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


[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]


[Picture of Public School, Clay Centre] Clay Centre, one of the most attractive towns in northern central Kansas, is situated as its name implies at about the center of Clay County, on the east bank of the Republican River. It has a charming location, occupying the second bottom of the valley, and extending into the elevated prairie land to the northeast. From any part of the city a picturesque view can be had, but from the elevated portion, in the vicinity of the public school building the view is more extensive, becoming beautiful and even imposing. The broad valley extending far to the southeast and the northwest, with its low, rounded, bordering hills, with others beautifully rolling rising behind them, and the serpentine course of the broad river, traced by its trimming of forest trees and the silver sheen appearing here and there, produce a charming picture. The city itself is attractive. Its citizens have been awake to their interests, comforts and aesthetic wants. They early commenced the planting of trees, which are now both useful and ornamental. The great majority of Western towns have sadly neglected this. The residence portion of the town is remarkable for the neatness of its dwellings, and the air of comfort and convenience that surrounds them. The cottages and elegant residences have that genial air of home about them which reminds one of much older towns. The business portion of the place is rapidly improving, the small frame building of the village giving place to the large, substantial stone or brick block of the city. This indicates the general prosperity of her business men, which has earned for Clay Centre the name of being one of the best and most promising commercial points in the great Republican valley.

The first settlement on the town site was made by the Dexter brothers, John and Alonzo F., in May 1862, and the second by Orville Huntress. The town was laid out by the Clay Centre Town Company, which consisted principally of the Dexter family. John and Alonzo F. Dexter, who are considered the fathers of the town, secured A. C. Pierce, of Junction City, to survey the new town. R. Franken made a second survey and plat of the town, which was filed in the Recorder's office, and has remained unchanged-the official map of Clay Centre.

In June, 1862, Dexter brothers obtained the services of two men from Fancy Creek and erected two log houses. This was done that they might hold their claims on the town site. John returned to Illinois, and his brother, A. F., to California. The latter did not come back until August, 1864. John returned to Clay Centre in the spring of 1863. In 1864, he bought a house on Pete's Creek, and removed to a location just south of the Dispatch livery stable. But the second house on the town site was erected by William S. Hutchinson. About the middle of August, 1864, two hundred settlers from Clay and the counties west collected around Mr. Huntress' cabin, owing to the great Indian raid on the Little Blue and Platte rivers, in Nebraska. They remained here in camp for over a month.

In 1862, the post-office was established at Mr. Huntress' cabin, where it remained until 1869, when it was removed to the town site, and Charles Huntress appointed postmaster.

The town grew very slowly at first, scarcely averaging one house a year, until 1866, when it became the county-seat. Its growth was very slow from this time until 1870. In 1873, when the Junction City & Fort Kearney Railroad reached Clay Centre, it seemed to take a new start, a revival of business commenced which has not since abated, but steadily increased. Its population has increased, since then, from about 200 to 3,400. The arrival of the Kansas Central in 1880 added but little to its growth.

The first birth on the town site was Allie, daughter of Aaron Dexter. This interesting event occurred the 13th of May, 1865. It was during this year that the first schoolhouse was built.

Clay Centre was incorporated, as a city of the third class, the 11th of June, 1875, at which time the inhabitants numbered 350. The first election took place June 26, and the first council meeting was held July 1, 1875.

In April, 1880, the population having reached 2,250, a petition was presented to the Governor, for a change in the city government, and in July Gov. J. P. St. John issued a proclamation declaring Clay Centre a city of the second class.

The first council was composed of W. L. Johnson, G. Kuhule, M. R. Mudge, A. F. Dexter and J. S. Bowen. Present council: C. E. Gifford, S. S. McIntire, P. P. Kehoe, I. A. Flood, O. F. Lutt and W. W. Beatty.

Mayors. - 1875-6, A. Wilson; 1877, M. H. Ristine, resigned, and was succeeded by J. H. Pinkerton, who served until 1880; 1881, C. R. Barnes; 1882, C. R. Barnes.

