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


[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]


Labette County is abundantly supplied with the advantages of railroad transportation, four distinct lines of road running through the county north and south, and east and west. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Road passing along the east side of the county from north to south, was built in 1870, the line being projected from Hannibal, Mo., to Denison, Texas. A branch called the Neosho Division, from Parsons to Junction City on the Kansas Pacific Road, was also built at the same time. The St. Louis & San Francisco Road, entering the county on the east side about midway from north to south, and passing across the county in the direction a little north of west, was constructed in 1879. The Memphis, Kansas & Colorado Road, passing across the north part of the county, terminating at Cherryvale, was built during the same year. This road was built as a narrow gauge, but in the fall of 1882 it came into the hands of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad Company and was made a standard gauge, and the name changed to that of this company. The Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas Railroad, built in 1871, passes through the northwest corner of the county on which Morehead Station is located.


The question relative to the division of Neosho County became agitated by those living in the southern part, in the summer of 1866. In November of that year they thought to establish a government of their own by the election of a full set of officials, which, no legal division of the county having as yet been made, or a new county created by the Legislature, was pronounced invalid. At this election C. H. Bent was chosen representative for this district but not bearing legal credentials, was not admitted to a seat. The Legislature soon after assembling took the matter in hand, and passed the division act by which Labette County was created, and when this was done. Bent was duly admitted to a seat in the House.

Upon the adjournment of the Legislature in February of the next spring. Bent called upon the Governor, S. J. Crawford, and secured the appointment of county officers, and the temporary location of a seat of government for the new county. Those appointed were: S. W. Collins, J. Rice and C. H. Talbott, Commissioners; Bergen Van Ness, Probate Judge; Ellmore Craft, District Clerk; A. T. Dickerman, Clerk, and Benjamin Rice, Sheriff; and the county seat was temporarily located at Oswego.

An election was held on the third Tuesday of May, 1867, for the purpose of regularly electing county officers, at which Nathan Ames, D. C. Lowe and Mr. Shay, were elected Commissioners; Benjamin Rice, Sheriff; Bergen VanNess, Probate Judge; A. W. Jones, County Assessor; A. T. Dickerman, County Clerk; Ellsmore Craft, Clerk of the District Court; C. C. Clover, Treasurer; J. F. Newton, Superintendent of Schools, and J. W. Parkinson, County Attorney.

The county is divided into sixteen civil township organizations.

With the creation of this county, Oswego was made temporary county seat. The question of the selection of a permanent location of a county seat came before the people in regular election on the third Tuesday of May, 1867. Three places were voted upon, namely, Oswego, Montana and Salem. The vote on each of these stood as follows: Oswego, 156; Montana, 145, and Salem, 84. Since no one place received a majority of all votes cast, there was no choice made. The commissioners then ordered a special election for locating the seat of government to be held in two weeks following. The two places receiving the highest number of votes at the last election were the places to be voted upon which were Oswego and Montana. The election was duly held, and resulted in favor of Oswego, where the seat of government became permanently fixed.

The building first used by the county as a court house, was a small wooden house which the town had erected for school purposes, and was among the first buildings erected in Oswego. After the erection of a new schoolhouse, the town donated the old building to the county for a court house, which, with a small addition that was built to it, served as a court house until the erection of the new court house, in the early part of 1880. The old house, however, was insufficient for the accommodation of all the offices, part of which were kept in whatever place could be secured suitable for the purpose.

The new court house building, a moderately large, plain, two-story brick structure, was built by the citizens of Oswego, and donated to the county.

The first term of the District Court for Labette County began October 7, 1867, with William Spriggs, Judge; R. S. Cornish, Clerk; Benjamin A. Rice, Sheriff, and D. W. Clover, Deputy Clerk.

The first case tried was that of J. P. May vs. John Staginwall, and was an appeal from the Court of James Logan, Justice of the Peace.

