JOHN MATTHEWS produced this selection.

William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas
was first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.


Location and Early History | Map and Population | Norton | Lenora


NORTON County, lying in the northern tier, adjoining Nebraska, is the fourth county from the Colorado line on the west and the tenth from the eastern boundary-line of the State. Its climate and soil are similar to the neighboring counties of Phillips, Smith and Decatur. The soil has the same marvelous richness and capacity to resist drouth; there is the same scarcity of timber and absence of stone-coal, the same abundance of fine building-stone (magnesian limestone.) Like its neighboring counties, already named, Nortorn has numerous water-courses, the principal of which are the Solomon River, flowing east through the southern tier of townships, the Prairie Dog, through the central portion, and the Sappa, from southwest to northeast, through the northwest corner of the county. The Solomon has as tributaries, Cactus, Skull, Buck, Big Timber, Otter, Sand, East and West Elk creeks, and the Prairie Dog and Sappa both have numerous tributaries. Norton County's lands are divided as follows: Upland, 92 percent; bottom land, 8 per cent; forest (government survey) 1 per cent; prairie, 99 per cent. Elm, willow and cotton-wood timber may be found on the margins of the principal streams.

Early Settlements. -- The first actual settler in what now constitutes Norton County was Shelby D. Reed, who came and settled in what is now Centre Township, in April, 1872. In the fall of the same year Thomas Beaumont, Henry Gordon and Peter Hanson settled in the southern section of the county, near the Solomon River. The last-named person (Peter Hanson), who now resides in the adjacent county, Phillips, opened the first farm in the spring of 1872, several months before he became an actual settler. The first families to make permanent settlement were James Hall and Daniel C. Coleman, who located on the Prairie Dog, twelve miles east of Norton. They came soon after Shelby Reed, in 1872. During the same season Joel Simmons, W. E. Case, Charles and John Beiber, G. N. Kingsbury, Henry Oliver, Sol. Marsh, Charles Hisinger and Joel Mott settled in the county. Soon after came an individual called Col. N. H. Billings, who taking sway as a leader, became the first Representative in the Legislature on the organization of the county.

Organization. -- August 22, 1872, the Governor issued a proclamation and declared Norton County organize for all purposes of government. He appointed as temporary officers, D. C. Coleman, County Clerk; J W. Vance, S. D. Reed and James Hall, Commissioners. The county was divided into three townships, each ten miles wide and thirty miles long -- to constitute the three Commissioners' Districts -- named Almena, Centre and Solomon.

To perfect the county organization the first election was held September 24, 1872, which resulted in the choice of the following officers: Commissioners: Almena - J. W. Vance; Center- Abram Louck; Solomon - Peter Hanson; Representative, N. H. Billings; Treasurer, H. Oliver; Clerk, D. C. Coleman; Attorney, N. H. Billings; Sheriff, James Hall; Superintendent of Schools, N. H. Billings; Register of Deeds, S. B. Newell. Less that fifty votes were cast. At the first meeting of the Legislature after the organization of the county, the name was changed to Billings, as a matter of sport, and to please the overweening vanity of the "honorable member" from the county, but the original name was preferred by the people interested and it was again assumed.

Norton was selected at the first election as the county-seat, but complaints of unfairness caused a second election to be held in 1874, when Norton again received a majority and still retains the court-house and other county buildings.

Indians. -- When Norton County was organized, it was no uncommon sight to witness immense herds of buffaloes roaming over its beautiful plains, and as a consequence there were many visits from bands of Pawnee, Omaha, and other Indians, but no outbreaks occurred. In the winter of 1872, Edgar Page, whos dug-out was located on a bend of the Prairie Dog, was one day fixing up a bedstead when the blanket that served as a door was raised and in stepped an Indian, followed by several others. The little dug-out was crowded. The old Chief, his family and five of his tribe slept by the fire that night --- it was very cold. In the morning they visited a ranch where dwelt a Mr. Shaw, and the men being absent, their presence caused consternation. One of the Indians came to the bed where Mrs. Shaw was lying with a four days old infant and said: "Good Indians; no hurt pretty white squaw," which, however, did not relieve her fears. They were part of a band of nine hundred Pawnees out on a hunt.

