KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


DAVIS COUNTY, Part 3

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

EARLY HISTORY, PART 2.

The winter of 1863-'64 was quite a severe one, and a great amount of snow fell; in some places the ground was covered to the depth of eighteen inches, rendering travel extremely difficult, and very often stopping it altogether. Travel was so retarded that settlers on Clark's Creek received no mail for six successive weeks. The first draft for the army was ordered on March 10, 1864, of which Davis County was required to furnish fourteen men. In September, 1864, the Rebel General Price made a raid through Kansas, and in order to give him a warm reception when he struck Davis County, business was completely suspended and great activity prevailed among army men. The Fifteenth Regiment, which had been chiefly recruited in Davis and adjoining counties, was at that time, encamped on the Republican River near the place where the present bridges cross that river, and all the militia were in camp. Price did not come, however, and after a suspension of about three weeks, business resumed its ordinary channels. In May, 1865, D. A. Butterfield organized the Butterfield Overland Dispatch Company, and proposed to open up the Smoky Hill route to Denver, and on June 25, the construction train of the company arrived at Junction City, from which point they started West on July 3, and arrived in Denver on the seventh day of August. In September the coaches of the company began making tri-weekly trips from Junction City to Denver, and in the following month one of the coaches was attached by Indians, near Cow Creek, and burned. In September, quite an excitement was created over the arrest of two strangers who were charged with horse stealing. Sheriff Purinton had them in his charge at the Eagle Hotel in Junction City, but the place was surrounded by a mob, some of whom entered the hotel and took the prisoners away from the sheriff, after which they carried them to the saw-mill on the Smoky, where the two men, guilty or innocent, were hung. In January, 1866, a great excitement was created in Junction City over a very little matter. The cause of all this excitement was a little four-year-old colored child, who made its appearance in the public school. This was something not to be borne, and the people rose in their wrath against such an outrage. The school at that time was held in the upper story of a two-story stone building located on Sixth street. The people were not all one-sided in regard to turning the little colored child out of school, and the fact that a colored child desired to be educated ought not to have caused grown people to lose their heads. The wrath of the people was shortly allayed, however, for on the 18th day of January, 1866, the building in which the school was held, was burned down, some say by accident, some say otherwise, but no matter how it happened the school was brought to a close. At that time, although Junction City was the county-seat, it was without a county building, and the several county officers held their various offices in the upper story of a two story stone building that stood at the corner of Sixth and Washington streets. On the night of April 8, this building was totally destroyed by fire, and two or three days afterward a fearful hurricane swept over the county, doing a great deal of damage to property both in the town and country.

The Smoky Hill route to Santa Fe having now been opened, the first coach from that point arrived at Junction City on June 29, 1866. The first through mail for Santa Fe, over the Smoky Hill route, left Junction City on July 2, 1866. It was a tri-weekly, and the time for the through trip was as per time-card was fourteen days. On the 5th of July, the county commissioners having decided that a bridge across the Smoky, in the vicinity of Fogarty's mill, was necessary, authorized the sale of bonds for the building of the bridge to the amount of $20,000.

The year 1867 was remarkable only for the wonderful improvement made in Junction City, the great interest taken in railroad matters, as manifested by the numerous meetings that were held, and the voting of a large amount of bonds to aid in the construction of the U. P. Railway, Southern Branch, bitter contests over the building of bridges across the Republican and Smoky Hill rivers, and the large influx of immigration. The completion of the K. P. railway through Davis County, and the establishing of a tri-weekly line of mail coaches between Junction City and Santa Fe, made 1867 a very prosperous year for the county. Railway and other magnates from New York, Boston, Philadelphia and St. Louis visited Junction City in the course of the year.

