Settlement and Townsite Company -- Business Firms -- Gardner Raided Three Times -- The Last Raid -- Churches -- Gardner of Today -- Gardner's Early Days.
Gardner, Kan., situated on the Santa Fe railroad, ten miles southwest of Olathe, is one of the best cities of its size in the State in wealth and business. The town was settled in 1857, and named for O. B. Gardner, former governor of Massachusetts. The town company was composed of J. W. Sponable, O. B. Gardner, Benjamin B. Francis, A. B. Bartlett, George Chamberlain and others, and from the start the town made a good growth. The early settlers were nearly all Free State men, and when the Lecompton constitution was up for adoption out of 103 votes cast in the township, only three were for it. The greater part of Gardner township is prairie and the soil is extremely fertile. One of the first Free State conventions in the county was held in Gardner in 1858, J. W. Sponable representing the township as a delegate. He was also a delegate to a convention in Olathe the same year where a firm stand was taken against the pro-slavery party. Gardner was pillaged three times during the border warfare, but only once did the town suffer badly. When the war commenced the men in Gardner and Gardner township enlisted freely.
The following is a list of Gardner business men in 1915: Bigelow-Foster Merchandise Company, general merchandise; Ward & Mowrey, grain dealers; Farmers Bank, H. C. Bigelow, cashier; Terrell & Turner, hardware; Gardner Lumber Company, building material; Cramer & Eyerly, contractors; Dodge Sisters, millinery; Gardner State Bank, H. O. Craig, cashier; Gay Brothers, general merchandise; George B. Dent & Company, harness shop; Johnson County Telephone Company, H. C. Bigelow, manager; J. B. Todd, creamery and ice plant; C. L. Horn, groceries and meats; Henry Young & Son, hardware; W. R. Pearce, jeweler and optician;, E. E. Armstrong, drug store: R. C. Fear, physician; J. W. Stanley & Son, furniture and undertaking; J. R. Miller, barber; E. L. Eaton, editor Gardner "Gazette;" W. T. Silver, barber; Will Stern, live stock shipper; F. L. Hodges, horse dealer; H. N. Hodges,
dealer in mules; P. J. Murphy, postmaster; Gardner Clothing Company, general merchandise ; H. Z. Moore, dentist; A. M. DeVilbiss, physician; F. N. Wilson, dentist; J. L. Smith, painter; W. H. Luther, painter; W. C. Ball, shipper hay and straw; J. S. Cordell, drayman; T. H. Myers, pantitorium; J. C. Pack, dealer in hay, rock crusher; Laura B. Murphy, insurance and real estate; J. C. F. Ayres, real estate and insurance; L. I. Gray, garage; J. E. DeNoon Auto Supply Company, oils and auto supplies; G. J. Tobler, auto livery and feed stable; G. W. Moll, bakery; H. T. Clarman. blacksmith; Sam Stephens, blacksmith; James C. Shean, electric picture theatre; E. E. Hill, restaurant.
I am indebted to Stephen J. Wilson, of Olathe, for the following articles concerning the raiding of Gardner, Kans., at three different times in the early history of Gardner township:
Hostilities of the great Civil war in the United States commenced April 12, 1861, when the Confederates fired on Ft. Sumpter. Hostilities ended with engagements at Boco Chico, May 12, 1865. In August, 1861, was the first hostile act of the Confederates in Johnson county, Kansas, when a party of Missouri Confederates came over to Tomahawk creek and escorted the suspected Confederates, old man Franklin and family, across the line into Missouri. There were no casualties in this demonstration. The occurrence created some local excitement but in reality was of little consequence. The first town in Johnson county, Kansas, that was raided and looted by Confederates was Gardner on the night of October 22, 1861. The village of Gardner is situated on the old Santa Fe Trail, seventeen miles west of the Missouri line and eight miles southwest of Olathe, and thirty miles southwest of Kansas City, Mo. I was at that time sixteen years old, a resident of Gardner, and clerking in the store of I. W. Sponable. The store was full of goods, including many pieces of fine goods such as broadcloth, tweeds, cassimeres, silks, satins, laces, ribbons, and staple drygoods, such as were usually kept in country stores, which we sold entirely at retail. Another store there was owned by a brother of my employer, Sanford G. Sponable, and L. H. Church, his partner. Their store was filled with clothing, drygoods and groceries, which they sold at wholesale and retail. Both stores were doing a thriving business. We had no railroad then at Gardner. Some small stores, blacksmith shop, shoe shop, the Stone Hotel, owned or occupied by Abram Cramer, the postoffice, about fifteen or twenty dwelling houses, and about 100 inhabitants, constituted the town. We had also an organized company of home militia, consisting of about twenty-five or thirty men, recruited from various parts of the township. The State government supplied them with sixteen muskets; Osmar Green was captain. They met about once a week
to drill, and used a small one-story house near the center of town for their armory, where the guns and ammunition were stored between drill days.
