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


[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]


Elk Falls is situated in the Southern part of Elk County, on the line of the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas Railroad, and about thirty miles west of the city of Independence. The town is favorably located near the fork of Wild Cat Creek with Elk River, and in consequence enjoys the advantages of a large amount of surrounding valley land. The greater portion of the country surrounding, however, is rough and broken, much of it being useless for agriculture.

The town derived its name from the presence of a waterfall in Elk River close by, and which is formed by the falling of the water over a projecting ledge of rock ten feet high and about one hundred feet wide.


The first settler to locate upon the town site was R. H. Nichols, who took the claim in February, 1870. Soon after the settlement of the land was made, the enterprise of establishing a town site upon it was conceived, and a town site company composed of R. H. Nichols, G. F. Graham, E. A. Hall, James Edwinson, C. Goodrich, M. V. French and H. H. Hess, was formed for this purpose. Accordingly, in the early part of the year 1870, the site was fixed upon Nichols' land, and L. J. Johnston was employed to lay it off into town lots.

The first house marking the place was the claim-house built by Nichols - a small box house, ten by twelve feet.

Following this was the erection of a small house built by R. H. Nichols, which he occupied as a loan and real estate office. The next improvement was the erection of a frame storeroom by A. F. Gitchell and son, Charles Gitchell, in which they opened a store consisting of general merchandise. The building was soon afterward, in 1878, converted into a livery barn by Mitchell, for which purpose it is now used.

Following this was the establishment of a general store in a log house which stood in the place where the post office is now located, by Hall & Edmiston. About the same time Dr. I. A. Walter opened a drug store; S. M. Jones started a blacksmith shop, which he continued to operate about two years, at which time he disposed of the same to A. Leisure. Attracted by the prospects of a new and rising town, numerous improvements were soon made, until at present the town contains about five hundred inhabitants and several business houses of substantial proportions.

The post office was first established at Elk Falls in 1870, and J. Edmiston was Postmaster. Although a post office was established at the place, there was as yet no provision made for the transportation of the mails, and which accordingly was done by private individuals. The office was kept in the storeroom of Hall & Edmiston, where it remained about two years, until the expiration of Edmiston's term of office. R. N. Hall was appointed as Edmiston's successor in the post office, and it was then kept in Hall's drug store. At the end of two years from his appointment, Hall was succeeded as Postmaster by John Heckerman, and the office, after changing hands, was taken to Heckerman's grocery store. After Heckerman came the appointment of C. Truby, and the office located at the corner of Seventh and Osage streets, at which place it has remained. Following the lapse of a three years' term of office by C. Truby, was the commission of Mrs. Susan Truby, who has ever since continued to hold the appointment.

The first school was taught in the village of Elk Falls in the summer of 1870, by Miss Dora Simmons, the school being kept in her father's residence, and numbered an attendance of twenty-five pupils.

During the year following, a school building was erected for the accommodation of the school - a small one-story frame house, comprising but a single apartment.

The school at present enumerates about two hundred and twenty pupils and is conducted by J. N. Richardson.


Elk Falls contains only two church organizations - the Methodist Episcopal and Baptist.

The earliest religious services were held in the town in the early part of the year 1871, and were conducted in the school building, by the Rev. L. F. Laverty, a Methodist preacher. at which time the organization of a Methodist Congregation was effected.

The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in the early part of 1871, and Rev. J. S. Harriman was the regular pastor on the circuit, assisted at this point by Rev. James Edmiston as supply, Mr. Edmiston being then engaged in business in the town. The first services were conducted in the second story of the building belonging to Hall & Edmiston, but in the schoolhouse after the erection of that building. The present church house was built during the fall of 1880, under the pastoral administration of Rev. C. Combs, and was dedicated in the following winter by Rev. C. C. McCabe.

The church is at present in a very prosperous condition under the charge of the Rev. W. H. Goodwln.

