William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]


To the public generally; but particularly to those persons living north of Kansas River, in Kansas Territory: It is well known to many, and should be to all interested, that the town of

Atchison is nearer to most persons living north of Kansas river, than any other point on the Missouri River. The country, too, south of Kansas river, above Lecompton, is also as near Atchison as any other Missouri River town. The roads to Atchison, in every direction are very fine, and always in good repair for wagons and other modes of travel. The country opposite Atchison is not excelled by any section of Missouri, it being portions of Buchanan and Platte counties - in a high state of cultivation, and at a considerable distance from any important town in Missouri, making grain, fruit, provisions, and all kinds of marketing easily procured at fair prices - a matter of no small consideration to settlers in a new country.

The great fresh water lake from which the fish markets of St. Joseph and Weston are supplied is also within three miles of Atchison.

Atchison is now well supplied with all kinds of goods. Groceries, flour, corn meal, provisions and marketing of all kinds are abundant and at fair prices.

To show the capacity of Atchison to supply the demands of the country, we here enumerate some of the business houses, viz:

Six large dry goods and grocery stores, wholesale and retail; six family groceries and provision stores, wholesale and retail; one large clothing store, one extensive furniture store, with mattresses and bedding of all sorts; one stove, sheet iron, and tinware establishment, where articles in that line are sold at St. Louis prices; several large warehouses sufficient to store all the goods of emigrants and traders across the plains, and to Kansas territory; one weekly newspaper - the Squatter Sovereign - having the largest circulation of any newspaper in Kansas, with press, type and materials to execute all kinds of job work; two commodious hotels and several boarding houses, one bakery and confectionary, three blacksmith shops, two wagon makers, and several carpenter shops, one cabinet maker, two boot and shoe maker's shops, one saddle and harness maker's shop, one extensive butchery and meat market, a first rate ferry, at which is kept a magnificent new steam ferry boat, and excellent horse boat propelled by four horses, a good flat boat and several skiffs; the saw mills, two propelled by steam, and one by horse power; two brick yards, two lime kilns.

A fine supply of professional gentlemen of all branches constantly on hand, equal to the demand.

A good grist mill is much needed, and would make money for the owner.

A steam saw-mill had been completed in March, 1856, and Grafton Thomassen was operating it.

Luther C. Challis occupied a store on the levee, 45X100 feet, which he filled with dry goods and groceries, and advertised "such an assortment as was never before offered for sale in the upper country."

Samuel Dickson was a merchant, quite a politician, and also an auctioneer on the north side of C street.

Lewis Burnes, M. P. Rively, and Stephen Johnson carried stocks of "assorted merchandise"; A. J. G. Westbrook was the grocer, and Patrick Laughlin, the tinner of Atchison. He had fled from Doniphan County on account of the murder of Collins, the Free-state man.

William C. Null and Albert G. Smith had been operating a new warehouse for six months, and carried a general stock, corner C and Second streets.

Charles E. Woolfolk and Robert H. Cabell had a large new store and warehouse at the steamboat landing.

George Million operated the "Pioneer Saloon," and John Robertson was in the saddlery and harness business.

Messrs. Jackson & Ireland were builders - shop over Dickson's store.

"Uncle Sam" Clothing Store, corner C and Third streets, Saqui & Co., proprietors.

G. B. Buck sold stoves on C street.

O. B. Dickerson was proprietor of the Atchison House.

Attorneys: N. J. Ireland, A. Gallatin Otis, and Isaac S. Hascall ("Border- Ruffian" law office), James A. Headley, A. E. Mayhew, J. T. Hereford, P. H. Larey and Joseph P. Carr.

Physicians: J. H. Stringfellow and D. McVay.

"Washburn's Great American Colossal Circus" - the first one in Kansas - had given two exhibitions in Atchison, July 31, 1856 - three good clowns - full brass and string band - immense pavilion, etc. etc. - what other evidence need be presented that Atchison was pushing its way onward and upward during the summer and fall of 1856! Fully fifty new buildings were erected during the spring and summer of that year.

