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


[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]


This is one of the most beautifully located cities in the State. It is situated between the Republican and Smoky Hill Rivers, about two miles west of the point of confluence. Northward, the town extends almost to the south bank of the Republican, and its southeast corner nearly touches the north bank of the Smoky. At this point the river makes a bend, and runs north almost parallel with the eastern boundary line of the city, until it reaches as far north as the limits of the corporation, when it makes a sudden turn to the southeast. It is on the high land, or second bottom, as it is called, that the city is located. From the center of the town the ground slopes gradually to the north, south, east west. To the north is the Republican, with its timbered banks and the rising ground beyond. To the south and east is the Smoky, from whose southern margin rises a line of high, romantic bluffs, overlooking the strip of valley that lies between the town and the river. To the west is open prairie, unfolding in width as the course of the rivers become farther apart. Close to the west limits of the city the prairie takes another rise, not abrupt, however, but sloping gradually upward and westward, and then rolling away in gentle undulations. A person standing on the high bluffs east of town and on the south bank of the Smoky, can have a splendid view of the city and its surroundings, and one that will amply compensate him for any trouble he may take to acquire it. Before him lies the city, with its spires, domes and turrets, and if he allows his gaze to travel a little beyond, in a northeasterly direction, he will see Fort Riley standing out full and clear on the rising ground above the Kansas River, with its tall flag-staff, from the top of which the stars and stripes float out on the breeze. From this point, if the observer permits his eye to follow in a circle westward, he will find what seems to be an unbroken line of bluffs or rising ground, forming, as it were, a basin, the center of which is considerably elevate. It is upon this elevation that the town of Junction City stands, its location being one of the most beautiful imaginable. The original town site, with the subsequent additions made thereto, contains 1,269,300 acres.


The efforts made to establish a town upon this site, antedating the starting of Junction City, have been spoken of in the narrative history of the county, and call for no further mention. The history of Junction City commences with 1857, when the founders of the town, J. R. McClure, Robert Wilson, F. N. Blake, John T. Price and P. Z. Traylor organized themselves into a town company, and selected the town site upon which the city has been built. The survey of the site was commenced early in 1858, by Daniel Mitchell, and was completed early in the summer of that year. In the following year "Cuddy's addition" was added; in 1867 the site was further enlarged by the railroad addition; in 1870, Sanderson's, Schnell's and Miller's additions were added, and in 1874 it received a further enlargement by the adding of Price's addition. The first building erected on the town site was erected on the corner of Seventh and Washington streets, by the town company in May, 1858. Here the first sermon in town was preached by Rev. W. Millice, in July of that year. Buildings went up rapidly, and by the following spring the place bore the appearance of being quite a village. In April, 1859, F. N. Blake and E. S. Stover started a Sabbath-school; and in this month was held the first election for town officers. William Cuddy was chosen mayor, but imperfections having been discovered in the organization, the officers elected never qualified. Another election for town officers was held in July, the opposing candidates for mayor being R. C. Whitney and William Cuddy. Whitney was elected and became the first mayor of the town. The councilmen chosen at this election were Samuel Orr, Edward Cobb and W. K. Bartlett, and the town clerk was V. K. Speer.

