KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
The History of Johnson County, by Ed Blair




CHAPTER VII.

SPRING HILL.

Location and Enterprises -- Banks -- Churches -- Reminiscences of Spring Hill --The Old Hotel --The Pioneer Store -- Early Days at Spring Hill -- Stage Line and Early Business Ventures -- Locating the Town and Organization of Town Company -- Spring Hill Beginnings -- War Times.

SPRING HILL--LOCATION AND ENTERPRISES.

     At the present time Spring Hill is one of the best trading points on the Frisco railroad in eastern Kansas. The Spring Hill Co-Operative Association, organized in 1877, have the largest store in the city, and own their building, 80x100 feet, with opera house in the second story. It carries an excellent line of merchandise, has a very fine trade and is one of the solid financial institutions of the town. J. R. Lemen is its efficient manager. Bunger Nelson also carry a general stock of merchandise in the Odd Fellows building and are progressive merchants, building up a permanent trade. E. Davis & Son have a model furniture store and undertaking parlors and are competing with the larger towns in their line. George Ellis carries a full line of hardware and is doing a good business. H. H. Neff, druggist, is an up-to-date man in his line. C. E. Baily is one of the pioneers in the drug business, having been here for about thirty years. Other well conducted lines are: harness, M. E. Black; meat shop, Ralph Hines; barber shops, E. A. Roofe and Jack Burns; R. E. Harbison's tin shop; Allen's jewelry store; Frank B. Jamison, hay and feed and extensive buyer and shipper of stock; W. F. Hunter and A. H. Starbuck each run blacksmith shops; Mrs. M. L. Baily, millinery. The Eagan restaurant and bakery is an up-to-date shop. The Spring Hill elevator, of which J. S. Null is manager, does an extensive grain business, and the City Hotel, under the management of James Wykoff, gives fine service to the traveling public. Physicians are: Dr. R. E. Eagan, Dr. O. C. Thomas, Dr. H. M. Beaver, Dr. S. G. W. Stevens, and L. V. Gast, dentist. The Spring Hill Lumber Company under the management of G. A. Simpson carries a complete line of building materials. Mellor and Rose are contractors; John Lambert, carpenter and plumber; W. M. Mollison, livery; Roy Payne, pantatorium; George S. Sowers, 20th Century stationary; J. L. Todd, Spring Hill creamery; W. E. Tisdale, real estate; W. F. Wilkerson, insurance; G. W. Moore, garage; C. W. Dunn drayage and veterinary; Dr. Pearson fancy poultry; C. D.

122

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

Flanders, fancy poultry; George Mower, contractor; Col. W. C. Graves, auctioneer; Bush Newton, Overland dealer; Fred Ricketts, postmaster; W. W. Wickens, Mi-Jo. Telephone Company; Clyde Elliot, manager of municipal lighting plant.

     The city a few years ago voted $6,000 bonds and installed a municipal light plant and the streets are well lighted. The engines and dynamo are in a neat and concrete building, the property of the city.

     An excellent band is also kept by the merchants' association. The Spring Hill Grange Fair, which this year will give its eleventh annual exhibit, began in 1904 as a stock and farm exhibit on the street and the second year leased two acres of ground from Mrs. Mathews, adjoining the city on the south. These two fairs being so successful,

Old Store

THE OLD STORE BUILDING, SPRING HILL, KANS.

the fair board the next year leased fifteen acres of ground, fenced it and erected a floral hall, put up stables and pens for stock, and each year since additions have been made till now the fair is one of the best attractions in eastern Kansas, to those interested in fine stock and farm products, this too without horse racing. considered as one of the great drawing features of a fair in the years past.

     The Spring Hill High School stands high as an educational institution of the county, and is an accredited school at the State University. A parent-teachers association has been organized recently and its meetings add much to the real worth of the school.

     The Spring Hill "New Era," established in 1889 by J. W. Sowers, W. F. Wilkerson, editor and owner at the present time, is an excellent

123

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

country newspaper and covers the field adjacent to Spring Hill completely. Mr. Wilkerson is a practical and thorough newspaper man and his untiring work and straight business methods are appreciated by the business men of the town in a substantial way. The "New Era" articles written by Mr. Wilkerson are widely copied by the press. The worth of the average town as a place of residence is measured often by the progressive features of its newspaper. Spring Hill owes much of its advancement in the past ten years to the aggressive fight of the "New Era" for better things and the wide-awake citizens of this thriving little city have begun to appreciate this fact.

BANKS.

