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


[TOC] [part 25] [part 23] [Cutler's History]


In January, 1866, a number of settlers in the vicinity formed themselves into a town company and founded the town of Montana. It is situated in the eastern part of Labette County, on the Neosho River, and about eight miles north of Oswego. Being in the valley of the Neosho, it is surrounded by a fertile agricultural country. As soon as the land came into market the site was entered as a claim and proved up by S. S. Watson, who also was president of the town company, and J. S. Waters, the secretary.

The first building erected on the site was a log store house, belonging to B. F. Simons, which he built in April of 1866, and began the sale of merchandise.

In March, 1867, V. and J. S. Anderson brought and set up a saw mill at the place. During that summer, E. H. Fagan built a room and opened the second store, and in the fall, H. M. Miner erected a hotel. The expectation of this being made the county seat was universally indulged, from which the growth became rapid and promising.

Montana at one time received a large vote for the seat of government, but failed to obtain the coveted prize, as they say, against the frauds practiced at Oswego.

An effort was made to secure the M., K. & T. Railroad through the town, in which they also failed, that road having been constructed to the west of the town about six miles, upon which Labette was founded as a rival, to which a large part of Montana was taken. The Memphis & Northwestern road was surveyed through the town and part of the road had been graded, and bridge abutments built upon the river, etc., but the company failed to complete the enterprise, which was finally abandoned, thus defeating again the sanguine hopes of the aspiring little village. A stage line from Fort Scott to Chetopa was established in 1869, by Capt. Terry & Son, and one from Osage Mission, forming a junction with the former at Montana. These were the only means of public communication.

The hope of securing a railroad had given an impetus to the progress of the town, so that as early as 1870, it numbered a population of about 800, with more that a dozen places of business. The signal failure to complete any of the enterprises which so stimulated its growth became the secret of its decay, and at present it contains a population of only about two hundred, with a post office, three stores, blacksmith shop, school and churches, a mill and a few residences.

An attempt was made in 1872, to organize a city government for the town, but was not perfected. The rough element by which the town was filled while the grading of the Memphis & Northwestern Road was going on, whose lawlessness was sought to be restrained, was the cause for which the organization of this sort was made, till in 1877, when the place became incorporated as a city of the third class, with J. J. Woods, Mayor, and A. B. Chapman, G. T. Peak, Samuel Ballentine, J. P. Bradfield and J. M. Mark, Council. This organization is still maintained, with J. J. Freemen as the present Mayor.

The post office was established at Montana in 1866. B. F. Simons, held the commission of postmaster, and kept the office in his store room. A mail route from Lawrence to Oswego ran through the place, and mail was obtained weekly. At first it was a post horse route, until the stage line was established when the mail was brought by the stage. It is now obtained by a stage line, from Oswego.

Samuel Ballentine is the present Postmaster.

The first school was taught in the town in the spring of 1878, by Mary Biggs, and was kept in a little log house, which Simons had used for a store room. About thirty pupils attended at this time, while at present the school population is ninety-eight. A schoolhouse was built in 1870, and is a two-story frame structure, 40x24 feet, and cost $3,000.

Montana has two church organizations. These are the Presbyterian and Methodist Episcopal. The former was organized in 1877, by Rev. S. W. Griffin, who is the present pastor. Soon after the body became established, a church building was erected, and is a small frame house. A Methodist congregation was organized recently, of which Rev. Mr. Shambaugh is pastor, but no church house has yet been provided.

Only one secret organization has been effected at this place. The Evergreen Lodge, No. 86, of the Ancient. Free and Accepted Masons, was instituted in November, 1869, with eleven charter members. A. W. Swift was chosen worshipful master; J. S. Waters, senior warden; J. S. Anderson, junior warden; D. M. Watson, secretary. The present officers are J. S. Anderson, worshipful master; Uria Davis, senior warden; Thomas Wilson, junior warden; J. M. Mahr, secretary.

Montana has but one manufactory, a grist and flouring mill. This enterprise was begun in the fall of 1870 by W. E. Livesay and J. O. Charles, and is now owned and operated by Samuel Ballentine. The mill contains three run of buhrs, and has a capacity for grinding 250 bushels of wheat per day, and from which is turned out an excellent quality of flour. The mill building is a two-story frame, and the machinery is run by steam power.

