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


[TOC] [part 19] [part 17] [Cutler's History]


Chetopa is situated near the southeast corner of Labette County, on the Neosho River, and on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad. The land selected for the town site had been taken by Dr. George Lisle, as a claim, as early as 1858. The settlement, in this part of the county, dates from January, 1857. At this date a society know as the Powhattan Agricultural Association was formed at Powhattan, Ohio, composed of ten members, the object of which was to establish a colony somewhere in Southeastern Kansas. Dr. George Lisle was made president of the association, and William Doudna, secretary. A committee of three, composed of G. Lisle, G. Ewers, and S. Steel, was sent to look up a location, with instructions to visit the Neosho Valley. The committee left Ohio April 1, 1857, and after looking about for awhile, reached the spot on which Chetopa stands on the 17th day of that month. The beauty and fertility of the country was apparent, and the party were satisfied that no better place could be found, and concluded to select this for the location of the colony. Dr. Lisle went back to Ohio and reported progress, and on the first of November, returned to this Eden with his family, and in May, 1858, staked off his claim which is now the site of Chetopa. The first spring he broke ten acres and planted it to corn, and in the following spring he broke as much more ground, and planted the whole to this crop. The new colony was flourishing, undisturbed by any cause whatsoever, idly dreaming of the future greatness of their new lands. The civil war broke out, and its devastations reached the homes of these colonists and almost wholly destroyed them.

There were many here of both whites and Indians that were adherents of the Southern cause, to which they rendered as much aid as lay in their power. One or more bands of guerrillas were formed to fight the battles of the South, and protect those whose opinions varied from those of the now somewhat tyrannical Northern men, who, in such times, would trample upon those who happened not to have opinions agreeing with their own. These bands committed many brutal acts of bloodshed and conflagrations, against the advice and counsel of the wiser and more prominent of their number. Mathes, who had been a trader at Oswego from an early date, is charged with being the leader of these bands and guilty of their acts. But the better authority proves that Mathes was a civil, whole-souled man, who counseled against such proceedings, and that whatever acts of atrocity were perpetrated upon Union men in this section were against his protests and without his aid or assistance. Mathes was a Virginian by birth and rearing, and it is said that he possessed the genial hospitality characteristic of the people of that State. That his store door stood open to settlers at all times, who when sick, could here obtain provisions without money and without price. There were, however, many acts of brutality committed by the Southern allies in this section, which unjustly were charged to Mathes. A pursuit was made upon these marauders by a body of Union troops, under Col. Blunt, and Mathes, who held a commission as Colonel in the rebel army, was overtaken a short distance below Chetopa, shot and killed. In November, 1863, Capt. Willets, of the Fourteenth Kansas, invaded this country, and, under order of Gen. Ewing, burned houses, property, etc., so as to prevent their falling into the hands of the rebel army. Dr. Lisle's houses and property were destroyed, among which was a fine medical library and case of instruments. About forty houses were burned near Chetopa. This devastation of the country annihilated the settlement for a time, most all having left for more secure quarters, others entering the armies of either the North or South, while some fell victims to this difference of opinion upon the threshold of their own homes.

The war being ended and peace restored, those who had left their homes in this wilderness, as it were, returned to them, in the hope of restoring what had been uselessly destroyed. They were followed by many others, and the work of improvement and settlement went on anew.

In December, 1866, W. Doudna brought a saw mill to Chetopa, which was set up in the following February, by W. H. Reed, and thus the supply of building material became more abundant, and the work of building became easier and more rapid than before, when lumber was made by the slow and laborious use the whip-saw.

The first meeting of the Chetopa Town Company, was held at Humboldt, Kan., January 22, 1868; George Lisle was president; W. Doudna, secretary and George Hanson, treasurer. The claim belonging to George Lisle was selected as the town site. The charter for the town was obtained from the Secretary of State, March 23, 1868. The town was now laid off and the sale of lots and building began. The first building erected upon the site, after it was laid off, was a house built by George Hanson, for Perry Barnes, which he ran under the name of the Western Hotel, as a public house. In June, M. H. Dersham erected a house and opened a stock of drugs. In the following September, C. P. Spaulding completed a large house and hall, and in January, of the next year, Herman Brothers established a grocery business. John Reed opened a dry goods store, August 4, 1869, and in September, 1869, B. A. Aldrich began in the hardware trade. The growth of the town was comparatively slow until the rumor of railroad building became noised abroad. A meeting of the citizens of the town was held in Spaulding's Hall, February 12, 1870, at which they pledged bonds to the amount of $50,00.00 to the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad, in order that they might secure the line of that road through the town; and at a meeting held February 25, 1870, the contracts were signed by the authorities and all needful arrangement perfected, for the building of the road. The road was completed to the corporate limits of Chetopa in February, 1870, and reached the South line of the State June 8, 1870, which event was celebrated by speeches and other ceremonies.