     Spring Hill has two excellent banks. The Spring Hill Banking Company, the oldest bank organized, has a capital stock of $20,000 and a surplus of $15,000, deposits $100,000. This bank for the past fifteen years has been under the careful supervision of A. P.Williams as cashier, with his daughter, Miss Anna, as assistant cashier, and is one of the solid institutions of eastern Kansas. Eli Davis is president, Loren Crawford, vice-president, W. C. Palmer, secretary. Directors are W. M. Adams, S. R. Hogue, W. M. Tibbetts, George S. Sowers, P. O. Coons, Lizzie Bunnell, Eugene Davis and W. H. Rutter. Stewart Simpson is assistant cashier and bookkeeper at the present.

     The Farmers State Bank was organized April 1, 1912, with a capital stock of $20,000. It has a surplus of $6,000 and deposits of $50,000. Irwin Williams, a home boy, was selected as cashier at the organization of the bank and his careful business methods and pleasing manners are bringing the bank rapidly forward in the confidence of the people. Miss Osa Williams is assistant cashier. Thomas Williams is president, J. W. Sowers vice-president, George Ellis, secretary. Directors are R. R. Crawford, H. B. Dickey, George Osborn, J. L. Pettyjohn. E. E. Smith, W. C. Rohrer, Alex Hines, A. C. Stiles.

     The city park in "old town," planted in trees many years ago, affords a cool retreat from the hot rays of the summer sun and has an amphitheater where public meetings are held in the warmer months.

CHURCHES.

     The first year of the settlement of Spring Hill there were no churches or schools in town. Mr. James R. Hovey in an interesting letter written in 1874 gives the following data:

     "The spring of 1858 opened and found us without a school or church. Our community had been too small up to that time to support either, but the writer, thinking the time had then arrived when we might sustain occasional preaching, went in search of a minister of the Gospel,

124

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

one who would be willing to preach occasionally, at first, with a view to establish a regular stated service for our people. A preacher of the Methodist Episcopal church was found by the name of Hurlbert (if I recollect rightly), who lived about two miles east of Baldwin City. He agreed to be on hand on the following Sunday; and hold service at my house. (I don't know but it might be as well to say here that my house being somewhat commodious was made use of for all public occasions; it was used for a hotel, postoffice, justice's office, voting, public meetings, preaching, and just before the war for a store and stage stand.) When Sunday came he was on time; in fact we were on the lookout for him and saw him coming miles away on the prairie, in those days one could always tell a minister as far as the eye could reach. They always traveled on horse back--the horse invariably had a sort of pious regulation trot, and carried the inevitable ministerial saddlebags. He had no sooner got there than the house was filled. The people crowded in from all directions. Some came on foot, some on horse back, and some with ox teams, a few in two-horse wagons, but none in buggies, for buggies at that day were as scarce as railroads. The meeting was such an unexpected success, and the preacher so encouraged that another appointment was given out, and from that time we had stated preaching. In a few weeks the time came for a quarterly meeting and the congregation had grown so the old hotel would not hold them. So all at once just a week before the meeting the people set about building a house which could be used for a church and school house. Everything was ready on the ground and the building completed, all inside of one week, and the first quarterly meeting of the Methodist Episcopal church in Spring Hill was held in that building on Sunday, where on the Sunday before not a stone or brick was to be seen. Elder L. B. Dennis, of Lawrence, was our first presiding elder, and he was so pleased with our enterprise, and with the large congregation that turned out on that occasion, that he at once took a lively interest in our people and town, and had a regular station esablished here. In the meantime a church had been organized and the interest continued to increase till we were supplied with a resident minister, the Rev. Richard P. Duvall.

     "The roster of Methodist ministers from 1858 to the present time is as follows. The first minister was R. P. Duvall, who stayed till March, 1867. Then Rev. Hogue followed in 1867, William Whitney 1868, O. H. Call 1870, Cole 1871, J. Biddison 1872, J. C. Tilford 1875 (Mr. Tilford is the father of Mrs. J.W. Sowers, who still lives in Spring Hill), J. O. Roberts, 1877, Walker 1879, Frank Hayes, 1881, J. S. Smith 1884, William Whitney 1885, son of the pastor of 1868; Don S. Colt 1887, S. A. Laugh 1888, L. A. Markham 1889, J. A. Thompson 1891, M. L. Everett 1891, W. P. Elliot 1893, C. G. Crysler 1896, C. S. Frank 1899, C. J. Horned 1901, C. G. Crysler 1902 to complete

125

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

the term of Horned, who resigned, Thomas McConnell 1903, W. J. Mitchell 1906, A. J. Bruner 1909, M. E. Goodrich 1910, D. A. McCollough, the present pastor, came in 1912. The first church was built in 1871 and is now used by the colored Methodist Episcopal church. A new brick church began in 1911, was dedicated in August of that year and cost $10,000. The membership at present is 191. The Sunday school has an average attendance of 125."