Like many other of the smaller places in the county, Montana is over-shadowed by the larger cities, and merely exists without making much progress, and the prospects for the future are by no means flattering or promising.


SAMUEL BALLENTINE, proprietor of the Montana mill, merchant and Postmaster, came to this county May 20th, 1866, and took a claim which he improved. Afterwards improved a farm in Section 36, North Township, which he still owns, and went to Montana in 1871 and engaged in the merchandise and milling business. January 22, 1877, he was appointed Postmaster. He was born in Tyrone County, Ireland, August 17, 1837, and came to America in 1855, located at New York, and remained some seven years as clerk. He then went to Philadelphia and opened a store. In 1865, went to Omaha, Neb., and remained one winter, then came to Labette County the following spring. The year of 1866 was spent in Iola, Kas. He was married June 6, 1871, to Mrs. Jane Holt, a native of Morrow County, Ohio. They have two children, Margaret and Bessie. He is a Mason, and both he and wife are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

JOHN H. CRANE, farmer, P. O. Labette City, came to Kansas in October, 1869, settling in Montana Township, five miles northwest of Oswego, where he purchased 160 acres of good land. Soon after his arrival he paid $8 per hundred for flour, and for other things in proportion. Mr. Crane was born in Washington County, Ill., 1841, was educated in the district school of that State, and brought up a farmer. He was married to Mrs. Nancy J. Simons, August 31, 1861. She was born in 1845, in the same county and State. Mr. Crane's parents are living in Cherokee County, Kas, having moved from Illinois to Kansas in 1868. Mrs. Crane's mother died in Kansas, and her father died in Illinois. Mr. Crane has eight children living, Isaac L., William Henry, Mary Ellen, Margaret F., Albert James, Clarence Eddy, Sarah Alice and Ida Jane. Mr. Crane is a prosperous farmer, having good stock buildings, fruit, etc.

WILLIAM KENT, farmer, P. O. Oswego was born in Lincolnshire, England in 1838. He emigrated to Kendall County, Ill., November 6, 1856, and work on a farm for three years for his uncle. In 1859 he then crossed the plains to Virginia City, Nev.. where he was occupied for some time in mining silver and afterwards gold. He went to Oregon, and from thence to the Washington Territory, Solman River and Elk City, returning to Portland. His next stopping places were Victoria and San Francisco, and back to Portland, Ore., where he was married to Mary E. Brown, of that city, August, 1863. Soon afterwards returned to San Francisco and from there to Alpine County, Cal., where he was seven years, and in Carson Valley three years, making in all thirteen years spent west of the Mountains. On November 25, 1873, he moved onto his prairie farm; four miles from Oswego. He has two hundred acres of land of which he has some of the finest fruits and shade trees, and tame grasses to be found in the county. Mr. Kent has seven children - Nevada Alpine the first white child born in Alpine County, Cal., 1864: Abigail in the same county, 1866; Argus Cassius, 1868; Mary J., 1870; Eva J., 1873; Willie W., 1877; James W., 1880. Mrs. Kent's mother is living with her daughter in Kansas, her husband having been killed in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California, by an unknown assassin, in 1870. Mr. K. and family are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

HON. J. M. MAHR, physician and surgeon, came to Labette County, located in Montana in November, in the year 1867, is a son of Daniel and Mary Montague Mahr, the father, of St. John, N. B., and the mother, of Quebec, Can. J. M., when fourteen years of age, at Rochester, Mo., began to read medicine. After a year's study in Missouri, he went to Texas, settling in Bell County, where he continued the study of medicine until the fall of 1860, when he returned to Lexington, Mo., to complete his study under Dr. Hull, now a resident of Labette City. In the year 1862, he enlisted in the army, and was appointed Hospital Steward of the General Hospital. At the end of seven months he was honorably discharged and again within one month, he re-enlisted as a private in Company A. Seventh Regiment, Illinois Volunteer Cavalry, in the field at La Grange, Tenn. At the end of nine months he was elected Orderly Sergeant, and in a short time was appointed Hospital Steward and Assistant Surgeon of the regiment. Was mustered out with the regiment late in the fall of 1865, and located at Sidney, Ill., and engaged in the practice of Medicine and sale of drugs, one year, after which he attended medical college at Cincinnati, Ohio, and graduated from the E. M. Institute, of that city, on the 28th day of May, 1867, after which he removed to Kansas. Was married March 29, 1866, to Miss Matilda J. Harmon, daughter of Charles and Almirah Harmon, of Gilboa, Putnam Co., Ohio. Miss H. was born August 20, 1847, and moved with her parents to Missouri, and from there to Paris, Edgar Co., Ill., where she was educated. From Paris she removed with her parents to Sidney, Ill., where she was married. They have three children - J. Charles, George Chester, and Coral Mary, having lost one, Leonard S. The Doctor was born in Galena, Ill., August 29, 1844. Both are members of the Presbyterian Church. He is a Free Mason, having filled the position as W. M. of his lodge for eight years. The Doctor was elected a member of the Legislature in the fall of 1870 as a Republican; since that time he has affiliated with the Democratic party, and for the last two years has served as Chairman of the Democratic Central Committee. The Doctor has filled several offices of honor, and is one of the representative men of Labette County.

