|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS
|Location | Map and Population | Early History
|County Organization and County Seat
|Danville | Albion
HARPER County lies in one of the most beautiful prairie regions of Kansas. South of it stretches the fertile Indian Territory, already containing nearly as many whites as aborigines, from which comes a vast and profitable traffic. From its fertile soil can be produced cereals enough to well-nigh supply the State, or turning south the vast army of stockmen with their cow-boys, an overplus is left for the ranges in the unorganized counties farther west. That so fertile a county should have so long remained undeveloped is due to causes which will be later detailed, and which, while they throw no shadow of disgrace or dishonor on the present inhabitants of the county, are sufficient cause for its late settlement.
The county is bounded on the north by Kingman, east by Sumner, south by the State line and the Indian Territory, west by Barber County. As first blocked out, the county was thirty miles in width up to its present north line, and thirty-three and a half miles in depth. On the north tier of townships, it extended six miles farther west than on the other tiers, the county line on the north being thirty-six miles in length. This upper tier was included in the space covered by Kingman County when it was created, but was never formally set off until 1879, when a bill giving Harper County its present boundaries was passed. The text of this bill reads as follows: "Commencing at the northeast corner of Township 31, Range 5 west, thence west to the northwest corner of Section 31, Range 9 west, south to the State line, east to Range 5 west, thence north to place of beginning." This is an error probably typographical, as the line north from Range 5 west would not strike the place of beginning and that from Range 4 west would do so. The county now measures 27 1/4 x 30 miles.
The county has ten percent of bottom and ninety per cent of upland. Forest occupies but two per cent, the remaining ninety-eight per cent being more or less level prairie. The principal streams are the Chikaskia River and Bluff Creek, both pursuing a southeasterly direction. The timber along these streams is very sparse and hugs the water-course closely.
The mineral resources of the county consist of large deposits of gypsum in the northwest part and some lime and sandstone in the other portions. There have been numerous false alarms of the finding of paying coal scams, but there is as yet no proof of their existence.
(Organized in 1873) 1880 ---------------------------------- Anthony Twp, including Anthony City 1,022 Chikaskia Twp 597 Harper Twp 747 Lake Twp 260 Ruella Twp 251 Silver Creek Twp 499 Spring Twp 151 Stohrville Twp 606 Totals 4,133 Anthony City 345All the townships in Harper county were organized in 1878 from unorganized territory.
The organization of the county in 1873 was through a fraud of the worst description, though legal in form, and was by a decision of 1878 decided to be an actual organization. How it came about is briefly as follows: Early in 1873, three men named Boyd, Wiggins and Horner met in conclave at Baxter Springs in Cherokee County. Of these men, Wiggins was a groceryman sic, and the other two soldiers of fortune - in plain English, men who lived by their wits. Among this precious three, the scheme of organizing some new counties in Southwestern Kansas was hatched out. Wiggins disposed of his store, and with the funds thus secured the adventurers came to Harper County. Here they met George Lutz, who was hunting and trapping, and was readily secured as a guide. After some little looking over the county, the party put up a little house on Bluff Creek, and proceeded to develop their schemes. The Cincinnati directory was put in use and enough names taken therefrom to make a sufficient showing of inhabitants; buffalo heads were set up in a row and the mummery of naming them and voting for them gone through with in due form. For their further proceedings, we must look to the following documents which are at once rich, rare and racy, and explain pretty fully the process of bogus county organization:
The petition which led to the taking of the census of Harper County bears date July 13, 1873, and prays that John Davis be appointed Special Census Taker, and H. H. Weaver, H. P. Fields and Samuel Smith be appointed Special County Commissioners, and Daniel Holson, Special County Clerk. This veracious and interesting document also states that "the city of Bluff City is centrally located in the county, and being the largest and most important business point in the county, with good water and timber, we humbly pray that it may be designated the temporary county seat of said county."
