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El Dorado, the county seat and largest city of Butler County, is located on the Walnut River about fifteen miles above its confluence with the Whitewater. The 140 acre tract which comprised the original town site was entered on March 23, 1868, by B. Frank Gordy, and filed for record in the succeeding month. Shortly after entering his claim, Gordy sold a fifth interest each to Henry Martin, Samuel Langdon and Byron O. Carr, and with them formed the El Dorado town company. Town lots were laid out and sold to all who would improve them, at the rate of ten dollars a lot. The location of the town near the crossing of the old California trail on the Walnut, and its other natural advantages of position, did much to aid it at this critical time, when it needed but a trifle to kill the embryo city. Houses of a very modest description sprang up rapidly, and the town began soon to present a semblance of substantiality. There had been some houses on the town site prior to the entrance of the Gordy claim. As early as 1867 a log house was built in the east part of town, and the same summer E. L. Lower put up a cabin where Dr. A. White's residence now stands. The latter of these buildings has passed away, but the former still stands just west of the livery stable on East Central avenue. The third building on the town site was a frame store erected by Henry Martin. Just prior to the erection of this store, Elias Main put up a saw mill on the Walnut near the present lower bridge. The year 1868 brought many new industries to the town. In the spring D. M. Bronson opened a land office. Dr. Kellogg divided his time between this office and the practice of his profession. A wagon shop was put up by a Mr. Handley, a blacksmith shop by Mat. Strickland and a harness shop by Mr. Gearhart. Mrs. Long opened a millinery store, and some minor branches of business were carried on. This year was also signalized by the opening of the first regular saloon. This institution, after being some time a sore spot in the community, was closed by the suit of Mrs. Thomas Tool for damages to her husband and the ensuing litigation. To counteract the influence of the saloon element thus early arrayed against the prohibition forces, the temperance people organized a lodge of the Sons and Daughters of Temperance. This order flourished for some time, but finally died out and its records have been lost. The year closed upon the town in a flattering state of growth, and bidding fair to become a large central trading point.
Thus far the reputation of El Dorado had spread little beyond its immediately associated towns in the northeast - the places where it touched the line of older settlement, and felt, though distantly, the pulsations of the world's great heart. With 1869 came the publication of a paper of its own, the Emigrant's Guide, gotten up by Bronson & Sallee, who had entered extensively into real estate dealings, and printed by Jacob Stotler, of the Emporia News. The Guide was what would now be called a 'rustler,' and crowed for Butler County and El Dorado after a very lusty fashion. This year saw the first social gathering of the people in the new settlement, and the first disaster, the drowning of the Johnson family in the June flood in the Walnut. With 1870 came a rush of settlers and a flood of events which deserve more specific description.
With the rush of 1870 came the demand for more room within the town limits, and the specially suave and ready respond to the demand by real estate men. Lower's addition of eighty acres, now forming all of the town north of Central Avenue, was laid out in this year, as were the blocks of land belonging to Finley & Gordon, on Main street, and that of Wilson on the west. These, together, made a little less than 320 acres.
The form of the name of the capital city of Butler County is even now a vexed question. When the Walnut Valley Times made its first appearance, its usually well posted editor adopted the spelling of 'Eldorado.' This came to be in general use, and when the change in management of the paper was made, and 'El Dorado' printed as the name of the city, considerable discussion was evoked. The following letter from Captain J. Cracklin, of Lawrence, one of the party who started the town, may fairly be said to settle the matter.
LAWRENCE, KAN., Dec. 11, 1882.
William Hildebrand is supposed to have been the first settler near El Dorado, having taken a claim near where J. D. Conner's farm now lies. In 1859, his place which had become a sort of headquarters for horse thieves, was raided, and Hildebrand after joining the order of the flagellants or anglice, getting a sound thrashing at the hands of the vigilantes, was given twenty-four hours to effect his escape from the county, and disappeared forever from El Dorado's horizon. In 1859 occurred the first wedding in El Dorado, as well as in the county, the parties united begin Miss Augusta Stewart and a Mr. Graham. Shortly after the wedding, the groom received serious injuries from the discharge of an overloaded gun and died. The first child born in El Dorado, was Mattie, daughter of Mr. P. R. Wilson. The first death, that of Mrs. H. D. Kellogg.
