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


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


It is not only supposed, but it is believed, that as far back as 1542, the territory now embraced in Davis County was visited by the Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquiz de Coronado. This is commencing a long way back, but the fact is set out in a map give in an article in the Smithsonian Report for 1869, prepared by Gen. J. H. Simpson, United States Army, in which the explorer's line of march is located through Davis County. Again, it is believed that a French explorer, named Dutisne, struck Davis County in his explorations, about 163 years ago, having arrived at the village of Pawnee on September 27, 1719. The account given of his explorations sets forth that here he found two Indian villages containing about 130 cabins each, and 250 warriors, who owned several hundred horses. It would seem that nearly all the western explorers were attracted to Davis County, because we find in the narrative of Gen. John C. Fremont's exploring expedition, that he crossed the Smoky Hill River in what is now Davis County, in June, 1843, and that he remained in the neighborhood several days.

We have now arrived at that period when it may be said the history of Davis County commences--1852, and from which it can be followed to a degree of considerable accuracy to the present time. In that year, Col. T. T. Fauntleroy of the First Dragoons, recommends the location and establishment of a fort at, or near, the mouth of the Republican River. In the fall of the same year a detachment of dragoons arrived at the site of the present fort, to which they gave the name of Camp Center. In the following spring Fort Riley was located, having been named after a distinguished general in the United States army. At that time it was supposed that the Kansas and Smoky Hill rivers were navigable, and a steamer named "Excel" had made several trips as far west as the Smoky, but this idea was soon abandoned. In 1854, settlers began to locate in the county, and to Thomas Reynolds is given the credit of being the first, he having settled near Ogden in June, 1854. It was in this year that Kansas became a Territory, and at that time there were not over twenty voters in all the territory now embraced in Davis County.

Under the territorial law, by which parties could form themselves into town companies and claim land for town sites, the Pawnee Town Association was organized in November, 1854, and, immediately after its formation, the town of Pawnee was located. The Association issued certificates of shares, which bore date November 26, 1854, signed by W. P. Montgomery, as president, and Wm. A. Hammond as secretary. Parties at that time connected with the army took quite a conspicuous part in the management of the affairs of the county (at that time there was no county organization), and thus we find the names of Gen. Lyon, Col. Montgomery, Maj. Ogden, and others, frequently mentioned in connection with transactions that go to make up the history of the county. Gen. Lyon, Col. Montgomery, and a few others connected with the army, were stockholders in the Pawnee Town Association.

