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Historical project to detail the stories behind 37 cabins

Fran Brownell
Pratt Tribune
Elm Mills property owner Dr. Eric Lamp shows a photo album with historical photos that will be one of the resources he and wife Michelle will use to compile an updated Elm Mills Directory pairing cabin owner with their cabins. Lamb is pictured in front of one of the largest of the several lakes at Elm Mills.

There’s a lot of history connected with Elm Mills, an unincorporated gated recreational community in Barber County, located about 16 miles south of Pratt and about a mile to the west off Highway 281.

Wichita/Goddard optometrist Dr. Eric Lamp and wife Michelle, who teaches nursing at Bethel College in North Newton and is currently working toward a doctorate in nursing education, have made it their project to create an enhanced version of the Elm Mills Directory that is distributed each February at the annual Elm Mills Homeowners’ Association meeting.

The couple are revising the membership directory from a basic contact list to a history of the 37 Elm Mills cabins, including a chronicle of the ownership of the cabin the Lamps purchased in March of 2018.

“We took on the project as a learning endeavor, as my wife and I are somewhat new,” Dr. Lamp said. “We wanted to create a directory that details a bit about each cabin with history as far as ownership.”

The goal is for the enhanced directory to be ready for final approval at the February 2021 Elm Mill Homeowners’ Association meeting.

The Lamps first visit to Elm Mills was 12 years ago as guests of friends Tom and Ruby Kirk of College Hill and Pratt.

“We really fell in love with the place,” Dr. Lamp said. “We had a desire for our own cabin.”

As new residents, Dr. Lamp said he and Michelle had gotten to know a number of community members.

“But the annual meeting and the holiday gatherings still left us unsure of who was who,” Dr. Lamp said, sparking their interest in creating a membership directory that linked homeowners to their cabins.

As Elm Mills residents, Dr. Lamp said he and Michelle have also familiarized themselves with the history of Elm Mills, which dates back to the late 1800s when the town was an established community with a flour mill, which was built in 1878.

Cabins entered the picture in the 1920s after a fire destroyed the flour mill, caused when a thief stealing a bag of flour knocked over a lantern.

As cabins sprang up, the Elm Mills populace began to declare Elm Mills as a recreational facility for Pratt and Medicine Lodge, with swimming as the main attraction, Dr. Lamp said.

“I have patients in their 80s and 90s who have told me they remember going to Elm Mills to swim,” Dr. Lamp said.

Swimming is still a big attraction at Elm Mills and a June 3, 2019 rope swing event with 11 guys jumping on one-at-a-time broke a previous world record, Dr. Lamp said.

Video of the event is posted on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=aW9JhhfwZRo.

Elm Mills is also noted for its Fourth of July Fireworks display, provided by Pratt businessman Dale Withers.

“It’s a pretty sizeable firework show every year,” Dr. Lamp said. “Dale puts on an amazing show. It really is remarkable.”

Most of the cabins at Elm Mills are owned by Kansans, including several Pratt residents, but there are also some Oklahoma cabin owners.

“El Mills is just a really neat place in Kansas,” Dr. Lamp said. “It’s kind of sunk down so the wind isn’t too bad, with a lot of mature trees.”

Among the Elm Mills homeowners  is Dr. Alexander B. Neel, whose year-round log cabin home was featured as a 2019 build project in an Amish Dream Homes YouTube video, online for viewing at https://youtu.be/XZywHDtATz0.

“That’s one cabin we won’t have to research to determine its history,” Dr. Lamp said.

, expressing thanks to many other cabin owners for their assistance with the project.