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


[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]


The Territorial Legislature of 1855 organized Breckinridge County, attaching it to Madison County for civil, criminal and military purposes. It was named to honor Vice-President Breckinridge. The county seat of Madison County was Columbia, situated one and a half miles southeast of Emporia, and founded during this year by the first settler in Breckinridge County, Charles H. Withington, assisted by T. S. Huffaker and Wm. D. Harris, the other two incorporators. The bogus statutes which brought Breckinridge County into being, fixed the terms of the United States District Court in 1855, on the second Thursday of October, and in the county of Madison on the third Thursday of October. During and after the year 1856 the terms of court in Breckinridge County were to commence on the third Monday of July and December. Saunders W. Johnson was Judge of the Third District, but held no court until December, 1858.

These same bogus laws of 1855 made the County Commissioners to consist of the Probate Judge and two other members chosen by the Legislature. A Sheriff was also to be elected, and all were to hold their offices until the general election in 1857. The Commissioners appointed the Clerk, Treasurer, Coroner, Justices of the Peace and Constables. On the 25th of August, 1855, the Legislature elected the the following officers for Breckinridge County: Probate Judge, T. S. Huffaker; Commissioners, Harmon B. Elliott and Charles H. Withington.; Sheriff, John B. Foreman. John Ratliff was appointed Clerk. These were the first officers for what is now Lyon County. Only a few meetings were held by the Commissioners. Columbia being out of their way, and furthermore the troubles of 1856 interfered with them. In 1855 Mr. Withington was elected to the Council and Arthur I. Baker to the House. They were Free-state men and the Legislature Pro-slavery; they never obtained their seats. The next set of county officers consisted of Mr. Baker, of Agnes City, Probate Judge; C. Columbia and C. H. Withington, Commissioners: and Elisha Goddard, Sheriff, appointed by the Legislature. This occurred February 17, 1857, and at the same time Breckinridge was detached from Madison County, and Agnes City, the residence of Judge Baker, was declared. But the first regular convention for the nomination of county officers was held at Americus, September 26, 1857. The action of its members gave dissatisfaction to a number, and a rival ticket was put in the field by the convention which met at Kansas Center, October 1. The voting was done viva voce, the election being held October 6. and the Americus ticket triumphed. It was: A. I. Baker, Probate Judge; E. Goddard, Sheriff; N. S. Storrs, Treasurer; Clerk and Recorder, 0. V. Eskridge; Surveyor, - Voke; Coroner, W. B. Swisher; H. W. Fick and William Grimsley, Commissioners.

Prior to this election, the people had not generally recognized the authority of the county officers; and the organization of the county into municipal townships, and the regular discharge of official business dates from this time.

Dating from this year (1857), when the influx of immigration was at its height, was the agitation to annex three miles of Madison County to Breckinridge. In February, 1859, a bill was passed by the Legislature, making the change. Although the Legislature had made this addition to the original territory of Breckinridge County, which was twenty-four miles square, a mass convention of the newly-attached "three-mile strip" assembled at Columbia, the old county seat, and resolved that as the Governor ignored the change and would refuse to commission officers elected, they deemed it inexpedient then to organize. But their fears were soon dispelled, and the three-mile strip became a part of the county, politically as well as territorily. In March, 1859, four new townships were formed, and Cottonwood and Emporia extended south to the new county line.

It was during 1858-59 that the bitterest fight occurred between Americus and Emporia over the location of the county seat. Emporia desired to postpone the settlement of the question, until the southern portion of the county should acquire the "three-mile strip." But the advocates of Americus brought the matter to a vote in October, 1858, and their town was declared the county seat by a majority of fourteen. But there were still doubts as to the legality of the submission so that although the Board of Supervisors made all the preliminary arrangements, in March, 1859, to build a jail and court house at Americus - and as was facetiously observed, in the "Morisco style of architecture" - "Spanish castle" style - the order was rescinded during the next month.

