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


[TOC] [part 14] [part 12] [Cutler's History]


The city of Thayer is situated in the western part of Neosho County, on the line of the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas Railroad. The country surrounding it is a fertile and rolling prairie, much of which is yet uncultivated. The land upon which the site is located belonged to John Hamar, and comprises an area of 160 acres. The town was laid out in the fall of 1870 by Col. Smith, Judge Thatcher, J. Richmond and M. R. Baldwin, railroad officials.

The first house was built by H. A. Mills, a frame store room, in which he began the merchandising business. George Weaver and W. W. Work erected a two story frame building, in which they put a stock of general merchandise. M. R. Baldwin, a railroad official, erected a hotel which was known as the Baldwin House. Holmes & Hinman began in the drug business, Foults & Ingersoll started a cabinet and furniture shop, and about the same time, Thomas Thompson built and began running a hotel and saloon. Following this almost in consecutive order, J. M. Halstead started a general store, and Harris & Sax, from Cincinnati, established a clothing store. The railroad was completed to the place in the fall of 1870, which was the chief incentive to its establishment and growth. The same spirit of anxiety, as is the case with all new towns, to be the first established, found free indulgence here. The foundation of the first structure was laid, on the town site, on the 3d of November, 1870, by I. Hopkins. From this time on the rush was great, and by the end of the year the town contained a population of about 700 persons, and, it is said, that among all this crowd of people there were but three women. It was, however a motley and promiscuous town, made up of shanties, tents, covered wagons and old bachelors. So rapid, indeed, was the growth of the town that, before the end of the year 1870, it was incorporated as a city of the third class, and Mr. Coffin, the railroad engineer, was elected Mayor. For several months during the winter it was the terminus of the railroad, which also had the effect to stimulate the growth and business. It was during this time that the town reached the zenith of its greatness, either in population, business or saloons. The population reached nearly 1,000, and the saloons many. Among the population, at this time, there were many construction hands who had taken up their abode, awaiting to resume employment upon the further extension of the road. As would naturally be expected, there were among these, many men of rough and dissolute habits, who kept the town ablaze with drunkenness, quarreling, fighting, and sometimes murder. With the extension of the road, this rough element was eliminated, leaving a quiet and peaceable populace.

Following this event, too, the excitement also died away, and the town settled down to a normal condition, with a largely reduced population, and began upon a period of slower but a more substantial growth, that has continued up to the present date. The town now contains a population of about 500, and enumerates many business establishments of sundry sorts and sizes.

A postoffice, called Prairie du Chien, was established at a point about three miles east of Thayer. After the town was founded the office was brought to it, and the name changed to Thayer. At the time of this change A. I. Sherwood held the appointment of Postmaster. The office is now held by C. T. Ewing.

The first school in Thayer was taught during the winter of 1870-71, and was kept in the small frame school building that was erected late in 1870. A new schoolhouse was built in 1872. It is a one-story brick structure containing two departments, and cost $5,000. In order to raise means to erect the building bonds were issued to this amount. The interest on these bonds was suffered to accumulate for some time, and a subsequent issue of bonds was made, amounting to $6000, with which to defray this interest and a part of the principal. There is now but about $3,000 of the entire indebtedness unpaid.


The first paper published at Thayer was the Thayer Criterion, by Perry & Olney; the first issue having been made on the 27th of February, 1871. The paper lived only about four months and was suspended.

On the 16th of August, 1871, C. T. Ewing issued the first number of a paper called the Headlight. The first number of the paper was printed at the Criterion office, after which material, press, etc., were procured for the Headlight publication.

The office and paper were sold to G. W. McMillan, April 1, 1876. Mr. McMillan issued but two numbers of the paper at Thayer, and on the 15th of April removed to Erie, the county seat, issuing the paper as the Erie Headlight, the first number of which appeared on the 21st of April, 1876. Thus, for a time, the original Headlight became estranged from the place of its origin. On the 26th of May, 1876, the Thayer Headlight was again started by T. C. Ewing, for which he purchased new material. The paper is still published at Thayer under the proprietorship of C. T. Ewing.

The town contains four church organizations - the Methodist, Baptist, Catholic and Presbyterian, each of which is liberally supported.

There are also three social orders. These are the Masonic, Odd Fellows and the Ancient Order of United Workman.


The Thayer City Mills were built in 1875 by the firm of Marshall & McCrone. After about one year's time McCrone bought Marshall's interest, and in about three years following the concern was sold to Sapp & Cross. It is now held by L. Hunting and is operated by J. McCullough. The mill contains two run of stone and has a daily capacity for grinding eighty bushels of wheat and 100 of corn. The power is forty-horse engine.

