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


[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]


Like many other places, Morris County has had its vexations, anxieties and tribulations over the question as to where the seat of justice should be located. From the time the county was organized until 1871, Council Grove held it by undisputed possession. This was the year in which Parkerville was incorporated, and scarcely was the town organization completed when it entered the lists to contest the county seat question with Council Grove. Petitions were widely circulated and submitted to the County Board of Commissioners, who ordered an election, so that the people might decide the question for themselves. The fight waxed hot and warm, the friends of the contesting points putting forth every effort that would add to their chances of success. Nor were they altogether particularly scrupulous about the means employed to secure victory, as they furnished abundant evidence to prove that "for ways that are dark and tricks that are vain," there are others peculiar as well as the heathen Chinee.

Voters were colonized in large numbers for the occasion, and were furnished temporary work at good wages, so as to hold them until after election. There were about as many herders scattered over the prairie as there were cattle, and if their flocks and herds were few, it was nobody's business, as American citizens their votes would count. When the result of a hard fought battle stands trembling in the balance, the general commanding must not stand hesitating between honor and expediency as to the employment of certain means, while the victory passes from his reach. Just prior to the election, a stranger would be struck to see the number of men employed on the streets under the Street Commissioner.

Other stratagems were resorted to, which shows that those who were directing affairs were not barren of ingenuity. People would come down from Parkerville to Council Grove, and inveigle away as many of the peripatetic voters as possible, and, in like manner, the people of Council Grove would operate in Parkerville.

On the night before election a number of laborers in Council Grove were thus enticed to go to Parkerville, and among them was one Irishman, who had been indulging rather freely in the "cratur." When they arrived at Parkerville, the descendant of Erin was taken to a hotel and assigned a room. Pat was not altogether reliable, for in his frequent potations he would give a whoop and "hoo-rooh" for Council Grove. After plying him with whisky, they undressed him and put him to bed, after which they left him, taking his clothes with them. About the time the matutinal rooster began to crow, Pat woke with a terrible thumping in the head. His mind was all confused, and it was a few minutes before he became sufficiently collected to comprehend the situation. He then got out of the bed and began to look for his clothes, but they were gone. He looked under the bed, behind the door, behind the washstand, but not a stitch of them could he find. Pat, however, was a man of good natural resources, and inasmuch as some one had stolen his clothes he could see no wrong in stealing somebody else's. Acting upon this principle he stepped out into the hall in his nether garments, and as many of the bedroom doors were open, the weather being warm, he had no trouble in clothing himself. The hour was early and not a sound was heard in the whole house. Pat went his rounds, taking a pair of pants out of this room, a vest out of that, a coat out of another, a hat out of the next, and last, a pair of boots, which he did not put until he reached the street. It was nothing but a fair exchange, thought the son of Erin and he had got the best of the bargain. He then started out on foot for Council Grove, distant about twelve miles, and on reaching town he met Mr. Nichols, the Street Commissioner, for whom he had been working, and to whom he told his experience, adding, "Be jabers, they thought to get me to vote for Parkerville, and though they trated me moighty dasent, as you may see, here I am to vote for Council Grove." How the contest was conducted may be ascertained from the fact that there was nearly a vote cast for every man, woman, and child, in the county. At that time the population of the county was 2,225, and the vote cast on the county-seat question was 1,312, of which Council Grove received 899, and Parkerville 413, so the former place was declared to be the seat of justice of Morris County, and remains so to this year of grace--1882.


In September, 1865, the people of the county voted to the Santa Fe Railway Company, bonds to the amount of $100,000, thinking thereby to secure the building of the line through the county. The total vote cast in the county was ninety-six, all of which, except six, were cast in favor of the bonds. The company did not accept them, however, and constructed its line about twenty-five miles south of the county. On June 29, 1867, another vote was taken on a proposition for the county to take stock to the amount of $165,000 in the Union Pacific, Southern branch, at which 195 votes were cast, of which number 174 were for the proposition and 21 against. This road is known in Kansas as the Missouri, Kansas, & Topeka Railway, and was built through the county in 1868. Its course is diagonal, running from the northwest to the southeast, and passes through Skiddy, White City, Parkerville, sic Council Grove and Dunlap. This road furnishes all the railway facilities the county has at the present time, but the people are very sanguine that they will have a direct east and west line in the course of a year or two, as bonds have been voted to aid in its construction and the line has been surveyed.