The first meeting of the United States District Court, Judge Elmore presiding, was held in Americus, December 20, 1858. It was to have been held at Agnes City, but between the date of notice and time of assembling, the change in the county seat had occurred. The term lasted two days, the cases tried being mostly for trespassing on school lands. The petit jurors were: U. P. Oakfield, R. W. Stevenson, William J. Carney, Van R. Holmes, E. P. Bancroft, Emporia Township; Zimri Stubbs, E. Yeakley. William McClelland, Benjamin Wright, C. H. Dake, Fleming Smith, Americus; R. H. Best, Albert Watkins, John Watkins, John Wayman, Leonard Bush, Kansas Center; John Lohr, Mathias Friel, David Riddle, N. W. Douglas, Agnes City; Ell Davis, Samuel McVey. David Roth, George W. Evans and William Holsinger, Cottonwood. Grand Jurors: R. W. Cloud, William Wendell, Robert Best, Oliver Phillips, Kansas Center Township; J. 0. Hyde, William Perry, G. M. Walker, Leigh McClung, Emporia; Dempsey Elliot, George Rees, John Conner, William McCullouch, Americus; James Jackson, Messrs. Morgan and Moon, Cottonwood; George Lea, William C. Anderson, G. B. Griffith, Agnes City.

The second term of court was also held in Americus, closing March 21,1859. William 0. Luineker - was acquitted on a charge of larceny, and the indictments for trespasses on school lands, and for selling liquor without a license, were held by Judge Elmore to be fatally defective, being accordingly quashed.

But although a court house was not erected In Americus. It continued to be regarded as the county seat, up to the time of the general election of 1860, held November 6. Emporia received 884 votes for the honor. Americus, 141; Fremont, 73; Breckinridge Center, 14; Forest Hill 1. This election put an end to the contest.

Among the early-day towns which figured considerably In 1858, 1859 and 1860, may be mentioned Fremont, Waterloo and Forest Hill. As is above noticed, they were competitors for the county seat. Fremont was laid out in 1857, eight miles north of Emporia, and at one time had attained to almost the dignity of a village. William B. Swisher was President of the Town Company. The town soon contained about a dozen houses, a good general store and several shops. Fremont is now farming land and no trace is left of Emporia's former competitor. Waterloo was laid out in 1858 by W. H. Mickel, fifteen miles northeast of Emporia. Mr. Mickel kept a hotel for several years, and the town grew to contain four or five other buildings. Travelers passing over the old State road between Lawrence and Topeka, patronized Brother Mickel to some extent, but the place never grew in an alarming degree. Forest Hill, another competitor for the country seat, gave up the ghost in 1860, although even then it contained only a few buildings. The "town" was situated on the high land on the east side of the Neosho, nearly opposite the junction being laid out in 1858.

The next important event in the general history of Breckinridge County, was the cutting of Madison County in two; attaching the northern twelve miles to this country, and the southern portion to Greenwood. This was done at the last session of the Territorial Legislature in 1861. There was considerable opposition, as the measure completely annihilated Madison County, but the legality of the act was soon sustained by the State Supreme Court, to which an appeal had been taken. This made the county thirty-nine miles long.

In February, 1862, the bill changing the name from Breckinridge to Lyon County received the Governor's signature. It was named in honor of the hero of Wilson's Creek, who had met his untimely death during the previous August.

The other changes in the limits of Lyon County, which have fashioned it to its present shape and dimensions are thus detailed in the history prepared by Jacob Stotler, editor of the News, from which, and from whom, much of the material here presented is taken: "In the legislative session of 1863 a law was passed detaching from Lyon County two miles in width of territory on the west side, from the south line of our county as far north as the north line of Chase County. In 1864 an act was passed detaching two miles in width of territory, on the west side of our county, from the line between Ranges 17 and 18 to the north line of the county, and attaching the same to Morris County, thus straightening the west line of the county and leaving it twenty-two miles wide. It contains 858 square miles, or 549,978 acres of land." Its boundaries are now as follows: "Commencing on the west line of Osage County, at the corners to Sections 14, 15, 22, and 23, of Township 15, south of Range 13 east; thence west on section lines and the south line of Wabaunsee County to the east line of Range 9 east; thence south, along said range line to the north line of Township 22 south; thence east on said township line to section line between second and third tier of sections in Range 13 east; thence north on section lines and the west lines of Coffee and Osage Counties to place of beginning."

The State officers who have represented Lyon County, will be found in their appropriate place in the general State history. The present county officers, November, 1882, are as follows: Probate Judge, L. B. Kellogg; County Attorney, J. W. Feighan; County Clerk, William F. Ewing; Clerk of the District Court, J. G. Traylor; Superintendent of Schools, J. E. Klock; Treasurer, Joseph Ernst; Sheriff, Thomas L. Ryan; Coroner, J. D. Davison; Register of Deeds, William F. Chalfant; Surveyor, Robert Milliken; Superintendent of the Poor, E. Brown.