Thayer at the present time contains 3 drug, 2 hardware, 2 dry goods, and 5 grocery stores, harness shop, shoe shop, blacksmith shop, hotel, bank, postoffice, newspaper, etc.

With its advantageous surroundings the city has before it flattering prospects of a liberal growth.


WILLIAM H. AYLING, with the firm of Insley & Ayling, boots and shoes, clothing, gent's furnishing goods; native of Lower Canada, born in 1848. He was raised in Peoria County, Ill., and was engaged in farming until 1882, when he came to Kansas and bought in with Insley, who had commenced in February of 1882. Mr. Ayling becoming a partner in March. They carry a stock of $2,500, and are doing a business of $8,000 a year. Mr. Ayling is married and has a family of five children. Is a thoroughbred Methodist.

E. L. BARNES, real estate and loan office, native of New York; born in 1841. His uncle, S. D. Barnes, established the Manhattan Iron Works in 1828. E. L. was connected with the works until 1861, when he went into the army, and on returning to New York entered the iron works as a partner, continuing until 1872, when he withdrew and came West to St. Louis, where he entered the LaClede Rolling Mills, where he was employed until 1878, when he came to Thayer and entered the bank as cashier, and acting as editor on the Headlight. Soon, however, he went to Chanute, where he was employed as cashier for S. A. Brown & Co. Coming back to Thayer in 1881, he went into the real estate business, and in 1882 formed a partnership with L. N. Lyman. In 1879 Mr. Barnes married Miss Lyman. They have two children. He was one of the Councilmen in 1879, elected Justice of the Peace in 1882, and is a Notary Public; also Police Magistrate. Is a member of the A. O. U. W. and K. of H.

D. G. BONHAM, grocery and hotel, native of Dearborn County, Ind.; born in 1826. He was raised in Ohio, and when twenty-five years of age he moved to Illinois, coming from there to Kansas in 1869, locating on a claim in Chetopa Township, Neosho County, taking 160 acres for himself and a section of railroad land for his boys; they improved the farm. In 1871 Mr. Bonham was one of the first town company of Galesburg. In 1879-80 the boys sold their land, and in 1883 he came to town and took the store and hotel out of Mr. Hellf's hands. In 1857 he married Miss Teabow. They have eight children, five boys and three girls.

D. B. BURBRIDGE, station agent and operator of the L., L. & G. R. R. Hebegan his work on the railroad at Liberty, on the Coffeyville Branch, next working at Winfield, then going to Longton, he worked on the San Francisco road at Sullivan, and also on the Santa Fe road. From Longton he came to Thayer in 1882. Mr. Burbridge was born in 1855.

J. W. CREES, drugs and medicines, native of England; born in 1823. He came to America in 1833, locating in New Jersey, where he was raised and educated, commencing the study of medicine with Dr. Scroggs, of Harveysburg, Warren Co., Ohio. In 1849 he graduated at the Eclectic Medical College of Cincinnati, and practiced in Freeport, Ohio. He soon came West to Tipton, Cedar Co., Iowa, where he practiced till 1869, coming then to Kansas, locating in Centerville Township, Neosho County, and became identified at once with the organization of Galesburg and the Settlers' Association. In 1873 the town company organized and incorporated the city of Galesburg. The company was composed of E. V. Wilson, D. F. Hamilton and J. W. Crees. In 1879 the Doctor opened a store there, and selling part of the stock he moved to Thayer in 1880, opening the city drug store and giving up his country practice, which is attended to by his son, Geo. W. Crees, who is a graduate of the American Medical College of St. Louis in 1878, the Doctor retaining an interest in the village of Galesburg. In 1845 he married Miss Fox. They have a son, George W., and a daughter. Dr. Crees is a member of the I. O. O. F., and also of the Masonic Order.

C. L. CROSS, hardware and agricultural implements. Native of Cattaraugus County, N. Y., born in 1849. When ten years of age he went to Minnesota; from there he came to Kansas in 1872, taking a claim in Labette County, which he proved up, and then farmed in Neosho County till going into the mercantile business, January 1, 1880, carrying a stock of $3,800 and doing a business of $15,000 a year. In 1877 Mr. Cross married Miss Wilcox, of Illinois. They have three children, one boy and two girls. He is a member of the K. of H.

