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





The State of Kansas embraces within its boundaries the geographical center of the United States, excepting the remote and detached territory of Alaska. The middle parallel of latitude between the southern cape of Florida and the northern border of Washington Territory, and the dividing meridian of longitude midway between the extreme eastern and western limits of the country pass through the State, cutting it near its middle north and south, and one degree south of its center east and west. The bisecting degree of latitude is 38° north; the parallel of longitude, the 22° 30' west from Washington, the intersecting point being at the northwest corner of Reno County.

Its boundaries are defined in the act admitting it as a State, as follows:

"Beginning at a point on the western boundary of the State of Missouri, where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude crosses the same; thence running west on said parallel to the twenty-fifth meridian of longitude, west from Washington; thence north, on said meridian to the fortieth parallel of north latitude; thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the State of Missouri; thence south, with the western boundary of said State, to the place of beginning."
The State is 204 miles in width from north to south, and slightly exceeds 400 miles in length from east to west. It contains an area of 81,318 square miles. It is bounded on the north by the State of Nebraska; east, by the State of Missouri; south by the Indian Territory; west by the State of Colorado.

The Territory of Kansas, formed by act of Congress May 30, 1854, embraced, besides the area of the State above described, all the lands between the parallels of 37° and 40° north latitude, westward to the Rocky Mountains, except that part of New Mexico lying north of the thirty seventh parallel. The whole area of the Territory including what is now the State of Kansas, was 126,283 square miles.

It was, with the exception of a small tract, which will be noted further on, a part of the Louisiana purchase made by President Jefferson from France, April 30, 1803. By the terms of the treaty, France ceded to the United States all the country drained by the Mississippi and its tributaries to which she had any right or title. The boundaries were ill defined, touching on the south and southwest the Spanish-Mexican possessions, and on the east the Spanish Province of West Florida. On the west shore of the Mississippi it extended to its source, embraced all the Missouri Valley and stretched north of the Spanish-American possessions, across the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, and as far north on the Pacific Coast as the British possessions. For this vast domain the United States paid France the sum of $15,000,000. The province of Louisiana thus acquired comprised 1,160,577 square miles. Its boundaries on the west and east were not definitely settled between this country and Spain till Feb. 22, 1819, at which time a treaty was made defining its western and eastern boundaries, wherever contiguous to Spanish territory. The final adjustment is given in the Ninth United States Census Report, Vol. 1, pp. 573-4 as follows:

April 30, 1803, by treaty with France the province of Louisiana was ceded. Its western boundary, as finally adjusted, Feb. 22, 1819, by treaty with Spain, ran up the Sabine River to and along the seventeenth meridian (94th Greenwich), to and along the Red River, to and along the twenty-third meridian (100 Greenwich), to and along the Arkansas River, to and along the Rocky Mountains, to and along the twenty-ninth meridian (106th Greenwich), to and along the forty-second parallel to the Pacific Ocean. Its northern boundary was conformed to the boundary established between the British possessions and the United States. On the east it was bounded by the Mississippi River as far south as the thirty-first parallel, where different boundaries were claimed. The United States construed the cession of France to include all the territory between the thirty-first parallel and the Gulf of Mexico, and between the Rivers Mississippi and Perdido, the latter of which is now the western boundary of the State of Florida. Under this construction of the cession, the Province of Louisiana is now covered by those portions of the States of Alabama and Mississippi which lie south of the thirty-first parallel; by the States of Louisiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Oregon, Minnesota, west of the Mississippi, and Kansas (except the small portion thereof, south of the Arkansas River and west of the twenty-third meridian (100th Greenwich)}:by the Territories of Dakota, Montana, Idaho, Washington, and that known as the Indian country; and by the portion of the Territory of Colorado lying east of the Rocky Mountains and north of the Arkansas River, and all of the Territory of Wyoming north of the forty-second parallel and that portion of the Territory of Wyoming which is south of that parallel and east of the Rocky Mountains. In 1800, however, the "Province of Louisiana" had been ceded by Spain to France, Spain claiming that she ceded to France no territory east of the Mississippi River except the "Island of New Orleans," and also contended that her province of West Florida included all of the territory south of the thirty-first parallel and between the Perdido and Mississippi Rivers, except the "Island of New Orleans." Under this construction, the Province of Louisiana included on the east of the Mississippi River, only the territory bounded on the north and east by the rivers Iberville and Amete and by the lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain.

