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


[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]


"The year we were grasshoppered" is a stock reminiscence of all who lived west of the Missouri as early as the close of the war. In this county these pests failed to put in an appearance prior to 1866. In August of that year, however, the rumor of their approach was freely circulated, and on the seventh of the next month the van of the great army touched the western line of the county. Three days later the grasshoppers reached the vicinity of Hiawatha, and a day later passed beyond it. Behind them stretched the bare, blistered earth denuded of vegetation and parched in the summer sun. In the cornfields were seen the stripped corn stalks with the pendant ears nibbled and oftentimes half eaten; green leaves, grasses and everything of that nature had vanished. Luckily the ears of corn were so far advanced as to present less attractive food than in the mild stage, and, although injured, the crop was by no means totally destroyed, and the farmers had consolation that it might easily have been far worse.

The damage of the fall was but a tithe of the mischief done, for the eggs, which had been deposited in every convenient spot, produced in the spring a countless host of young which foraged for about a month, and then left en masse to be seen no more that year. This exodus took place in June, and those who had lost their crops were enabled to replant in time to yet realize a good harvest.

Two years later these pests made a second appearance but did no great damage either in the fall or in the succeeding fall.

For five years thereafter the county saw nothing of the "Pride of the West," as a local paper dubbed these voracious destroyers. But in 1874 they reappeared from the West and made a clean sweep from the Rockies to the Missouri river. This had been a very dry season, and barely half a reasonable crop could have been harvested, but none of the farmers were called upon to go through the formality of harvesting. The work of devastation did not stop here, but was continued on the orchards, special attention being given to apple and peach trees. Leaves of any sort seemed to be fish in the net of these things of universal appetite, but in some cases, as recorded by a writer of the time, the fruit was also destroyed or badly eaten. The bark of the trees was sampled, and in some instances so thoroughly as to completely girdle the tree and destroy it. Major Morrill says: "Tomato plants, onions and even tobacco plants were utterly destroyed. Again they laid their eggs in immense numbers, the ground being literally perforated by them. Heavy freight trains on the railroads were frequently delayed for hours by their gathering on the track in large numbers, the wheels crushing them and forming an oily, soapy substance." This picture it must be remembered is drawn, not by one who has made a failure of his life in Kansas, and wishes a valid excuse for leaving, but one who can safely be called the most successful man of the county, or even of this part of Kansas.

The farmers of the country do not seem to have very fully understood the modus operandi of their foes, for the following spring they planted large fields of grain without the least apprehension of danger from grasshoppers. With the coming of spring and sunny days came a change that altered the velvety green of the fields to a plain dirt color and swept away the young wheat as clearly a a tornado could have done. Before the first of June the loss of all grain was nearly completed, and shortly after the grasshoppers took wing and disappeared. The work of replanting was at once begun, although the hope of getting a full crop was small. It was Hobsons choice, however, and a large acreage was put under cultivation. How anxiously the farmers watched the weather may be imagined. But when the months swung around and harvest time showed a plentiful supply, the hardships of the early summer were nearly forgotten.


The order for the first Territorial election was issued at a meeting of the County Commissioners held September 17, 1855, in Doniphan County. Browne was organized as a municipal township with provision for the election of a delegate to Congress. William C. Foster, William Parket and E. W. Short, were appointed Judges of Election, and the place of holding the same was at the house of W. C. Foster, of the South Fork of the Nemaha. The election took place October 1, 1855, and resulted in the casting of four votes - all for J. W. Whitfield as Delegate to congress. A year later Whitfield received sixteen votes as delegate and X. K. Stout, B. O. Driscoll and T. W. Waterson, seventeen votes each, as members of the Territorial Legislature, although all the latter three resided in Doniphan County. The third election held in the county took place on June 13, 1857, and was called to select delegates to the Constitutional Convention at Lecompton. At this election the counties of Brown and Nemaha formed an election district, and Cyrus Dolman receiving forty-four votes against thirty-six cast for Henry Smith, was chosen delegate. The growth of the county, was, according to this showing, very slow, but it must be remembered that the fierce fight between the Pro-slavery and Free-state forces was in progress: that the free-state or Anti-slavery party refused to vote, and that this vote of eighty ballots was no criterion of the actual number of legal voters in the county. The total vote at this time was two hundred and eight; of which the Free-state party had one hundred and thirty-six, and the Pro-slavery seventy-two. This vote was divided as follows:

Free-state. - Walnut Creek, forty six; Lochnane, ten; Irving, forty-three; Claytonville, thirty-seven.