ELDRIDGE & SON, drugs and medicines. Mr. D. C. Eldridge is a native of New York, born in 1828. He moved to Lafayette, Ind., in 1852, where he engaged in mercantile business and real estate agency. While in Indiana his sons were born - B. E. in 1853, and H. W. B. in 1855. When they moved to Bedford, Iowa, in 1860, Mr. Eldridge went into the drug business. His son, B. E., had graduated from the High School of Indianapolis, and afterwards from the graded school of Bedford; then going into the drug store, where he has remained. In 1879 they brought a stock of stationery from Burlington, Iowa, to Thayer, and buying a drug stock of A. McLachlin they established the business they now have, carrying a stock of $1,000 and doing a business of $5,000 a year. B. E. is a charter member of the A. O. U. W.

H. N. FLINT, farmer and agent for S. A. Brown & Co. Native of Vermont, born May 5, 1834. He came to Kansas in November, 1870, locating at Thayer, where he arrived before the railroad was finished to that place. He at once built a home and store building, going into queensware and provisions. This was then the terminus of the railroad. He had come to Kansas for his health, and it now broke down, so he retired from business until 1874, when he went in with E. C. Robinson, the firm name being H. N. Flint & Co., hardware and agricultural implements, also carrying lumber. In 1879 they sold to S. A. Brown & Co. Since then Mr. Flint has been employed by them. In 1876 he pre-empted his farm, which he has improved, and where he resides. Mr. Flint is a charter member of the K. of H.; also the A. O. U. W.

J. W. FOREST, hardware and agricultural implements and grain, native of Vermont, born in 1845. Was raised and educated there, and adopted the calling of civil engineer, working on the North Pacific Railroad for a time, then coming to Kansas in 1871, he was employed on the proposed line called Memphis & Northwestern. He then went into the hardware business with H. A. Young in 1873, buying Mr. Young out the next year. Since conducting the business alone, carrying agricultural implements and dealing in grain, shipping, in 1882, 4,000 bushels of flax and 5,000 bushels of castor beans. His sales amount to $10,000 a year. In 1876 Mr. Forest married Miss Howe. They have three children - two boys and one girl.

J. T. FOULTS, furniture, native of Center County, Pa., born in 1824. His ancestors were English and German. While in Pennsylvania he learned the jeweler's trade, and also that of cabinetmaker. He then moved to Valparaiso, Ind., there going into sewing machines, and in 1868 came West to Kansas, locating in Iola, Allen County. When he moved from there he brought his stock with him, and in 1870 established his present stand, it now being the oldest in Thayer. When starting he had a partner, the firm being Foults & Ingersoll, but since 1873 has carried on business alone. He has carried jewelry, clocks, etc., but now in a larger and improved stand does a good business. Mr. Foults has been married twice. By his first wife he had four children. In 1876 he married his present wife, Miss Wilcox, and they have one child. He has been one of the Common Council, and was Mayor of the city in 1878.

JOSEPH GEIST, meat market, native of Bavaria, Germany, born in 1842. He emigrated to America, in 1866, and located at Milwaukee, Wis., where he engaged in the meat business, and in 1871, came to Thayer, starting with P. Wagner, was doing an immense trade when in the fire of 1873, they were burned out, losing a large amount of packed pork. Starting again, Mr. Geist found he could do better without a partner, so has continued alone since; in 1874, he built his residence, buying some twelve lots in town, which is handsomely improved, having also 380 acres of farm land near Thayer, with ten head of horses, sheep and cattle. In 1874, he married Miss Benedict. They are members of the Catholic Church.

R. D. HARTSHORN, lawyer, native of Pennsylvania, born in 1820, was educated at the Darlington Academy, graduating in 1842, then studying law with Doomis & Mason, of New Lisbon, Ohio; was admitted in 1846, to the bar, and in 1852, in the Scott campaign published a newspaper called the Buck Eye State, this was in support of Gen. Scott; on the defeat of his candidate, personally he called a County Convention of the Liberal elements of all parties; this was the first Republican Convention, August 18, 1852. Messrs. Medill, of Chicago, and Lyman of Portage County, Ohio, took part in the convention; the movement extended, and John A. Bingham was elected Representative from Jefferson and Columbiana District, on the Republican ticket. Ohio, in 1855, returned on this pioneer Republican ticket, Salmon P. Chase for Governor and the whole ticket, and the winter of 1855-56, the first National Republican Convention was held at Pittsburgh, in Lafayette Hall, presided over by Senator Bingham, of Michigan. Prominent among those present were Francis Blair, John A. Kingman, Josh P. Giddings, Gov. Dennison and Horace Greeley. They nominated John C. Fremont for president. Mr. Hartshorn moved from Ohio to Iowa, and in 1868, came to Kansas, and went into the Indian lands on the Verdigris River, coming to Thayer, in 1871, where he was elected president of a company building a railroad east and west through Thayer; the scheme was abandoned in 1873; he has since practiced law. In 1879, he was sent to the House of Representatives. He married Miss Ewing, and they have six children, two girls and four boys.

