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


[TOC] [part 13] [part 11] [Cutler's History]


Leon is situated on the line of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, 476 miles west of St. Louis, 113 miles west of Oswego, and 12 miles east of Augusta. It occupies a high point in the world, the west bank of Little Walnut near which the town stands, being 1340 feet above sea level. The town was first christened Noble, but it was discovered that another point in the State bore that name and the new town became the namesake of Leon, Iowa, and also, in the minds of its projectors, of the far-famed Ponce de Leon. The town site was laid out and surveyed in November, 1879, and a town company formed. This consisted of M. A. Palmer, C. Tabing, J. King, J. M. Watson and C. R. Noe. To the latter gentlemen belonged the land of the town site - sixty acres. The first building erected in the town was the blacksmith shop of H. Belton, erected in 1879. The second was the store and residence of J. M. Watson, erected early in 1880. What the third was is uncertain, as the rush of construction became so great that not days or weeks but hours gave precedence. This rapid growth continued through the year and at its close Leon had buildings to the value of $33,325, and a population of between 250 and 300. This year saw the advent of the first physician, I. M. Wells; the first attorney, J. M. Dilts; and the first merchant, F. W. Beckmeyer, who occupied the Watson store building. The first birth in the town was that of a child of Joseph Denton; the first death an unknown railroad hand; the first wedding, Charles Craig and Mrs. Carrie Hollander.

Incorporation and Officers. On March 15, 1882, Leon became a city of the third class without passing through any intermediate town organization. Its officers then elected still hold their positions. They are: Levi Kiser, Mayor; D. W. Poe, City Clerk; J. S. Calvert, Police Judge; W. J. Cunningham, J. Kunkle, C. Lipscomb, G. A. Kenoyer and Ben. H. Wood, Councilmen.

Leon, on October 21, 1882, was a model city for one of its age. Up both sides of the long Main street ran blocks of stores, not palatial by any means but good enough to do a large business in. Early on the morning of Monday the 23rd, the street presented a far different aspect. Fire had taken possession of the best block of the city and all efforts to check it with the feeble means at hand were unavailing, it burned till there was no more to destroy, and the block, save the building on the southwest corner, was leveled. The buildings destroyed were the barber shop of Robert Grunewell; harness shop of A. A. Jones; J. H. Cecil's two store buildings, one of which was also used for residence purposes; Waddell & Dick's meat market, the building owned by H. H. Clements; a billiard hall also owned by Clements; Snyder & Dobbins' store building; T. H. McCormick's store building, and the Commercial Hotel. The aggregate loss by this fire may be roughly stated at $10,000. No efforts have thus far been made to rebuild upon the burned block, but there will undoubtedly be a stirring of the ashes ere long.

The postoffice at Leon was established in March, 1880, with G. A. Kenoyer, who still holds the position, as Postmaster. There has been a star postoffice known as Little Walnut, on the creek, about a mile south, and here Kenoyer became Postmaster January 1, 1879. On the establishment of Leon Little Walnut was discontinued. The postoffice was first located in the store of Kenoyer & Chenoweth, and upon the dissolution of that firm, moved across the street to its present quarters. It was made a money order office on August 15, 1881, and the first order purchased by G. W. Churchill.

Prior to the laying out of Leon the district schoolhouse stood a half mile east of the town site. This building was moved to town in the fall of 1881, and formed part of the spacious house completed that year at a cost of $2,000. S. L. Hodge was secured as principal of the school, and still holds that position. One assistant only was needed the first year, but in 1882 a second was engaged to properly handle the 180 children now in attendance. What 1883 will bring forth no one can say, but it seems probable that ere long still further accommodations and more teachers must be secured.

The city now occupies considerably more than the sixty acres of the original town site, C. R. Noe having made two additions amounting to fifty-five acres, and J. King one of three acres. Industries of all sorts are constantly increasing and the building of neat residence constantly going on. Already the population numbers 600, and the close of 1883 will bring it well up toward 1,000.


The Baptist Church at this point was organized on May 29, 1880, by Rev. G. W. Churchill, who still remains in charge. When first organized the society had but fourteen members, but earnest work has increased this number to sixth-four. A fine church building was erected in 1882, at a cost of $1,200. Prior to its completion services had been held every second Sabbath in the Methodist church. Besides this society Mr. Churchill supplies one of twenty at Logan schoolhouse, and one of thirty-five at Little Walnut, The society has no separate Sabbath School.