JOHN D. NEIL, farmer, P. O. Oswego, was born in Sullivan County, N. Y., 1838. He came with his parents to Mason County, Ill., in 1849, where he was brought up on a farm. On June 20, 1861, he enlisted in Company E. Twenty-seventh Illinois. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Belmont, but with one companion, Elisha Owens, he escaped March 10, 1862. They were ten days fording rivers and streams and running narrow escapes, until they reached Columbus, Ky. They were at one time concealed under the roof of a cabin filled with cotton, when twenty-five cavalry men were scouring the country to find them. He was afterwards with the army at Shiloh, Nashville, etc., and was mustered out in the fall of 1864. Mr. Neil was married November 26, 1865, to Sarah Nash, of Illinois, by whom he has six children - Carrie, Clarence, Susie, Annie and Tommie. Mrs. Neil died February 14, 1880. On January 16, 1883, he was married to Mrs. Belle Lesourd, of Hamilton, Butler Co., Ohio. Mr. Neil emigrated to Labette County, Kan., in the fall of 1869. He purchased 320 acres of land, four and one half miles northwest of Oswego, upon which he has erected a good home, and has good fruit and shade trees, etc.

HON. J. S. WATERS, attorney and farmer, residence Section 21, Township 32, Range 21, Labette County. Mr. Waters was born in Warrick County, Ind., March 25, 1837. He was the eighth child and seventh son of William Waters, who was a native of Monroe County, N. Y., and who was soldier under Gen. Scott (then Col. Scott) at the battles of Lundy's Lane, Chippewa and Bridgewater, in 1812 and 1813. His mother's maiden name was Rachel Cox, who was born in Canada. The subject of this sketch moved with his parents and elder brothers from his native State to Henry County, Iowa, in the year 1847, where he lived with his parents on a farm until 1849, when his mother died. This to some extent broke up the family, and two brothers went to California, and in the spring of 1850 two others went, thus scattering the family and leaving the youngest to maintain themselves. Young J. S. spent the few first years from that time in laboring by the month. driving oxen until the summer of 1853, when he went to Galesburg, Ill., and there engaged as apprentice to one D. M. Chapin, a saddler, where he served faithfully for nearly three years, receiving from Mr. Chapin very valuable lessons which created within him a desire for books, which he read and improved his many leisure moments to the improvement of his mind. After his term of service with Mr. Chapin was ended, he went to Burlington, Iowa, and worked for H. B. Ware (father of Senator Eugene Ware, of Fort Scott) for a few months, boarding in the family of Mr. Ware on South Hill, and to Mrs. H. B. Ware he feels indebted for her many acts of kindness and moral lessons taught. In 1857 he returned to his native county in the State of Indiana, and in the Autumn of 1858 was a candidate for Representative in the State Legislature on the Republican ticket, which at that time was very unpopular in Southern Indiana. In 1860 he removed to the adjoining County (Spencer) carrying on his mechanical trade. There, in July, 1860, he married Miss S. M. Glenn. To their union were born three children, all of whom died, together with their mother, within two years. Soon Mr. Waters went to Nebraska City, where he engaged as local editor on a paper published by his brother, during which time he pursued the study of the law, which he had been casually doing for five years past. In 1865 he resolved to remove to a more congenial latitude, and learning of the Osage Treaty, he at once came to the Neosho Valley, doing his own cooking and washing. At that time there was less than 100 white persons in the county. He was commissioned by Gov. Crawford Notary Public for Neosho County, in 1866, and upon the organization of Labette County he was commissioned for Labette county, being the first commission issued to any person in either county. Was admitted to the bar November, 1867, and in 1869 was elected County Attorney vice B. W. Perkins, resigned. In 1870 was re-elected for full term of two years. Had a large practice in his home courts, and perhaps did more land office practice at Humboldt than any other attorney not a resident of Humboldt. In 1876 was elected County Attorney again, and also re-elected in 1878. In 1880 was elected to the Legislature, and also re-elected in 1882, serving with some distinction on the Judiciary and Railroad Committees, as well as on some Conference Committees. In 1879 became editor of the Oswego Independent and continued in that capacity until May, 1883, resigning his editorial chair to go to Harley, Idaho, where he takes charge of a U. S. Land office, having been commissioned by President Arthur, Receiver for four years, beginning March 5, 1883. In May, 1882, Gov. St. John appointed Mr. Waters Director of the State Penitentiary, where he served with marked ability, and was, as such Director, complimented by Gov. Glick in his message in January, 1883. In March, 1879, he was married to Mrs. Amy Myers, of Spencer County, Ind., an old acquaintance, by whom he has one child - a daughter, Maud, aged three years. Mrs. Waters' maiden name was Pitt. She was born in Spencer County, Ind., August, 1837. She is a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Waters is a member of Evergreen Lodge, A., F. & A. M., at Montana, Kansas, and R. A. C. No. 15, Oswego, and Commandery No. 7, Oswego, Kansas. His landed estate where he lives is 565 acres, well improved. He lives a life of pleasure as well as usefulness, possessing the unbounded confidence of all his neighbors and acquaintances; is well and favorably known throughout the State as a political leader, having attended most of the State Conventions and other important political meetings in the State for the past ten years.