El Dorado postoffice, as originally located, stood a mile and one-half south of the present town. The mails were, however, handled at the residence of Henry Martin on the present town site, and the Postmaster, Daniel Stine, lived at Augusta. There was a little frame building at the site of El Dorado proper, but in 1867, when the county lines had been moved to their present southern limit, this had been stripped and stood alone and untenanted. At this juncture D. M. Bronson, who had been appointed County Attorney, proposed to Connor, Representative from this district, to refit the building and employ it as county seat headquarters. After various conferences, in which Connor refused to do anything, Bronson left this part of the country and went to a point below Augusta. On his return the present El Dorado had been located and made the county seat. Had Connor responded to Bronson's wishes, the present site of El Dorado might now be a fine farm.
A postoffice had been across the Walnut, opposite the present city, for four or five years before old El Dorado was surveyed, and D. L. McCabe had been Postmaster. Daniel Stine, of Augusta, was, as has already been stated, Postmaster in the old town, though never performing the duties of the office. The officials in the present city have been: Henry Martin, H. D. Kellogg, Mrs. Long, Frank Frazier and Alvah Sheldon. The office has for some years been a presidential one.
The first Fourth of July celebration is thus described by Mrs. D. M. Bronson:
"Our first Fourth of July celebration occurred in 1868, which eclipsed anything I had ever seen for pure, unadulterated patriotism and practically illustrated freedom. The grove near Dr. Gordon's was selected for the purpose. The preparations were elaborate, seats were improvised, a speaker's stand erected, an old army flag was resurrected out of some dark corner and suspended in graceful folds from the limb of a tree just over the head of the speaker, which was both inspiring and effective. A public dinner was the order of the day. The men reconnoitered around to secure the financial requisite. The Women were occupied preparing the 'grub.' The day arrived, and 'all went merry as a marriage bell.' The sun shone brightly, the birds sang sweetly, and all nature seemed in unison with our hearts. The Marshal of the day was Mr. Elisha Main. The exercises were introduced by singing the 'Star Spangled Banner,' which was executed with spirit; what was lacking in time was supplied in sound. Father Stansberry offered a prayer; the Declaration of Independence was read by W. T. Gallagher; orations were then delivered by D. M. Bronson and W. T. Gallagher, which were both eloquent and patriotic, and so vivid in portrayal that we could almost see the noble bird in his aerial gyrations, and hear the footfall of the Pilgrim Father on the barren Plymouth Rock. The Declaration, our glorious Magna Charta, was literally worn out, what there was remaining of it would hardly make a gun wad. After the exercises closed the table was prepared, looking inviting enough to please the most fastidious epicure. But here came the 'tug of war.' There were about ten bachelors to one woman in the county. All hungry, lean and lank, they made one grand forward march for the table. In about five minutes that table was bare. One lady approaching me with a countenance indicative of sorrow, said: 'Have you seen anything of my fruit cake?--the first one I have seen or made since I left old England's shores.' I told her I supposed it had gone to hunt up my dried apple pies. I did come near on this occasion being converted to the doctrine of total depravity. The day's exercises closed by a grand ball over Henry Martin's store, located where Mr. Denny's store now stands. This was our first dress ball."
The first hotel opened in the new town was a rough frame, erected in 1869, and occupied by Thomas Bros. This very modest hostelry was later made the rear portion of the El Dorado House of S. Langdon. For the past four years the building has been used as a flour and provision house, and the walls, which have resounded to the baying of hunting dogs or the tales of Indian scares, or later, to the wassail and rude mirth of pre-prohibition times, are covered with dust, and for some time have echoed no sounds save the tramp of footsteps and the scurry of the rats.
