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


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


By a proclamation made by Governor James M. Harvey, on June 3, 1869, the County of Montgomery became legally organized as a corporate body. A Board of Commissioners was appointed composed of H. W. Crawford, H. A. Bethuran and R. L. Walker; and E. C. Kimball was appointed Clerk, and the seat of government for the county temporarily fixed at Verdigris City. On June 11, these parties appeared before W. S. McFeeters, a notary public and received the oath of office.

The first official act of the Board of Commissioners was to divide the county into townships and fix the voting precincts. Three townships were made, viz: Drum Creek, Westralia and Verdigris, which have since been redivided and changed, making in all twelve townships. Three voting places were named - one for each township. That for Drum Creek was at Fitch's store; for Verdigris at Verdigris City, and for Westralia at the town bearing the same name. The Oswego Register published by E. R. Trask, was made the official paper. At the second meeting of the Board, July 7, a permit was granted to W. C. Dickey and Daniel McTaggart to establish a ferry on the Verdigris River, at a point near Verdigris City, and also one to W. L. Bailey and H. C. Crawford for a similar enterprise at Westralia. Steps were taken to establish a public highway to lead from the town of Westralia to the west line of the county. The third meeting was held August 27, at which E. K. Kountz was appointed Probate Judge, George Hoag, Sheriff, and Daniel McTaggart, County Treasurer.

An election for the choosing of county officers, and also for fixing the county seat, was held November 2, 1869. The greatest interest seems to have been at Independence, as an aspirant for county seat honors. On the morning of the election a wagon-load of Independence men started early to the polls, in order that they might secure control of the election board; but, notwithstanding their rapid travel, reached the place in time to find they had only gotten one member. Close watch upon voters was kept up during the day at the polls, and challenges were frequent, necessitating nearly all votes to be sworn in. A canvass of the vote was made, and the vote of Drum Creek precinct was thrown out, on account of the returns being certified to as a copy instead of the original poll-book. As a result, Liberty was selected as the county seat, and a Board of Commissioners elected who were friendly to that place. The Independence people were sore under this galling defeat, and filed a notice of contest before the Probate Court of Wilson County, to which this county was then attached for judicial purposes. The matter was brought to the consideration of the court December 23, which decided, in effect, that no election had been held, and consequently no contest could be made. This, of course, placed matters in status quo , and the old board still continuing in the exercise of their official powers, proceeded to cause the seat of government to be removed from Verdigris City to Liberty, which was done in the face of many protests and much dissatisfaction.

The friends of Independence had set their heads together and evolved a piece of strategy in which they proved successful. Charles White, bearing a certified copy of the case contested before the Wilson County Probate Court, was sent to Topeka to lay the matter before the proper authorities of the state, and by this means secured the appointment of a new Board of Commissioners, composed of W. W. Graham, Thomas Brock and S. B. Moorehouse. After White returned from the capital, he in company with L. J. Stephenson, procured a wagon, and gathering in the newly appointed Board, drove them to Verdigris City, where, seated in the conveyance, the Board organized by electing W. W. Graham, Chairman, and appointed J. A. Helphingstine County Clerk, Samuel Van Gundy, County Treasurer; J. K. Snyder, Register of Deeds; and R.B. Cunningham, Superintendent of Schools.

The Independence Pioneer was named as the official paper of the county and the District Court ordered to be held at Independence on the 9th of May, 1870. The Board then appointed Independence as temporary county seat, and ordered the offices to be kept at that place. On May 13 an action was begun in the District Court to compel the commissioners to move the county offices to Liberty; but the case was dismissed by the plaintiffs, and the matter left at rest. Thus the old Board of Commissioners were superseded, but they were not willing to submit to such seemingly unauthorized proceedings. Finding it useless to dissent, however, after a few weeks they surrendered their records and gave up the contest.

