Welcome to Gridley, Kansas! We are a small community located on Highway 58 in the eastern part of Kansas. A few miles to the west you will discover the beautiful and scenic Flint Hills, while to the south are the hills of the Osage Prairie, and to the north are John Redmond Reservoir and Melvern Lake. Gridley is home to over 360 residents, the Southern Coffey County Middle School and Gridley Elementary, many businesses, programs, community organizations, and a new housing development. We enjoy a low cost of living, low crime rate, and peace and quiet, away from congested city living and traffic.
The strength of Gridley is the people who live here. Those people offer the quality of life of a charming community, nestled in the countryside, where “everybody knows your name.” We are neighbors that work together to keep our community strong and progressive.
However, as you read on, you see Gridley was not always the small, quiet town.
In 1871, Liberty Township, located in southwest Coffey County, was established. The original settlers of what is now Gridley settled two miles south of the present town in Bangor.
Bangor ceased to be due to dissention among the settlers. The story goes that the angry ex-citizens of Bangor moved to a hilltop just to the south of present day Gridley.
The future of Gridley involved one more move, just a half a mile to the present town site. The reason is because of the railroad. In 1886, the Santa Fe railroad, laying track from Burlington and Missouri Pacific, laying track from LeRoy were hurrying towards the southwest corner of Coffey county. This area was valuable in rich hay, and the nearest shipping center was fourteen miles away. Each railroad was attempting to reach the area first to avoid paying the other for use of their right-of-way. The Missouri Pacific put on extra crews, laid track at night and succeeded in arriving first.
The Santa Fe Railroad refused to pay the right-of-way and stopped their track in Gridley and built a depot, which was situated where the Gridley City Park is now located. The Missouri Pacific went on to Madison. Santa Fe trains made overnight stops in Gridley to use the well, which was dug for the railroad. The Santa Fe railroad had a hand dug well located by the railroad tracks. The well was used to replenish the locomotive’s water supply. When Gridley was an overnight stop, the steam engines had to take on water from the well, and then continue their journey. The well was 56 feet deep and 36 feet in diameter, the second largest hand dug well in the world. The well at one time had a tunnel extending towards the downtown area. The well originally had a wooden top, which the city removed and replaced with concrete in 1952. The Santa Fe Railroad filled in the well in 1974 when the tracks were removed.
The town was laid out by and named for Walter Gridley, who was associated with the Arkansas Valley and Land Company. Gridley was built at an angle so that it would run parallel and perpendicular to the railroad tracks.
In approximately 1910, Gridley was designated as the largest hay-shipping center in the world. It was so
proclaimed in geography books of the day. The hay boom tapered off around 1947, but hay is still of importance to farmers in this area for personal feeding operations. However, the romance of those early days is gone. No longer can one see forty loads of hay parading up Main Street in a single day!
Perhaps Gridley would have remained a sleepy farm village had oil not been discovered south of town in 1918. Oil promoters sought out the farmers to secure oil leases to their land. The prices of these leases tripled within a short period of time. The first well was drilled in 1918, but the big boom was between 1923 and 1926. The best well at that time came in at 630 barrels per day in March 1925.
Today, the basic economic activities of Gridley are farming, ranching, manufacturing, oil and natural gas, and retailing.
*Information taken from “Gridley Through the Years”*
Video of Gridley Circa 1926