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


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


The idea of founding a town at this point was conceived by E. H. Cawker, J. P. Rice, R. G. F. Kshinka, of Milwaukee, and John J. Huckle, of Towanda, Pa. In February, 1870, Messrs. Rice, Kshinka and Huckle came up the Solomon Valley, and selected the site for their prospective town, took the numbers of the land as near as they could then ascertain them; and returning by way of the Land Office then located at Junction City, filed on the southeast quarter of Section 21, the southwest quarter of Section 22, the northeast quarter of section 28, and the northwest quarter of Section 27, Town 6 south, Range 10 west. In April following Messrs. Cawker, Huckle and Kshinka came to commence operations, and they found that their papers described land situated one mile north and one half mile east of that which had been selected, and that the land they supposed they had taken was occupied by actual settlers.

They commenced work at once on the land described by their Land Office receipts, and the city grew apace. The first building erected was the frame house on the southeast corner of section 21, known now as the Spears building. It was built by E. H. Cawker. The town was well advertised and attracted the attention of immigrants. Mr. Huckle built a dwelling and returned to Pennsylvania, and brought a colony of emigrants from that State. Mr. Rice put up the first stone building now standing on Pennsylvania Avenue, and familiarly known as The Tribune building. The city was surveyed into lots and blocks, and the whole section included in the plat. The interests of the four town proprietors were confined to their respective quarter sections, Cawker taking the southeast of Section 21, Huckle the southwest of 22, Rice the northwest of 27, and Kshinka the northeast of 28. Some time in June, Cawker had a steam-mill in operation, and cottonwood buildings sprang up in every direction. The town was named in honor of E. Harrison Cawker, and he spared no expense to hasten the growth of his namesake. The plat of the town was not recorded until July 15, 1871. When the Northwestern Land District was created the Government Office was located in this city, and opened for business in June, 1872, with A. A. Thomas of Cawker City, as register, and Thomas Plowman, of Leavenworth, as receiver. The Land Office remained here until December, 1874, when it was removed to Kirwin as a more central location.

In the early spring of 1874, Dr. J. M. Hodge, of Abilene, was appointed the receiver of the Land Office in place of Thomas Plowman, removed.

On the 20th day of March, 1874, Judge Joel Holt considered a petition from Cawker City, and finding the names of a sufficient number of voters thereunto attached, granted the petition, and declared the city incorporated as a city of the third class. The first city election was held on the 2d day of June, 1874. The following were chosen city officers for the year to ensue: Mayor, F. J. Knight; Councilmen, A. Parker, D. A. Huling, W. Woodmansee, P. Wolfe, and J. A. Pope; Police Judge, L. S. Tucker. The present officers are: Mayor, F. J. Kelley; Councilmen, Jacob Rothschild, George Buist, George Tuthill; Marshall, W. C. Whitney; Police Judge, W. H. Mead.

Since the organization of the city the mayors have been F. J. Knight, J. A. Pope, W. C. Whitney, A. L. Topliff, A. Parker and F. J. Kelley. The city being extremely orderly, no police force is required. Although the city has suffered by two extensive fires, it has no organized fire department. In 1879, a fire on the south side of Wisconsin Street destroyed seven business buildings and $15,000 worth of property. Again in 1882, four good buildings were burned on the north side of the street.

The first school in Cawker City (District No. 10), was opened with about fifteen scholars in June, 1871. The house used as a schoolhouse was located where the Berry Block now stands, and was made of cottonwood, size 12x14 feet. The building had previously contained the "household gods" of "The Depot Locater," and constituted his residence during the time he was required by law to reside upon a portion of the townsite before entering it as a homestead. "The Depot Locater" is the nickname given to J. J. Huckle by reason of his having, years before a railroad was built into this country, located a depot upon every lot of the town site; the location being in each instance just such as to suit the convenience of some customer he was inducing to purchase a town lot.

The teacher, Miss Phoebe Phillips, was paid in part by public money, and in part by subscription of the patrons of the school. the young men of the town constituted the larger part of the population, and they nearly all took a lively interest in this first school, as the teacher was perhaps the most attractive of the three marriageable ladies of this place. The school did not want for visitors, especially at noon times. the next spring the teacher became Mrs. George R. Parker, whose husband is now postmaster and banker at Gaylord, in Smith County. The first public school supported entirely by public money, was opened in December, 1871, in a frame building located on the present site of the Chicago Lumber Company's office. That schoolhouse has since been moved to Pennsylvania Avenue, and used as a tin shop.

At the opening of the school there were about forty scholars, and the number soon reached fifty. The teacher, Clark A. Smith, having just hung out his shingle as a lawyer, received $40 per month. The salary was eked out by evening and Saturday law practice, which gained the young lawyer a reputation which soon brought him a desirable practice. He is now Judge of the Fifteenth Judicial District. That first school numbered among its scholars two men who are now railroad station agents, one who is the editor of a successful daily newspaper on the Pacific Coast, and many of the little girls then are matrons now. And so it comes that very young towns look back to "the old days".