With the organization of the county, on June 3, 1869, the county seat was temporarily fixed at Verdigris City, by the appointment made in the Governor's proclamation. At the regular county election held on the 2d of November, of the same year, it was deemed changed by the Board of Commissioners, and was taken to Liberty, the place thought to be determined by the vote of the people. The matter was taken before the courts for contest, and it was decided that no election had been held. In May, of the following year, the case, about which there was so much dispute and dissatisfaction, was taken before the authorities of State and a new Board of Commissioners was appointed, who, when they had regularly organized, named Independence as the seat of government for the county, and ordered that all the officers should take up their quarters at that place, which was accordingly done. In the following November another regular election was held, and among the issues to be determined was, as to where the county seat should be located. The election was an exceedingly warm one and much fraud was practiced and illegal voting done on all sides. In this contest, however, Independence came out victorious over its most potent rival, Liberty, by a majority of 279 votes, the vote being 839 for Independence and 5?0[sic] for Liberty. This was the final determination of the matter, the seat of government becoming fixed at Independence, where in right it should be, as the most central and available point in the county.

The first building the county possessed was a log court house, located at Verdigris City, when the county seat was at that place, and was moved to Liberty by order of the County Commissioners. The county seat was afterward fixed at Independence, when the old log building was abandoned, and shortly after the change was made a new court house was built by Samuel Van Gundy, and was the first brick building in the county. It is still used by the county for offices and court room. Until the erection of this house, the District Court had occupied the schoolhouse at Independence in its first sitting, and Rose & Fay's hall in its second, then in the present court house.

Prior to its incorporation. Montgomery was attached to Wilson County for judicial purposes. Within her own limits there were no courts of justice, but the absence of these was in a measure supplied by the self appropriated authorities of the claim clubs, which surrendered all authority npon[sic] the advent of those courts of high judicial standing, Justice's Courts. For a higher tribunal than these, resort was made to the courts of Wilson County, Montgomery County was made a part of the Eleventh Judicial District, and by the authority vested in the County Commissioners, the District Court for and in the county was ordered to be held at Independence on the 9th day of May, 1870. The time for the convening of the court had arrived and all the dignitari s[sic] of the law were on hand. The session was held in the school building, and the following court officers were present: Hon. W. C. Webb, Judge; L. J. Stephenson, Clerk of the District Court; C. M. Ralstine, County Attorney, and C. White, Sheriff. Those reported on the grand jury were: Daniel McTaggart, George A. Brown, George Whitfield, William Jackson, William Addy, J. Porter, W. H. Cox, Elijah Vanzandt, Samuel Van Gundy, Frank Coventry, L. C. Judson, B. E. Clark, J. J. Gregory and W. O. Sylvester, and on the petit jury were. Edward Barnett, A. M. Smith, William Orwig, John Saunderson, Thomas Reed, Elias Lovett, J. K. Snyder, S. D. Kelley, David Hodson, George Stills, E. T. Saunders and A. J. Stevens.

The grand jury at this sitting returned six indictments, one for murder in the first degree, three for murder in the second degree, and two for assault with intent to kill. The first jury trial before this court was had May 10, 1870. The title of the case was, the State of Kansas against Henry Adams. The charge was grand larceny, and the verdict of the jury in the case was "not guilty."

Those admitted to the practice of law were: D. B. Brown, O. P. Smart, Thomas Harrison, C. H. Wyckoff, John Helphingstine, T. B. Jennings, W. G. Clark and L. C. Judson.

The first sitting of the court was held in the school building, and the second in Rose & Fay's hall, and the third in the present court house, in which it has since been held in regular term.

In the following is given the names of those who have occupied the various official positions connected with the political government of the county since its organization to the present time.

State Senators - H. C. Whitney, A. M. York, W. A. Peffer, Daniel Grass, A. B. Clark.

Representatives - J. E. Adams, W. H. Bond, B. F. Devore, E. B. Dunwell, T. B. Eldridge, M. S. Bell, A. A. Stewart, C. S. Brown, William Hustin, L. A. Walker, Wm. Stewart, J. M. Heddins, O. F. Carson, L. N. Humphrey, W. C. Mastin, C. J. Corbin, A. B. Clark, J. P. Rood, J. H. Norris, Alexander Moore, J. P. Rood.

County Clerks - E. C. Kimball, J. A. Helphingstine, S. M. Beardsley, J. A. Helphingstine, E. T. Means, John McCallagh, Ernest Way.

County Treasurers - Daniel McTaggart, Samuel Van Gundy, J. A. Busby, Cary Oakes, Joseph Barricklow, F. S. Palmer.

