I recently went to my husband's hometown of Ellsworth, Kansas from Denver, Colorado and was reminded of the quaintness and charm of small towns in the United States. The 400 mile drive across Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas was anything but memorable, but the town itself held some charm for me and reminded me that there are people out there living a much simpler life than I.
Ellsworth was formed in 1864 and was a bustling cattle town until the 1880's. Lawman, Wyatt Earp even served in Ellsworth, Kansas during his career.
Today, with a population of 2,965, the largest employer in Ellsworth is the Kansas State Ellsworth Correctional Facility which is prominently displayed as you exit I-70 by the razor sharp fences surrounding the facility.
Still, there is only one stop light in the entire town and most of the activity takes place on Main Street. There is not a Starbucks or a McDonald's. In fact, there is only one "café" on Main Street where many residents enjoy lunch and dinner. I was amazed at the prices at Payden's Café. A cheeseburger and fries for $4.00. It was like stepping into the twilight zone. And the food is actually very good! While enjoying our lunch, people that my husband went to school with over 40 years earlier came by to visit and "catch up".
All along Main Street, the town has added interesting points of interest. Near the cowboy hat store, there is an iron cowboy silhouette with his head bowed. At first glance, it is hard to tell if this is a real person or not. Since he didn't flinch while I took his picture, we will assume he wasn't alive.
The architecture of the buildings is amazing. Instead of another glass building which leaves you feeling cold and "nothing", their bank is an old building which they have preserved for years.
I'm not sure if I can live without Starbuck's, but it was definitely refreshing to visit the small town and slow my pace just a bit. I found myself not looking at my watch or my cell phone. Cell phone coverage was spotty at best, so there was no need to get crazy about anything.
If you are ever driving through Kansas on the endless miles of I70, it might be worth pulling off long enough to take in some of the charm of Ellsworth before you hurry on to your destination.