Under the terms of the Spanish treaty of 1819, the western boundary was defined as above stated, and in consideration of the relinquishment by the United States of her claims to Texas, Spain ceded West Florida (now Alabama and Mississippi) and relinquished to the United States all claim to territory lying south of the thirty-first parallel and east of the Mississippi River. Thus, that portion of Kansas lying west of the twenty-third meridian and south of the Arkansas River was ceded to Spain. On the achievement of independence by Mexico in 1824, it passed into the possession of that Republic. Texas, on gaining her independence in 1836, claimed it as part of her domain, which claim was subsequently confirmed by the treaty between the United States and Mexico at the close of the war, February 22, 1848. It finally became a part of the Government domain by purchase, it being a part of the territory ceded to the United States by Texas in 1850, that State receiving $10,000,000 as a consideration.


The name - Kansas - is derived from the name of the dominant tribe of Indians found in the Territory when first visited by white men. They were variously spoken of by early explorers as Kanzas, Canceas, Cansez, Kansez, Canzas, Canzes, Okanis, Kansies, Canses, Canzon, Kanzon, Konza, Konzas, Kasas, Kanzan, Kanzans and by other varied spellings, all having a similar phonetic expression. From these have come the legal recognition of the present orthography. Edward Everett Hale spelled it Kanzas, instead of Kansas, in preference, as he said at the time of the publication of his history-August 21, 1854-to the mere fashionable spelling of the few weeks past. He further says: There is no doubt that the z best expresses the sound, that it has been almost universally used till lately, and that it is still used by those most familiar with the tribe and the river which have, time immemorial, borne this name. Kau and Kaws are French contractions of the above, and have been for a hundred years, more or less, accepted and used in designating the tribe and the river which still flows through its ancient domain. It has never been adopted as designating the Territory or State. Kansas is said to signify, in the language of the Kansas tribe, smoky, and the South Fork of the Kansas is still known as Smoky Hill River.


The face of the area of country embraced in the limits of Kansas is neither level, like the alluvial prairies lying east of the Mississippi, in Illinois and Indiana, nor mountainous, as farther west. It is broken by slight swells in the eastern part, being what is termed rolling prairie. Farther west, the undulations become more marked, in some parts breaking into quite abrupt hills of considerable elevation. Excepting a narrow strip along the Western border of the State and that section lying in the south-western corner, south of the Arkansas River, the soil, both on the river bottoms and upland prairies, is a fine, rich, black loam, varying in depth from two feet, on the high prairie lands, to more that fifty feet along the alluvial river bottoms. Speaking of the soil along the river bottoms, Prof. Mudge says:

The alluvium and bottom prairies are found in connection with all the streams and rivers, and are so similar to those deposits in other Western States that no description is necessary. The thickness in the bottoms varies from five to fifty feet. In several places in the Neosho Valley, unaltered wood has been found, in sinking wells, at the latter depth. The material on the surface is very rich in vegetable matter, and in many places furnishes a fertile soil throughout its whole thickness. In some places it is composed of modified drift. At the salt well in Brown County a metamorphic bowlder (sic) was found fifty-two feet below the surface.

This alluvium usually forms the richest soil in the State, and in many places for a quarter of a century has produced large crops of corn, without apparent exhaustion. Along the valleys, in this deposit, are seen benches or terraces, usually three, showing where the streams formerly flowed at a higher level. In many places, the old river beds, more or less pond, facetiously designated a lake. Lake Sibley, Eureka and Silver Lakes are more modern abandoned beds of the adjoining river.

The Bluff, or Loess as it is sometimes termed, shows somewhat in the northeastern part of the State, along the banks of the Missouri, and westward for nearly one hundred miles, when it entirely disappears, giving place to the loamy deposits above described. Of this deposit, Prof. Mudge gives the following analytic description:

The Loess is composed of fine sand and lime, with some clay, usually of a very uniform consistency, and unmixed with coarse materials. A little iron in its composition gives it a reddish tint. More frequently it has so fair a proportion-over ten per cent-of carbonate and phosphate of lime and some potash that it becomes a rich ingredient when mixed with the surface loam.