REMINISCENCES OF SPRING HILL.

(By W. R. Rutter.)

     I came to Kansas in 1855 and went to Lawrence. When I arrived in the neighborhood where Spring Hill now is, in 1857, there were but very few people then on the ground. There were some Indians living on Bull creek, and among the whites I remember were James B. Hovey, William Mavity, S. E. Myrick, E. F. Davis, A. B. Simmons, W. A. Jenkinson, George Sprague, James McKoin and H. E. Brown. A town company was organized but it was not regularly incorporated until 1858.

     The first building in the town was the hotel at the northeast corner of the public square, a two-story frame, known as the Spring Hill Hotel. It was 30x40 and stood on one of the highest points in the town. The postoffice was established in the fall of 1857, but the mail had to be carried from Olathe, often on foot by A. B. Simmons, J. P. Lockey and myself. It was a dreary task, sometimes through the snow, and a lonesome job.

     In that winter four of us thought we would enliven things by advertising for a wife. Thus we did in the Boston "Journal," which brought several responses of a warm and amorous nature. One widow from St. Louis, Mo., carried on a correspondence with increasing interest with one of the boys, and at last reached the climax by telling him how much she thought of him and said that "the children called him pa." A young lady in Kentucky early expressed a willingness to see "the southern lily transplanted to the side of the northern rose." An elderly female from Maine wrote that she had $1,500 and that her husband must have as much. This let the boys out. Out of all the fun came one genuine attachment. One of the boys arranged to go to New York City where he was to meet his lady on a ferry boat, and should know her by her being dressed in black and carrying her handkerchief in her hand. This was carried out and they were married and came to Spring Hill to live. She was a finely educated lady, a fine Latin scholar and a musician.

     Mr. George Sprague was the first to erect substantial farm buildings in 1857, putting up a good house and barn, building fences and making things look like home. S. E. Myrick settled on the northeast

126

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

quarter of section 15, directly north of my claim, and Davis was on the north of him. The first store was opened by W. G. Davidson. These were quickly followed in the next year by many others, nearly all of whom have gone.

     The first newspaper of Spring Hill was started December 7, 1870, and was called the Spring Hill "Enterprise." It was a Republican paper but in 1872 it changed hands and the name was changed to the "Western Progress."

     The Presbyterian church of Spring Hill was organized December 4, 1864, with ten members. Rev. H. Reed was the first pastor.

     The following persons have served as pastors: J. W. Rankin, N. A. Rankin, James C. McElroy, A. Carroll, N. Young, A. M. Reynolds, William Howell, A. V. Stout, W. A. Rankin (second time), A. M. Mann, W. H. Course. The church building was erected in 1871 by J. C. Beckley and is situated in old town one block east of the Old Hotel.

THE OLD HOTEL. (By Ed Blair.)

Over the prairies for miles and miles,
  Slowly the stage coach rolled along,
With now and then the crack of a whip,
  And a "Get up there" or a bit of a song,
The bluestem waved and the flowers wild
  Nodded and becked as the stage went by
(In the soft June days) and when autumn came
  The fires of the prairie lit up the sky,
And after the ride was a rest for a spell,
  For the passengers here at the old hotel.

'Twas a welcome sight to the traveler worn
  The light that flecked from the windows here,
And far in the night were the slow teams urged,
  That the drivers might bask in its warmth and cheer,
For equality reigned at the old hotel,
  Where the traveler told of his wanderings far,
Of his hopes and ambitions, of what he had been,
  Of all that had happened his fortune to mar;
And the innkeeper listened to what had befell,
  Till the clock struck twelve in the old hotel.

'Twas here Greeley came by the old stage line,
  And stopped awhile for a welcome rest,
And saw for the first the prairies so wide,
  That inspired his advice, "Young man, go west."

127

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

But the trail now bears the name of a street;
  By the hotel's walls move a city's throng,
And the corn and wheat now nod and bend
  On the sod where the bluestem waved so long;
But the hotel stands, yet through its door,
  The guests from the stage coach come no more.