Educational. -- On the first day of December, 1873, J. H. Simmons (now senior editor of the Norton Advance), commenced teaching the first school ever taught in the county. The school was held in a dug-out where the town of Norton now stands. There were sixteen pupils in attendance and the time was by no means wasted. It was a "pay" school, and like most others of the kind, the tuition promised was never paid. Mr. Simmons, however, found a wife among his fair pupils, and of course that piece of good fortune compensated for his pecuniary loss.

In 1878, there were 24 organized school districts in the county, with a school population of 642. The average pay per month of male teachers was $22.55; females, $15.13. There were 11 schoolhouses in the county -- 10 log and 1 frame.

The following year, 1879, showed an increase of districts to 52; the school population was 1,623; teachers employed, 34; average pay of male teachers, $19.76; females, 13.07 (sic); the assessed valuation of school property was reported at $157,728.

In 1880, the returns show 84 districts; school population, 2,014; teachers employed, 62; the average pay of male teachers, $17.89; female, $14.80; the assessed valuation of school property, $324,922.72. The returns for the present year show the number of districts to be 92; the school population, 2,122; teachers employed, 71; males, 19 and females, 52; the average pay of male teachers, $17.50; females, $15.90. The schoolhouses, with very few exceptions, are built of sod. The public school building in Norotn, however, is a notable exception. This is a large, two-story stone structure, erected at a cost of $3,800.

Agriculture. -- There are nineteen postoffices, named as follows: Almena, Cactus, Clayton, Croco, Dallas, Densmore, Devizes, Edmond, Fair Haven, Lee, Lenora, Long Branch, Hedgewood, Neighborville, New Almelo, Norton, Reagle, Tucket, Wakeman.

The townships are named as follows: Almena, Aldine, Almelo, Centre, Crystal, Emmett, Grant, Garfield, Leota, Lenora, Lincoln, Modelll, Noble, Rock Branch, Solomon, Sand Creek, Union.

The population of the county, according to the returns of 1882, show a trifle under 6,000.

Number of acres in the county, 576,000. Since 1874, when the first returns were made, the acreage has increased from 3,156 to 205,921, the present season. Number of farm dwellings erected in 1881, 159; value of same, $15,635; pounds of butter made in 1881, 123,259; number of horses 2,181; mules, 280; milch cows, 2,020; other cattle, 2,684; sheep, 2,947; swine, 2,565; prairie hay, 6,900 tons; timothy, 816 tons; number of acres in spring wheat, 4,263; corn, 28,188; barley, 114; oats, 1,112, buckwheat, 38; Irish potatoes, 289; sweet potatoes, 25; sorghum, 1,366; castor beans, 116; broom corn, 970; Hungarian, 3,382; rice corn, 590; pearl millet, 39. Bearing peach-trees, 1,014; plum, 100; cherries, 117. Not bearing: Apples, 2,376; pear, 184; peach, 13,885; plum, 6,326; cherry, 1,935. Artificial forest trees: Walnut, 82 acres; maple, 26, honey locust, 40; cottonwood, 270; other varieties, 182. Value of agricultural implements in the county, $23,158.

Manufacturing. -- Saw and Grist-Mills. -- C. S. McMakin, in Almena Township, capital invested, $2,000; there are five grist-mills (water) in the county, to-wit: David Morton, Charles Lathrop (two mills) at Lenora; Lindsay & Bro., at Devizes; Noah Weaver, at Edmond. Capital invested, $21,000. Value of raw material used during the year 1882, $110,000. A successful creamery is in operation and rapidly increasing its business. Capital invested, $2,000.