Loess has evidently been formed by the silt brought down by the Missouri River when it flowed in a higher bed and covered a widespread valley, almost equal to an inland sea. The whole area overspread by it in Iowa, Missouri and Nebraska, as described by several geologists, confirms this theory. It formerly flowed over the valleys of the tributaries of the Missouri, and what now remains are but the remnants of that which has not been carried down by the present streams.

Prof. S. Aughey made three analyses of the sediment of the muddy waters of the Missouri River, and found that the ingredients were the same as those of the Loess, and in nearly equal proportions, which confirm the geological opinion of its origin. Newberry describes the same deposit in Western Ohio, originating in the rivers which once ran in high, wide flood plains of that part of the country.

The general uniformity of the surface soil is further broken by occasional tracts of salt marsh and outcroppings of the rocky strata, both being limited to small areas, in comparison with the whole surface of the State.


The Missouri river runs along the borders of the counties of Doniphan, Atchison, Leavenworth and Wyandotte, on the northeastern boundary of the State.

The average altitude of the surface of the State above the level of the sea, as given in the United States geological survey, is 2,375 feet. The highest point is in Cheyenne County, in the extreme northwestern part of the State, on the head-waters of the Republican Fork, where the altitude approximates 4,000 feet. Going south, on the western line of the State, the elevation decreases slightly, being 3,792 feet at Monotony Station, in Wallace County, and 3,247 feet at Syracuse, near the western border of the State, in Hamilton County, on the Arkansas. The western line of the State marks the highest elevations its entire length, all the waters from that line having an easterly flow. The average elevation above the ocean level along the eastern boundary line of the State is 600 feet, being 648 feet at the mouth of the Kansas River, increasing above that point and decreasing slightly from thence to the southern line. Thus the surface of the State has an eastern descent, varying from 3,000 to 3,300 feet, or an average eastward descent of nearly eight feet per mile. It also has a slight declination to the south, sufficient to turn the flow of water south of the middle of the State in that direction. The principal divide, or elevation, runs across the State from east to west near its center. Branching from this, in McPherson County, a little east of the center, an elevation extends southeasterly to the south line, which turns the easterly flow of the Arkansas waters southward, and forms the western border of another river system. The State is thus divided into three distinct river systems, which may, for the convenience of the reader, be designated as Northern or Kansas River, which is watered and drained by that river and its tributaries; the Southwestern, or Arkansas, through which that river runs; and Southeastern, or Neosho section, which lies east of the southwestern divide before mentioned, and is watered and drained by the Neosho and the head branches of the Osage east and the Verdigris west of it.

The Kansas River, which, with its tributaries, flows through the entire northern half of the State, draining or irrigating an area of 40,000 square miles, empties into the Missouri at Kansas City, on the eastern line of Wyandotte County. From its mouth, following its course west, its first important tributary is the Big Blue River, which has its sources in Nebraska, enters the State in Marshall County, runs south through that county and between Pottawatomie and Riley Counties, and empties into the Kansas at the village of Manhattan, the county seat of Riley county. Eighteen miles farther west, being 120 miles in a direct line from its mouth, at Junction City, the main trunk, hitherto known as Kansas River, forks into two branches, the northern being known as the Republican River and the southern as the Smoky Hill. These two rivers, with the innumerable tributary creeks and streams threading the country in all directions and converging to the rivers on either side, constitute the river system of the northwestern part of the State.

The Republican River has its sources in Colorado, passes through Cheyenne County, running northeast into Nebraska. It runs east through the southern border counties of that State for 160 miles, re-enters Kansas at the northwest corner of Republican County, and running south and east through Clay and Davis Counties joins the Smoky Hill, coming in from the west, at Junction City. The northwestern counties of Sherman, Thomas, Rawlins, Decatur and Norton are watered by numerous small streams running northwest across the counties till they fall into the Republican River, in Nebraska.

