KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


JEFFERSON COUNTY, Part 4

[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]

PROGRESS OF THE COUNTY.

The political troubles had subsided now to a great extent. Instead of warfare, the citizen resorted to the ballot. Political meetings, conventions, and elections were the order of the day. Though much of their tie was thus taken up, the citizens of 1857 were generally quite prosperous, and carried on their occupations in comparative peace. The population of the county was also continually increasing. The census of 1857 showed a population of 1,962. more than one-half this number were living near the Grasshopper River. Of the number, 694 were married, and 221 were bachelors. There were 69 slaves in the county. Of the children, 539 were boys and 508 girls. This was largely increased in 1858. The immigration and improvement of the county, though rather slow, was steady. For that year the assessed value of property was $570,000. In 1859 the increase of population and the improvement made was much greater than at any time before since the Osawkie land sales. For 1859 the assessed value of property in the county was $987,761.

The Land Sales.--During the year 1856 there was a heavy rush of immigration to the country, and in November all the lands north of the diminished Delaware reserve, and east of the line between Ranges 18 and 19, was sold to the highest bidder at a public sale at Leavenworth.

It was during the year 1857, however, that the immigration to the county was the greatest. The remainder of the Delaware lands were to be sold at Osawkie in July of that year, and that place of all others was the point of destination for immigrants to Kansas. Before the sale began, there was not a quarter-section of land but had a claimant and some had several. In July the sales took place. Thousands of men intent on speculation were in attendance. According to a "squatter's law" prearranged among themselves, they bid in the lands occupied by them, at the appraised value. Many of these claims, perhaps three-fourths of them, were sold to speculators at enormous prices. It was an era of speculation. Money was plenty and spent freely, on all hands. Everything had a fictitious and fabulous value. Everything seemed prosperous, and a large number of chimerical schemes were engaged in, but all at once came the great financial crash, and there was a general collapse. Business became very dull, and money scarce. Large numbers of the settlers left the country, and deserted cabins were everywhere to be seen. Most of their land had, however, been sold to speculators for fabulous prices, much more than improved lands sell for at this writing. Much of this land was afterward sold for taxes.

Until the year 1860, the county had been quite prosperous, and when planted and cultivated good crops had been raised. It is true the citizens were generally poor, but it must be remembered that the greater number of them came to the Territory with little wealth, and had to wait to open up their farms before any profit could be realized from their labors. Besides this, many of them had suffered losses in the years from 1855 to 1857, by depredations from the opposing party; had neglected their crops and lost much time in attending conventions and traveling from place to place; and spent money buying arms and ammunition, in paying party assessment, etc. But, notwithstanding all this, whatever the crops had been cultivated, they had generally yielded an abundant harvest. Beginning with the year 1858, they had, however, worked industriously to put their farms in repair, opened a greater acreage of land, and had now prepared for farming on a large scale.

The following figures will show the wealth and population of the county in May, 1860. The population was 4,446. Of live-stock, there were in the county 4,020 head of cattle, 950 houses, 97 mules, 9,660 hogs and 839 sheep. According to a low-assessed valuation, the total value of property was $925,003. The value of property in each township was as follows: Oskaloosa, $212,622; Grasshopper Falls, $209,391; Rock Creek $128,042; Osawkie, $81,297; Jefferson, $174,483; Kaw, $68,121; Kentucky, $51,047. The total value of lands in the county was $707,407; value of village lots at an average of $23 to each lot, $45,457; value of personal property in villages $20,025. The prosperity of the county was seriously retarded by the big drouth of 1860.

The crop yield was almost an entire failure. There was no small grain raised, and but a very little corn, and this only in the valleys and ravines, where in some very small fields it yielded perhaps half a crop.

Though nearly all farmers who cultivated their lands properly received a small crop, there was not enough to keep them from suffering, or even starvation. For reasons previous stated, the old settlers had accumulated but little. Many were new comers who had spent nearly or quite all their means for their lands, and depended entirely on the crops of that year for subsistence. Some of these new settlers were disheartened, and left the county for their former homes, discouraged from ever returning again. Others left to return again the next and succeeding years. Perhaps a little more than one-tenth of the settlers left the county that fall. A great many of those remaining would have left had they only the means to take them back. While starvation was to plainly before the most needy before another crop could be raised, aid societies had been formed, and the people of the Eastern States, with great liberality sent help in form of provisions, clothing, and seed for the next year. Distributing agents were appointed in every community, and goods apportioned out to those in want. They had to be hauled from Atchison, which was the general distributing depot, and the needy were employed to do this, and were paid in supplies. By receiving this aid the settlers passed through the winter and the next season until another crop could be raised.