Pro-slavery. - Walnut Creek, three; Lochnane, eleven; Irving, twenty-three; Claytonville, thirty-five.

This was a final defeat for the Pro-slavery party, and they never afterward played any noteworthy part in the politics of the county. Democracy seems to have ever been in sympathy with the Southern element, and to have shared its fortunes, for at this time Brown and Nemaha counties elected a representative, and the Republican candidate, Maj. E. N. Morrill, received two hundred and eighty-three votes; his opponent obtaining but little more than one-third of that number.

On July 22, 1856, the County Surveyor was directed by the County Commissioners of Doniphan County to survey the joint boundary line between Doniphan and Brown counties. This was done, and Brown County was separated from Doniphan by an act of the Legislature of 1857. The Legislature of the following year transferred Township 5 ranges 15 and 16 to Jackson County. This left the county in its present shape; an exact square, twenty-four miles on each side.

The first County Clerk was James Waterson, who was appointed in 1857, but did not fill a full term, and was followed by David Peebles, who continued to hold the office through the following year. Those who have succeeded to the office are W. B. Barnett, 1859; Henry Graves, 1860; H. R. Dutton, 1860; E. L. Pound, 1860-62-64; E. A. Spooner, 1864-65; J. G. Keisey, 1866; E. N. Morrill, 1867-69-71-73; Henry Isley, 1874-76-78; John E. Moon, 1878-80-82.

The following have held the office of County Treasurer: John Dunbar, 1857; Richard L. Oldham, 1857; Moses P. Proctor, 1857; S. Wade, 1858-60; G. J. Englehart, 1860-63; E. L. Pound, 1863-65; W. B. Barnett, 1865-67-69; A McLaughlin, 1869-71-73; H. Seburn, 1875-77: J. F. Roehm, 1877-79; William Welcome, 1879-81, and to present time.

The first Register of Deeds of whom the records make any mention, was D. Pebbles, who was elected in 1861. He was followed by J. W. Oberholtzer, 1863-65-67; J. H. Klinefelter, 1867-69; J. W. Oberholtzer, 1869-71; A. R. Platt, 1871-73; F. D. Houlette, 1873-75; E. D. Benner 1875-77-79; James B. Allison, 1879-81-83.

The first Probate Judge was W. W. Guthrie, elected in 1861. E. A. Spooner was elected in 1864, and held office until 1868. He was succeeded by D. K. Babbit, 1868-70-72; T. B. Dickason, 1874-76-78-80-82.

The Clerks of the District Court have been J. G. Kelsey, elected in 1862; E. N. Morrill, 1866; H. J. Aten, 1870; Henry Anderson, 1872; J. W. Oberholtzer, 1874; L. H. Eitely, 1876; W. M. Welcome, 1878; S. Wilson, 1880.

On page eighty-four of the laws of 1857 is an act approved in February of that year, and reading as follows:***That Claytonville be the temporary seat of justice of Browne County.***

At the election of October 6, 1857, three Commissioners were chosen to make a selection of a permanent County Seat. At a meeting of the Board held on December 14, the duly elected Commissioners, I. P. Winslow, Isaac Chase, and I. B. Hoover, organized and proceeded at once to take a vote for the new County Seat. This vote resulted in the casting of one vote each for Hiawatha, Carson and Padonia. Manifestly there was no probability a choice, and, to aid in making one, the Commissioners the following day, visited the towns already voted for and also Hamlin. At this time Mr. Carson offered one-half the building lots of the town and $1,500; Hiawatha each alternate building lot, and a court-house twenty by thirty feet; and Padonia a square of ground, and a $3,000 court-house, for the preference. Having received these propositions the Board held a meeting, and took a fresh vote. This resulted as before, a third ballot was taken with the result of two votes for Carson, and one for Padonia. A fourth ballot resulted in the casting of three votes for Carson its consequent selection. This, it will be remembered, was in December, 1857. In the January following, the work of the Commissioners was upset by the passage of an act of the legislature authorizing an election to be held on April 5, for the purpose of submitting to the people the final location of the County Seat. At this election the vote, as returned, showed irregularities in four precincts, and they were thrown out. The vote was then announced as follows: Hiawatha, 128 votes; Carson, 37; Hamlin, 25; Claytonville, 20; Washington, 13, Prairie springs, 4, Padonia, 2. Hiawatha having received a clear majority was then declared the County Seat.

