Old Settlers' Tales by F.F. Crevecoeur

The following concerns the west half of Vienna township:

Gil Grossnickle, his wife, Sarah, and children, Seth, Cass (Mrs. Martin Day), Clara, Maggie, Amy, and Sydney, came to Kansas from Des Moines, Iowa, in the fall of 1866, and homesteaded his present home. He drove through with a team of mules. He built a log house on his claim. In 1868, when the grasshoppers came, he went back to Iowa to earn subsistence for his family. A son, James, was born to Mr. Grossnickle after he came here, who died at the age of two years. Mr. and Mrs. Grossnickle are natives of Pennsylvania.

Samuel Grossnickle, a brother to Gil, his wife, Lavina, and children, Sarah (Mrs. Andrew Clark), Daniel, William, Elizabeth (Mrs. Daniel Elder, of Crawford county), and John, drove from Des Moines, Iowa, in company with his brother, but he drove a horse team. He homesteaded his present home. The fall of 1868 he drove back, with his family, to Iowa, and returned the following spring, but his family did not come back until the year following (1870). Mrs. Grossnickle died eight or nine years ago.

Henry Newlin came to Kansas in 1869, and was soon after married to his wife, Mary, at Louisville. He lived a year near Mr. Roosa's place, and the next homesteaded the place where he lived until recently. His children born on the homestead are: Lida (Mrs. Frank Hodgson), Newton and George (twins). He served in the 12th Illinois during the war. His death last spring is still fresh in the memory of our citizens.

Frank A. Brown, who was born in Ohio in the same town (Lafayette) as General Alger, came from that state with his wife, Ella A., to Vienna, August, 1869. He came through on the cars, instead of driving with the conventional team, or yoke of oxen. He settled on his present homestead and built him a temporary house, in which he lived from September till the following January, of poles stuck in the ground and boarded up with lumber made of logs he hauled to Zimmerman's sawmill, which was then located on the DeGraw place. He built him a better house soon as he could, into which he moved during the following winter. His older children, Fred M. and Pearl (Mrs. Al Hardy, who died recently), were born on the homestead. Mr. Brown was in Company K, 42d Ohio Volunteer Infantry-Garfield's regiment-during the war. He bought 160 acres of additional land from the railroad some time after he came here.

Joseph Makins, his wife, Rosilla, and children, Edward E. and Emory Clark, came from Indiana in 1869, and homesteaded the place now owned by John Grubb. His son, Edward, died in 1885. Mr. Makins was in Company C, 74th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, during the war. He was a wagon maker by trade. He had some property in Indiana, which he traded for 160 acres of land adjoining his homestead.

Mr. Makins had a neighbor living on adjoining farm, by name of Hank Nelson, who came from Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife. He had a son born here. He removed to Cowley county in 1870. Mr. Nelson's father-in-law, Mr. Eckels, was living with him.

Oliver Meskimens and his wife came from Ohio in the late 60's, and homesteaded a place on Jim creek. He had two children, Ira, a son, and a daughter, Mrs. John Cockerel. He went South, where he died some years ago.

Albert Meskimens, his wife, Catharine, George Malone (a son of Mrs. Meskimens by a former marriage), and their children, Maid (Mrs. Jeff Harrison) and Harry, came from Birds Run, Grundy county, Ohio, in 1870, and settled on the farm now owned by Carl Figge. Mrs. Meskimens died a few years ago in Westmoreland, while Mr. Meskimens is now living in Oneida.

In the summer of 1871 there came up a storm while Mr. Meskimens was away, and the house was struck by lightning. The fluid followed down the stovepipe, damaged the stove somewhat, killed a lot of little chickens for Mrs. Meskimens (who had placed them under the stove), and tore a hole in the floor where it passed out of the house into the ground.

Andrew McClellan, who is a native of New York, came here from Lexington, Mo., in September, 1870. He wished to homestead 160 acres of land, but instructions had not yet been received at Topeka whether 160 or 80 acres should be taken on account of the proximity of the Union Pacific railroad, so, as he had to wait, he returned to Missouri, coming back soon after with J. C. Taylor, who brought his family, consisting of his wife, Eunice, and children, Everitt H. and Nellie, who was born on the way, in a wagon. He homesteaded the farm now owned by William Nicholas. He built a temporary shanty when he first arrived, and built his house, a frame one, in the fall of 1871. His son, Everitt, is now in Colorado, while Nellie is married and living in Iowa. His wife, Eunice, died in June, 1872. Mr. McClellan served during the war in both the 21st and 96th Illinois Infantry.

Peter Moshinaw was living on the John Berges farm in 1870.

