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


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


The territory now known as Nemaha County was originally, or at the time of the earliest white settlement, in the possession of various tribes of Indians, notably the Pottawatomies and the Foxes. Prior to this settlement, however, and to any knowledge we have of its native occupants, is the record of the history of its discovery, the soil of Nemaha County being pressed by the foot of civilized white men before a vestige of settlement other than that of the aborigines had touched any of the thirteen original colonies. In the Smithsonian Institute are the records of an expedition, under the command of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a Spaniard, which marched from Mexico to the northern boundary of Kansas, passing through the territory now known as Barbour, Kingman, Reno, Sedgwick, Harvey, McPherson, Marion, Dickinson, Davis, Riley, Pottawatomie and Nemaha Counties, reaching the fortieth degree of latitude, the northern boundary of Nemaha County of the State, in the month of August, 1541. Coronado says that the country north of the Kaw was called by the Indians, Quivira. He says: "The earth is the best possible for all kinds of productions of Spain; for while it is very strong and black, it is very well watered by brooks, spring and rivers. I found prunes (wild plums)like those of Spain, some of which were black; also some excellent grapes and mulberries." Before reaching this point, he had traversed "mighty plains and sandy heaths, smooth and wearisome, and bare of wood." He says: "All that way the plains are as full of crooked-back oxen (buffalo) as the mountain Serena, in Spain, is of sheep." The expedition appears to have originally consisted of three hundred and fifty Spaniards and eight hundred Indians, but, provisions failing the party in the neighborhood of the present site of Wichita, the main body turned back; the indomitable Coronado, with thirty-six picked men, passing on in hope of finding the cities of gold, which tradition and their guides, told them, lay "just beyond." This then, as nearly as can be ascertained, was the strength of the party which reached Nemaha County.

No other expedition of any importance is known to have crossed the territory in question, until the second journey of Fremont - that of 1842 - his route extending across Nemaha County, entering the county south of Sabetha, extending northwest to Baker's Ford, turning south to near Seneca, and leaving the county at Town 1, Range 11; the tortuous path of the expedition being due to its inability to cross streams, and of course, to its entire want of knowledge as to where the streams were. This road, with slight modifications, was afterward traveled by the Mormons in 1844, at the beginning of their exodus to Utah. In 1849, it was the trail of the California gold-seekers, and subsequently, the military road, along which passed many of the troops bound for the far west.

About 1852, Benjamin Harding, an Indian trader, settled on the site of Wathena, in Doniphan County, there being no other settlement effected in this section to the west of that point until 1854. In January of that year, W. W. Moore came from St. Joseph and located in the proximity of Baker's Ford on the Nemaha, some nine miles from Seneca, the name of Moorestown being subsequently given to the eighteenth election district. This point was afterwards known as Urbana, though it was a settlement it hardly deserved a distinguishing name, except as it was near the centre of immediately subsequent settlements. In February of the same year, Walter D. Beeles settle to the north of Moore's place, and in March, Greenberry Key; Thomas, John C. and Jacob B. Newton locating upon the Nemaha, and somewhat to the south, in April. John O'Laughlin, formerly of Iowa, accompanied this party from St. Joseph and took a valuable claim on Turkey Creek. On the 4th of July a meeting of the settlers was held at Urbana, the object being to arrange for the protection of each other in their claims. Of this meeting John Castle was Chairman, and George T. Bobst, Secretary, both residents of Nebraska, where the latter had arrived on June 11, 1854, accompanied by Robert Turner, proceeding north from Urbana, and settling just over the future Territorial line. At the time of this meeting, no settlement, except in the vicinity of the Nemaha, had been effected west of the Wolf River and Harding's station; the early settlement of Nemaha County, preceding the formal ceding of the Northern Kansas lands by the Indians, being due to the understanding that a twenty mile strip along the valley of the Nemaha, and extending southward some ways, was "neutral land," to which the Indians had no claim.