I. HOPKINS, retired merchant, native of England, born in 1817. When old enough he learned the trade of stone mason, and in 1853, he came to America, locating in Allegheny County, Pa., proceeding to Beloit, Wis., from there to Illinois, and to Minnesota, then South to Missouri, and in 1870, he came to Kansas, settling on a farm in Neosho County, near Thayer, which place was but just started; he laid the stone foundation on which rested the first building erected in Thayer; until 1878, he farmed and worked at his trade, furnishing stone from a quarry on his farm. In 1878, he went into the mercantile business, but has now in the mercantile line doing a good business, carrying a stock of $2,000, and a business of $6,000 to $8,000 in sales a year. He is a member of K. of H., and charter member of the A. O. U. W.

R. L. HUSTON, M. D., native of Butler County, Ohio, born in 1849. He commenced reading medicine in 1867, with Dr. R. G. Huston, of Oxford, Ohio, and in 1871, graduated from the Rush Medical College of Chicago. He had commenced practice in Thayer, in 1870, and after leaving college returned to Neosho County, locating near Chanute, and in 1873, at Urbana, practicing there till 1881, when he came to Thayer and opened his office. In October, 1882, the firm became Huston & Sweeney. The Doctor is a charter member of the A. O. U. W., and medical examiner for the lodge.

HENRY MILLS, farmer and railroad contractor, Section 29. P. O. Thayer; native of Durham County, Canada, born in 1833. When nineteen years of age moved to New York. Later on in life he began business as a contractor, and in 1870 graded the L. L. & G. road into Thayer, which was then the terminus. Locating here, he put up the first house in the place, which became in a few years a thriving village. He then located his present farm and home, and at once became identified with the Early Settlers' Protective Association, furnishing both brain and muscle in the war on the Osage ceded land question. After this was settled he had a severe struggle to obtain a clear title to his farm, a struggle lasting seven years, and it was not till 1882 that it was finally decided. He has since been engaged in farming and contracting.

R. E. SWEENEY, M. D., native of Greene County, Tenn., born in 1827. He commenced the study of medicine with Dr. Hawkins, of Warrensburg, with whom he read and practiced for five years, having attended the Knoxville University, and taught school to get money to educate himself with. In 1862 he escaped into the Union lines and enlisted as Lieutenant of Company D, Fourth Tennessee Volunteer Infantry, in Col. Stover's regiment, and in 1864 was detailed as Surgeon at Camp Nelson, serving till relieved by the regular Surgeon, when he returned to his company, and when mustered out he at once went on to Miami College, Cincinnati, Ohio. He returned home after this course of lectures, and took up his practice, and the same year locating near Chanute. He took a claim, farming and practicing till 1881, when he took his wife to the Eureka Springs, returning to Thayer in 1882. Having rented his farm, he is now practicing with Dr. Huston. In 1873 he married Miss M. J. Huston. The doctor is a member of the I. O. O. F.

W. M. WAGNER, of the firm of Wagner & Stattard, grocers. Native of Ohio; born in 1853. He was raised in Indiana, and when eight years of age crossed the plains with his uncle, J. W. Hendricks, locating in San Francisco, Cal., returning to Indiana in 1862. He came with his father to Kansas in the fall of 1871. His father, S. B. Wagner, went into the restaurant business, where W. M. worked until 1873, when he went into the Headlight as "devil." In 1874 he returned to Indiana. Coming to Thayer again in 1875, he went into the grocery business with Wagner & Smith, the firm becoming Wagner & Son. His health failing, he struck out for the mountains, where he recovered. He then returned to Thayer and went into business with his father, continuing until June, 1882 when he established his present trade, carrying a stock of $1,500, and doing a business of $4,000.

A. M. WHITTEKER, general merchandise. Native of Tioga County, Pa., born in 1836. He was raised and educated on the farm, moving to Pontiac, Mich., in 1864, where he went into mercantile life, carrying on business afterwards in both Saranac and Ludington, then moved to Missouri in 1869. He remained a short time, and came to Neosho County, taking a farm of 320 acres, which he occupied until 1879, then traded it to Mr. McLochlin for a mercantile stock. This was burned, and he had to commence again, and has been doing a better business every year since. His sales in 1880 were $9,222.52; in 1881 they were $13,500, and in 1882 amounted to $20,000. Mr. Whitteker married in Pennsylvania, and has six children, girls. He is a member of the K. of H.

[TOC] [part 14] [part 12] [Cutler's History]