James C. Taylor first came here from Missouri, in October, 1870, when he moved Mr. McClellan and family, and homesteaded his home that fall. The next spring he came back with his family, consisting of his wife, Mary, and children, James A., Thomas, Hannah (Mrs. A. Crumbaker), George, and Maggie. He first built a small temporary frame shanty, and the ensuing fall built his house. His sons, John and Samuel, were born on the homestead. Mr. Taylor is a native of New York, while his wife came from Ireland in 1846. Mr. Taylor had for early neighbors Phil Thorne, an Englishman, who owned and lived on the John Berges farm (the A. Crumbaker place).

He had come here in the late 60's. He sold out to Frank Brown, and is now in Sherman township. Another neighbor was John Binley, also an Englishman, who lived on what is now the Henry Berges farm. He married a widow by the name of Ellison, a sister of Mrs. Robinson. He sold out to Brown and went to Missouri, to the "Land of the Big Red Apples," but not liking it there he returned to southwest Kansas. He also came here in the late 60's.

Albert L. Stallard is a native of Virginia. He came here from Platte county, Missouri, of which state his wife, Harriet, is a native, in 1873. He bought school land and built a frame house on it. Mr. Stallard and Rev. Wade helped to organize a Baptist church at Laclede soon after the former came here. Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Baskett were members of that church.

Daniel B. Smith and his wife, Rebecca, were natives of Pennsylvania, going from that state to Iowa in 1842. They came, with their son, Frank, to Douglas county, this state, in the fall of 1873. They came to this locality April 16, 1874, and bought 320 acres of land of the county, which land had been intended for a poor farm, paying $2,600 dollars therefor. Mr. Smith died in 1897, and his wife died a year later. Mr. Smith's son, Frank, had preceded him to Douglas county by several years. Frank got married there in 1869. He went to Rossville in 1870, and worked in a sawmill for a year and a half. He came here when his parents did, with his wife, Mary Jane. A frame house was built on the farm his father had bought. He and his father brought a McCormick self-reaper with them from Douglas county, this being the first one brought to this locality. though (sic) Dick Guffy had some sort of a reaper in 1874, perhaps earlier. Mr. Smith brought 38 head of hogs with him from Douglas county. There being 4 sows that raised 18 pigs, the balance being shoats. Many will remember the drouth that occurred that year, and the grasshoppers that came in the fall. As there was no corn raised, it was necessary to do something with all those hogs besides trying to feed them; so Frank asked of Cox, of Wamego, who was a hog buyer there in those days, what he would give for them. He said he would give $1.50 per hundred for them. That was rather cheap, but it was take that or nothing; so the hogs were hauled down-that is, the 34 that were shoats on the spring-and when Cox saw them he said it was a shame to sell such hogs for $1.50, so he paid $2.00 for them. The pigs, of course, were too small to sell, so Frank bought oats of Jim Gorman at 45 cents per bushel, and went to Blue Rapids, where he got wheat at 50 cents, with which to winter them over. He butchered some of the sows for meat, but it was so lean that it would have required grease to fry it, and, as this could not be got from the butchered hogs, the meat had to be cooked by boiling. The next spring he had but one sow left, and she became the mother on the hogs he raised from that on. That same spring (1875) he had just $8 left. He went to Wamego, and with that money bought 8 bushels of corn at $1 per bushel. Seed corn was selected out of this, and the balance used for the horses while another crop was being raised. Frank recalls what must have been a general custom of those times. As prairie grass was free and unlimited, each man in starting to cut a piece of grass land would cut around what he could mow in a day, and no one dared molest him while cutting that piece. Just like school children, when one discovered a strawberry patch he would immediately proclaim, "This is my patch," and no one would dare to pick berries off said patch without the consent of the discoverer, though sometimes a favored girl schoolmate would be allowed to share in the find if the finder was a boy. The rule about cutting grass seems to have been followed pretty closely, so that if anyone should be too greedy he could not take advantage of more than the rule allowed him. The writer remembers how one time a neighbor thought, when the haying season commenced and most everybody started making hay about the same time, he would make sure of getting enough by cutting around a piece of grass that it would take two or three days to mow. Another neighbor, seeing the scheme, drove with his machine into the middle of the piece of grass land occupied by the first party, and proceeded to lay off a piece that he could mow in a day or less. The first man on the ground wanted to know what business the other had to trespass on his patch, but he was told he had no right to try and keep his neighbors from getting any hay by cutting around all the grass in the country. The first man, though not liking it, took the hint. Frank remembers a storm that occurred the night of the 3d of July. The wind blew a gale, beating the rain against the crops with a fury, and it was thought the corn would be ruined, but when the morning dawned and a view was taken of the fields, it was found the corn was but little hurt.