Nothing of a very interesting character occurred during 1868, the chief topic that interested the people at that time being the construction of the U. P. Railway, Southern Branch. There was a transaction, however, that occurred in the bank of Hale & Rice, at Junction City, that gave rise to a great deal of talk and a good deal of speculation. One, W. C. Rawalle, had deposited $15,000 in the bank, which, on the 26th of March was stolen from the safe. How was it stolen? Who stole it? These were questions frequently asked, but while some "guessed," and some "suspected," and some "calculated," and others "surmised," and some whispered that it looked a little "suspicious," yet how it was stolen, or who stole it, none seemed to know. Rawalle sued the bank to recover the amount, but after being in the court for over two years, the suit was decided against him. About this time the farming community was greatly excited over the introduction of Texas cattle into the county, and several meetings were held in different portions of the county to organize resistance to their entering Davis County. A strip of land about a mile wide, between the Smoky Hill and Republican rivers, at their point of junction with the Kaw, and which was formerly part of the Military Reservation land, became an object of dispute between the U. P. R. R. Co., and the Republican River Bridge Company. Both companies claimed the land, and the railway company had included it in their addition to Junction City. The River Bridge Company brought suit to enjoin the railway company from selling lots in this addition, which was eventually decided against the Bridge Company. In the early part of December, 1868, quite a heavy snow fell, which greatly impeded travel. The snow drifted so fearfully that there was no communication either east or west from Junction City for the space of a week. In this month, the U. P. Southern Branch began to assume tangible shape, and the contractors advertised for ties, and twelve miles of the road were located south of town. The old year went out with a rain that commenced on the 30th of December, and continued until about noon on New Year's day, when it turned into a severe snow storm.

For a long time the county had been infested by a gang of horse thieves to the great annoyance of the settlers. Scarcely a week passed but a settler, somewhere in the county, would have one or more horses stolen. To-night the thieves would operate on Humboldt Creek, to-morrow night on Lyon's Creek, and so they would change their field of operations at each theft. It began to be suspected that such a systematic method of horse stealing was not carried on by transient thieves, and suspicion settled strongly down upon a party that were located at intervals over the county. Among the suspected party was one Thomas Reynolds, who, on the morning of August 22, 1868, was found hanging to a tree lifeless. It never became satisfactorily known who did the hanging, but the supposition was, and is, that it was done by the balance of the gang who entertained great fears that Reynolds was going to betray them. A coroner's jury labored for three months to ascertain how Reynolds came to his death, and finally concluded that he met his death at the hands of persons to them unknown.

To avoid all further trouble on account of black and white children attending the same school in Junction City, a separate school was opened for colored children on the 30th day of September, 1868. For the two or three years following the completion of the K. P. Railway to Junction City, that point seemed to be the center of attraction for people seeking business locations in the West. So rapidly had it increased in growth, that, at the general election in 1869, the vote of the town was more than half of that cast in the entire county. The most remarkable feature in the history of the county for that year, was the great flood, which occurred on the 24th day of June. The rain commenced to fall between five and six o'clock in the evening, and for about the space of half an hour, the water came down, not only in torrents, but in sheets, like the waters of a mighty cataract. Towards nine o'clock it began again, but not with such terrible force, but what it lacked in force it made up in time, as it rained incessantly until the following morning. The rise in the creeks and rivers was sudden and great. The Republican and Smoky Hill overflowed their banks. Powerless to resist the rushing flood, bridges were swept away as if they were feathers; a large portion of the railroad track was destroyed, and a vast amount of other property was either totally destroyed or seriously injured. Nor was the loss confined entirely to property, as thirteen lives were lost by the flood on Chapman's Creek, which enters the Smoky about a mile west of Davis County. Neither before that time, so far as known, nor since, has the region of country about Davis County been visited by such a flood. The Smoky Hill River rose ten feet higher than any point to which it had reached before that time. In the same year quite a sad event occurred on Davis Creek, in Jefferson Township. Two children whose parents resided close to the creek, while out gathering the first flowers of spring, got so far from home that they lost their way. One was eight and the other six years old. The little things wandered on not knowing which way to turn. Darkness set in, but the little wanderers did not return. Alarm was spread through the neighborhood, and the settlers for miles around turned out to search for the missing children. Morning came and still they were not found. The search went on, and was continued throughout the second day and the second night, but no trace was found to lead to the discovery of the lost ones. How far their little feet wandered, or how much they suffered will never be known. The people kept up the search, and on the third day the missing ones were found about a mile from home, but their wanderings had ceased. Their little tired feet would wander no more, for side by side, firmly locked in death they lay, embraced in each others' arms.