In March, 1866, the people voted on the question whether they should, or should not, erect a suitable building in Emporia, for the accommodation of the country officers. The result of the election, 327 to 164, showed that some of the old feelings of rivalry still lingered in the breasts of Americus, Waterloo, and Agnes City. The building, a plain two story stone structures, was completed during the winter of 1867-68, at a cost of $19,795.

In 1875, at the general election, the people of the country declared most emphatically that they did not want any addition to the court house building.

The County Poor Farm is situated one mile southwest of Emporia. It comprises eighty acres of land, and a substantial two story brick building, used as a Poor House. The entire property is valued at $6000. The farm is in the trustworthy charge of E. Brown, and the inmates are given all possible comforts.


The first school in the county was opened by Rev. G. W. Torrence, in the summer of 1858. In October of that year, Miss Mary Jane Watson opened a free school in Emporia, and about the same time O. A. Tripp taught at Forest Hill, and W. E. Dennison at Fremont. These were among the earliest schools in the county.

In November, 1867, G. C. Morse, the County Superintendent of Schools, made his first annual report, from which are taken the following figures: In the thirty-four districts, containing schools, there were twenty-six male and twenty-five female teachers. The amount of State school funds belonging to the county was $1,271.64; county fund, $624.75. Of the 34 districts, 25 possessed school buildings, 9 stone, 10 frame, 6 log. Total number of school average, 1,623; attending, 1,195. The value of the school property was $18,625.

As a contrast the following facts are taken from the report of the County Superintendent, for 1882: Lyon County is divided into 97 school districts, in which 148 teachers are employed. Of the 6,026 people of school age 4,859 are in attendance. The average monthly wages of teachers are, male, $35.72; female. $30.70. The total value of school proper is now $108,990, and this amount is soon to be increased by the erection of buildings in districts Nos. 57, 64, 92 and 93, and in the city of Emporia.

The first attempt to organize a county agricultural society, was made in 1860, but after publishing a premium list, it became defunct. July 4, 1863, another attempt was made and a society organized at Emporia, with the following officers: R. H. Abraham, Pres.; E. Borton, Sec'y, and A. Gillett, Treas. After holding one fair, September 28, 29, 30, 1866, the society disbanded. In January, 1868, a re-organization was made, but soon shared the fate of its predecessors. August 8, 1871, the Emporia and Lyon County Mechanical Stock Association, now known as the Lyon County Agricultural Society, was incorporated, with a capital stock of $100,000. Corporators: E. R. Holdenman, C. H. North, P. B. Plumb, H. B. Cross, T. C. Watson, J. S. Cleveland, and N. Spicer. The society purchased a forty-five acre tract of land, one and one-half miles west of the city, and have made improvements from time to time. Among the many buildings are the main hall, 20x60, and floral hall, 25x60 feet. Present Directors: J. F. Stratton, J. A. Moore, J. M. Griffith, P. G. Hallburg, L. T. Heritage, W. B. Ross, E. Borton, L. L. Halleck, and W. T. Soden. Officers: J. F. Stratton, Pres.; J. A. Moore, Vice-Pres.; J. M. Griffith, Treas.; W. R. Griffith, Sec'y.

County Horticultural Society was organized in February, 1871, with about twenty members. During the first year 150 members were enrolled. First Officers: Prof. A. D. Chambers, of Hartford. Pres.; E. W. Cunningham, of Emporia, Treas.; R. Milliken of Emporia, Sec'y. First fair was held in the summer of 1872. The flora of the county receives special attention. Present officers: R. Milliken, Pres.; J. G. Klock, Vice-Pres.; R. J. Rudlsell, Treas.; Mrs. T. F. Stratton. Sec'y.

Lyon County Medical was organized April, 1882, with eight members. Officers: Dr. W. Hibben, Pres.; Dr. J. W. Trueworthy. Vice-Pres.: Dr. G. W. Frost, Sec'y and Treas. Board of Censors: Drs. L. D. Jacobs, J. W. Filkins and J. J. Wright. Regular meetings are held the first Tuesday of each month at Emporia.


George H. Rees made the first assessment of property in the fall of 1868. But his returns were so partial that they are useless, as are also those of 1859. From the figures returned in 1860, however, it is ascertained that the 190,488 taxable acres of land in the county were valued at $566.276; town lots, $66,212; personal property, $147,503 - total, $779,991. In 1861 the total Valuation was $693.030; 1862, $886,037; 1864, $1,085,220; 1874, $3,889,680. In 1875, the population of the county had increased to 9,542; In 1878 to 13,634.