Like a granite slab 'mong the tangled vines
  That bursts to view in a lonely wood,
(Where once in the long, long years ago
  A party of silent mourners stood),
Brings back to the mind the years that have flown;
  The years that have flown, yes, by the score.
So the old hotel, with its sinking sills,
  Calls back to the pioneer days of yore,
A slab in the woods with but few to tell
  Of its history now--is this old hotel.

The Co-oiperataive Stre

THE CO-OPERATIVE STORE, SPRING HILL, KAN.

     The Old Hotel at Spring Hill, Kans., is one of the historic buildings of Kansas and should be preserved as a historical museum of the border. It was the first building of Spring Hill, built in 1857, and the old stage line ran by its door. It was built on the northeast corner of the square in what is now called Old Town. The building of the Frisco railroad caused the present business district to be removed a half mile east of the old town site. The building is a two-story and its frame work is made from native lumber. It has four rooms 15x18 below and two

128

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

above with a seven-foot hallway in which a three-foot stairway is built. The stairway is boxed up underneath and recently a trap door was discovered inside of this, which, no doubt, had been made to be used as a hiding place during the border warfare. While there was no cellar underneath the building, the floor was high enough to admit a man's body and a score of persons could have been secreted there with no danger of discovery. On the north side a kitchen, twelve feet wide, extends the full length of the building. Everything about the building from the heavy oak sills, the old style hardwood flooring, the doors, windows and general style of construction, suggest the pioneer days. Up the old stairway you will want to go sure when you visit the place and there you will find two big rooms, big enough for four beds each, yet how many were accommodated at a time few indeed know at this time. The bridal chamber above the approach to the stairway is 6 1/2x 7 1/2 feet in size, and suggests the only privacy about the building. The building cost $3,000, and the lumber used, with the exception of the frame, was hauled from Leavenworth. At the time of the building of the hotel some maple trees were set out and two of these are still growing, the largest, standing south of the door, being nine and one-half feet in circumference. A well dug at the same time just north of the building is twenty-five feet deep; has never been dry and still furnishes water to many in this part of town. One hundred feet north of the hotel a stage barn was erected where eight head of horses were kept and cared

129

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

for.

STAGE LINE AND EARLY BUSINESS VENTURES.

     The drivers on the stage line changed horses here, and it was the duty of the stage barn owner to have these horses ready to hitch up as soon as the stage arrived. These stage barns were erected about every ten miles along the route and but a few minutes was ever lost in changing horses. Four horses were driven at a time. Pat Murphy came to Johnson county with Jared L. Sanderson, who was interested in carrying mail and operating stage lines. Sanderson first established a stage line from Sedalia, Mo., to Warrensburg; then later, in 1863-64, a line from Kansas City Mo., to Ft. Scott, Kans., making a contract to carry the mail for four years at one cent per year. Mr. Sanderson figured that the passenger traffic, freight and express would make him a nice profit and he could afford to carry the mail, as by doing so he would keep competitors out, and it proved a profitable venture. He also operated a line from Kansas City to Santa Fe, a distance of 700 miles. A daily mail and express from Kansas City to Ft. Scott, with stations ten to fourteen miles apart where horses were changed, was kept up till the Missouri River and Ft. Scott & Gulf road was built in 1869 and 1870. The first station was at Gum Springs, then followed in regular order, Beattie Mahaffies, northeast of Olathe; Squiresville, Spring Hill, Paola, Twin

130

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

Springs, Moneka, north of Mound City; Ft. Lincoln and Ft. Scott. Eight horses were kept at each barn and a telegraph line was established along the route. Two changes of horses were made each day, one in the forenoon and one in the afternoon, and Mr. Murphy had charge of the stable at Spring Hill. When Pat first came George Sprague kept the Farmer's Hotel, now the residence of James Cuddeback, and the stage barn was located near, under the charge of Mr. Sprague. He afterwards moved to the Old Hotel and the stage barn was built just north of it. Here later William Sowers conducted the hotel and had charge of the barn.

     The location of the different buildings around the square at the time Mr. Murphy came was as follows: W. G. Davidson's general store was located on the site of D. S. Curtis's residence at the southwest corner of the square. This was the only building on the west side. Rankin & Steel had a general store near the south-east corner, west of Mrs. Hattie Skinner's residence. On the east side, where George Reeder lives at present, stood the store of Brown & Willis. Willis was a brother-in-law of Eliphalet Newton, and south of this store was a hardware store owned by W. Day. Alexander Davis and William Nichols ran a blacksmith shop on the east side, also located on the lot where the residence of C. G. Wilson now stands. On the northeast corner, opposite the Old Hotel, was located the first store building. A store was opened here in the winter of 1857-58 by W. G. Davidson. Afterwards a Mr. Johnson kept a general store here and kept a barrel of liquor on tap also.

