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


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


Shortly after the close of the war, in 1865, a good many settlers, seeking homes in the West, located in the county, and this year and the one that followed were very prosperous years for the people. In 1866, however, the county, but particularly Council Grove, had quite a blow aimed at its prosperity. Up to this time Council Grove had carried on quite an extensive business, being the last trading post for trains going west, and the first point reached by trains coming from the west. Situated thus, and being located on the great and only highway between the Missouri River and New Mexico, its trade was immense. It was the rendezvous for all trains crossing the plains, and was the headquarters of the Santa Fe Coach Line. Everything contributed to make it a place of great prosperity, and the prosperity it shared was felt more or less throughout the county. Just at this point of its prosperity, however, the Kansas Pacific Railway was completed almost to Junction City, in Davis County, a point about twenty-five miles north of Council Grove. To this point the Stage Company moved its entire outfit, and Junction City was now to realize the trade heretofore enjoyed by Council Grove. The Santa Fe trail was virtually deserted, and the long trains that were wont to form at Council Grove, now formed at the county seat of Davis County, and, instead of following the Santa Fe Trail, moved westward over the Smoky Hill route. The people of Council Grove did not allow this vast trade to pass from them without an effort to retain it, and offered liberal inducements to the Stage Company to prevent them from moving, but all to no purpose; to Junction City they went and the business of Council Grove was staggered by the blow. Compared with what it had been, Council Grove became a quiet town. During this year, 1867, a slight shock of earthquake was felt in the county, and the scare created thereby was equal to any occasioned by either savage or guerrilla. Although the removal of the Stage Line Company, and the loss of business consequent thereon, was a severe blow to Council Grove, merchants continued to do a reasonably fair business. It is true their transactions were not nearly as great, but the business was steady, and when the balance sheets were struck at the close of 1867, dealers found that they had done reasonably well during the year. In fact it was a year of remarkable prosperity all over the county. A great many new settlers had located in the county during the year, the winter was exceedingly mild, and the spring of 1868 opened out very auspiciously. People were now commencing to retire a feeling of security, and all fear of Indian outbreaks or raids of bushwhackers had about vanished. In this year occurred the Cheyenne outbreak, which caused a great deal of excitement. But after it was all over, the inhabitants of Morris County found out that they were a great deal more frightened than hurt.

The year 1869 was rather a quiet year, and had it not been for the shooting and killing of William Hess by William Polk in a difficulty that arose over some frivolous matter, would have been quite uneventful. Polk immediately fled, but was afterwards captured in Illinois and brought back to Cottonwood, where he was tried and acquitted. Settlers were now pouring into the county thick and fast, and 1870 was marked by such a flow of immigration into the county as, up to that time, had never been realized. Large herds of cattle were driven into the county to fatten on its rich, nutritious and abundant grasses, and everybody felt happy under prosperity. Towards the end of the year, however, a small speck of war showed itself on the horizon, which, for some time, created considerable excitement. This arose from the fact that the vigilantes of Butler County, which joins Morris County on the south, had hung, for some real or supposed cause, a man named James Smith, and two brothers named Booth. Theses men had been at a former time residents of Morris County, and when it came to the knowledge of the people that three of their citizens had been hung by the vigilantes of an adjoining county, they were ready to wreak a terrible vengeance upon their neighbor. Satisfactory explanations were made, however, and the people quieted down and the thing was soon forgotten. In 1871 new comers flocked into the county by the hundred. They came singly and in groups, and even by whole colonies, some of which numbered fifty families to the colony. Nothing occurred in the county of unusual interest until the fall of 1873, when the entire western portion of the county was swept as by a besom with a devastating prairie fire. The fire originated in the neighborhood of White City, on the northern boundary line of the county, and spread with terrible rapidity over that portion of the county above mentioned, lapping up with its fiery tongue in its mad career, houses, barns, out-buildings, cattle, farm implements, hay-stacks, and in some instances, human lives, and leaving nothing but desolation and devastation in its wake. The damage entailed upon the settlers by this fire was immense, and very many of the people lost all they had saved and accumulated by years of toil and hard labor. The history of the county from that time to the present is without any incident of special interest or unusual occurrence, and pertains more to material growth and advancement, and, consequently, can be shown better by statistical history than by narrative.