In this raid on Gardner fourteen of the bandits were Dick Yeager's men, from Missouri, near the border, though some other man may have been the captain. We called them bushwhackers. It is reported that Cole Younger was one of the men in the band. They entered Gardner from the east, bringing with them a wagon and horses, probably stolen from Andrew Murphy and Henry Gorsline, two miles east of town. They also got wagons and horses from my employer, J. W. Sponable, and a third wagon and horses were taken from another party near town. The bandits arrived about 10:30 o'clock just as we were closing up the store after a busy day's trade. It was a clear moonlight night and the last customer at the store was a man living north of Gardner, William Bergen, near or beyond De Soto. He was trying to make a deal
with Mr. Sponable for a larger bill of goods than regular customers usually bought. He stayed late talking to Mr. Sponable and left about half an hour before the bandits arrived. The first move the bandits made was to secure the sixteen muskets, stored in the armory diagonally across the street from the store. They evidently knew where the guns were. Mr. Sponable had just stepped outside the door to go home and immediately came back and said, "There are robbers." We counted fourteen bandits in sight. We could see from the store what they were doing and realized our danger. After securing the guns they surrounded the store. John Sponable, myself, and a soldier of the Mexican war by the name of Wesley Iliff, were in the store. Iliff slept in the store with me and had already gone to bed. We locked and bolted the front
door, put out the light, and went up stairs. The bandits rattled the front door and demanded to be let in. We did not answer. Then four or five of them got hold of a big breaking plow that stood outside and with it smashed the door open. By that time we were getting uneasy, but could do nothing, and that is just what we did. Our store was wooden and could be easily set on fire. We had two single-barrel guns, one empty and no ammunition to fit it, the other one I loaded while going upstairs and in my hurry got the ramrod fast. Outside were fourteen men well armed with double barrel shot guns, Spencer and Sharpes rifles, for us to tackle. Mr. Iliff told us to hide our guns, which we promptly did, by placing the loaded gun in the bed. The bandits were now in the store and calling for a light, and informed us we would not be hurt. They knew that we were upstairs and told us to come down. Mr. Sponable went down first and lighted a lamp. Iliff was the next one down, and in a few moments I went down, passing by a man with whiskers and a double barrel shot gun, standing at the foot of the stairs. He looked like a common, every day sort of a fellow, and I failed to be frightened at seeing him and stepped in the back room as I told the fellow I wanted to get my scarf. I found men outside guarding all the doors and windows, and no chance for me to get away if I had wanted to. They demanded the safe key from Mr. Sponable. He told them he did not have it, but had just got back from Leavenworth, spent all his money for goods and had lost the safe key, unless he had left it in his other pants pockets. He handed them a can of powder, said they might blow the safe open but he did not think there was any money in it. They examined the safe and decided it could not be blown open with powder, and asked Mr. Sponable to make a further search for the key. Three or four of the men took him to his home about a quarter of a mile away to search the clothing he had worn to Leavenworth (the story about going to Leavenworth was true). Mr. Sponable found the key and the bandits no doubt saw it in his hand but from their ignorance of safe keys, failed to recognize it as a key of any kind. Mrs. Sponable succeeded in making the bandits believe that her husband had told her when he came back that he had lost the key. So the safe was not further molested. There were several hundred dollars in money and many valuable papers in the safe. In the meantime, while all this was going on, the bandits were loading up the wagons with goods, mostly dry goods, from the counters, shelves and drawers, dumping them in by the armfuls. The other store owned by Church & Sponable was also broken open and other wagons were being loaded up there with goods. Several thousand dollars' worth of goods were taken from each store. Other houses and stores in the town were not molested, no person was killed or injured, not a gun fired. Mr. Iliff and myself, and every other person the bandits caught, except Mr. Sponable and his wife, were taken and marched across the street to the armory, where a mounted