Religious. -- The seating capacity of the several church edifices of the county is returned for 182 by the assessors as follows: Methodist Episcopal, 125; Presbyterian, 300; Christian, 125; Free Methodist, 400. In addition, no returns are made for the Missionary Baptists and the Church of God. These two sects have each a church edifice in the county.

Church Membership. -- Christians have four organizations and a membership of 218; Baptists, four organizations and a membership of 165; Congregational, one organization and a membership of 55; Methodist Episcopal, eleven organizations and a membership of 268; Presbyterian, one organization and a membership of 34; Roman Catholic, one organization, 100 membership. The Mennonites, Church of God and Free Methodists have organizations but have made no returns of the number of members.

First Things. -- The first marriages in the county were James Kinyon and Ellen Green, July 25, 1873, and a few days later, John Lunny and Miss Dunlap. The first births were Annie Beaumont, January 4, 1873, and Kate Kelly, March 3. 1873. The first natural death occurring in the county was that of Minnie Stiles, June 10, 1873. A few weeks previous to this date a man named Cross, supposed to be a horse thief, was shot on suspicion. The first post-offices were established at West Union and Port Landis, in January 1874. Alfred Coleman and John Landis were the first postmasters. The first store for the sale of general merchandise was established by Newell Bros., in Centre Township in 1873. In the fall of 1873 the first regular term of court was held by Judge A. J. Banty, in the fall of 1873. The temple of justice was a log house afterward used as a residence. A local historian states that "the roof was made of buffalo-skins. The term occupied some twenty minutes. Thomas Beaumont and Edward Hooverson were the two practicing attorneys. Representative Billings invited the bench and bar to take dinner at his house, and charged them twenty-five cents each."

Early Incidents. -- The canvass of the votes for the location of the county-seat in 1872 was conducted on the following plan. It is averred that the election was held in an emigrant's covered wagon, and forty-two votes were cast, and that after the "formality" of the election was gone through with it was discovered that they had neglected to locate the county-seat. Whereupon, Representative Billings, then a central figure in local affairs, climbed out on the tongue of the wagon, and assuming the duties of chairman, exclaimed in stentorian tones: "All in favor of Norton for the county-seat, say aye." The vote was declared unanimous and the record made up accordingly. This may seem slightly irregular, but two years later this action was endorsed at a regular election.

In the year 1873, and old man named Chapman settled in the county, near the Solomon, built a neat cabin, and commenced improving his claim. It was known that he had quite a sum of gold, which he it times indiscretly (sic) displayed. He was found dead in his cabin, his head severely bruised, and a pistol ball in his heart The money was taken from his pockets. The murderers were never discovered.



(Organized in 1872.)

(a) Aldine Township . . . . . . . . . .  531
(b) Almena Township . . . . . . . . . .  876
(c) Center Township . . . . . . . . . .  996
(d) Grant Township  . . . . . . . . . .  586
(e) Leota Township  . . . . . . . . . .  969
(f) Rock Branch Township  . . . . . . .  778
(g) Solomon Township  . . . . . . . . .  604
(h) Twin Mound Township . . . . . . . .  974    
(i) West Union Township . . . . . . . .  684
    Total . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  6,998

(a) In 1879, from part of Almena.
(b) In 1872, from original territory;
    in 1879, parts to Aldine and Rock Branch.
(c) In 1872, from original territory;
    in 1879, parts to Grand and Leota.
(d) In 1879, from part of Center.
(e) In 1879, from part of Center.
(f) In 1879, from part of Almena.
(g) In 1872, from original territory;
    in 1879, parts to Twin Mound and West Union.
(h) In 1879, from part of Solomon.
(i) In 1879, from part of Solomon.


