Ramona.

The population of Ramona in the early 1900s exceeded 350, and because there were six churches in the community, the congregations decided to consolidate some of their programs. The Brethren and the Methodist-Presbyterians had a “united young people’s program” called the Christian Endeavor, and on Sunday evenings they rotated from church to church.

In the 1920s the Dunkard Church membership began to dwindle as folks migrated to different communities. By 1930 there were only 3 principal members remaining and so the church closed, the building sold and removed from town.

Methodist-Presbyterian Congregations

methodist_church_sm.jpgThere’s little history of this church, but according to the Ramona Centennial book, the church was originally a Methodist Episcopal but a number of the members were Presbyterians so they revised the name. While the congregation was very active there was never a resident pastor. When membership declined they finally closed the church and tore it down. Because the church could hold large crowds it was used for the Ramona High School Commencement and Baccalaureate services until the Ramona High School auditorium was built.

Holiness Mission Church

church_steps_sm.jpgRev. Ira A. Eisenhower, uncle to President Dwight Eisenhower, assisted in organizing the Holiness Mission Church—probably around 1914. The charter members were: Ira Eisenhower, Linn Brandt family, Mr. & Mrs. Simon Brechbill, Mr. & Mrs. Samuel Haldeman, Mr. & Mrs. Joseph Miller, Mr. & Mrs. Ben Sollenberger, and the Rev. Ben Steckley family. The congregation built a church on the southeast corner of 4th and B.




When we bought Jake Brunner’s house in 2001, only the steps to that church remained, and Jake Brunner was often seen sitting on those steps watching the world go by. My dad, Laurel Ehrhardt, told us a story about when he was a kid, and he and some friends peeked in the windows of the Holiness Mission Church, which would be considered ‘charismatic’ by today’s standards, and the minister invited them in. This scared the inquisitive kids so much that they went running in all directions.

Pat Wick, owner of the property where the church stood (Ramona News, 2004)


When members of the Holiness Mission diminished, the building was moved to Herington and used by the Nazarenes. The remaining Ramona members joined that Herington congregation. Some of the names associated with the Holiness Mission Church were: the Archie Greer family, Adam Middleton family, Mr. & Mrs. Henry Davidson and Mr. & Mrs. Joel Cunnington.

St. Paul Lutheran Church

stpaul_church2_sm.jpgOn October 16, 1904 the congregations of St. Paul Lutheran at Lyons Creek (the “mother church” to Ramona’s newest congregation), and North Tampa met with Rev. Hans von Gemmingen to organize Ramona’s new Lutheran church, located northeast of town.  

stpaul_church1_sm.jpgErnest Domann, a member of the organizing group, donated a plot of land for the church and another for a cemetery. Many of the founders had these last names: Brunner, Bernhardt, Helbach, Deines, Weber, Schubert and Domann. Because the founders were immigrants from Germany, Poland, Austria and Russia, the services were in German. This tradition continued until about 1927.

C.O. Danitschek was the first ordained pastor for the congregation.  Rev. Danitschek served as an intern for one year in 1904 and as a called pastor from 1907-1934 and again in 1940-1945.  Other pastors were: Reverends Dirks, Pflueger, Mall, Heine, Long and Graf.

When the 24’x34’church was built, the builder recommended they install windows with lots of window panes, “since they’d cost less to replace if one were broken.” They also put wainscoting in the kitchen and dining room “as it would be less apt to be damaged by the children.”

There was a hitching post across the full length of the church property to accommodate all the horse and buggies. Men sat on the east side of the chapel and women on the west. If someone sat on the wrong side, it was certain they were visitors.

The adjoining cemetery organized graves by date of death, with space left for the spouse. Children were buried in the first row and adults in the second. The graves were dug by a family member and closed by the pallbearers.

Twelve years after St. Paul Lutheran Church was founded, the congregation experienced an uncomfortable “growing pain.” Church historians say it began when a seminary professor wrote a statement on “Faith and Works.” The “discussion” eventually led to a division within the congregation and families and friends had to decide whether they would remain at St. Paul or join a new congregation—Trinity Lutheran Church in Ramona.  

St. Paul Lutheran Church served the community for 82 years. The last service was held December 14, 1986. The church steeple is the only remnant of the church and it is the focal point of the St. Paul Lutheran Cemetery, which continues to be the final resting place for loved ones connected with the church.

Trinity Lutheran Church

trinity_church_sm.jpgTrinity Lutheran Church, on the corner of 4th and E, was organized in 1916 and is the only church within Ramona’s city limits. While the new church was being built, this new group met in the Ramona School. Both the new building and the new pastor, Rev. Rohlfing were dedicated and installed in June, 1916.

These families were listed on the membership roll at the time of the church dedication: G.H. Brunner, Peter Sader, Fred Schneider, Herman Hoeppner, William Sader, Reinhardt Feil, Phillip Sader, Carl Hamm, David Dorsch, H.A. Bernhardt, Andrew Bernhardt, Henry Brunner, William Heoppner, John Lorei, Henry Schneider, Sr., G.H. Riffel, Henry Ladner, Henry Bernhardt, Jr., Alex Berger and Alex Hanschu.

