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


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


In June, 1865, Gov. Samuel J. Crawford received a petition forwarded to him by citizens of Marion County, praying for the detachment of Marion from Chase County, and that the same be organized into a separate government. The petition was granted, and in July, 1865, William H. Billings, Thomas J. Wise, Sr., and Levi Billings were appointed the first Board of County commissioners. Their first meeting was held at the house of W. H. Billings, Marion Center. There were present, W. H. Billings and Mr. Wise, and they appointed R. C. Coble County Clerk. The county was formed into three municipal townships -- Marion, the north; Cedar, in the southeast; Santa Fe in the southwest.

The first election of county officers was held August 7, and the vote was canvassed August 10, 1865. There were twenty-three votes polled. W. H. Billings was elected County Commissioner and Probate Judge; T. J. Wise; Commissioner and County Treasurer; Levi Billings, Commissioner; R. C. Coble, County Clerk and Register of Deeds; John C. Snow, Sheriff; W. P. Shreve, County Surveyor; Mr. Wise, being ineligible to the office of Treasurer, the Board appointed A. A. Moore. Reuben Riggs was elected County Attorney. The first county seat was established at the northeast quarter of Section 6, Town 20, Range 4.

At the annual election in November, 1865, Reuben Riggs was chosen Senator, receiving twenty-five votes in the county and 230 votes in the senatorial district, having a majority of sixty-five in a vote of 395. A. A. Moore was elected Representative and County Treasurer, Reuben Riggs, County Attorney; R. C. Coble, County Clerk; G. C. Coble, Sheriff; C. R. Roberts, Surveyor and Coroner; E. Hoops, Register of Deeds; Assessor, B. Gibson; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Levi Billings; County Commissioners, W. H. Billings, Charles O. Fuller, William Renfro. Newton Rodgers was afterward appointed to the positions of Assessor and County Superintendent, the persons elected declining to qualify. In August, 1865, it was found that Chase County owed Marion County $85.49 and $25.40 was paid Chase County for the assessment of Marion and $22.95 for record books obtained of John S. Doolittle.

At an election held December 29, 1866, the county seat was located on the public square at Marion Center. The name of the county and the shire town perpetuates the memory of General Francis Marion, a South Carolina patriot of the Revolutionary period, whose valorous deeds and devotion to the principles of universal liberty have made his name famous in story and song.

The court house and school building at Marion Center were one and the same and on December 19, 1867, the county appropriated for this building the sum of $999. The building is in the rear part of the present courthouse which was completed in 1881. A county seat election was held April 27, 1881 and the vote cast for Marion Center was 1,165; for Hillsboro, 745. June 14, 1881, on a proposition to vote $5,000 to aid in building a court house, the vote was 790 for; 520 against. The building is made of the Marion Center magnesian limestone, and the new front is an attractive, convenient structure of two stories. The whole upper story is in the District Court room, the east side of which enters into the jail, which has been remodeled from the original court house, and is very substantial, having good cells, like those of the county of Chase. The court room is admirably and conveniently arranged for the officers of the court, the jurors and the spectators, its dimensions being 32 x 54 feet. In the lower story on the north side of the hallway are the offices of the Register of Deeds, Probate Judge, Superintendent of Public Instruction; on the south side are the offices of County Clerk, County Treasurer and Surveyor. The building is well arranged and is a monumental evidence of the economy and good sense of the people of the county.

The Senatorial district of which Marion County has been a part, has been represented by Marion County men as follows: in 1866 by Reuben Riggs; 1868, A. W. Moore; 1875, Samuel R. Peters; 1881 and 1883, R. M. Crane. In the House of representation of the county has been as follows: 1866, 1867 and 1871, A. A. Moore; 1868, C. O. Fuller; 1869, A. E. Case; 1870, Levi Billings; 1872, Frank Dostler; 1873, J. K. McLean, 1874, B. Pinkney, 1875, R. C. Bates, 1876, G. W. Campbell, 1877, J. N. Rodgers, 1879, F. H. Kollock, 1881, W. W. Waring, 1883, J. Ware Butterfield.