The first case brought in the District Court, was that of Jesse A. Shoat against Mary A. Shoat, for divorce, which was withdrawn by the plaintiff, the costs being taxed against him.

H. C. Cook was elected Clerk of the District Court, in the fall of 1874, and has since succeeded to the office at each recurring election.


Nothing speaks more highly for the intelligence and progressive spirit of the settlers of Labette County than the early attention they gave toward establishing schools. No sooner had a few gathered together than a school of some sort was provided and maintained for the intellectual training of the youth. And among the first buildings to be erected was that great indicator of material and mental progress, the schoolhouse. As early as 1867 a district was unofficially organized, which included within its limits the town of Oswego. In which a school was taught by Mrs. herbaugh, and was the first school taught in Labette County. The house in which it was kept stood on Tibbett's farm, in the south part of the town. The building was made of logs, and without a floor, except the bare earth, with rude seats and no desks. Owing to sickness among the pupils the school was broken up before the expiration of the term. This school, although the first in the county, was not the first public school. With the organization of the county, J. F. Newton held the office of County Superintendent, by appointment of the Governor of the State. Immediately on entering upon the duties of the office he officially organized school districts in the east part of the county, numbered from one to twenty-five inclusive; some of which became disorganized from time to time, which upon re-organization disarranged the order of time in which the respective formations took place. The district in which Oswego is situated being the first organized, became No. 1, and in which the first public school was taught by Robert Elliott, at a salary of $50 per month. No school building had been erected, and a small frame house was rented, and a "frolic" was made to fit it up, or rather supply furniture suitable for the necessities of the school. Among the tools brought for the construction was a two-inch auger, with which holes were bored in the rough planks and legs supplied; the planks hitherto resting upon large stones. In this way seating was provided, and the school building furnished.

The second school taught in the county was in a little log house on Big Hill Creek, about midway between Cherryvale and Mound Valley, and was district No. 19, one of the twenty-five first established by Superintendent Newton.

The organization of districts did not correspond with any regular territorial lines but as a general rule, followed upon streams where the earliest settlements were made. In 1867, seventy-three children attended school, fifteen of whom attended subscription school, and fifty-eight in the public schools. In 1879, twelve years later, there were ninety-seven school districts, and a school population of 7,273, and in 1882, there were 105 organized districts, and a population of 8,661, having an enrollment of 7,062, and an average daily attendance of 4,045, under the instruction of 130 teachers. Thus is seen that in a period of three years following 1879, the gain in the school population was more than 1,000 in number.

County institutes were early begun for the training of teachers to greater efficiency in their work. The first effort made in this direction was in 1869, when Robert Elliott was County Superintendent. It was held in a small frame, now used as a carpenter shop, and was both an interesting and profitable session, with about thirty teachers present, and several valuable instructors. These institutes have since been held annually and are liberally attended and supported.

The Labette County Agricultural Society was formed in 1871; J. M. Wood was elected president of the association, C. B. Woodford, secretary, and C. O. Perkins, treasurer. Shortly after the organization was perfected, the exhibition grounds, comprising twenty-two and a half acres, were procured. These grounds have been fitted up as the means would justify. They are enclosed by a tight board fence, and supplied with floral hall, amphitheatre and other necessary buildings, and contain an excellent speed ring. Annual fairs have been held since the society was organized, and creditable displays have been made. C. Montague is now president of the association; C. A. Wilkin, secretary, and I. W. Patrick, treasurer. Much interest is manifested in the enterprise, which serves materially in stimulating and promoting a more exalted idea of agriculture, both theoretical and practical.