guard was placed over us. There were about twenty of us and they held us from about one to two hours till all of the wagons were loaded and started toward Missouri. Guards then ordered us to stay where we were till daylight or they would kill us. Then they left following the wagons eastward. Two or three persons were compelled to act as drivers on the wagons. E. Davis was one of these. When they took Andrew Murphy's and Gorselines' teams on their way in town Mr. Gorseline immediately set out to inform his neighbors. The bandits were hardly out of town before men with guns were coming in town from all directions. By daylight nearly 200 men had started in pursuit. They got as far east as Little Santa Fe at the State line where they made a halt to council concerning their rights to cross over and also to get something to eat. Here Henry Gorseline met with an accident. He was in a store looking at a loose handled smoothing iron which lay on a shelf, and in examining it the iron dropped down, striking the hammer of his gun he was holding, and discharging it. The charge entered his head, causing his death two weeks after. This accident put a damper on the entire company, and they returned home without recovering any of the goods except some that had jostled out of the wagons along the road. My loss by the raid was a silver dollar, some small change, a home-made white weasel skin purse, and a record or diary that I prized highly. Since the raid I became owner of the store building, and own it yet in a somewhat altered condition. It stands on another lot in the west part of town. I also became owner of the safe and key referred to, and the latter is still in my possession, the safe having been destroyed.
Of the persons victimized and otherwise referred to in this sketch, my old employer, J. W. Sponable, accumulated a competence for himself and family, in the banking business and other enterprises. He was finally paid for his loss in this raid by the Government and the money he received he gave to people in Miami and Johnson counties for the support of libraries. He died a wealthy banker in Paoli, Kan., leaving a family of six, consisting of his widow, Myra D. Sponable, of Paola, Kan., his son, Fred T. Sponable, who succeeded his father to the presidency of the Miami County National Bank; his son, Frank W. Sponable (our present State senator from this county, 1905), who lives at Gardner, Kan., and operates the Farmers Bank at that place. His daughters are Fannie F. Fordyce and Carrie McLaughlin, of Paola, Kan., and Helen Washburn, of Topeka, Kan. His brother, Sanford W. Sponable, died a retired bachelor in Chicago, was wealthy, and is buried in Paola. L. H. Church made considerable money in the mercantile business and was one of the men who built the old St. James Hotel, in Kansas City, Mo. He afterwards became a cattle man and in cowboy fashion he gave his personal attention to driving the cattle to markets.
Abram Cramer and Wesley Iliff are both dead and are buried in the Gardner cemetery. Osmar Green moved to Palmyra, Mo., E. Davis was afterwards a captain of militia at Gardner. He died in Lyon county, Kansas. Andrew Murphy moved to Topeka, Kan. As to what took place immediately after this raid, October 22, 1861, the loss sustained by Newton Ainsworth, a farmer living five miles east of Gardner at that time, and of Ainsworth's and Sponable's efforts, and of their success in securing Jennison's troops from Leavenworth, and the doings of Jennison's men in retaliation; recovery of some plunder captured from some of the bandits and disposition made of the pursuers, I can not give accurate and reliable account.
