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


[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]


Hon. S. D. Lecompte, Chief Justice of the Territory of Kansas, arrived in Leavenworth, January 1, 1855. On the 19th of March he held a preliminary session of the U. S. District Court, Leavenworth County being included in the district embracing Northern Kansas. Beyond a partial organization of the Court, little business was transacted, and adjournment was taken to the third Monday in April, fixed as the time for the regular term. This session was held in a little frame house on the south side of Delaware street, near Third. When the Court regularly assembled, pursuant to adjournment. W. G. Mathias appeared as clerk and I. B. Donaldson as U. S. Marshall. Previous to the formation of the court by Chief Justice Lecompte, the citizens of Leavenworth County were obliged to settle their disputes by an appeal to "squatter sovereign" organizations and a few justices of the peace, possessing limited civil and criminal jurisdiction, who had been appointed by Gov. Reeder during the previous winter.

Leavenworth County has thus obtained a partial political and judicial organization by April, 1855. The act organizing the county was passed at the first session the Territorial Legislature which convened July 22, 1855, at the Shawnee Manual Labor School. Its boundaries were defined as follows: "Beginning at a point on the southern boundary of Atchison County, due north of a point four miles west of Dawson's crossing of the Fort Riley road in Stranger Creek; thence due south to the main channel of the Kansas River: thence down said channel to where it crosses the channel of the Missouri River; thence along the southern boundary of Atchison County to the place of beginning." Says Hon. H. Miles Moore in his fine history of Leavenworth County-a man, by the way, as thoroughly posted not only in the history of his own county but of the State, as any one in Kansas. "As will be observed by reference to the map of the State of Kansas, the boundaries of the county have been considerably changed by acts of the Legislature, since its first incorporation. By act of the Territorial Legislature, approved February 28, 1859. Wyandotte County was cut out of the southeast corner of the county and included what was originally embraced in the Wyandot Indian Reserve. The original county of Leavenworth embraced all of the Delaware trust lands that were ceded to the United States by the treaty of 1854; also the Delaware Indian Reserve and the diminished Reserve, the Muncie lands, a small part of the Wyandot lands. A portion of the Delaware Reserve was ceded to the United States for the benefit of the L., P. & W. R. R., afterwards changed to the U. P. R. R. and then to the K. P. The townships of Tonganoxie (April 1, 1867) and of Stranger (February 28, 1859) were added to the townships of the county out of that tract of land. The Delaware Diminished Reserve was ceded to the M. R. R. R. by treaty in 1865, and the townships of Reno, Sherman and Fairmount were created as hereinafter stated. The Muncie lands consisted of seven sections of land on the Missouri River., now in Delaware Township. They belonged to the Muncie or Christian Indians-proteges of the Delaware Indians-and were ceded to the United States by them about the time of the Delaware treaty."

When the first Board of Commissioners met, September 7, 1855, it will be remembered that Governor Reeder had been removed by the Territorial Legislature. Consequently the appointments of John A. Halderman as Probate Judge and President, ex-officio of the Board; Joseph M. Hall, member thereof, Leavenworth, and Matthew R. Walker, of Wyandotte, third member of the Board. These appointments are all signed by Daniel Woodson, Acting Governor, and issue from the Shawnee Manual Labor School, which the Pro-slavery Legislature had decided upon as the temporary seat of the Territorial Government. As was the invariable rule, these first county officials all swore, when they took the oath of office, that they would support the Nebraska-Kansas Act and the Fugitive Slave Law. The commissions of Judge Halderman and Mr. Hall bear date of August 27, 1855. Mr. Walker, of Wyandotte, was not honored by the Governor until two days later. As stated, the first meeting of the Board was held September 7, 1855; place of gathering, the warehouse of Lewis N. Rees, corner of Delaware and Front streets. James M. Lyle was appointed clerk of the Board and ex-officio recorder and clerk of the Probate Court. At the same meeting the county was divided into Kickapoo, Leavenworth, Delaware, Wyandotte and Alexandria townships, and the temporary seat of justice was fixed the next month at Leavenworth. Subsequently the following county officers were appointed: M. P. Rively, County Treasurer; Bennett Burnham, County Surveyor; James B. Blake, Coroner; Green D. Todd, Sheriff; L. T. Moore, Assessor.

