Monday, January 31, 2005

The Land Down Under-Milford Lake

I mentioned last night I wanted to write about the land under Milford Lake. I thought about this subject off and on today as I delivered the route and, oddly enough, it evoked feelings of sadness.

So that I don’t ramble, I am going to limit what I write tonight to thoughts about the valley before Milford Lake. The Republican River flowed through a beautiful valley of rich farm land. The Lake was authorized by the Flood Control Act of 1954 and work began in 1962. My Dad was an “upland farmer” meaning all his farmland was located on more hilly terrain outside the river valley. The “river bottom” farms were considered more fertile and were often easier to farm because they were flat. However, they were easily flooded if the river went out of its banks which it often did. It was this valley land that now is the bottom of Milford Lake. My uncle, other relatives and neighbors were displaced by the lake. It was a traumatic time for those families.


A mile from where I grew up the road descended into the valley. The very small town of Alida was down that road perhaps another mile. There was a grain elevator and a very large concrete grain storage tower. In high school we would often jump off the school bus to run in the scale building to buy a package of peanuts and a bottle of Pepsi to dump them in. On that same road to Alida there was Curtis Creek (now an arm of the lake). It was a picturesque area and we would have outings there when were in grade school. There was a very high bluff that we would climb. The top of that bluff is now above the lake water and off the side is considered a good place to fish.

A farmer donated some land near the river for a baseball diamond. In the summer, if we weren’t harvesting, on Saturday night all the neighbors would meet at the diamond. The game was fast pitch soft ball. Teams from other communities would play our local guys. I “worked” in the concession stand.

There a many more memories of the area because of its proximity to home. After the lake filled, we would go out in a boat and talk about what was under the water and observe how the shore line cut through old farmsteads. It is a very odd feeling, perhaps akin to burying a treasure. When my Dad was alive, we would sometimes sit and talk about the time before the Lake. Sure wish I would have recorded those conversations. Someday when I am retired, I will write as much as I can remember because that valley now has a flat top.


Milford Lake is the largest body of water in Kansas. Needless to say, we have been on the lake often over the years because our families still live close by. It is a beautiful lake with clear water and good fishing and boating.

In writing about it last week, I researched its construction. Even though I grew up very close to its location, I was away from home during the final phase. The history 
page on the Lake web site proved informative and interesting.

I reminisced about the small town of Alida and its concrete grain elevator. I had forgotten that a local chiropractor wished to make it into a restaurant and hotel but the Corp of Engineers calculated that the base would not support it after the water was in. It took six separate blasts over two days to bring it down. Before this happened, my brother had the opportunity to go to the top and take pictures. Someday we need to dig those out, Wayne.

The town of Broughton was also lost to the lake. According to the history, this town had an unusual reputation:

many grew marijuana in their gardens to mix in with their cigarettes. This was before marijuana became illegal. Finally the situation received national recognition when Paul Harvey (a well known radio personality) stated, "Come to Clay County, Kansas, marijuana capital of the world."

Being a naïve farm girl, I probably thought this stuff was just---weed.

There is a picture of the control town on the web site. Dan actually spent part of a year working on the tower before leaving for college. We have all been in the conversation of what we were doing when President Kennedy was assassinated. Dan was hanging on one side of this Milford Lake Dam control tower on November 22, 1963.

2 comments:

Celia said...
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Tricia said...

Came over from Prairiepoint to read the land down under...made me home sick. I grew up in NE KS and my dad was a state grain inspector. Saw a lot of those small town elevators. Enjoyed the post.
Quiltcat