The Baptist Church was first organized in the fall of 1870, but this attempt proved a failure. A second and more successful effort to establish a church was made in June of the next year, and Rev. N. H. Ward was retained as the regular pastor. The organization was made with only six constituent members, but which has since been increased to twenty-five. A church was erected during the summer of 1879, and in the fall of that year was formally dedicated to divine worship. there are at present four regularly organized societies in existence at this place. These are the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Masonic, Grand Army of the Republic and the Knights of Honor.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was started September 15, 1871, with only twelve members.

The officers elected were: Thomas Stout, Noble Grand; R. H. Nichols, Vice Grand; H. M. Nichols, Secretary; E. H. Nichols, Permanent Secretary; A. Eardman, Treasurer; and James Beard, Warden.

The lodge, numbering seventeen members, is in a flourishing condition under the official management of William Pierson, Noble Grand; Dr. F. S. Olney, Vice Grand; L. J. Johnson, Secretary; and H. T. Woodward, Treasurer.

The lodge was first represented in the Grand Lodge by Thomas Stout, but has been represented in that body since 1877 by Dr. F. S. Olney.

The Masonic Fraternity was instituted here in October, 1871, and P. Cummings was elected Worshipful Master, and Thomas Stout, Senior Warden. The lodge, with its first establishment, contained only ten members, but now numbers fifty. Those most chiefly engaged in setting the movement of the organization of the society on foot were P. Cummings, Thomas Stout and R. H. Nichols. The present officers of the lodge are: C. W. Rambo, Worshipful Master; S. D. Lewis, Senior Warden; J. N. Bird, Junior Warden; Dr. F. S. Olney; Treasurer; and C. S. King, Secretary.

The Knights of Honor Society began its existence May 9, 1877, and chartered October 1877. H. Baker was chosen Dictator; F. S. Olney, Secretary; A. Eardman, Treasurer. With its inception the society numbered thirteen members, but has since increased to twenty-two. The work of organizing was chiefly under the direction of a man named Howell, of Winfield. The present officers are C. W. Rambo, Dictator; R. N. Hall, Secretary; and G. W. Blackburn, Treasurer.

The Grand Army of the Republic became established in February, 1882, and H. Welty was elected Commander, F. A. Stoddard, Adjutant. The society contains fifty members, and hold meetings in Barber's Hall on the first Thursday of each month.

More than one attempt has been made to establish a news journal in the town, but mostly without success. The first attempt was made by C. L. Goodrich, who began the publication of a paper called the Elk Falls Examiner, in the spring of 1872. The demand for an enterprise of this sort was yet limited, and the paper failing of success fell through, and was sold to the Winfield Telegram in 1874. The next undertaking of this kind was made in 1873, by N. H. Ward and J. T. Pyle, in the issuance of the Howard County Record, in which they continued about one year and sold out to H. B. Kelly. Kelly issued the paper at Elk Falls about a year and then removed to Sedan. The third and last enterprise in Journalism began in 1880 by Thomas Copeland and Thomas Thompson, who ran a paper under the name of the Elk Falls Signal. This sheet led a sort of migratory existence, having remained only one year at Elk Falls, when it was taken to Moline and soon afterward to Cherry Vale, where it became the Cherry Vale Globe, now published at that place.

The first house for public entertainment was a two-story frame built and run by F. Bloodgood in 1871. After running the house about seven years, it was sold to Josiah Carr, who kept it only two years, and it was again sold to H. C. Hitchen, and is now known as the Cape Cod House, under the management of J. M. Lufkin.

The Gitchell House was built in 1870, and was run as a public house about two years, but is now used by A. F. Gitchell as a residence.

The Sherman House was started in 1879, and stands near the railroad depot. The enterprise was in the hands of a company of which C. Truby was the chief party in interest. The house was under the management of Truby, who afterward became sole proprietor.

George Sherman took possession of the house after Truby, and ran it about one year, when it was taken by E. Cole, who has since continued in its management. It is now the popular railroad eating house, at which trains stop for meals.

The only manufacturing at this place is a grist and flouring mill. This establishment was constructed in 1875 by E. A. Hall and L. J. Johnson, and is located on Elk River near the Falls, and from which the propelling power is derived, a turbine water wheel being used. The mill is a three-story frame with basement underneath, contains four run of buhrs, and was built at a cost of $1,600. In 1880, it changed hands, becoming the property of John Longfellow, the present owner and proprietor. This mill besides being the first and only one in the town of Elk Falls, was also the first built in Elk County.