No mineral yet discovered in the county, although in 1874 a party prospected for coal in the vicinity of Council Grove, but after having bored down to a depth of 305 feet without discovering any indications of either bituminous or anthracite, gave it up as a failure, since which time the experiment has not been repeated. There is, however, in the county an abundance of superior magnesian and other kinds of limestone, suitable for building purposes, and also for making an excellent quality of lime. In Rolling Prairie Township, in the northern portion of the county, some very fine clay for pottery purposes has been found, and in Council Grove Township, at a depth of about 200 feet, a very thick vein, eight feet it is said, of pure gypsum has been discovered, but neither the clay nor the gypsum is utilized.

Aside from the steam flouring mill and Council Grove, the steam grist and saw mill at Parkerville, the grist mill at Dunlap, and two cheese factories in Parker Township, there are no manufacturing establishments in the county, nor are there any water privileges in the county to encourage the erection of any. A steam woolen factory or two might, however, be operated with profit to the owners, as the wool raised in Morris and adjoining counties would furnish an abundance of raw material to be manufactured, and the encouragement thereby given to the raising of sheep and the growing of wool would add greatly to the wool production. Aside from this the county has nothing to recommend it to those seeking fields for manufacturing enterprises, except that it offers superior advantages for the manufacturing of cheese and making of butter.


The people of Morris County are not behind that of any other in the attention given to the education of the youth, and in furnishing ample facilities for the advancement of education. School taxes, although the heaviest the tax-payer is called upon to pay, are always paid cheerfully, and hence it is that a stranger passing through the country sees the prairie dotted with so many schoolhouses. There are in the county sixty-three school districts, and sixty-two schoolhouses, of which seven are built of stone, fifty-three are frame and one is built of logs.

The population of the county between the ages of five and twenty-one years in 1882, which is considered the school age, was 3,482. The number of pupils enrolled during the year 1882, was 2,509. The average daily attendance was 1,539. There were employed during the year seventy teachers, of whom thirty-one were males and thirty-nine females. The average salary per month paid to teachers was, males, $32.15, and to females, $28.75. The amount expended was $18,338.09. The County Superintendent reports the school rooms well supplied with maps, charts, dictionaries, globes, and all other apparatus necessary to advance the pupils, assist them in their studies, and give them a clearer understanding of the subjects involved in their lessons.

The first white school taught in the county was at Council Grove, in 1857, the teacher being Miss Sarah Stevenson. Mr. T. S. Huffaker, however, had been employed as early as 1850, to teach the Kaw Indians in the Mission building, and while thus employed, several white children attended his school.

For reasons already mentioned in this history, the growth in population of the county has been rather slow, and not anything like what the superior agricultural advantages of the county would warrant. Any person who has read the narrative history of the county will readily understand how the county has been so backward in settlement. It will there be seen that the "Eastman" survey, made prior to the creation of Kansas into a Territory, placed the lands of the Kaw Reservation west of Council Grove and embraced a tract twenty miles square. This embraced more than half of the county, and left only the eastern portion subject to settlement.

Again in 1857, when a dispute arose as to the boundary lines of the reservation, and a new survey was ordered, which is known as the "Montgomery Survey," the location of the reservation was changed so that the town of Council Grove became the center north and south, and all the territory in the county east of Council Grove, and to a point five miles west, was declared to be within the Kaw Reservation. The result of this was that all who had settled upon this territory were declared trespassers, and had to leave. Thus we find that in 1860, thirteen years after the first white settlers had located at Council Grove, the entire population of the county numbered only 770. The "Montgomery" survey left only the western portion of the county subject to settlement, but the war coming on put a stop to immigration. After the war closed immigration set in again, but the large tract of choice lands held by the Indians was a great drawback to settlement. We find, however, that in 1870, the population of the county had reached 2,225, showing an increase in ten years, although virtually five, because from 1860 until 1865 immigration had almost ceased, of 1,455. All difficulty over the Indian lands having been amicably settled, and the Kaws moved away to the Indian Territory, the flow of immigration set in with greater force.

