White Cloud

One of the earliest, and at the time grandest, towns in the new territory of Kansas was White Cloud. Even before statehood, commerce prospered in this town which clings to the bluffs along the Missouri River.

In those days, steamboats churning the muddy waters of the "Big Mo" were a common sight, and White Cloud was an important stopping point for these boats. Supplies for wagon trains headed west often crowded the docks down along the river. The town, which once boasted a population of over 2000, began a slow, but steady decline in the years following the Civil War. Changes in transportation, competition from other towns, and nearby Troy becoming the county seat all contributed to the decline of White Cloud.

A sign of the times hangs in one of several abandoned stores on Main Street. There is even talk from the Kansas Department of Transportation of the state abandoning the section of K-7 which runs from Highway US 36 to White Cloud.

For two weekends each year, however, the streets of White Cloud are again busy. The small near ghost town is nearly overwhelmed by visitors to the famous White Cloud Flea market. It has been named one of the "10 best flea markets in the Nation" by McCalls magazine. For a few days, the old main street again is crowded with traders and customers. One can almost imagine that it's 1859, and a steamboat has just unloaded a cargo which is being eagerly snapped up by buyers from all over the area. Then, the next day, as if it were all only a dream, only a few bits of trash blow down the again empty street.

Every wonder how the "piggy bank" got its name? A plaque on Main Street honors Wilbur Chapman, the ten year-old boy who raised and sold a pig to help support a boy suffering from leprosy. Chapman was impressed by a traveling missionary's sermon about lepers, and on his own, he set about raising money to help stop the suffering. He raised a pig, and donated the proceeds from this enterprise to help lepers. Keep in mind this was the effort of a ten year-old, but it caught the imagination of the public. His example started the "Pig Bank Movement" in the early 1900's to help lepers, and the name stuck.

Source: Kansas Photo Tour

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