At the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion, the population of Morris County, all told, did not exceed 800 souls, and the returns of the election for 1861, show that the voting population that year was only 158. Among the settlers were quite a number from Missouri and other slave-holding States, and, as a consequence, they divided upon the issue of the war according to their proclivities. Those who favored the Union were largely in the ascendancy, and during the early days of the war, about fifty men from Morris County enlisted in the Union army, most of whom went into the Eleventh Kansas, which was recruited by Gen. Thomas Ewing, then of Kansas, but now of Ohio.

As the war continued, men kept enlisting until Morris County had furnished 125 soldiers, which, for a county that was, by some, considered "disloyal," on account of the Southern people among the settlers, was pretty good evidence of their loyalty. When it is borne in mind that, in 1861, the voting population was only 158, it will be seen that nearly every loyal man in Morris County, capable of bearing arms, went to war to fight for the Union and Liberty. In addition to this, one John Delashnmitt came from Iowa and enlisted in Morris County a company of Kaw Indians for service in the Union Army, which numbered eighty men.

In 1863, the people were so harassed and kept in such a continual state of excitement by guerrillas and bushwhackers, that S. N. Wood, who had gone out as Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Kansas, at the commencement of the war, but who had resigned and returned home early in 1863, received authority from the Secretary of War and the Governor of Kansas, to organize a military force, to be known as the Morris County Rangers. If there were any enlisted men in this organization, we failed to find a record of their names, but the following is a list of the officers:

Morris County Rangers, Cavalry--Captain, S. N. Wood; First Lieutenant, James Cairey; Second Lieutenant, Theodore Jones; Third Lieutenant, W. R. Terwilliger; Ensign, J. H. Black.

Neosho Guards, Cavalry--Captain, W. T. Lard; First Lieutenant, J. E. Bryan; Second Lieutenant, J. A. B. Bear; Third Lieutenant, Samuel Brown; Ensign, A. J. Crawford.

Clark's Creek Rangers, Cavalry--Captain, Charles Guenter; First Lieutenant, Henry Baxter; Second Lieutenant, Courtney Holmes; Third Lieutenant, John Warnecka; Ensign, S. Atchison.

Neosho Rangers, Cavalry - Captain, S. D. Price; First Lieutenant, T. J. Lambert; Second Lieutenant, M. Clairey; Third Lieutenant, M. Clevenger; Ensign, G. W. Black.

Council Grove Guards, Infantry--Captain, R. B. Lockwood; First Lieutenant, J. Stenger; Second Lieutenant, James Phinney; Third Lieutenant, N. C. Aiken; Ensign, William Lane.


First Settlers.--Council Grove Township, S. M. Hays, 1847; Choteau Bros., 1848; T. S. Huffaker, 1850, and Columbia Bros., 1852. Neosho Township, J. C. Munkers, 1854. Warren Township, C. P. Eden and Henry Thornby, 1857. Valley Township, Joseph Dunlap, 1857. Clark's Creek Township, John Warneese, 1857, and Jake Baxter, William Atkinson and Charles Guenter in 1858. Parker Township, William Black, 1860. Rolling Prairie Township, A. I. Bezen, 1867. Elm Creek Township, B. M. and Milton Phil, 1865, Diamond Valley Township, J. M. Douglas and John O'Byrne, 1858. Ohio Township, Norman Parker, 1870. Highland Township, Detroit Burton, 1864.

First Justices.--H. J. Epsey appointed by Governor Geary in 1858. The next shown by the records is Thomas White in 1859, and William Mansfield and Abraham Pollard in 1860. Clark's Creek Township, Marion Walters and W. M. Patton, 1860. Neosho Township, William Downing and Porter Fishier, 1860. Diamond Valley Township, A. F. Dickinson and Wesley Lyon, 1868. Elm Creek Township, S. Corey and G. W. Coffin, 1871. Parker Township, G. W. Churchman and Thomas Eldridge, 1871. Ohio Township, H. C. Abernethy and D. E. Welden, 1872. Highland Township, Detroit Burton, 1866. Valley Township, H. H. Knox and W. H. Martin, 1874. Rolling Prairie Township, Erie Johnson, 1874. Warren Township, H. P. Watts and E. Johnson, 1881.

First Business.--The first store opened in the county was by S. M. Hays at Council Grove in 1847, followed the year after by Choteau Bros., and in 1852 by Columbia Bros. In 1861, at the same place, Alken & Thacher built a large steam grist and saw mill. Parkerville, a general store was opened by Eastman & Thomas in 1870, and at the same place in 1871, C. G. Parker erected a steam grist and saw mill. Skiddy, general store by College & McDaniels in 1870. White City, general store by Thornley & Dunbar in 1872. Dunlap, general store.

