Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:


Christian Church – Wonsevu, Kansas. Photo by Dave Leiker.


Ever since Dave took a photograph in Wonsevu several years ago, I’ve wanted to visit this ghost town in southwestern Chase County. Dave’s photo captured a powerful moment: a white wooden church, a dirt-street intersection, and gray storm clouds billowing above. Plus, with a name like Wonsevu, who wouldn’t want to see the place?

When my mom visited us recently, we took a daytrips – to Manhattan and to Chase County. Because when my family gets together, that’s what we do – we drive. Other families share different forms of entertainment – some may watch football, play board games, go shopping or cook meals. My family gets in the car.

When I was a kid, Dad often took us on Sunday drives. Those afternoon trips usually meant checking the water level of the Arkansas River. We’d cross the Arkansas at the Pawnee Rock Bridge, drive around the central Kansas landscape for awhile, then cross the river again at the O’Rourke Bridge near Larned.

When we visited my maternal grandparents in Northwest Arkansas, we piled into the car. A shovel was kept in the trunk for digging up scraggly wildflowers that would later be transplanted into Mom’s or Grandma’s flower gardens.

During the ‘80s and ‘90s, my mother lived in Georgia. With her, Dave and I took trips into Savannah to explore Revolutionary War history or to see the city’s voodoo-ish neighborhoods. We drove down the coast into Florida, visiting beaches at Daytona and St. Augustine. We followed the coast north to Hilton Head and Charleston, South Carolina.

Now that Mom lives in Arkansas, when Dave and I stay with her, we may find ourselves headed to the quartz-filled area of Mount Ida, to the Buffalo River, or to the gorgeous Petit Jean State Park.

When my brother comes to Kansas, our hours are spent in the car, touring old stomping grounds in Barton, Pawnee and Stafford Counties.

So it’s not a question of what to do when our family gets together – being on the road is who we are.

This recent Sunday drive took us to Chase County. We enjoyed a tasty lunch at Ad Astra in Strong City and stopped by the Gallery at Pioneer Bluffs. Mom had wanted to spend time in the Flint Hills, so I drove under the railroad overpass in Matfield Green. Soon, we crossed a cattle guard and were on the open range.

I asked Dave where this particular road headed and he said, “Wonsevu.” I was excited that I would finally see this town.

We stopped at one of Dave’s favorite spots along the way, a rocky valley which extended toward the northeast. Limestone cut through the grassy draw; wildflowers added color.

“Oh, this is a beautiful rock garden,” Mom said. “All of this – and the yellow broomweed behind it.”

Mom and Dave commented on the purple aster and the blue sage. “There’s some Leavenworth eryngo,” Dave said, pointing to a stand of purple wildflowers.

I drove slowly on the country roads and we made several stops along the way before turning a curve into Wonsevu. The church was there, although with no sign in front, it appeared to be closed.

Wonsevu had a post office only for a short while, from 1875 to 1907. According to the book “1001 Kansas Place Names,” Wonsevu is an Indian word meaning “running deer.”

The 1912 “Kansas: a Cyclopedia of State History” describes Wonsevu as “an inland hamlet.” At that time, the hamlet had two general stores. The 1910 census counted 57 residents.

On the corner of the one and only intersection in downtown Wonsevu stands the 1885 District 13 schoolhouse. White paint has worn off of the wooden building, but the structure is in pretty good shape. And it still receives care – the lawn had been cut recently. On the grounds was a tornado shelter, a dark and creepy hole covered by a huge slab of concrete.

This was a fun trip. Mom and Dave and I had a good time on the curved and hilly roads of Chase County. And now – I can cross Wonsevu off of my bucket list.

Copyright 2012 ~ Cheryl Unruh

Leaning pump – in front of the 1885 District 13 schoolhouse, Wonsevu.



  1. Ha!! HA!! Loved it— I use to take many people on tours through the Flint Hills when we lived there — & Wonsevu– was usually always on the tour– unless it was BUS tours then they didn’t do those gravel roads– & antique car tours didn’t do those gravel roads either– we would start out at the Drinkwater/Schriver Mill at Cedar Point– & then travel around the flint hills– to Wonsevu & to the artesian well– through open range & back to Little Eygpt & into Matfield Green– to Bazaar to the scenic look out on Hwy 177 (as I grew up on a farm below the scenic look out) & into Cottonwood Falls-& where ever else they wanted to go!! 🙂

  2. Love this! And now I can’t wait to find Wonsevu too!! Thanks, Cheryl, for always making me love what I have but unabashedly want more!

  3. Someday I’ll try to get out there too. It’s interesting learning about the small towns that no longer exist.

    There are three within 20 miles of us, so so. All west of Madison. Teterville, Kenbro, and Utopia. Kenbro I just found out about from a lady who ran across me online. She used to go over there when she was a kid. Last time she was in this area, she tried to find Kenbro, but it was gated off and she was told that it’s all now farmland.

    Teterville, that’s off in the boonies. I saw a sign one, but couldn’t see where the town had been.

    Utopia had a sign 15 years ago, as I recall, but it disappeared sometime back. But there was still the Utopia church on the highway. But that sign is gone now too. The house that housed the church is still there, and became a place where someone who did big metal sculptures lived. Now I don’t know. But the town itself, poof!