Of the settlers above mentioned, all who are known to have located in the county in 1854, but few records are to be found; most, if not all of them, have long since passed away. Elder Thomas Newton, then 58 years of age, accompanied by his wife, their sons and sons' families, settled five miles from the present site of Seneca, on what is now known as the Bloss farm. Elder Newton represented the Regular Missionary Baptists and during his first year on the Nemaha, preached occasionally when he could get a half dozen or more settlers, emigrants or claim hunters congregated together. He preached the first sermon, performed the first marriage ceremony, and officiated at the first funeral, that of his son, Jacob B. Newton, who died in September, 1854. He died in February, 1881, after a residence of twenty-seven years in Kansas, and a useful life of eighty-four years. W. W. Moore and Walter D. Beeles, built the first bridge on the Nemaha in 1854, about half a mile below what was afterward known as Baker's Ford, a toll-bridge which the public was, for a time, obliged to use, by reason of its proprietors felling a large elm tree in the ford, rendering it impassable. In the spring of 1855, during the period of a great freshet, as the owners were one the bridge guarding it from drift, they saw the elm tree carried away by the rush of waters, and just as they left it, the structure itself, struck by the tree, loosened from its moorings, and swept towards the Missouri, a fair example of poetic justice.

In January, 1855, there arrived in the vicinity of the Newton farm, Mrs. Mary A. Lanham, with her two sons, Samuel and Joseph, her husband, H. H. Lanham, accompanied by Horace M. Newton, reaching the Nemaha on March 8th of the same year, the former having left Fayette County, in Illinois, from St. Louis, and come up the Missouri river to ST. Joseph on the old "Banner State," in seven days' time. During the following month Rev. Thomas R. Newton, accompanied by his wife and children, arrived; and about the same time William Harris settled on the creek to which he gave his name. Others who settled in close proximity to these, during the summer of 1855, were James Thompson, Cyrus Dolman, John S. Doyle, Elias B. Church and John S. Rodgers; all of the last mentioned, together with the Newton family, and H. H. Lanham, locating within the boundaries of the present Richmond Township. The first settlement in the east of the county-in Capioma Township-was made during the same year, by James McCallister, Robert Rea, William E. Barnes and Samuel Magill. William M. Betty and L. J. McGowan settling in the Valley Township, and David M. Locknane in Granada Township. Hiram Burger left Canada in the spring of 1855; his family stayed in Jackson County, Iowa, and in June, with Henry Medcalf and Joshua R. Brown, he came to Nemaha County, returning for his family in the fall. On November 9, having accomplished his mission, and accompanied by George Frederick and George Goppelt, he arrived in the vicinity for the second time, settling on Turkey Creek. With Frederick and Goppelt was a negro, named Moses Fately, who took a claim, sold by him to Edward McCaffrey the following year for $200. This negro bought his freedom of a Mr. Speer of Boonville, Missouri, and also the freedom of his wife, sister, and the two children of the latter.

Among the early settlers in Rock Creek Township were Jubal Brown, Archibald Moorhead, Z. Archer, Levi Joy, William Z. and Robert Carpenter, Isaac Ferguson, L. R. Wheeler, Thomas C. Priest, Joseph Haigh, John L. George, William G. Graham, L. P. Hazen, A. W. Williams, James Oldfield, David Taber, John Ellis, Edwin Miller, Elihu Whittenhall, William B. Slosson and N. H. Rising. Thomas Carlin, Michael Rogers, Peter McQuaid, Andrew Brewer and Alexander Gillespie were among the earliest settlers in Nemaha and Clear Creek Township. In Granada Township, besides, and following Locknane, were Uriah Haigh, George D. Searles, Augustus Wolfley and sons, Jacob Geyer, Frederick Shoemaker, M. H. Terrill and Thomas S. Wright. The earliest settlers in Red Vermillion Township were Garrett Randel and D. Arnold, followed by Tobias Shaffer, William H. McCart, Joseph Hannum, Samuel Sandys, Jacob Jacobia, Peter Hamilton, and the Shepards. In Neuchatel Township, a settlement was effected in the spring of 1857, by Charles Aldolphe, Amie E. Bonjour and D. S. Veale. In Home Township, among the early settlers, were the Armstrong Brothers, William Meyers, J. Barnes, Hezekiah Grimes, Samuel Mitchell, George L. Squire, Dr. John S. Hidden, A. W. Slater, Stephen Barnard, Joseph W. Franks, T. A. Campfield, Drs. J. J. Sheldon, D. B. and N. B. McKay, R. Mozier, and William J. and Timothy McLaughlin. On the Nemaha, Illinois and Tennessee, south and southwest from Seneca, were William R. Wells and sons, Thomas Rich, Isaac Pliss, Thomas Carter, William Hickey, James F. Long, William M. Houston, John, John S. Doyle, Alonzo Whitmore, Elias B. Church, and others.