It was August 23, 1863, that the third and last visit of Confederate guerillas was made on Gardner. It was in the evening when Quantrill's men passed through the town on their way to sack and burn Lawrence. They moved quietly along, riding four abreast, with pickets out in all directions, the officers speaking to their men in a clear deep undertone, saying: "Close up, close up." I was holding several horses in a ravine some distance away and out of sight, though I distinctly heard the tramp of'the horses' feet and the commands of the officers. They traded horses with some man in the town and told the man to send his bill into Leavenworth for the "boot" they were to give. They claimed to be new troops going to Leavenworth to be mustered into service. Their conduct and armament were suspicious and aroused the citizens. Great excitement soon prevailed, and people hid their valuables and run their horses and cattle to places of safety and some individuals sought safety in the high weeds and shrubbery. Dr. W. W. Shean appeared to be one they were especially desirous to see, but he and his son, Chandler D. Shean, succeeded in evading them, but his son, Edwin P. Shean, then a boy, was induced to put the Johnnies on the right road to Lawrence and was their guide for a few minutes. He was not harmed, is alive yet and lives on a farm near Gardner. No persons were tortured, no shots were fired, no one was killed and no houses were burned in Gardner or in its vicinity, on any of the raids made on Gardner by Confederate guerillas, bandits or bushwhackers.
The first church organization in Gardner was that of the Methodists, a temporary one in 1857. They were reorganized in 1859 and built their church edifice in 1878 at a cost of $2,200. It was dedicated by Rev. J. C. Tilford, who was minister at the time. He was succeeded by Rev. Mr. Walford. The church was remodeled in the
spring of 1911 at a cost of $1,500. The present pastor is Rev. B. A. Silverthorne.
The Presbyterian was the first permanent church organized in the town, having been effected in 1858. This church was built in 1870 at a cost of $3,000. Rev. Beech was the first pastor. This church was struck by lightning in August, 1892, and damaged. A new church was built in 1894 at a cost of $4,000.
Westminster Hall was completed in 1915 at a cost of $6,000. This building is 48x90 with stage 48x16, with maple floor, well-lighted and built for public meetings, basket ball, athletics, etc. It has a full set of stage scenery, and the Ladies' Aid Society have a complete kitchen in the building, and folding tables where church dinners are served at all social functions.
The Catholic church was organized in 1870 after the completing of the railroad and a church erected in 1870 costing $2,000. In 1912 a new handsome brick church 35x80, costing $8,000, was erected. The first pastor was Rev. M. J. Casey. Present pastor is Rev. James Ording.
The Baptist Church was organized in 1879, and their church erected the same year at a cost of $2,000. Their first minister was Rev. W. A. Stewart. Present pastor is W. O. Wolf. Claude Spyres, formerly a member of the church here, is now doing excellent work in the ministry. The church building was damaged by a tornado, March, 1905. It was remodeled at an additional cost of $500.
The Church of Christ was built in 1912, costing $3,000. This church has no regular pastor at the present time. Gardner has two strong banks, the Farmers Bank, Frank W. Sponable, president, H. C. Bigelow, cashier, deposits $262,000; the Gardner State Bank, M. F. Bray, president, Homer Craig, cashier, with deposits of $122,000. The population of Gardner is 600 and on a bill board recently erected on the south side of the Santa Fe Trail passing through town is the following glowing tribute to prohibition Kansas: "Gardner: Population 600--Bank Deposits $400,000--No Saloons or Joints."
Gardner had a population: of 514 in 1910 and has had a substantial growth since then, and perhaps has about 640 now. Its bank deposits are about $400,000.
The homes and streets of Gardner are lighted with natural gas from the main of the Kansas Natural Gas Company. It supports a Chautauqua each summer and has a lecture course during the winter season. It has several strong mercantile concerns, among them the Bigelow-Foster Mercantile Company, Gay Bros., Terrell & Turner Hardware and Implement Company, Gardner Lumber Company, and all the different lines of business are well represented.
The Gardner "Gazette," Ed Eaton editor, is a newsy paper, and in its quiet and effective way, boosts for the city of Gardner fifty-two times a year. Mr. Eaton, the editor, is a thorough newspaper man, unobtrusive, but firm for the things that add to the upbuilding of a small town and his persistent work in showing so effectively the value of good roads, and public improvements has been the means of placing
Gardner foremost among the small cities of the State with a reputation for doing things. A $30,000 dollar high school building is being erected at the present time which will be modern throughout.
(By W. J. Ott.)