The statistics for 1882 make the following exhibit: Taxable land in county, $2,359,999 (town lots, personal and railroad property in Emporia, $1,332,142.51); other property in county, $2,804,972.53 - total, $5,164,971.53. The total population of the county, exclusive of Emporia City which has 7,000, is 11,660. In the spring of 1882, there were planted 73,836 acres of corn, 3,992 of oats and 6,671 1/2 of millet and Hungarian. On March 1, 1882., 203,211 bushels of old corn was on hand. Agnes City, Americus, and Fremont, the "cheese" townships, manufactured 71,708 lbs. of that article during the year. The county turned out 359,712 lbs of butter, and sold poultry and eggs to the valve of $17,825. In the county are 8,111 horses, 41,356 cattle, 29,179 sheep and 18,808 swine.


The advantages of natural position which led to the location of Emporia, as a town, have already been noticed. When the settlers of 1857 commenced to pour into the county, the time had arrived for the choosing of some site upon which a settlement could be formed and a town developed. Accordingly the town of Emporia was located in February, 1857, its proprietors being P. B. Plumb, of Emporia, and Gen. G. W. Deitzler, G. W. Brown, Lyman Allen and Columbus Hornsby, of Lawrence. Although a young man at the time - not having reached his majority - and although now a man who has not reached middle-age, Mr. Plumb was and is regarded as one of the principal founders of Emporia. And the young Ohioan did not stop in his upward course, but during the war, then but a young man, made his record; previous to which he had been admitted to the bar. A member of the House of Representatives in 1862, 1866 and 1867; Speaker during his second year; a leading business man and banker; United States Senator in 1877 - Mr. Plumb is a balanced and broad-minded man. This diversion seems necessary.

C. V. Eskridge was appointed agent of the company, for the sale of its property and to look after its general business interests. John Hammond erected the first building upon the town site, a one and a half story wooden structure, 12X16 feet, occupied as a boarding-house. When Mr. Hammond first came to Emporia he was alone, and as there. luckily happened along T. H. Clapp and wife from New York, looking up a claim, he engaged the lady to cook for him. She was the first lady who set foot upon the town site. The hotel was generally crowded to its utmost capacity. The building was used for religious services, educational purposes, was county headquarters, broker's office - and what not ? It finally outlived its usefulness, as the town grew, and was moved on to Geo. R. Bartsch's farm in Waterloo Township.

Although the Town Company's Hotel - the Emporia House - and the store of Hornsby & Fick were commenced at about the same time, the latter was completed first, and is therefore the second building erected in Emporia. C. V. Eskridge was a clerk in the store, and finally owned it. Upon the resignation of John Fowler, Postmaster of Columbia, in the fall of 1857, Mr. Fick was appointed the first Postmaster of Emporia. When the Emporia House was completed Mr. Hammond took possession of it, but after running it for a few months, resigned in favor of Mrs. Elizabeth Storrs, who therefore may be considered the first regular land-lady of Emporia. Mr. Hammond's boy, came with the family from Dayton, Ohio, then four years old, was the first child who "located" on the town site. While the News was erecting its building, the Emporia House served as its printing office, its first number being set up in an upper chamber thereof.

The fourth structure erected was the old News building, which stands in the rear of the block now occupied by that establishment. It was used, in its time, as residence, postoffice, bank, furniture factory, city hall, church, hardware store, etc., being the office of the News for fourteen years.

In the first number of the Kansas News, June 7, 1857, the following description is given of Emporia, then only Emporia is situated between the Neosho and Cottonwood creeks, six miles above their junction. To the west it gradually rises for a distance of several miles. On the north and south are large belts of the finest timber, along the Neosho and Cottonwood, while the various smaller, streams emptying into them at this point, all well timbered, serve to make it one of the best timbered regions in Kansas. Coal and building stone are found here in abundance. Emporia was located in March last. About the first of April, the erection of a large hotel was commenced by the town company, which has just been completed. A commodious store house has just been erected and filled with goods, and another is in process of erection. A large saw and gristmill, with lath and shingle machines attached, is about being put up on the town site. Another large saw-mill is in process of construction one half a mile distant. There is at present one saw-mill in operation near the junction, six miles distant, which has furnished the lumber used in the erection of the buildings now on the town site. There is also another saw-mill eight miles above, on the Cottonwood, which is in operation.