Chetopa was to be the pet railroad town. Here was to be the junction of the Neosho Division, and the main line of this road; this was to be the terminus of a division of the road, and the shops were to be located here. The railroad officials owned large interests in the town site and were zealous in its building. The town became widely advertised, and everything looked to its onward march to greatness. Men seized on the prospect and business houses became established contemporaneously, and in immediate succession, large wholesale liquor and grocery houses were established, and the town in a short time had reached a population of about three thousand people, with a goodly number of business houses. Some difficulty arose between some of the domineering railroad magnates and parties interested in the town, and the former finding themselves unable to have all things their own way, withdrew all support from the town, and instead of fulfilling their promises as to certain enterprises which the town was to receive, went to Parsons and founded that place to which all advantages were taken instead of their going to Chetopa.

When this move was made, Chetopa fell like a crash. Hitherto, under the stimulus of the railroad company's promises, everything was at the highest pitch of excitement; business men opened houses on grand scales; costly and extravagant improvements were made upon the town; an elegant school building was erected costing about $24,000, and the city became heavily bonded, and men incurred indebtedness in the hope of paying out by means of the rush of trade which it was certain the town was to receive. No sooner had the railroad support been withdrawn, than the news fell like a blight over the town. Nearly all that had been done was now valueless, to a great measure. A majority of the population abandoned the town and property became a drug, so much so that lots and blocks sold for merely nominal sums, and the assessed valuation of all the property in the place, was less than the indebtedness of the town.

As an example of the extravagant notions of the success of the place may be mentioned, that in 1870, Shively & Ellis established a wholesale grocery house, and F. Frunberg started a wholesale liquor house. The National hotel was built at a cost of $12,000. It was, too, the shipping point for the Texas and Indian cattle trade which also assisted to the temporary rush.

Marsh erected a fine brick block in 1871, and other expensive improvements were made. Although the town suffered severely from these reverses of fortune, yet the favorableness of the location in the midst of a fine agricultural country, and its nearness to the Indian Territory from which extensive trade is derived, were sufficient to prevent it from being entirely abandoned, and indeed sufficient to support a live and prosperous little city, despite the meanness of railroad officials to the contrary. The city now contains a population of about 1,500, with several manufacturing establishments, churches, schools, and many business houses engaged in the supply of a flourishing trade.

The first Fourth of July celebration was held in Chetopa, in 1867. John Secrest was orator, and J. A. Shoat marshal. A celebration was held on the same day of the next year. J. H. Crichton was orator, and speeches were make by various other parties. Father Moore delivered the prayer in the opening exercises. It was an extremely dry season, no rain having fallen in a good while. The venerable father prayed that the dry, parched earth might be refreshed with the moistening tears of heaven, and in the afternoon, as was generally observed as coincident with Father Moore's petition, a copious shower of rain fell, whether or not in answer to the faithful man's prayer does not appear.

The patriotism of the settlers again called them together on this memorable day, in 1869. Sydney Clark, member of Congress, was chief orator, and speeches were made by John Speer, Col. Hoyt, Rev. Mr. Bateman, T. D. McCue, J. H. Clark, and Ess-Teh-Roh-Ghers, a chief of the Osage nation. The celebration of this year was remarkable on account of the overflowed condition of the streams, the immense size of the assembled multitude, the barbecue and the speeches. An ox, for the barbecue, was furnished by Mrs. Grant, and 1,000 loaves of bread by Miller & Smith. The speeches of Messrs. Clark and Hoyt savored strongly of anti-monopoly sentiments, as also did that of the Osage chief. Indeed, the latter orator went to the extreme, and expressed his opposition not only to monopolies, but also to progress and improvements in general. He said he was opposed to railroads, because the sound of the whistle of the locomotive scared away the buffalo, and to saw-mills because they cut up the timber.

