The Arkansas City (Kan.) Traveler, Tuesday, April 24, 1990.
BY Liz Speck.
The Walls of Jericho, a huge labyrinth and miniature pyramids, can be used to describe one historical point of interest southeast of Arkansas City.
This mysterious conglomeration of structures quietly resting in its own secluded, wooded area has kept its secret from many during the last 80 years. It is not grand or renowned, nor does it have its own legend. It is simply a cement plant long since forgotten by many area citizens.
Horizon United Methodist Center, better known locally as Camp Horizon, owns the approximate 10 acres of land on which the plant is now located. The land is south of the limestone bluff below Camp Horizon and Whispering Oaks. This same limestone bluff was part of a man’s dream in the early 1900s to build a profitable business.
In 1907 M. A. Straughan sought the help of attorney Asa Dean, the lawyer for J. A. Ranney, to raise the capital to construct and operate the plant. Together with other interested citizens, Straughan and Dean offered to sell units of $5, $10, $50, $100, $500, and $1,000 to the public. Many Arkansas Citians contributed to the project by purchasing an interest in the company.
On August 11, 1908, the Hill Investment Co., under the direction of A. D. Prescott, deeded the acreage to Straughan. More than 30 acres were purchased for the plant and construction began.
A rock-crushing building was built to make the aggregate mixture for the cement. Another building, which is still standing, is approximately 120 feet long, 50 feet wide, and 20 feet tall. It was built to clean and distribute the burned rock to the packing building. Another building, which was to be the same size, was started with only one wall completed.
Large cement platforms were built for the purpose of supporting either crushing or packing machines. Other cement structures were built as foundations for future buildings. The wall, platforms and some of the foundations are also still intact—many of which are without cracks.
An office building of stone and brick was built next to the old Missouri-Pacific Railroad (now gone) which ran along the south edge of the plant. The switch ran between the office building, also on the south end, and the railroad forming a “Y.” A mess hall was built for employees on the north end of the property.
Later, when the money ran out for construction, Arkansas Citians were approached again to buy more interest in the company. A hotel was built to entertain local guests as an incentive to buy into the venture.
During March of 1909, one-half interest in the property was deeded to C. C. Straughan and back again to M. A. Straughan. On March 27, 1909, the property was registered with the county as the Ark City Portland Cement Plant.
Funding for the project was a constant battle for Straughan from the very beginning. In 1911 investors began questioning Straughan about the project, which was still incomplete.
The plant was supposed to be self-sufficient, maintaining all of the processes for the cement product. To prove the product still worthwhile, Straughan loaded two railroad cars with stone out of the quarry and sent it to a Tulsa, Oklahoma, cement plant for processing. The end result was No. 2 grade information. Straughan was finished.
Insufficient funding, rising economic prices, and the long period of time needed for the construction of the plant proved to be the project’s downfall. Straughan left town.
From 1911 to 1916 the property was deserted, taxes unpaid. On June 7, 1917, Albert L. Newman purchased the property. He later sold the property to John Hall in 1945. When Hall began building Camp Horizon, he dismantled the original office building using the rafters to construct the main building for Camp Horizon. Camp Horizon, along with the cement plant property, was sold in 1947 to the Central Kansas Conference of Methodist Church, later known as the Kansas West Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church and now the center.
Horizon administrators have left the rest of the cement plant intact. According to Maurice Wise, the Horizon’s current director, the cement plant and its land is to remain a natural habitat for the flora and fauna it has become accustomed to.
[Note: The article was accompanied by photos of remnants of the cement factory. One indicated the office building, which it stated was now gone. Other cement structures were to be platforms for large machinery. They are still intact. One of the photos showed one wall, approximately 120 feet long, which was still standing in 1990. It was the beginning of what was to be another holding structure for one of the cement processes. Another photo showed the cement platforms and foundations, which were still intact in 1990.]
Someone else drew a rough sketch.
1. Inspection Point.
2. Railroad (Missouri Pacific Railroad) “Y” into plant and out south to Tulsa.
3. Corlett, Kansas.
4. Camp Horizon.
5. Stone Quarry.
6. Crushing Plant.
8. Storage Silo.
9. Finishing Plant
10. Water tank.
11. Whispering Oaks Development.
12. Mesa Hall.
15. Corlett [?] Home.
Sketch shows that 166 Highway was running from east to west south of this area.