The church also acquired a parsonage the same year as the church was built.  That parsonage, on the northwest corner of 4th and D, is today a bed and breakfast called Cousin’s Corner, and owned by the California Sisters.

The first baptism recorded is Sophie Sader; the first marriage was J.H. Riffel and Olga Hamm, and the first burial was their infant child.

The Trinity Lutheran Church has served the Ramona community over 100 years. Rev. Clark Davis currently serves as the pastor for Trinity Lutheran (as of 2012), as well as another church in Tampa. Other ministers have included Rev. Geiswinkler, Emil Bickel, Rev. Rohlfing, Rev. Guenther, Martin Mappes, Richard Rolf, and Robert Baerwolf.


The County Liners EHU was organized in 1947 by a group of young married women. The first meeting was held in January of that year, at Mrs. Martin (Dorothy) Schubert’s home. Often there were more children at the meetings than mothers, so the ladies took turns babysitting all the kids in one room, so the moms could attend the meeting in another room. The programs focused on new homemaking skills and ideas.


We had lessons—what they call home demonstration units—on how to bake bread, can, make jelly, and home decorating, health and nutrition information. We were all about the same age and pretty ambitious in those days. When the men of Ramona moved the old band shell from downtown Ramona, up to the high school and made it into a concession stand, we ladies bought a popcorn popper and made lots of money at the sporting events. The EHU gave a lot of money to the school and had lots of fun doing it!

Orvell (Long) Brunner, Ramona News 2003


Future Farmers of America Club (FFA) started between 1925 and 1957. Years later, a 4-H Cub was also organized. When the Ramona school closed in 1957, these clubs migrated to the Centre school system and continue to this day.

Service Clubs met during World War I, consisting of ladies who met at the Greer store building to tie comforters, do quilting, and knit socks and gloves for men in the military.

Bridge clubs were common, during this era, sometimes meeting as often as three evenings, and two afternoons a week.

Pie Socials and Box Socials were held at the high school assembly hall. The ladies brought pies or food boxes to be auctioned off to the highest bidder. The winner of the bid got to share the food with the person whose name was on the box.  Cake Walks were another method of raising money, to help the schools buy supplies that were not financed by the school district.

Skating parties were held in winter at Lyons Creek, near Jacob’s Crossing, on Sunday afternoons. The railroad dam provided a wide body of frozen ice in the winter. In the summer, the dam made a great swimming hole.

Senior Center

senior_center_sm.jpg In 1979, The Ramona Senior Citizens, Inc. was formed, with 30+ members. At first the group met in the back room at Sader’s Café, which was the original Badger Lumber Company building. In December 1980, the group got their own building, when Mr. and Mrs. Dan Riffel donated the old Bartholdi country school building (dubbed the “Punkin-head” school) and it was moved to the northeast corner of 3rd and D Streets. The land was donated by Robert Arnold, owner of the Bank of Hillsboro. The seniors met once a month for luncheons, took excursions together, celebrated holidays, and started a game night.


In February 2012, with club members less than a dozen people, the Ramona Senior Citizens disbanded and deeded the land and the senior center building over to the City of Ramona. The group could no longer bear the financial responsibilities for utilities and repairs. Group members do, however, still meet on the second Sunday of the month for game night at the building.

 Memorial Day is the holiday that has been celebrated most consistently in Ramona, since the creation of Lewis Cemetery in 1901. memorial_day_sm.jpg1n the 1920s and 30s, the children of Ramona were brought to main street, and given little American flags, along with bunches of flowers, and the group marched ceremoniously from main street out to the cemetery west of Ramona.  A sidewalk was even built from town to the cemetery—remains of the cement can still be seen on the north side of 360th, when approaching the cemetery.


 Mr. Telfer, the manager of the Badger Lumber Company, was the master of ceremonies for the Memorial Day procession. We carried little flags and flowers for the graves. The World War I veterans—like Oscar Applegate, and Godfrey Bernhardt—were the Color Guard and led the procession. We kids walked behind. I wasn’t fond of this ceremony, because it reminded me of my father, who died when I was 6. I hated having to sing My Country Tis of Thee, with the lyrics ‘land where my father died,’ because it just made me so sad. You know, back in that era, children weren’t considered to have feelings—but we did!

Rev. Eugene Hicks, Interview 2012


 I remember the Memorial Day march from in front of the Post Office, out to the cemetery. I was seven years old; there were typically about 20 children. It was a yearly tradition until late in the 1930s; the war brought an end to it.

