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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Mueller

The history behind Killer at the Cimarron Social Club

I'm originally from Kansas, but until Killer at the Cimarron Social Club I had not written a book set in Kansas. I'm sure my parents thought I was losing it though when I called up and asked if they knew of any good ghost towns I could set a book. Seeing as its set in a old west brothel not the question the Kansas preacher and his wife expected to get. But over an hour on the phone we finally hammered out one that would fit the bill. The oddly named Arkalon, Kansas in Seward County. Oddly because that is someones actual first name, it was named after Arkalon Tenney, the father of a resident. I called a number of other times seeing as they grew up in the area where its set. I lived in the county, but I was 8-10 at the time. I settled on Arkalon because a tiny farm community wouldn't have had a brothel for one, Arkalon had a large cattle yard to load cattle off to the east. This was after Dodge City fame and Kansas pushed the quarantine lines further south and west. The railroad coming jump started the county prospects and towns sprang up all over hoping to be the next route. Fargo Springs and Springfield only a few miles from each other thought they had it in the bag. Only for another route to be chosen and little Arkalon sprang from the buffalo grass. The route connected them east, but the route to the coal mines of Trinidad was reached from Dodge City. The small arm that ran down to Arkalon would continue on to No Man's Land and then dead end. After all No Man's Land had no law and no land ownership. Everyone was a squatter even the big cattle outfits using the land. It's what we call the Oklahoma panhandle today, the left over bit from the creation of Texas and Kansas and until shortly after the book takes place had no law at all. Eventually they would tack it on to Indian Territory as Oklahoma was known then. Some used it for free grazing and others the poor of the poor tried to settle there because land was free for the taking. If you could handle the thieves coming around and stealing your building supplies even or if you left your sod house for too long someone might just move in calling it derelict. Why work from scratch when someone had already started. Arkalon, and Liberal that still exists as the county seat were only miles from that land. Big dreams filled the county, but as the railroad passed by some, as the county seat went to others, as they found the sandy soil wasn't conducive to farming, as many things happened, soon all but Liberal was gone. Arkalon was vacant by the 1920's after the bridge over the Cimarron was moved from town to a spot some miles away in 1913. Two years ago in the wildfires that burned across western Kansas the final link to Arkalon was taken, the old school house. All that's left is a cemetery now. The photos are all of ghost towns of Seward County, Arkalon, Springfield, and Fargo Springs. There aren't many photos of any of the towns.

Seward County shortly before Arkalon was founded, it would fit along that crook in the river between the W and A of Seward.

Arkalon Train station

One of the stores that is visited and below is an indoor view of the same building.

The school house that was the last building to stand until 2017.

The 10,000 dollar hotel in another town mentioned often in the book.

The reality.

The imagined.

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