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


[TOC] [part 13] [part 11] [Cutler's History]


This town is located in the northern part of the County, in the Kansas River Valley, at the junction of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, with the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas Railroad. The surrounding country is somewhat hilly and covered with timber.

The first building completed was put up by Henry Gallagher. It was commenced on the 10th and finished on the 11th of March, 1882. The second was the section house, commenced in January and finished toward the latter part of March, 1882, costing about $1,200. William Childs completed a residence about the same time. The railroad depot was finished in June.

The postoffice was established June 26, M. W. Robinson, Postmaster. A Union Church organization was effected between the Methodists and Baptist early in the summer. On August 1, 1882, about seventy-five people were living in houses, and one hundred and fifty in tents.

The town site is owned by E. R. Courtney, who filed his plat July 17, 1882. Waseca is thirteen miles from Kansas City, and has one of the finest springs in the county.


JAMES BURNETT ABBOT, was born in Hampton, Windham County, Conn., December 3, 1818. His paternal ancestors were English. They trace their genealogy back to George Abbott, who tradition says emigrated from Yorkshire, England, about 1640, and settled in Andover, Mass, in 1643. He lived and died on the farm owned in 1847 by John Abbott a descendant of George, of the seventh generation. Asa Abbott, grandfather of the subject of this sketch, on account of being a cripple, took no personal part in the war of the American Revolution. His patriotism was however as intense as that of any of the Revolutionary fathers, for although not subject to military duty himself, he employed a substitute, and paid him ten dollars per month, throughout the seven years of that eventful struggle. Asa Abbott married Mrs. Sarah Fuller, whose first husband, Stephen Fuller, had been killed by the Indians, in the Wyoming Massacre, July 3, 1778. In a book compiled in 1847, by Rev. Abiol Abbott, D. D., and Rev. Ephraim Abbott, entitled, "General Register of the Descendants of George Abbott, of Andover," page 55, is found the following sketch; "Stephen Fuller married Sarah Bidlock. He, with others taken by the Indians, in the Wyoming battle, July 3, 1778, was led to a wheat field where the Indians piled around them sheaves of wheat, and burned them to death. The Fort was surrounded and taken, the men cut to pieces, and the women and children perished in the flames of the Barracks. A few escaped by flight. Mrs. Fuller with some others, went in boats down to the Susquehanna to Northumberland and in about fourteen days she returned to the battlefield to seek the body of her husband. She found the heads of the men scalped, and their bodies so cut, bruised and torn, and altered by the summer heat, that she could not recognize an individual. From this distressing scene she went to her house, hoping to obtain some clothing and provisions; but the Indians and Tories had been there. The feathers of her bed were emptied on the floor, and her bedding, clothes, furniture and provisions all taken away. About the evening twilight, she went to the river and called to the boatmen to take her across, but they, fearing there might be Indians or Tories lying in wait to kill them, would not go for her. She therefore passed alone the anxious, fearful night. Soon after she returned to Hampton, Conn., on horseback, accompanied only by her daughter, two or three years old, who afterwards married Judge Ebenezer Griffin, of Hampton, Conn. Mrs. Fuller afterwards married Asa Abbott." James Abbott, son of Asa and Mrs. Sarah Fuller Abbott, was a Captain in the war of 1812. He was a man of good education, a teacher by profession, a lover of music and a skilled musician. He was a man of superior moral character, and of great liberality in his religious views. He married Asenath Burnett, daughter of James Burnett, a soldier of the American Revolution, who served during the entire period of that long conflict under General Putnam. Mrs. Abbott was a woman of great energy of character, a strict, kind-hearted Puritan, and most devoted wife and mother. She was born in 1791, and died in 1873. The Burnett family is supposed to be of Scotch descent, James Burnett Abbott, was the son of James and Asenath Abbott. His education was obtained primarily in the Connecticut common schools, but was finished at the Academies of Pottsdam and