El Dorado has been fortunate in its exemption from disastrous fires, the only one of any great importance occurring in December, 1880, and destroying the Walnut Valley Elevator. This structure was built in 1878, at a cost of $10,000, and had a capacity of 40,000 bushels. It was not only an elevator, but also a flouring mill. At the time of its destruction it was nearly full of wheat. The origin of the fire was never precisely ascertained, but was thought to be incendiary.
The city now has a population of fully 2,000, and is growing rapidly. Some idea of its gain in the past year can be taken from a statement of the buildings erected during 1882. This list, which is too long for publication, foots up $59,100. This sum is distributed among a hundred buildings, giving an average cost of $591. Many included in the list were small buildings, offices and the like, but none ran in price above $4,000, and but sixteen reached $1,000, the majority being cozy residences at or near the outskirts of the city.
El Dorado was laid out and a form of town establishment inaugurated in 1868, but no practical organization was effected until Sept. 12, 1871, when it was organized under the laws applying to cities of the third class. J. C. Lambdin, who had been chairman of the board of trustees, became Mayor protem until the election of Henry Falls. The list of principal officials of the city since that time has been as follows: Mayors, H. Falls, 1872; J. C. Lambdin, 1873; J. B. Mitchell, 1874; Wm. J. Cameron, 1875; J. A. McKenzie, 1876-77-78; A. Bassett, 1879; J. A. McKenzie, 1880; A. Bassett, 1881; A. White, 1882. Mr. White died in office in October 1882, and G. M. Weeks became acting Mayor for the unexpired term. D. M. Bronson, the first City Clerk, was followed by John P. Campbell, 1872; W. O. Redden, 1873- 74-75; Ed. J. Thomas, 1876; Lafayette-Knowles, 1877; T. H. Lemon, 1878; L. Leland, Jr., 1879; C. B. Daughters, 1880-81; E. E. Carr, 1882.
SCHOOLS AND CHURCHES.
The first schoolhouse in El Dorado was a log cabin built by a subscription of the settlers. Here Miss Jane Wentworth taught a class of about fifteen. In 1869-70, the old stone house still standing near the park, was erected at a cost of $2,000, and regular terms of school begun. E. Cowles was principle in 1869; T. R. Wilson, 1870; John Snyder, 1871; Charles Moore, 1872; J. C. Elliott, 1873; E. C. Brooks, 1874-75; Z. M. Riley, 1876; George Edwards, 1877; E. W. Hulse, 1878-79-80-81. The present force consists of Alfred McCaskey, Mrs. Belle Howard, Miss Ida Brown, Mrs. C. B. Daughters, Miss Cora C. Battin, Miss May Schmucker and Mrs. J. Richardson. The old stone schoolhouse although a large structure for that early day in the city's history soon proved inadequate, and on February 22, 1872, the corner stone of the present building was laid. The fine stone so abundant in this part of the country was used and the succeeding fall the building was completed at a cost of $8,000. It soon became evident that the new building was not large enough and its youthful population overflowed into the old school. In 1879 a large addition was constructed at a cost of $4,000. This stayed the tide a little, but in 1882 it again became necessary to have recourse to the old building. What shall be the next step is a knotty problem now vexing the city fathers and awaiting the city's becoming one of the second class and establishing ward schools. The present school population is nearly six hundred.
The Baptist Church was organized in 1869 by Rev. James Saxby, who supplied it for some time. During 1870 the church was under the ministrations of Rev. T. G. Grove. The church then went down and held no services until 1875, when Rev. E. W. Melton was made pastor. In 1877 the pulpit again became vacant and so remained until 1879, when Rev. J. D. P. Hungate accepted a call. His ministry lasted until 1881, when Rev. C. H. Remington, the present pastor, took charge of the church. A church building with a seating capacity of 250 was erected in 1880 at a cost of $2,500. A Sabbath school started in 1879 has now an average attendance of 75 and is in charge of John Foutch.
