Smoky Valley Historical Association Lindsborg, KS 67456


Lindsborg KS Union Pacific Railroad

The Salina and Southwestern Railroad, later the Union Pacific, came to Lindsborg in 1879 providing north and south transportation and shipping. The Missouri Pacific Railroad, which ran east and west, followed in 1887.

The Union Pacific depot was located on East Lincoln Street adjacent to the downtown commercial district. The depot still stands as part of Heritage Square at the McPherson County Old Mill Museum complex.

The railroads scheduled special trains to transport people coming to Lindsborg for the annual Holy Week Messiah Festival. Presidential candidate Teddy Roosevelt made a whistle stop at Lindsborg's Union Pacific depot (bottom photo).

Smoky Valley Union Pacific Railroad Depot in Lindsborg, KS  

Union Pacific 477 made thousands of round trips between Salina and McPherson every weekday from the 1920's to the advent of diesel power in the early 1950's. The little slow moving train transferred freight cars and passengers between railroads serving Salina and McPherson. A unique aspect of the UP's route through Lindsborg was the point where its tracks literally crossed those of the Missouri Pacific main line. Lindsborg's Union Pacific depot is now located in the Old Mill Museum's Heritage Square. Engine 477 was given to the City of Salina in 1955 and is today on permanent display in Oakdale Park. The Union Pacific was the first railroad to run through Lindsborg, having been built in 1879. Today many Lindsborg residences and businesses sit on land that was once owned by the railroad.

Former President and then candidate Theodore Roosevelt is shown speaking to a large crowd of supporters from the back of his special train while stopped at the Union Pacific depot in Lindsborg on April 19, 1912. But this wasn't his first visit to Lindsborg.

When Theodore Roosevelt visited Lindsborg

By Chris Abercrombie

A recent inquiry to the Smoky Valley Historical Association's website asked for names of famous people who have visited Lindsborg over the years. Lenora Lynam, SVHA treasurer and archivest at the McPherson County Old Mill Museum, replied that a postcard in the museum's collection commemorates the visit of the 26th President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, to Lindsborg on April 19, 1912.

A few days later, while reading Elizabeth Jaderborg's Some Talk about Lindsborg, a 1963 compilation of articles originally published in The Lindsborg News-Record under the pen name Selma Lind, I noticed she had the date of Roosevelt's visit as in the fall of 1900.

So which was it, I started asking, through a series of e-mails to numerous Smoky Valley residents interested in local history. My query as to the possibility of two Roosevelt visits was pretty much written off as "doubtful".

The mystery didn't last long. Local anthropologist and SVHA vice-president Barbara Buskirk, while digging through some research she had done years before on the Union Pacific Railroad depot, now a part of the Old Mill complex, found printed pages made from microfilms of early twentieth century editions of The Lindsborg Record, The Lindsborg News, the Swedish language Lindsborg Posten, The McPherson Daily Republican, and the Bethany Messenger


My speculation about two Roosevelt visits turned out to be a documented fact.

As the Vice-Presidential candidate on the Republican ticket with running mate William McKinley, "TR" made a speech in the "Messiah Auditorium" (Ling Gymnasium) on the Bethany College campus on Friday, September 28, 1900. Braving deep mud and rain and in spite of the candidate arriving 3½ hours late, the enthusiastic crowd welcomed the man The Record's editor called "the next Vice-President" with prolonged applause and cheers. Roosevelt in turn complimented his friend Dr. Carl Swensson, founder and president of Bethany College and praised the mission of the college. Roosevelt spoke highly of the men of Scandinavian decent who had served under him during the Spanish-American war in his volunteer Cavalry outfit the Rough Riders.

Roosevelt's scheduled 5-minute speech expanded to 12 minutes before repeated blasts from the whistle on the awaiting Union Pacific steam locomotive summoned him back to the train for the ride to his next stop in McPherson. The McKinley-Roosevelt ticket won by a landslide in the fall elections.

On September 14, 1901 McKinley died from a wound inflicted by as assassin's bullet making Theodore Roosevelt the 26th President of the United States.

After having served two terms, the second ending in 1909, Roosevelt announced his intentions to again seek the Republican nomination in the 1912. This is what brought Roosevelt to Lindsborg for a second visit on Friday, April 19, 1912. The editor of the then-consolidated Lindsborg News and The Lindsborg Record wrote:

"Fully fifteen hundred people had gathered at the Union Pac. (sic) depot Friday afternoon to see and hear Theodore Roosevelt who passed through here on a special train while on his speech making tour through the state. At Salina he was met by a delegation (of twelve local men) who had hoped to arrange so that a meeting could have been held in the auditorium (again, the Ling gymnasium). Owing to the brief time allotted to his stay in Lindsborg this could not be done. Roosevelt was introduced by (Kansas) Governor Stubbs." The paper then went on to print the full text of Roosevelt's speech.

Referring to the Holy Week Messiah performances that year Roosevelt stated "...wish I could have heard that chorus of 500 voices. I would a great deal rather have heard that than to talk to you now. I'll come back if I get a chance. I like a college where they pay attention to the oratorio as much as the nine and the eleven" (apparently referring to academic pursuits on campus).

In the same issue of The News and The Record, published a week after Roosevelt's visit, it was reported that "...the results of the Presidential Preference Primary held Tuesday was practically unanimous for Theodore Roosevelt, both locally and throughout the eighth congressional district". Obviously TR's visit to the Smoky Valley had made an impression on its residents.

In June, at the Republican National Convention held in Chicago, it became obvious Roosevelt would not receive the party's nomination. He and other disgruntled Republicans then formed the Progressive Party, more commonly known as the Bull Moose Party, with a platform to "...destroy this invisible Government, to dissolve the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day." (Writer's note: does this 1912 rhetoric sound familiar 98 years later? Some things never change!)

Roosevelt, as the Progressive candidate, and in spite of an interruption of his campaign by an assassination attempt in October, finished second in the fall elections. Roosevelt's Bull Moose party finished ahead of William Howard Taft's Republican ticket 23 to 27 percent, with both loosing to Democrat Woodrow Wilson who garnered 42 percent of the popular vote.