Gouverneur in the State of New York. After leaving the academy he taught school two winters. When eighteen years old he broke his leg, which misfortune rendered farm labor impracticable for him. He accordingly learned the shoemakers' trade, and afterward worked in a tin-shop until he became again able to resume his labors on the farm. Upon the attainment of his majority he married Amanda Atwood, of Gouverneur, N. Y., returned to Connecticut and entered mechanical business. From 1840 to 1854, he was engaged in various industries, making pencil-cases, forks, spoons, and spectacles, electro-plating, and electro-typing; manufacturing boots and shoes in Connecticut, gold pens in Cincinnati, and acting as inspector for Rogers Bros.' mammoth plated-ware establishment at Hartford. He was one of the first successful electro-platers in the United States. In 1851 his wife died, and in 1852 he was married to Elizabeth Watrous, a Hartford lady. In 1854, in company with the third party of New England immigrants, he came to Kansas. He arrived at Lawrence, October 10, and fixed his residence at that place, but located his claim near the Wakarusa, from which fact he was known in those early days as "Abbott of the Wakarusa Country." Across that river he built Blanton's bridge, which was indicted by the border ruffians as a nuisance, for the, to them, sufficient reason that it accommodated more Free-state than Pro-slavery men. He was appointed by Governor Reeder, one of the judges of the election of March 30, 1855. Upon the decision of a majority of the board of which he was a member, in favor of the right of the Missourians to vote, he withdrew from the board. During the following summer he joined a militia company, which was raised for the defense of the Free-state men and their interests. Of this company, Henry Saunders was elected Captain, and Mr. Abbott Lieutenant. Lieutenant Abbott was sent to Boston to procure arms for the company. He returned to Kansas with one hundred and seventeen Sharpe's rifles and a twelve pound howitzer. From St. Louis to Kansas he was watched at every turn and movement, suspected of being James B. Abbott, by certain parties who had learned what his errand East had been, and on that account followed him with the intention of putting him out of the war. Mr. Abbott, however, who was traveling under the name of J. Burnett, was not for a moment off his guard. He sang songs and played cards frequently with the very men who were set as spies upon his trail. During a game of cards, one of these spies attempted to throw him off his guard by saying suddenly to him, "Abbott, it's your turn to deal, isn't it?" Abbott looked around as if to learn who had been addressed, and replied, "You must be mistaken, it is my turn." Such was Mr. Abbott's continuous calm presence of mind, that every attempt to make him reveal his identity was equally futile. Subsequently one of these spies was a deputy under Sheriff Jones, and at the attempt to arrest S. W. Wood, recognized Abbott as the man who had outwitted him on the boat. The Sharpe's rifles and howitzer had been shipped on a different boat from that on which Abbott returned; the former having been take apart, packed in as short boxes and casks as possible, and consigned as hardware to Harlow Hutchinson & Co., merchants at Lawrence; the latter was shipped from New York in boxes but did not arrive until November. On November 21, 1855, occurred the murder of Charles W. Dow, by Franklin N. Coleman. This murder caused the most intense excitement. A meeting of the Free-state men was held next day, at the place of the murder, for the purpose of investigating its cause and deciding what action if any should be taken, with reference thereto. On arriving home from the meeting, Lieutenant Abbott was informed that Sheriff Jones had passed his house about six o'clock in the evening, with a posse of fifteen armed men, on his way to arrest an old man named Jacob Branson, who was a personal friend of Dow, and the principal witness of his murder. Some half dozen men who had attended the meeting had stopped at Abbott's house on their way home. With them a consultation was held and it was decided that Abbott and S. W. Wood should immediately ride over to Branson's, and ascertain what had been done by the posse, and return to Mr. Estabrook's house, about halfway between Branson's and Abbott's, where it was agreed the Free-state settlers should assemble for consultation. On the arrival of Abbott and Wood at Branson's, they learned that Branson had been captured and carried away by force of arms without being given any