Chisholm Trail

Chisholm Trail: Driving the American West


Did you know the Civil War played a part in the rise of the Chisholm Trail? Despite the destroyed railhead of Lawrence in 1863, the Kansas Pacific Railway continued across the Prairie, and by the spring of 1867, the track reached tiny Abilene. Eventually, this is where Joseph McCoy brought his cattle—a major part of the Chisholm Trail, and the growth of Abilene, Kansas.

You can learn all this and more by stopping by the Chisholm Trail exhibit running till the July 24th at the Historic Elgin Hotel. Paid for in part by the City of Marion, a joint project with Symphony in the Flint Hills and Flint Hills Design, and major funding by Lost Trail Soda, the Chisholm Trail exhibit is a wondrous way to learn something new and important to our state’s, and country’s, history.

Chisholm Trail Exhibit

Chisholm Trail Exhibit at the Historic Elgin Hotel till July 24, 2018

Joseph McCoy, who contributed to the growth of Abilene, and Jesse Chisholm, for whom the trail is named after, never met, yet these two men laid the foundation for the greatest cattle trail in all of America.

The trail starts and stops in various places. It depended on many things, one of which was the farmers of the land the cowboys tried crossing into. Cowboys drove Texas longhorn up the Chisholm Trail, but many farmers worried about disease carried by longhorns and the effect the animals would have on the farmer’s cattle. Though the longhorns were immune, regular cattle were not. The fear grew so big, the farmers once blocked the Shawnee trail to keep the longhorns out, and the cowboys had to adapt.

The cowboys of this time are not quite like the ones we see in films today. The “cowboy” idea came from the vaquero (vah-kair-oh), “Mexican cowboys”. They tended to longhorn and expanded the cattle industry, supplying America with beef, leather, and tallow. These men worked long and hard, and though it seems little discrimination happened along the trail, segregation became a reality when the cowboys arrived in towns and cities, as one-third the cowboys were African American, American Indian, or Mexican.

Cowboys as we see them today came about from songs they sang and stories they wrote until novels were published and cowboys appeared on the big screen. They found their way into the hearts of Americans and have stayed.

Know what the different positions the cowboys had when driving cattle? From wrangler and remuda to trail boss and chuck wagon, it’s all here. Want to know how to say “prairie” in three different American Indian languages? There is plenty more to learn here at the Chisholm Trail exhibit. Stop by the Historic Elgin Hotel and take a tour of the exhibit before it moves on down the trail. We would love to see you here!

Blog by Grace Major of Hillsboro, Kansas.

Chisholm Trail gift shop

Chisholm Trail gift shop

Historic Elgin Hotel, a Hotel in Kansas

Historic Marion hotel recognized by House Beautiful


Hutchinson News Logo

Posted Mar 18, 2018 at 1:01 AM

Historic Marion hotel recognized by House Beautiful

MARION – The Historic Elgin Hotel in Marion has been named the Most Famous Hotel in Kansas by House Beautiful magazine.

The recognition comes less than two years after owners Jeremy and Tammy Ensey purchased and further renovated the three-story 132-year-old landmark.

“Though it doesn’t stand tall, this boutique hotel in Kansas’ Flint Hills boasts a 19th-century limestone exterior that sets it apart,” the magazine reported. “Its Victorian ballroom and guest rooms transport patrons to another era, as will local attractions like the Marion County Courthouse and the Santa Fe Trail.”

The Enseys, who purchased the Elgin in 2016, learned of the honor in a congratulatory email from the Kansas Travel & Tourism Division.

The hotel between Wichita and Kansas City has attracted plaudits since built by Marion residents with lofty aspirations for their city’s future. A newspaper at the time called it “a monument to Marion’s glory and a common pride to citizens and its enterprising builders.”

The Elgin was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, after it was spared the wrecking ball and converted into apartment houses. The Enseys bought it from a couple who had completed a full renovation and transformed it into the bed and breakfast.

“Our community is forever indebted to previous owners, Jim and Nancy Cloutier for so accurately restoring this great landmark,” says Ensey. “We see it now as our role to tell the world of this place that so beautifully blends the nostalgia of the past with the luxuries of today.”

In addition to a 1,200-square-foot Victorian ballroom, the hotel (historicelginhotel.com) offers a conference room, library, and game lounge for weddings, meetings and gatherings as well as five living rooms, a verandah, a covered porch, and a fitness center. Its 12 suites feature leading-edge amenities such as ensuite bathrooms, docking stations, streaming TVs, and hot tubs.

For more information about the hotel, visit https://historicelginhotel.com or contact Tammy Ensey at stay@historicelginhotel.com or (620) 382-3200.