The constables and justices of the peace for the several townships were appointed, so that the county was permanently organized as a body politic. In one particular, however, she was lacking - no decision had been reached upon the permanent location of the county seat. In September the Board of Commissioners appointed A. Dawson, Martin Hefferlin and Samuel H. Burgess as judges of the election to be held on the second Monday of October for the purpose of deciding the matter. Eight miles above Fort Leavenworth was Kickapoo City, a pet of Gen. Atchison and the Pro-slavery party, a thriving village containing saw-mills, groceries, saloons, a newspaper - the Kansas Pioneer - and all the other paraphernalia of civilization and ambition. Both in a political and a business sense she was a hardy rival - one hard to beat. Six miles below, also on the river was Delaware City, a flourishing and plucky little town, and possessing, like Kickapoo City, indefinite powers of expansion. Election day, Otober (sic) 8, 1855, witnessed a hot triangular fight. Two steam ferries, crowded with voters from Weston and other localities in Missouri under the Pro-slavery thumb, plied between the eastern shore and Kickapoo City and Delaware City. Platte County, Mo., Gen. Atchison's home, turned out some thousand noble voters on that day. Kickapoo triumphed. She cast 892 votes, to Delaware's 860, Leavenworth's 753, and Center's (an insignificant interior town) 60. The band from Weston pealed forth joy from brassy throats. Cannons roared. Grand ball, and an immense turnout in the evening. But Delaware City had another card to play. She made a charge before which the glory of Kickapoo City went down in darkness. When Delaware City heard the result of the election she suddenly remembered that some of her "citizens" had been debarred from the privilege of voting. Rather than to have injustice done, her polls were thrown open a second day, and the result was, Delaware, 928; Kickapoo, 878; Leavenworth City, 726; Centerville, 66; Uniontown, 2; The Center, 18; Pork Landing, 1. Then ensued a "legal contest," in which the material features of the Louisiana imbroglio were foreshadowed. On October 16 the corporation of Leavenworth appeared before the Board, through her attorneys, Amos Rees, D. J. Johnson, A. Macauley, et al., and protested against the reception of the Kickapoo and Delaware poll books. When the returns had been canvassed and the result declared, as given above, Judges Hall and Walker proclaimed Delaware City the county seat - Judge Halderman refusing to give any certificate of election or to take any action in the matter. This occurred at a meeting held November 6. Four days later the formal petition of M. L. Trueswell, H. Miles Moore, et al., against the reception of the Kickapoo and Delaware returns, was ruled out by the Board - Judge Halderman dissenting. The other two members decided that "the Board had no authority to go behind the returns." Amos Rees, in behalf of the city, filed a written notice to the Board of her intention to apply to Judge Lecompte for a writ of injunction against the location of the county seat at either Delaware or Kickapoo. Gen. B. F. Stringfellow, attorney for Kickapoo, moved that the Delaware returns be thrown out on the ground that voting was continued on Tuesday, October 9. Messrs. Wilson, Almond and Hollingworth objected, on the part of Delaware. Judge Hall sustained Gen. Stringfellow. Mr. Walker decided that Delaware could vote two days if she wanted to. Judge Halderman was quite non-committal. The motion was consequently lost, and it is useless to inform anyone of moderate penetration, the judges did not grant the writ of injunction applied for by Leavenworth. Judges Hall and Walker had declared Delaware City the county seat. In January, 1856, Judge Lecompte decided for Delaware.

