produced this selection.

William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas
was first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.


PART 1: Location and Topography | Map and Population | Soil and Streams
PART 2: Early History, Part 1
PART 3: Early History, Part 2
PART 4: Organization of Townships | Schools and County Societies
PART 5: Railroads and Manufactories | General Statistics | War Record
PART 6: Junction City, Part 1
PART 7: Junction City, Part 2 | Biographical Sketches (Aiman - Hurley)
PART 8: Biographical Sketches (Keller - Ziegler)
PART 9: Fort Riley | Milford
PART 10: Smoky Hill Township | Lyon Township | Jefferson Township


Davis County is located in the third tier of counties from the northern boundary line of the State, and in the fifth tier west from the Missouri River. Were the township of Milford, and a small portion from the north of Smoky Hill Township taken from the county, its formation then would be almost square. Milford Township is a tract of land about six miles east and west, and nine miles north and south; that, jutting northward from the northwest corner of the county, projects, as it were, into Riley County, of which it was formerly a part. The map of Davis County bears a strong resemblance to the side wall of a church, with a spireless belfry built on top of the west corner, Milford Township representing the belfry. The county is bounded on the north by Riley County, on the south by Morris county, on the east by Wabaunsee County, and on the west by Dickinson County. Davis is a small county containing only 260,480 acres, or 460 square miles. It is divided into six civil townships, namely: Liberty, in the southeast; Jackson, in the northeast; Jefferson, in the center, running the whole length of the county, from north to south; Lyon, in the southwest; Milford, in the northwest, and Smoky Hill in the west, between Milford and Lyon.

The surface of the county is almost entirely prairie, only a little over three per cent. of it being timbered. The upland of the county stands in about the same relation to the bottom land as 80 to 20. The timber is confined exclusively to the margins of the rivers and creeks, the average width of the timber ranging from one-fourth to three-fourths of a mile. The timber consists of several varieties, which include white and burr oak, hackberry, black walnut, elm, cedar, sycamore, ash, hickory and cottonwood. The attention that has been given to artificial tree planting has been confined chiefly to shade and ornamental trees, although about 300 acres of artificial forest trees have been planted in different portions of the county, of various varieties. Taking the county altogether, not more than four per cent. of it, if quite this, is timber land. In the western portion of the county, the character of the prairie is rolling, its undulations being remarkable for their regularity and absence of those elevations which, in some places, are characterized as "bluffs" or "mounds." The eastern part of the county, however, is very broken and uneven, the uplands rising to such a height as to be termed bluffs. The valleys, or bottom lands, that like along the course of the streams are not of uniform width, some being as narrow as one-fourth of a mile, while others reach to a width of two miles and over. The valleys of the Smoky Hill and Republican are very fine and exceedingly beautiful.

If anything related to the mineral kingdom lies hidden beneath the surface, it has not yet been discovered to any material extent. Several years ago, as has been mentioned elsewhere in this history, coal was bored for in the vicinity of Junction City, in the search of which, at a depth of 390 feet, a vein of salt brine was struck, of considerable strength. From this, some salt was made, but the making of it proving unprofitable, it was soon discontinued. A further boring, to the depth of about 800 feet, failed to find coal, but another vein of brine was struck, not as strong, however, as the one nearer the surface. Magnesian limestone, of the very best quality, is abundant in the county, and several very fine quarries have been opened. From these quarries considerable stone has been furnished for the new capitol at Topeka. Recently, however, some other parties have undertaken to find coal, with tolerably fair prospects of succeeding. The locality of the latter prospecting is on Humboldt Creek, in Jackson Township, about ten miles southeast from Junction City, on the farm of John T. Hobbs. The operations thus far have been confined to digging in from the face of the bluff that rises above the creek, instead of boring down from the top. At this time (October, 1882) they have gone in about fifty feet, and have discovered a vein of coal about one foot in thickness, of which the writer saw specimens, and it is of very good quality. It is expected that when the center of the bluff is reached, sufficient coal will be found to warrant the development of it, and to render the mining of it profitable.



A part of Riley County was attached to Davis in 1875, but there are no records to show to what townships it was given.

(a) Jackson Township  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   558
(b) Jefferson Township  . . . . . . . . . . . .   898
    Junction City . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2,684
(c) Liberty Township  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   665
(d) Lyon Township . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .   518
(e) Milford Township  . . . . . . . . . . . . .   597
(f) Smoky Hill Township . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,074
              Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6,994

(a) Organized in 1872, from part of Davis;
    in 1875, part detached to form Liberty;
    in 1878, part to Jefferson.
(b) Organized in 1878, from part of Jefferson.
(c) Organized in 1875, from part of Jackson.
(d) Organized in 1877, from part of Smoky Hill.
(e) Organized in 1873, from part of Riley County.
(f) Organized in 1872, from part of Davis;
    in 1877, part detached to form Lyon.


The surface of the county may be described as a high table-land of rolling prairie, whose altitude is set down as being 1,300 feet above the level of the sea. The soil is designated as "uplands" and "valleys." These valleys follow the courses of the streams, and vary in width. The soil in the valleys is alluvial, and is composed of decayed vegetable matter, a decomposition of other substances, to which has been added alkalies, generated by the ashes created by fires, that have for ages, until recently, swept over the surface, consuming the tall grasses and other vegetation, in its course, and the combinations of all these ingredients have made the soil extremely rich and fertile. The soil of these valleys may be said to be limitless in depth, and is capable of sustaining any and all kinds of vegetation. The soil of the uplands is also very fertile, although it does not extend to near the depth of that in the valleys. In many places, and this is especially the case in the eastern portion of the county, rock crops out from the surface, but in the other portions of the county, where the surface is more level and the undulations more gradual, there is an absence of this characteristic, and farming can be successfully followed. There are some splendid upland farms in the county, and those who cultivate them do so successfully. Experience has demonstrated the fact that the soil of both upland and lowland is well adapted to the cultivation and production of all kinds of cereal crops. There is no soil, in any country, better suited to the raising of wheat, oats, corn, barley, rye, and all other staple productions. Rich, nutritious grasses grow spontaneously from the soil, with great luxuriance and immeasurable quantities, while tame grass, clover, timothy, hungarian, millet, and blue grass can be cultivated with as much ease as though native to the soil. In a stock-raising country such as Kansas, an abundance of rich, nutritious grasses is an item of vast importance, and these, with the abundance of clear, pure water, make Davis County one of the finest grazing counties in the State.