A stage line between Fort Scott and Chetopa was established October 18, 1869, on which stages plied weekly until, in December, they became tri-weekly.

The cemetery grounds of twenty acres, taken from Hard's claim, were purchased and laid off in October 1869. The first child born in the town was Sarah Emma Reed, daughter of J. H. Reed, on October 23, 1867. On the 17th of September, a fire broke out accidentally, and consumed several buildings. Among them was Fisher & Sturgis' block. The loss was about $25,000. Another fire took place June 7, 1873, the loss amounting to $4,000; and in August, 1882, still another burning occurred, in which several good business houses were consumed; but the buildings are being rapidly replaced by new brick blocks. A hook-and-ladder company was organized June 24, 1871, and a fire company November, 11, 1874, with G. H. Bates, foreman, and W. Doudna, first assistant. On the 30th of September, 1873, the Hiatt boys, desperadoes and robbers, raided the town for purposes of plunder, but were met and repulsed by the citizens, and were driven back into the Territory.

At the election in February, 1871, Chetopa was a prominent candidate for the county seat of Labette County. There were four places voted upon, namely, Oswego, Chetopa, Labette City and the center of the county. The vote stood as follows: Labette City, 1,588; Oswego, 1,011; Chetopa, 887; center of the county, 237. This election, however, resulted in no choice, no one place receiving a majority of all the votes cast.

Chetopa was chartered as a village, April 12, 1869. M. G. Pratt, W. Gage, Henry Lisle, Leander Brown, and A. S. Corey were elected trustees. In the following year, it became incorporated as a city of the third class, and at the first election for choosing city officers, on the 5th of April, 1870, F. M. Graham was elected Mayor; W. B. Gregory, C. H. Ludlow, W. A. Nix, G. A. Degraff and Dr. L. P. Patty, Councilmen.

The present city officers are; J. B. Cook, Mayor; George Eddington, Treasurer; A. G. Drake, Attorney, John W. Breidenthal, Clerk; J. P. Shields, Police Judge; S. B. Sloane and William Bently, constables.

A petition signed by the citizens of Chetopa and vicinity, was sent to the post office department asking that a post office be located here to be called Chetopa, after the Osage Chief Chetopah. The office was established in 1860, with Dr. George Lisle as postmaster. The office was simply located and as yet no mail route was established by the Government, and the mail was obtained by a private carrier from the Quapaw Agency. The destruction of the settlements by the Rebellion, also suspended the post office, which became re-established in the early part of 1866, with Col. W. Doudna, postmaster; the business of the office commencing July 1, of that year. The mail was now obtained weekly from Humboldt. In January, 1870, Parker and Tisdale secured the contract for carrying the mails daily, between Girard and Chetopa, and when the M. K. & T. Railroad was completed, Chetopa obtained the most of the mail from that road, receiving mail from a few other points by stage. The office was made a money order office July 12, 1869, and the first order was issued to C. A. Corey, July 23, 1869. In April, 1870, $850 was added to the salary of the postmaster. J. M. Cavaness, at present, holds the office of Postmaster.


The first school taught in the vicinity of Chetopa was that kept in a small log-house about a mile south of town, and taught by J. C. Henry. The house was built of logs which were hewn off after the building was put up, was covered with a shake-board roof, and was twenty-two feet square. This building served for both school and church meetings. The first school that was taught in the town was in the winter of 1867, by Ellen Craft, and was kept in a private dwelling that had been built by William Carico. A school house was built in 1870, a small frame 18 by 24 feet in size, and was dedicated February 3, 1870.

At a meeting of the school board on May 28, 1872, they decided to submit a proposition to the vote of the people, as to whether bonds should be voted to the amount of $25,000 for the erection of a new school building. It was flush times then with the city and the vote cast June 10, 1872, favored the issuance of the bonds. Work began upon the erection of the new house soon afterward, and the building was completed and dedicated with appropriate ceremonies on the 4th of July, 1873. The address was make by Col. J. W. Horner, and speeches were made by J. B. Cook, R. J. Elliott, A. H. Ayers and others. The building is a handsome three-story brick, constructed with artistic and appropriate projections, etc., and contains several fine large school rooms.

The schools are thoroughly graded and afford efficient instruction. The school population of the city is 558, the enrollment 435, and the average daily attendance 275, under charge of five competent instructors, with J. W. Weltner as principal.

