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Think our town is small? Try living in Traer, Kansas

September 13, 2012
Ross Bercik - Managing Editor , Traer Star-Clipper

Traer, Iowa, is a small town in the grand scheme of things. One stoplight, one grocery store, a few gas stations and many locally-owned businesses make up the town that just over 1,700 people call home.

But a look at the map reveals another Traer, a few hundred miles away, that makes our Traer look like a bustling metropolis. The tiny town of Traer, Kansas, founded around 1881, is a shell of its former self, but still bears the name that was transplanted from Iowa all those years ago.

According to an article printed in the October 17, 1952 issue of the Star-Clipper, a local man named Jesse Crouse transplanted the name when he settled in the remote part of Kansas around 1881, making Traer, Kansas, the only other town on the planet bearing that name, a fact which remains to this day.

Article Photos

A dirt road is all that connects the (even tinier) town of Traer, Kansas to the outside world. Seen here, the road leads into a town which currently has a handful of occupied houses and not much else. The amenities which highlighted the town in its heyday during the early 20th century have all but disappeared. Traer, Iowa resident Joan Reuman and her family passed through last year and provided some photos. The grain elevator in the tiny town of Traer, Kansas as it stook in summer 2008.

In its heydey, Traer was a happening little town. Located near Oberlin, Kansas, the seat of Decatur County, Traer at one time boasted important amenities that made it a popular stop for business and tourists alike. With the nearest mid-sized city of McCook, Nebraska, out of reach for practical purposes, the town was an important stopping point for many a traveler back in the day.

As it is a primarily agricultural region, residents of northwest Kansas relied on Traer for its many grain dealers, the grain elevator, several stores, telegraph & express offices and a money order post office.

Around 1910, the population of the town was just over 200 people. Today, only a few houses remain, along with the grain elevator, which was operational up until just a few years ago.

One of the things that contributed to the downfall of the town, and specifically the grain elevator, was the location of the settlement itself. Built in a flood area with a high water table, Traer routinely saw problems with flooding of the elevator, which led to frequent shutdowns and loss of grain.

In addition, the construction of highways and consolidation of towns led to Traer becoming what it is today: a virtual ghost town.

Traer, Iowa, resident Joan Reuman and her family traveled through the Kansas namesake in February of 2011 and saw the town firsthand during a trip to visit family in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

According to Reuman, there were no paved roads into Traer, and the town itself is surrounded by miles and miles of farmland. While no residents were out in the harsh winter weather, some of the houses did look lived in, according to Reuman. As of February 2011, an abandoned schoolhouse was still standing, along with a sign denoting the local cemetery. The grain elevator, while still intact, has seen better days. According to a report from another tourist published online a few years ago, the privately-owned elevator had fallen into such disrepair that the owner thought it would be better off if a tornado took the remaining structure down.

So the next time you walk around Iowa's Traer, take a moment to look at the many businesses that line our Second Street. Enjoy the well-maintained roads and parks. Take a look at the school, which serves towns for miles around. Partake in a conversation and join in the camaraderie of the townspeople. And think of the Traer - the Kansas version - which has gone the way of many small American towns: extinct. You'll be even more grateful to call Iowa's Traer your home.



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