Kliesen City, Colorado’s Namesake

As is normal, I was looking for something else when I discovered the namesake of another long gone Baca County town.  Mostly what we know about Kliesen City is that it was located north of the tracks, north of Vilas. The present day Konkel lollipop factory is just south of what was Kliesen City.

Location of Kliesen City, Colorado.

A couple of our members have shared parts the story of Kliesen City Lonnie Kerr helped us out first.  His grandmother was Alice Brown who was married to Kenneth (Jap) Brown (Bert’s son). Alice was also Kathy Maestas’ mother.

Here is the rest of what we have found out. While perusing early 1930 -1932 issues of the Democrat Herald I first found the ads below  I don’t really think of there being a north Vilas so it caught my attention. A little later I found the January 1932 Obit for Bert Brown which said he owned a dance hall and a filling station in Kliesen City.  A couple different people posted the Baca Club tokens from Kliesen City. Here is a gallery of the artifacts we have collected about Kliesen City.

Above are the old foundations from Kliesen City and the old toppled flag pole.

The first ad above is a May 1932 ad for a dance. The middle picture is the faded glory of the old Kliesen City dance floor. The second ad is a June 1930 ad for the dance in north Vilas aka Kliesen City.  

Here is the tale of the guy Kliesen City is named for.  The January 12, 1951 issue of “The Catholic Advance,” provides us the following.

Kliesen builds church

Answering repeated requests of his grandchildren for a reproduction in miniature of the Bethlehem story, W. P. Kliesen, of Dodge City, 82-year-old veteran of the western plains, designed and constructed a miniature church and two cribs. The church and one crib he erected on the lawn of the home of his daughter, Mrs. Gorden Day, at 1707 Avenue A, and the other crib he erected at the home of his second daughter, Mrs. Ernest Mussemann, at 1610 Avenue C. Dodge City folks passing the displays would rub their eyes and look again at the brilliantly lighted miniature church, not sure but what their eyesight was deceiving them. They would drive on to the corner of the street, turn and drive slowly back to take another look. Often they stopped to examine the fairyland church more carefully. About 2,500 people visited the wonderful work during the Christmas holidays.

Gem-Like Church

The brilliantly lighted diminutive church is complete in every detail from the bell in the belfry to the collection box ready for passing to the congregation. A loudspeaker installed in the little church plays Christmas music.

The church is 33 inches high’, 36 inches long, and 17 inches wide, but in spite of its small :size is sturdy. Mr. Kliesen spent two and a half months building it.  Now he thinks it would be simpler to build a life-sized one. The tiny house of worship is “furnished completely with all church equipment. It is even wired for electricity, making possible an illuminated cross atop the building. Statues of the Blessed Virgin and St. Anthony flank the altar with candles in place and the altar book open for services. The painting above the altar pictures the Crucifixion of Christ and is a copy by Mrs. V. C. McKinley of the altar mural in Sacred Heart church here. Statues of St. Therese and the Sacred Heart are toward the front of the church with the stations of the cross on either side. Small figures of the priest in vestments, the altar boys in cassocks, the kneeling nuns and those attending Mass, seem to inspire visitors to join in an unsaid prayer for world peace.

Beautiful Cribs

The cribs Mr. Kliesen built are beauties. They too are complete in every detail. There is one star over Bethlehem brighter than the others and there are the Wise Men it guided to the place of Jesus’ birth. The hills of Judea, another product of Mr. Kliesen’s skill, he covered with painted burlap. At their foot he unfolds the scene of Christ’s birth. There are Mary, the Mother of Jesus, and Joseph, 4he camels, and other realistic figures to depict the religious story. Veteran Grain Dealer Mr. Kliesen at 82 is alert and interested in world events and appears much younger than he is. He has weathered many years of ups and downs in the wheat and grain business from his record in 1916 of buying at $3.24 per bushel to the low of 24 cents in 1931. He has experienced three depressions and says he has been broke as many times.” He entered the Cherokee strip race of 1893 and staked a claim near Manchester, Okla., where he built a sod house the following year and lived there for several years. The development of the Cimarron Valley branch of the Santa Fe railroad moved him to build an elevator at Copeland in 1912. He later built an elevator in Sayre, another at Sublette in 1913, and one at Feterita in 1915. In 1927 a development company staked a new town near Vilas and called it Kliesen City, expecting to attract the Kliesen and other business interests of Vilas. Some of the buildings still stand. Kliesen City is little more than a ghost town. i Believing that he is proof of the truth in Horace Greeley’s advice “Go west, young man, go west,” Mr. Kliesen has helped numerous young men to prove the same theory by furnishing seed, land, and , machinery for a farm venture. He now owns land in Wichita county, and in Baca, Cheyenne, Crowley and Kiowa counties, Colo., and has produced as much as 100,000 bushels of wheat. He personally supervised farming operations on all the land until his 80th birthday two years ago when he presented deeds for land to each of his children and grandchildren. He said it was not only a Christmas gift, but a plan to “get himself out of a little work.” The Kliesens are prominent members of Sacred Heart parish.


Photo of W. P. Kliesen
W. P. Kliesen