THE PIONEER STORE.

(By Ed Blair.)

The counters were not polished (only where the loafers sat),
  But little light shone through the window small,
A sack of Rio coffee made a snug bed for the cat,
  The shelves extended half way up the wall.
'Twas just a "general" country store, at least they called it so,
  Perhaps because they generally were out
Of what the people wanted, and the customers must go
  With things with which they often were in doubt.

But stores are only ventures and the first must feel its way
  And this was like all others of its kind;
Some groceries and hardware, just enough to load a dray,
  Was largely then with what the shelves were lined.
But there was more than merchandise dispensed there every day,
  When settlers from the Wea and Ten Mile,
And roaring, raging Bull Creek, and the Blue, ten miles away,
  Spat on the stove and visited a while.

130

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

The stories of the growing corn ("Nigh on to boot-top high")
  The planting of the hedge (the future fence),
The digging of the spring and well and finding water nigh,
  Were stories then of interest intense,
And sandwiched in with others was the yarn from Uncle Dan
  Of yesterday when crossing at the ford
He caught six cats with just one bait, the way his story ran,
  The least of them as long as Berkshire's sword.

And Uncle Bill would tell 'em how he sewed his buttons on,
  For batching was an art he'd mastered well,
And how the nails helped out a lot with buttons off and gone,
  "Or locust thorns sometimes would do as well;"
And when a lively yarn was told the boys would gather 'round
  A little keg that sat against the wall,
  And turn the spigot slightly and pass the cup around,
  The memories of old times to recall.

Yes, there was "booze" in Johnson's keg and money, too, for him,
  And the reservation Indians also knew,
And when they, too, "mixed in" to smoke, the candle light grew dim,
  And then they surely had a motley crew.
Sometimes the hotel cleared its floor and gave the boys a dance,
  And then this keg of Johnson's took a hand,
And e'er th' boys attending spent th' "wee sma' hours," perchance
  A part of those connecting couldn't stand.
The booze is gone, an outlaw now--for this no tears are shed--
  But many things we've lost that are no gain:
The stronger ties of friendship in the early days, that led
  A pioneer for miles through snow or rain
To help a needy brother when the fever threatened life,
  Or help him save the meager crops he had.
For hearts grew strong and brave and true mid poverty and strife
  And the good things ever crowded out the bad.

     The "Uncle Dan" referred to above was the invincible 'Dan Ramey, of Spring Hill." Uncle Bill (William Rutter), worked as a carpenter on the Old Hotel and was a pioneer of 1857. Berkshire's sword is still hanging in the Grange store at Spring Hill. This sword was carried by Lieutenant Berkshire in the '60's and is one of his treasured relics of the war. Mr. Hovey built the old store building and it was afterwards purchased by William Sowers, at the same time the Old Hotel was bought.

131

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

EARLY DAYS AT SPRING HILL.

     David Sprong had a residence near where the residence of J. W. Janes now stands. A Mr. Lindsay built the residence now occupied by Mrs. L. J. Holdren.

     The stone houses now owned by J. A. Hopkins and W. C. Graves were built before Mr. Murphy came to Spring Hill, and, having been remodeled and replastered, are as substantial as the day they were built. The building now known as Cook's Hall on south Main Street, was originally the Odd Fellows Hall and stood on the site now occupied by the residence of Mrs. Hattie Skinner at the southeast corner of the square. The Ancient Free and Accepted Masons also had a hall on the south-west corner of the square, which was moved when the railroad was built to the lot now owned by Mrs. Null on Main Street. The building was later burned down and a brick store stands there, now occupied as a bakery and restaurant. Mr. Murphy moved his building now standing northeast of the depot from the north side of the square west of the Old Hotel. Mr. Murphy transacted business in this building for forty-two years.

