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


[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]


The first election held in the county was on March 30, 1855, for members of Council, and representatives to the Territorial Legislature. There were ten Council Districts with thirteen members, and fourteen Representative Districts with twenty-six members. Nemaha Precinct with Wolf River and Doniphan constituted the seventh Council District and the eleventh Representative District. The entire vote of the district, 478 ballots, was cast for John W. Forman, a merchant, a native of Kentucky, and a resident in the Territory for twelve years. The vote of Nemaha Precinct was 61. The representatives chosen were: R. L. Kirk, a nine months' resident; and John H. Stringfellow, who had been in the Territory for one year. Nemaha Precinct gave the former 50, and the latter 48 votes. At this election George H. Baker, Jesse Adamson and Samuel Cramer were judges; Samuel Crozier and Thomas Cramer, clerks. Most of the voters were non-residents, the following being the list of those actually entitled to the right of suffrage; W. W. Moore, W. D. Beeles, George H. Baker, Jesse Adamson, Samuel Cramer, Samuel Crozier, Samuel L. Miller, William Bunker, Thomas Newton, Horace M. Newton, H. H. Lanham, John O'Laughlin, Greenberry Key and Uriah Blue.

The Legislature convened on the first Monday of July. Its acts took effect as soon as they were passed, being now best known as the "Bogus laws of Kansas." Among other things, provisions was made for the organization of nineteen counties in the Territory, including that of Nemaha, the boundaries of which were defined, as they have been given, and as they yet exist.

Cyrus Dolman was appointed Probate Judge; James E. Thompson, Sheriff, the latter being soon superseded by James E. Hill; and Edwin Van Endert, County Treasure. The first County Commissioners were Jesse Adamson, of Nemaha; David P. Magill, of Capioma, and Peter Hamilton of Red Vermillion Townships. Richmond was made the temporary County seat, remaining the official business centre until 1858, when the County seat question was decided by the people.

On October 6,1856, the Pro-slavery men held an election, at which Cyrus Dolman was elected a member of the second Territorial Legislature, receiving 12 votes. At this time the counties of Doniphan, Brown, Nemaha, Marshall, Riley and Pottawatomie, constituted the Council District, and those of Nemaha and Brown the Representative District. On October 5, 1857, the former of these elected Benjamin Harding, of Doniphan, and Andrew F, Mead, of Riley; the fourth Representative District choosing E. N. Morrill, of Brown County. The members of the Council held office for two years, the representatives for one session only. This, the third Territorial Legislature, placed Nemaha County with Brown, Pottawatomie, Marshall and Washington, in the fifth Council District; constituting Brown County the eighth, and Nemaha the tenth Representative District. When it came to the election of State Senators and Representatives, the districts were again changed, Nemaha being at present associated with Marshall in the election of Senator, and herself entitled to two Representatives. In the official roster which follows, no further account is made of these changes, the list merely showing Nemaha's representation, whether solely her own or in conjunction with other counties. The first election for county officers was held November 8, 1859, the incumbents prior to that time holding their positions by appointment. Samuel Lappin had been Register of Deeds, R. N. Torry performed the duties of County Clerk, Clerk of the District Court, and succeeded Edwin Van Endert as County Treasurer. The Probate Judges from 1855 had been, in the order named, Cyrus Dolman, Morton Cave and Haven Starr. J. C. Hebbard, and subsequently J. W. Fuller, had been County Superintendents of public instruction, the former making the first annual report of school matters of the County to Samuel W. Greer, Territorial Superintendent.

The election resulted as follows: County Clerk, R. U. Torry; County Treasurer, Charles F. Warren; Register of Deeds, Samuel Lappin; Sheriff, John S. Rogers; county Superintendent, J. W. Fuller; Probate Judge, Haven Starr.