The first County Court House was built at Claytonville, in accordance with an order of the County Commissioners made at their meeting March 31, 1857. In this order it was specified that the building should by thirty be twenty feet, and be enclosed by June 1 of that year. A tax of one-sixth of one per cent was levied to defray the expense of this work, and R. L. Oldham appointed Building Commissioner. At the August meeting of the Commissioners Mr. Oldham reported that the building had been completed by Mr. A. Heed, at a cost of $oo,(sic)and was satisfactory. The same year this structure was sold to Samuel A. Wade for $100. After the brief County Seat location at Carson where no court house was built, and the final removal to Hiawatha in April, 1858, the County Commissioners ordered the expenditure of $2,000 for a Court House and Jail, and appointed Joseph Klinefelter as special commissioner to supervise the work. On the death of Mr. Klinefelter, shortly after H. R. Dutton was appointed Commissioner of Public Buildings. At the November session the Commissioner reported that he had contracted with S. W. Wade to build the Court House, and that it would be completed by August 1, 1859. This building, from the time of its completion until the erection of the present fine Court House in 1878, occupied the center of the public square. When room was needed for the work on the foundations of the new structure, the old court house was torn down and the heavier portions used in the construction of two small dwellings near the residence of H. M. Way.

In the fall of 1877 it was decided to hold an election to determine whether a new courthouse should be built by the county. The proper notices having been posted by the County Commissioners the election took place at the time of the regular fall election in November, and resulted in the polling of 798 votes for public buildings and 655 against. On February 12, 1878, E. P. Carr, of the firm of Roper & Carr, of St. Joseph, Missouri, was appointed architect of the new structure and ordered to draw up plans and specifications. For this work there was to be paid three and one-quarter per cent of the cost of the building. On April 12, of this year the county Commissioners ordered that bids for construction of the new court house be advertised for. It was stated in the advertisement for bids that the cost of construction would be paid in four installments of equal amounts, due on December 20, 1878, June 20, 1879, December 10, 1879, and June 20, 1880. Bonds in double the amount of the cost of construction were also required from the successful bidder. In response to the notice of the County Commissioners bids were received from the following parties: G. Amann, of Omaha, Nebraska, $19,438; Anderson & Liddell, of Leavenworth, $18,790; J. A. McGonigle, of Leavenworth, $18,743. These bids were opened on June 5, 1878, and the contract awarded to J. A. McGonigle, of Leavenworth, bonds being fixed at $38,000.

To secure funds for meeting this new obligation a special tax of three mills was levied for the years 1879 and 1880.

On December 11, 1879, the County Commissioners at their regular meeting voted to accept the new court house and at once placed $16,000 insurance upon it; $4,000 in each of the following companies - Phoenix, of Hartford, Connecticut; Aetna, of Hartford, Connecticut; Home of New York; North British and Mercantile of London and Edinburgh. The County Clerk was then directed to proceed to St. Joseph and contract for furniture for the new quarters. This done at a cost of $1,605, the county had as neat and beautiful a structure as need be wished for.

On the lower floor are the offices of the County Clerk, Recorder of Deeds, Probate Judge, Treasurer, Superintendent of Instruction. On the second the office of the Prosecuting Attorney and county court room.


(The history of the Thirteenth Volunteer Infantry of which Company 1 of this county formed a part, is given in the General History.)

The Brown County Guard was raised in 1861 by Capt. Ira J. Lacock, and at once proceeded to Atchison to join the First Kansas Infantry. Finding it impossible to be attached to this regiment, as it was already full, the Guard proceeded to Leavenworth, where they were again disappointed. Being unable to become attached to any force destined for the front the company returned to Hiawatha and disbanded. On October 13, 1864, Brigadier-Gen. Sherry sent the following letter to Lieut. H. M. Robinson, of the Brown County Militia; "Dear Sir: You will notice from the within order that the entire militia of the State is ordered into actual service for thirty days, unless sooner discharged; and that the militia of the District are ordered to report to me at Atchison forthwith. You will attend to the matter in your county. Very respectfully. Your obedient servant, BYRON SHERRY Brigadier General."

