SAVONBURG is a community of 87 residents in eastern Allen County. It’s a small town with a big personality, taking pride in its Swedish heritage and strong sense of community.
Settled originally by Swedish immigrants, Savonburg never experienced the booms that other Allen County communities have. But it hasn’t experienced the busts, either. Today Savonburg boasts one of the best community centers in the county, an outstanding and heavily used public library, and an active citizenry.
Perhaps most surprising, anecdotal evidence suggests that Savonburg is experiencing a boom of children. Savonburg’s median population is 40.5, which is a full 11 years less than its “twin” city of Elsmore, and identical to the muchlarger community of Humboldt. Residents have estimated that there are currently 40 children living in and around Savonburg, which, if correct, shows a community that is bucking the trends that are emptying many towns throughout the Midwest.
Like most small communities in the county, there is no detailed data available to describe resident health in Savonburg. What is particularly interesting about Savonburg is that, based on local residents’ observations, little or no childhood obesity exists in the community. Savonburg’s adults also appear to be less overweight than residents in other parts of the county, a to use fewer tobacco products. One could speculate that the preservation of Swedish customs contributes to these healthier lifestyles, as could the inaccessibility of fast food restaurants. Whatever the causes, Savonburg seems to be one of the county’s healthier communities.
Located at the southern edge of Allen County, Savonburg is geographically isolated from healthcare services, with the nearest medical clinic (The Family Physicians) located 13 miles away in Moran. The nearest hospital is Neosho Memorial Regional Medical Center in Chanute, a distance of 22 miles. There are no practicing doctors, dentists, optometrists, or chiropractors in the city of Savonburg.
With transportation costs increasing, and with a large number of senior citizens, Savonburg residents have significant barriers that limit their access to healthcare. Thrive is studying options for bringing mobile healthcare options to Savonburg and other smaller communities.
PARKS AND RECREATION
Savonburg’s recreation infrastructure is relatively limited. The community does have basketball goals that are used somewhat by children, but otherwise the town itself serves as one large playground for children. Bike riding through Savonburg’s streets is a common pastime of children, and residents can be seen walking on Savonburg’s streets many mornings and evenings.
The 2000 US Census showed 47 housing units in Savonburg; an October 2008 study by Thrive counted 57 houses in Savonburg, an increase of 17% in eight years. We are unable to explain this increase, except through noting that Savonburg has benefited from the return of retirees and younger families in recent years, including some that may have built new homes. Despite this good news, the Census Bureau estimates that 20% of Savonburg’s housing units are vacant.
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
There is very little commercial activity in Savonburg. The nearest communities of any size are Moran and Stark (Neosho County), with the nearest shopping and employment centers located in Humboldt and Chanute, both of which are over 20 miles away.
Savonburg has Allen County’s highest poverty rate—41%–meaning that 41% of individuals living in Savonburg live at or below the federal poverty level. Countywide, approximately 14% of residents in 2004 lived in poverty, meaning that Savonburg’s poverty rate is nearly triple that of the county as a whole.
Geography remains a serious challenge for Savonburg, particularly as it relates to accessing healthcare. As Savonburg residents age, and with fuel costs rising, it is important to identify new options for bringing healthcare to the community.
Savonburg has invested in itself, as demonstrated by its new library and community center that was constructed in 2000 using local funds. This facility stands as one of the finest community centers in Allen County, and it acts as an anchor and gathering place for the entire community, from young to old. This immaculate facility is a selling point for Savonburg and is a model for other small communities to emulate.
Savonburg has maintained its traditions and sense of community, thanks in part to the presence of multiple families that trace their roots in the area back to the 1870s. This sense of community cohesion and spirit allows Savonburg to do things that other less tight-knit communities of this size could not do.
Savonburg may not be a jobs center or shopping mecca, but it is a strong community of which its residents can be rightfully proud.