The first Court House stood on lot 4, block 74, on Main street. It was a small two-story frame building, the lower room of which was used for general meeting purposes, and the upper part by the county officers. In December, 1860, it was burnt. A building for Court purposes, but too small for county offices, was at once erected, on the corner of Main and Castle streets, in Seneca, and in this the first term of District Court in Nemaha county was held November 11, 1861, prior to this time Nemaha having been associated with Brown County for judicial purposes. Albert H. Horton, of Atchison, was at this time District Judge, having succeeded Judge Albert L. Lee, who had received a commission as major in the Seventy Kansas. The District Clerk was I. C. Hebbard, to whom Homer L. Dean, the Clerk of Brown County, had turned over the books and papers relating to Nemaha. The Grand Jury who served at this term of Court, consisted of John Downs, Thomas Carlin, Isaac H. Steer, Elias B. Church, James Larew, Salem B. Dodge, Samuel Dennis, T. A. Campfield, H. A. Goodman, Hezekiah Grimes, John Hodgins, William Histed, John Kilmer, Augustus Wolfley, H. D. Channell and James M. Randel. Wm. Histed was the foreman. The most important case upon the docket was that of the State of Kansas vs. Josiah Blancett, wherein the defendant stood charged with the murder of Thomas Wilson. The verdict was 'not guilty.' The indictment failed to state that the murder was committed in Nemaha County. In 1855 three County Commissioners were appointed. From that time until the spring of 1860, the Chairman of the Township Board was the Supervisor in the County Board. In 1860 three Commissioners at large were chosen, a like number being elected each alternate year until 1878, when the system was changed, so that one was elected each year, to hold office three years. The population of the county at various times has been as follows: 1855, 99; no returns were made at this census of the number of voters. 1857, 512, voters 140; 1860, 2,436; 1870, 7,296; 1880, 12,463; 1881, 13,476; 1882, 15,073.

As originally divided the county had, for municipal purposes, nine townships: Rock Creek, Nemaha, Cedar Creek, Richmond, Capioma, Valley, Home, Granada and Red Vermillion. These have at various times been sub-divided, forming Washington, Gilman, Illinois, Harrison, Nenchatel, Reilly and Wetmore. In July, 1882, the Commissioners further changed the local geography, by the creation of Mitchell Township, from Home, Richmond and Valley; and of Adams Township, from Valley and Capioma, the two dividing Valley equally between them and blotting it from the map.

The official roster of the county since its organization is as follows:

Council. - 1855, John W. Forman; 1857, Benjamin Harding, Andrew J. Mead; 1859, Luther R. Palmer.

State Senators. - 1860, Samuel Lappin; 1862, Byron Sherry; 1864, Samuel Spear; 1866, George Graham; 1868, Albert G. Spear; 1870, Joseph Cracraft; 1872, E. N. Morrill; 1874, J. M. Miller; 1876, E. N. Morrill (for four years); 1860, I. F. Collins.

Territorial Representatives. - 1855, R. L. Kirk, John. H. Stringfellow; 1856, Cyrus Dolman; 1857, E. N. Morrill; 1858, George Graham; 1859, Morton Cave; 1860, Charles C. Coffinbury.

State Representatives. - 1860, David C. Auld, D. E. Ballard; 1861, Harrison Foster, F. P. Baker; 1862, John S. Hidden; 1863, Richard Bradley, J. S. Hidden; 1864, J. D. Sammons, C. Coffinbury; 1865, James K. Gross, George Graham; 1866, T. B. Collins, Joseph Hanemum; 1867, Phillip Rockefeller, John Hodgins; 1868, Samuel Lappin, Daniel Helpshrey; 1869, L. Hensel, William Morris; 1870, Richard Johnson, A. Simmons; 1871, Ira F. Collins, H. C. De Forrest; 1872, Cyrus I. Scofield, H. C. De Forrest; 1873, J. E. Taylor, C. S. Cummings; 1874, G. W. Brown, S. P. Conrad; 1875, D. R. Magill, S. P. Conrad; 1876, J. F. Collins; L. C. Preston (for two years); 1878, E. G. Stitt, M. L. Wilson; 1880, N. F. Benson, A. W. Cracraft.