The enclosed order to which Gen. Sherry referred bore date of October 9th, and issued from the headquarters of the Kansas State Militia at Topeka. The order for Brown, Nemaha, Doniphan and Marshall counties required an immediate rendezvous at Atchison. In obedience to this command, Brown Country sent a force, which as reported at Atchison, consisted of: Hiawatha Company, composed of sixty-five men; James A. Pope, Captain; John Walters, First Lieutenant; Jacob Sparr, Second Lieutenant. Walnut Creek Company, composed of forty-one men; I. N. Speer, Captain; Levi Morrill, First Lieutenant; William Belk, Second Lieutenant. Robinson Company, composed of 100 men; Samuel W. Swayze, Captain; L. Slagel, First Lieutenant; William Gear, Second Lieutenant. Roys Creek Company was not at this time reported.

The departure of the militia for the front was immediately followed by the organization of the Home Guard, which in twenty-four hours secured an enrollment of seventy-nine, including the colored men and a few boys who wished to be enrolled. Lieut. Perkins was made captain of this force, and perfected a plan for meeting and repelling any attack, by the rapid concentration of the forces spread over several miles. That the sudden departure of the militia was a great loss to the county is proven with the utmost clearness by stray items which appear in the county paper of the time. Women were reported as gathering corn left standing in the field, as loading wood and acting as teamsters, and, at a pinch, as millers. In one instance, Mr. Livermore, of the Hamlin Mills, was ordered upon detached duty, this being nothing less than hurrying to his mill and turning out a stock of the staff of life for those whose lot at home was as rugged, in many ways, as that of the boys in blue at the front.

This force served at the front and on guard duty until the close of the war, when it was disbanded and returned home. Many of its members moved to other points, but a good number are still within a few miles of the county seat, and have reared a second generation, who should their country call, would probably turn out with all the fire and patriotism of their sires, and re-enact the brave deeds of twenty years ago.

In 1860 the population of this county was 2,607; in 1870, 6,823; in 1880, 12,819. This included Hiawatha and Robinson, the former of which had 1,376 population and the latter 210.


Private or subscription schools were taught in the county from nearly the date of first settlement, and records of this work have been found as early as 1856. There was, however, no regularly organized district prior to the Carson district organized on March 11, 1859, by County Superintendent J. A. Stanley. The first School Board was elected on the 21st of the following month, and was as follows: Noah Hansen, Director; I. B. Hoover, Clerk; A. M. Kendall, Treasurer. The report of the County Superintendent of Public Instruction for this year shows an enrollment of 204 children of school age, and an attendance of ninety-five in the two schools (Carson and Myers Districts). There were that year four regularly organized school districts, but there was no teaching in two of them.

In 1879 Brown County had seventy school districts; in 1880 this number had increased to eighty-one.

The number of pupils enrolled was, in 1879, 3,161; in 1880, when the biennial report was issued, 3,623; and in 1881, 4,067; with an average attendance of 2,349.

During this period the number or teachers employed had increased from eighty in 1879 and eighty-five in 1880; to 125 in 1881, when the amount of yearly salaries paid was $23,749.

The total expenditure for all school purposes in 1880 was $24,461.89; the assessed valuation of all school property, $3,300.129.

The Brown County Agricultural Association was organized in 1864, and purchased a fine site for a fair ground at the southeast of the town. This was a portion of the lands of W. B. Barnett and covered twenty acres. On this was laid out a half-mile track, said to be one of the best in the State, and in the center was a floral hall about forty by eighty feet. After a few years, however, the society fell into neglect and was practically disbanded. The Brown County Agricultural, Horticultural and Mechanical Company then took control of the grounds and buildings, and retained them up to 1880, when the Brown County Exposition Association was organized as a joint stock company under the State law. In 1880 the managers of the society decided to still further improve its facilities, and a strip of ground on the north of the old space was purchased of Maj. E. N. Morrill for $400. This last purchase covers ten acres. Upon adding this ground the Floral Hall was removed from the center of the track to a space northeast of the judges stand, and near the main entrance. Stables have been fitted up, on the south side of the track, for the convenience of training blooded stock, and ample stalls furnished for classes of domestic animals. On the north of the judges stand is a row of seats for the accommodation of those who attend trials of speed. These will be extended the coming season and form a convenient amphitheater. The society has expended, thus far, not less than $6,000, but it stands ready to do as much more as may be necessary to make its grounds worthy of the attendance of the best classes of stock and stock fanciers. The present officers of the society are J. M. Boomer, president; T. L. Brundage, secretary.