The author of this article was born in Maryland in 1827, and after a few years' residence in Virginia went to Iowa where he remained two years.
"In 1856 I had heard of the fine country lying to the south and west, called Kansas, and the struggle for liberty then being waged to make it a free State. However, after a trip as far as Leavenworth, and showing such war-like conditions, I returned to my home in Iowa where I remained until the next year.
"In the spring of 1857 a party consisting of Alexander R. Veach, Arthur Larrick, Ellis Miner and myself took up the trail from Leavenworth for the Neosho country which was then being rapidly settled up. On reaching Lawrence, we fell in with a man named Fairfield, who
lived on Kill creek, about five miles northwest of where Gardner now is, who told us of the prairies near his home, as fine as the sun ever shown upon. Our party followed Fairfield's suggestion and on April 22, 1857, we reached the place which was to be our future home and found that its description had not been exaggerated, and if the sun shines on finer prairies, we have failed to find them.
"Each of us took a quarter and started to make a home. We were the first white settlers in this neighborhood, except Fairfield, who had married a Shawnee woman.
"Not long after this George Thorne and Rufus Thorne, his brother, came with several yoke of cattle and went into the business of breaking prairie. George Thorne settled on a claim northeast of Gardner but about the next year took a trip over the Santa Fe Trail to New Mexico. His father came that fall and took the claim which had been first held by Rufus Thorne, although he was not much more than a boy. I raised some excellent potatoes on my claim that year, but nothing else. The ground which Thorne broke was planted to corn the next year, 1858, and gave fair promise of the splendid qualities of the prairies of Gardner township which we have seen fulfilled so bountifully in the intervening years.
"Among others who came that first year was our friend, V. R. Ellis, and a man by the name of E. Davis and O. B. Gardner. Mr. Davis built a hotel on the Santa Fe Trail near where my present home now stands. The principal attraction at his house in the way of entertainment consisted of the charm of his three daughters. The oldest one married Mr. Cartright in 1857, being the first wedding of the neighborhood. I claim to be entirely unbiased as to the qualifications of these young ladies, as I knew them well, having married one of them myself in 1859.
"The most of the settlers of our neighborhood were Free State men; and most of the settlers of Olathe were pro-slavery. We had very little of crime or law-breaking and were a peaceful and neighborly set of fellows. It is true that in some parts of the country there was a good deal of claim jumping, when men rightfully entitled to their homes were driven off by violence. In order to protect the rights of actual settlers, we formed a protective settlers' association or squatters' association, as it was called, of a dozen or more men of the community. This association had but little to do, and never to my knowledge used any violence, but we did save the homes of some of our settlers against eviction by persons who had come with a view of using force. There was no shooting or hanging by this association, and its work was of the best and highest advantage to our little community.
"The town of Gardner was laid out in the summer of 1857. The town company consisted of Mr. Bartlett, president, Asa Thayer, George
Chamberlin, Ben Francis, David Francis, his brother, and O. B. Gardner, and from this latter person the town took its name.
"Large beginnings were made by laying out 320 acres of land in town lots. The company gave a share of eight lots to any one who would build a house on the townsite. I accepted this generous offer and built my first house on the now site of Gardner. It was not a very pretentious affair, made of native lumber, which I got from the mill at De Soto.
"The long, old, red building, which now stands near Mr. Frank Sponable's elegant home, was built by me for his father, J. W. Sponable, in the year 1857. It first stood a block farther east than it now stands and was our first store building, The stone hotel was begun that year but was not finished until 1858.
"The first sermon in the town of Gardner was preached in the house of Mr. Davis, afterwards my father-in-law but not according to my regular appointment. The preacher was Mr. Hubert of the Methodist denomination.
"There are incidents enough to be told of our early life in Gardner to fill a big book. We had many inconveniences and hardships, discouragements and difficulties, almost without number, but each rebuff only made these early pioneers the more buoyant and strong, developed the many splendid qualities out of which was grown the excellent citizenship of our little city of today. There were many calls for help and sympathy and the large heartedness, characteristic of the times, never halted or failed to respond when occasion demanded."