County Officers. - Sheriff, - 1855, James E. Thompson, superseded by James E. Hill; 1857, John S. Rogers; 1859, John S. Rogers; 1861, John S. Rogers; 1863, William Boulton; 1865, William Boulton; 1867, Abram Kyger; 1869, Abram Kyger; 1871, David R. Magill; 1873, David R. Magill; 1875, Richard Johnson; 1877, James Martin; 1879, D. R.. Vorhes; 1881, D. R. Vorhes.

County Clerk. - 1855, R. U. Torry; 1857, R. U. Torry; 1859, R. U. Torry; 1860 Byron Sherry (to fill vacancy); 1861, William F. Wells; 1863, J. W. Fuller; 1865, J. W. Fuller; 1867, J. W. Fuller; 1869, J. W. Fuller; 1871, Joshua Mitchell; 1873, Joshua Mitchell; 1875, Walter J. Ingram; J. W. Fuller; 1869, J. W. Fuller; 1877, Joshua Mitchell; 1879, Joshua Mitchell; 1881, Joshua Mitchell.

Register of Deeds. - 1855-1859, Samuel Lappin; 1859, Samuel Lappin; 1861, J. H. Peckham; 1863, William Smith; 1865, William F. Wells; 1867, Abijah Wells; 1869, Peter McQuaid; 1871, J. H. H. Ford; 1873, J. H. H. Ford; 1875, J. H. H. Ford; 1877, J. H. H. Ford; 1879, Roy A. Thompson; 1881, Roy A. Thompson.

County Treasurer. - 1855, Edwin Van Endert; 1857, R. U. Torry (acting); 1859, Charles F. Warren; 1861, Charles G. Scrafford; 1863, J. H. Peckham; 1865, J. H. Peckham; 1867, J. C. Hebbard; 1869, J. C. Hebbard; 1871, O. C. Bruner; 1873, O. C. Bruner; 1875, Edward Butt; 1877, Edward Butt; 1879, T. W Johnson; 1881, T. W Johnson.

Probate Judge. - 1855, Cyrus Dolman; 1857, Morton Cave; 1859, Havens Starr; 1860, Thomas S. Wright; 1862, James R. Gross; 1863, James P Taylor (to fill vacancy); 1864, H. H. Lanham, 1866, H. H. Lanham, 1868, H. H. Lanham, 1870, H. H. Lanham, 1872, William Histed, 1874, H. H. Lanham, 1876, H. H. Lanham, 1878, George Graham; 1880, William Histed.

Superintendent of Public Instruction. - 1857, J. C. Hebbard; 1859, J. W. Fuller; 1860, F. P. Baker; 1861 Daniel Foster (to fill vacancy) 1862, J. C. Hebbard (to fill vacancy); 1862 Thomas D. Shepard; 1864, L. C. Preston; 1865, Thomas D. Shepard (to fill vacancy); 1866, Thomas D. Shepard; 1868, J. S. Stamm; 1870, P. K. Shoemaker; 1872, Josiah D. Sammons; 1874, Abijah Wells; 1876. Abijah Wells; 1878, Abijah Wells; 1880, J. A. Amos.

Clerk of the District Court. - 1859, R. U. Torry; 1861, J. C. Hebbard; 1862, O. C. Bruner; 1864, William Histed; 1866, Abijah Wells; 1867, D. B. McKay (to fill vacancy); 1868, J. H. Williams; 1870, George Gould; 1872, George R. Benedict; 1874, George R. Benedict; 1876, George R. Benedict; 1878, George R. Benedict; 1880, George R. Benedict.

County Commissioners. - 1855, Jesse Adamson, David P. Magill, Peter Hamilton; 1857, George Graham, A. A. Wood, John Lowery, William R. Wells, Thomas S. Wright, Peter Hamilton; 1859, George Graham, G. H. Baker, Morton Cave, Charles C. Coffinbury, Thomas S. Wright, Peter Hamilton, 1860 (spring election), John Ellis, Charles C. Coffinbury, Garrett Rendel; 1860 (regular election), John Ellis, David M. Locknane, Moses Shepard; 1861; John T. Goodpasture, Nicholas Hocker and Samuel Bradshaw (M. H. Terrell successfully contested Hocker's seat, the only contested election in the county): 1863, Edward McCaffrey, Jacob Nicholson, Moses Shepard; 1865, L. P. Hazen, George D. Searles, Albert Bonjour; 1867, E. F. Bouton, John M. Ford, H. M. Metcalf; 1869, Archibald Moorehead, George D. Searles, Henry O. Stauffer; 1871, Archibald Moorehead, George D. Searles, Henry O. Stauffer; 1873. George H. Adams, G. W. Conrad, Patrick Reilly; 1875, George H. Adams, Patrick Reilly, Aaron H. Burnett; 1877, George H. Adams, Aaron H. Burnett, T. M. Durand; 1878, G. H. Adams; 1879, T. M. Durand; 1880, A. H. Burnett; 1881, George H. Adams.