Of the above mentioned pioneers, H. H. Lanham became the first Postmaster in the county, the first Justice of the Peace under Free-state-laws, and was, for thirteen years, Probate Judge. He is still a resident of the county. Horace M. Newton, after a long residence in Richmond Township, farming and milling, removed to Marshall County. Rev. T. R. Newton, from 1855 to 1867, devoted himself faithfully to missionary work, his field of labor extending from Burr Oak bottom, in Doniphan County, to Blue River, in Marshall County, and from Manhattan, in Riley County, to North Nemaha, Nebraska. On the 20th day of January he performed his last work in preaching his last sermon in Seneca, his text being the passage from Job: "If a man die, shall he live again?" He died of cerebrospinal meningitis, on the 25th of the same month. A characteristic incident of the man, occurring in April, 1856, may not be out of place in this connection. Through Isaac Hanby, a Free-state man, notice was given him that he would not be allowed to preach at Burr Oak Bottom. At the appointed time he appeared, met the mob, many of them armed with revolvers, with mild words, but an unyielding determination to preach the gospel of Christ as he understood it; the result being that he secured attention, delivered his address, and in the future was unmolested. Cyrus Dolman became the first Probate Judge, remained in the county a few years, and then went further West. William Harris, the first Justice of the Peace under Pro-slavery laws, remained in the county only about two years.

The first birth in the county, of which any record is to be found, is that of Mollie Key, born to Greenberry and Polly Key in March, 1855. The first marriage solemnized was in Nemaha Township, by Rev. Thomas Newton, on the 12th of November, 1854, the contacting parties being Charles Leachman and Mrs. Caroline Davenport, a widower and widow, who had emigrated from Iowa, to which State they shortly after returned. The first death is a question of some little doubt. In September, 1854, Jacob B. Newton, son of Rev. Thomas Newton, died of typhoid fever, the record further saying the first husband of Mrs. Davenport died in Nemaha County and was buried on the Henri Korber place, his coffin being made by Christian Bobst and Robert Turner, out of his wagon box. As Mrs. Davenport was married a second time, on November 12, 1854, and without evidence to the contrary, it must be supposed that a decent interval elapsed between the funeral and the wedding; the question of priority as regards Mr. Davenport or J. B. Newton remains a question. The first church was Congregational organization effected at Albany, in Rock Creek Township, in 1857. There were twelve charter members, of whom Hon. George Graham, now deceased, was the leading spirit. The first church edifice erected was that of the Catholics, built at Wildcat, in 1859, and, with additions, still in use. The first school taught in the county was in 1856, in Granada Township, a small building for school purposes being erected during the same year. Various efforts in the cause of education were made a t an early date, of which, unfortunately, but few records can be found. A school building was erected at America City, in Red Vermillion Township in, 1857; 1858 saw the establishment of the first school in Seneca, taught by Addie Smith; and in 1859 witnessed the first school in Central City, under the charge of Mahlon Pugh.