S. N. Wood, the first Judge of the Ninth Judicial District, was the first attorney to practice law in the county in an action of replevin, July 10, 1865, at Marion Center, which was the first law-suit in the county. The first papers filed in the office of the Clerk, of the District Court were by Isaac Sharp, Esq., of Council Grove, Morris County, October 5, 1867, who appeared as an attorney for the plaintiff in the case, S. N. Wood was then Judge. Judge W. R. Brown presided over the first term of the District Court, and it commenced Tuesday, May 5, 1858. There was a summary disposition of many cases at this term of the court. The Ninth District, composed of the counties of Butler, Chase and Marion, polled at the election in 1867, 431 votes of which Marion cast 73. The counties of Greenwood, Elk, Chautauqua, Cowley, Sumner, Sedgwick and Reno had been at first attached to Butler County for judicial purposes; McPherson, Rice, Stafford and Pratt to Marion. In 1872, the counties of Butler, Greenwood, Elk Chautauqua, Cowley, Sumner and Sedgwick made up the Thirteenth Judicial District, which cast 10,230 votes; McPherson was in the Fourteenth Judicial District and cast 481 votes, while the Ninth was made up of the counties of Chase, Marion, Harvey, Reno and Rice, polling 2,747 votes; Marion casting 819.

Judge Brown was re-elected in 1872 and in 1874 was elected to congress. Samuel R. Peters, of Marion, succeeded Judge Brown on the bench of the Ninth Judicial District. Judge Peters was last elected to the position in 1879, having then the nine additional counties of Barton, Pawnee, Stafford, Pratt, Kingman, Barbour, Edwards, Ford and Rush. The Legislature of 1881 reconstructed judicial districts and eliminated one-half of the counties of the Ninth District, leaving therein Chase, Marion, Harvey, Rice, Reno, Kingman and Harper. The terms of court for Marion commence the first Tuesday of May and the second Tuesday of November. The court officers in the year 1883 are Thomas Jefferson Smith, Sheriff; Samuel Bowen, Clerk; T. A. Bogle, County Attorney. The attorneys of the county are C. Reed, retiring County Attorney, L. F. Keller, former County Attorney; C. W. Keller, Frank Doster, T. A. Bogle, R. M. Crane, A. E. Case and C. H. Frybarger, of Marion Center; J. Ware Butterfield, J. B. Crouch and A. M. White, of Florence; G. W. Camp, J. M. Holcomb, A. B. Knowlton, F. H. Kollock, J. Hudson Morse and James Hamilton, of Peabody.

The county officers not above named in office January 1883, are as follows: Commissioner of First District, J. N. Rodgers; second District, D. J. Frazier; Third District, Thomas Osborn; County Clerk, W. H. Hamilton; County Treasurer, F. L. Frazier; Judge of Ninth Judicial District, L. Houk; Register of Deeds, T. L. Fife; Probate Judge, B. F. Brockett; Superintendent of Public Instruction, W. B. Zercher; County Surveyor, W. C. Nye; Corner, T. J. Conroy. Samuel T. Howe was elected Clerk of the District Court in 1874, 1876 and in 1878. In 1879 and in 1881, he was elected County Treasurer and soon after entering upon his second term in October, 1882, he was elected to the office of Treasurer of the State of Kansas, his vote on the 7th of November in Marion County being 1,314; that of C. E. Gifford, Democrat, was 348; J. H. Ludlow, Nation, 133; in a vote of 1,795, Howe received a majority of 833.

Center, Wilson, Gale, Risley and Durham Park Townships form the First District; Clear Creek, Grant, Doyle, Summit and Fairplay, the Second; Peabody, Catlin, Wilson, East Branch and West branch in the Third.

The Presidential vote of Marion County has been as follows: 1868, Grant 52, Seymour, 47; 1872, Grant 676, Greeley 148; 1876, Hayes 860, Tilden 369, Cooper 224; 1880, Garfield, 1,239, Hancock 539, Weaver 271. In 1876, Green Clay Smith received twelve votes.

The vote on the prohibition amendment to the State Constitution, November 2, 1880, was 1,020 for; 825 against.

Frank Doster, as the National candidate for Congress in 1878, received in Marion County 595 out of 1,577 votes. In 1872, he received in the county 579 out of 812 votes, for Judge of the Ninth Judicial District.