The Labette County Historical Society was organized July 16, 1878, through the exertions of Nelson Case, W. A. Starr and R. M. Donley, who were designated, by a few of the oldest settlers, a committee to take the necessary preliminary steps. At the date of its formation, the society embraced only about a dozen members. The original officers were: Nelson Case, president; George Lisle, vice-president, both of Chetopa; J. S. Waters, of Oswego, secretary; M. W. Reynolds, of Parsons, corresponding secretary; C. M. Monroe, of Fairview, treasurer. The present officers are: Nelson Case, president; W. A. Starr, secretary; T. C. Cory, treasurer; Wesley Farrot, of Elm Grove, and B. W. Perkins, of Oswego, directors. The society was incorporated November 21, 1881. Among the early settlers interested in this society, may be named: A. T. Dickerman, who was a trader with the Indians, a resident of Fairview Township; M. M. Kingsbury, druggist, who came in 1865 or 1866, Oswego; C. C. Clover, John Clover, Bowman Altamont, the Hyatts, John Richardson, J. F. Hill, N. M. Purviance, J. D. Conderman, A. G. Drake and J. A. Gates. Stated meetings are held in the city of Oswego, Kan., on the first Wednesday of each regular term of the District Court, and special meetings at the call of the executive committee or vote of the society. Their rules are, of course, subject to change by proper methods.


According to the Assessor's returns the personal property of the county in 1882 was as follows: Horses, 4,525--value, $103,977; cattle, 5,456--value, $65,472; mules, 1,049--value, $32,546; sheep, 8,202--value, $8,541; swine, 7,408--value, $11,200; goats, 10--value, $10; farming implements, $27,197; wagons and carriages, $27,648; bonds, $6,650; stocks, $7,846; National Bank shares, $50,000; moneys, $17,460; credits, $5,561; merchandise, $138,378; notes, $25,045; mortgages, $16,352; other property, $147,914; total, $686,697--less constitutional exemption, $219,054; net taxable personal property, $467,643.

Taxable lands under cultivation, 175,120 acres; not under cultivation, 229,080 acres--aggregate value, $1,324,865; number of improved village lots 3,616; unimproved 4,558; value, $646,613; value of railroad property, $582,726.44; total value of all property, $3,021,647.44.

There were raised in 1882 the following numbers of acres of the principal crops: Winter wheat, 25,571; rye, 566; corn, 83,127; barley, 41; oats, 12,907; buckwheat, 43; potatoes--Irish, 1,030; sweet, 94; castor beans, 12,036; cotton, 130; flax, 2,004; millet and Hungarian, 5,579; pearl millet, 196; rice corn, 22. Meadow--timothy, 1684; clover, 224; prairie, 24,758; other tame grasses, 353; pasture--timothy, 318; clover, 15; other tame grasses, 765; prairie, 50,934.

Nurseries--359 acres. Number of apple trees--bearing, 154,240; not bearing, 99,210; pear trees--bearing, 6,568; not bearing, 13,051; peach trees--bearing, 162,886; not bearing, 43,852; plum--bearing, 6,456; not bearing, 6,370; cherry--bearing, 22,948; not bearing, 18,031; vineyards--144 acres, and 165 gallons of wine made.

The following are the number of rods of the different kinds of fences in the county--Board, 34,299; rail, 124,245; stone, 13,783; hedge, 707,084; wire, 135,990--total, 1,015,041, or 3,173.2 miles.

The following are the number of acres of the different varieties of forest trees so far planted: Honey locust, 3; walnut, 36; cottonwood, 102; maple, 298; other varieties, 974--total, 1,413. But little attention has as yet been paid to the culture of the osage orange tree, red cedar and catalpa. This omission will doubtless be remedied in the near future.

The population of the county in 1870 was 9,973; in 1875, 14,571; in 1878, 17,196; in 1880, 22,736, and in 1882, 25,347--distributed among the townships and cities as follows; Osage, 1,435; Walton, 619; North, 1,025; Neosho, 732; Mound Valley, 1,517; Labette, 576; Liberty, 1,117; Montana, 973; Canada, 628; Mount Pleasant, 833; Fairview, 758; Oswego, 768; Howard, 794; Elm Grove, 1,104; Hackberry, 1,103; Richland, 1,185; Parsons, 5,567; Oswego City, 3,048, and Chetopa, 1,565.

[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]