It does not seem "out of order" (although it breaks somewhat into the straight line of narrative regarding the location of the county seat) to notice, in brief, the condition of the county finances. By the latter part of 1856, in July, the rate of the county and territorial tax was established. After this came the August term of the United States Court, and the civil commotions - the John Brown war, etc. As Sheriff Todd, who had been vainly endeavoring to collect the county taxes, remarks in a published report to the Commissioners: " Then came the civil commotions, originating out of the rebellion of the Abolition fanatics of the Territory against the laws. The history and circumstances of this period which lasted for nearly two months are fully known and understood by your honorable body. You are fully aware of the almost entire suspension of business during said time. Nearly every public officer of the county was absent, and engaged in upholding the laws of the Territory. Among them was the undersigned," etc., etc.

He knew the Board could not, and would not, censure him for having collected so small an amount of taxes. Furthermore, the sale of the Delaware Trust Lands was soon to take place, and the people were treasuring up their money in order to purchase their homes. The Sheriff reported an almost entire failure to collect the revenue of Leavenworth County, viz: Delinquent taxes, $3,765.07; collections, $690.93. This was in November, 1856. It was a bad state of fiscal affairs, and, Sheriff Todd's resignation was accepted.

A county building 30 x 20 feet (two rooms) having been completed by G. B. Redman, in Delaware City, the county seat was removed there February 20, 1857. In March, L. F. Hollingsworth, one of the most prominent citizens of the new county seat was ordered to build a new jail eighteen feet square, two stories, at a cost not to exceed $600. Delaware's triumph, however, was of short duration, for the Legislature of this year passed an act providing for another election to decide upon the location of the county seat, upon the first Monday of October, 1857.

Kickapoo city accomplished another remarkable feat in the voting line, the Board of Commissioners, upon October 23, announcing the returns to be - Kickapoo city, 1,004; Leavenworth city, 968; Center, 21; Wyandotte, 1.

Whereupon the following proclamation issued forth, it being a verbatim copy:

"At a regular meeting of the tribunal transacting county business began and held at Leavenworth city on Monday, the nineteenth day of October A. D. 1857, the said tribunal proceeded according to the requirements of the statute passed by the legislative assembly of Kansas Territory and approved February 20, 1857, to cast up the votes and proclaim the result to be as above.

"The said tribunal, therefore, does proclaim the said city of Kickapoo to be the permanent seat of 'justis' for Leavenworth County.

" And the said tribunal doth also order that the Sheriff of Leavenworth County do cause this procklamation (sic) to be printed and posted up at least twenty different public places throughout the county, and alsothat (sic) he have the said procklamation (sic) printed in all the papers in the said county of Leavenworth.

(Signed) George W. Purkins, Pres.; William Franklin, Com. (Attest) Henry B. C. Harris, Clerk.

"Ordered by the Board that the county records be removed to the seat of 'justic' as soon as 'practicable.'"

Leavenworth City petitioned that the Kickapoo returns be thrown out, on the ground that voting was not confined to the county; that the predicted returns were not filed in the office of the County Clerk within two days after the election; and that neither the judges not the clerks of the election were sworn according to the law - the latter not at all.

Joseph W. Hall, commissioner from Kickapoo, had died during the preceding June, or it may have been that Leavenworth City would again have been slighted. But her claims were no longer overlooked, and it was finally decided that she had received the majority of the legal votes cast, and was entitled to the county seat. That decision has never been reversed.


In May, the county accepted the land donated by Jeremiah Clark for a court-house square, consisting of the east half of Block 13, being 300 feet on Third street and 180 feet on Central avenue and Walnut street. The other half was purchased for $13,000. John P. Haskell was appointed architect of the county buildings, $35,000 bonds were voted in June, and it certainly looked as if the county was going to obtain a creditable "seat of justis" right away. But, notwithstanding this apparent alacrity, the courts and county offices were located tor many years in the City Hall, over the Market House, corner of Fifth and Shawnee streets, in the same building now occupied by the Fire Department. It was not until February, 1873, that the present imposing and convenient Court House was completed. It is built of red brick, with stone trimmings, is two stories in height, with basement, and elegant mansard roof. Its lofty tower and fine clock add to the attractions of as elegant a court-house building as can be found in the West. The building proper cost $120,415.75 Add to this the cost of clock, steam apparatus, fixtures and furniture, the value of the site, etc., and $175,000 would not be an overestimate of the total value of the property. Its situation commands one of the grandest views of the beautiful city of Leavenworth.