The Methodist Church at this point is in a sense a continuation of the class which prior to 1880 assembled at Chenoweth schoolhouse. A church edifice was begun in 1880 and completed the following year, at a cost of nearly $2,000, the parsonage built at the same time bringing the total outlay up to fully that amount. The society now has over 100 members, and is growing rapidly, under the labors of Rev. L. J. VanLandigham. Services are held on three out of four Sabbaths. A Sabbath school organized in 1881 is flourishing under the superintendence of Prof. S. L. Hodge. Other appointments supplied from this point are the Center, Economy, Quito and Brickley schoolhouses.

The Christian Church.--Like the Methodist, the Christian society had been holding services at the Chenoweth school house. There they had been in charge of Elder E. R. Harvey, of El Dorado, with A. Burt as local preacher and the same arrangement was continued after the removal to town. A fine church building was completed in November 1882 at a cost of $1,400. The church has a membership of 100. A separate Sabbath school was organized in 1881 and has been successfully carried on since that time by S. H. Wooton, superintendent.

The Leon Indicator was first printed in January, 1880, coming out as a three column folio about the size of a pocket handkerchief from the Walnut Valley Times office. The second issue was a trifle larger, had four columns, and appeared May 8, 1880. However, the paper was about fitted to the town, which had but few houses and a future entirely dependent upon the energy of its projectors. This was just the quality they had, however, and on June 18, 1880, the Indicator came out as a seven-column folio of regulation size, printed on its own press and from its own type. C. R. Noe who had accomplished this great undertaking for a new town, did not rest content but immediately set about building an office for his material and ere the close of 1880, had a substantial one costing $850. Here, under the same management, the Indicator is still published on Thursday of each week. The paper which is straight republican has strained a circulation of 550.

Leon Lodge, No. 82, A. O. U. W. was organized in November 1881, with thirty charter members and the following officers: F. M. Beckmeyer, P. M. W.; L. N. Wells, M. W., A. Bowen, Overseer; W. H. Nelson, F.; J. Kunkle, Recorder; W. J. Martin, Financier, G. A. Kenyon, Receiver. The present membership of the society is the same as at first. Meetings are held on Monday of each week in Cunningham's Hall. The present officers are: F. M. Beckmeyer, P. M. W.; J. S. Calvert, M. W.; H. P. Dodson, F.; A. Bowen, O. The Recorder, Financier and Receiver remain the same as at first.

Leon Lodge, No. 203, I. O. O. F., was organized May 24, 1882 with eight charter members and eight initiates. Its first officers were: T. S. Blunt, N. G., J L. Moore, V. G.; W. H. Nelson, Secretary; Chas. Tabing, Treasurer. The lodge now number thirty. Meetings are held every Saturday in Tabing's hall. Present officers are: W. H. Nelson, N. G.; John Robertson, V. G.; T. T. Bigg, Secretary; J. M. Watson, Treasurer; J. N. Holt, Chaplain.

Leon Post, No. 125, G. A. R., was organized August 30, 1882 with twenty-five charter members and the following officers; J. M. Dillts, P. C.; C. Tabing, S. V. C.; C. C. Miller, J. V. C.; H. T. Dodson, Qr.; B. F. Rickey, Adj. The post has already gained a membership of thirty. Meetings are held on Tuesday of each week, in Tabing's hall. Officers for the ensuing year are: C. R. Noe, P. C.; C. J. Rutlege, S. V. C.; W. H. Runyon, J. V. C.; T. H. McCormick, O. D.; John Hood, Chaplain: Dr. James Wright, Surgeon.

Joppa Lodge. A., F. & A. M., was organized in October, 1882, with thirteen members, and the following officers, who still continue in service: A. Letherman, W. M.; Charles King, S. W.; Charles Tobing, J. W.; Thomas Lindsey, Treasurer; D. W. Poe Secretary; E. K. Sumerwell S. D.; Ambrose Butt, J. D. Meetings are held on the first and third Saturday of each month, in Tabing's hall. The lodge now numbers twenty-six.