Clerks. - 1875-6, E. P. Huston; 1877, C. C. Coleman; 1878-9-80, Newton Allen; 1881, B. F. Flenniken; 1882, H. E. Lacev.

Police Judges. - 1875-6-7, J. W. Miller; 1877-8-9, William P. Ensey; 1880-1-2, J. W. Miller.

Treasurers. - 1875-6 M. R. Mudge; 1877, J. Higinbotham, Sr., resigned, and J. W. Miller appointed; 1878, J. W. Miller; 1879-80-1-2, George Wigg.


The first schoolhouse in Clay Centre was built in 1865 and the first school was taught that year by Mrs. Lack. The building cost about $50, and there were about fifteen pupils at the first school. The number of pupils has increased quite as rapidly as the population, until there are now about 700 in the city. A new building, the finest in Central Kansas, has just been completed, at a cost of $25,000, equal to 500 similar to the first. This building, situated on the most elevated block in the town, is built of brick with stone trimmings and has an attractive and commanding appearance. The schools are graded and are noted for the thoroughness of work undertaken and the excellent discipline maintained.

There are six organized religious denominations in Clay Centre -- White and colored Methodist Episcopal, white and colored Baptist, Presbyterian and Catholic. All have church buildings except the colored, which, however, are now making preparations to build. The churches are all in a flourishing condition. The Methodist congregation is becoming too large for their church and they are preparing to build a $10,000 edifice. The organization of the churches may be found in the county history. The religious elements have been as assiduous in their worship and labor to bring the erring into a better life as the people in general have been in building up the public schools.

The Baptists were the first to effect an organization in Clay County. This took place at Mr. Huntress' cabin, some time before the Union Church at Clifton. The Clay Centre Baptist Church was organized with twelve members in August, 1868. The church has been very prosperous. The membership is large and the society owns a neat and commodious building, dedicated in 1874.

The Clay Centre Methodist Episcopal Circuit was established in 1865, under the supervision of Rev. W. Marlatt, of Manhattan. The Methodist Episcopal Church of Clay Center was organized in 1866. It has become the strongest church in the county. Its members are preparing to erect a $10,000 house of worship.

The Clay Centre Presbyterian Church was organized at the schoolhouse the 1st of April, 1871, by Rev. J. D. Perring. Their church building, which was nearly completed, was damaged by the cyclone of July 2, 1872.

The Swedenborg Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized by Rev. O. Chiben, September 4, 1871. Rev Chiben was the first pastor. Its membership includes over forty heads of families. A church was built in 1876.

The Clay Centre Catholic Church was established under the direction of Father Pichler in April 1877. There are forty families in the parish.

The Second Methodist Episcopal Church of Clay Centre, colored, was organized in April 1882, with twelve members. The pastor is Rev. Robert Rector.

The Second Baptist Church of Clay Centre, colored, was organized in the winter of 1881-82, with seventeen members. Rev. Rogers is pastor.

The Ancient Order of Free and Accepted Masons, which is the oldest organization, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias are the hand-maids of civilization, carrying wherever civilization leads their fraternizing influence of incalculable value. As the Christian carries his religion, so the traveler and pioneer carries the harmonizing principles and influence of his order in his wanderings and to his distant frontier home. Here the pioneers early plant the seeds of their order which grow and spread to the good and advancement of the new country.

Clay Centre Lodge No. 131, A., F. & A. M - Instituted April 1, 1872. It is now a large and flourishing society. First officers: C. M. Kellog, W. M.; J. W. Smith, S. W.; F. M. Coffell, J. W.; J. B. McLaughlin, Treas.; M. M. Miller, Sec,; J. W. Johnston, S. D.; A. J. Pinkerton, J. D.

Bethany Chapter No. 38, R. A. M - Organized in March, 1880. First officers: M. M. Miller, High Priest; W. H. Mize, K.; H. H. Taylor, S.; J. B. Hall, C. of H.; U. H. Emick, C. of G.; W. S. Beatty, P. S.; A. H. Neal, G. M., 3rd V.; E. H. Russell, G. M. 2nd V.; W. Roberts, G. M., 1st V.; A. J. Gabhart, Tyler. Membership in October 1882 about twenty-five.

