From Notorious to Unknown

Covert, KS, was once home to a famed meteorite discovery in 1923, a prominent basketball coach, John Locke, and a notorious unsolved murder in 1928. Despite all of the town’s intriguing historical facts, the town has ceased to exist.

Covert, KS, was a small town just sixteen miles southwest of Osborne, KS.

The town of Covert was founded in 1880, and it continued to flourish until the mid-1960s.

The town’s economy relied on agriculture at first but began to transition to a reliance on its schools as they opened in the early 1900s. Covert was one of the first small Kansas towns to have its education system overtake the farming industry in employment opportunities at this time.

However, things took a turn in Covert when in 1951, the Covert High School burned down. Only a decade later, in 1961, the town became unincorporated.

While Covert, KS, was a small town to begin with — only peaking in its population with 150 residents — Covert dropped drastically in residents after its schools closed. Residents began to move in search of schools closer to either take their children to or to gain employment opportunities.

Although many partially blame Covert’s closing on an unsolved murder case from 1928, Covert did not unincorporate until after its job sources and their town resources began to dwindle. Because of this, it is natural to assume that Covert was a victim of the rural brain drain.

Many other small towns in Kansas have suffered the same fate after their schools and other businesses closed in a phenomenon often called the rural brain drain.

According to an article from the Huffington Post, the rural brain drain is caused by young people, often with a college education, leaving rural towns to go to urban cities. Towns that seem to have little employment variety to fit those college degrees often lose younger residents. Without keeping these younger residents, these towns often fizzle out over time.

In the case of Covert, KS, this was true. In recent years, the only residents living near Covert were farmers. All other residents had left in search of better employment, better resources and an overall better lifestyle.

Once Covert became unincorporated, the town was left with no governing body, meaning that any schools left would not be publicly funded and the town could not gain state resources to better the community.

Additionally, after the town began to die out, many of its businesses began to close with it. In 1960, just a year before Covert was unincorporated, its general store closed. Six years later, the town’s post office closed its doors. With these businesses left more residents in search of a place with employment opportunities and more availability of basic human necessities, like food at closer grocery stores.

Unfortunately for Covert, many studies about the rural brain drain were not conducted until after its closing. Yet, for those interested in ghost towns, it is important to recognize the sad truth about these towns: people chose to leave for the betterment of themselves. While their relocations served to the detriment of the town, it is not unrelatable to many rural residents.

Covert is important, not because it is a statistic for scientists to study, but because it serves as a real-life example of a town that did not fail due to untimely events but due to a steady stream of residents leaving. Examples like Covert show small towns what happened to them, in an effort for those towns to seek state resources and to make investments in their towns before it is too late.

Learn more about Covert, KS, and its history in episode two of Ghosted in America.

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Journalism student at the University of Kansas | Ghosted in America Podcast Host

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Abby Peeler

Abby Peeler

Journalism student at the University of Kansas | Ghosted in America Podcast Host

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