In the latter part of 1859, Casper Bundle moved from Ogden to Junction City, and opened the first hotel in the town. The first deed issued by the mayor bears the date January 16, 1860, and conveys to John M. Sullivan, Lot number 4, in Block 42. On the 7th day of March, 1860, the county commissioners made Junction City a voting precinct. In May, work commenced on the Episcopal Church, which was the first church erected in town. That the town must have grown wonderfully during the first two or three years of its existence, is evidenced by the fact, that in 1860, according to the United States census, the population of the county was 1,118, at which time the voting population was 422. This was the total vote cast in the county at an election held on the 25th day of June, 1860, on the question of locating the county-seat, and of this number, Junction City alone cast 224, being more than half the entire vote of the county. By this vote, Junction City became the county-seat, which it still continues to be. We incline to the opinion that elections must have been rather loosely conducted in those days, because the records show that the whole population of the city, in July, 1860, was only 217, being seven less than the votes cast the preceding month on the county-seat question. We only mention these discrepancies as we find them, without undertaking to explain them. On July 2, 1860, the county commissioners held their first meeting at Junction City. In November, 1861, Streeter & Strickler commenced work on their brick building at the corner of Washington and Sixth streets. This was the first brick building erected in town. It is a two-story building, with a store-room on the ground floor. The first school district in town was organized in July, 1862; but prior to that time, in April, Mrs. McFarland had opened a school, but whether it was a public or private school, is not stated. The first district school in town was opened on December 10, 1862, with O. Davisson as principal in charge. On Sunday, January 4, 1863, a union church was organized by Rev. William Todd, but as each denomination grew strong enough to support a church of its own, it withdrew from the union, until the Congregationalists were left as the only representatives of the original union church. In August, 1863, George H. Purinton opened the "City Hotel," which was the third hotel opened in town. In June, 1864, a Catholic Church was organized by Father Demotrius, and in March, 1865, the Methodists formed an organization. The next church organization in town was that of the Baptists, which was organized October 20, 1865, by Rev. Caleb Blood. On May 16, 1866, was laid the corner-stone of Trott Bros.' building on Washington Street, and in it was placed a copy of the Junction City Union, enclosed in a tin box. September 5, 1867, is one of the memorable days in the history of Junction City. Everybody in town felt happy and was in excellent spirits. The occasion that gave rise to such an exhibition of felicity and hilariousness, was the laying of the corner-stone of the Union Pacific, Southern Branch. No less a personage than Major General John Pope set the stone, and Col. Goss and Robert McBratney displayed their highest oratorical ability. Five days subsequent to this event, the corner-stone of the Methodist Church was laid, in which a copy of the Bible was placed, beside which, to make the foundation more sure, was laid a copy of the Union. As the Kansas Pacific Railway neared the city, new-comers crowded in by the score, until there was neither hotel accommodations nor house-room for them. This was an exceedingly prosperous year for the town, and houses sprang up as if by magic, and still the cry was, "More, more." In October of that year, 1866, the Kansas Pacific depot grounds were marked off, and a turn-table erected. In November, trains commenced to run from Leavenworth to Junction City, and a new era opened up for the people. In December the "Hale House" was completed, the commodiousness of which added greatly to the hotel accommodations of the town. The house opened for business on the morning of February 4, 1867, under the proprietorship of McMeekin & Dougher. Sixty men were served with breakfast on the morning of its opening; twenty-seven regular boarders were registered, and the first day's business closed with forty-five arrivals. These facts are mentioned to show how people were flocking to Junction City at that period. February, 1867, was noted for the high water in the Republican River, it having been higher that year than it had been at any time during the twelve preceding years. The high water carried away the railway bridge that crossed the Republican at this point, making the third bridge that had been carried away in fourteen years. In 1853 the government built a truss bridge across the Republican, which was carried off in 1856, and in the year following, another one was built, which was carried away in 1858, and the railroad bridge made the third. In March of that year (1867), Congress passed an act, granting to the State of Kansas, for bridge purposes, that portion of land embraced in the Military Reservation, lying between the Republican and Smoky Hill rivers, being that tract lying between Junction City and the fork of the rivers. This land, in March of the same year, was transferred by act of the Legislature to the Republican River Bridge Company, and this so aroused the indignation of the people of Junction City, that public meetings were held to denounce it, and a delegation was sent to Topeka to resist the claim of the Bridge Company to the reserve lands. The details of this transaction would make interesting reading, but as they bear more upon legislative doings than the history of the city, we will leave them unrecorded. On March 13, the county commissioners let a contract to Marsh, Hilliker & Co., to build a bridge across the Smoky Hill, southeast of town, for $17,500, upon which work was begun on the first day of the month following. Whether the particular day upon which work was commenced on the bridge, "All Fools Day," has any significance or not, we cannot say, but from the row it created we think somebody must have been "fooled." The bridge was completed on the first day of August, but the Smoky Hill Bridge Company refused to accept it; and declared it to be an outrageous fraud. Some three or four years afterwards, the bridge was accepted by the commissioners, and a settlement made with the contractors. Two weeks after the completion of the bridge across the Smoky, work was begun on the one across the Republican, which was completed in December, and accepted by the Governor and Attorney General of the State. The city election that took place on April 5, 1869, was the liveliest probably, that ever took place in Junction City. The rival candidates for mayor were, R. O. Rizer and R. O. Miller. The contest was close, and a good deal of acrimonious feeling was exhibted (sic) in the manner in which it was conducted. Some not satisfied with the ordinary methods of reasoning, endeavored to work conviction by means in which the fists became important factors, and that there were a few optical discolorations is not to be wondered at. The election was declared in favor of Miller, but Rizer contested it and carried it to the courts, where he was again defeated. One thing that added greatly to the growth and importance of Junction City after the completion of the Kansas & Pacific Railroad to that point, was the fact that it was made the end of the first division of the road. This of course, necessitated the building of a roundhouse, and other workshops at that place which naturally drew a good many people to settle in the town, In October, 1869, the Kansas Pacific Company sold the roundhouse, workshops, depot and thirty acres of ground to the U. P. Southern Branch Company, and on April 3rd, of the following year, the division was changed from Junction City to Wamego. On June 23, 1871, Junction City was visited by quite a fire, which destroyed several buildings on the northwest coroner (sic) of Seventh and Washington Streets. On July 18, a proposition was submitted to the voters of the city, asking $30,000 to build a new schoolhouse, which the people rejected. In August of the same year another proposition was submitted, asking for $10,000 for the same purpose, which was agreed to by a large majority. The schoolhouse was built after plans furnished by E. T. Carr, of Leavenworth, and was finished in October, 1872. It was dedicated on the 18th of November in grand style, the dedicatory address having been delivered by Gen. John Fraser, at that time Chancellor of the State University. The building is very neat and substantially constructed, and although the town has far outgrown its accommodation capacity, it was doubtless, at the time of its erection, sufficiently commodious to meet the wants of the community. It is a graded school, and in connection with it, but in another portion of the town, is another school which may be termed a primary or preparatory school, from which pupils, after having advanced to a certain stage in their studies, pass to the graded or higher school. Both these buildings, however, have been found to be too small to accommodate the number of school children in the city, and now, 1882, another very handsome and commodious school building is being erected.