As to what the future of the town may be, little can be said more than mere conjecture. It is certain, however, even under ordinary favorable circumstances, that the place cannot attain to any considerable size, owing to the absence of those requisites and conditions as are necessary to its support, such as manufacturing and mining interests, and the surroundings of a good agricultural country, etc.

The present tendency of the place is backward rather than progressive, and to predict for her a more prosperous situation than she now occupies, would be extremely hazardous and unwise.


G. W. BLACKBURN, merchant, was born in Montgomery County, Ill., 1848, and was raised there until twenty years of age, migrating to Kansas in 1868, locating at Fredonia, Wilson County, and ran a livery stable at that point two years. In 1871, came to Elk Falls and carried on the livery business four years, when he engaged in the grocery trade and after two years worked into the hardware trade, continuing in the business since; also handles farm machinery and farm implements. His trade having grown nearly 100 per cent, in 1879 put up a fine stone building 25x60, which he uses for his business. Mr. Blackburn is a good business man: came to Kansas without anything, and has made what he has since. He is a genial gentleman and very popular with his many acquaintances Was married in the spring of 1870 at Fredonia to Miss Richards, of that place; they have three children, viz., Ida G., Grace A. and Byron R. Is a member of Howe Lodge, No 616, K. of H., Elk Falls.

F. N. HANNANT, stock-raiser, P. O. Elk Falls, was born in Norfolk County, England, 1843. In 1848, emigrated to America, locating in Pike County, Ill., where he remained until 1861, when he enlisted in Company C, Twenty-seventh Illinois Infantry, serving over three, years; was captured at the battle of Murfreesboro and taken to Libby Prison, and was there from December 31, 1862, until March, 1863; was discharged at St. Louis, 1864. He then secured a situation in the post office as carrier, remaining six months, and for the next three years was employed in a wholesale boot and shoe house in St. Louis; in 1870, migrated to Kansas, locating at Elk Falls, and took a claim on Section 8, Town 31, Range 11, and was among the early settlers here; was seventy miles from a railroad; he then continued improving his place and working at the stone-mason's trade. In 1879, when the railroad was built through here, sold out and came to Elk Falls, and has been working at his trade since. In 1881, commenced raising stock; has thirty-five bead of cattle. Was one of the active workers against the division of the county. Was married in 1878 to Miss C. A. Keith, of Elk Falls; they have three children, viz., Lizzie H., Rebecca R. and Archie. Is a member of Rollins Post, No. 26, G. A. R.; Meridian Lodge, No. 126, A., F. & A. M.

MORRIS HUMPHRIES, farmer, P. O. Elk Falls, was born in Pulaski, Ky., in 1800; was raised there until nineteen years of age, going from there to Indiana, locating in Rush County; at the end of four years returned to Kentucky; remained there twenty-two years. In 1856, came West, locating in Missouri, and remained two years. 1858, settled in Kansas and took a homestead in Johnson County, where he remained seven years; there was no railroad in the State then. After leaving Johnson County, located in Jefferson County and was there four years; in April, l869, came to Howard County before the survey was made, and took a claim on Section 34, Town 31, Range 11; had to go to Ottawa, 110 miles, for his supplies; was at the first county convention and voted at the first election; has a good claim on the Elk River with eighty acres of timber; the place is all fenced, 115 acres in cultivation, planted a good orchard of 400 trees; is raising a good many cattle and hogs. Was married in 1822 to Miss Mary Amos. They have nine children - George, Francis, Franklin, Lindell, Columbus, Norah, Lottie, Jennie, Perry.

