Silkville, monument inscrit en 1972

Fiche signalétique originale

SILKVILLE (added 1972 - Building - # 72000504) 2.5 mi. SW of Williamsburg on U.S. 50, Williamsburg

"Une des granges"
Photograph (c) Grace Muilenberg, 2004
Kansas Geological Survey

Historic Significance : Person, Event, Architecture/Engineering
Architect, builder, or engineer : unknown
Architectural Style : no style listed
Historic Person : de Boissiere, Ernest Valeton
Significant Year : 1870, 1875, 1869
Area of Significance : Architecture, Social History, Exploration/Settlement, Industry
Period of Significance : 1850-1874, 1875-1899
Owner : Private
Historic Function: Agriculture/Subsistence, Domestic
Historic Sub-function : Agricultural Outbuildings, Single Dwelling
Current Function : Agriculture/Subsistence, Domestic
Current Sub-function : Agricultural Outbuildings, Animal Facility, Processing, Single Dwelling

Article de la Franklin County Kansas Genealogical Society

" Significance

The Silkville community was located three miles south of Williamsburg in Franklin county. Its founder, Ernest Valeton de Boissiere, was born into a noble family near Bordeaux, France, in 1810. Because of his philosophic and political beliefs,
he was forced to flee France when Napoleon III became dictator in 1851. After spending some time in New Orleans, he became interested in settling in some place where he would feel free to practice his ideals and live in the type of community he wanted .Kansas seemed to afford these opportunities.
Boissiere purchased about 3,500 acres of land in the southwest corner of Franklin county from the Kansas Educational Association of the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1869. He began making plans for a communal living arrangement, using the silk industry as a means of subsistence. Silkville, which was also referred to as Kansas Cooperative Farm, Prairie Home and Valeton, was unique because of its cooperative economic and housing plan. Boissiere's principal aim was to organize his labor force on the basis of remuneration in proportion to production, thus making the work both efficient and attractive to industrious settlers.
Boissiere brought 40 French emigrants to Silkville during the early years of the community and in 1870 began the construction of stone buildings which altogether cost over $100,000. The largest building, called the "Chateau" by the neighbors, was the three-story living quarters which housed 100 people. This 60-room building constructed in 1874-1875 had spacious dining rooms, a parlor, offices, a 2,500 volume library and over forty family rooms. Other buildings included a cocoonery, silk and cheese factories, an ice house, and a blacksmith shop. Silk production began in 1869, and by 1880 Silkville was prospering to a degree. Boissiere's community manufactured silk which won various awards, including prizes at the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876 and the Paris Exposition in 1886.
Once members of the community learned about better opportunities in homesteading and in other Kansas industries, however, Boissiere began having difficulty in keeping his labor force.
To help his financial situation, he started producing cheese and butter products, and by 1880 this was fairly successful. Later, stock raising was added as conditions worsened. Finally, because of failure in each of these, Boissiere returned to France, and the property, worth approximately $150,000, was donated in 1892 to the International Order of Odd Fellows for an orphanage. Shortly after this, the Odd Fellows renounced any claim to the gift because they were unable to support it. Court cases involving the land followed, and eventually two shrewd Topeka lawyers gained possession of it. In 1916 a fire destroyed much of the living quarters. Three stone buildings- the cocoonery, a barn and a house which has been rebuilt from the frame of the chateau -- still stand.
The uniqueness of this settlement as a commune, plus the unusual feature of a silk industry, makes it a significant part of Kansas history.


Silkville Ranch, which is located three miles south of Williamsburg in Franklin county, still contains three of the original structures from Ernest Valeton de Boissiere's nineteenth century settlement. The buildings can be reached by a driveway which angles to the southeast from a north-south unpaved rural road. Instead of sitting square with the points of the compass, the original Silkville buildings are square with the lane road. The easternmost of the structures is a white-painted house in which was rebuilt from the ruins of the large stone chateau, the three story living quarters of the colony, which burned in 1916. The present house is believed to be the west end of the original building. It is a two-story structure with a hip roof. A porch now spans the west facade and a door has been cut in the center of the wall directly below the original second story window. On both the north and south facades four rectangular window openings flanked by shutters are evenly spaced at the second floor level. On the first floor, which originally had the same spacing, some window openings were converted to doors when the rebuilding took place. The east facade is rather plain; window openings appear on both floor levels but are unevenly spaced and of unequal sizes. Most likely this is wall was not a part of the original chateau and the windows were placed as needed.
About 100 yards west of the house is a long rectangular barn of rough-cut stone which is believed to be the cocoonery, or silk house, from Boissiere's silk factory. This two-story building faces southeast and measures approximately 30 feet wide and 75 feet long. Some of the door and window, openings have been modified, both on the sides and the front. Sliding barn doors now provide the access on the south; two arched door openings have been closed off. The barn has simple wood-shingled gable roof. At the present time it is used as a stable.
Approximately 200 feet south of the cocoonery is another stone barn facing northwest which measures about 30 feet wide and 80 feet long. Now used for storage and a repair shop, it is variously reported to have been a stable, silk factory, or shop. Considerable repair work has been done to the walls, and the door and window, openings have also been altered. A metal roof has replaced the wood-shingled one. In the ranch yard to the northwest of this barn, foundation ruins of other Silkville buildings can be observed. And about one-eighth mile to the south stand what remain of the mulberry groves planted for Boissiere's silk venture in the 1870's.
All three of the remaining original structures have been altered, the house more so than the others, but Silkville remains a unique and impressive site. The area being nominated is approximately six to seven acres which includes the three original buildings."

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