During the war the county progressed but slowly, as the greater number of the citizens were in the army, and those that were not away from the State were members of the State Militia, and spent much time providing for their own families and those of their neighbors, leaving them little opportunity to add to the resources of the county.

When the war was over, however, there was an immediate and rapid improvement visible. Immigration into the county again began, and during the following years towns and railroads were built, many fine farms were opened, and the county increased greatly in aggregate wealth. Following is a general summary of the condition of the county in May, 1870: The total value of farms was $4,218,363; of improved lands, there were 91,004 acres; there were on hand 1,238,947 bushels of corn; the total value of live stock was $1,119,813; the total population was 12,565; the population by townships was, Oskaloosa, 1,610; Jefferson, 1,689; Rock Creek, 481; Kentucky, 1,976; Sarcoxie, 1,876; Union, 650; Kaw, 749; Grasshopper Falls, 1,943, and Osawkie, 1,600. There were in the county 2,279 houses and 2,402 families.

In May, 1872, there were heavy rains, which soon flooded the streams, and much damage was done to the growing crops, particularly along the valleys, which in many places were covered with water for several days. Many bridges were washed out, and the damage was great. With the exception of the losses of this year, which, however, were for the most part but local, the yield of all agricultural products had been abundant from the year 1866--when the grasshoppers ruined a portion of the growing crops--until 1874. In the summer of the latter named year, just as the harvest of small grain was being completed, the grasshoppers appeared in immense numbers. So thick were they, that when flying over, they formed clouds so dense as to obscure the light of the sun. They came down on the fields in myriads, and within three days the fields of corn and every other thing that was yet green, was utterly destroyed.

The ruin of the corn crop alone, was a serious loss to the farmers; but this was not all, the grasshoppers stayed and deposited their eggs. The next spring they hatched, and many fields were literally covered with the ravenous pests. The fall wheat was yet green and tender, and nearly all the fields were soon covered, and here they remained until able to fly. In many places they clustered so closely together, in heaps, that they could be shoveled like earth. This being true, of course nearly all fields of small grain were ruined. The small corn was also eaten, but it was so early that be replanting an abundant crop was harvested.

During the intervening winter, those of the settlers who were needy had been helped by the aid societies, and by their friends in more eastern States. With the partial failure of crops in 1875, the times were much harder during the following winter than they had been the previous one. Though rigid economy had to be practiced, and many were very poor, there was very little actual suffering. A great many of the citizens of the county, however, left the State, so that by the close of the year 1875, the population was lessened by more than one thousand.

On June 8, 1875, a severe storm of wind and rain passed over the county, and did considerable damage to the growing crops, and demolished many farm buildings.

WAR RECORD.

On the breaking out of the war of the Rebellion in April, 1861, there was a movement made at once to organize a company of enlisted soldier, for three months' service, from Jefferson County. This was done by authority from Gov. Charles Robinson, and a company known as the Jefferson Riffles, numbering a little more than one hundred men, was organized, with S. S. Cooper, Captain; Lewis Stafford, First Lieutenant; and Azel W. Spaulding, Second Lieutenant. They went to Fort Leavenworth to drill and enlist in a regular manner. When there, it was ordered that the men be enlisted for three years, upon which, as many had left their families unprovided for, it was determined that a number of them should return home to look after the support of the women and children. This being done, there were not a sufficient number remaining to form a company, therefore they combined with Capt. Clayton's partially organized Leavenworth company, electing him Captain, and retaining the Lieutenants from the Jefferson County company. The company was mustered into the First Kansas Regiment on May 28, 1861.

During the war, by far the greater number of the citizens of the county entered the army, while nearly every able-bodied man who remained served in the State Militia, aiding in protecting the State fro invasion. Beside this, for those remaining there was plenty to do in providing for their own families, and looking after the comfort and welfare of those of their absent neighbors.

