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Timken continues population decline

5/23/2013

By MIKE CORN

mcorn@dailynews.net

TIMKEN -- Sitting in his golf cart parked in front of the long-closed John Deere dealership he owned, Cyrill "Bud" Pivonka could point to what once was the heart and soul of his hometown.

"I was born in that house," Pivonka said, pointing to a two-story residence directly across the street from what was Pivonka Implement.

His boyhood home, however, sits empty and now is overgrown by weeds, no longer owned by a Pivonka.

Located in southeast Rush County, Timken is a mere shadow of its former self, where nearly a third of the homes sit empty, most of them uninhabitable.

It's a dilemma many small northwest Kansas towns face as residents move away or die.

Timken's population continues to decline, now estimated to number only 74, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates released this morning.

While that's unchanged from estimates a year ago, it's down from 76 residents in 2010 when a nearly 9 percent decline was reported. There were 83 residents in 2000.

At its peak, Timken might have had somewhere between 175 and 200 residents, Pivonka said.

Through the years, he said, the community had a grocery store and a pool hall. Right next door to Pivonka Implement was the National Bohemian Hall, still standing today but worse for the wear.

"They used to have dances in the hall," Pivonka said.

There even was a Pivonka Telephone Co., he said.

"I don't know anything about that," he said, noting he should have asked his father for details.

There isn't much left today, other than a grain elevator.

"I don't know if there's a hundred people here," Pivonka said. "If that."

Shortly after returning from a visit to her doctor in La Crosse, Marvel Pivonka -- Bud Pivonka's wife of 67 years -- estimated the size of the community as somewhere between 60 and 70 people.

"The problem is I don't know how many children," she said of some of the residences lining Main Street, the street leading in from U.S. Highway 96 situated to the south of Timken.

Bud Pivonka suggested it likely was 65.

"That's a good guess," he said.

"It's a sad situation in all these small towns," Marvel Pivonka said.

Few towns are immune to the losses, although it's estimated La Crosse added a couple residents between 2011 and 2012, according to numbers released this morning.

Still, the current estimate of 1,303 residents is down from the 1,342 counted in 2012.

The Census Bureau makes a complete count every 10 years, but then augments those numbers by estimates every year, based on conditions as of July 1.

The estimates are based on past trends as well as births and deaths reported. As the estimates extend out from the full count, the reliability diminishes.

The changes between 2011 and 2012, in many cases, are slight.

Rush Center gained a resident, the Census Bureau said, and now numbers 166 residents. McCracken also gained one person, and now has 185 residents.

It's the same for Bison, now with 249 residents.

Elsewhere, declines were relatively small, few reporting percentage drops of 2 percent or more.

Bazine in nearby Ness County lost seven people, a 2 percent drop. Bogue in Graham County lost three residents.

The biggest loss was in Hill City, losing 35 residents between 2011 and 2012, a 2.34 percent drop. Hill City's population has dropped by 12 since 2010. But that was down by 130 since 2000.

There were gainers between 2011 and 2012, as well.

Hays, for instance, gained 241 residents, an increase of little more than 1 percent.

But that's up 483 residents since 2010, a 2.35 percent increase.

Ellis is up by 34 residents and Victoria gained 19 residents, according to the estimates.