In February 1873, trains on the Junction City & Fort Kearney Railway commenced making regular trips from Junction City to Clay Center. It was stipulated in the proposition to vote bonds to aid in the construction of the Junction City & Fort Kearney Railway, that the workshops of the company should be located at Junction City, and that work on the shops should begin before the 24th of April, 1873. For a time it looked as if the bonds would be forfeited, but just twelve days before the expiration of the stipulated time, work was commenced; but, after laying the foundation, the work was abandoned.

Quite a calamity befell Junction City in April, 1874, which for a time threatened the destruction of a great portion of the city. On the 13th day of that month, a fire broke out in the "Hale House," which stood on Washington street where the "Bartell" now stands. It spread with great rapidity, and although every effort was made to check its progress, before it could be extinguished, the "Hale House," "Brown's Hall," and eight or nine other buildings were totally destroyed. This calamity, followed as it was soon afterwards, by the fearful grasshopper calamity, by which not only Davis County, but the entire State was devastated, was a severe blow to Junction City, but the courage and enterprise of the people, enabled them to meet it bravely, and by the end of 1875, they were again on the high road to prosperity. In 1875, a Centennial Board was organized for the purpose of taking steps to appropriately celebrate the centennial year of the nation. The board consisted of Dr. Charles Reynolds President; A. C. Pierce, Secretary; and John T. Price, Treasurer. What they did, if anything, has not been recorded, but in February, 1876, the "Ladies' Reading Club," remembering what Webster is accredited as saying about the raising of the Bunker Hill monument, took hold of the matter and collected funds sufficient to erect a frame building, to which they gave the name of "Centennial Hall." The trustees of the club were, Mrs. H. A. Boller, Mrs. James Humphrey, Mrs. M. E. Clark, Mrs. N. S. Gilbert, and Mrs. John Davis. In 1870, the census showed Junction City to have a population of 3,100, and the entire population of the county to have been 5,526, but during the next five years, from 1870 to 1875, there was a decrease in the population of the county of 915, and the figures would indicate that the greater portion of this falling off went from Junction City, as the census of 1878 shows the population of the place at that time to have been only 2,203. Several causes contributed to this falling off, none of which are attributable to any fault that can be laid to Junction City, or the superior advantages by which it is surrounded. The removal of the division of the line from Junction City to Wamego in 1870, was one cause; the removal of the M. K. & T. workshops from Junction City to Denison, Texas, in 1873 was another cause; the great panic of 1873 was also felt in Junction City, as parties who had engaged in various manufacturing and industrial enterprises, were unable to stem the tide, and had to succumb; the great grasshopper raid of 1874, was another cause, and all these causes combined, falling in the space of five years, upon a city yet in its infancy, were surely sufficient to give it a great backset, and the only wonder is that the decrease in population was not greater than it really was. The census of 1880, shows the population of the place at that time to have been 2,977, and judging from the number of buildings that have been put up since that time we think the population now, November, 1882, may safely be set down at 3,500. Its growth in the last few years, while it has been very rapid, has been of a healthy, permanent character, and the majority of the buildings that have gone up, have been of a good class and substantial kind. Being the seat of justice of the county, it has a court house, but though the building is of stone, it is rather inferior, and not in keeping with the progress of the town or the advancement of the county. One thing the city can boast of is a beautiful park, well filled with elegant shade trees, which make it a delightful summer resort. Its beauty could be greatly augmented by a neat fence, but at present it is not enclosed by a fence of any kind. A place of great taste and beauty is the city cemetery, and those who have charge of it deserve great credit for the manner in which it is kept. In 1873, there were 1,000 trees and evergreens set out in it, and had those who sleep within the Silent City the choice of a resting place, they could not have selected a more beautiful spot. Junction City is a progressive town, and all kinds of business are well represented. The business houses are nearly all built of stone or brick, and some of the stores