authority therefor; his captors leaving his wife in doubt as to what his destiny was to be, leaving the impression on her mind, however, that he was in some manner to be killed. An attempt was made to follow the trail of the posse, but they soon scattered in different directions over the prairie and it was impossible to learn what direction they had taken, but it was expected they would make their way to Franklin, then a small border ruffian village about three miles east of Lawrence. So the posse hunters returned to Estabrook's and directed the men assembled there to report at once at Abbott's house, which they had to do on foot. Abbott and Wood rode back on a double quick, and upon arriving there found some half dozen men and one boy named Howard Dix. Some were armed with sporting rifles and some with Sharpe's rifles, while the boy was armed with a gun without a lock, and one man with nothing but a pocket full of rocks. While this little party were consulting as to what course to pursue, the posse was discovered coming from the south in the road passing on the west side of and very near to the house; Lieutenant Abbott immediately called for every man to form on the north side of the house and waited till the posse came within about ten paces, when with their pieces to a ready, the Lieutenant led his men across the road in front of the Sheriff's posse, which halted without orders from Jones. A tolerably full account of the rescue of Branson from this point is given on pages 116 and 117. One incident omitted there, is given here. Branson having ridden over to his friends, found himself unable to alight from his mule. He was over sixty-five years old, and weighed nearly two hundred pounds, and having ridden for over two hours a miserable, old, sharped-back mule, with neither saddle nor blanket, was so exhausted and chafed as to be helpless. Mrs. Abbott, therefore, who was standing at the left of the little square, ran and helped him to dismount and to walk into the house. In accordance with the advice of the Free-state leaders, at Lawrence, the rescuers of Branson dispersed and secreted themselves for the time being. During the troubles of the spring of 1856, Lieutenant Abbott was in command of a company, and participated in the first fight at Franklin. He afterwards commanded the Third Regiment of Free-state Infantry and acted as officer of the day at Lawrence, when 2,700 Missourians laid siege to the town. He was a member of the first House of Representatives and afterwards elected Senator under the Topeka Constitution. He was a member of the House of Representatives of the first State Legislature, and was State Senator during the years 1867 and 1868. In 1859 he led the party which rescued Dr. Doy from the St. Joseph jail, a full account of which daring exploit will be found in the history of Douglas County. From June, 1861, to the fall of 1866, Major Abbott acted as agent of the Shawnee Indians. During all the time he was their agent he took a paternal interest in their welfare, and managed their affairs with strict integrity, good judgment and capacity. He has always been their friend and the able champion of their rights, as against the politicians who would feign ride into power by aid of the votes of the settlers upon their reservations. When the rebel General Price, threatened to overrun Kansas in the fall of 1864, he organized a company of Shawnees, consisting of every adult male member of the tribe, except one, on the reservation, and those who were already in the volunteer service, and led them on a number of dangerous and successful scouting expeditions. In the winter of of sic 1880-81, he initiated a movement for the organization of a State Asylum and school for feeble-minded children. He successfully urged the Governor to recommend an appropriation for that purpose in his annual message; he then carefully prepared bills providing for the organization and had them early introduced into both branches of the Legislature, and by devoting his entire time and energies during the whole session to enlisting the sympathies of every kind hearted member of both houses, he succeeded in the very last hour of the session in getting his bill passed, and the school is now in successful operation, and one of the permanent institutions of the State. It can be truly said that no act of his eventful life affords him more gratification or satisfaction than this. He still resides at De Soto, and by his neighbors is esteemed for his personal worth and generosity. He is as kind hearted and charitable as he has always been modest, chivalrous and brave.