The footprints of the itinerant in the region round about Chetopa are found dating back to the early part of 1858. It was then that the Rev. J. P. Barnsby preached to the settlers the gospel of truth. In the following October Mr. Barnaby was succeeded by Rev. J. E. Ryan, who organized an extensive circuit. This was the winnowing of the sparks that eventually were to ignite into the lambent flames of a Christian community.

No sooner had a sufficient number of settlers of any particular faith become located in the vicinity, than a church body was duly organized.

The Methodist Church was organized in June, 1868, with a membership of thirteen, and Rev. Thomas Palmer was pastor, who was succeeded in March, 1869, by Rev. P. McNutt. Work upon the erection of a church edifice began November 4, 1868, and was finished in July, 1870. The house was dedicated to purposes of spiritual services, September 4, 1870, and Rev. Dr. Bowman preached the dedicatory sermon, and was assisted in the ceremonies by Rev. Messrs. Lewis, Conley and Fox. The building is a large one-story stone, and cost $6,700. The church body was incorporated June 24, 1869. The present membership is 160, and Rev. A. P. George is pastor.

The Presbyterian Church was organized September 20, 1868, under Rev. C. H. McCreery, who has since continued pastor of the flock. The organization was effected with a membership of six; namely S. H. Carr, Mr. and Mrs. S. Cellers, Mrs. R. S. Lenhart, L. Billington and G. F. Smith. S. H. Carr and S. Cellars were elected elders. The present membership is 100. The foundation of the church building was laid in October, 1869, and the building was completed in July of the next year. It is a one-story frame, costing about $6,750. The house was dedicated August 28, 1870, by Rev. T. H. Hill, assisted by Rev. Messrs. McCreery and Lowry.

The United Presbyterian Church was established May 4, 1869, by Rev. E. C. Cooper. The first members were, Cranson, Charlotte and Elizabeth Taylor, Mrs. E. D. Butterworth, Mrs. E. J. McGaven, Edward and Rachel Johnston, J. A. and Maggie E. Endsley and George Butler. Cranson Taylor, J. A. Endsley, and E. Johnston were elected elders. Work upon the Church building was begun in September, 1870, band was completed in the following year. The dedication of the church took place October 29, 1871, and Rev. J. A. Herron preached the dedicatory sermon. The building is a fine, large, one-story brick, of costly appearance. The membership has increased to eighty, and Rev. J. D. Graham is pastor.

The Baptist Church was organized May 1, 1869, by Rev. A. C. Bateman, with eight members. The church building, costing $3,300, was erected during the spring and summer of 1870, and was dedicated August 14, of that year, by Rev. Ellis, assisted by Revs. McCreery, Lowry and Bateman, December 15, 1870. Rev. N. I. Rigby accepted the call as pastor of the church. The Baptist Association of ministers met in the this church August 2, 1872. There is a present membership of fifty-nine, with Rev. Henry Ward, pastor.

The Episcopal Church was organized February 11, 1872. The church building was soon after erected, and is a neat frame structure. The membership at present is about forty-seven.

The Catholic Church was organized by Father Bononcini, with thirty families. Previous to this, however, Father Dougherty had held meetings in the neighborhood, but no body was formed. A building was purchased and fitted up for a place of worship. A parsonage building was erected in 1881, costing about $1,200. There is a present membership of fifty-five families under Rev. C. C. Hospenthal.

There is, also, a Colored Baptist Church, with Rev. A. W. Green, pastor; a Second Methodist Episcopal Church, composed of colored people, and an African Methodist Episcopal Church, with Rev. Mr. Brewer, pastor.

The social fellowship of the citizens of Chetopa is amply cultivated in three large and liberally supported lodges.

The Chetopa Lodge, No. 73, A., F. & A. M. was instituted in 1870, with J. H. Crichton, worshipful master; J. R. Dew, senior warden; J. C. Watson, junior warden; W. Doudna, treasurer; A. A. Case, secretary; E. B. Hayes, senior deacon; S. Rawson, junior deacon; J. C. Wilson, tyler. A celebration was held June 24, 1870. The present membership of the lodge is sixty, and James Brown is worshipful master, and E. W. Bedell, secretary.