On September 16, 1874, a commission of two members was appointed by the President of the State Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the purpose of ascertaining the facts relative to the organization and bonded indebtedness of Comanche, Harper and Barbour Counties. The Commissioners, W. M. Matheny and Thomas S. Jones, made a majority report, and Atty. Gen. A. L. Williams, a minority one. In both are racy passages which are worth preservation. From the former is taken the following: "As to the county of Harper, the committee finds as follows, to wit: That on the 11th of July, 1873, a petition purporting to be signed by forty citizens, householders and legal electors of the said county of Harper, and sworn to by T. J. Jones, J. D. Mains and J. G. How, three citizens of said county, as provided by law, was made and presented to the Governor, setting forth that there were, at that time, 600 bona fide inhabitants in said county, and asking that said county of Harper be organized under the laws of the State of Kansas." The Governor accordingly appointed special county officers. One, John Davis, was appointed to take the census of the county, and his census of 641 names with the papers relating to the organization of the county, were filed in the office of the Secretary of State on August 20, 1873. The Governor then, as required by law, declared the county organized. The report goes on to state that gross and inexcusable fraud has been practiced by those persons who were instrumental in procuring the organization of said county * * * and that the names as reported by the Census Taker are forgeries, and obtained by consulting either the memory of some adept in rascality, or by the aid of the Cincinnati directory." The committee proceed to state that in their opinion the county never had forty bona fide inhabitants. Then turning to the indebtedness of the county they state: "That the present bonded indebtedness of the county of Harper is $40,000. That $25,000 of this debt is for court house bonds, and the remaining $15,000 funding debt. That the court house bonds were filed in the Auditor of State's office March 12, 1874, and the funding bonds April 4, 1874." The committee state that no court house does or has existed, and that they do not know what has become of the bonds, "but understand that they have been sold in the St. Louis market and the money used by individuals, and not one cent used for the purposes proposed, or for the benefit of Harper County." No record of the time of voting bonds, or proof that an election had ever been held could be found, nor any county books, or persons claiming to be county officers.
Attorney Gen. Williams, in his minority report, makes use of the following emphatic language: "It is not pretended that Harper County ever had an inhabitant; it is doubtful even if the bond makers of that county ever were in the county." He then gives the bonded debt of the county, and goes on to state: "In addition to this, I recently saw in New York City $3,000 of pretended school bonds of this county, * * * and am satisfied from information gathered in New York that a vast number of bonds purporting to have been issued by school districts of Harper County are outstanding."
It can hardly be a surprise that after the publication of these reports in January, 1875, Harper County should have remained in extremely bad odor for several years prior to its bona fide settlement in 1877, and its reorganization in 1878.
The earliest settlement in Harper County was by M. Devore and family, H. E. Jesseph and family, John Lamar and family, and William Thomas and family, all of whom were settled near the east line of the county in 1876. No further settlement was attempted until the arrival of the party who laid out and built Harper City. The first wedding in the county took place at Harper, on September 22, 1878, and united Dr. J. W. Madra and Miss Mary Glenn. The second wedding was also celebrated in the Glenn House, at Harper, and joined W. S. Forry and Miss Frank Glenn. The first birth was that of a child of Mrs. H. E. Jesseph.
On July 10, 1880, Harper and Chikaskia Townships voted on the question of subscribing to the stock of the S.K. & W. Ry. (now the K. C. L. & S. K.). The vote was strongly in favor of the road, standing 153 to 5 in Harper and 102 to 22 in Chikaskia. The amount voted was $28,000 of which Harper had $16,000 and Chikaskia $12,000. The road was built at once, and is now running to Harper.
On January 31, 1881, Chikaskia Township decide by a vote of 65 to 15 to dispose of its railway stock at 65 cents on the dollar. February 1, 1881, Harper Township decided upon the same course by a vote of 137 to 8.
On May 23, 1882, Anthony and Silver Creek Townships voted upon a proposition to take stock in the St. Louis, Anthony & Salt Plains Railway, and issue township bonds in payment of such subscription. The vote stood 117 to 27 in Anthony, and 51 to 20 in Silver Creek, and authorized the issue of $22,000 in bonds in the former, and $17,000 in bonds in the latter. Thus far, no effort to construct the road has been made.