The Smoky Hill River, which is the main south branch of the Kansas, has its rise in numerous creeks in an extreme western part of the State, mostly in Wallace County. Its general course is almost due east, a few miles north of the middle of the State. It runs through the counties of Wallace, Gove, Trego, Ellis, Russell; thence by a horseshoe bend of some twenty miles it runs southwest through Ellsworth into the northwestern part of McPherson County; thence northeast through Saline county, and east through Dickinson and Davis Counties to its junction with the Republican River. The distance from its source to its mouth is nearly three hundred miles. In its meandering course it measures four hundred miles in length. It has no important tributaries on its south bank, as it runs near the high land dividing the Arkansas waters from the Kansas its entire course. Entering it from the northwest, its two most important confluents are the Saline and Solomon Rivers. The Saline has its source in the southeastern part of Thomas County. It runs east nearly on the dividing line between Sheridan and Gove, Graham and Trego Counties; thence easterly and southerly through the counties of Ellis, Russell, Lincoln and the southwest corner of Ottawa into Saline County, where it empties into the Smoky Hill, in the town of Greeley. The river is 220 miles long. The Solomon River has its sources farther north than the Saline, in the western part of Thomas County, where both forks of the river rise, they being near their sources not more than three miles apart. They diverge-the North Fork running in a northeasterly course and passing through the counties of Sheridan, Norton, Phillips, Smith and Osborne to the township of Cedar Creek, in Mitchell County, where it forms a junction with the South Fork, which, from nearly the same source, by a more easterly course, reaches the place of meeting, having on its way passed through the counties of Sheridan, Graham, Rooks and Osborne. From the confluence of the two forks, the river runs southeast through Mitchell County, the southwest corner of Cloud County and through Ottawa County to Solomon City, Dickinson County, where it enters the Smoky Hill, six miles below the mouth of the Saline River.

The Kansas River, from the confluence of the Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers, runs a distance of 120 miles in an easterly course, through Riley County, then between Pottawatomie and Wabaunsee Counties, it being the dividing line through Shawnee County; thence between Jefferson and Leavenworth Counties on its north bank, and Douglas and Johnson Counties on the south, through Wyandotte County to its entrance into the Missouri.

Next in importance is the southwestern section, drained by the Neosho and the upper branches of the Verdigris and Osage Rivers.

The Neosho River (on the old maps sometimes called the Grand or White River) has its sources in Morris County, near Council Grove, and in the head-waters of the Cottonwood River, in the northwestern township of Marion County. The river, from its source in Morris County, runs southwesterly through Lyon and Coffey Counties; thence nearly south through Allen; southwesterly through Neosho, and south, nearly on the line dividing Labette and Cherokee Counties, into the Indian Territory. the Cottonwood, its largest tributary in the State, has its sources in Marion County, passes in a somewhat tortuous course in an easterly direction through Chase County to its confluence with the main river in the township of Jackson, in Lyons County.

The Verdigris River and its confluent streams water a small section lying between the Neosho and Arkansas Valleys. Its source is in the southeastern part of Chase County, in the town of Toledo. It passes through the northeastern part of greenwood County, cuts the southwest corner of Woodson County, runs through Wilson and Montgomery Counties from north to south, and enters the Indian Territory thirty-four miles west of the Neosho. The only considerable branch is Fall River, which rises in two creeks in the town of Salem, Greenwood County, and united form the river which runs southwest through Greenwood and Wilson Counties to the town of Neodesha, where it empties into the Verdigris.

The head waters of the North Branch of the Osage River water a tract lying northeast of the Neosho Valley. The source is in the northern part of Lyon County, from whence, under the name of the Marais des Cygnes River, it runs easterly through Osage and Franklin Counties to Osawatomie, Miami County, where, being augmented by the waters of Pottawatomie Creek, it becomes known as the Osage River, and flowing southeasterly passes through the northeasterly part of Linn County, into the State of Missouri. The drainage area of the Verdigris, Neosho and Osage Rivers in Kansas approximates 10,000 square miles. Of these, the Neosho and Verdigris Rivers find their outlet in the Arkansas River, and the Osage in the Missouri.