In the five years from 1870 to 1875, the population had increased 2,372, nearly double as much as it had in the ten years preceding 1870, thereby raising the population of the county in 1875 to 4,597. From 1875 to 1878, the increase in population was 1,059, or a total of 5,656, while during the next two years we find the increase to have been 2,766, as according to the census of 1880, the population of the county was 8,422.

By a comparison of figures, we find the material growth of the county to have been much greater than its growth in population would seem to indicate, although the same causes that operated against the one, also militated against the other. We find that in 1874 the total acreage of field crops was 19,117.25; whereas in 1880 it was 75,956.20, or nearly four times greater. If we take the value of products as a basis for comparison we find that they aggregated in 1874 $163,616.35, and in 1880 $901,997.69, showing the increase in six years to be $738,381.34.

We do not think it necessary to compare one year with the other to show the ratio of increase in material growth, as the latest statistics obtainable being those returned to the County Clerk by the assessors of the respective townships will sufficiently show that, in material growth, the county is advancing rapidly. By these returns we find that the number of acres sown to winter wheat in 1881 was 4,164; rye 732; spring wheat sown in 1882 1,896 acres; corn 41,426 acres; oats 9,588 acres; Irish potatoes 722 acres; sweet potatoes 41 acres; sorghum 656 acres; flax 1,215 acres; broom corn 68 acres; millet and Hungarian 2,677 acres; pearl millet 42 acres; timothy 113 acres; clover 156 acres; rice corn 76 acres; prairie meadow 2,040 acres; prairie pasture 15,420 acres, making a total of 81,032 acres. If we take the product of the two leading articles, wheat and corn, the value of the yield of these alone, at a reasonable estimate, will be $113,625.

In 1881 there were cut in the county 777 tons of tame hay, and 31,346 tons of prairie hay. The value of the garden produce marketed during the year was $2,854, and the value of poultry and eggs sold was $5,771. Of cheese there was made during the year 1881, in family and factory, 1,490 pounds, while of butter there was made 174,188 pounds. There were clipped in the county during the year, 30,047 pounds of wool, valued at $9,091.

The value of agricultural implements in the county was set down at $53,008, and the value of horticultural products at $1,468. The value of animals slaughtered, or sold for slaughter, during the year ending March 1, 1882, was $144,963.

There were in the county, in 1881, 4,046 horses; mules, 317; milch cows, 4,154; other cattle, 8,787; sheep, 7,977, and swine, 9,150, the aggregate value of which was $685,673.

There were nearly 200 farm dwellings erected during the year, at an aggregate cost of about $160,000. There were in bearing 15,123 apple trees; 401 pear trees; 47,057 peach trees; 1,566 plum trees, and 5,634 cherry trees. The number not in bearing was 49,452 apple trees; 2,706 pear trees; 49,268 peach trees; 2,714 plum trees, and 11,536 cherry trees. Another item representative of considerable value is that of fencing. It is safe to say that each rod of fence in a county will represent $1.50 in value. Now, there were in Morris County, in 1881, 19,364 rods of board fence; 28,493 rods of rail fence; 42,575 rods of stone fence; 92,904 rods of hedge fence, and 68,454 rods of wire fence, making in all 251,790 rods of fence in the county, which an average of $1.50 per rod represents a value of $377,685.

It is estimated that the number of acres in farms is 150,000, or about one-third of the land in the county. When one-third of the county is capable of producing and representing such immense wealth, what must it represent when fully developed? And it must be said of Morris County that it contains very little waste land, as by far the greater portion of it, probably four-fifths, is well adapted to agriculture, and capable of being improved.

[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]