Valley Lodge of Perfection No. 4, A. & C., Scottish Rite. - Was instituted June 25, 1880, with the following officers: M. M. Miller, V. M.; H. M. Frazier, S. W.; C. W. Lindner, J. W.; W. W. Walton, Orator; H. H. Taylor, A.; J. A. Moss, Sec.; Wm. Sharpe, Treas.; J. W. Miller, E.; S. Langworthy, A. E.; W. S. Beatty, M. of C.; U. H. Emick, C. of G.; W. P. Gates, Tyler. Membership in October, 1882, about fifteen.

Clay Lodge No. 115. I. O. O. F. - Instituted October 14, 1874, with the following officers: R. T. Carr, N. G.; A. D. P. Ferguson, V. G.; Lot Pugh, P. G.; H. A. Ruthruff, R. S.; J. M. Frank, P. S.; A. Wilson, T.; J. B. Hall, W.; O. M. Pugh, C.; B. W. Quinn, JG

Queen Esther Lodge No. 19, Daughter of Rebekah Degree. - Instituted at Clay Centre September 11, 1877. First officers: H. M. Frazier, N. G.; Mrs. K. M. Dieter, V. G.; J. W. Miller, S.; S. J. Spicer, F. S.; A. J. Miller. T.; J. B. Hall, W.; J. W. Miller, C. Membership, 120.

Custer Lodge No 19, K. of P. - Instituted September 5, 1876. First officers: Wm. Sharpe, P. C.; H. M. Frazier, C. C.; W. S. Beatty, V. C; Geo. Wigg, P.; J. B. Besack, K. of R. and S.; J. W. Miller, M. of E.; J. S. Sterling, M. of F.; H. C. Ackenback, M. at A.; H. A. Ruthruff, J. G.; G. Kuhnle, O. G. Membership thirty six.

Commandery No. 3 of Kansas, Universal Brotherhood of the World. - Instituted May 29, 1880. First officers: W. H. Munger, C; S. B. Woodside, V. C.; N. W. Jewett, R. S.; T. C. Jewett, F. S.; W. L. Simpson, T.; N. A. Starr, P.; E. S. Pearson, H.; J. Plant, M.; M. Parlmatear, S.; A. M. Tripp, O. G.

Clay Centre Division No. 24, Sons of Temperance. - Organized September 5, 1877. First officers: J. H. Pinkerton, W. P.; O. T. Miller, W. A. P.; W. H. Munger, P. W. P..; C. G. Wood, W. R. S.; W. Wisner, W. A. R. S.; H. G. Higinbotham, W. F. S.; N. A. Starr, W. F.; W. B. Miller W. C.; S. B. Woodside, W. A. C.; J. J. Johnson, W. I. S.; F. B. Bixler, W. O. S.; J. C. Wade, W. C.

The Dispatch Band. - Was organized July 1880, and named after the leading newspaper of the city. In September of that year it succeeded in winning the second prize at the Bismark fair, where competition was open to all bands of the State. The same season at Waterville, Marshall County, they won the first money over some of the best bands in Northern Kansas, and steady practice and the acquisition of several new members enabled them to take away first honors in the Knights of Pythias contest held at Leavenworth in May, 1882, the noted Beloit Knights' Band being there and competing. At the Kansas Band Union meeting held during the session of the Kansas State Fair, at Topeka, it was universally acknowledged to be one of the leading bands in the State. Among its honorary members can be numbered Miss Emma Abbott, who is one of its most enthusiastic admirers and supporters. Sixteen active members besides a great many who could be styled "severely passive" compose the organization. Its officers since the first election have been John Johnston, president, and H. G. Higinbotham, secretary and treasurer. To George Hapgood, leader and conductor, is much of its present excellence due.


