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


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


The Legislature, in 1860, laid out Clay County and named it in honor of Kentucky's illustrious statesman, Henry Clay. It was at first attached to Riley County for judicial purposes, and afterwards to Davis County. In 1866 there was some dissatisfaction felt in regard to the tax imposed by the latter county and a meeting was held at Clay Centre July 28, 1866, to consider the question of organizing the county. Orville Huntress was chairman and George D. Seabury clerk of the meeting. It was decided to take steps towards organization, and Lorenzo Gates, William Silvers, J. G. Haynes and Joseph P. Ryan were appointed a committee on petition and affidavit to Governor Crawford. The Governor signed the papers the 10th of August, appointed Lorenzo Gates, William Silvers and J. P. Ryan County Commissioners, George D. Seabury County Clerk, and designated Clay Centre as the county-seat. At the first election, November 6, 1866, the county seat was permanently located at Clay Centre. Republic City, an imaginary town, two miles west of Clay Centre, was an aspirant for the honor. When attached to other counties there were two offices, that of Justice and Constable, filled by resident citizens. The justices from 1863 to 1866, were D. H. Myers, J. W. Shepperd, D. H. Myers and Orville Huntress. Constables: A. Van Nosten, Phillip Rothman, each serving two terms.

The following is the official roster of the county:

Commissioners. - Lorenzo Gates (1), J. P. Ryan(1), William Silvers(1), appointed; elected in 1866, Thomas Sherwood, Henry Avery, William Silvers; 1868, T. Sherwood, D. H. Myers, William Silvers; 1870, M. H. Ristine, J. R. Taylor, J. B. Quimby; 1872, M. Lathrop, J. Miles, J. B. Quimby; 1874, A. Burt, Jr., S. C. Chester, M. A. Schoonover; 1876, A. Burt, Jr., M. Lathrop, A. D. P. Ferguson; 1878 A. Burt, Jr., A. N. Crawford, B. Ristine; 1879, A. Burt, Jr., A. P. Fullerton, B. Ristine; 1880, A. Burt, Jr., A. P. Fullerton, A. S. Pierce, 1881, George Emerich, A. P. Fullerton, G. H. Fullington; 1882, George Emerich, A. P. Fullerton, G. H. Fullington, A. S. Pierce.
1) Appointed by Governor.

County Clerks. - George D. Seabury, 1866, S. N. Ackly, 1867; S. N. Ackly(1) and W. H. Fletcher(2), 1868-9; J. W. Kennedy, 1870-1; E. P. Huston, 1872-80; J. S. Noble, 1880-81; L. A. Huston, 1882-3.
(1) Resigned, (2) Appointed by Commissioners.

County Treasurers. - Orville Huntress, 1866-7; O. Huntress(1), S. N. Ackley(2), W. E. Payne(1), 1868-9; A. F. Daxter (sic), 1870-1; E. P. Huston, 1872-5; A. Wilson, 1876-9; J. S. Sterling, 1880-1; A. Wilson, 1881-2; L. McChesney, 1882-3.
(1) Resigned, (2) Appointed by Commissioners.

County Registers. - S. N. Ackley, 1877-7; W. H. Fletcher, 1868-9; J. H. Hudson, 1870-3; H. M. Frazier, 1874-83.

County Surveyors. - J. B. McLaughlin, 1866-9; E. P. Ingersoll, 1870-71; R. Franken, 1872-9; A. N. Crawford, 1880-1; William McLaughlin, 1882-3.

Sheriffs. - Russell Allen, 1866-7; P. Rothman, 1868-71; E. Cummins, 1872-5; J. S. Sterling, 1876-9; George Morgan, 1880-1; George W. Martin, 1882.

Coronors. - James Hemphill, 1866-9; H. Boss, 1870-1; J. W. Shepperd, 1872-3; J. P. Stewart, 1874-5; J. H. Wade, 1876-9; William Read, 1880-1; George Wigg, 1882.

Assessors. - Orville Huntress, 1866-7; O. H. Smith, 1868-9; A. Shaeber, 1870-1. Discontinued.

Attorneys. - Capt. McClure, 1867-8; C. M. Kellog, 1869-70; C. M. Anthony, 1871-2; C. M. Kellog, 1873-4; M. M. Miller, 1875-6; E. H. Wyatt, 1877-83.

County Superintendents of Schools. - George D. Seabury, 1867-72; J. S. Dodson, 1873-8; A. Smith, 1879-80; J. L. Starkweather, 1881-2.

Probate Judges. - M. H. Ristine(1), W. H. Fletcher(2), 1867-8; C. M. Kellog, 1869-70; J. P. Ryan, 1871-4; R. D. McCord, 1875-8; J. F. Reyson, 1879-82.
(1) Died, (2) Appointed by Commissioners.