JOHN S. BEECROFT, Postmaster, De Soto, was born in Mercer County, N. J., in 1836, and reared on a farm, after which he resided for some time in Fulton county, Ill. He passed through Kansas in 1857, and located in Butler County, Neb., where he was engaged ranching for four years. Returning to Kansas in 1861, he settled at Leavenworth, and was for several years engaged in furniture business, and employed in various capacities in that neighbourhood, in all some nine years, after which he went to Butler County, Neb., and took up a homestead, residing on it for a year, then went to Kansas City, where he engaged in furniture business. In the spring of 1879, he came to De Soto, and at once engaged in general merchandise business, in which he has since continued. He was appointed Postmaster in September, 1880, and is Treasurer of District School Board. Mr. B. was married in Butler County, Neb., in the spring of 1861, to Elizabeth Wakefield. They have four children - Laura, George, Charles, and May.

JNO. M. BURTON, agent Johnston County Co-operative Association, De Soto. Was born in Douglas County, Kan., October 23, 1860. In 1876, he moved to Olathe and was employed as a clerk in the store of this co-operative association until August, 1881, when he was appointed agent at Stanley, this county, and removed to this place February 17, 1882. The association carry a stock here of some $4,000, and Mr. Burton is a popular manager.

SAMUEL COOK, farmer, P. O. De Soto, was born in Knox County, Ohio, in August, 1830, and reared on a farm. He was for many years largely engaged in dealing live stock in Knox and Morrow counties, and for two years in grain business. In September, 1861, he enlisted in Company D, Sixty-fifth Ohio Infantry, and served three years. In October, 1864, he turned his attention to railroading; was for a short time employed as baggage master on the P., Ft. W. & C. R. R., at Crestline, Ohio, and for three months worked as a carpenter in Illinois. In June, 1865, he came to Kansas, and has since given his attention to farming. He has 160 acres in Lexington Township, all improved. His principal occupations are raising corn and dealing in live stock. Mr. Cook was married in Mansfield, Ohio, October, 1854, to Miss B. N. Cook. They have nine children - Alice, Edwin W., Mary B., Eva P., Harry L., Edith G., Samuel H., Arthur R. and Madge L.

JAMES HENRY KIRBY, farmer, Section 14, P. O. Olathe was born in Albemarle County, W. V., January 23, 1834, and six years later his parents emigrated to Indiana, thence to Saline County, Mo., where he was reared on a farm. At twenty-one years of age he learned the trade of carpenter, and followed that occupation for a livelihood until he came to Kansas, in August, 1861, locating in Miami County, and turned his attention to farming. In the spring of 1863, he came to Johnson County, resided for two years in Gardner Township, then moved on to his present farm. He has eighty acres all improved. Has quite a fine orchard and raises considerable live stock. During the rebellion he served in the Kansas State Militia. Mr. Kirby was married in Platte County, Mo., in 1856, to Mary T. Victor. They have six children.

ALEX LEAMER, farmer, P. O. Prairie Centre, was born in Haldersburg, Blair Co., Penn., November 29, 1842. In 1856 he came to Kansas, locating with his uncle, William Leamer, at Lecompton, Douglas County, and was employed in mercantile business. In the fall of 1862 he enlisted in the Ninth Kansas Cavalry, serving three years. In 1865 he came to Lexington, Johnson County, purchased at that time forty acres; has now 160 acres all well improved and is largely engaged in breeding blooded hogs. Mr. L. has been Trustee of the township since 1878. He was married at Prairie Centre in 1866 to Mary Ochel; they have four children - Anna A., Sarah L., Harry and Jessie.

JAMES M. MARTIN, farmer, Section 11, P. O. De Soto, was born in Clark County, Ind., February 1, 1833, and fifteen years later moved with his parents to Cincinnati, Ohio, where for five years he was employed as a clerk in mercantile business. He then moved to Illinois and followed agricultural pursuits in Sangamon and Macon counties. In August, 1862, he enlisted in Company E, Fifteenth Illinois Infantry and served until the war closed. Mr. Martin came to Kansas in the spring of 1868 and located in Lexington Township, Johnson County. He has a farm of 160 acres, all highly improved, and raises considerable live stock. He was married in this county in November, 1869, to Mary A. Wear. They have four children - James, Jennie, Myrtle and George E.

THOMAS W. OSHEL, farmer, P. O. Prairie Centre, was born in Monroe County, Ohio, February 17, 1841, and reared on a farm. He enlisted September 1, 1864, in Company I, One Hundred and Seventy-sixth Ohio Infantry, serving until June 22, 1865. He came to Kansas in February, 1866, locating on his present farm. Has 140 acres of improved land and raises considerable cattle and hogs. He was Justice of the Peace for six years and Numerator for the census of 1880. He is a charter member and secretary of Spoon Creek Grange No. 311. Mr. Oshel was married in Johnson County, Kans., December 5, 1867, to Jennie Leamer. They have four children - Kate, Norah, Sarah and Genevra.

