Sunday, May 20, 2012

Silkville, Kansas

In 1869, a middle-aged Frenchman from Bordeaux by the name of Ernest Valeton de Boissière (1811-1894) purchased 3500 acres of prairie in Franklin County, Kansas - his dream to create a silk producing community. De Boissière imported silk worms, planted Mulberry trees and built a three story home with 60 rooms for 40 French families. These were les miserables Victor Hugo wrote about, workers oppressed by low wages and high prices in France.

Silkville home, circa 1870's, photo H.W. Barker

De Boissière's silk would gain national attention and win prizes at several expositions, but the community disappeared, the victim of cheap silk from China.

Silk Culture in Kansas

The house burned down and today, all that remains is a one room schoolhouse off of old highway 50. If you look closely at the image above, you can see a white haired de Boissière standing in the doorway of the schoolhouse.

old Silkville schoolhouse

Silkville school, winter 2014

Silkville schoolhouse, November 2013

Silkville schoolhouse, spring 2012

By 1892 the dream was gone and de Boissière gave donated the home and land to an orphanage. He returned to France where he died in 1894.

Original image of old Silkville school from Kansas Memories. Read more about Ernest de Boissiere.

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