Within the next two years, notwithstanding Pro-slavery troubles, Atchison grew amazingly for a small place. The transportation business was immense. During the summer of 1858 alone, twenty-four trains consisting of 775 wagons, 1,114 men, 7,963 oxen, 142 horses, 1,286 mules and 3,730,905 pounds of merchandise. One single train - sent out by Messrs. Hockady, Burr & Co. - consisted of 105 wagons, 225 men, 1,000 oxen, 200 mules, 50 horses and 465,500 pounds of merchandise. This was the largest train that ever left any point for the West, the goods being purchased to supply a chain of station stores which that firm had lately located between Atchison and Salt Lake City. These figures will give to most readers a more definite idea of this overland traffic than any mere description of the "endless chain of wagons," "army of oxen and men," etc., etc., could possibly do. One of the largest contractors in the country - if not the largest - during the latter part of this year was placed in charge of the Kansas Valley Bank, organized some months before with the particular object in view of furnishing a circulating medium to facilitate the moving of this tremendous army of men, mules, oxen, horses and goods. L. C. Challiss also established a private bank. Soon afterwards Gen. Pomeroy built a grist mill, which was located on the levee where A. & N. shops subsequently stood. Col. Pease was the agent now for six insurance companies. By the early part of 1859 the city boasted eight hardware establishments, nineteen retail groceries, eight wholesale groceries, twelve dry goods stores and twenty-six law firms. The population at this time was about 500.

The town of Sumner, twelve miles below Atchison, which had been platted during the previous summer, had been beaten in the county seat fight, but still struggled for a business pre-eminence. Its site was fair to look upon. It claimed to be exactly in the center of Kansas, north and south, on the Missouri River, neared to Topeka, Lecompton, Fort Riley, Grasshopper Falls and nearly all Northern Kansas, than any other point on the river, and therefore the best starting point for Salt Lake, Oregon and California. Good hotel accommodations were advertised, and persons intending to examine Northern Kansas were cordially invited "to land at Sumner." The town of Lancaster, eleven miles west, and almost in the geographical center of the county but far from its center of population, had rather thrown away ambition and was sinking into its dotage before it had known any manhood. All of Atchison's rivals were left far behind and with the completion of the railroad in February, 1860, dissappeard from history.

Before concluding this account of the early times of Atchison it will be necessary as well as interesting to mention a few of the events which led their kind.

The first business house was established by George T. Challis, corner of the Levee and Commercial streets, in August, 1854. As the National Hotel had not yet appeared - as, in fact, Dixon's little shanty was as yet the only building in Atchison - Mr. Challis established a temporary camp and his workmen were accommodated under the elm tree near the water. The building was torn down in 1872.

The first brick building was erected by J. C. Kathrens on Second street. The bricks were manufactured by John Bennett.

The first white child born in Atchison was Henry R., the son of Dr. J. H. Stringfellow, August 20, 1855. Lewis C. Carter, the first colored child, was born in Dr. Stringfellow's house, November 6, 1855.

The first marriage occurred October 17, 1855. The ones made happy were J. T. Darnall and Miss E. A. Simmons, sister of Mrs. Dr. Stringfellow.

For a continuation of this list the reader is referred to the multitude of topics which are treated in detail in the succeeding pages.


Atchison County was named in honor of Gen. David R. Atchison, U. S. Senator from Missouri at the time, and so bitter a Pro-slavery man that he even met the stringent requirements of this bitterest of bitter Pro-slavery communities. The first Board of Commissioners was elected by the Territorial Legislature August 25, 1855, and consisted of William J. Young and James M. Givens. Gov. Woodson dated their commissions from August 31. Hon. James A. Headley was appointed Probate Judge.

On the 17th of September, 1855, the first meeting of the Court of Commissioners was held at the house of O. B. Dickerson, city of Atchison. It seems that William McVay had already been appointed Sheriff but at this first regular gathering the following officials blossomed forth: Ira Norris, Sen., Clerk and Recorder; Samuel Dickson, Treasurer; Samuel Walters, Assessor. The County was also divided into three townships, Grasshopper township comprising all that section of county lying west of the old Pottawatomie road; Mount Pleasant, all east of the old Pottawatomie road and south of Walnut Creek from its confluence with the Missouri River to the source of the creek, and a parallel line west to the old Pottawatomie road; Shannon township, all that section of the county north of Mount Pleasant township. From the subdivision of these townships sprung the eight which now comprise the county - Grasshopper, Mount Pleasant, Shannon, Lancaster, Kapioma, Center, Walnut and Benton. At the session held the next day - September 18th - Eli C. Mason was appointed Sheriff to fill out the unexpired term of William C. McVay, resigned, and Dudley McVay was chosen coroner. Voting precincts were established in the three townships, preparatory to the election for a delegate to Congress which was to occur on the first Monday of October. In October, 1855, a resolution (previously passed by the Town Company) was adopted by the Court of Commissioners, viz: that block 10 be donated to the county upon which to build a court house of brick at least forty feet square. The sale of the fifty lots donated to aid in its building took place May 1, 1856. In June, 1857, it was ordered that the court house be built 24X18 feet, two stories, the first story to be rock inlaid with hewed timbers, the second story of wood, framed and clapboarded. At this time a small frame house on C street was rented of Samuel Dickson.