Among the officers of Kansas troops who were prominent citizens of Jefferson County were. E. D. Hillyer, Quartermaster of the Fifth Kansas, and Edward Lynde, Colonel of the Ninth Kansas. G. W. Hogeboom was a Surgeon. W. C. Barnes, of Oskaloosa; Jerome Kunkle, of Kentucky Township, and Lewis Stafford, of Grasshopper Falls, were Captains. Stafford went out as a Lieutenant, but was soon promoted. He was killed in Louisiana, in January, 1863. Elias Gibbs, J. J. Clancy, J. H Cowen, J. B. McAfee, W. W. Spaulding, and G. A Dewey, were Lieutenants. In the Eleventh Kansas Regiment there were a particularly large number of Jefferson County men. During the war, from its beginning to its close, none of the Kansas troops behaved more bravely, or achieved greater honors, than did the Jefferson county volunteers.

On October 8, 1863, the County Commissioners voted a bounty of $30 to each soldier who had enlisted from the county and scrip was issued to one hundred and thirty-five men.

As the invasion of the State was continually threatened, a thorough organization of militia under command of the Governor was always in readiness. In Jefferson County, a regiment, known as the Fourth Regiment Kansas State Militia, was organized. S. S. Cooper was commissioned Colonel, and remained in command until it was disbanded. It consisted of eleven companies, of which two were from Grasshopper Falls, two from Jefferson Township, two from Oskaloosa, one from Osawkie, one from Rock Creek, one from Kaw, one from Kentucky, and one from Sarcoxie.

There were in the county quite a large number of secession sympathizers, but so great a feeling of loyalty existed among the great majority of the citizens that no rebel sentiments were ever allowed to be expressed, and it would have been unsafe for any one to openly aid the rebels. One so doing would have forfeited his property, and probably his life. So anxious were rebel sympathizers to make a show of loyalty that they enlisted in the militia, and whenever called out it was looked to that that class went along and participated in the battles fought.

During the war, the greatest scourge of the county were the bands of jayhawkers who for the greater part of the time persisted in committing depredations on peaceable citizens. They organized at first to drive the rebel sympathizers fro the county, and with the idea that the circumstances of the case fully justified them in confiscating the property of the enemy. But under the leadership of bad men they soon became common robbers. Horse-stealing was their principal crime. For a long time they committed their crimes, with little fear or liability of punishment. Their number was great, and if a citizen dared to oppose their lawless deeds, he was branded as a rebel, his property taken and he driven from the country. They soon became bold and took property wherever they could find it. In some localities they held absolute sway. The Justices of Peace, Constables, and other officials, seemed to be afraid to arrest and punish them. One of their places of rendezvous was at Oskaloosa, and in that village and in its vicinity, numerous outrages were committed with no possibility of checking or punishing them. The citizens soon learned that any attempts to oppose their reckless deeds only resulted in a loss of their own property, and the greater number kept quiet, thinking their property and their lives were much safer by so doing.

After a time, however, robbery and the other outrages had become so frequent, that the law-abiding citizens determined to rid themselves of the jayhawkers, and an organization for the purpose was effected. The robbers were hunted, attacked, and on several occasions quite severe fights took place, in which a great number of robbers were killed. So rigorous was the campaign made against them, and so promptly were their outrages punished, that after quite a large number of them had lost their lives they desisted from their lawless deeds in this county and most of them left the country.

LAND TROUBLES AND RAILROAD BONDS.

After the diminished Delaware reserve was purchased by the United States Government. It was granted to the Leavenworth, Pawnee, and Western Railroad Company, on condition that they build a railway and pay the Government a stated price within a term of years agree upon. The road was not built, nor any payments made on the land. As soon as the land was open to settlement a large number located thereon, bought lands, paying for them in whole or in part, and accepting the bonds of the company in lieu of a deed. The original company sold to the Union Pacific Railroad Company. E. D., after which there was some trouble with the settlers, many of whom refused to make any further payments until the company should be in condition to give a warranty deed, they fearing that the road would never be built or the title perfected, and that they would eventually lose all they paid. Besides this, some of the settlers had bought the land of the original company with the understanding that they should be allowed to pay for it by working on the railroad grade. When some of the settlers refused to make their payments or keep up the interest, the company, through Samuel Denman, their agent, ordered them to leave the land. When they refused to do so, application was made to the Government for troops to remove them. This was granted, and troops were sent from Fort Leavenworth to remove those designated by Denman, when considerable trouble took place, though they were not openly resisted. The soldiers were soon removed, and a compromise effected. In due time the company perfected its title to the lands, and those settlers who held bonds were allowed to turn them in as receipts, when they paid for the land. During the trouble several skirmishes took place between contesting claimants of t lands. One of these took place on July 4, 1866, where Williamstown now is. A mill company had been organized, and had purchased 900 acres of land, some of which was occupied by settlers. A contest between them soon began. The mill men pulled own one house and used the material. To retaliate, the settlers drove nails in the sawlogs. On July ?, both parties were armed. the settler set fire to some wood belong to the mill. A fight afterwards ensued, and several were badly wounded on both sides, but no one was killed.

