It is termed as “the world’s largest ghost town” but there are 100 individuals living here currently. The first settler in this town was R.H. Nichols and this was in 1870. Six other businessmen joined him to form a town site company by laying out lots that led to plans for new settlement.
The result was the establishment of a loan and real estate office in a small house built by Nichols, a drug store was also set up, a school by Miss Dora Simmons that housed 25 pupils at her father’s residence, a general store, blacksmith shop as well as a post office; were the other establishments around that time. This town had finally taken shape and became alive with activity.
It acquired the name Elk Falls in 1871 and was the name derived from the nearby waterfall on Elk River. It was the county seat for Howard County for some time and during the same period, a one story frame house was put up which became a school building and was also the venue where services of the Methodist Episcopal Church were rendered from.
Later on in 1872 and 1873, elections were held to choose between Boston, Howard, Peru, Elk Falls and Longton for the county seat in which case these elections were deemed questionable. The aftermath was the raiding of Elk Falls by citizens from Boston who came in and made away with furnishings and county records. These records were later hidden in Cowley County where armed guards were posted by the town of Boston.
Severe droughts were a common occurrence within the environment in which Elk Falls Town was set and to avert this, a number of dams were built along Elk River but since these dams were made of timber, logs and lumber, they could not withstand the high waters when it flooded and hence, were washed away.
It was until Jo Johansen came in and built a dam composed of sandstone rocks that were cemented together, that things changed around here. The dam has lasted over a century now. By 1880, the population of Elk Falls Town stood at 513 individuals and continued to soar with most of these being children who attended the school within this town that had over 200 students.
Pratt Truss Bridge was built over Elk River and was ready for use by 1893. This bridge is still intact and has been featured on the National Register of Historic Places. It is quite special in that the expansion joints are made of rollers and not wheels. The dam and bridge are some of the popular attractions here but there is more to these.
The Outhouse Tour is held on a yearly basis on Friday and Saturday just before thanksgiving. During this season visitors get to enjoy food, live music and handcrafts. This is the busiest time of the year for this semi ghost, semi occupied town. From the east end of Montgomery Street, Elk Falls is the other attraction and there is also the Rock Garden that many will not leave without visiting. Built in the 1930s, this restored garden is the location of Elk Falls Pottery that has lasted three decades.