The three families following, though not having settled in Vienna township, are given a place here:

Peter Ott, with his wife, both being natives of Ohio, came to Kansas from Illinois in the spring of 1873. Mr. Ott bought his farm, which is in Sherman township, of Ben Huey. He brought all his children with him. They are: Charles, James, Albert, George, and Nora (Mrs. Edgar Forrester). James has since passed away, while Albert and George are in Cowley county.

William Randall, his wife, Lucinda Amanda, and children, Mary (Mrs. Ebenezer Elliott, of Stockdale, Riley county), Maud (Mrs. Garrard Mack), Minnie (Mrs. James Elliott), and William, came here from Rock Island, Ill., in 1871. He bought 148 acres of land of Pierce, a brother-in-law of Pomeroy, of Emporia, which is now owned by Will Grossnickle, near Arispie, in Sherman township. Mr. Randall is a native of England, having come from there in 1848. He was a sailor by profession, and served in the United States navy in the Mexican war, where he lost his arm. His wife is a native of New York.

James P. Basket moved from Missouri to Leavenworth county in 1852. From there he came here, with his wife, Florella, and daughter, Alice, in 1871, and settled on the place now owned by James Jenkins, northeast of Laclede, in Center township. Alice married Charles Day in 1872, and died in 1892.

Though the history of the early schools of this part of Vienna may not be so interesting as that of the one to the east, it is no reason that it should be overlooked.

The first school held at Rolling Prairie was taught by Mrs. McClellan, at her home, in 1870 or 1871. The spring of 1871 the people of this part of the township concluded their locality was populous enough to deserve and support a school of their own. Accordingly, a move was made to have that portion of the Vienna district lying west of the Vermillion river detached from that on the east, where the school house was located. A meeting was called, which was held in Jim Gorman's house, to select a site for the school house for the new district. The people of the east part of the detached portion, which afterward was set off in the Victory district, wanted to locate the school house by Dave Cook's, which location was a mile from the east boundary of the new district and three and one-half miles from the western, to which the people in the west part of the district objected. Then a vote was taken to build the school house a mile further west from the first proposed site, which was carried by a majority of one. Then the people of the east part moved that the school house be built still further west, which was carried. The people of the east part then immediately petitioned to have the new district sub-divided into two, which was done. The east part selected a site one on the Guffy farm, and the school was known as the Victory. Then it was left for the people of the western district to select a new site for their school. The people became divided into three factions. One wanted to have the old Roosa log house bought, which could be had for $5, and move it to the site which should be selected. A second wanted to build a moderate-sized building. The third went to the other extreme, and wished to build the largest and finest school house in the township. The selection of a site was a difficult matter, and before it was done a number of the voters got into a fight over it. Then James Taylor offered to donate two acres of land on which to build the school house, which finally was accepted. When it came to deciding what kind of a house to build, the faction in favor of buying the log house went to the other extreme and took sides with those who wished to build the highest priced one. The two factions, combining, had a majority, and then they wanted to vote $800 bonds for building purposes, as they expected the railroad land in the district to bear the brunt of the taxes to pay the bonds. Mr. Taylor suggested $500 as a sufficient amount to raise, to which could be added the $70 already in the district treasury, and that if these two amounts should prove insufficient more could be raised by direct taxation to finish the building. This suggestion was well received by the more conservative element in the district, and finally voted. At this time there was a suit in court to decide the claims of the Union Pacific and Missouri Pacific railroads for possession of the railroad lands, but the bonds had to be paid. As there were but two residents of the district having deeds to their farms, and these were the only ones liable to taxation, the bulk of the taxes had to be paid by them. The two were Phil Thorne and Joseph Makins.

There is but one known battlefield in the territory covered by this paper. Tradition has it that on the plain at the foot of the high hill standing across Jim creek, south of George Malone's and to the north-west of Ballentine's, many years ago, the Pottawatomie and Cheyenne Indians had a fierce fight, in which the latter band were exterminated. After the battle, in going over the battle ground, the Pottawatomies discovered a living babe of their foes, the Cheyennes, for they killed the women and children as well as the men. They spared the life of this child, however, as all of its band had gone to the happy hunting grounds, never to return to this earth again. The child was named Cheyenne. When grown up he married and had one daughter, Mary, who is now dead; but the venerable remnant of his band is still living among the Indians on Soldier creek. If such a fight were to take place today on that old battlefield. what a panorama might be viewed from the brow of that high hill; and if it were known that such a battle would take place without danger to the spectators, the hill, large and high as it is, would hardly hold the multitude who would wish to see it, even at an exorbitant price for reserved seats. But that event is past, and its like, it is to be hoped , may never be repeated.

About 1870 or 1871 a squaw was found murdered in her home, near the mouth of Jim creek, but her murderer was never discovered. If anyone living knows who the guilty party is, it has not yet been ascertained.

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