The first claims were taken, necessarily, without warrant, there being no facilities for entry, or place at which payment could be made to the Government. The earliest payments for land in the county were as follows, all made in 1857: October 26, Frederic Shoemaker, Section 6, Township 5, Range 14: November 2, I. G., J. D. and R. N. Ramsey, sections 13 and 14, Township 1, Range 4; November 10, Augustus Wolfley, Section 6, Township 5, Range 14: November 11, Hugh R. Magill, Section 10, Township 3, Range 14: November 16, Elizabeth Farrar, Section 14, Township 3, Range 14; November 19, Peter Hamilton, Section 27, township 5, Range 12. Pre-emptions were made up to the autumn of 1860, and the Land Office for the district of which Nemaha County was a part was at Kickapoo.

The only Indian scare, in which the early settlers of Nemaha County were concerned, was one occurring in the spring of 1856. In the fall of 1855, and during the succeeding winter, they gathered from the signs and preparations of the Pottawatomies that as soon as the grass had grown sufficiently to support their ponies the war paint would be put on and the war path taken. The settlers naturally supposed that they were the intended victims of savage hate, and accordingly they gathered in force, early in the spring, at Baker's Ford. After some days of anxiety, they learned that the Pottawatomies, so far from premeditating an attack upon them, had gone forth in search other their ancient enemies, the Pawnees, who they found, by the way, and by whom they were disastrously defeated. Assured of their own safety, the settlers dispersed to their farms.

The first towns in the county were Central City, Richmond, America City, Granada, Ash Point, Pacific City, Urbana, Wheatland, Centralia, Lincoln, Seneca and Sabetha.

Central City was laid out in 1855, by William Dodge, for Thomas Newton and sons, and H. H. Lanham. It never was incorporated by legislative enactment. Its location was Section 1, Township 2, Range 12, now known as the Bloss farm. There was a postoffice, the first in the county, under charge of H. H. Lanham; a blacksmith and wagon shop, and a horse-power saw and grist-mill, all run by the Newton and Lanham families. There was also a store kept by Benjamin Shaffer, afterward sold to Beeler & Williams, of Iowa Centre, but managed by and in the name of Lanham and Newton. The mill was bought at Kansas City, brought to its destination by teams, and run for a time by ox-power. In 1857 or 1858 its proprietors built a dam across the Nebraska, but failing by this means to secure sufficient power to run both branches of the business, they put in an upright boiler and small engine, using the water power for the mill stones, and steam-power for sawing. During the high water of 1858 and 1859, when the Nebraska was a mile in width, the dam and grist- mill works were carried away. What remained of the establishment was moved to the prairie, and leases to Leslie & Barnbrick, who put in a bolt and other necessary machinery, and for a short time ran a saw, grist and flour mill. Destroyed by and incendiary fire it was rebuilt, sold and moved away. In 1863 Lanham & Newton bought a steam-mill at Pawnee City, Neb., bringing it to Central City, and a few months later removing it to Seneca. As has been said, the first school in Central City was taught by Mahlon Pugh, in 1859. It was select. Its first teacher was soon succeeded by Mrs. H. M. Newton, who taught till sometime in 1860. The Central City Baptist church was organized August 1, 1857, with Elder T. Newton and wife, Rev. T. R. Newton and wife, and H. H. Lanham and wife as charter members. A few additions to the membership were made. The first pastor was the Rev. T. R. Newton, who alternated with Rev. Thomas Newton for several years, when Robert Turner assumed the position. The members built a small church structure, afterward used as a school-house. On September 12, 1875, the society formally united itself with the Seneca Baptist church.