The business of Junction City had grown immensely within a few years and transactions of 1869 eclipsed those of any previous year, as will be seen in the following figures:

Pounds of local freight received, . . . . 37,697,167
Pounds of freight shipped,  . . . . . . .  9,470,925
Cash paid for local freight,  . . . . . . . . . . . $ 188,410
Gross sales of merchandise, . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,575,000
Cash deposited in banks,  . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3,174,500
Eastern exchange sold,  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1,985,000
Cash paid over bank counters, . . . . . . . . . . . 6,345,000

These figures would indicate that at the close of 1869, Junction City was in a very flourishing condition. The following year was one in which many improvements were made in the county, and railroads projected to almost every corner of the State, and to a great many places out of the State. It would seem that the people were wild on railroad schemes, and several meetings were held in the interest of as many different routes. In 1867, the county had voted $165,000 in bonds to aid in the construction of what is now known as the M., K. & T. Railway, but for some cause or other the bonds never got into the hands of the company. To recover these bonds, and interest on the same from November 1, 1869, the company brought suit against the county in May, 1870, and after the case had been fought to a final decision in the Supreme Court, it was decided in favor of the county. In that year also, the legislature authorized the county to invest in a poor-farm, and the county commissioners acting in accordance therewith, did in the month of December purchase a farm and erect a poor-house. Since the completion of the K. P. Railway to Junction City in 1866, that place had been the terminus of the first division of the road, which fact added greatly to the business of the town, but in April 1870, the division was changed from Junction City to Wamego, a point about thirty-file miles east, in Pottawatomie County. The Smoky Hill mills which had been previously destroyed by the flood, were rebuilt this year by Henry Panton. Towards the latter end of the year, deer were quite plenty in the county, and, one day in December, thirteen were killed within a mile of Junction City.

In August, 1870, one Sanderson, who lived a little way from Junction City, suspected of being connected with a gang of horse thieves, an of having committed several and divers other offenses, was arrested and placed in custody. According to law, his preliminary examination should have taken place in Junction City, but instead of this he was handcuffed and taken in an omnibus to Jackson Township, for the ostensible purpose of having an examination. He went under charge of the sheriff and a guard of six men. Arriving at the place of examination, no Justice of the Peace could be found, an several hours must elapse before this functionary could put in an appearance. In the meantime, news soon spread far and wide that Sanderson was there, and in a short time a mob gathered and demanded his surrender by the sheriff. The sheriff, like a brave, magnanimous officer, deserted his prisoner, and told him to defend himself as best he could. Defend himself! How could the unfortunate man defend himself against a howling mob with a pair of handcuffs on his wrists, and without a weapon in his hands? He ran and got into the omnibus, several shots being fired at him as he entered. When Sanderson entered the 'bus, there was a portly gentleman sitting in it, named John Gross, who had gone over as one of the guards. Now, Mr. Gross was not used to having lumps of lead flying through the air in close proximity to his cranium, and when he heard the bullets go whiz-hiss-buz(sic), he thought it was full time to make himself scarce, and notwithstanding his 225 avoirdupois, he managed to scramble through the omnibus window in a hurry. To this day he cannot tell how he ever succeeded in doing it. Sanderson, seeing the thirsters for his blood coming after him, jumped from the omnibus and started for the timber; but two or three men pursued him on horseback and shot him as he was running, killing the unfortunate man while he was manacled. Having dispatched him, they next turned their attention to two brothers of Sanderson who had accompained (sic) him from Junction City. To these they gave ten minutes in which to prepare their wills, but for some cause or other they changed their minds and gave them so many hours in which to leave the county. They both left. One of them never returned, but the other one did, and is now respected as a good neighbor and an honest farmer.

The year 1871 commenced by the county commissioners paying to McClure & Humphrey, and Shannon & Shannon, $6,000 for services in the railway bond suit. In laying out the town of Junction City, a very beautiful piece of ground was set outside for park purposes, and a very elegant park it is, with fine walks and handsome shade trees. This delightful patch of ground took the eye of a party named Hynes, who thought it would be a magnificent place for a residences, which, in reality, it would. An idea entered Hyne's head that the "claim" could be successfully "jumped," owing to some real, or supposed, flaw he had discovered in the title, and acting on his discovery, he "jumped," an commenced the erection of a building in the park. When he had got this far, he was "jumped," and fined $50 for trespass. Out of this grew various law-suits between the city and Hynes as to the ownership of the park, and it is to be presumed they resulted unfavorably to Hynes, as the city still holds the ground for park purposes. January 1871, was an exceedingly cold month, an a great deal of snow fell. The mercury was as low as 15 degrees below zero.