     The first white citizen of Spring Hill township was James B. Hovey. In a letter from him to Mr. Oliver Gregg in 1874, he gave the following excellent sketch of the early days of Spring Hill and Spring Hill township:

     "About the middle of March, '57, I started for Leavenworth with a view to locating there, but the enormous value put upon property there, at that time, led me to abandon that point. I then proceeded to Kansas City, where I heard such glowing accounts of the "Shawnee Lands" in Johnson county that I decided to see these lands and locate there, if they answered the description given them. In the latter part of March I went to Olathe. There I found Dr. Barton, a clever genial gentleman, who took pains to show me the vacant claims about Olathe, but the fact is, I was frightened at seeing so much prairie with no timber near. So the good Doctor told me about the land around the head of East Bull creek, where there was, then, a most lively country and good timber. After spending the night with him in his cabin (which was the only house there then), where some eight or ten of us, all strangers to each other, slept in a row on the floor, with a blanket apiece under us for a feather bed, and one over us for covering. It was the fashion then to carry a pair of blankets, because one hardly knew where night would overtake him, or what he would find in the way of sleeping accommodations. Having breakfasted with the Doctor, on the plain fare of the day, corn bread and bacon, I started, under his directions, to find the head of East Bull creek. There were no roads, not even a trail to guide one, I was on horseback, and went, with the help of a pocket compass, to find a certain quarter section, I have forgotten its number, with its township

132

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

and range on a memorandum, nine miles south of Olathe, which I found without difficulty. I was then to go down Bull creek one mile and a half to find the cabin of a Shawnee Indian, who bore the name of George Washington, whom I found to be a good sort of an Indian, or as he would say: "Me good Shawnee man."

     You will recollect that among the provisions of the Lecompton constitution was one allowing all the Kansas Indians to vote "who had adopted the manners and customs of the white man." That meant the manners and customs of the average border ruffian of that date. The Indian who chewed tobacco, smoked, drank whiskey, and cursed the "d----d abolitionists" was entitled to vote, so they nearly all voted. George Washington, though he smoked and chewed, seldom drank and was a very good Indian. His dress consisted of a broad rimmed hat, a red calico shirt, and a pair of moccasins, which, of course, entitled him to vote. His family consisted of a wife and two children, and with them

oldhotel4.jpg - 9458 Bytes

THE OLD HOTEL, SPRING HILL, KAN.

I made home for some few weeks, there being no white folks anywhere near there. The nearest place to a white man was seven miles south of me, near Ten Mile creek in Lykin county, now Miami county, where there was a small settlement of Missourians which they called St. Marysville.

     On the east there was not a habitation till we reached the State line. On the north, Olathe was the nearest place, and on the west at the junction of Santa Fe and Little Santa Fe roads, where Gardner now stands. Mr. O. B. Gardner and some others were getting out material on Bull creek to put up cabins.

     Bill McCamish, who had married a Shawnee woman, was living on

133

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

Bull creek, at the crossing of the Santa Fe road, which was then a camping place for Santa Fe trains, but was afterwards laid out for a town and called after its owner, McCamish.

     The east fork of Bull creek was known as Little Bull.

     At the time of my entry on Little Bull as an actual settler in March, 1857, there were four Shawnee families living there, nestled out of sight in the timber of the creek. They were George Washington and family, Solomon Madder and family, Black Wolf and family, and one other family whose name I have forgotten. They were all peaceable and quiet sort of Indians who minded their own business and kept pretty much away from the whites.

LOCATING THE TOWN AND ORGANIZATION OF TOWN COMPANY.

     On going to the place where Spring Hill is located, I was struck with the natural beauty of the place. The view from the elevated point selected for the public square was grand, and the distance one could see was wonderful. After the town of Aubry was built, twelve miles east of Spring Hill, we could see the houses there every clear day, and the timber adjoining the town of Ossowatomie, eighteen miles southwest of Spring Hill, could be distinctly seen. I settled on the southeast quarter of section 15, township 15, range 23. From my Shawnee landlord I bought some timber and alone, with the aid of my horse, commenced to build a cabin. This was the first claim occupied in that part of Johnson county or in Spring Hill township. Being so well pleased with the locality and being somewhat enthusiastic in my estimation of its future, it having all advantages of timber and water, and on a line that must be traveled between Olathe and Paola, I concluded, to myself, you know, as there was no one else to conclude with, that this was a good place for a town. So singly I set the ball in motion and stuck my stakes, the northwest and southwest quarters of section 14, township 15, range 23, for a townsite. It was an easy thing to stake a town site, but the next thing was to keep it, especially when there was no town company, nor any sign of one, but I trusted to luck and the Squatters' Association. Dr. Barton was my friend and the leading spirit in the association. There was an understanding that if an actual settler, relative of a member of the association, thought of coming to Kansas, such a member might take a claim adjoining his own for the benefit of his relative and hold it thirty days. Well, I took the chances that way, for my brother-in-law, to hold one quarter, the other I had to watch, and whenever I found settlers searching for claims, I would volunteer to show them good claims, and in that way I got a good number of settlers around me, and saved the town site. The first man that come along was William Mavity. In about two weeks after I landed there I put him on the