In May, 1860, it was first proposed by the county to establish a poor-house. The poor-farm, consisting of 200 acres of land, and a pest-house and poor-house, is situated about four miles southwest of Leavenworth, in High Prairie Township. The average number of inmates is about thirty, and the entire property is valued at $12,000. The county jail, a two-story brick structure costing $10,000, was built in 1872.


in 1855, the Territory of Kansas adopted the school law of the State of Missouri, by which each district was to be controlled by and inspector and three trustees. Previous to 1858, however, no districts in this county were formed. A few school districts were then organized. The first County Superintendent was George E. Budington, elected December 14, 1858. His successor was James Taylor, appointed March 4, 1859. In 1861 the State system of public instruction was adopted. Following is a list of superintendents who succeeded Mr. Taylor: Isaac T. Goodnow, elected November 7, 1862; H. H. Bloss, November 8, 1864; B. L. Baldridge, November 6, 1866; H. D. McCarty, November 3, 1868, J. P. Bauserman, November 8, 1870, and November 5, 1878; R. B. Soper, November 2, 1880; Lyman Morgan, November 6, 1882.

The schools of the county are in charge of Lyman Morgan, superintendent of public instruction, and have been brought to a commendable state of perfection. There are seventy-eight districts in Leavenworth County, eighty-four schools and as many teachers. The estimated value of the school buildings is $228,000. They are mostly constructed of wood, but there are some good brick and stone buildings. The furniture and apparatus of the different schools are valued at $41,320. This makes the total valuation in the neighborhood of $270,000. The average monthly wages paid male teachers is $46 and female $40. The average daily attendance at the district schools, outside the city it will be understood, is 5,000. The receipts for the year 1881-82 were $58,000, and the expenditures $56,700, which leaves a balance of $1,300 in the treasury.

Present county officers: Robert Crozier, judge of the district court; John Rohe, clerk of the district court; L. Hanson, judge of the probate court; O. S. Hiatt, county auditor; J. W. Priest, sheriff; Enos Hook, county treasurer; J. W. Niehaus, county clerk; C. W. Curtan, register of deeds; J. C. Lynch, coroner; Thos. P. Penlon, attorney; D. N. Barnes, engineer; Lyman Morgan, superintendent of public instruction; S. F. Rhea, surveyor.


The principal crops raised in Leavenworth County are corn, winter wheat and oats. In 1872, the acreage of corn was 43,000. This had increased to over 50,000 acres in 1882. Stranger, Tonganoxie, Fairmount, Sherman, Easton and Alexandria townships making an especial good showing. The increase during ten years in the acreage of winter wheat has been proportionately much greater, from 4,245 in 1872 to over 29,000 acres in 1882. Kickapoo, Fairmount, Reno and Easton are now (July 1882) the banner townships. The acreage of oats has increased within the decade from 8,714 to over 11,000. The whole number of acres in farms is 228,524, and the value of property $12,299,385. That the county has no fears of famine is inferred from the fact that 146,022 bushels of old corn were on hand March 1, 1882. During that spring the busy farmers also planted 50,424 of their acres to corn and 11,385 to oats. Leavenworth County is also favored as a dairy and live stock county. During the past year over 280,000 pounds of butter were produced. There are 8,500 horses in the county, 7,700 cows, over 12,000 other cattle, 4,000 sheep and 20,000 swine. As to orchards, she has, in round figures, 170,000 apple trees in bearing, 70,000 peach and 21,000 cherry.

From the figures of the assessors it is learned that the total value of all taxable property in Leavenworth County is $7,227,796.69 against $6,519,279.12 for 1881. The number of acres of taxable property is 283,093; of town lots, 13,069. The average price paid for improved land throughout the county is $25 per acre; unimproved from $5 to $10. The aggregate value of railroad property is $707,038.69.