In 1871, School District No. 10, including Cawker City, voted bonds in the sum of $6,500 for a schoolhouse, which was built in the spring of 1872. In 1877, the building was deemed both unsafe, and too small for the district, and $1,500 additional bonds were voted, and the building rebuilt and enlarged. The present school board are: C. H. Van Wormer, clerk; G. C. Farmer, director; L. S. Tucker, treasurer; W. P. Trueblood, is principal, and has three assistants.

There are 205 scholars enrolled in the district, and the average daily attendance is 177. For the last three years an extra building has been rented for the primary department.


Catholic Church. - In the summer of 1879 a church society was organized in Cawker City, by Rev. Clemens Newman, and a frame church building and parsonage adjoining, was immediately erected. The stone work of a large church was over half done when Father Newman arrived in Cawker City, but owing to a defect in the title, the work was abandoned and the frame church completed as stated. Said property is worth about $1,900. The Cawker City congregation numbers 225.

Father Newman also organized the Pittsburg Catholic Church, twelve miles south of Cawker, in a German settlement, the same season. It has 350 members, and a good church building worth $1,200.

Methodist Episcopal Church. - On the 14th of April, 1872, the Cawker City class of the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized. Rev. G. A. Blackstock was assigned to the Cawker Circuit that spring.

The pastors have been: Rev. G. A. Blackstock, H. G. Breed, E. R. Brown, C. L. Shackelford. The first trustees were: William Belk, Hiram Coble, R. W. Knox. A comfortable church building on North Pennsylvania Avenue was completed, and dedicated in the summer of 1877. It is valued at $2,500. A comfortable parsonage was built under the management of Pastor Brown in 1877, at an expense of $500. The church now numbers ninety members. The present trustees being: Wm. Belk, N. J. Wooden, L. S. Tucker, C. A. Smith, John Berry. The Sunday-school class averages 125. Rev. C. L. Shackelford, the pastor, is also pastor of the Walnut Creek class, numbering some forty members.

Congregational Church. - This was the first church organized in Cawker City. The Rev. A. W. Safford brought about the organization in the month of December, 1871. The trustees were: W. L. Barr, D. A. Huling, Wm. Harris, C. M. Niles, Jr., and L. C. Porter. The church in the Second Ward was completed the following season, and the church property is now worth about $2,000. The membership is not so great as in 1874, as the Presbyterian Church drew away a great portion of its strength, and it now numbers only thirty-seven members. The Sabbath-school is in a prosperous condition, and under the supervision of Mr. Barton, has over thirty members.

The Presbyterian Church, of Cawker City, was organized on the 18th of May, 1879, and the first trustees were: A. W. Smith, E. O. Garrett and Clark A. Smith. The Rev. J. Baay was employed as pastor, and at present writing still occupies the pulpit. The church has no building of its own, but rents a convenient chapel east of the Whiting House. The furniture of the chapel is valued at $300. There are thirty-five members on the rolls, and an average of over eighty Sabbath-school scholars.

Cawker City Lodge, No. 125, A. F. & A. M., was organized under dispensation in August, 1872. The officers were: C. A. Smith, W. M.; Robert Addams, S. W.; L. S. Tucker, J. W.; D. A. Huling, S. D.; H. Vantilborg, J. D.; J. W. Hatcher, Secretary; R. W. Lundy, Treasurer; W. H. Burke, Tyler; Frank McConnell, Steward. The lodge was chartered by the Grand Lodge, October 17, 1872. It is now one of the wealthy and prosperous lodges of Kansas. Its membership numbers forty-one. The present officers are: J. W. McGhee, W. M.; W. H. Mead, S. W.; L. S. Tucker, J. W.; R. W. Lundy, Treasurer; W. A. Remfry, Secretary; Horace Potter, Tyler.

Ancient Order of United Workingmen. - On the 5th of May, 1880, an organization of the United Workingmen was placed in working order. The society has prospered, and at this writing, the books show a membership of sixty-two. The officers are: Joseph Jackson, M. W.; H. Shepard, Foreman; W. H. Mead, Financier; Frank Goepel, Recorder. Their regular meetings occur on the second and fourth Fridays of each month.

Reynold's Post, No. 43, G. A. R., was organized in Cawker City, March 16, 1882. The present officers are: W. C. Whitney, Captain; L. L. Alrich, Adjutant; George Latham, Second Major; Dr. A. Wilson, Surgeon; and forty-one members. Although a young post, it is in a very prosperous condition, having money in the treasury, and one year's rent of hall paid in advance.

Great Spirit Spring's Lodge, No. 159, I. O. of O. F., was organized in October, 1879. There had been a lodge of this order in Cawker City before, but it succumbed to the hard times of "grasshopper year", and was compelled to surrender its charter. The lodge is now possessed of much material wealth, and is highly prosperous. It numbers fifty members, and is officered by A. Wilson, N. G.; W. C. Whitney, V. G.; F. Goepel, Secretary; J. Rothschild, Treasurer.