The first election, held in what is now Davis County, was on the 29th day of November, 1854, at the house of Thomas Reynolds, near Ogden. The election was for a member of Congress for the ninth district. The Free-State candidate was R. P. Flenniken, and the Pro-slavery candidate was J. W. Whitfield. The judges of election were Lowe, Miles, and Tombley, all members of the army. Forty votes were cast, of which Flenniken received thirty-one and Whitfield nine. The great object of the people in those days was to discover the head of navigation of the Kansas River, because no one doubted but that the river was navigable as far west as the confluence of the Republican and Smoky Hill. The Pawnee Town Association, thinking they had discovered the desired spot, began work on their town site in December, 1854. If this was to be the head of navigation, beyond which boats could not go, and where steamers would load and unload, it was necessary that a levee should be built, and with commendable energy, the Association went to work and expended a great deal of time and money in its construction. The site chose for the town of Pawnee was on the north side of the river, not far from Fort Riley. Some little trouble arose over the land claimed for the town site, as a number of settlers had already located thereon. Col. Montgomery, however, who was interested in the Association, with a squad of men drove the settlers off in January, 1855. Gov. Reeder, who was the first governor of the Territory, notified the Association that if they would have the necessary buildings completed, he would convene the first legislature at Pawnee. On March 6, 1855, was held the first public meeting in Pawnee, president of the meeting being Robert Klotz. Among those who addressed the meeting was Gen. Nathaniel Lyon, afterwards killed at the battle of Wilson's Creek. The meeting passed strong resolutions in favor of a Free State. In the same month another town was organized, of which an army surgeon named Wm. A. Hammond was president, and Gen. Lyon was secretary. J. R. McClure, who had settled upon a claim on Lyon Creek the year previous, was a member of the company. Certificates of stock were issued, and the town of Chetolah located. The place selected for the town site was a spot of elevated ground, north of McClure's claim, and near the mouth of Lyon Creek. About this time town-fever must have run high, for before the expiration of the month of March another company, known as the Ashland Company, made a settlement on McDowell's Creek, and laid out a town, to which they gave the name of Ashland. The town of Pawnee received quite an addition to its population during this month by the arrival of G. F. Gordon, M. Barry, A. Barry, I. P. Dickerson, and several others. At that time there were but two houses on the town site, but men were at work preparing for the commencement of the erection of the stone building designed for occupancy by the legislature. On the last day of March, 1855, occurred the first election for members of the Territorial House of Representatives and Council. Pawnee was the only voting precinct in what is now Davis County. The county formed part of the Eight Representative District and Sixth Council District. For the Council, John Donaldson was the Pro-slavery candidate, and M. F. Conway the Free-State candidate. For representative, Russell Garrett was the Pro-slavery candidate, and S. D. Houston the Free-State. Seventy-five votes were polled, twenty-three Pro-slavery and fifty-three Free-State. In April another town company was organized, composed of A. Barry, S .D. Houston, B. E. Fullington, Moses Younkins and Frank Smith. This company located the town of Bacheller (since changed to Milford), on the east bank of the Republican, and about four miles south of the north line of Milford Township. In May the representatives of the Cincinnati Manhattan Company arrived at the site where Junction City now stands, and located a town, to which they gave the name of Millard. The parties who arrived were John Pipher, H. Palmer and A. J. Mead. Scarcely had they staked out the town, when they proceeded to elect a Mayor, and Pipher was chosen. In 1855 the Executive office was established at Pawnee, and in July of that year the first Territorial Legislature met at the same place. Unfortunately for the future of Davis County, a very dread and unwelcome visitor made its appearance at Fort Riley in that month. This was Asiatic cholera. At that time, in addition to the garrison, quite a large number of mechanics and other workmen were employed at the Fort, among whom the cholera made terrible ravages, carrying off for several days as many as one-eighth of the population. During its prevalence the mortality at the Fort reached as high as 175. The epidemic spread beyond the Fort, and reached Pawnee, where eight persons died from its attacks. The first case in Pawnee occurred on the 4th of July, when one Aaron Dutot was take with it and died. This was a hard blow to the county, for the legislature that had just convened became terribly alarmed, and passed a bill for an adjournment of the session to Shawnee Manual Labor School, in Johnson County. The Governor vetoed the bill, but the Territorial Court sustained the measure, and Pawnee lost the capitol. The town of Island City was located in July, 1855, and a mile or two from this, in September, Riley City was located, both these towns having been located on the south side of the river. In September, 1855, the town of Pawnee was completely destroyed by the soldiers from Fort Riley, it having, by a change of the boundary lines, been brought within the limits of the military reservation. The legislature that convened in Johnson County in 1855, has passed into history as the "bogus legislature," and it was by that legislature that the eastern half of the State was divided into counties. The names given to the counties indicate the Pro-slavery proclivities of the majority of that body. Davis County was named after that Southern celebrity, who afterwards became the head and front of the rebellion for the destruction of the Union. That same year two additional voting precincts were created in the county, one at the town of Ashland, and one on Clark's Creek. In the legislature that convened at Topeka in March, 1856, Davis County was represented in the upper branch by J. H. Pillsbury, and in the lower branch by Abram Barry. In June of that year the government built a bridge across the Republican, a little way above the forks, but the winter that followed saw it washed away by high water. The first wheat raised in the county was in the summer of that year on a patch of ground containing two acres, on Humboldt Creek. It was raised by a man named Spencer, and was sold to G. K. Harris, who hauled it to Topeka, a distance of seventy-five miles, to be ground. In June, 1856, a party of Cincinnati speculators organized themselves into a company known as the "Cincinnati and Kansas Manufacturing Company," and located the town of Millard. J. McArthur, of Cincinnati, was president of the company, and D. Wilson, of Millard, K. T., was agent of the company. Millard was laid out on the identical land on which Junction City now stands, but it was soon abandoned, not, however, until the schemers who had embarked on the plan of establishing a bogus town had realized thousands of dollars from the sale of lots, to which they had, and could give, no title. The nearest Millard came to being a town was the building of one house, which was afterwards attached and sold. The notable event in October, 1856, was a visit made to Fort Riley by the Governor of the Territory, John W. Geary. He had, as an escort, a company of dragoons under command of Maj. Sibley. Coming from the South, he crossed the river at Riley City, by ferry, to Pawnee. Riley City at that time contained eight houses and Pawnee two. In fact, Pawnee, after having been destroyed by the troops in 1855, lost its identity as a town, except in name. In this same month a party led by P. B. Plumb, afterwards Col. Plumb, and now a U. S. Senator from Kansas, arrived at what is now Junction City, in quest of a place to locate. A. C. Pierce, one of the company, insisted on what had been known as Millard as being the place to establish themselves; but Plumb not agreeing, they went further west and located the town of Mariposa, in Saline County. The town they created was soon abandoned, and the party dissolved, Plumb going to Emporia, and Pierce to what is now Junction City. At that time Davis County was not organized as a county, but was attached to other territory in a district, in which it bore the character of a municipal township.