The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1870 by Rev. James Gordon, who became its stated supply for about one year. The pulpit was then filled by Rev. W. M. Stryker. The pastorate then remained vacant for about three years. In 1877, W. M. Pocock was called to the vacant chair, which he occupied about three years, giving place to Rev. S. McAnderson, the present pastor. A church building was begun in 1873 but when the walls were up the work was stopped until 1877, when the house was completed; the whole costing $3,500. A parsonage was built in 1878 at a cost of $500. The church now has a membership of eighty. A Sabbath school started in 1877 has now an average attendance of 75, and is in charge of F. P. Gillespie.
The Methodist Church was organized in 1870 by Rev. S. F. C. Garrison who supplied it for two or three months and was succeeded by Rev. D. L. Knowles; to this clergyman succeeded Revs. S. L. Roberds, A. Hartman, J. W. Fox, T. C. Hunt, W. Oakly, Paul F. Davis, and Rev. J. T. Burris, the present pastor, who was installed in the spring of 1882. A church building, erected in 1873 at a cost of $1,500, was enlarged in 1879 at a cost of $8,000, and is now one of the most commodious in the city. A parsonage was built in 1875. A Sabbath school, established in 1873, is in a flourishing condition, has an average attendance of 130, and is in charge of M. Fullenwider.
The Christian Church was organized by Rev. E. E. Harvey in February, 1873. Under his leadership it continued to grow for four years. In 1877 E. L. Craig accepted the pastorate. He was followed by Rev. J. F. Floyd who remained until 1882, when Rev. J. J. Henry was installed. A church building was completed in 1875 at a cost of $3,400, most of the money being furnished by Eastern friends, and the labor utilized to aid the needy of the town. It has a seating capacity of 250. The society now numbers 165. A Sabbath school, established in 1875, has now an average attendance of 70, and is in care of J. W. Shively.
The United Brethren Church began to hold meetings at the Satchel schoolhouse in 1876, under Rev. George Gay. After a little time, however, it became dormant, and so remained until 1878, when services were resumed. In 1881 Pastor Guyer commenced his labors, holding services in El Dorado, and in 1882 a church building valued at $1,000 was erected. The society now numbers 80. A Sabbath school, started in 1881, is in a flourishing condition under the superintendence of William Myers.
SOCIETIES AND THE PRESS.
Patmos Lodge, No. 97, A., F. & A. M., was organized on October 19, 1871, with the following officers: T. C. Boswell, W. M.: J. P. Gordon, S. W.; J. C. Lambdin, J. W. The lodge now numbers 106, and has the following officers: V. P. Mooney, W. M; W. H. Baxter, S. W.; M. I. Morgan, J. W.; A. Bassett, Treasurer; H. C. Fitch, S. D.; James Hughes, J. D.; Lafayette Knowles, Sec. Meetings are held on the first and third Thursday of each month in New Masonic Hall. This hall, which has recently been completed by the three Masonic Bodies of the city, is one of the finest in the State; 40x80 feet, and cost unfurnished $6,000.
El Dorado Lodge, No. &4, I. O. O. F., was organized on October 12, 1872, with six charter members. The early records of the lodge have been unfortunately mislaid, and it is impossible to give the names of the charter officers. The lodge now has fifty-two members and the following officers: Robert Long, N. G.; W. J. Gault, V. G.; Oliver Embree, Secretary; A. Couley, F. S.; J. A. McKinzie, Treasurer. Meetings are held on Thursday of each week in the new hall erected by the society. This is one of the finest halls in the State., a two story brick, 72x24, and was erected in December, 1882, at a cost of $5,000. The lower floor is rented for business purposes, and the upper occupied as a lodge room. The other property of the lodge consists of regalia valued at $300.