The Brown County Improved Horse Association has its headquarters at Hiawatha, and is composed of some of the best breeders of blooded stock in the county. Its organization dates from February, 1882, when the following officers were elected: J. Beaty, president; S. Detwiler, secretary; John Walters, treasurer. The live stock now owned by the association consists of four thorough-bred draft stallions, three of whom are located at Hiawatha. These animals are all from Illinois, where they were imported from France and England. The infusion of new blood from this foreign stock can not fail to be of great value to the farmers of the entire county.


The following statement of the amount of land devoted to the production of the various staples of the State and County from 1874 to 1880 inclusive is of great interest as exhibiting an actual example of the growth of this section: In 1874 Brown County had 17,547 acres of winter wheat; in 1880, 31,645 acres; in 1874, 855 acres of rye; in 1880, 1,859. Spring wheat covered 13,978 acres in 1874; 12,224 in 1880. Barley was raised on 5,789 acres in 1874; on 2,485 in 1880. Oats were planted on 8,233 acres in 1874; on 9,571 in 1880. Potatoes increased from an acreage of 587 in 1874 to 1,176 in 1880. Pearl millet was first planted in 1880. A glance at these figures shows that while the winter wheat area nearly doubled in six years, spring wheat decreased as did barley. Corn meanwhile nearly doubled its acreage, and potatoes showed the largest proportional increase of all products of the soil.


Hiawatha, the county seat of Brown County, is located in one of the most beautiful plains of this prairie country, and not far from the geographical center of the county. From the upper floor of any large building can be seen a magnificent amphitheater of twenty square miles of gently undulating prairie, which seems to so melt in the distance that the eye is scarce able to discern where earth ceases and the cape flyaway of the clouds begins. Spread over this space are the substantial houses and well-kept fields which show long residence and careful tillage. Within the city, grouped around the public square and on Oregon street, are the chief business houses. Radiating in every direction are neat residences with trim, well-kept yards, and here and there the costly buildings which indicate that individual wealth has already been acquired from the growing trade of the yet new country.

The first house erected in Hiawatha stood on the northwest corner of Sixth and Oregon streets, and was occupied by Partch and Barnum as a hotel, and later by A. Sellig, who managed it until the building of the old Hiawatha House. This was in the early summer of 1857, and claims in the county were constantly being taken by speculators from other States, who, after making slight improvements and erecting claim shanties generally departed, either to return another year or to sell their claims. It was no uncommon sight to see these men, who rarely did their claim work personally, lounging about the old hotel to the number of forty or fifty. The first term of the District Court was held in this house.

The second building was built by a Mr. Partch, and stood on the east side of Sixth street, opposite the Court House. It was occupied as a general store by H. R. Dutton and B. L. Rider. In 1858, it was sold to W. B. Barnett, afterwards of the banking firm of Barnett, Morrill & James, now a prominent citizen of Hiawatha. In 1857 there were but two buildings on the town site.

The first postmaster of Hiawatha was H. R. Dutton, who was appointed July 13, 1858, and held office four years. He was followed by Joseph Pascal, who also retained the office for four years. In 1866 H. Graves received the appointment. W. B. Barnett was Postmaster from 1870-74, and yielded to H. Graves, who, however, failed to fill the full term and was succeeded by N. E. Chapman on April 5, 1878. Mr. Chapman was in turn succeeded by J. D. Blair on May 8, 1882.

During this time the postoffice had been located successively at the store of H. R. Dutton, on lot 77, Oregon street; in Pascals drug store, on the east side of the square; on lot 79, on Oregon street, and finally in the Opera House building, on Sixth and Oregon streets, where it is at once centrally and commodiously located.