Marion County, "a howling wilderness" in 1865, had in the centennial year, 74 organized school districts, though in 1871 it had but three schoolhouses. It has eighty in 1882, of which there is one joint district with Chase, one with Dickinson and one with Harvey. In 1882, it had four teachers of grade one; sixty-two of grade two; thirty-five of grade three. The number of children of school age is 4,359; number of male teachers, forty-two; female, fifty-four; average age of teachers, twenty-two. The average monthly pay of male teachers is $36.73; of female $32.43. Mrs. J. M. Sharon held the position of County Superintendent of Public Instruction for the term January, 1875-1877. The average school district tax levy for 1882 was fifteen mills. The bonded indebtedness for schoolhouses is about $35,000. Hillsboro employs two teachers; Florence and Peabody four each; Marion Center, five; the other districts one each. There are ninety-seven rooms used for school purposes.

The following is the statement of the acreage in different grains in 1877; Winter wheat, 18,141; rye, 1,222; corn, 26,769; oats, 7,264; Irish potatoes, 571; sorghum, 199; flax, 264; broom corn, 21; Hungarian and millet, 1,306; timothy, 94; clover, 14; prairie hay, 2,159. Acreage in the same grains in 1880 was as follows: Winter wheat, 48,790; rye, 1,869; corn, 54,557; oats, 10,371; Irish potatoes, 751; sorghum, 373; flax, 314; broom corn, 64; Hungarian and millet, 2,454; timothy, 170; clover, 53; prairie hay, 10,877.

In 1882, Marion County is the eighth in rank in the production of winter wheat, its crop being reported 1,219,750 bushels. Its preferred varieties are Fultz, May, Odessa and Russia. Isaac Kuhn, Marion P. O. reports twenty-five acres of wheat; yield, sixty-two bushels per acre; George Overholtzer, Peabody, forty acres, forty bushels per acre, for the year 1882. The herd law is in operation in this county; about one-fourth of the land is open range. Prairie hay is secured at $2.50 per ton; the cost per head of grazing cattle is $1.50 for the season. Besides Crane's ranch, which comprises 10,000 acres of land, there is Hon. David Christie, a member of the Canadian Parliament, has a ranche three miles square, about a dozen miles northwest of Marion Center, which is managed by his sons.

Mr. Abram Williams, near Lincolnville, has some 3,500 acres of land, which is mostly fenced with hedge. His specialty has been high grade beef stock, but in 1882 he raised about 10,000 bushels of wheat. In the county there is much available cheap land; of unsold school lands, 13,500 acres, in the Wichita Land district. Of lands located in Townships 21 and 22 in Harvey county, there are upwards of 7,000 acres; on October 1, 1882, there were 32,187 acres; 178,664 acres having been sold within the last ten years. In 1877, there were 2,664 horses; in 1882, 5,607. Milch cows in 1877, 1,836; in 1882, 4,444. Other cattle in 1877, 4,162; in 1882, 10,245. Sheep in 1877, 2,980; in 1882, 12,709. Swine in 1877, 5,811; in 1882, 11,354.

In 1867, the assessed valuation of the county was $106,447; in 1870, $640,320; in 1873, $987,702; in 1875, $1,499,128; in 1876, $1,499,128; in 1880, $2,112,247.45; in 1882, $2,292,776.38. Of the 610,560 acres of land in the county, about 150,000 are under cultivation, and in 1880, 561,720 were taxable.

The percentage of increase in population in the county from 1870 to 1875 is 555; from 1875 to 1880 it is 142; from 1870 to 1880, 1,522 per cent. In 1880, Marion center had a population of 857, Florence 954, Peabody 1,087.


Marion Center is on the north bank of the Cottonwood River, at the point of confluence therewith of Mud Creek. Its first settlement was made in 1860. December 8, 1866, the laying-out of Marion Center, proper, was made, in accordance with the forms of law. It was the first town in the county. Billings and Bower's Addition, on part of the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 32, Town 19, Range 4, was made March 15, 1871. On March 27, another small addition was made. July 12, 1872, W. H. Billings and Atlantic A. Moore conveyed parts of Sections 5 and 6 of Town 20, Range 4. Freeborn's Addition was made January 2, 1873 and Beebe's July 10, 1873.