CHARLES B. PELLET, farmer, P. O. Prairie Centre, was born in North Brookfield, Mass., in October, 1827, and reared on a farm. In 1849 he went to California and followed mining for about eight years. He came to Kansas in August, 1857, locating in Lexington Township, has since followed farming and stock-raising. He owns some 680 acres of land and is one of the leading farmers of the county. On his place is a fine orchard of about twelve acres, and seven miles of Osage orange hedging. Mr. Pellet was married in November, 1862, to Kate Leamer. They have one son - Henry.

SOLON ROGERS, farmer, P. O. Prairie Centre, was born in Hendrick's County, Ind., June, 1843, and reared on a farm. In December, 1863, he enlisted in Company A, Fourth Indiana Calvary, serving until the war closed. In March, 1867, he came to Kansas and located in Lexington Township, moving on to his present farm in 1869. He has 453 acres of land; is quite an extensive farmer, besides which he handles considerable live stock. Mr. R. was married in Hendricks County, Ind., April, 1866, to Sophie E. Hadley. They have two children - Eva E. and Herbert K.

DANIEL ROLF, farmer and hotel keeper, De Soto, came to Kansas in July, 1857, and located at De Soto, Kan., in Johnson County, and has lived there since. Mr. Rolf was born in Hillsboro, N. H., March 2, 1807, and lived in his native State eighteen years, and went to Hartford, Conn., and remained one year and moved to Massachusetts, and remained there twenty-three years, and removed from there to Ohio in 1847, and located in Marietta, where he built the first bucket and tub factory west of the Allegheny Mountains. He remained there until he came to Kansas. He was married in Massachusetts in 1829, to Miss Hannah Norcross, a native of Massachusetts. He has three children living, by his first wife - Sarah M., Anna and Lydia C. He was again married, in 1845, to Miss Adeline Stone of Massachusetts. They have two children living - Clara E. and Elenorett. Mr. Rolf has been Postmaster of De Soto for eight years, and Justice of the Peace for the same time. He is one of the oldest and most highly respected citizens of this town and county.

CAPT. THEODORE SCHERMERBORN, farmer, Section 24, P. O. Olathe, was born August 20, 1834, at Bath, Steuben Co., N. Y. When quite young he emigrated to East Smithfield, Pa., with his parents, and from 1848 to 1850 was employed at cabinet trade. Then went west, through Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin, and in the spring of 1853 went with Capt. Ruggles' party to California, overland, wintering in Salt Lake City, and working at his trade. He witnessed the encounter between United States troops and Mormon citizens. He was for three years engaged in mining pursuits and then until 1859 worked at wagon makers' trade. Returning to Illinois, via Panama, he enlisted August 15, 1861, at Freeport in Company B, Twenty-sixth Illinois Infantry. He passed up and down the Mississippi and Tennessee rivers and with Sherman to the Sea, participating in eighteen engagements, and marching 9,800 miles. Was promoted to Second Lieutenant March 5, 1864, to First Lieutenant the May following, and to Captain June 6, 1865, and was mustered out July 7 of that year. He came to Kansas in the fall of 1865, and located in Lexington Township, Johnson County, since which time he has followed agricultural pursuits. He owns 200 acres of finely improved land, and is quite a prominent member of the Pioneer Grange, No. 69. The Captain was married in this county, to Miss Sallie Williams, widow, January 20, 1866. She died march 11, 1882, leaving six children.

DAVID VESTAL, merchant, Prairie Centre, was born in North Carolina, in 1831, and reared in Hendricks County, Ind. Here he was employed in the mercantile business, and also taught school. He came to Kansas in the spring of 1861, locating at Spring Dale, Leavenworth County. Was for five years engaged in the mercantile business. In 1866 he came to Johnson County, and located in Shawnee, where he followed the boot and shoe business. Several years later removed to Hesper, Douglas County, and continued the business there. In 1871 he came to Prairie Centre; has since been Postmaster and also carries on mercantile business, and farms on a limited scale. He is Treasurer of the School District. Mr. Vestal was married in Lyon County, Kan., in 1864, to Miss M. A. Moon, who died in 1875, leaving three children - Charles, Levina, and Eli J. Mr. V. was married a second time at Tonganoxie, Leavenworth Co., Kan., in May, 1878, to Catherine Pearson.

[TOC] [part 13] [part 11] [Cutler's History]