No intoxicating drinks are allowed to be sold on the town site. The two following features we copy from the contract of the proprietors: "The parties bind themselves to each other that in every sale or donation of any portion of the land which may be selected or located for a town-site, they will sign no deed of sale, release, gift, grant or lease to the same, without a provision in such deed of sale, release, gift, grant or lease, that the lessee shall not make, store, sell or give away, to be used as a beverage, any malt or spirituous liquors on such premises so sold or conveyed away, and that any violation of such provision shall be a forfeiture of all the rights which said purchaser, donee, grantee or, tenant shall have acquired to said premises. And the said parties further agree that they will also prohibit in all deeds and conveyances, as above, and find purchasers to extend the same provisions to their assignees, that no house shall be allowed to be occupied for gambling purposes on any of the lots of the said town; and any gambling for money, or otherwise, by which anything shall be lost or won, on said premises, with the knowledge and counsel of the purchaser, shall be a forfeiture of the right which said purchaser, donee, grantee or tenant shall have acquired to said premises."

The lots are 130 feet deep and 50 feet front, excepting on commercial streets where they are but 25 feet front. The principal streets are 100 feet broad - the others eighty feet. Building is progressing as fast as the supply of lumber will admit, and as soon as the mills now being constructed are put into operation, the progress will be much greater. Several stone buildings have been contracted for, to be built this summer. The country around here is fast filling up with an energetic, industrious and intelligent population, who will develop the rich resources of this fertile region, and make it the centre of wealth and intelligence.

During all of the year 1857, settlers continued to arrive at Emporia, and building operations were brisk. Mr. Parham, a druggist from Leavenworth, and Mr. Phelps, a Michigan man, were among the new arrivals, and built a saw-mill, located just north of the present Normal School building. In the summer of this year, railroad matters, religious matters, educational topics and mail troubles, besides the actual development of business enterprises, all served to agitate the young Emporia. The Baptists and Methodists held services in the old hotel office. The third public meeting (as elsewhere detailed) ever held in the town, was a railroad convention which assembled in June. Mail facilities were abominable, and the citizens of Emporia insisted on having a school. That the discussion had an effect is evident from the fact that Rev. G. C. Morse and lady opened the "Emporia Academy" in April, 1858, but the first free school was that taught by Miss Mary Jane Watson, in October. In December, 1859, the first school district was organized in Emporia. Its Directors were Col. F. W. Cloud, C. C. Dodge, and Ed. Borton. In 1862, C. V. Eskridge, then a member of the Legislature, secured the passage of a special act, authorizing Emporia District No. 1 to issue bonds, in the amount of $6,000, for the purpose of erecting a school building. The bonds were issued and sold, and with the proceeds thereof a building was erected, which, at the time, was considered the finest common-school building in the State outside of Leavenworth. At the following session of the Legislature, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction, seeing how successfully the measure worked, recommended that this special act be made the basis of a general law. This was done, and is now an important part of the general educational system of Kansas, which dates from that year, 1863.

Emporia continued to grow materially, as well as in religious and educational directions, and one prime cause of her prosperity was that the town company reserved a certain number of lots, from those not drawn, for donation to persons desirous of making improvements. Emporia must have a town hall commensurate with her importance, but, as events proved, not at once. Although a "Town Hall Company" was formed, with C. C. Slocum as president, in February, 1858, it is stated that enough money could not be raised to lay the foundation." In December, of this year, the town site was pre-empted and the town company gave settlers deeds for their lots.

On February 6, 1865, Emporia, which then contained a population of about 500, was granted the privilege of sloughing off her township organization and assuming the form of a village government. The trustees were: R. M. Ruggles chairmen; J. C. Fraker, John L. Catterson, William Clapp and John Hammond. In April, 1870, the first municipal election was held, at which H. C. Cross was chosen mayor of the new city of the second class. For particulars in regard to the municipal history of Emporia, the reader is referred to pages which follow, as also to the growth of her present school system, establishment of banks, and general advancement in all the lines of modern life.

The M. K. & T. Rail-road reached Emporia December 22, 1860, and the A. T. & S. F. July 21, 1870.

In preceding pages an attempt has merely been made to present the most salient facts connected with the growth of Emporia - merely as a preface to the details which follow. The city is now prosperous and fair to look upon, containing costly churches, an ably conducted State Normal School. good churches, an ably conducted State Normal School, good churches, a daily press even in advance of a population of 6,000 people, banking institutions which have become noted throughout the State for their substantial and "unfailing" qualities, first-class hotels and business houses - and the particulars regarding all these topics, and many more, appear in succeeding pages. Image of Jay's Opera House

[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]