West Marion, located on the east side of the southwest quarter of Section 31, Town 19, Range 4, was laid out June 24, 1879, and a southern addition was made by Lawrence Weldon on the north half of the northeast quarter of Section 5, Town 20, Range 4, was made November 10, 1879. Billings and Case made a subdivided addition and July 16, 1872, there was filed an amended plat of Billings and Bowers' Addition.

The lay of the town is one of the most peculiar in Kansas. Entering it on the Marion & McPherson Railroad from Florence, which road passes along the valley of the Cottonwood on the east, the road crosses Mud Creek near the southeastern part of the town and running mainly in a northwesterly direction, it leaves the town a little north of its northwest corner, and for twelve miles has a due west course. The depot is located on the bottom south of the business portion of the town. At the left of it is an extensive switch, along which are capacious elevators, where there are immense quantities of grain handled. G. F. Roberts is the station agent and telegraph operator. Northwest from the depot, north of the track, stands the Marion City Mills, which is a roomy, substantial structure, fitted up at an admirable manner with all necessary modern mill machinery.

Coming northward from the depot, the court house, on the east side of First street is the main objective point, which is but a few steps from Main street. Nearly all the business is done on this street, and the beautiful stone structure standing thereon, with the best ones not yet finished, justly gives the town the appellation of "Stone City." for there are in public buildings, business houses and residences, nearly half of a hundred built of this material of beautiful colors, prized at home and used largely abroad. This material is used in the new court house at Abilene, Dickinson County.

Passing on the main street east on an iron bridge across Mud Creek, over on the hill to the right stands the pride of the city -- an elegant and convenient stone school building, which costs about $15,000. Its height is thirty-three feet; its dimensions 56 x 60. It has a hip roof, from the center of which arises a belfry, in which is hung a fine-toned bell of 500 pounds weight. There are two fine school rooms and two recitation rooms in the lower story; in the upper, there is a hall and two recitation rooms and a large, airy auditorium. There is no building in the county that can be seen so far and from so many directions. At the west of it, on the creek, is the beautiful school park, with its wealth of forest trees and grasses, assuming a magnificent verdure during the period of vegetation. May 11, 1872, terminated a long-standing contest on the location of this schoolhouse site; the vote for locating it on the hill was 84; in the bottom, 56. George A. Boyle is the present Principal of the school.

In the southwestern suburbs of the city, on the farm of W. H. Billings, is one of the most beautiful peninsular parks in the State of Kansas. It is entered on the north by a roadway of just enough ground at its neck to prevent a union of the waters of the Cottonwood on the east and on the west of it to form an island. Here are about twelve acres of ground, with a fine carpet of grass; growing on it are hundreds of the choicest hackberry trees, making it, with flowers, shrubbery and an entertainment hall on the grounds, a royal place for out-door meetings, being literally a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Swings, pleasure boats and croquet grounds are among it attractions.

Marion center became a city of the third class August 17, 1875. In 1882, its Mayor was Thomas W. Bowen; Clerk, Charles S. Triplett; Police Judge, C. W. Keller; City Attorney, L. F. Keller.

Linking the old to the civilization, in front of the substantial courthouse stands one of the first log dwellings of the town and northwest of the model grist mill stand a log house, 12 x 14 feet, erected by E. Lewis in June, 1865. He came from Macoupin County, Ill., and brought with him apple sprouts, which he set out around his cabin and to this day stand a dozen apple trees.


The Presbyterian Church has a prosperous organization here. Its handsome church edifice, build of stone, stands on the summit of the hill above the town. Rev. O. J. King has for a long time ministered to this church, and R. C. Coble is the Superintendent of its Sunday school.

The Methodist Episcopal Church has nearly 150 members here and in 1881 they completed a good brick edifice on the north of Main street, at a cost exceeding $2,000. Its Sunday school averages ninety members and its earnest Superintendent is E. W. Hoch, of the Marion Record The pastor of the church is Rev. Charles B. Mitchell, a son of the late Rev. D. P. Mitchell, who is his day and generation was a power in the Kansas churches.

The Church of the Disciples has about twenty members, and they have a neat white frame structure, erected in 1882. Dr. McQuiller Green is the Superintendent of the Sunday school.

There is quite a number of Roman Catholics in and about Marion Center and they expect to have a good house of worship during the year 1883. There are a few protestant Episcopalians in the city. C. R. Roberts, an early settler, a native of Rutland, Vt., is prominent among them.