Upon the organization of Nemaha County, in 1855, the legislature established the county seat at Richmond, the official business center for several years vein the combined store and hotel building of A. G. Woodward, now on the farm of Festus M. Newton. For judicial purposes Brown and Nemaha Counties were united, the District Court of both being held at Hiawatha, until 1861; but the first county warrants were issued from Richmond, and it is probable, considering its very favorable location, that it might have remained the county seat, permanently, had it not been for the pronounced Pro-slavery opinions of its proprietors, these making them and their embryo city unpopular with the Free-state men, who were in the majority. By an act of the Legislature, approved February 12, 1858, a special election was ordered to be held April 4, of the same year, for the purpose of selecting a permanent county seat. It being provided that if no choice be made at the first election, it be continued from month to month, but after the second election the votes should be cast only for the three places having the highest number. At the first election the contesting places were Central City, Richmond, Seneca, Wheatland, Centralia and Ash Point, all of nearly equal unimportance. All of the towns mentioned offered to give the county one-half of the town lots, to be taken alternately, but Seneca, besides this, promised in case it secured the county seat, to build a court house, donating the same to the county for five years. The first election resulted in no choice. The next occurred in May, when several of the aspirants had withdrawn, and the third in June, when the struggle lay between Richmond, Seneca and Wheatland, Central City having retired from the contest in favor of Seneca, the idea of its proprietors being that Seneca was at a sufficient distance to allow Central City to amount to something, while Richmond was so near that its prosperity must necessarily be fatal to its neighbor. At the last election the vote of Graham Township was contested. With it Seneca had won; without it she was defeated and Richmond successful. The vote of the Board of Commissioners regarding it was a tie, the question remaining to be decided by the chairman, Hon. George Graham. His vote was cast for Seneca.

The removal of the county seat has been agitated at various times since 1859, notably when the court house was destroyed by fire in 1876. Sabetha, in the extreme eastern part of the county, seemed, at that period, disposed to bring the question to an issue, but nothing definite was done, and the probabilities are strongly against a change ever being made. Seneca being but a few miles from the geographical center of the county, and the public buildings - the court house, erected in 1876, and the jail in 1879 - being altogether too valuable to abandon, the question may safely be considered as settled for all time.

Court House. - In 1858, the Seneca Town Company, comprising S. and F. Lappin, R. U. Torry, J. B. Ingersoll and C. G. Scrafford, in order to secure and retain the county seat, entered into a contract with the commissioners, giving them, in trust, alternate lots to the number of one-half of those on the town site, the amount arising from the sale of the same to be used for the erection of public buildings. In addition to this, the company agreed to build a structure suitable for court house purposes, donating the use of the same to the county for five years.

Prior to this, official business had been transacted in the combined store room and hotel of A. G. Woodward, at Richmond.

Upon the removal of the county seat to Seneca, the town company, in accordance with its agreement, erected a two-story building, near the corner of Main and Buffalo streets, the first floor of which was used for meeting purposes of every description, and second floor by the county officers, of whom Byron Sherry, the county clerk, was generally the only one to be found, the other incumbents engaging in other than official business, of which there was little to attend to, Nemaha being attached to Brown County for judicial purposes, and court held, until 1861, at Hiawatha.

In December, 1861, a religious meeting was held in the court house, on Sunday night, the building being closed about half past eight o'clock; about half past two the next morning it was discovered to be on fire, and by three o'clock it was completely destroyed - probably the work of an incendiary.