Leon City Mills. These mills were completed in April, 1881, by Ward, Fetrow & Tong. This firm was shortly after changed to Fetrow & Tong, and latter to Fetrow & son, under which style it is now conducted. The mill buildings are located in southeast part of town near the railway; The mill buildings are located in the southeast part of town. Three run of buhr-stones are used and a capacity of turning out sixty-six barrels of flour per day attached. The total cost of building and fixtures is $12,000; only 'new process' flour is manufactured. Both the wheat and corn used here are bought of the neighboring farmers, and so rich are the resources of this part of the county that there has never been a necessity for importing grain.


THOS. C. CHENOWETH, merchant is a native of Ohio, and was born in Darke County, December 27, 1848; when young came to Logan County, Ill., where he resided until 1872, when he became a resident of Kansas, Butler County; settled in little Walnut Township; when Leon became a point on the St. L. & S. F. R. R., he built the second store in the town; and has since been identified with the place. Mr. C. was married, in Olathe, Johnson Co., Kan., to Miss Rose Washington; they have three children - Harry, Dick and Edith.

J. S. CALVERT, proprietor Calvert House, came to Kansas in 1866, settling in Leavenworth County, in 1873; became a resident of Butler County, taking up his abode in El Dorado, where for several years, he was proprietor of the Central Hotel. In 1880 came to Leon, where he has since conducted the Calvert House, and has also been interested, to some extent, in the mill business; at present is Police Judge, and has otherwise been officially identified. Mr. C. is a native of Indiana, and was born in Tippecanoe County. He spent a number of years in Johnson County, Iowa. During the rebellion he served three years and eight months in Company F., First Iowa Cavalry.

J. R. FETROW, proprietor City Mill, is a native of Pennsylvania, and was born in York County, December 6, 1839. Was educated in his native State. During the war served nine months in the One Hundred and Thirtieth Pennsylvania Infantry. Was in the State militia previous to the war. For six years was a resident of Illinois, coming from that State, in 1871, to Kansas, settling in Butler County. For several years was engaged in farming. In the year 1881 built his mill, which will compare favorably with any three-run mill in the county. Mr. F. is one of the public spirited citizens of Leon. He is a member of the A. O. U. W. and the G. A. R. He was married in Kansas to Miss Ida Martinson.

G. A. KENOYER, Postmaster of Leon, came to Butler County in 1877, settling at Little Walnut, where he was engaged in the grocery business, and soon afterwards was appointed Postmaster. Was also identified for a time in the milling interests. When Leon became a point on the St. L. & S. F. R. R. he was commissioned as Postmaster. Was transferred to this point, where he has since been a resident. Mr. K. is a native of Indiana, and was born in Owen County, January 16, 1852. In 1866 came to Scotland County, Mo., where he resided until coming to Kansas. He was married, in Missouri, to Miss Martha Baldinger. They have four children - Pearl, Grace, Vena and Gilbert. Mr. K is a Mason and Odd Fellow and a member of the A. O. U. W.

LEVI KISER, merchant, is a native of Ohio, and was born in Greene County, September 21, 1824. Was educated in his native State. After attaining his majority he came West, locating in Johnson County, Iowa, where he was prominently identified for several years, being a member of the County Board and Captain of a militia company. For several years he carried on business in Iowa City. Mr. K. became a resident of Leon in the autumn of 1880, has done considerable building, and is at present Mayor and serving on the school Board. His son, Luther L., is the junior member of the firm.

JEREMIAH KUNKLE, merchant, is a native of York County, Pa., and was born in December, 1848. He resided in his native State until coming to Kansas in 1870, settling in Butler County. In 1881 he embarked in merchandising in Leon. He has done much toward the upbuilding of the town in the way of fine store buildings. An aspiring town cannot have too many men like Mr. Kunkle. He is a member of the A. O. U. W.

C. R. NOE, the editor of the Indicator, was born in Grant County, Ky, March 24, 1843. In 1856 he moved with his parents to Illinois, where, in the towns of Casey and Charleston, he received his education. On the breaking out of the war he enlisted in the Eighth Illinois Infantry, and in this, the Ninety-seventh Illinois and the Seventy-eighth U. S. C. I. Served forty-one months. In 1869 he removed to Kansas and entered the farm on which Leon now stands. In June of that year he began farming, and continued that business until the organization of the town. Leon owes not only its start, but much of its solid improvement, to Mr. Noe, who has re-invested all he has made out of the town in permanent and valuable industries or property.

[TOC] [part 13] [part 11] [Cutler's History]