The Town Company subsequently (in 1858) proposed to donate 14 lots valued at $6,000, which were to be sold by the county and the proceeds applied to the erection of a court house upon three other lots. The cost of the building was to be $7,000. The town of Sumner, twelve miles to the south, was pushed forward as a claimant to the county seat, and seriously impeded the erection of a court house building. Sumner was settled in 1856 and surveyed in 1858, being the home of such men as A. D. Richardson and John J. Ingalls. The president of the Sumner Town company, J. P. Wheeler, was a member of the Lower House in 1858, and with the assistance of several other members of the Legislature who were stockholders, a bill was passed to remove the county seat to their "city." It was defeated, however, in the Senate. Not satisfied or discouraged, the Sumner leaders engineered through another bill providing that a plurality vote might change the location of the county seat. This was amended so as to exclude Douglas, Leavenworth, Atchison and Doniphan counties, and passed in this form. But to the consternation of the Atchisonites, when the laws of the session were published the amendment did not show itself. Great indignation was expressed, and further tumult was aroused when a few days before the voting was to take place to settle the county seat question (being the first Monday in October, 1858,) a circular was generally distributed throughout the county, endeavoring to show to the voters that the proposition of the Town Company was a money-making, selfish scheme.

The following official vote of all the precincts in the county for representatives and on the location of the county seat: Messrs. Dickerson, Wider and Irvin, Independent Free-state candidates, were elected by from thirty-two to 100 majority. Atchison City received 252 majority over all competitors for the county seat. She received 656 votes; Sumner, 213; Monrovia, 116; Mount Pleasant, 66; Lancaster, 9. At this election (held on October 4, 1858,) 549 votes were cast in the city alone, from which fact the estimated population was 2,745. The total vote cast in the county was 1,060.

Thus the people of Atchison County permanently selected this city as the seat of justice, the court house now standing, a plain two-story brick structure, being completed the next year - 1859. The county jail, adjoining it, was built about the same time.

The present county officers are as follows: County Treasurer, James A. Loper; Sheriff, William Blair; Clerk, Charles H. Krebs; Register of Deeds, T. J. Rigg; Surveyor, Alfred Meier; Coroner, A. D. McConaughy; Clerk of the District Court, W. W. Church; Probate Judge, J. J. Locker; Attorney, C. K. Wells; Superintendent of Public Instruction, W. H. Tucker.

The present limits of the County of Atchison are described as follows: Commencing at the southeast corner of Doniphan County, thence with the south boundary of Doniphan County to the township line between townships 4 and 5, south; thence west with said township line between townships 4 and 5, south, to the range line between ranges 16 and 17, east; thence south with said range line to the southwest corner of section 19, of township 7, south, of range 17, east; thence east with the section lines to the intersection with the western boundary line of the State of Missouri to the place of beginning.

The County Poor Farm consists of 140 acres of land, four miles due south of Atchison, with buildings, improvements, etc. The tract was purchased of James F. Butcher, one of the contractors of the Atchison & St. Joe R. R. Co., in January, 1869. The main building was erected soon after, and the property is now valued at about $8,000. Although the number of inmates at any one time is small, the farm is self-supporting and indulges in stock-raising as well as agricultural pursuits. The present superintendent of the farm is M. M. Bean, and he cares for about fifteen people.


From figures prepared in August, 1882, by W. H. Tucker, Superintendent of Public Instruction, it is learned that there are 71 districts organized in the county; that the population of school age amounts to 8,392, the number of pupils enrolled being 5,656, and the average daily attendance 3,693. There are 120 teachers employed, the average salary of males per month being $40, and of females $33. During the year the county has issued $3,000 of school-house bonds; its present bonded indebtedness being $68,680. It costs $60,000 per annum to maintain the district schools of Atchison county, the receipts from all sources being over $70,000.

The returns of the township assessors for the year 1882 indicate that 209, 647 acres of the county are in farms, valued at $4,554,190. The agricultural lands in Lancaster township are valued at $774,300; Benton (the new township formed in 1881), $686,050; Mount Pleasant, $638,900; Center, $626,400; Grasshopper, $568,030; Shannon, $553,700; Kapioma, $454,040; Walnut,$252,770. There are 5,977 horses in the county; 19,961 cattle, and 21,203 swine. The value of animals slaughtered or sold for slaughter during the year was $434,572. In the county are 100,097 apple trees in bearing, 56,870 peach, and 19,040 cherry. Sown and planted during the spring of 1882 were 62,514 acres of corn, 12,252 of oats, and 11,352 of flax.