L. J. JOHNSON, County Surveyor, was born in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, 1840, but was raised in Hardin County, until 1852, when he migrated to Iowa and went to work with a survey party, working in Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota, running a compass when only thirteen years of age. In 1865, became identified with the Home Insurance Company, of Lyons, Iowa, and was a director in the company until 1867, when he was sent to Topeka, Kansas, to represent the company; then, soon after, he organized the Home, of Topeka, and became Vice President. At the end of two years, came to Elk Falls, and in the winter of 1869- 70 circulated a petition for the purpose of organizing Howard County; soon after, the contract was let for surveying the county, and Mr. Johnson went on the survey, which was commenced in the fall of 1870 and finished in April, 1871. Mr. Johnson took a claim on Sections 2 and 3, Town 31, Range 11, containing the water-power of Elk Falls, with a perpendicular fall of nine feet; and soon after, in company with E. A. Hall, put up the first mill in the County, 30x46 feet, three-stories high, with three run of buhrs; in 1875, sold out; in 1872, was elected County Surveyor of Howard County; since 1875, has been in the insurance and surveying business, and in 1881 was again elected surveyor of Elk County. Mr. Johnson is conceded the most thorough Insurance man in Southern Kansas. In 1863, was married to Miss B. W. Elliott, of Benton County, Iowa. They had two children - Cameron and Effie. Was married again in 1873, to Miss Mary Stout, of Howard County. They had one child, Malphus. In 1876 was again married in Elk Falls to Miss Jennie E. Lewis. They have been blessed with three children - Fitz Gordon, Harold and Floy. Is a member of Elk Falls Lodge, No (sic) 77, I. O. O. F.

JOHN I. MILLS, farmer and stock-raiser, P. O. Elk Falls, was born in New Jersey in 1832 but was raised in Delevan County, Ohio, until twenty years of age, then emigrated to Iowa, locating in Linn County, remaining there until 1870. He is one of the pioneers of the county; when he first settled he was within a mile of a camp of. 700 Indians. He was two years in California and on the plains previous to coming to Kansas in 1870. Settled in Elk Falls Township before the survey was made, and there were but two men between his place and Elk Falls at the time of his settlement. He was twenty-eight miles from a post office, and 110 miles from a railroad point. His place lies midway between Elk Falls and Moline, three miles to either place. It is watered by Wild Cat Creek, and consists of 200 acres on Sections 7 and 18, has about 50 acres of young timber, 70 acres under the plow, a small orchard, 380 rods of stone wall and 160 rods of fence. He is raising cattle and hogs. He is one of the best posted men in the county, devoting all of his spare time to the study of history and government. He was married in l856 at Palo, Linn Co., Iowa, to Miss Lydia M. Morris of that place. They have one daughter, Rose Z.

F. S. OLNEY, M. D., physician and surgeon, was born in Potter County, Penn., 1836. In 1845, began reading medicine; in 1857, migrated to Kansas, locating at Burlington, Osage County, and began the practice of medicine in 1860-61; finished his course at the Winchester Medical College, Frederick County, Va., his old preceptor being in the Chair of Anatomy. He graduated in the spring and returned to his old home in Pennsylvania, and while there enlisted in the first call for 75,000 men in the Forty-sixth, known as the Buck Tail Regiment, serving until August, 1862, when he was discharged on account of disability; then returned to Osage County, and went to practicing medicine; in 1868, located in Eureka, Greenwood County, and put up a drug store, drawing the lumber seventy-five miles. In the spring of 1872, located in Howard County and began practice at Boston, and also opened a drug store at that point; in 1875, located at Elk Falls and has built up an extensive practice, as he is one of the best physicians in the State; served in the Osage County Battalion in the fall of 1864, fighting bushwhackers; was married, in September, 1866, to Miss Carrie Shaw; they have two children - Arthur and Mabel. Is a member of Rollins Post, No (sic) 26, G. A. R., Meridian Lodge, No. 126, A., F. & A. M.; Home Lodge, No. 616, K. of H., Elk Falls, No. 77, I. O. O. F.

