Reading Kansas – a year after the Tornado

Reading Kansas – Sunday, May 22, 2011, the New York Daily News reports:

A deadly tornado and severe thunderstorms dropping hail the size of baseballs swept through a small eastern Kansas town, killing a man and destroying at least 20 homes, authorities said.

The storms damaged around 200 homes in Reading, Kan., a town of about 250 people about 50 miles south of Topeka, authorities said.

The town’s post office and fire department were torn apart as well and at least 5 others were severely injured.

By early Sunday, the tiny hamlet was a disaster area, with fields strewn with the remains of destroyed houses and buildings.

The devastation from the spring tornado was intense, but as with many tornadoes, some homes were left untouched while others were totally demolished. And after the storm, the community pitches in and life goes on.

Bank of Reading Kansas
Reading Kansas

Reading Kansas – A Year Later

It is now a little more than a year since the storm.

And I am driving from Wichita to Overland Park, the route along the turnpike to I-35 to Emporia and then on to Overland Park. It is a trip I have made countless times. The repetition is by now so deeply ingrained in my neural pathways, that like a cow heading to pasture I can drive the route without consciously knowing it. It is time to stray from the beaten path.

Google maps to Reading, Kansas.

Reading, Kansas is not easy to get to. If you are coming from Wichita, the best route is to take Burlingame Road east of Emporia north. You are on your way to the Lyon County State Lake, but you won’t get that far. Instead, five or so miles from Emporia, you will take a curving right turn onto Highway 170 and head due east. The country side is rolling dotted by farms every mile or so. The Santa Fe Railroad on its way south from Topeka, runs south from Reading to Emporia. The Marais des Cygnes River meanders south of town on its way east toward Ossawatomie, Kansas. It is a gentle reminder of the violent birth that gave way to Kansas Statehood. Read about Bleeding Kansas. It is a quiet life today.

From William G. Cutler’s History of Kansas, Lyon County, Reading, Kansas, published 1883.

A tract of land on which Reading is now located was in 1870 owned by McMann & Co., of Reading, Pa. On the building of the A., T. & S. Fe Railway, James Fagan, agent for the lands, and T. J. Peter and M. S. Sargent, who represented the railroad interest, organized a town company, with James Fagan as president. A town site of sixty acres of Section 3, Township 18, Range 13, was laid off and called Reading, in honor of a town of that name in Pennsylvania, and during the summer of 1870, when the town site was laid off, a depot was built, a few dwelling houses, a store building, erected by Bothel & Buns, in which was also kept the postoffice; a drug store was opened by a Mr.. Pierson; Mr. Coleman started a tinshop; D. L. Pettinger, who erected many of the first buildings, located as a resident carpenter; James Fagan sunk a town well, which supplied the inhabitants with water.

The postoffice, which was established in the summer of 1870, was made a money order office, October 7, 1882, T. C. Biddle purchasing the first money order. It receives four mails a day, and is a “Star Route” office, having a route to Williamsburg, Franklin County. J. M. Stevenson, present Postmaster.

What makes for a community?

Towns are made for many reasons. They are located on trading routes, they service the railroads, they are built along major road and serve as gathering places for farms and industry.. But most importantly, towns are a good place to live, to raise a family and enjoy the company of neighbors and friends. The turnpike and I-35 may have passed Reading by. The railroad may not be as important today as it once was, but judging from the well kept houses of Reading, the city lives on.

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