It is undoubtedly true that no county in the entire country - bearing in mind surrounding circumstances, population, etc., has so patriotic a record as Atchison County. That this assertion is sustained by the facts the following figures will prove: One hundred and thirty-one Atchison County men enlisted in the First Kansas Regiment; 25 in the Seventh; 85 in the Eighth; 86 in the Tenth; 260 in the Thirteenth; 100 in the First Kansas (colored); 25 in the First Nebraska; 105 in the Thirteenth Missouri; 30 in the Fifteenth Kansas; 40 in the Ninth, and 50 in the Sixteenth - showing a total of 992 men. Add to this scattering men in other regiments in adjoining States, and 1,000 soldiers may fairly be placed the credit of Atchison County. The national census returns of 1860 place the population of Atchison County at 7.747, and the voting population at 1,133, the number of voters but a little greater than the number of volunteers, and nearly one person in seven under the old flag battling for the preservation of the Union! It may be borne in mind, too, that Atchison, from its location, was liable for incursions from Confederate troops and jayhawkers, necessitating the organization at different periods of the war of companies of home guards, not included in the foregoing statement. It will thus be seen that Atchison County furnished a soldier to every man of her voting population. What county in the entire Union can show a fairer record?

At the commencement of the Rebellion there were three militia companies in Atchison, "A," "C," and a third known as the "All Hazard Company." The origin of this company's name is thus explained: At the city election in the spring of 1861, the issue was Union or Disunion. The Republicans and Union Democrats united in supporting G. H. Fairchild for Mayor, and he was elected. In a speech made during election week, Mr. Fairchild (Union Democrat), avowed himself an unwavering friend of the Union, and for the maintenance of the Constitution and laws "at all hazards." The name was adopted by one of the militia companies, and "At All Hazards Co." enlisted for the war with Mayor Fairchild as its first captain, and became Company "K" of the First Kansas. This company participated in the battle of Wilson's Creek, the first action in which a Kansas regiment was under fire, fought August 10, 1861. It was under the immediate command of Gen. Lyon, and behaved with distinguished gallantry.*

During the summer and autumn of 1861 there were threats of invasion from Rebel organizations in Buchanan and Platte counties, Missouri, and to meet the invaders should the attempt to capture Atchison be made, a Home Guard company was organized September 1, 1861, with the following officers: Charles Holbert, Captain; J. G. Bechtold, First Lieutenant; Clem. Rohr, Second Lieutenant; W. Becker, Third Lieutenant; John Schlupp, Ensign. Total number of officers and men, seventy-three. Not long after this the danger of invasion became still more imminent, and 650 men, in sixteen companies, were thrown into Atchison to protect the town from destruction. The Atchison County companies were commanded by Capts. Holbert, May, Hays, Batsett, Evans and Van Winkle. But for this promptness and energy in meeting the threatened danger Atchison might have shared the terrible fate that befell Lawrence the following year. On the 15th of September of the same year, a company for home guard service was mustered in at Fort Leavenworth, and officered as follows: J. M. Graham, captain; J. G. Bechtold, first lieutenant; R. Briagland, second lieutenant. They were Company "E," of the First Kansas Regiment Home Guards, numbered fifty men, and were ordered to Atchison for duty, where they were stationed until there was no longer danger of invasion. The company was then attached to the Eighth Kansas.

During the early part of 1862 the frequent victories of the Union forces in the southwest caused many Rebel sympathizers to flock to Atchison for safety, and here they not only gave expression to their Secession sentiments, but many of them were ready to give more practical aid to their southern brethren. To counteract this growing evil, Mayor Fairchild issued a proclamation on the 24th of February, 1862, warning them that so long as they held views they had so frequently avowed, that they could not and must not expect to be protected in any manner by the city laws. "It would be absurd to suppose," continued the proclamation, "a patriotic community could treat otherwise than as enemies, persons who are in sympathy with base men who have brought upon our country untold misery, almost unlimited taxation, and almost inconceivable pecuniary suffering. As a representative of a loyal people, I will not encourage men to return among us who have circulated reports that they were refugees from the loyal States, on account of their secession doctrines, nor will I give protection to men who unmistakably at heart belong to the Confederacy."