Masonic orders, Odd Fellows societies, temperance and martial organizations, here abound. The Odd fellows are building an excellent hall, on the northeast corner of First and Main streets, and they are very prosperous.

Center Lodge, No. 147, A. F. & A. M. was organized in 1875, and it now has about fifty members. Samuel R. Peters was its first W. M. In 1882, E. N. Ebey is W. M., W. H. Dudley, Secretary.

Delta Chapter, R. A. M. holds its regular convocations each alternate Wednesday evening in its chapter room over the Cottonwood Valley Bank. W. H. Dudley is Secretary; Charles B. Mitchell, H. P.

Marion Lodge, No. 104, I. O. O. F. was organized in 1870, with thirty members. Its membership January 1883, was about forty-five. F. Lewis is secretary, R. H. Baker, N. G. Pioneer Lodge, No. 264,I. O. G. T. was organized in the autumn of 1872. Its membership is nearly fifty. Its officers are; George E. Howe, W. C. T.; M. O. Billings, P. W. C. T.; P. C. Mitchell, P. R. T.

Pollock Post, No. 42, G. A. R. was organized March 27, 1872 with eighty charter members, J. C. Walkinshaw, Deputy Commander, organizer. Its membership January, 1883, nearly 100. Its officers are: F. Doster, P. C.; F. Lewis, Adjutant.

The Press -- In July, 1869, an organization composed of W. H. Billings, A. E. Case, Levi Billings, J. H. Costello, A. A. Moore and J. N. Rodgers, was formed for the purpose of securing a paper at the county seat, and these gentlemen effected an arrangement with A. W. Robinson, of Detroit, Dickinson County, whereby he came to Marion Center in September, 1869, and started a paper, calling it the Western News. It was small enough to be designated a "Handkerchief Sheet." It was printed a page at a time on an inferior jobber. In April, 1871, Mr. Robinson sold the office to John E. Murphy, who changed the name to the Western Giant. In September, 1871, C. S. Triplett, a newspaper man of experience, bought the interests of Mr. Murphy and changed the name to the Marion County Record. Mr. Triplett continued as publisher until October 10, 1874, enlarging and improving the paper, when he sold it to the Hock brothers. It is now the official paper of the county and has the benefit of a good subscription list, and an excellent advertising patronage. E. W. Hock is editor; W. F. Hoch, business manager. It is Republican in politics.

The Marion Banner, E. D. Hunt, editor and proprietor, was published at Marion center about two years. His paper was issued in the interest of the National Labor party. He removed it to London, Osage county, and from there went to Scranton. October 9, 1872, his wife, two boys and one girl were killed by falling in of the dirt roof of their cabin upon them while asleep. Mr. Hunt narrowly escaped the same fate. The dwelling was about one and a half miles from Marion Center.

Marion Choral Club -- Music and literature have their votaries at Marion Center. A choral club was organized at the residence of Mr. A. W. Brewerton November 11, 1882, by the vocalists of the city. The officers elected are as follows:

President, A. W. Brewerton; Vice president, R. Calhoun; Secretary, Miss Mary Smith; Assistant Secretary Miss Nellie Turner; Treasurer, William Brockett; Leader, Edward Coles; Assistant Leader, W. H. Dudley; Organist, Miss Bell Coble. The club meetings are Tuesday evening each week.

Marion Center has three banks, three hotels, three real estate agents, three druggists, three physicians, three milliners, three boot and shoe dealers, three lumber dealers, three livery stables, three butchers, three harness and saddle makers and dealers, nine general merchants, two insurance agents, two billiard halls, two bakers and confectioners, two hardware dealers, two barbers, two painters, two blacksmiths, three carpenters and contractors, three stone cutters and contractors, two dentists, one book seller, one jeweler, one gunsmith, one furniture dealer, one brick-maker, one photographer, one tailor, one plasterer, one mantua-maker. The Marion City Flouring Mills, thirty-four feet high, 34 x 65 feet, went into operation May 1, 1882, Strowig and Weber, proprietors. A. Comstock, living one mile east of Marion Center, is an extensive lime burner, using the Osage shaft coal. His market is extensive at home and abroad. E. M. Rugg & Co, erected in 1881, on Block 38, a sugar factory at a cost of $3,000. Sugar making did not succeed with them.

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