Richmond was started in 1855, at the crossing of the Nebraska on the Fort Leavenworth and Fort Kearney and Leavenworth routes. The owner of the claim was Cyrus Dolman, a Pro-slavery man, and the first County Judge. An act to incorporate the Richmond town company was passed by the :Bogus" Legislature of 1855, constituting as a body politic and corporate by name and style as above. F. T. Marshall, David Galispie, John Doniphan, A. G. Woodward, R. C. Bishop, James E. Thompson, John A. Dolman, Frederick J. Ebert, Cyrus Dolman, James O. Donoghem, Augustus Leist, John Donaldson and Daniel Vanderslice, and their successors. The second section gave the corporation the power to purchase and hold, and enter by pre-emption or otherwise, any quantity of land where said town of Richmond is located, not exceeding 1,000 acres, and to lay the same off into lots, parks, streets, squares and avenues, and to sell, dispose of and convey the same. As events proved, the entire 1,000 acres permitted by the act, were not required.

Two buildings were at once erected for the proprietors by Lanham & Newton; one occupied as a dwelling, and the other as a store-room and hotel, the latter being the individual property of A. G. Woodward. It is now on the farm of Festus M. Newton, the dwelling being removed to W. B. Stone's place, north of Seneca. This was the official business centre of the county; the first county warrants issued were drawn here, it being the temporary county seat, by legislative enactment; and honor it might have retained had it not been for its established Pro-slavery character.

Ash Point embraced the south half of the northeast, south half of the northwest, north half of the southwest, and north half of the southeast quarter of Section 8, Township 2, Range 11. John O'Laughlin was the main man of the town, which was made a postoffice, he being the official incumbent. He also established a general store and a hotel, these buildings, with one or two dwellings, constituting the town. Other residents in the immediate propinquity were Josiah Blancett and John Short. Ash Point was a stage station on the overland road, a fact which kept it from entire extinction until 1871 or 1872, though for the last ten years of its existence it had nothing but a store building to mark the town site, which is now a farm. It is situated at the junction of the old overland and California roads.

Farmington embraced the northwest quarter of Section 26, and the northeast quarter of Section 27, Town 1, Range 12, being southwest of old "Urbana," a paper town started by W. W. Moon, at Baker's Ford. Thomas Smith and James Parsons succeeded W. W. Moon at the point, where there was a store building, while Rosalvin C. Perham and John E. Perley directed their energies to the up- building of Farmington. They erected a hotel, store building and blacksmith shop, the last continuing in operation for some years. The old town site is now a pasture.

Pacific City was situated on Section 14, Town 3, Range 13, occupying high prairie land. It was once a place of high expectations, though the town consisted of a hotel building, owned by Orrin Gage, and a good well, used by travelers to a considerable extent. The town site is now fulfilling its destiny as a farm.

Lincoln was the property, and its future glory the dream, of J. E. Hawkes. Its plat was filed for record November 20, 1860. At this point there were, for a time, two stores, a harness shop, a blacksmith shop and a mill, the last being subsequently sold to William Robinson, and removed to Capioma Township, where its machinery is still in operation.

The other early towns that have been referred to, having yet an existence, will be found treated of in the proper place, together with something of their early rivalry, and their struggle for the county seat.


In August, 1861, A. W. Williams, then of Sabetha, acting under proper authority, and with the commission of captain, succeeded in securing 150 volunteers from the counties of Marshall, Nemaha and Brown. These, as they enlisted, went into camp near Sabetha, where they remained for about a month at Capt. Williams' expense as to rations, and making use of extemporized barracks. In September, they proceeded to Leavenworth, where they were sworn in, 100 of them as members of Company D, of the Eighth Kansas Volunteers, and fifty of them in other companies. The other commissioned officers of Company D were - R. Todd, First Lieutenant; John Graham, Second Lieutenant. Of the 150 men, Nemaha County contributed about one-third, the roster of whom will be found in the proper place in military history.

Subsequent to this, Hon. George Graham enlisted about thirty men from Nemaha County, the squad dividing when it reached Leavenworth, the members connecting themselves with various regiments, notably the Ninth and Thirteenth Kansas. The county had about forty men in the Seventh, and seventy in the Thirteenth, thirty-seven of whom were enlisted by Lieut. Hensel, and the remainder by Lieut. Cline and others. Company D, Eighty Kansas, was detached for service along the border, being stationed at Fort Kearney for a time, and afterwards at Atchison. In 1865, it was in Texas, whence it was ordered home for discharge. The Thirteenth Regiment was mustered out at Little Rock, Ark., in June, 1865, the Nemaha County men arriving home in July.