The legislature of 1857 made provision for the organization of Davis County into a separate and distinct corporation, and appointed three commissioners, the chairman of whom was to be ex officio probate judge, and a sheriff, who were to hold office until the first Monday in October. The board thus appointed met an held its first meeting at Riley City, on March 16, 1857, at which were present as commissioners Robert Reynolds and C. L. Sanford. Provision was also made at the same session of the legislature for an election to be held on the first Monday in October, 1857, for the permanent location of the county-seat of Davis County. About this time application was made by several officers at Fort Riley, and a number of citizens, for a dispensation to form a lodge of Masons, to be known as "Union Lodge."

In the summer of 1857 another town company was organized by Thomas Reynolds, A. J. Mead, J. R. McClure, Robert Wilson and Abram Barry. This company started a town, or rather selected a site, to which they gave the name of Humboldt. The object of the organizers was to locate their town on the abandoned town site of Millard, but their enterprise proved an utter failure. In September of 1857 we find another town company organized under the name of the "Kansas Falls Town Company." This company located a town on the Smoky Hill River, about seven miles southwest from Junction City, and almost on the western boundary line of the county. In that year Pawnee disappeared as a voting precinct, and at the election on October 5, for members of the legislature under the Lecompton constitution, the voting precincts in the county were Ashland, Ogden, Chetolah, Clark's Creek, Riley City and Montague's. At that election Davis County polled 126 Free-State votes and 30 Democratic. In the fall of 1857 the Junction City Town Company was incorporated, with J. R. McClure as president, Daniel Mitchell secretary, and Robert Wilson treasurer. The survey of the town site was begun in the latter end of December, and finished in the summer of 1858. In April of this year another town company was organized, by which a town named Cedar Point was located on Clark's Creek. A. J. Baker was president of this company, and E. Davis secretary. Work on the first building in Junction City was commenced in May, which was erected near the intersection of Washington and Seventh streets. The first sermon preached in the town was by Rev. W. Millice, of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, who held service in the month of July, in a frame building on the northeast corner of Seventh and Washington streets. In the same month Union Lodge A. F. & A. M. was established in the town, the first meetings of which were held in a roughly constructed log cabin. The legislature that convened in 1859, located the county-seat of Davis County at Ashland, on McDowell's Creek. In June, 1859, Junction City was visited by Horace Greeley, who delivered a lecture to the citizens. In the summer of 1859 a contest arose between the Junction City Town Company and the Millard Company over the land embraced in the town site, each claiming it by virtue of its organization and location. In the fall of 1857 a U. S. land office had been established at Ogden, and it was here the contest over the town site was heard. The hearing of the case continued through six weeks, after which it was submitted to the authorities at Washington for final decision, which resulted in favor oft he Junction City Company. In March, 1860, the board of commissioners made Junction City a voting precinct.