Hesperian Library. - One of the most popular public enterprises in Cawker City is the public library of the above name. It was organized in November, 1873, with a subscription capital of $77. It has now grown to be a large and self-sustaining educational enterprise. The books are valued at $800. The original members were: A. Patten, A. Parker, R. W. Lundy, C. H. Rew, Wm. Jensen, Clark A. Smith, H. C. Scrafford, Frank Clark, C. G. Eno, A. A. Thomas, W. T. S. May, J. S. Shearer, D. Dodge, H. G. Rew, Peter Wolfe, and J. S. Berry. R. W. Lundy was the first librarian. Lewis S. Tucker is the present librarian, in whose office the library is now kept.


The Sentinel was the first newspaper to greet the people of Cawker City, Kan., as a home institution. It was first issued by E. N. Emmons, editor and proprietor, in March, 1872. It was a well patronized seven column folio, earnestly devoted to the rapid settlement and improvement of the Solomon Valley homestead region. Mr. Emmons is a native of Wisconsin, a good printer, an industrious and ambitious worker, who made the Sentinel a success. In September of the same year the sentinel was sold to Flavius J. McMillan, a young attorney from Boston, who conducted it until the spring of 1874, when he moved it to Phillipsburg, and commenced a publication of a paper at that place, the history of which will be found in the history of Phillips County.

Mr. Emmons, the founder of the Sentinel, is now one of the leading real estate dealers in the northern part of Kansas, located at Washington, Washington County, Kan.

The Tribune was founded by E. Harrison Cawker, and was first issued in November, 1873. It was a handsome eight column folio, printed on new material. The foreman of the office, Mr. J. D. Botefur, was a splendid printer, having for years been in the employ of the Harper Bros., in New York. He made the Tribune one of the handsomest sheets in Kansas. The paper lived until the spring of 1875, when the hard times which followed the invasion of the grasshoppers in 1874, proved too much for it and it suspended publication, and the editor and proprietor, E. H. Cawker, returned to Milwaukee, Wis., where he has since been engaged in the publication of the United States Miller, a monthly magazine devoted to milling and manufacturing interests.

The Echo was the next paper to appear in the field at Cawker City, Kan. It was printed by Topliff & De Young, who had purchased the Tribune material. The first issue appeared in August, 1875, and started with the announcement that it would be independent in politics. In January, 1877, De Young sold his interest to A. L. Topliff, who changed the politics of the paper to Republican, and continued its publication until July, 1878, when he sold it to Stephen De Young. For a few months Cawker City was again without a paper.

The Free Press rose from the ashes of the Echo in the month of October, 1878, with Stephen De Young as publisher. It is an eight column folio, and has been independent in politics, except during the campaign of 1880, when it supported the complete Democratic ticket. Mr. De Young is a native of Pennsylvania and one of the early settlers of Mitchell County, having arrived here in August, 1871. He is a quiet, unobtrusive man, with firm convictions of right and wrong. He is true to his friends and makes few enemies; his political campaigns being conducted in a most kind and liberal manner.

The Journal now published in Cawker City by J. W. McBride, made its first appearance May 12, 1880. It is Republican in politics, and is a well-looking eight column folio well supported. Mr. McBride came to Cawker City from Gaylord, Kan., where he had published the Herald. Previously he had been connected with the publication of the Chief at Kerwin, Phillips Co., Kan. Mr. McBride is a thorough businessman, who ceaselessly labors to make the Journal a success.

The Camp Fire is the name of a monthly paper started here in August, 1882, in the interest of the G. A. R. Mr. L. L. Alrich, the publisher, is a native of Pennsylvania, was a soldier during the war of the rebellion, and has a surplus of enthusiasm on hand which he works off through the Camp Fire.

Cawker City is chiefly noted as being a good point for trade, and the sale of corn and hogs. Two local grain buyers have warehouses at the depot, and are making daily shipments of wheat and corn. the business buildings are nearly all built of stone, and are very handsome. There are eighteen elegant stone store buildings, and several frame structures for business purposes.

The city has a National Bank with an authorized capital of $100,000. The directors are H. P. Churchill, president; E. E. Parker, vice-president; H. P. Stimson, cashier; Fred Beeler, George Buist, E. O. Garrett, and C. T. Gorham.

The Farmers' and Merchants' bank of Cawker City, is also located here. A. Parker, president, and W. A. Remfry, cashier. These banks are in elegant buildings of their own, one on Wisconsin Street and the other on Seventh Avenue. The leading hotel is the Whitney House, a large three story stone house of forty-three rooms, thirty-four of which are sleeping rooms. This hotel is situated in the corner, with eighty feet front on Seventh Avenue, and 105 feet on Ninth Street. The Commercial a large frame hotel, is situated fifteen feet north of the Whitney House.

The city of Cawker numbers now about 1,050 according to the census of 1882, taken by the township trustees.

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