The Town Company immediately made arrangements with the Board of Commissioners for the erection and donation, in fee-simple, of a one-story frame building on the corner of Main and Castle streets. This was first occupied in November, 1861, by Judge A. H. Horton, the first term of the district court in Nemaha County being held at the time. The county officers did not occupy the building, which comprised but one small room, but remained in different stores and offices about town.

In January, 1871, an order was passed by the board, locating all the offices except that of the Treasure, in the second story of the postoffice block. The Treasurer's office remained where it had been for some time on Main and Court streets, and court was held elsewhere, the building of 1861 having been abandoned.

In the meantime the city lots owned by the county had been sold, the last of them in August, 1870, netting to the court house fund the sum of $17,473.83. The question of building a court house was submitted to the people, carried by a majority of 289, and on March 30, 1871, ground was broken for it by Major Sargent, of Seneca, and in 1872, the building, 57x80 feet, ninety-six feet in height, from the basement to the top of the tower of brick, with sawed stone trimmings, was competed. Its cost was $29,172.78.

On March 4, 1876, fire was discovered in the southeast attic jury room, and notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of the citizens, the building was totally destroyed. The books and papers, with the exception of most of those in the superintendent's office, and the records of surveys prior to 1872, in the Surveyor's office, were saved. The fire was supposed to result from children playing with matches. The offices were temporarily located, those of the Clerk, Register of Deeds and Treasurer in the Universalist Church building; the others in various parts of the city.

The insurance on the buildings, amounting to $20,000, being promptly paid, the Commissioners immediately advertised for bids, awarding the contract for the erection of a duplicate structure to James A. McGonagle, of Leavenworth. The new edifice, in almost every respect similar to the previous one, was completed in June, 1877, at a cost of $20,138.47. The first floor, divided by a wide hall, contains the various county offices; the second floor being used for court purposes. The grounds surrounding the building comprising an entire city block, are well fenced, and planted with trees now several years of age, and will ultimately make a fine grove.

County Infirmary. - At the election of November, 1868, by a vote of 531 to 275 it was decided to levy a tax of one mill on the dollar of assessable property, for the purchase and improvement of a poor farm. At the January meeting, 1869, the Commissioners advertised for plans and specifications for a building to be erected on the land, 160 acres, which they had purchased one and one-half miles west of Seneca, and on February 8th proposals were invited for putting up a building according to specifications on file, and for breaking not less than forty nor more than eighty acres of farm land. The contract was let and the building erected at once, the building being completed the same year. It is a two- story stone building with basement, situated on ground sloping to the south and east, and is capable of comfortably accommodating thirty persons. The cost of the building was about $2,500. The farm itself is a good one, and under efficient management has been made to contribute not a little to the support of the unfortunate inmates of the infirmary.

County Jail. - Prior to the 1860, the few prisoners with which Nemaha County was concerned, were lodged in various places, usually under guard, the tedious delays of the law being less noticeable than at present, and there being little occasion for a jail. In 1859, however, the county seat question having been definitely decided, the Commissioners erected in the court house grounds a one- story stone building, about 20x30 feet in size, and containing four cells, two light ones and two dungeons. This was completed in 1860. There is nothing remarkable concerning it to be noted, except its insecurity. Escapes from it were not only frequent, but the usual thing.

In October, 1878, the question of building a new jail was put to the people, the vote standing 1,439 to 162 in favor thereof. The contract was at once let, and the structure completed for occupancy on October 1, 1879. It is situated opposite the public school building, near the court house. It is a two-story brick structure with an L, the main building, 32x25 feet, containing six rooms conveniently arranged for the residence of the jailor. The L, 29x26 feet, contains three of J. Pauley's patent steel cells, each of sufficient size to accommodate four persons, while above the jailor's residence are two rooms used for the incarceration of female prisoners and those retained for minor offenses. In connection with the building is a large cistern and facilities for using the water to the best advantage in case of fire. The building cost $9,965, and is in every way a credit to the county.

[TOC] [part 4] [part 2] [Cutler's History]