Warren Fike, Interview 2012


decorating_grave_sm.jpg Memorial Day is still the busiest holiday in Ramona for several reasons: many people return to the area to decorate graves; memorial services are held every Memorial Day at 10:30am at Lewis Cemetery; an annual Memorial Day picnic is held in the park, (a tradition that began with the Centennial in 1987); school reunions are often scheduled, bringing people back to the area for the weekend.

easterbunny_sm.jpg Easter Egg Hunts have been a tradition for several decades. The annual event is held on the Saturday before Easter Sunday. Families from the country, join the folks who live in town, and all the children from toddlers to twelve-year-olds, join in the falderal. In 2001, a large Easter Bunny appeared on the scene (thanks to the sewing magic of Pat Wick), and Paul Jones agreed to be Ramona’s first giant bunny. Since then, the role has been played by Tim Steinborn, Jim Thompson, and Art Stroda.

mother's day tea Mothers’ Day Teas were started by The California Sisters, Pat Wick and Jessica Gilbert, after they moved from California to Ramona in 2000. Their first tea in 2001 was attended by 50 ladies, and soon grew to capacity, filling the Lutheran Parish Hall with 100 ladies, all decked out in vintage hats, gloves and jewelry. The menus were homemade delectables like scones, cakes, tea sandwiches, and of course, tea. The children in the community were the servers.  The sisters, with the help of their companion, Tim Steinborn, created annual Mothers’ Day Teas, up until 2009.

The 4th of July parade was first held in 1998, because Pat Wick, the eldest California Sister, wanted to see a parade going down main street Ramona. She was planning to be in Ramona for a Schubert family reunion, and thought the family event could also turn into a town celebration. Pat wrote to the City Council, asking for approval to hold a parade and have a fireworks display, and permission was given.

schubert_float_sm.jpg Pat e-mailed ads to the Herington Times, announcing that Ramona was holding its first 4th of July parade. Her only assurance that there would be any kind of parade at all was that she’d convinced her family to ride on the floats she planned to make. The fireworks would also be courtesy of the Schubert family, who all sent money to Cousin Glenn Lorei, who bought a modest display for the finale to the evening.  Dan and Connie Smith agreed to let the city use their field for the fireworks display, and a tradition was born!



july_run.jpg parade_pony_sm.jpgIn subsequent years the event grew and changed, with each person who committed to serving on the committee, changing it in some way. When the Noeths moved to Ramona in 2007, they wanted to add a run to the day’s activities, and the popular “Redneck Run” has record participation.

 The 4th of July has become Ramona’s biggest annual event, with sporting events (basketball tournaments and fun runs), concessions, tractor pull, lawnmower racing, one of the funniest parades around with the greatest prizes, and spectacular fireworks. The event has its own website, redneckinramona.com.

The decade of 2000-2010 was a particularly productive one, filled with a sense of community pride and spirit. It’s said that “A picture’s worth a thousand words,” so here are the highlights of the decade in pictures.


Please click on the pictures below to enlarge and view as a slide show.

Every person who comes to Ramona changes the face of the town.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead (Cultural Anthropologist)


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Historical information about Ramona was gleaned from the following sources, and written by Jessica Gilbert, Ramona City Clerk:  A Century of Memories (1987) by Dale & Leona Sondergard, for Ramona's Centennial; The Ramona News (2001-2008) by The California Sisters, with interviews of Ramona residents, past and present; and Marion County Kansas, Past and Present  (1972) by Sondra Van Meter.

  • main street The Ramona area was one of the last to be settled in Marion County. The first settlers arrived in the early 1880s. If the Kansas, Nebraska, and Chicago railroad had not been routed through this part of Marion County, Ramona would never have existed.
  • Overlooking Ramona In order to get this view looking north over the town, the photographer went to the top floor of the elementary school that was once located on the corner of 360th & B Street.
  • Ramona Town Title Mr. John Noll, who sold the land to the Golden Belt Town Company, suggested the town be named Shields, Kansas, in honor of J.B. Shields, Ramona's first school teacher, and a man beloved by the community. However the railroad discovered that there was already another town with this name, on the Missouri Pacific railroad line, in western Kansas. So the name RAMONA was chosen instead.
  • Ramona Town Platt The town was founded by the speculative Golden Belt Town Company, which filed a town plat in April 1887.
  • Walter and Alfred Sondergard Walter Sondergard (left) pulls his little brother, Alfred, in front of the garage that their father owned. (1924) Alfred has lived his entire life in Ramona.
  • Alfred and Darlene Sondergard Alfred and Darlene Sondergard on their 65th wedding anniversary (2007). They moved to Ramona shortly after they were married.
  • Jim Brunner Jim was the fourth generation of Brunners to live in Ramona. Jim shuttled Jessica Gilbert around Ramona to deliver The Ramona News. His favorite mode of transportation was his golf cart. (2003)
  • Jayme Brunner Family Jayme Brunner's children, Solomon (standing), named after his great grandfather, and Kaitlin (right), with their cousin Bryce (seated), on the day of their grandpa Jim Brunner's funeral. (2006) They are the fifth generation to live in Ramona.

Ramona Family Stories

Ramona family stories written by the California Sisters and featured in the Ramona News are available to download.  Just click on the name.