In accordance with a petition presented to the board of commissioners asking for a change in the location of the countys eat (sic), which was at that time at Ashland, the question was submitted to the people, and an election ordered to be held on June 25, 1860. The contesting places were Junction City, Union, Ashland, and Riley City. Great interest was manifested in the canvass, Junction City and Union being the two chief competitive points. On June 29, the vote was canvassed by the commissioners, the result being, 287 for Junction City, 129 for Union, 3 for Ashland, and 3 for Riley City. Junction City was victorious, and became the seat of justice for the county, which it still remains, and the first meeting of the county commissioners at that place was held on July 2, 1860. Prior to 1861, there was no contract for carrying the mail farther west than Junction City, but in April of that year a contract was let to one Samuel Orr, for carrying the mail once a week from Junction City to Salina, a distance of about forty-five miles. The first mail that started from Junction City to Fort Larned, a distance of about 150 miles, was June 20, 1861, the carriers being, S. Orr, and P. E. Weston. The extend of the mail that trip was one solitary letter. The facts connected with the history of the county in 1861, relate chiefly to army matters. There was enlisting, and mustering, and meetings, and speeches, and uniforming, and arming, and equipping, and fifing, and drumming, and cheering, and departing, and a regular hurrahing for the Union all the year round. On December 12, 1861, a daily mail commenced to run between Junction City and Leavenworth. On March 10, 1862, the soldiers stationed at Fort Riley, came to the conclusion that the editor of the Kansas Frontier conducted his paper more in favor of secession that the Union, and that his sentiments as expressed therein, were rather disloyal than loyal in tone, and becoming impatient at being kept in a state of inactivity, and probably, with a view to show how they would act when called upon, charged upon the office of the Frontier, and captured it by storm, doing great damage to the property. Some of the citizens, not liking this manner of dealing with a private citizen's property, held a meeting the following day in Taylor's Hall, and denounced the action of the soldiers. The meeting was not of the most orderly kind, and quite a boisterous time was had over a resolution introduced to the effect that the paper was loyal, and asking the meeting to indorse (sic) it as such. Whether it was the proceedings had at this meeting, or something said by the editor of the Frontier that further aroused the indignation of the soldiers is not known, but a few evenings after, on Saturday evening of the same week, they made another attack upon the office and utterly demolished it, and in so doing they wounded a man named C. A. Wood, from the effects of which he shortly afterwards died. On Sunday, April 20, 1862, quite a little excitement was created in Junction City, over a shooting affair which some soldiers engaged in, while in one of the saloons in Junction City. At that time there were several regiments encamped in and about Fort Riley, and among them the Twelfth and Thirteenth Wisconsin, an the First and Seventh Kansas. The outbreaks of the soldiers while in town, became so frequent, an such a source of annoyance, not to say danger, to the people, that is was found necessary to place the town under charge of Capt. Sylvester of the Twelfth Wisconsin, with Company K., who acted as a provost-guard. Capt. Sylvester has the reputation of having been very rough on saloons, and whether by his orders, or the orders of some one else, thirteen barrels of whisky were broken open and spilled on the 6th day of May, 1862, at a place named Island City, on the opposite bank of the river from where Pawnee once stood. This place took its name from the fact that it was located on a piece of land, which in some seasons, would be entirely surrounded by water, owing to a slough or strip of low, wet land, by which it was encompassed. At the extreme west point of this island, so called, some parties had once undertaken to build a town to which they gave the name of West Point; but the town never had an existence outside the imagination of its would-be founders. The name of the place was afterwards changed to Whisky Point, it having derived this name from somebody in court having said he would rather die in Junction City than live at Whisky Point, referring by this remark to West Point. Since that time the place has been known by the name of Whisky Point.