134

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

southeast quarter of section 14, township 15, range 23. He was unable to improve his claim at that time, and I kept him in my employ all that season. Then S. B. Myrick and E. F. Davis came together and took claims adjoining each other, Myrick taking the northeast quarter of section 15, township 15, range 23, directly, north of my own and adjoining the town site on the west, and Davis taking the quarter adjoining Myrick on the north, but both soon found that their claims were on Indian head rights, and Myrick went to Olathe, but Davis Stayed and took another, Which joined the town site on the north and I took him as a partner to hold half the town site. We two then held it till we got it platted and surveyed, which was completed May 18, 1857. It devolved upon me to give it a name, which duty I fulfilled, calling it Spring Hill, after one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen -- the suburban town near Mobile, Ala., Spring Hill, a most charming spot surrounded by beautiful groves, and flower gardens in endless variety. It occurred to me that the surroundings of the new town were capable of being made, by culture, as beautiful as the older one for which it was named.

     "In the fall of '57 Mr. Davis sold his interest in the town to A. B. Simmons, William Jenkinson and J. P. Lockey, and soon afterwards I sold shares to James McKoin, Edwin Walker and H. E. Brown. On the first Monday in January, 1858, a town company was organized in conformity with the legal requirements for preempting town sites. J. B. Hovey was elected president and A. B. Simmons secretary. The town made but little progress during the first few years of its existence, but the members of the town company were anxious to have the surrounding country settled with a good class of settlers and took more pains to get the county settled up than the town, well knowing that if they would have a flourishing town they must have a flourishing country to support it.

     The first house built in the town was the Spring Hill Hotel. It was built in the summer of 1857, by J. B. Hovey, and stands on the northeast corner of the public square, a two-story frame building, the ground floor occupying forty feet front by thirty feet depth. It stands on the highest elevation in the town, the view from its upper story windows being very extensive and one of rare beauty.

SPRING HILL BEGINNINGS.

     The oldest farmer in Spring Hill township is George Sprague. His claim joins the north half of the town on the east, and he made the first improvements and his farm shows what a practical industrious man can do. Mr. Sprague put up the first substantial board fence in that vicinity, also raised the first Osage orange for hedge and built a large frame barn, such as was seldom seen in any part of the State at that day. He was one of the first farmers to build a good dwelling in the township. Among other parties that came to Spring Hill about this time were D.

135

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

F. Dayton, James Sweeting, B. H. Stiles, and all made substantial improvements, so we had one of the best improved settlements to be found in the county.

     On the fifth day of October, 1857, occurred the first election for delegate to Congress, member of legislature, justice of peace, etc. At this first election, if I remember rightly, sixteen votes were polled. M. J. Parrott received a majority for delegate to Congress, Edwin S. Nash for member of State Senate; J. R. Hovey and H. H. Wilcox were the first justices of peace.

     During this fall the department at Washington granted a postoffice at Spring Hill, and appointed J. B. Hovey postmaster. But the receipts at the office had to pay for carrying the mail, and as they were next to nothing at all, the carrying had to be done just the same. Under these circumstances it was undertaken as a labor of love and was actually carried on foot during the winter of '57 and '58 to Olathe, and back once a week, over that bleak prairie, sometimes through the snow, and there was no beaten road to guide one most of the time, by A. B. Simmons and W. R. Rutter, though occasionally by Jonathan Gore and W. A. Jenkinson. They went two at a time for safety, as there was no road to follow. In 1858 our mail route was changed. We got it through the distributing office at Westport, and J. H. Jackson, of Spring Hill, got the contract to carry it weekly. In 1860 A. B. Squires took a contract to deliver it to us tri-weekly. In 1862 we got mail daily, on the regular Kansas City and Ft. Scott mail route, which had been changed so as to come by way of Olathe.

     During 1859 it was thought advisable to effect a regular organization of a Republican club. In pursuance of that plan Gen. J. H. Lane spoke at Spring Hill to a large crowd, and the club was organized with J. B. Hovey, president, and A. B. Simmons, secretary.

     Early in 1858 A. D. Richardson, then a regular correspondent of the Boston "Journal," since then attached to the New York "Tribune," became much attached to eastern Kansas. In going to Osowatomie he stopped at Spring Hill, and was so highly pleased with everything there that he at once proposed to become interested in the town. The writer sold him an interest and he was admitted into the town company on the footing of an original member. Mr. Richardson evinced a lively interest in the affairs of the town and always used his influence for its welfare.