On April, 1871, Hiawatha elected a full corps of city officers as follows: Mayor, J. Schilling; Clerk, H. J. Aten; treasurer, James A Pope; Marshal, J. B. Butterfield; Assessor, F. J. Heller; Police Judge, J. W. Oberholtzer; Attorney, C. W. Johnson. The Councilmen were J. W. Pottenger, B. F. Killey, B. Amann, H. M. Robinson, H. C. Wey.

The Mayors who have served since Mayor Schilling are as follows: A. McLaughlin, 1872-73; George Amann, 1873-74; H. J. Aten, 1874-75-76; A. A. Holmes, 1876-77-78; A. R. May, 1878-79; W. M. Welton, 1879-80; C. H. Lawrence, 1880-81; J. D. Blair, 1881-82; G. Amann, 1882-83. The City Clerks since 1872 have been: W. C. Maxwell, 1872-73; D. M. Reed, 1873-74; A. N. Ruley, 1874-75; Charles Wolf, 1875-76; H. M. Waller, 1876-77; A. T. McCreary, 1877-78-79; C. N. Welcome, 1879-80-81; T. L. Brundage, 1881-82-83.

The City Treasurers have been as follows: J. W. Oberholtzer, 1872; A. R. Platt, 1872-73, Charles Wolf, 1873-74-75; G. T. Woodmansee, 1875-76; Charles Wolf, 1876-77; Harvey Seburn, 1877-78; J. E. Moon, 1878-79-80-81-82-83.

The earliest record of the public schools of this place bears date March 25, 1870, and records the election of E. Bierer as Director; B. F. McCoy, District Clerk, and George Amann, District Treasurer. The next record is a year later and records the election of Mr. C. D. Lawrence, as Director - a position he has ever since held. It was at this time decided to purchase two lots on Miami Street in the northeast part of the town as a site for a schoolhouse. In 1873, what is now known as the old schoolhouse, was built on these lots at a cost of $6,000. This structure was of native stone, and was fifty by thirty-two feet, and two stories in height. On April 4, 1873, the appointment of three teachers was recorded. These were L. S. Herbert, Principal; and Miss Albee and Miss Welcome, Assistants.

Doubtless the stone schoolhouse was considered a commodious building and suited to the needs of the school for a number of years to come; but it is evident that the estimate of the citys growth fell far below the realization; for in 1874, only a year later, it was found necessary to obtain better accommodations. At a meeting held on April 10, 1874, it was decided to build a new permanent schoolhouse, not to exceed in cost $35,000. One-third of this sum was to be expended in the first year, and the remainder during successive years. In the fall of 1875, Miss Mary A. P. Cracraft and Miss Mary Maxey were added to the force of teachers, and the school room proving utterly insufficient, a room was hired of D. C. Swayze, and used for the primary department, taught by Miss Liggitt.

On February 22, 1875, the board having received the petition of more than one-third of the legal voters of the district, praying for special election to determine the question of issuing bonds in $15,000 for building a new schoolhouse, set an election for March 6 of the same year. These bonds were to have ten years to run and were couple with the condition that none should be sold for less than ninety-five per cent of their par value. At the special election of March 6, the vote stood 146 for and 58 against the bonds. The issue of bonds having been decided upon it became necessary to choose a building site. At a meeting held March 8, 1875, an election to decide which of a number of eligible localities should be selected was called for March 20. At this later meeting the present site known as site four and the property of Mr. Bowers, received fifty-four votes and a clear majority over all.

A call for plans and specifications was next in order, and after examination of a number submitted, those of Steiger, Boetner & Co., were accepted. The contract for erecting the structure was then offered and finally awarded to Mr. B. Amann at $13,000.

The school building thus obtained has seven rooms and a large department for each. Its teachers are L. D. Whittemore, principal; Misses Lizzie Herbert, Lizzie Isles, Jennie Isles, Lou Chance, R. D. Kiner and Mrs. Eliza M. Cook. With an enrollment of over 400 scholars it can readily be seen that ere long the permanent quarters which six years ago seemed sufficient for a long time to come will shortly be too small. As long as practicable the schoolrooms, which in addition to the original heavy outlay have received numerous improvements, will be used. During the year 1881-82 steam heating was introduced throughout the building at a cost of $1,400.

Hiawatha may well be at once proud of her attractive school, its efficient teachers and the rapid growth which necessitates a constant increase of both.

[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]