Soon after the close of the war the citizens of the county began an effort to secure the building of a north and south line of railroad. As early as 1865, the Kansas Division of the Union Pacific was built across the southern part of the county, and the same year the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad Company made a proposition that for $300,000 in bonds they would construct their road across the county. An election was held and the bonds defeated. Again in the fall of 1867 the question of voting bonds was agitated. This time two lines of road were in contemplation: the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, and the Atchison, Oskaloosa & Lawrence Railroad, each of which roads asked $150,000 in county bonds. In a short time an election was held, and the bond proposition was carried by a small majority. Those opposed to voting bonds had made a strong and bitter fight, and determined to prevent the bonds from being used, charging that there had been fraudulent voting in Grasshopper Falls Township where the greater majority was received. At the time of the canvas of the votes by the County Commissioners, no objection was raised; but just at its close the opposition made an appearance, objected to the counting the Grasshopper Falls vote, and demanded the poll books for the county, which were given them. When they were returned, the Grasshopper Falls book was found missing. This being seen by the County Commissioners, they summoned the trustee of that township, who was the proper custodian of the book, to appear before them, but on being sworn he state he knew nothing of its whereabouts. It was returned some time after. At the time of the canvas of the votes Terry Critchfield was County Clerk, but a short time afterward (January, 1868) Walter N. Allen, who had been elected before, took charge of the affairs of the office, and championed the cause of the anti-bond men. Some time during the trouble the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company demanded the issue of the bonds, whereupon two members of the Board of Commissioners, John Coffey and William Gragg, ordered the Clerk to issue bonds of $150,000 to the above named road. The third commissioner, John Davis, refused to sign this order. Allen, firmly convinced that the election had not been legal, refused to issue the bonds. A suit of mandamus to compel him to do so was then brought, but he still refused to sign, where upon he was remanded to jail. Still holding out strongly he was in a short time released. In October, 1869, he was displaced from office, and L. A. Myers appointed in his place. The commissioners again ordered the subscription of stock, which was compiled with.

In January, 1870,, the Board of County Commissioners, now having a majority opposed to the bonds, allowed Walter N. Allen $1,200 to be used in defending himself and the county against the payment of the bonds. An injunction against their payment was issued, and on the 31st day of the following May was made perpetual. The case was before the courts for a number of years, when the election was decided to have been illegal on account of a large number of votes fraudulently cast, and the bonds of the county declared null and void.

After the first railroad bonds voted in the county had been decided to be illegal, continual efforts were made to secure a railroad. The citizens were nearly equally divided on the question of the expediency of voting bonds. In 1871, several township elections on bond propositions from the Atchison, Oskaloosa & Lawrence Railroad, were held, but except in Oskaloosa Township, were defeated, and this put an end to all prospects of securing that road. In September, 1871, an election was held for the purposed of voting bonds to the Grasshopper Valley railroad, which was to extend down the Grasshopper River. The proposition was voted on in all the townships bordering the river, but was defeated. On July 11, 1871, an election was held in Grasshopper Falls and Rock Creek Townships, on a bond proposition submitted by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, which specified that the road should pass through these townships and that the former township should subscribe for $40,000 stock of the road, which were to be paid in bonds; and that the latter township should subscribe $20,000 on the same conditions. In Grasshopper Falls Township the bond proposition was was carried, and the next year the road was built.

The Kansas Central Railroad Company made a proposition to Jefferson and Grasshopper Falls Townships, asking $25,000 in bonds from the former, and $40,000 from the latter. An election was held on September 18, 1871, and the proposition was carried. The line of road was built and regular trains were running by the fall of 1872.

The Leavenworth, Oskaloosa & Topeka Railroad Company made a bond proposition to Oskaloosa and Osawkie Townships, which was voted on in the spring of 1872, but was defeated.

This ended the rail schemes in the county, until the year 1881, when the townships of Union, Oskaloosa, Osawkie and Rock Creek voted bonds to the Leavenworth, Topeka & Southwestern Railroad Company. This line of road was built from Leavenworth to Meriden, and completed in 1882. In August 1882, before its completion, it was sold to the Atchison, Topeka & Southwestern Railroad Company, who now operate it.

[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]