El Dorado Lodge, No. 517, K. of H., was organized on October 17, 1877, with seventeen charter members and the following officers: C. N. James, P. D.; E. Maris, D.; Geo. Weeks, Rep.; Charles Selig, F. R.; John Friend, Treasurer. The lodge has now a membership of thirty. Meetings are held on the first Monday of each month in Masonic Hall. The present officers are: E. Maris, P. D.; Geo. Weeks, D.; J. DeCow, Rep.; C. H. Selig, F. R.; C. N. James, Treasurer.
El Dorado Chapter, No. 35, R. A. M., was organized on October 15, 1878, with the following charter officers: J. S. Dutton, H. P.; E. N. Smith, K.; D. Bassett, Scribe. The chapter now has fifty members and the following officers: E. Maris, H. P.; A. Bassett, K.; T. E. Woods, Scribe; V. P. Mooney, Sec.; H. C. Fitch, K. of H.; E. A. Smith, P. S.; F. Anderson, R. A. C.; William H. Baxter, First Vail; C. P. Strong, Second Vail; W. W. Bugbee, Third Vail. Meetings are held on the second and fourth Thursday of each month in Masonic Hall.
Imo Lodge, No. 48, K. of P., was organized March 8, 1882, with nineteen charter members and the following officers: W. Douglass, C. C.; A. Sheldon, V. C.; John W. Morrison, Prelate; George Gardner, P. C.; M. J. Gordon, K. R. S.; W. H. Dunlevy, M. A.; L. Knowles, M. E.; E. D. Stratford, M. F. The lodge, which now numbers thirty-two, meets on Wednesday of each week in Odd Fellows Hall. Its financial affairs are very flourishing for so young an order, there being $150 in the treasury and other property to the value of $800. The present officers of the lodge are: A. Sheldon, C. C.; M. J. Gordon, V. C.; John Morrison, Prelate; W. H. Douglass, P. C.; George N. Younkman, K. R. S.; C. Richards, M. A.; George E. Waldron, M. E.; E. C. Denny, M. F.
W. H. L. Wallace Post, No. 66, G. A. R., was organized June 10, 1882, with thirty-eight members and the following officers: Thomas E. Woods, P. C.; C. P. Strong, S. V. C.; H. L. Sumner, J. V. C.; E. E. Harvey, Chaplain; William E. McGinnis, Surgeon; D. Boyden, Adjutant; A. J. Ralston, Quartermaster. The post meets in Masonic Hall on Saturday of each week. It had on December 1, 1882, an enrollment of 107.
El Dorado Commandery, No. 19, K. T., was organized in June, 1882, with the following officers: E. N. Smith, E. C.; Thomas Woods, G.; E. Maris, C. G.; L. Knowles, Recorder. The commandery now has a membership of thirty-five. Meetings are held on the second and fourth Monday of each month in Masonic Hall. The present officers are: Thomas Woods, E. C.; C. N. James, G.; W. L. Gibson, C. G.; C. H. Remington, Prelate; H. H. Gardner, S. W.; V. P. Mooney, J. W.; D. Story, Recorder.
Excelsior Lodge, No. 2,093, K. of L., was organized on July 24, 1882, with twenty members, which number had increased in November, 1882, to forty. Its officers are: James Hughes, M. W.; J. H. Gordon, R. S.; I. M. Vail, F. S.; William Hartwell, Treasurer; D. S. Story, W. F. Meetings are held on Monday of each week in Odd Fellows Hall.