Chetopa Lodge, No. 48, I. O. O. F., was instituted August 10, 1869, with the following charter members: J. C. Wright, W. A. Cannon, S. W. Frye, W. H. Gage, Lee Brown, S. Rawson, J. M. Ridenour and James Chism. A celebration was held July 4, 1869, at which speeches were made by A. H. Ayres, J. S. Ritter, J. Secrest, J. H. Hibbets and others. An anniversary was held April 26, 1872, and speeches were made by Rev. G. W. Pye, F. A. Bettis, J. W. Horner, J. S. Ritter, etc. The lodge has a present membership of thirty-eight, with G. C. Ward, noble grand; C. M. Fry, vice grand; S. T. Herman, secretary, and O. St. John, treasurer.

Chetopa Lodge, No. 27. A. O. U. W., was instituted December 10, 1879, with twenty-one members. J. B. Cook was chosen master workmen; E. W. Bedell, foreman; L. M. Thompson, overseer; Joseph Craft, guide, and O. St. John, recorder. The present membership is seventy-five, and at the election of officers held June 29, 1882, J. W. Bradenthal was chosen master workman; S. Lyon, foreman; J. N. Anderson, overseer, and O. St. John, recorder.


Several attempts have been made to establish newspaper publications at Chetopa, only one of which still continues in successful operation. The Advance was established in 1879, the Southern Kansas Immigrant on July 10, 1874, by J. B. Cook & Co.; the Democrat May 1, 1872, and which survived until the 15th of the November following; the Herald on March 4, 1876, by Capt. Hibbets and F. W. Frye, which has also been discontinued. The Advance was first published at Paola. In January, 1869, it was removed to Chetopa by A. S. Corey, the proprietor, and was edited by J. W. Horner, who became proprietor of the concern June 1, 1869. In the April previous the size of the paper was increased by adding one column to each page, and on January 5, 1869, was enlarged to an eight column folio, and the name changed to that of the Southern Kansas Advance. J. M. Cavaness was made foreman of the office July 1, 1869. S. A. Fitch purchased a half interest in the paper January 5, 1870, and retired from the business the following August. J. M. Cavaness became business manager, January 1, 1871, and one year following purchased a half interest with J. W. Horner. On February 22, 1875, J. M. Cavaness bought out the entire paper, which he conducts under the name of the Chetopa Advance.

The First National Bank was established December 4, 1871, of which J. E. Marsh was president, and E. J. Stewart vice president, F. H. Ketchum cashier, and Lee Clark assistant cashier. In July, 1875, the charter was thrown up and it became a private enterprise. The bank building was erected March 18, 1873. Although other banks were started in the town, yet this is the only one that has continued in business up to the present date. The Chetopa Savings Bank was started July 1, 1871. C. H. Safford was president and G. S. Newman cashier. W. B. Ketchum & Co. started a bank in July, 1870, which subsequently suspended operation.

Chetopa, among her institutions, contains, three manufacturing establishments; two grist and flouring mills and a planing mill. Other establishments of this kind were started but are no longer continued.

The Anchor Flour Mill was started in 1871, by F. J. Hunter & Co. The other members of the firm were E. W. Bowen and R. J. Williams, whose interests were afterward purchased by B. S. Edwards, the firm being now B. S. Edwards & Co. During the last three years the mill has been increased from two to four run of stones, with a capacity of one hundred barrels per day. The power is a forty-five horse-power engine.

The Farmers' Grist and Flour Mills were established in 1867, by Gilbert Martin. The property changed hands several times, and, in 1876, came into the possession of F. M. Reamer and C. O. Williams. The size of the mill has been increased from two to four run of buhrs, with two sets of rolls. The gradual reduction process was added in July, 1882. The capacity is about eighty barrels per day, and the motive power is a forty horse-power engine.

A saw and planing mill was built in the summer of 1868, by J. L. Taft, L. and J. Brown and H. W. Symons. On October 7, of the same year, John Secrest purchased an interest in the concern, and later, in December, J. L. Taft retired from the firm. The concern changed hands several times, finally falling into the possession of a stock company, called the Chetopa Furniture Company. In August, 1879, it came into the hands of L. Brown and L. M. Bedell, the present owners, and is operated in the manufacture of furniture, doors, sash, blinds, etc.

John Torrence opened a foundry and machine ship, December 10, 1870, and A. Large began the pork packing business in November, 1873.

[TOC] [part 19] [part 17] [Cutler's History]