Think like Kemp and work like Kell: How two men helped build up Wichita Falls

Think like Kemp and work like Kell: How two men helped build up Wichita Falls

Wichita Falls is a city that is "Wee-chi-ta" or waist deep in history and heritage.
However, long after the Native Americans settled in the falls in the 18th century, two men became the driving force of the town's development.
Kemp and Kell were brothers-in-law looking for opportunities when they met a Wichita Falls pioneer settler, Judge Barwise on a train.
Since then, Joseph Kemp and Frank Kemp have helped lay the foundation of this town and build it into what it is today.
Stacie Flood, the museum curator at the Kell House, said when these men first came to The Falls, it was just a small town with dirt streets and two story buildings, at most.

Flood talked about the days when Wichita Falls did not have hundreds of businesses or thousands of residents, but two men were focused on changing that.

Flood said Kemp was the visionary.

"He had these grand ideas for a community that would really grow and thrive, and then Kell was the driving force that made those things a reality. Kell was a businessman," said Flood.
That's why the saying, "Think like Kemp and work like Kell," helped build up the city into what it is today.

The Kemp Grocery Building was constructed in 1892, and it was a operating grocery store for 35 years.

The Kemp-Kell Depot was constructed in 1909 and was the headquarters for Kemp and Kell Railroads.

Flood said they brought the railroads, water, electricity and gas to town, but things that made the community a place where people wanted to stay.

Like the opera house, newspaper and the public library.
Although these pioneers started their Wichita Falls endeavor on a train, Kell was not always on board.
Kemp immediately saw the potential the town had to offer, but Kell needed some convincing.

So, about a decade later Kemp made his move, with a proposal Kell could not refuse.
     "Kemp and a business partner bought the local mill as an enticement to Kell, and offered him an equal share in the mill if he would move here," said Flood.
Kell was a miller by trade so he accepted the proposal, and the Wichita Mill and Elevator Company was started downtown.
However, in 1900 a fire burned it down, and Kell refused to let the business die out with the flames.
Around 1913, they built the mill that still stands as Atteberry today. 
Flood said Kell thought it was important the business remain in The Falls, since farming was a big part of the community and served the residents well.
It was a huge operation, and The Belle of Wichita Flour was shipped to places like Cuba and London.
Just before the stock market crashed in 1929, the mill was sold to General Mills, and later to Atteberry who still operates the elevator portion of the building today, but business was not their only concern.
     "It comes back to the people, and the people here are wonderful. Kemp and Kell were very invested in this community, and they wanted to make sure that everybody had a good life," said Flood.
Kell helped build Hardin Junior College, which would later become Midwestern State University, and as a Christmas present for his wife, Kemp donated a library to the public.

The original building is still standing as the Kemp Center For the Arts.
Flood said it is important to share this history because if you do not know where you come from, you have no reason to stay.
     "We want to show people not only their history and their heritage and the history of their community, but also how people can make a difference in their community," said Flood.

She adds she thinks it is important to be an active part of the community.
Flood said when it comes to the progress of Wichita Falls, she believes Kemp and Kell would say this town needs someone who is a visionary, who has dreams and goals to help the town progress.
That is why preserving history is so important, and giving tours at the Kell House is just one way to encourage people to make a difference, come up with a great idea or even be the next Kemp or Kell.

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