Walnut Valley Times. The first number of the Times bears date March 4, 1870, and flies the names of Murdock & Danford as publishers. It was a seven column folio of regulation size, and bore at the head of its first column the market quotation "Gold dull at $1.20 1/8." On June 1, 1870 the special partnership between Murdock & Danford was dissolved and T. B. Murdock became sole owner, continuing in this position until March 1, 1881, when Alvah Sheldon, the present proprietor, purchased the paper. On September 30, 1870, the paper appeared enlarged to eight columns. For many years the types responded to the pressure of a Washington hand press, with a brawny arm at the lever, but in January, 1879, a Potter power press was purchased. The paper now has a circulation of 1,320, a proof that its claims as the leading paper of the county, are not without foundation. The paper has always been published within twenty feet of its present location, on the corner of Main Street and Central Avenue. This brief outline would convey no fitting idea of this paper without a word of the admirable spirit exhibited by its late editor, T. B. Murdock. Intensely alive to the great possibilities of his county he prepared for the first number of the Times a condensed account of its resources and expectations. This matter appeared on the fourth page week after week and month after month, until it had been read by many thousands, to whom previously this region was terra incognito. Not content with this he introduced carefully prepared correspondence, from all over the county, giving the special points of each locality and what was being done to extend settlement. This constant ringing of the changes brought on a settlement rarely paralleled in counties so situated, and seems to justify the statement of the present able editor of the Times: 'The county is what Murdock made it.'
El Dorado Press. This paper was started on March 1, 1877 by J. M. Satterthwaite, who still ownes (sic) and runs it. It is a six column quarto sheet, of Republican proclivities, and has a circulation of 800 copies weekly. It is published on Thursdays.
The Eagle started in the spring of 1882, on the material of the Democrat, which had been purchased by a stock company. T. P. Fulton, who had edited the Democrat, became local editor of the new paper and the political work was done by members of the company. On June 1, E. A. Davis, the present editor, took charge of the office. The paper is a six column folio entirely home printed and has a circulation of 900. It advocates Greenback views and has its largest circulation among the farming community. It is published Thursdays.
The Butler County Democrat was established in July, 1880, by T. P. Fulton, and continued under the same management until sold to the company which started the Eagle. When Mr. Fulton severed his connection with the Eagle a stock company was formed and the Democrat revived with Fulton Bros. As publishers. The paper is an eight column folio and has a circulation of 800. It appears on Thursday of each week.
Exchange Bank. A private banking house was opened by Neal Wilkie and S. L. Shotwell, on the northeast corner of Main Street and Central Avenue. Here a business was conducted until February, 1877, when the new building was completed, and the bank organized under the new laws concerning State banks, and a few years later changed its organization to that of a national bank. Its officers are: A. L. Redden, President; H. H. Gardner, Cashier; W. L. Gibson, Assistant Cashier.
The Bank of El Dorado was opened for business of April 5, 1881, by Edward C. Ellett and N. F. Frazier. As a private banking concern it makes no official statement of resources. It has, however, a capital of $30,000 and a surplus of $16,000. This surplus will continue to increase until 1886, under a limitation act when the bank was established, which allows neither partner to draw from the funds before the expiration of five years. The bank occupied a fine building on Main Street.
The Butler County Bank was organized in January, 1882, under the laws regulating State banks, and opened its doors on February 1. It has a capital of $42,000, and the following officers: John Foutch, President: F. P. Gillespie, Cashier; F. B. Ewing, Vice-president. Business is transacted in a first floor room in Masonic Block.
The El Dorado Mills were build in 1870 by Wheeler & Burdett. Some few years later the firm was changed to Burdett & Weeks and as such now exists. The mill buildings which stand on the east bank of the Walnut near the bridge, have been twice enlarged (1879 and 1881) and are now 38x40 feet and two stories and one-half in height. Power is obtained from the river through the medium of a forty-inch turbine wheel, and when that falls from a steam engine of forty horse-power. The mill is provided with three wheat and one corn buhr-stones and has a capacity of fifty barrels of fine grade flour per day.
The Walnut Valley Mills were built in the spring of 1881 by Baldwin & Nicholson, by whom they were run until May, 1882, when they passed into the hands of M. A. Asmey, who now operates them. The mills have three run of buhrs - two for wheat and one for corn - and a capacity of forty barrels per day. Power is furnished by an engine of twenty-five horse-power. All the wheat required by this mill is furnished by the farmers of the county. Both 'new process' and 'Chicago XXXX' flours are made.