In addition to the volunteers from Nemaha County, about 200 in number who enlisted early in the action, there was a call July, 1864, for a regiment of 100 days' men, known as the Seventeenth Kansas. This quota demanded from Nemaha County numbered eighteen of whom eight enlisted and ten were drafted - the only draft made in the county, and one which need not have been made had time been given for volunteers to come to the front, notwithstanding that nearly all of the able-bodied citizens of the county were already in service, Sabetha having but one man left. These men were taken to Leavenworth and discharged the same month.

On November 3, 1865, occurred in Seneca a reception for returned soldiers, the welcoming address being delivered by Gen. Sherry, and the response by Hon. George Graham, the exercises concluding with a banquet and merry-making.

Nemaha County did her duty, and more than her duty, in the war for the Union. To her, as much as to any county in the State, is the world indebted for the blow which struck off the fetters of the slave - fetters which became links to bind the States, both North and South, more closely together.


The section of Kansas in which Nemaha County is situated, while it has not enjoyed immunity from disaster, has certainly suffered as little as any part of the State. Its climate is mild, the temperature even, and the rainfall generally sufficient to assure good crops. No cyclones have swept its prairies; no great droughts at any time afflicted it.

The first great storm of which there is any record was one occurring July 13, 1871, blowing from west to east through the central tier of townships. A number of building in its path were demolished, and three lives were lost - those of Peter Westfall and his two daughters, who perished in the ruins of their dwelling. The residence of Howard Chilson, situated just south of Seneca, was blown several feet from its foundation, and the brick dwelling of S. B. Smith blown down; these disasters, with the loss of various barns and outbuildings, constituting the effects of the storm. On May 30, 1879, a strong wind swept a limited section of the county, demolishing several frame buildings insecurely constructed, but resulting in no loss of life.

In 1866 occurred the first serious raid of the grasshopper army. They put in an appearance in the early summer, swarming in immense clouds, and coming from a southwestern direction. During their brief stay of two weeks they did great damage to the growing crops, and deposited their eggs, after which they passed on to the northeast. In 1867, those eggs, which were deposited on light and sandy soil, exposed to the sun, hatched out in great numbers. The result, while bad enough, might have been a great deal worse, the fruit being comparatively uninjured, and the farmers securing about half a crop of small grain. In 1868, they came from the northwest, did immense damage to the growing crops, and also deposited their eggs in great quantities, of which, owing to the severity of the winter, but a few hatched out in the spring. In 1873, the swarms were comparatively small, but managed to effect considerable damage.

The year 1874 was one of drought, not sufficient in itself to have utterly prevented the results of good farming, not sufficient in itself to have utterly prevented the results of good farming, but so severe as to leave the farmers absolutely nothing as the result of their labors when taken in conjunction with the devastating hordes of grasshoppers which came from the northwest, arriving in the county July 31, and laying everything waste. The Courier says: "The corn fields resemble well poled bean patches, while the apple trees have been stripped of their leaves, and in may orchards this year's growth of wood destroyed."

The succeeding winter was that of the famine, when Kansas cried for help. Nemaha County had suffered less than some of its neighbors, and was richer than most of them: while aid was rendered her in a few cases from outside sources, she rendered at least an equal amount of assistance to Jewell and other counties. It was not until New Year's that the suffering really began, at about which time relief committees were organized in Wetmore and Granada townships, which reported fifty families then in need. In January and February, Illinois, Neuchatel, Harrison and other townships appealed for help, and received it, the first mentioned of these reporting forty destituted families within its boundaries. The Granges did good work systematizing the work of distribution, Hon. G. W. Brown deserving special mention as the county agent for the Grange relief system. With 1875 came good crops, and with these prosperity.

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