To hold up the hands of the city's chosen leader a mass meeting of the Union men of Atchison County was held at Price's Hall, Saturday, March 15, 1862, at which every part of the county was fully represented. Dr. Batsell presided, and George G. Martin acted as secretary. Stirring addresses were delivered by Col. Ege, Doniphan County, Thomas Murphy, Rev. W. S. Wenz, Lieut. Price, E. Chesebrough, Mayor Fairchild, W. S. Lemon, Lieut. R. A. Barker, Capt. Caleb May, Dr. J. B. Shearer, J. Edgar and Dr. Eagles, and resolutions, denouncing the Southern sympathizers, and notifying them not to return, were unanimously adopted.

In the dark days of 1862, the home loyalists promptly responded to a call for the "sinews of war" to aid Atchison County troops. Within a few days, commencing August 20, 1862, the sum of nearly $4,000 was subscribed - $745 coming from Mount Pleasant township. The leading donors were: Theodore Bartholomew, E. Chesebrough, G. W. Fairchild, J. W. Russell, W. L. Challiss, Dr. William Irwin, G. W. Howe, W. B. Hughes, W. Hetherington, Otis & Glick, H. Diesbach, J. E. Wagner, McCubben & Derge, B. S. Davenport, McCausland & Brown, Thomas Murphy, W. A. Cochran, S. C. Pomeroy, Stebbins & Co., E. Butcher, and Wm. C. Smith, each subscribing the sum of $50 or over. There were also munificent benefactions at a later date, notably when Quantrill invaded Lawrence. Within a few days after that terrible affair the sum of $4,000 was subscribed to assist the people of the stricken city.

During the year 1863 so annoying became the depredations of lawless bands of jayhawkers that means were devised for self-protection, and the most effective seemed to be a vigilance committee under the control of brave, discreet loyalists. Accordingly a county society was formed in June of that year, and a public declaration issued; describing the situation and calling on all "good, peaceful and loyal citizens" to band themselves together for the protection of their lives, homes and property.

Persons who joined the vigilance committee were required to take an oath to support the government of the United States and of Kansas, to do all in their power to put down the rebellion, and also to keep secret all the proceedings of the committee.

* See history of First Kansas Volunteer Infantry.

The committee became a very effective auxiliary to the civil authorities in bringing to punishment the violators of law, and also in intimidating lawless bands of jayhawkers and other thieves.

On Sunday night, January 19, 1862, a squad of soldiers who were stationed in Atchison the day previous, interrupted a number of jayhawkers who were returning from an expedition into Missouri, captured five of Cleveland's men, two escaping, and retook several horses and contrabands taken in Missouri, and took men and property down to Weston. The Atchison City Marshal was engaged in the arrest of these jayhawkers, and on Monday morning the notorious Cleveland rode into town, held a pistol at the head of the Marshal, who was in the street unarmed, and commanded him to march before him out of town, threatening that if any of those men were injured, the marshal's life should pay the penalty. Wisely considering that "discretion was the better part of valor," the official marched off, followed by Cleveland on horseback, but an outcry was soon raised by a few who witnessed the performance, and a hasty rush was made for arms and a pursuit immediately commenced; seeing this, Cleveland immediately put spurs to his horse and rode off, after striking the marshal on the head with a pistol. On May 11, 1882, Cleveland, whose acts of daring villainy had become notorious, was pursued and killed by a squad of United States troops at Ossawotamie.

While the loyalists of Atchison County responded with alacrity to every call for men to resist the shock of the rebel cohorts, they were no less prompt in caring for the families of those who went forth to do or die for their country. Early in August, 1861, a Ladies' Benevolent Society was organized in Atchison for the purpose of making clothing, etc., to send to the soldiers in the field, and also to supply their families with needed food and clothing during their absence. This organization labored diligently and effectively. The visiting committee of the organization was: Mrs. H. R. Neal, Mrs. Wm. C. Smith, Miss Sallie Woodard and Miss Nellie Grimes. Committee to distribute donations: Mrs. G. H. Fairchild, Mrs. S. H. Glenn, Miss E. R. Smith, Miss Fannie Chesebrough. An organization known as the Atchison Ladies' Aid Society, with similar objects in view, was organized November 1, 1861. The officers were: Mrs. J. M. Price, president; Mrs. Wm. C. Smith, vice-president; Mrs. W. B. Leonard, treasurer; Mrs. J. T. Neal, work inspector; Mrs. A. M. Plain, Secretary. The two beneficent societies worked harmoniously, and the soldiers and their families found the sister organizations angels of mercy.

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