COL. J. J. WOODS, farmer and stock raiser, Section 8, Township 32, Range 21, P. O. Montana, came to Labette County, Kansas, June 11, 1869, and purchased his present farm which now consists of 760 acres of very fine improved land. He was born in Brown County, Ohio, January 11, 1823, is a son of Samuel and Allia Richey Woods, the father a native of Washington County, Pa., and the mother of Ireland, and when quite small came to America. They were married in Clermont County, Ohio, and settled on a farm, having a family of twelve children. J. J., eleven years of age, with a brother, went to Rush County, Ind., and remained two years, and then returned to Brown County, Ohio, and learned the saddler's and harness trade. When twenty years of age, he entered the Augusta College of Kentucky and after five months, received an appointment to West Point. He graduated there in the class of 1847, and was appointed Second Lieutenant in First Regiment Artillery, U. S. A., and did service in the Mexican war, August, 1848. He returned to the states and was promoted to First Lieutenant November 10, 1848, and assigned to the Pacific coast, remaining there until 1853, then returned to New York and resigned his commission. In the fall of 1853 he went to Jackson County, Iowa and engaged in farming. September 18, 1856, he married Miss K. C. Hight, a native of Defiance County, Ohio, born April 5, 1840. They have five children - Oscar E., born October 2, 1857; Lillia A., born December 23, 1859. Clara E., born October 8, 1868; Nellie E., born February 10, 1877; and Jennie L., born June 28, 1880. Lost two children. October, 1861, he received a Colonel's commission of the Twelfth Regiment Iowa Volunteer Company, and did active service for three years. He was many times in command of a brigade, participating in the engagements of Fort Henry, Donelson, Vicksburg and Shiloh, where he received two wounds. During 1864, he participated in the long and tedious marches through Missouri after General Sterling Price. After the command he returned to St. Louis, and was mustered out November 26, 1864 and returned to Iowa. In 1865, Mr. Woods became editor of the Maquoketa, Iowa, Excelsior, and continued to edit it with a short intermission, until he removed to Kansas. In 1871 he was appointed by the Secretary of the Interior, one of a commission of three to appraise the Cherokee lands west of the 96? degree in the Indian Territory, and in the same year was also one of the committee of seven, sent to West Point by General U. S. Grant. In 1872, was elected State Representative from Labette County, Kansas, and again in 1875, being Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and before the close of the legislative session of 1872, was appointed a Regent of the Kansas State University. He has filled many public offices in Kansas having been Notary Public some twelve years and is one of Labette's most representative men.

[TOC] [part 25] [part 23] [Cutler's History]