would grace a city of 50,000 or a 100,000 people. They are large, neatly built, elegantly fitted up and well stocked with goods. Dry goods, clothing, hardware, boots and shoes, drugs, groceries, millinery, jewelry, books and stationery, furniture, banks, and in fact all kinds of mercantile business are well represented. Its hotel accommodation is excellent. The "Bartell House" as a building, will compare favorably with any hotel in the State. It is a large four story brick building, substantially built. It was built in 1878, and opened for business in January 1879. Another very good hotel is the "Pacific House," a frame building of goodly size, neatly and comfortably furnished and well kept. There are several other inferior hotels, and all combined are capable of furnishing ample accommodations for every occasion. The city has nine churches, five of stone, and four frame. The city can also boast of a magnificent opera house, to which is connected a little history. It is a grand building, however, 65x140 feet. In 1880, the people were asked to vote bonds to the amount of $12,000 to build a city hall, the building to contain suitable offices for the city officials. This proposition was acceded to. At that time there were about $6,000 in cash in the city treasury, which the city authorities turned over to the contractors, thus making $18,000. Subsequent to this, and after the work was well under way, the city government issued $10,000 in city scrip to complete the building, thereby making the amount $28,000. The scrip they afterwards bonded, and bonds were issued and the scrip called in. The course pursued by the authorities and that portion of the community who favored the erection of the building, gave rise to a very bitter feeling on the part of those who opposed it. A spirit of great hostility existed between the two parties, and when the walls were about completed, the party opposed to it brought an injunction suit to restrain the builders from going any further, but the court decided that they were too late, and the work went on. Shortly after the injunction was dissolved, and before the building was under roof, an accident occurred which, had it taken place in the daytime, would doubtless have caused loss of life, but which fortunately happened in the night: the tower, which had been run up to a great height, and as afterwards proved, on an insufficient foundation, tumbled and fell, destroying a large portion of the front of the building, and entailing a loss on the city of about $2,000. The City Council immediately ordered an investigation of the causes of the accident, and employed E. T. Carr as supervising architect, and soon all traces of the accident were gone, and the building completed in the fall of 1881. It is a magnificent structure, well furnished throughout, and admirably adapted to the purposes for which it was intended. To repair this injury, required about $2,000 more, so that by the time it was finished, the $12,000 that the people had voted to build a City Hall, had grown to $30,000, and instead of getting a hall, they got a grand opera house. Junction City is a prosperous, thriving place, and has a magnificent country to support it. Everything in and about the city has an air of thrift and neatness. There are a great many very handsome residences, surrounded with neatly trimmed and tastefully ornamented lawns, which bespeak aesthetic culture. What Junction City may be in the future is yet hidden in the womb of time, but if it does not grow to be one of the most flourishing cities in the State, then nature has lavished her gifts in vain. Junction City was incorporated as a city of the second class, February 9, 1859. The first sermon preached in town was by Rev. W. Millice, a Southern Methodist, in July, 1858; the first school opened in town was by Mrs. McFarland, April 7, 1862; first district school in November, 1862, under the charge of Mr. O. Davisson; first hotel was opened August, 1863, by Geo. H. Purinton; the first Sunday-school organized in town was by F. N. Blake and E. S. Stover, in April, 1859; the first marriage that occurred in town was that of John Powers and Miss ---- ----, in 1858; the first child born in the city was Lizzie, daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Henderson, on the 5th day of August, 1858; the first post-office established in town was in 1858, with L. J. Harris as postmaster; the first store opened in the city was by L. J. Harris, in May, 1858; the first church erected in the city was in 1860, the Episcopal; the first paper published in the city or county was the Sentinel, edited by B. H. Keyser; the first number of which was issued in June, 1858; and the first work at building on the town-site was commenced in May, 1858.

[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]