C. W. RAMBO, merchant, was born near Shelby, Richland Co., Ohio, in 1847; where he lived until the spring of 1857, when he emigrated with his parents to Kansas, locating at Sumner, in Atchison County, where he lived until the breaking-out of the war, when they moved to Bureau County, Ill., and from thence to his old home near Shelby, working on a farm and attending district school in winter. In 1864, he enlisted in the Thirty-ninth Ohio Infantry and served until the close of the war. After the war, he fitted himself for a school teacher, and taught several terms. In l869, he again emigrated to Kansas, locating at Ohio City, Franklin County, and in a few months went to Independence, Montgomery County, which consisted of one cabin, the Bunker House, and took a claim near there, and afterward went into a drug store as clerk. After remaining in Independence three years, went to Princeton, Franklin County, and went into Mr. Fletcher's store as partner, and, at the end of one year, they came to Elk falls, then in Howard County, and bought out E. A. Hall & Co., and have been running a general store in the place ever since - a period of about ten years. When they first started their business in Elk Falls, they had to freight their goods in wagons forty miles. In 1879, they put up a new stone store 25x60, and the old one was 20x64. These they connected, and part of the time have had them both filled with goods. They have had a good trade, Mr. Rambo taking charge of the business here, while his partner is connected with a large canning establishment at Lawrence. Mr. Rambo is a pleasant, courteous gentleman and a thorough business man. He was married in 1873 to Miss Alice Fletcher, of Franklin County. They have one son, Clayton C. Mr. Rambo is Master of Meridian Lodge, No. 126, A., F. & A. M.; is also a member of the Keystone Chapter; also a member of Rawlins (sic) Post, No (sic) 26, G. A. R.

OLNEY RICHOLSON, stock-raiser, P. O. Elk Falls, was born in La Salle County, Ill, in 1843, and was raised there. In February, 1864, enlisted in the One Hundred Fifty-sixth Illinois Infantry, serving until the close of the war. In 1871, emigrated to Kansas, locating in Howard County, and took a claim on Section 12, Town 31, Range 11, on the Elk River, sixty-five miles from a railroad; has 340 acres, with 160 acres fenced; seventy acres in cultivation; has planted 1,000 peach trees, fifty apple trees, and has a variety of small fruits; has built a good house, 24x26, good barn, windmills, twenty acres of timber and plenty of running water; is raising stock, and has been shipping cattle and hogs from Elk Falls for a number of years; has served as Justice of the Peace and Trustee of his township. He was married in 1864, in La Salle County, Ill., to Miss Lizzie Hodgson. They have five children - A. J., N. E., Annie H., Ralph and Jesse E. Is a member of Rollins Post, No. 26, G. A. R. and Meridian Lodge, No. 126, A., F. & A. M.

G. W. ROBERTS, farmer, P. O. Elk Falls, was born in Jackson County, Mich., in 1838, and was raised there. In 1861, enlisted in the Third Michigan Cavalry, serving four years and eight months; was Quartermaster Sergeant of Company E. After leaving the army, emigrated to Kansas, reaching Jefferson County in 1866, and was there three years. In May, 1869, came to Howard County and took a claim on Section 12, Ell Falls Township. In September, same year, took a claim on Section 34, same township; was one of the first in the township, and has a farm of 300 acres on Elk River, with about seventy acres of timber; has fenced 270 [original unclear %70] acres; has 220 in cultivation; has two orchards, 200 apple and 400 or 500 peach trees; has three dwelling houses, is raising stock and shipping; has served as Town Trustee five terms. He was married in 1871, in Howard County, to Miss Catherine Roberts. They have seven children - Walter, Ettie, Arthur, May, George W., Jr., Ralph W. and Roscoe C. He is a member of Rollins Post, No. 26, G. A. R., and of Meridian Lodge, No. 126, A., F. & A. M.