From 1860 to 1870, the population of Leavenworth County increased from 12,606 to 32,444. In 1875 the population had decreased to 27,698. Since then the increase had been gradual but healthy. According to the last returns (made in the summer of 1882) the figures by townships and cities are: Alexandria, 1,017; Delaware, 1,597; Easton, 1,145; Fairmount, 928; High Prairie, 1,129; Kickapoo, 1,528; Leavenworth City, 18,766; Reno, 874; Sherman, 1,173; Stranger, 1,151; Tonganoxie, 1,208; Tonganoxie City, 321; Lansing 231. Total for 1882, 31,068


The following meteorological record for the past thirty years, furnished by William T. Marvin, Esq., is valuable alike to all citizens of Eastern Kansas:

October, 1854. A beautiful month; slept on the open prairie near Riveley's store, in Salt Creek Valley, on the night of October 30. November, Indian summer continued. December, the same. January 1855, the same until January 30, when we had a furious snow storm, and the weather was cold, with occasional intermissions until the middle of March. The spring was dry and windy until May 20, when it began raining, and the summer of 1855 was quite wet. The fall of 1855 was quite pleasant, and mild weather continued until about Christmas, when it turned very cold, the Missouri River closed in twenty-four hours, and snow fell to great depth. On the first day of February, 1856, it was said that the mercury stood as low as forty degrees below zero. The river opened early in March, and the first boat came up March 8. The spring was early, and the summer very pleasant, with abundance of rain. River closed early in December, and remained fast till the last of February. The spring of 1857 was the coldest and most disagreeable I ever experienced; the summer was very dry and hot, the fall pleasant; we had a cold snap in November, then it turned mild, and the winter of 1857-58, was constant Indian summer. The sumer (sic) of 1858 it did little else but rain, and the streams were all past fording. The winter of 1858-59 was quite wet, with but little cold weather. The spring of 1859 was cold, the summer very fine. The winter of 1859-60 was very dry, and the year 1860 was the great drouth (sic). Summer of 1861 was fine; winter of 1861-62, cold with deep snow. Summer of 1862 very pleasant, and winter of 1862-63 very mild. Summer of 1863 very pleasant, and winter of 1863-64 cold. The first day of January, 1864, guards froze to death at Fort Leavenworth. Summer of 1864 very hot and dry, winter mild. Summer of 1865 wet, and winter mild. Summer of 1866 wet, winter mild till March, when we had two weeks of intense cold weather. The grasshoppers deposited their eggs here for the first time in September, 1866, but owing to the cold wet spring of 1867, the most of them were destroyed, and they did but little damage. Summer of 1867 was cool and pleasant; winter of 1867-68, very mild. Summer of 1868, very hot, and the grasshoppers came back the first of August. Winter of 1868-69 was mild; the summer of 1869 was wet, but the hoppers ate nearly everything up. Winter of 1869-70 was mild; the summer of 1870 wet. Winter of 1870-71 mild, summer of 1871 very pleasant. Winter of 1871-72 very cold, and wheat all winter killed. Summer of 1872 pleasant, winter cold with deep snow. First part of the summer of 1873 very wet, later part very dry; crops were a failure, except winter wheat. Winter of 1873-74 cold; summer of 1874 hot and dry, and grasshoppers again. Winter of 1874-75 cold; summer of 1875 very pleasant, and late crops were good. Winter of 1875-76 very mild; summer pleasant. Winter of 1876-77 mild; spring and summer of 1877 very wet. Winter of 1877-78 very wet and roads impassable. Summer of 1878 pleasant; winter of 1878-79, from middle of December to middle of January, cold, the remainder mild. Summer of 1879 pleasant, the winter following mild. Summer of 1880 pleasant, the winter following, very cold with deep snow north, which caused great damage to the bottoms, in April and May, 1881. Summer of 1881 very pleasant; winter mild. Summer of 1882 very cool till August, since which time it has been warm with some hot winds.

[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]