Oneida, Kansas is located in the north east corner of Kansas, between rolling hills and acres and acres of cornfields. Nicole Pfrang, an undergraduate researcher at Kansas State University (KSU) and a descendant of Oneida residents, wrote about Oneida for KSU’s Kansas Lost Town Project:
“Thanks to the efforts of Col. Cyrus Shinn, a southerner from West Virginia, Oneida was founded in 1872 near the St. Joseph & Western Railroad. Nestled midway between two twin towns, Seneca and Sabetha, Oneida is located six miles northeast of the county seat of Seneca and 16 miles northwest of Sabetha. In an election held to name the town, two choices were given. One was Oneida, the name of the existing post office, and the other was Shinntown, after Col. Cyrus Shinn. Oneida won the contest.
From its early years, Oneida was a strong patriotic town. Since there was no band in Oneida for their ten-year celebration, residents invited a brass band from the nearby community of Albany to perform. This was announced in the Hiawatha, Brown County newspaper on July 6, 1882: “The Albany brass band will play at Oneida tomorrow for Col. Schinn’s big celebration.”
Many businesses were started in Oneida. A few would include two churches, a school, cheese factory, blacksmith shop, Land Office, an Opera House, furniture and hardware store, Hyde Park, two general stores, two drugstores, lumberyard, livery stable and a restaurant. There was only one requirement to settle in Oneida on the Shinn lots. The settlers were asked not to sell liquor or allow it to be sold on the premises. As a result of this request, there were no saloons established in Oneida and there was never a drunken brawl within the town limits. Gilman Township was the only township in Nemaha County that did not have a saloon. The cheese factory became the most famous in the county; its sales extended from St. Joseph to Denver and thrived until the cheese trust caused the other cheese factories close by to shut down. This fame for Oneida helped solidify the establishment of the town. As of the early 1880s, Oneida’s population was 163.
With Oneida rapidly growing in population, people decided that it was time to build a public school. “Prof. I.R. Morgan went to Oneida Saturday to deliver an address at the dedication towards building and opening of a school building. His school at Sabetha commenced last Monday, September 6, 1895,” reported the Hiawatha World in Brown County. A little over a year later, a major church was dedicated: “The Oneida Congregational Church will be dedicated on Sunday, December 13, 1896,” reported the newspaper.”
As with the demise of most towns, the rerouting of Highway 36 was a fatal blow. What once was a thriving small town, Oneida today is a collection of a few small homes scattered among empty lots, a Methodist Church, and a lovingly maintained graveyard.
Oneida Kansas County Seat Seneca, Nemaha County
Nicole Pfrang, “Oneida, Nemaha County,” The Kansas Lost Town Project, Chapman Center for Rural Studies, Kansas State University, 2015.