The area where the present day Goessel, KS is located, was not originally named Goessel. In 1874 a large migration of German Mennonites from Russia, settled in Central Kansas. Those in this area settled in a pattern of villages similar to their home in Russia. The settlement now named Goessel, was first a village called Gnadenfeld. However, it was years before a trading center developed. The Mennonite Brethren congregation built a church in 1890, the first public structure there. One of the first businesses, a creamery station, opened around 1890, and a blacksmith shop opened in 1894.
Illustration of the original Immigrant House, north of Goessel
In the early 1895, Dr. Peter Richert was looking to establish a hospital in the place that is now Goessel, KS. He first needed a Post Office to receive shipments of medicines and supplies. He also needed a name for the Post Office. Oral tradition states that he sent in the name "West Branch" as this was the name of the township. It was supposedly rejected because the Postal Department did not want any more names with North, East, South, or West.
About that time, January 30, 1895, the North German Lloyd steamship "Elbe" was passing through the English channel when ramed by another ship at 5:00 a. m. It sank in 20 minutes, with 22 half-frozen survivors making it to safety in one lifeboat, while 350 people drowned. Through this scene of terror, Captain Kurt Von Goessel calmly give orders, and finally, saluted as he went down with his ship.
The story made world wide news instantly, and was covered on the front page of the New York Times on Jan. 31. Yacht clubs around the world flew flages at half-mast. Since the Captain's ship made regular runs from Germany to New York, he had American acquaintances. Including the music composer S. B. Mills, who wrote a piano march titled "Elbiata" in his honor. He was discribed as having impeccable character and highly respected in national circles, since he had won medals for heroic rescues at sea. He did leave behind a wife and children.
Back in Kansas, Dr. Richert read the story of the captain. Because of the world-wide signifcance of the story, and heroic nature of the captain, Dr. Richert sent in the name "Goessel". It was accepted by the U. S. Postal Department in a charter dated April 13, 1895.
In 1898 the Bethesda Hospital Society was formed, the first Mennonite Hospital in North America. It continues today in the form of the Bethesda Home.
On June 6, 1906, at about 6 o'clock in the evening, a tornado passed down Main Street, destroying about 3/4 of the town. This tornado became known, at that time, as the " Four Sixes Tornado ". (Sixth month, sixth day of the month, year 1906, and at about 6 in the evening). In 1906 the first Goessel Preparatory School building was being built, (as a school for continuing education), for the area students that had finished eight grades in the rural one-room schools. The building was destroyed and then rebuilt. It operated until 1925. The next year the Goessel Public High School was established and it continues today.
The downtown business district continued to develop over the years with different stores, small restaurants, and business establishment. Some that have been more noteable were the Franz store, (operating until the 1940's), the Klassen Mill, (1906-1919), several service stations, car dealers, garages, banks and Crossroads Cooperative. In operation today are Keith's Foods, The Goessel Station, and the Branding Iron cafe.
Today the town of Goessel has 523 resident, 1 Mennonite Church and 2 others in the area, and an active community recreation program.
-Supplied by Brian Stucky, Retired Art Teacher and Goessel Historian-