Clerks of the District Court - L. T. Stephenson, J. L. Scott, T. O. Ford, H. D. Dodd.

Register of Deeds - J. K. Snyder, W. S. Mills, N. H. Ives, G. S. Beard, E. P. Allen.

Probate Judges - E. K. Kountz, J. M. Scudder, W. H. Watkins, E. Herring.

Sheriffs - G. S. Hoag, C. White, P. Q. Bond, J. E. Stone, J. T. Brock, Lafayette Shadley.

County Attorneys - C. M. Ralstine, Frank Willis, A. B. Clark, J. D. Hinkle, Ed. Van Gundy.

Superintendents of Public Instruction - J. A. Helphingstine, N. Bass, B. R. Cunningham, C. T. Beach.

Surveyors - Ed. Foster, B. R. Cunningham, A. G. Savage, G. B. Leslie.

Coroners - M. L. Ashmore, J. H. Kingston, W. M. Robinson, J. Coleman.

County Commissioners - First Board, H. C. Crawford, H. A. Bethuran, R. L. Walker; Second, W. W. Graham, Thomas Brock, S. B. Moorehouse; Third, W. W. Graham, H. D. Grant, John McDonald; Fourth, J. C. Frazier, W. J. May, W. S. Renfro; Fifth, W. J. Wilkins, George Hurst, J. H. Rudd; Sixth, T. R. Pittman, J. E. Cole, W. H. Harter; Seventh, W. R. Brown, Henry Mounger, A. P. Boswell.


Early in the history of the county the people became wild on the subject of railroads. They were not content with the slow and tedious methods of horse back and stage coach travel, and lumber wagon transportation, but believed that a railroad was necessary to satisfy their advanced demands, and to raise them up to the standard of the times. Every argument that ingenuity could invent was produced to convince the doubtful and stimulate the weak, in the belief of the splendid results that must inevitably follow so grand an enterprise. When the public anxiety became inflamed to the highest pitch a proposition was placed before the people, by the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company, asking them to contribute in county bonds the amount of two hundred thousand dollars toward building a railroad. This was what a majority of the people wanted and, in June, 1870, a vote was taken on the proposition, and out of a total vote of 2,166, there were 1,340 votes in favor of the bonds, to 826 against them. The proposition, too, was indefinite as to where the line should be run, but was simply that a line of not less than twenty-one miles of road should be built somewhere within the limits of the county. The election, too, was an extremely loose one, as ballots in some instances were cast regardless of age or qualification. Those living in the vicinity of Independence, from whence the controlling vote came, were particularly zealous, believing that the road would, without doubt, make that an objective point. But as it afterwards turned out, they had unnecessarily congratulated themselves; for, instead of the road being built to or in the direction of the place, it bent its course several miles to the east of it, turning southward and terminating at Coffeyville, in the southeastern part of the county. Here, then, was Independence deserted by the railroad company, and left standing alone far to the west, and fairly raging in indignation, threatening revenge for such cruel treatment from this soulless corporation. An effort was then put by the county to defeat the delivery of the bonds to the company. The matter was brought before the United States Court at Leavenworth, in July, 1871. The county was represented before the court, by E. W. Fay, of Peru; A. H. Horton, of Atchison, and Stillings & Fenlon, of Leavenworth. After a time the Board of County Commissioners ordered the suit abandoned, making concessions in favor of the railroad company; whereupon it was ordered that the bonds be delivered according to the terms of the agreement, which was accordingly done. The bonds were then sold by the company and passed into the hands of innocent purchasers, who, as the coupons fell due, presented them for payment; but the county authorities declined even to make a levy for their payment. A suit was immediately instituted for their collection by law, in which the county thought again to test the legality of the bonds. This suit was attended with much quibbling and dilatory moves, by means of which it hung in the courts for several years.

A compromise was finally effected between the Board of County Commissioners and the bondholders, whereby the bondholders agreed to take new bonds in payment of the old ones, at the rate of sixty-five cents on the dollar, and thus the matter became permanently settled, at an expense to the county, however, of about $30,000. The amount of the bonds thus disposed of did not cover the entire amount by $20,000, which was in the hands of an English firm, and which was afterwards redeemed by county treasurer Cary Oakes, at fifty cents on the dollar.

