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Why did the Warkentins come to Newton and build the Warkentin House?

Warkentin expanded his mill and nearby farmstead on the north edge of Halstead in the late 1870s. He prospered, and his family also grew with the birth of a daughter, Edna Wella, on September 24, 1876, and a son, Carl Orlando, on January 3, 1880. In 1884 the Warkentins began construction of a fine new house in Halstead. His Little River Stock Farm (on the Little Arkansas River) featured an impressive and unique barn in addition to the fine new house. The site is today a National Historical Landmark.


In 1885 the now quite wealthy Warkentins took a six month tour of Europe and visited family and friends in the Ukraine. When they returned, Warkentin sold his Halstead mill to his father-in-law, and his brother-in-law, Conrad, took over the operations in Halstead. Warkentin chartered a new company, the Newton Milling and Elevator Company, but initial plans to construct a new mill in Newton shifted and instead he purchased the existing Monarch Mill.


Just when the Warkentins seemed to be well established in Halstead everything changed and they relocated their business and started construction of their new home in Newton. Their motive is unknown. Was the business or family relationship with the Eisenmeyers a factor? Or was it just clear at this point that Newton was becoming a much larger community and greater business opportunity than Halstead? Also the Mennonites were moving their school from Halstead and establishing a college in Newton, making Newton the locus of Mennonite settlers in Kansas. Whatever the reasons, it proved to be a move good for the Warkentins and for Newton.


For many years historians believed the Warkentin family continued to live in Halstead for a year while their home in Newton was constructed and then they moved into their new house in mid-1887. Recently discovered newspaper reports indicate the house actually took longer to complete, and the family lived in a rented house on West Broadway for some time before moving to their home on East 1st Street.

Family trip to Russia 1885
Bernhard Warkentin and family are pictured with relatives in 1885 during a trip to the Ukraine.
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