Salina is Founded
The history of the Salina Fire Department would not be complete without a little background information on early Salina. In April of 1858, a group of men from Lawrence, Kansas, founded Salina and organized the Salina Town Company. These men were: William A. Phillips, David Phillips, Alexander M. Campbell Sr., A.C. Spillman, and James Muir. It is interesting to note that all of these men were Scotch Presbyterians and with the exception of Muir, were all related. Salina County was organized a year later, making both Salina and Saline County older than the state of Kansas, which was not admitted into the union until 1861.
Alexander Campbell and James Muir built a dugout which was located north of the present-day Elm Street bridge in the west bank of the Smoky Hill River and served as a temporary lodging while logs were being prepared for the first building. The settlers were forced to use the few trees which were found only along the rivers. The many prairie fires and lack of moisture prevented trees from growing on the plains. The first building in Salina was located on the southwest corner of Fifth Street and Iron. The building consisted of two rooms of the ground floor and one second story room. One of the ground floor rooms was used for living quarters and the other was used as by Alexander Campbell as a store. Christina Phillips, the sister of Alexander and David Phillips, married Alexander Campbell. They had a daughter, also named Christina. Baby Christina was the first child to be born and survive infancy in the county.
About a block west of the first building, the first open well was dug on July 16, 1860. The location of the well was between Santa Fe and 5th Street on Iron Avenue. The threat of Indian attacks was a constant during this time and the early settlers placed their covered wagons in a circle around this well as a means of protection for themselves and the well.
A.C. Spillman's log cabin house burned to the ground on March 4, 1861. This is the first recorded fire for the city of Salina.
In the spring of 1859, gold was discovered in the Rocky Mountains. Many gold seekers stopped in Salina to buy provisions on their way west. Salina was on the Smoky Hill Trail and became the major trading center for this part of the state. The Kansas Pacific Railroad reached Salina in May of 1867, opening up more opportunities for the town.