The first hotel in the county was built in 1856, at Council Grove, by Charles Gilkey.

First Church Buildings.--The first church building erected in the county was the Methodist Episcopal, South at Council Grove, in 1868; Congregational at the same place in 1871; Methodist at the same place in 1878. Methodist Church at White City in 1878. Methodist at Parkerville in 1880. Baptist Church at Skiddy in 1882. African Methodist Episcopal at Council Grove in 1879.

First Schools.--Council Grove, 1857, teacher, Miss Sarah Stevenson; Warren Township, 1868, teacher, Miss Amanda Harlow; Clark's Creek Township, 1859, teacher, Edson Baxter, at that time only fourteen years old; Elm Creek Township, 1868, teacher, Mrs. Bates; Neosho Township, 1859, teacher, Miss Sallie Fisher; Ohio Township, 1871, teacher, Mr. Lacy; Highland Township, 1871, teacher Henry Corbin; Parker Township, 1866; White City, 1873, teacher, Adam Dixon; Parkerville, 1871, teacher, William McCullom; Skiddy, 1873. First Marriages--T. S. Huffaker and Eliza Ann Baker, May, 1852, in Council Grove; Elm Creek Township, William Wiggins and Miss Berry, 1869; Ohio Township, A. F. Park and Mary J. Davidson, 1871; Warren Township, Thomas Roberts and Margaret Eden, 1871; Highland Township, James P. Kendall and Jemima K. Burton, March, 1867; Clark's Creek Township, William Parker and Caroline Atkinson, December, 1859; Neosho Township, William Horner and Miss Black, 1859.

First Postmasters.--The first Postmaster in the county was T. S. Huffaker, in 1854; Diamond Valley, Samuel Shaft, 1863; Neosho, B. Thomas, 1880; Elm Creek, L. M. Hill, 1866; Clark's Creek, Mr. Gilman, 1859.

First Things in General.--The first Commissioners appointed for the District, at that time, composed of Wise, Breckinridge and Madison counties, were: T. S. Huffaker, who was Chairman of Board and Probate Judge, O. H. Withington and H. R. Elliott, who were appointed by Governor Reeder in 1855. The first elected officers of the county were: W. B. Harrold, J. H. Ritchie and John Hammond, County Commissioners; Charles Columbia, Treasurer; S. N. Wood, County Attorney; A. J. Collier, Sheriff; Richard Utt, Assessor; A. C. Stewart, Coroner; and M. Conn, County Clerk. The first white child born in the county was Lucy Columbia in 1852. First resident white woman in the county was Mrs. Mitchell. First man sent from the county to the Territorial Legislature was Christopher Columbia. First District Court was organized in 1858, with Hon. Rush Elmore as presiding judge. The first term of the court was held in October, 1858, and the place of holding it was in the old log cabin built by S. M. Hays in 1847. The court officers were: William Weir, of Wyandotte County, was prosecuting attorney; L. McCarthy, clerk, and W. B. Harrold acted as Sheriff. The place where the jury deliberated upon their verdict was under the shade of a tree that stood in the yard. The first case that appears of record in the county is entitled "William Polk vs. J. J. Hawkins," the nature of the suit being for possession. The first instrument recorded in the county, as shown by the books in the office of Register of Deeds, bears date November 10, 1858, and is a deed made by S. Park to Samuel B. Bay, conveying forty acres in Section 24, Township 19, Range 7, which is now included in Lyon County. The first teachers' ld sic in the county was in 1864, at Council Grove.


Up to 1858, the county had no separate and distinct organization, but still formed a municipal township of the district composed of Wise, Breckinridge and Madison counties. In 1858 an election was ordered to complete the organization of the county, at which H. J. Epsey was elected Probate Judge and T. S. Huffaker, Harvey Munkers and Lewis Baum were elected Supervisors, but the latter gentleman failing to qualify, Thomas White was appointed to fill the vacancy. W. H. White became Justice of the Peace, N. S. Brazleton Surveyor, and Joseph Kempton was appointed Clerk of the Board.

Prior to this time there had been but one voting precinct in the county, but now that the county was fully organized, the Board of Supervisors at their first meeting in 1858 established three additional precincts, one at June Baxter's on Clark's Creek; one at William Downing's, on the Neosho; and one at Conn's Ranch, on Diamond Creek. The first question submitted by the Board for the people to vote upon, was one on which they were to decide whether hogs should be restrained from running at large. The election was held in October, 1859, and the porcine race were restrained by fourteen majority.