Credit: The Hutchinson News, http://www.hutchnews.com/news/20180318/business-briefs

Destination hotel, Historic Elgin Hotel guests enjoy high noon tea

It’s all in the marketing for destination hotel owner



It’s all in the marketing for destination hotel owner

Branding, online presence, special events, and targeted groups all in the mix for destination hotel


News editor

Historic Elgin Hotel owner Tammy Ensey knows she got something special when she and her husband, Jeremy, bought the property from Jim and Nancy Cloutier.  Investing heavily in renovations to the hotel, the Cloutiers created an elegant environment ripe for the Enseys’ plans for a destination hotel.

“Their piece of it in the renovation of the property was not something I would have tackled,” Tammy Ensey said. “Without the renovation, it would have been impossible. I’m glad I didn’t have to do that part.”

The hotel came with some good reviews and people who knew about it, but Ensey’s plans would take the business to a whole new level.

Ensey brought experience as a travel agent to the venture, but took advantage of a weeklong training event in Colorado promoted by Marion economic development director Randy Collett and NetWork Kansas.

“It was a huge help to go out to Destination Boot Camp,” Ensey said. “Most of what I learned wasn’t new, but it put it in a context of how I could apply it to my business.”

And with that, the Enseys decided to “scrap what was there and start again.”

That began by developing a “Historic Elgin Hotel” logo and brand that would be used consistently to create familiarity.

“It’s really important not only for your branding but also search engine optimization that your name is the same everywhere, the address is the same.”

Creating a more robust online presence was a must, Ensey said, because the business is driven by customers who aren’t local. That included a new website, and getting the hotel listed with TravelKansas and popular online travel booking sites.

“That helped awareness of people who are planning to travel to the area,” Ensey said.

Social media also was integral to Ensey’s marketing plan.

“It’s like a worm,” Ensey said. “You get a message out there, and when you start partnering with places like Wheat State Distillery and Walnut River Brewery, just by tagging them, we hit all their followers, and they ask, ‘Why are they going there?’”

The picturesque hotel sells itself through pictures posted online by patrons, Ensey said.

“There are a lot of photo opportunities at the Elgin,” she said. “If they’re a Pinterest or Instagram user, they’ll post it out there.”

Ensey has developed a growing list of subscribers to the hotel’s newsletter.

“We have a weekly email newsletter that goes out,” she said. “It’s crazy, but my list that goes out to is over 1,000 people now. People learn of something and want to get on the list. They’ve been here, or they know someone who’s stayed here.”

Last summer, Ensey enlisted photographers from Pennsylvania who specialize in bed and breakfast photography to create the images she uses to promote the hotel.

“I think that’s the one biggest mistake businesses make, that they don’t represent themselves well in their photography,” she said. “You want the pictures to speak words about what the experience is, not just a picture of a room.”

Another business mistake Ensey has worked to avoid is concentrating on one target market. She has several.

Leisure travelers between 35 and 80 years old are one group.

“They’re generally going to be someone from the Wichita and Kansas City areas, but we don’t throw out that we’re going to get people from Hutchinson, Salina, and other places nearby. One of the reasons we’re gaining that market share is that we have the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve and the Flint Hills.”

Weddings are another target.

“We’ve really focused on the Wichita and Salina markets to get them to do weddings,” Ensey said. “What comes with that is that people want to book the whole place.”

Ensey also wants to attract more business travelers, and said she’s making changes to accommodate their unique needs.

The Elgin’s regular 9 a.m. breakfast wasn’t well-suited for business travelers, so Ensey created guest cards for them to use at local bakeries, and will prepare individual breakfast packs they can grab and go.

Increasing the number of family reunions held at the Elgin also is in the works, Ensey said.

Special events, like Saturday’s high tea and wine and beer-tasting nights, all accompanied by live music, bring a different mix of people to the hotel and experiences that bring them back.

When a crew from a Wichita TV station came to do a segment on the Elgin, the reporter gained Ensey some new customers.

“Stephanie Bergman of KSN called right back and booked rooms for herself and friends for our distillery event,” Ensey said.

Special events also connect the hotel to folks at home.

“It really adds to the support we get from the community here,” she said. “They love having these things to do. It’s just one more feather in our cap to say, ‘Hey, we’re here for you, too.’”

The key to repeat business is having a good experience at the hotel, and toward that end Ensey has worked hard to assemble a staff focused on customer service.

Guests can take a piece of the Elgin with them when they go by buying Historic Elgin Hotel coffee, blended and roasted in Hillsboro, mugs, and wine glasses.

“We’re building out a retail line of Elgin items with two themes,” Ensey said, “things people actually use and enjoy while staying here, and a second line we’re hoping to bring in of vintage items that go with the era of the late 1800s when the Elgin was born.”

More plans are in the works, but Ensey said all the work she’s poured into the business has been worth it.

“Clearly it’s a big risk,” she said. “You’re not next to Disney World, and you’re investing a great deal in a property and an idea. We have a great staff now and we have enough working capital. We’re getting to the point where things are successful. We’re starting to see those rewards, and that’s nice.”

Last modified April 11, 2018

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