In March a murder was committed on Clark's Creek, a man by the name of John S. Evans, having been murdered by one Mansel Cuppy. The murderer was afterwards convicted and sent to the penitentiary. Quite a fire broke out in Junction City on June 23, 1871, and before it could be extinguished several buildings on the northwest corner of Seventh and Washington streets were destroyed. July was a month of railroad excitement, and three propositions were submitted to the people. One was for $150,000 to the Kansas & Nebraska Company; another was for $100,000 to the Junction City & Fort Kearney, and the third was for $100,000 to the Holden Branch, or to the Lawrence, Topeka & Junction City Railway. Men went out all over the county canvassing in favor of the bonds, while others filled columns of the Union on the same subject. The election on the bonds was held on the 3rd day of September, 1871, and every one of the propositions carried by the majorities as follows: 441, 455, 431. The year 1872 was ushered in with no abatement in the railroad fever. In February, the county commissioners submitted a proposition for an additional $100,000 for the Junction City & Fort Kearney Railway, which was voted upon April 2, and carried by 357 majority. In May, the First National Bank was established in Junction City, with Robert McBratney as president, and James Streator cashier. The last half of 1871, and the first six months of 1872, witnessed a large influx of people to the county. Not less than 150 new farms were opened in the county in twelve months. The country now receives more settlers than the town, and the number is rapidly increasing. At the general election in November, 1870, the vote of Junction City, was seventy-seven more than half the entire vote of the county, whereas in 1872, it was eighty-seven less than half the vote. This was also a great year for crops, the corn crop all over the county averaging nearly seventy bushels to the acre.

The legislature of 1873 made a change in the boundary lines of Davis County, by which Ashland Township was taken from Davis, and added to Riley County, and Milford Township was taken from Riley and annexed to Davis County. One of the first settlers in the county, Abram Barry, a citizen very highly respected, and who had occupied several honorable positions to which he had been chosen by the people, met his death by accidental drowning in Madison Creek on May 4, 1873. On the 12th day of June 1873, a colored man named Hilliard Morrow, killed a man named Overbee on Fifth street in Junction City. He was tried in June and found guilty of murder in the first degree, and sentenced to be hung. This was the first sentence of death pronounced in the county. The sentence was afterwards commuted to imprisonment for life. The county jail was completed and ready for occupancy in September, 1873. In November, a very destructive prairie fire swept over the country in the vicinity of Humboldt Creek, doing immense damage and entailing heavy losses upon the settlers. In April 1874, the farm house and out-buildings of Joseph Beavers, located on Humboldt Creek, were swept out of existence by fire. In the same month a very destructive fire occurred in Junction City, by which the "Hale House," "Brown's Hall," and eight other buildings were utterly ruined. In 1873, a party commenced boring for coal in the vicinity of Junction City, but instead of finding coal, they struck, at a depth of about 290 feet, a vein of highly impregnated salt brine, a sample of which was sent to the Smithsonian Institute for analyzation (sic). The analyzation (sic) was made in 1874, the result of which was that one gallon of the brine made three and a half pounds of salt. In August, 1874, Junction City was visited by another fire, which destroyed the "Illinois House" and a number of stables. In December 1874, Mr. Fogarty completed his dam across the Smoky Hill River. This was the year of the great grasshopper raid, by which Davis County, like every other county in the State, was completely ravaged. Crops were utterly destroyed, and a great many of her people were thrown into a state of destitution. A few becoming discouraged, left the State, but the great majority remained, and while many suffered from the want of actual necessities, they met their adversity bravely, and in a year or two were again on the road to prosperity. As everything was destroyed, the people had to be aided from outside sources, and early in 1875, the County Commissioners and the Ladies' Aid Society began to distribute aid to relieve the distressed. The number of persons in the county rendered destitute by the grasshopper raid was 1,154. If the crops in 1874 were destroyed, it would seem that the people were fully compensated by the abundant crops the following year, the wheat crop ranging from twenty-five to as high as forty-five bushels per acre, so that the first year after the grasshopper calamity, the farmers were in a condition not only to supply their own wants, but to ship immense quantities of grain to feed others. In January, 1876, the County Commissioners ordered a herd law, to go into effect on the 19th day of the following month. This herd law had been a bone of contention in the county for a long time, and each time the question had been submitted to a vote of the people it had been defeated. Finally the law was changed so that county commissioners in their respective counties could establish a herd law, and although the commissioners had been repeatedly urged by petition and otherwise, to declare a herd law, the persistently refused to do so until January 1876, when one was declared. Since then the county has gone on steadily improving and growing in wealth, without any incidents transpiring of historical interest. Each year brings its quota of new settlers, and sees new farms opened up, and each year adds to the people's happiness, comfort and prosperity.