The Dispatch. - It was first published as the Clay County Independent, the first issue of which appeared August 20, 1871, with E. P. Huston and David Downer as editors and proprietors. The press was bought of the Junction City Union and brought to Clay Centre by Philip Rothman and M. H. Ristine. Mr. Huston soon withdrew and the paper was published by a joint-stock company, with Mr. Downer as head, until January 11, 1873, when the office and paper were sold under foreclosure of mortgage. J. W. Miller bought it and changed the name to The Dispatch, the first number of which appeared March 12, 1873. In April, O. M. Pugh became editor, and on the 1st of June assumed all responsibilities. In December, 1873, his brother became partner. In 1875 the paper was sold to J. B. Besack, who in turn sold it to J. P. Campbell in October 1876, who added a power-press to the office. It passed into the hands of Wirt W. Walton & Co. January 8, 1880, and is now the property of Walton & Valentine, Mr. Valentine having purchased a half interest in January, 1881. It was the successful competitor for honors at the State Fair in 1881. It has always been Republican in politics, except under the management of O. M. Pugh, when it was Independent.

The Times. - This paper was first printed at Clifton as the Localist, by F. Cunningham. The first issue bears the date of April 17, 1876. It was removed to Clay Centre in January, 1879, and the name changed to Clay County Times. September 23, 1881, Miller, Linsley & Co. purchased the paper and changed the name to The Times, and its politics from Independent to Republican. In March, 1882, the firm name was changed to Miller & Co. J. W. Miller is the editor and is making the Times an excellent paper. It is printed on a Prouty power-press.

The Democrat. - This paper was started by O. M. Pugh the 30th of May, 1879. Its politics was indicated by its name. It has since suspended.

Republican Valley Banner. - A monthly real estate journal, issued by Ruthruff & Pinkerton, was established in March, 1878.

The Little Hatchet. - A monthly and semi-occasional publication, edited by J. W. Miller, was established September 28, 1878. It is a humorous sheet and radically Republican.

There are a number of very fair hotels in Clay Centre, but the only one requiring special mention is the Dispatch, owned by Walton & Valentine, editors and proprietors of The Dispatch, and managed by H. G. Allen. It is a large, three story brick building, with stone basement, situated on the northeast corner of Court House Square. It is one of the largest and most convenient hotels in northern Kansas, with forty large, neatly furnished rooms, and is quite popular under the present management. The building and furniture cost $20,000; the hotel being opened in February, 1882.

Clay Centre has three reliable banking houses. The Republican Valley bank, of Meyers & Campbell, incorporated June 1, 1882. It has $20,000 in paid up capital, and an authorized capital of $50,000. The Farmers and Merchants Bank was incorporated in January, 1876, and has a subscribed capital of $50,000. H. H. Taylor, president; John N. Moss, cashier. The Clay County Bank, the first institution of the kind in the county, was established by John Higinbotham. It occupies a fine building, valued, with its furniture, at $6,000.

In 1866, the Dexter Brothers erected a steam saw and grist-mill. For six or seven years, they supplied all this region with lumber. In 1872 they turned their energies toward the creation of a water-power, and the establishment, principally, of a flour mill. The power, which is valuable, has been created at an expenditure of $60,000, the first wheel being started July 4, 1876. The dam across the Republican is over a mile above town, the water being turned into the deep narrow channel of Huntress Creek, across which is another dam. At different times, portions of the river dam have been carried away, and the whole structure has sunk thirty feet in the sand. This has necessitated large expenditures of money. Until December, 1881, the mill was operated by Dexter Brothers, but it then passed, with the power, into the hands of A. F. Dexter. The property is valued at $10,000, the mills having four run of burrs, and a capacity of 200 bushel of flour and 1,000 of corn per day.

The two steam-mills are the Quaker City, owned and operated by C. R. Barnes, and built about seven years ago, four run of stone; and the Kansas Pacific elevator and mill, four run of stone, erected by O. F. Lutt, in the summer of 1882, and now operated by him.

Clay Centre has made a rapid, but a permanent growth. It is surrounded by a rich country; has an abundance of water-power, and has a class of intelligent and energetic citizens. These advantages will certainly make of Clay Centre a large and flourishing city.

[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]