Although Independence was unhappily disappointed in this instance, yet it by no means defeated or weakened her determination in that direction. A railroad she would have, cost what it might, and, hence, the next best thing was to secure a branch road. Committee after committee was delegated to solicit this, and also to open negotiations with the railroad authorities, in which they should agree upon the terms upon which it should be built. The town offered, as a proposition, to vote the company a subsidy of $7,500 per mile to assist in its construction; but the company was slow to accept, in order to stimulate the people to greater donations. Finally it came to the knowledge of the people of the town, in a quiet way, that in case they increased the donation already offered, by a cash contribution of $4,000, and one hundred lots in the town, the branch would be constructed. No sooner had the authenticity of this report became confirmed, than the company was approached upon the subject and the additional demands guaranteed, upon which the agreement was consummated.

So anxious, indeed, were many of the citizens of the town to secure the advantages to be gained by the enterprise, that a number of them entered into an individual obligation of $50,000, as a security and guarantee that the propositions agreed upon, would be faithfully carried out by the town. Accordingly a hasty construction was prosecuted and the branch was completed during the latter part of the year 1871, and on the first day of January, 1872, the reverberations of the steam whistle through the valley of the Verdigris, announced to the over-enthusiastic inhabitants of the town, the approach of the iron horse, drawing behind his giant form, the first train of cars that ever rolled into the station at Independence. This branch was known as "Bunker's Plug," and was so named after Mr. Bunker, who was prominently engaged in obtaining it, and who also donated grounds for a depot. This was continued in operation as a branch road until the summer of 1879, when the South Kansas & Western road was built, westward through the county, connecting with the main line of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Southwestern road, at the town of Cherryvale, in the east part of the county. It was, however, but a westward continuation of "Bunker's Plug." During the same summer, the St. Louis, Warsaw & Western road was built, cutting across the northeast corner of the county, via Cherryvale, at which place it crossed the L. L. & G. road. The narrow gauge road was extended from Parsons, Labette County, to Cherryvale, in the fall of 1880. With this ended the construction of railroads in the county, and of which there is now an aggregate of sixty-five miles.

The name of the South Kansas & Western road was afterward changed and became the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Railway.

Montgomery County Agricultural Society was organiz d[sic] in July, 1871, with Benjamin M. Armstrong, president; J. R. Galloway, vice president; and E. E. Wilson, secretary. The first fair was held, in Independence, in the autumn of 1872, and regular exhibitions have been held annually since that time. The present officers of the society are - M. J. Salter, president; A. T. Peterson, vice president; V. M. Dewey, secretary; and Cary Oakes, treasurer. In the Centennial Exposition, at Philadelphia, in 1876, the exhibition made by the South Kansas Tribune Company, for the county, ranked first among the products of the State, in grasses and grains. A selection from the products of the county, under charge of L. A. Walker, was on exhibition at Bismarck Grove, in September, 1880. Some of the vegetables took the highest premium, and the entire collection was generally regarded as a fine display. The same collection, upon invitation by the authorities at the Kansas City Exposition, was placed upon exhibition at that place. The county took the highest premium and awarded a medal. A large exhibition ground is provided and supplied with a commodious exposition hall, stables, and pens for exhibiting stock, and also an excellent speed ring.


That the citizens of Montgomery County paid early and liberal attention to the matter of the education of the youth and the establishment and maintenance of good schools, can not be doubted. In proof of the statement, it may be added, that as early as 1872 there were already organized eighty-seven school districts, nearly all of which were supplied with amply furnished and comfortable school buildings. The amount of bonds issued by the various districts for this purpose, aggregated $120,000. From this favorable start still further growth was made, so that, in 1878, a period of six years, there were 102 organized school districts in the county, and one hundred school buildings, of which four were log, ninety frame, four brick and two stone. The number of the school population was 6,212, and the value of all school property was $101,817. Perhaps, the first term of school was taught by Miss Laura Foote, at Claymore, in 1869. And undoubtedly the next public school in the county was that taught by William Osborne, in the same year, at Elk City, the school being held in the hotel building erected by Thomas Harris. Subscription schools, however, had been taught at a very early date. In this county, of the lands set apart for school purposes, 4,270 acres remains unsold, of the average value of $3.50.