There are very few sections of country better watered that the western portion of Davis County; and while the eastern half contains no stream of sufficient size which entitles it to be called a river, yet it is far from being destitute of water, as it is meandered by several very fine creeks. The Republican River enters the county at the northwest corner, and, after bending a little towards the east, runs due south about seven miles, when it forms a curve resembling a horse shoe, curving towards the west, after which its course is southeast, forming the boundary line between Smoky Hill and Milford Townships. It follows this course until it reaches Junction City, when it makes another bend and runs northward about three miles, where, taking another sudden turn, it resumes its southeastern course until it forms a junction with the Smoky Hill River, about two and a half miles northeast from Junction City. The Smoky Hill River enters the county from the west, and constitutes the dividing line between Lyon Township on the south, and Smoky Hill Township on the north. Its course is very serpentine until it reaches the west line of Jefferson township, from which point it runs north to Junction City, when it rounds towards the east, returning to form a confluence with the waters of the Republican. At the point of junction of the Republican and Smoky Hill, the Kansas River begins, which, flowing past Fort Riley, leaves the county at the northeast corner of Jefferson Township. The tributaries of the Republican are: Curtis Creek, that enters Milford Township from the west, and is about six miles long; Four Mile, whose course is southwest, five miles long; Timber Creak, running southwest, about ten miles long; Madison Creek and one or two smaller creeks. The Smoky Hill has only one tributary in the county, and that is Lyon Creek. This is an important creek, and has several lesser streams as feeders. The length of the creek is between thirty-five an forty miles, and enters the county from the south, about a mile east from the southwest corner. Its course for a few miles in Davis is due north, and then it verges toward the east, still keeping its northward tendency until it finds the waters of the Smoky Hill at the northeast corner of Lyon Township. Clark's Creek runs the entire length of the county from south to north, and as it travels its course, it receives the waters of Thomas Creek, Davis Creek, Dry Creek and Humboldt Creek, the latter being a stream about twenty miles long, which rises in the southeast corner of the county. From the point where the fork is formed by the junction of Humboldt with Clark's Creek, the latter becomes quite a stream, and turns the wheel of a grist-mill as it travels onward towards the Kansas River. McDowell's Creek runs in a northwesterly direction, across Jackson Township, and is some twenty-file miles long. Two or three diminutive streams are tributary to this creek. In addition to these water-courses there are some very fine springs in the county, and excellent well water can be obtained without much difficulty.

There is, probably, no county in the State that possesses superior watering privileges than Davis County. So far, these privileges have been very sparingly used. In the neighborhood of Junction City a water-power could be obtained capable of turning any amount of machinery, and setting millions of spindles in motion. How long is this immense power to remain idle? A person looking at the map will see that the Republican River flows from the northwest, and the Smoky Hill from the southwest, forming a junction at or near Junction City. The water in these rivers is permanent, even in the dryest (sic) seasons containing sufficient to run, if utilized, the heaviest kind of machinery. Now, were a canal, or race, cut from the Republican to the Smoky Hill, which could be accomplished without much difficulty, and at moderate expense, a water-power could be obtained capable of turning all the machinery that could be placed upon it. Some years ago a survey was made by one Daniel Mitchell, for a water-power canal between the two rivers, and his finding was as follows: By starting at Callen's corral, a short distance from Junction City, and following the slough, or marshy land in that vicinity, in a southeasterly direction for 1,600 feet, then southwest 2,250 feet, then northeast 2,110 feet, the Smoky Hill was reached. The total length of a canal following this line of survey would be 226 yards more than a mile, whereas, following a straight line from the starting point on the Republican to the terminating point on the Smoky Hill, the distance would be 127 yards less than a mile. At Callen's corral the Republican is 441 1/2 feet wide, and the banks are sufficiently high to admit of the construction of a dam eight feet high. To cut such a canal the average depth of excavation required would be five feet, and the natural fall is very close upon nine feet, which could easily be increased to twelve feet by a dam across the Republican. Of the undeveloped water-power of Kansas, Mr. Josiah Copley says: "The Republican fork, as it used to be called, which unites with the Smoky Hill at Junction City, and together form the Kaw, is a large stream, with a strong flow at the driest season. At Junction City a fine power can be created by throwing the water of the Republican through a race of between one and two miles in length, across a nearly level plain, into the Smoky, giving a head of from twelve to twenty feet, as that stream descends from the northwest, down which there is an average descent of ten feet per mile. The water can be used over and over many times, affording thousands upon thousands of horse-power. I saw it at the close of the dry period of the present year, and found a volume of water sufficient for the heaviest works." While these two streams offer water privileges sufficient for all manufacturing enterprises, they are not the only privileges in the county by any means. Lyon Creek, Clark's Creek, and McDowell's Creek can all be utilized for milling purposes. The permanency of the streams in the county is attributable to the numerous springs by which they are fed. The best kind of water for domestic use, can be had anywhere in the county by sinking wells to the depth of from twenty to forty feet.

[TOC] [part 2] [part 1] [Cutler's History]