District Judges. - James Humphrey, 1878-8; W. H. Canfield, 1869-70; A. S. Wilson, 1871-83.

Clerks of District Court. - C. O. Huntress, 1867-8; C. A. Leffingwell, 1871-2; A. Wilson, 1873-6; J. F. Reyson, 1877-82.

State Senators. - L. F. Parsons, 1867-8; W. S. Blakely, 1869-70; J. H. Prescott, 1871-2; E. Barker, 1873-4; H. Cooper, 1875-6; C. M. Kellog, Clay Centre, 1877-80; J. W. Rector, 1881-2.

State Representatives - Lorenzo Gates, 1867; M. H. Ristine, 1868-9; L. Gates, 1870; J. B. McLaughlin, 1871; C. M. Kellog, 1872; S. L. Stratton, 1873; S. D. Beegle, 1874-5; C. M. Kellog, 1876; W. H. Fretcher, 1877; George Taylor, 1879-82. W. W. Walton of Clay Centre, was Clerk of the House for last two terms.

The court house and jail are inferior buildings. The former is rented, and the latter is the original court house, built of stone by Dexter brothers, in 1868. In the center of Clay Centre is the Court House Square, beautifully ornamented with shade trees. When the county becomes able, it is the design to erect one of the finest court houses in Northern Kansas. The county farm is well supplied with farm buildings and good dwellings.


From the first the people of Clay have manifested a deep and active interest in education, This has enabled the county to become in so short a time one of the foremost, for its age, in the ranks of school privileges. The first schoolhouse was built in 1864 and Mr. Lack taught the first school with about fifteen pupils. There are now eighty four school houses and 145 teachers are required to teach the schools. The first district was organized in 1865. There are now ninety-five districts, or one to every 140 inhabitants. The first schoolhouse cost about $50; the last, that of Clay Centre, cost $25,000. From a school population of about 24 when the first school was taught, it has increased in sixteen years to about 5,000. The increase in school property in the same time from $50 to nearly $90,000, shows more conclusively than any other comparison, the prevailing interest in the cause of education.

The school system of the county is a good one, and the schools generally are in a flourishing condition. The standard of qualification of teachers is gradually advancing and is now quite equal to that of counties in the older States. Township and county normals and institutes are held at intervals during the year. The progress here in education has been remarkable and if the active interest in the cause is maintained, Clay County will ere long become a model not only for the West but for the East.

Until 1862, Manhattan and Junction City were the nearest post-offices. During this year the first mail route in Clay County was established. This route was from Manhattan to Clifton, passed along the river valleys, with the offices in the county. The first was on Mall Creek, and the first postmaster was Lorenzo Gates; the second at Clay Centre, with Orville Huntress as postmaster; and the third office at Clifton, was kept by James Fox. The first trip on this route was made by James E. Parkerson on the 1st day of July, 1862. It was at first a weekly mail (and often weakly in amount of matter) but was afterwards a tri-weekly. Junction City later became the southern terminus of the route.

The Junction City & Fort Kearney Railroad reached Clay Centre the 12th of March, 1873, which was its northern terminus until 1878, when it was extended to Clifton, where it connected with the Central Branch of the Union Pacific. These roads are now under the same management. This road has been the principal agent in developing so rapidly the interior of Clay County and making Clay Centre one of the best business points west of Topeka. The road commences at Junction City and runs parallel with the Republican River to Clifton, wholly within the valley.

The Kansas Central, a narrow gauge railroad, running west from Leavenworth, has reached a point twenty miles west of Clay Centre.

There are four ferries across the Republican: Rock Ford, Air Line Ferry, Morgantown and Wakefield, and four excellent bridges: Clifton, Morganville, Clay Centre and Wakefield.


Acres in the county, 422,400; acres taxable, 282,536; under cultivation, 135,240. Number of acres of winter wheat, 28425; rye, 10,250; spring wheat, 20,185; corn, 48,270; barley, 2,295; oats, 14,355; buckwheat, 75; Irish potatoes, 848; sweet potatoes, 33; sorghum, 210; castor beans, 233; flax, 419; broom corn, 397; millet and Hungarian, 2,315; timothy meadow, 72; prairie meadow, 3,108; prairie pasture, 6,643; blue grass pasture, 60.

Number of horses, 4,301; mules and asses, 346; milch cows, 3,549; other cattle, 4,400; sheep, 1,363; swine, 16,501.

Number of acres in nurseries, 84. Number of trees in bearing: Apple, 2,475; pear, 354; peach, 75,423; plum, 4,029; cherry, 1,218. Number not in bearing: Apple, 17,654; pear, 676; peach, 65,681; plum, 3,998; cherry, 7,790.

In March 1882, the population of the county was 12,237. Clay Centre City had 2,343 people. The most populous of the seventeen townships, are Sherman, 968; Blaine, 739; Clay Centre, 738.

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