The annual report of the Superintendent of Schools shows a total number of districts in the county of 105; number of school buildings 103, or 126 school rooms. The total value of the buildings, furniture, etc., is estimated at $101,250.

The school population is 7,376 and the average daily attendance for the year was 3,658 under the instruction of 161 teachers. There are three excellent graded schools in the county, viz. - those at Independence, Coffeyville and Cherryvale. Elk City has also a partially graded school system. There were also nineteen private schools held in the county during the year with an enrollment of 482 pupils. A normal for the special training of teachers is held annually. This institution was opened for 1882, on July 5th, and continued twenty weeks, conducted by C. T. Beach. The enrollment was 123 and the average daily attendance 101. The receipts of institute funds for the year, including balance from last year, were $324.36. Expenses were $296.75, leaving a balance of $27.61. The receipts for the county school funds, for the year ending August 1, 1882, amounted to $45,360, while the expense aggregated $41,898.21. The balance on hand August 1, 1881, was $7,488, and on August 1, 1882, $3,462. In 1882 there were school bonds issued by various districts to the amount of $8,685, making a total bonded indebtedness of the districts, mostly in the cities, of $31,330.

No more reliable or convincing proof of the development of a section of country can be had than that exhibited from the statistics of the acreage under cultivation, the amount of the cereals productions, the number of various sorts of animals raised, etc., for different periods of time. For this purpose, a review of the statistics, for the years 1878 and 1882, are given in the following, in a comparative view:

In 1870, the population of the county was 7,564; in 1875, it was 13,017; in 1878, 16,468, and in 1882, reached nearly 20,000.

The number of acres under cultivation in 1878 was 168,188.19, of the value of $1,826,760.81; and in 1882, it was 242,887, valued at $2,731,327.

In 1878, there was produced 42,253 acres of wheat; 166 of rye; 59,336, corn; 8,985, oats; 123, barley; 103, buckwheat; 980, irish potatoes; 74, sweet potatoes; 727, sorghum; 173 castor beans; 3, cotton; 2,757, flax; 1, hemp; 16, tobacco; 121, broom corn; 1,607, millet and Hungarian; 569, timothy meadow; 118, clover meadow; value of garden products, $5,856; value of poultry and eggs, $8,476.75; pounds of cheese produced, 4,690; pounds of butter produced, 24,959.

As against these same articles, there was raised, in 1882, 19,548 acres of wheat; 242, rye; 79,123, corn; 7,673, oats; 5, barley; 61, buckwheat; 1,022, Irish potatoes; 96, sweet potatoes; 734, sorghum; 2,471, castor beans; 445, cotton; 5,628, flax; 20, hemp; 4, tobacco; 190, broom corn; 8,000, millet and Hungarian grass; 454, timothy meadow; 188, clover meadow; value of garden products, $7,103; value of poultry and eggs, $22,774; pounds of cheese made, 3,455; pounds of butter made, 318,403.

Of the various kinds of live stock there was, in 1878, of horses, 4,851; mules and asses, 1,012; cattle, 11,791, sheep, 4,175; swine, 25,746. In 1882 - horses, 5,458; mules and asses, 1,155; cattle, 16,639; sheep, 10,981; swine, 30,376.

The value of animals slaughtered and sold for slaughter in 1878 was $112,819.60, while in 1882 it was $305,045, or nearly treble what it was in 1878.

The number of pounds of wool clipped in 1877 was 4,478, and in 1882, 23,332 pounds, or more than five times the amount produced five years ago.

Of the number of fruit trees in bearing, there were, in 1878, apple, 45,503; pear, 467; peach, 205,766; plum, 2,167; cherry, 7,008. In 1882 - apple, 103,936; pear, 3,345; peach, 196,581; plum, 6,102; cherry, 17,747.

Of fruit trees not bearing, there were, in 1878, apple, 145,394; pear, 2,916; peach, 59,386; plum, 5,973; cherry, 16,380. In 1882, there were - apple, 70,576; pear, 6,136; peach, 31,859; plum, none; cherry, 5,821.

In 1882 there were 3,552 acres of artificial forest under cultivation.

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