As noted in the Introduction, the history of Brainerd, Kansas, reads a great deal like that of so many other Kansas towns founded in the heyday of homesteading and town-building, in the 1870s and 1880s. The community was founded in anticipation of a railroad stopping at the future town site. For several years, it grew and prospered, shooting up to a population of more than 500 in a year's time. And then, as abruptly as it took off, it was virtually abandoned, when a new railroad decided to build its junction with the existing line a few miles west of Brainerd. Most of the town's businesses and residents moved to the new community, Whitewater, and never looked back.
But the story didn't end on that fateful day in 1889. Brainerd defied the odds and didn't recede back into the prairie, as its naysayers predicted. And several generations of bright, hard-working Brainerdites were born, raised and educated in a community that most remember as a vibrant, engaging place with enough distractions to keep a young person amused without the aid of a big city newspaper, cable TV or the Internet.
The history of the community already has been neatly researched compiled by several local residents (see Sources for more details). And it's not the intent of this Web site to be the authoritative history on Brainerd or the surrounding area. However, I will briefly summarize the community's story as an essential prelude to Memories section of this site, which is heavily dependent on a solid understanding of the community's boom town beginnings.