     During the winter of '57 and '58, the first store was opened at Spring Hill by W. G. Dividson. He did a very fair business for the amount of stock he kept. In 1860 Mr. Prunty came from Parksville, Mo., built a commodious store and dwelling, put in a complete stock and did a splendid business.

     On the twenty-second day of March, 1858, an election was held for the election of township officers when H. H. Wilcox and J. B. Hovey were elected justices; A. B. Squires and Mr. Wilcox, supervisors, and

136

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

J. B. Hovey, chairman of supervisors, William Mavity and Robert Victor, constables.

     In 1859 Spring Hill thought she had enough talent within her border to start a literary society, so a call was made for that purpose, and the Spring Hill Literary Society was started with about twenty members. J. B. Hovey was elected president, Mrs. Charles Spaulding secretary, and Miss Emma Gustin critic. It flourished for a season then quietly gave up the ghost.

     It was during this year, 1858, the great rivalry sprang up between Gardner and Olathe on the county seat question. Gardner was not satisfied

Spring Hill Bank

SPRING HILL BANKING CO., SPRING HILL, KAN.

with the way Olathe had secured it, and wanted further action on it by the next legislature. At that period in the history of Kansas it was believed that corner lots, when judiciously applied, had great weight in the location of county seats, especially with the previous legislature, whose uneviable name has passed into history, and which is known as the "bogus legislature" of Kansas, though I am not aware that Olathe was ever suspected of using any such appliances in her interest. Gardner's hope was in getting her candidates nominated for the legislature, through whose influence, if elected, they hoped to secure the desired

137

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

change by legislative enactment. Messrs. Lockhart and Hovey were elected by large majorities. That election was really a test on the county seat question, and Olathe won. The legislature wisely refrained from meddling with it, and in Johnson county it never came up afterwards.

     In 1860, the year of the great drouth in Kansas, Spring Hill township suffered but little in comparison with other parts of the State. Though there was great scarcity, and but little of anything raised, the calls for aid from our township were very few and easily supplied. During the summer the writer had frequently to shut all the doors and windows in the house to keep out as much hot burning air as possible that came from the south; we had never experienced anything like it before. In breathing it, it really seemed that we were breathing hot air from an oven. Animals suffered dreadfully, and its blighting effects were felt by everything animate and inanimate.

WAR TIMES.

     Spring Hill raised two companies for home protection, one a mounted company, commanded by Capt. James Duff, and one infantry company commanded by Captain Hovey. One or the other of these companies was frequently requested to stand guard over some weak neighboring settlement, that had been threatened with fire and sword by some of the Missouri bushwhackers that infested the border that season. This kind of irregular service did not suit our men, it was not either soldiering or farming, though it partook of the hardships of both. Frequently we had to sleep with our guns in reach and perhaps with our clothes on, ready to start up with the first note of alarm. During the same season Captain Hill, of Olathe, commenced recruiting for active service in the field and quite a number of our men went into his company and with their regiment, Col. R. B. Mitchell's. participated in the battle of Wilson Creek, under General Lyon. Captain Duff, together with such of the men that remained, held himself ready for home service.

     In October, 1864, we had our last and biggest scare. Price was coming upon us like a volcano, with an army big enough to swallow us all down together. Our situation was critical. General Curtis at once issued an order putting the State under martial law, and ordered every man to report for duty, had the stores all closed, and squads of patrolmen bringing in delinquents, not only in cities and towns, but through the country. In many instances men were taken from their fields while at work and some were not allowed to go home for a change of clothing.

     The legislature of 1858-59 passed an act opening a State road from Leavenworth via Olathe, Spring Hill, Paola, and Mound City to Ft. Scott. A military telegraph line was placed on the road during the war. In due season parties interested, including the writer, began to agitate the question of a railroad.

138

HISTORY OF JOHNSON COUNTY, KANSAS

     One looks back on those days of trial, when the wolves came howling around our cabin in the night, and the rabbits used to eat all our young trees in the winter, the Indian hogs ate up our corn in the summer, and the cattle broke down our fences at all seasons of the year. And when we used to haul all the water we used from a spring half a mile away and go twenty-five miles to Westport to mill; yet after a lapse of sixteen or seventeen years, it is rather pleasant to look back and reflect on the good those early efforts have accomplished.







































Go to Chapter 6  Go to Chapter 8  Return to Table of Contents