The Arkansas River, which drains, exclusive of the Neosho and Verdigris region, and area of nearly 30,000 square miles within the borders of Kansas, rises in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and after a journey of 350 miles enters Kansas on its western border in Hamilton County. Its course is a little south of east, through the counties of Hamilton, Kearney, Sequoyah, Foot and Ford, a distance of 125 miles; thence turning to the northeast it flows a distance of 70 miles, through Edwards, Pawnee and Barton Counties, where it makes a bend to the southeast, and flows in that direction 70 miles, through Rice, Reno and Sedgwick Counties; thence, flowing nearly south, it passes through Sumner and Cowley Counties, a distance of 50 miles, into the Indian Territory. For a distance of 150 miles from the western border of the State it passes through an arid, sandy country, so destitute of water as to furnish no confluent stream on either side. Indeed, the river loses volume on its desert journey till it reaches Pawnee County, where the Pawnee Fork, a considerable stream, enters it. Thirty miles farther, at Great Bend, Barton County, it receives another stream, not of sufficient size to be denominated a river, but designated as Walnut Creek. Both of these streams flow in from the north. Several other small streams run in from the northeast, after the river turns southerly, the first and largest being the Little Arkansas, which has its source in the northeastern part of Rice County; it runs south and east through the southwest corner of McPherson; the northeast corner of Reno; thence southerly, through Harvey County to Wichita, Sedgwick County, where it joins the Arkansas. This river is seventy-five miles long, and in its course receives through many creeks and rills the waters of a considerable area, embracing nearly all of McPherson and Harvey Counties. Walnut River rises in the northern part of Butler County, runs south through Cowley County and empties into the Arkansas, near the southern boundary of the State.

On the south bank of the Arkansas, for a distance of 200 miles, and extending south of the river for 40 miles, the country is dry and sandy. No creeks or streams of any magnitude are found in the country, and no accessory flow of water joins the river on that bank till beyond the Great Bend. In its southern course through and near the counties of Stafford, Reno, Kingman Sedgwick and Sumner, those counties being fairly watered, many small creeks flowing through them enter the river. The Cimarron River, a lower branch of the Arkansas, has its sources in the southwestern border of the State, from Kansas County east as far as Comanche County, where it enters the Indian Territory. The southern counties of Comanche, Barbour and Harper are threaded with creeks and streams running south and southeast into the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River. Excepting the valley of the Arkansas west of Meridian 23°, the whole area of Kansas is well watered, the number of creeks and rills increasing eastward, and threading, as with a fine net work, the eastern half of the State, where is the most profuse flow and most diffuse distribution of water to be found in any prairie country on the continent. The descent of the waters is not rapid in any of the rivers of the State. Prof. Mudge is an authority for the statement that in the length of no river in the State is there a water fall seven feet high. Of the general descent of the rivers, he says: The average descent of the Arkansas is little over six feet to the mile, while the Smoky is seven and the Solomon nearly ten feet to the mile. On the upper portions of the latter two rivers the descent is much greater than on the last hundred miles. This is seen in the Smoky, which enters Kansas 500 feet above the Arkansas, but when it unites with the Saline River, it has come down to the level of the Arkansas in the same longitude.


The river bottoms, or, in Eastern parlance, intervals, very in width along the principal rivers of the State, from one to three miles. In the extreme western parts of the State the bottom level sometimes spreads each side of the stream some four miles, making a transverse line from highland to highland of eight miles. The Kansas River bottoms are some two miles in width. The plateau land, which is the plane of the surface, is, except on the Arkansas, fifty to one hundred feet above the surface of the rivers. The timber is along the river bottoms bordering the large streams that run into them, and stretches back up the acclivities a short distance into the high prairie land. It consists mostly of deciduous varieties; the elm, willow and cottonwood on the bottoms; the oak, walnut, hickory, sycamore, ash, maple, mulberry and wild apple trees on the high ground. Sumach, elder, green brier, gooseberry, hazel, papaw, prairie-rose, raspberry, blackberry and wild grapes, were found growing indigenously. The growth is generally sparse as compared with the growth of the same varieties in countries farther east or north, and hardly ever attains to the size of more northern latitudes. The pines, spruce, cedar and other evergreens are not sufficiently numerous to be ranked as indigenous. The cedar, however, attains a stunted growth in small and detached sections of the Kansas River Valley and elsewhere. All trees and shrubs indigenous to temperate climates flourish when transplanted to this region. Both the climate and soil are favorable to the growth of wheat, corn and other cereals. The whole surface, in a state of nature, was covered with verdure, which gave pasturage to buffalo and other herbiverous (sic) animals, more numerous that the domestic flocks and herds of any people who ever lived upon the earth.

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