R. R. ROBERTS, farmer, P. O. Elk Falls, was born in Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in 1830, emigrated to Peoria, Ill., in 1848, where he was engaged in the marble business. In 1862, he enlisted in the Seventy-third Illinois Infantry, serving three years; was wounded and captured at the battle of Chickamauga in September, 1863, and was taken to Libby Prison, at Richmond, Va., and from there to Danville, and then to Andersonville, where he was held from March, 1864, until September, 1864, from there to Florence, where he was confined until March 1, 1865, when the prisoners were turned over to the Government. He then returned to Illinois, and remained there until 1869, when he removed to Kansas, and came to Howard County before the treaty was made with the Indians, and took a claim on Elk River. There were but few settlers there, and it was 110 miles to a railroad point. His claim was on Sections 12 and 13, Township 31, Range 11, consisting of 212 acres with eighty acres of timber. The balance of the place is nearly all under cultivation. He has a fine orchard and a good farm; is raising stock, being in that business the most of the time he has been here, and from 1871 until 1878 was shipping stock. Since then he has done considerable business in mining in Colorado, and has at present stock in several mines. He married in 1854, and lost his wife the following year. In 1858 he was again married to Miss Elizabeth J. Elmore, of Illinois. They have six children - Lewis E., Margaret F., Sallie K., R. R, Jr., J. N. and Elizabeth G. He is a member of Rollins Post, No. 26, Grand Army of the Republic, and of Meridian Lodge, No. 126, A., F. & A. M.

JOSEPH ROOT, tinner, was born in Miami County, Ohio, in 1839. In 1844, he removed to Montgomery County and lived there and in Darke County until 1853, from thence to Wabash County, Ind., where he remained until 1861, where he enlisted in the Eighth Indiana Volunteer Infantry, serving over four years. In 1863, he was veteranized, serving in the Western Division; was in the battles of Pea Ridge, Vicksburg and Champion Hill. After coming out of the army, he returned to Wabash County, and learned the tinner's trade. In 1871, he emigrated to Kansas and located in Howard County, and took a claim on Section 22, Township 31, Range 11. After living in this State five years, he came to Elk Falls, and the following year put up a tinshop and has followed the business since. He was married in 1866, in Darke County, Ohio, to Miss Amelia Nowlin. They have two sons - Willam and Phares. He is a member of Rollins Post, No. 26, Grand Army of the Republic.

F. A. STODDARI, attorney at law, was born in Broome County, N. Y., in 1841, and was raised there. In 1857, he went to New York City, and was in the mercantile business until 1862, when he returned to his native county and raised a company, and went into the One Hundred and Thirty-seventh New York Volunteer Infantry, and received a Captain's commission, and was in command of Company A. In October, 1864, he was promoted, receiving a Major's commission, and served until the close of the war; was Judge Advocate of the Court Martial a good share of the time. After coming out of the army, he located at Saginaw, Mich., where he was engaged in the clothing trade until 1868; he then came West, locating at Clinton, Iowa, where he was admitted to the bar, having read law before and while in the army. In 1876, he came to Kansas, locating at Elk Falls. He was among the early settlers, and the first attorney to file a case in the District Court of Howard County. In 1873, he served as Deputy County Attorney, and was in command of the company raised here to protect the county records from being stolen, during the county seat war. Mr. Stoddard is enjoying a good practice, being the only attorney in the place. He was married in 1870, to Miss Laura V. Butler, of Iowa. They have three children, viz, John, George and Fred. He is a member of Rollins Post, No. 26, Grand Army of the Republic.

LIEUT. H. WELTY, Justice of the Peace, was born in Fayette County, Penn., in 1828, but was raised in Stark County, Ohio. In 1849, he migrated to Iowa, but returned to Ohio the following year, locating in Henry County, where he taught school for eleven years, the most of the time in the same school-room. In 1861, he enlisted in the Fourteenth Ohio Volunteer Infantry, serving three months, then served three years in the Sixty-eighth Ohio Infantry, serving two years in the ranks, when he was promoted, receiving a First Lieutenant's commission. After coming out of the army, he remained in Ohio until 1870, when he came to Kansas, locating at Elk Falls, and took a claim on Section 2, Township 31, Range 11. He was seventy miles from a railroad point the first year, and for ten years after was forty miles from a railroad. He improved his place, and lived there until 1881. In 1872, he traveled all through Howard County, and visited every house and dugout in the county, working against the division of the county, and to keep the county seat at this place. He was elected Justice of the Peace in 1873, and has held the office continuously since. He was married, in the spring of 1851, to Miss Ann Feeney, of Henry county, Ohio. They have two sons - F. W. and D. F. He is a member of Meridian Lodge, No. 126, A., F. & A. M., and is Commander of Rollins Post, Grand Army of the Republic, of Elk Falls.

[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]