In the summer of 1881, however, the northern portion of the county in the vicinity of Fort Riley, was visited by a cyclone that did considerable damage, but chiefly to the barracks and stables at the Fort. The barracks were in a great part unroofed, and several men were killed by falling stones and timber. One stable was blown down in which there were thirty horses, and, however strange it may seem, only one of the number was killed. Some of the others were pretty badly bruised, and they were all so tightly wedged in between stones, timber, and debris, that they had to be dug out.

There is a place close to Junction City, which it is currently believed was a fortified place long, long, long ago, before gunpowder was invented or cannon thought of. The place is known as the "old fortification," and considerable local interest is attached to it. In shape, it bears some resemblance to that of a fort, and the fact that a number of flint arrow heads, an other ancient warlike missiles and weapons have been found upon the premises, establishes the belief in its antiquity.

There is still standing on the old town-site of Pawnee, a monument to the early days of Davis County. This is the old stone building, erected in 1855, and in which the first Territorial Legislature convened in July of that year. The old building still stands, but is used for other and different purposes that those for which it was originally intended. Through one gable end there is a considerable hole, which some say, was made by cannon at the time the military from Fort Riley razed the town in December, 1855. Some give no credence to this statement, but the burden of testimony goes to prove that the hole was originally made by a shot from a field howitzer, and since that time has been considerably enlarged. Judge G. F. Gordon, one of the first settlers of Davis County, says that the hole was left by workmen, through which to convey timbers; that he was there at the construction of the building, and assisted in putting the timbers through the hole. He further says that the razing of the town by the military is a myth--not a shot was fired. When Jeff Davis was Secretary of War, the boundaries of the Fort Riley Military Reservation were extended so as to take in the town site of Pawnee City. When the order to vacate the town was given to the military, it was quickly obeyed by the settlers, and the romantic story of the hole made by a cannon ball is exploded. Most people prefer, however, to believe the story of the cannon ball, romantic as it is, rather than the cold truth of history.

The first commissioners of the county were Robert Reynolds, C. L. Sandford and N. B. White, and the first meeting held by the board was at Riley City, on the 16th day of March, 1857. The commissioners present at this meeting were: Robert Reynolds and C. L. Sandford. G. F. Gordon was appointed clerk pro tem, but E. L. Pattee was the first regularly appointed clerk. H. N. Williams was appointed sheriff, an the first man in the county who held that office. P. M. Barclay was the first treasurer of the county, an G. F. Gordon was the first Justice of the Peace. The first post-office in the county was established at Fort Riley in 1853, with Robert Wilson as postmaster. The first death in the county was that of Aaron Dutot, who died from cholera on the 4th day of July, 1855. The first marriage in the county was that of Thomas Jenkins and Ella Wicks, which took place October 1, 1855. The first birth in the county, was that of John Fleming, December 20, 1854. The first merchant in the county, was John T. Price, who opened a grocery store at Pawnee in 1854. The first instrument recorded in the county, as shown by the books in the office of Register of Deeds, was a chattel mortgage covering four yoke of oxen, two mules, four cows, and five calves, which was given by Hanson N. Williams to David Clarkson, to secure the payment of a note for $200, the date of the instrument being March 17, 1857.

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