On May 14, 1862, a very unpleasant affair occurred at Whisky Point, between a party of soldiers, in which two were killed and one wounded. On the same day the provost-marshal, with a squad of men, went around and closed up every saloon in which intoxicating liquors were vended. In the same month considerable excitement was created, not only in Davis County, but in those adjacent, from the fact that a body of Comanche Indians had entered the Republican Valley and were driving off the settlers, and committing other depredations. Of course, owing to the large number of troops in and around Fort Riley, the people within easy distance of that place had not much to fear, but among those farther west great consternation prevailed, and Junction City was sought by many as a place of safety. The first stage coach that left Junction City for the far West was on August 4, 1862, which was considered quite an event in the history of the county, as it was the formal opening of the Smoky Hill route to Santa Fe. Prior to that time all the travel had been over the Santa Fe trail which passed through Morris County to the south of Davis. Five days later, the first stage from the West arrived in town. On the 17th day of September, the whole frontier was thrown into a state of feverish excitement by a band of bushwhackers, who made a dash through the country and raided Salina, doing just what they pleased and carrying everything with a high hand. Although the people of Davis County were comparatively safe from such incursions, yet in those unsettled times of trouble and danger, there was no telling what might happen, and to guard against surprises, guards were posted every night around Junction City, so that timely warning might be given to the inhabitants upon the first appearance of the approach of an enemy. This system of night guarding was kept up for several weeks, when it was discontinued. On the 23rd day of March 1863, the people of Junction City had a visitor that filled them with much alarm, and caused them to move as lively as if they had been invaded by both Comanches and bushwhackers combined. They might shoot off savages and guerrillas, but what they had to contend against now was not to be frightened away with bullets. On that day the whole town was startled by the cry that a terrible prairie fire was approaching, which threatened the town. Immediately everybody was on the alert, men, women and boys, to fight the fire, some with mops, some with brooms, and some with whatever they could get to beat out the flames. The fire swept over the uninhabited portion of the town site, but the town itself received little, if any, injury. On the 12th day of May, 1863, a deplorable affair occurred on the Smoky Hill River, about two or three miles south of Junction City. Some time previous to the occurrence, two brothers, Paul and Henry Kramer, had located and settled on the scene of the quarrel. On this particular day, a dispute arose between the brothers over some trifling matter, in which Henry became so incensed that he attempted to kill his brother Paul, but failing in the attempt, he there and then committed suicide by cutting his own throat. The summer of 1863 was exceedingly wet, and a vast amount of the wheat crop of Davis County was completely destroyed, because sufficient help could not be procured to secure it. It may be worth mentioning here as indicative of how the county abounded in game and other wild animals, that one man, during the month of September, 1863, killed, in his own neighborhood, 600 prairie chickens, 50 geese, 260 ducks, 20 skunks, 6 wolves, 3 badgers, and 6 raccoons.

A desire had long existed among the people to have the name of the county changed from Davis to one more agreeable to the Union sentiment of the county. They did not like the idea of their county having been named after Jeff Davis, who was at that time President of the Confederacy and commander-in-chief of the Rebel army. Two years prior, an effort had been made to have the name changed from Davis to Lyon, in honor of General Lyon, who was killed at Wilson's Creek, and who had taken quite a part in the early settlement of the county. Failing in this, they made another effort in 1864 to have it changed to Lincoln, but in this also, they failed, and so it is that Davis County retains the name of the individual who was placed at the head of the rebellion for the destruction of the Union.

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