In the early settlement of the county, the prevailing sentiment of the people was strongly Southern, and hence the Territorial Legislature of 1855, by which the Territory was divided into counties, named nearly all the counties after southern celebrities. Thus came the names of Breckinridge, Madison, Davis, etc., and thus what is now Morris County was named Wise, after that Southern celebrity who, afterwards, as Governor of Virginia, sent John Brown to the gallows. By 1859, the tone of public sentiment had changed, owing to the large immigration that had set in from the Eastern, Middle and Northern States.

In this year, Hon. S. N. Wood was representing the county in the Legislature, and as the hanging of John Brown had aroused the indignation of all liberty-loving people, he had a bill passed by which the name of the county was changed from Wise to Morris, in honor of Thomas Morris, who was United States Senator from Ohio. The county officers chosen to hold their respective offices until November, 1860, were as follows: Probate Judge, James A. Robbins; Commissioners, W. B. Harrell, J. H. Richey and Jonathan Hammond; Sheriff, A. J. Collier; Assessor, Richard Utt; Coroner, A. C. Stewart; County Clerk, M. Conn; Treasurer, Charles Columbia; and County Attorney, S. N. Wood, and this concludes the history of the county while Kansas was a territory.

Kansas became a State and was admitted to the Union as such in 1861. After its admission, the state was divided into representative districts, and Morris, Chase, and Butler counties constituted the Thirteenth District. A. J. Chipman was the first man who represented the county in the State Legislature, and S. N. Wood had the honor of being the first State Senator from the county. The first election held in the county after Kansas became a State was in the spring of 1861, at which B. F. Perkins was elected Probate Judge; R. B. Lockwood, Clerk of the District Court, and T. S. Huffaker, Superintendent of Public Instruction. These officers were to hold their respective offices until January, 1862.

In November, 1861, a regular election was held, at which a full county ticket was elected. The officers chosen at this election were: Representative, Charles Columbia; Probate Judge, T. S. Huffaker; Clerk of the District Court, R. B. Lockwood; Commissioners, Jonathan Hammond, J. H. Richey, and C. R. Rhodes; County Clerk, John F. Dodds; Sheriff, A. J. Collier; Treasurer, R. B. Lockwood; Register of Deeds, John F. Dodds; Assessor, J. C. Munkers; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lew Whitsitt; Surveyor, J. B. Collier; Coroner, Allen Crowley. The total vote of the county at this election was 158.

The present county officers are as follows: L. McKenzie, Fay Parsons, F. M. Wierman, Commissioners; John Sims, Sheriff; A. Moser, Jr., County Clerk; R. M. Armstrong, Clerk of the District Court; W. H. White, Treasurer; Jesse Hammer, Probate Judge; J. E. Drake, Register of Deeds; A. G. Campbell, Superintendent of Public Instruction; E. I. Prothrow, Coroner; J. M. Miller, County Attorney; Seneca Tyler, Surveyor.

Organization of Townships.--From 1855, when the eastern portion of the State was divided into counties, until 1860, Morris County comprised but one municipal township, and was known as Council Grove, and was attached to Breckinridge, now Lyon County, for judicial and revenue purposes. The organization of Morris County was completed in 1858, and at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners held March 17, 1860, the county was divided into three civil townships, viz.: Council Grove, Neosho, and Clark's Creek.

In April, 1868, another township was created from territory taken from the south of Clark's Creek Township, and to the township thus created was given the name of Diamond Valley.

Parker Township was established on the 5th day of September, 1870, and was made out of territory taken partly from Neosho and Clark's Creek townships.

Elm Creek Township was organized September 9, 1871, the territory comprising which having been taken from Council Grove and Diamond Valley townships.

Ohio Township was created February 9, 1872, and comprises territory once embraced in Parker and Neosho townships.

Highland Township was set off January 13, 1874, and was taken from Clark's Creek, Diamond Valley, and Parker townships.

Rolling Prairie Township was organized April 15, 1874, out of territory taken from Clark's Creek and Parker townships.

Valley Township was created April 15, 1874, from territory formerly embraced in Council Grove Township.

Warren Township was set off from Neosho Township, January 5, 1880.

These constitute the eleven civil townships of the county, as now organized, their geographical position being as follows:

A line drawn through the center of the county, from east to west, would leave Valley, Council Grove, Elm Creek and Diamond Valley townships south of said line, and also a strip about three miles wide from the south of Highland Township. The position of these townships, in the order named, is from east to west. All the other townships in the county are north of said center line.

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