  4. HOW does one get to Wonsevu? Is it south of Cottonwood? Are there signs? A lady at church this morning asked me and said they wanted to go visit there Tuesday….well, I haven’t googled it yet…..

  5. The easiest way to get to Wonsevu– is go to Cedar Point, Ks. & go straight through town up over the hill & just South of town when you reach a Y in the road— take a right– & keep going & going & going & going– but if you are not familiar with those roads out there– don’t take bread crumbs– take loaves of bread– & leave a trail– NOTHING IS MARKED!!!!!!!!! You just have to know where you are going— all gravel roads– make for sure you have cell phones & a good spare tire!! — Or go to the Bazaar School house & take a right or to the West & go & go & go & go– you will come to the Homestead area– keep going– & you will either end up at Wonsevu– or back at Clements if ya take the wrong road– or Cedar Point if ya take the wrong road– or Florence if ya take the wrong road– or go to Matfield Green & go under the train tracks to Little Eygpt– & out to open Range– you go & go & go– when ya come to a Y in the road– take a right– you will be going North — then the road winds back to the West– & you can either go to the artesian well or Wonsevu!! BUT– NOTHING– IS MARKED & IT IS ALL GRAVEL ROADS!!!!!!

  6. Or you can go almost to Cassoday– & back track– on the open range– but I have known of a few hundred to get totally & completely lost out there & drove in circles for hours & never met anyone but cattle!!! And I have not ofr the life of me figured how what is so special about Wonsevu — even through I have taken a few hundred tour groups there at different times over the years– & usually they ALL says– THIS IS IS– THIS IS WONSEVU– I’m not sure what they were expecting!!!!! 🙂

  7. I know where the key to the church at Wonsevu use to be hid– but there is no phone– & nothing there– but many of the tour groups I use to take out there use to take a picnic lunch & I would unlock the church & we would eat in the fellowship hall!!

  8. I think the best story about Wonsevu is James Fisher from the Kansas City Star came to visit us when we lived in Cedar Point– & I drew him a map— of how to get to the Homestead area & Wonsevu & the artesian well — etc– etc— about supper time here comes Jim again– & he said well I FINALLY FOUND THE WONSEVU CEMETERY– but never did find Wonsevu— he had driven past it about 4 times– & didn’t know it– !!! 🙂

  9. I know exactly where Wonsevu is! My grandparents lived about a half a mile east from the church and the hall on the south side. If anyone knows where I can get a hold of more history on Wonsevu please let me know!

  10. @ Jodi Shanklin– we now live in Branson, Mo. but at one time we lived in Cedar Point, Ks. & Mr. Dave Pinkston & Ms. Dorothy Whitcome who were both natives of that area– told me many many many stories of that area– & the people– & I do so wish I had recorded those stories but I did write down some of them– & I use to do a column for the local county newspaper paper & also I published the “Cedar Point News” & then later Bennie Holtsclaw & Dr. Jim Fisher & I published the “Cedar Point & Clemets Occassional News” & I put a lot of that history of the area that I was told– in those papers– I have copies of most of those papers in storage tubs in my storage building– some time if I find them again– & I find the history of Wonsevu –I’ll try to say something on Cheryl’s blog!!

  11. Joan@Flips
    Visited ks and cedar pt 2yrs ago. Any information would be appreciated. My gr grandfather was John Heckendorn, grandfather was frank. There were Saubllles and Schimpfs in the family. The other grandfather co-owned Cottonwood’s barber shop. John lived in wonsevu also

  12. @ Joan– My husband & I bought the old Heckendorn manufacturing buildings in Cedar Point years ago & had a business there for several years–it was at that time — that I did tours of the area– & Dave Pinkston & Dorothy Whitcomb told me (& many who did tours through Cedar Point that our business sponsored-)-the stories of years before in Cedar Point & area!! Were you not on my mailing list many years ago for the Cedar Point News as I know I had Heckendorns & family on the mailing last back then??????? I am Sonda Bruce & my nick name “Flips” as my maiden name was Phillips! My e-mail address is: I have many old pictures of the Cedar Point area– & We live in Branson, Mo. now!! We were NOT natives of the Cedar Point area!!

  13. Directions to Wonsevu, KS: South from Cedar Point, KS to the “Y” (about 1/2 mile) then LEFT (East). Follow this winding road to the first county road to the right (South) which will take you by an artisian well, across a creek bridge, and then on to a dead end. At the dead end go right (West) and you will come to another dead end and you will be in Wonsevu. My family and I became members of the Wonsevu Christian Church in 1972. I was an Elder in the church for over 30 years. Due to lack of members, the church was closed in 2003 and the building was eventually sold. Nice to read the comments by old friends, Sonda Bruce and Jodi Shanklin.

  14. I grew up near Wonsevu, attended the school fron 1st to 8th grade, we attended the Church there also. These pictures bring back memories.
    There was a grocery store across the road south of the school run by Mr & Ms Goad, and a auto repair shop just west of the school run by Mr Shanklin. Thanks for the memories.

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