Norton, the largest town, and from the organization the county-sea of the county, is located within a mile or two of the geographical center of the county, near the bank of the Prairie Dog, on gently rolling ground. The town was projected in the summer of 1872, by D. C. Coleman, L. J. Crans, N. H. Billings and Samuel and Edward Newell. The design was to make it the county-seat, as the project for county organization was started about the same time. Coleman and the Newell Brothers began the erection of a frame store building. Logs were cut on the creek, sent to Kirwin, a distance of about fifty miles, by ox teams, where after a delay of ten days the logs were made into lumber. This was the first frame house built in the county. Newell Brothers put a stock of general merchandise in this building; the first store in the county. The following December the house was sold to J. S. Briggs, who immediately moved it to the site of a new town which was started one mile up the river, leaving the stock of the Newell Brothers on the prairie without shelter. They made a temporary shelter with poles, hay ricks and buffalo hides. The object of the sudden removal was to leave the "claim" without a building, as required by law, but to remedy this defect a log house, located six miles away, was purchased the following day, and removed to the old site. The roof of the new house was made of buffalo hides. Within a week or two a violent wind storm destroyed the frail tenement. The relics were gathered up and again put together and the house was used for a church. A clergyman named Wainright was the first to preach a sermon in the house -- the first public religious services in the county. Elder Gibbs afterwards held forth to the early settlers in the same place. This building was also noted as the place where Judge A. J. Banty held the first term of court in Norton County. As soon as the town was declared the county-seat the Newell brothers erected another building, and leased it to the county for court and other purposes. During the summer of 1873, other business houses were erected, among others a drug-store was started by John Cooper. The Fourth of July, 1872, was celebrated in Norton in old-fashioned style. Thirty men and three ladies, Mrs. James Hall, Mrs. John Price and Mrs. D. C. Coleman. The ladies prepared a bountiful dinner, in which buffalo meat was served among other delicacies.

Like nearly every Western Kansas village Norton had its Town Company. The charter was dated September 8, 1873. The charter was to run twenty years; capital stock, $2,000; shares $100 each. Of this corporation Richard Williams was President; George N. Kingsbury, Vice-President; J. H. Simmons, Secretary; W. E. Case, Treasurer; Alva Smith, John O'Brien and John De Mott acting with the President and Secretary as a Board of Directors. B. W. Rawlins, David C. Coleman, B. F. Williams, H. F. Brown, Phillip Bruner, David Close, John Diffenbach, E. Fisher, E. M. Newell, S. B. Newell, N. H. Billings and J. Stevenson were the original stockholders.

The first mails to Norton were brought by B. W. Rawlins from Republican City, and the post-office, kept by N. H. Billings, was about one and a half mile (sic) from its present location. The service was paid for by the people, the Government generously furnishing mail-sacks.

In the fall of 1872, a rival town was started one mile further up the creek, called Norton Center. Mills, stores, shops, etc., were established, and for a time the village had a boom and seemed like a formidable rival of Norton, but within two or three years it collapsed, the best buildings were removed to Norton, and the scheme of building a large town at Norton Center collapsed. Nothing remains there but cellar holes and a few relics of the old mill.

The first building erected in Norton, after the organization of the Town Company, was a residence for W. E. Case. In the spring of 1874, Van Trump & Hallowell bought a stock of goods from Belleville, and opened in a house on the square build by David Close. From the small beginnings of 1872 Norton has grown to be a bustling, thrifty trade center, with an intelligent, law-abiding population of five hundred persons. At present there are five general merchandise stores, two hotels, two milliner stores, two restaurants, five lawyers, two physicians, one harness shop, one furniture store, two livery stables, two blacksmiths, two newspapers, tow billiard halls, two meat markets, one feed store, two hardware and farm implements, one lumber-yard, one barber shop, four church organizations, three church edifices, one bank, two drug stores, two shoe shops, two elevators.

Creamery. -- The Norton Creamery, located one mile from town, was established la the spring 1882 at a cost of nearly $2,000. There was at first a company, but it is now owned by three persons, Jesse Wright, J. B. Newell and John Graves. They manufacture 250 pounds of butter per day during the spring and summer months. The product of the creamery is mostly shipped to Denver. It is a good investment, and gives general satisfaction.

The first officers of Norton were: J. M. Price, Treasurer; W. H. Hopwood, Clerk; W. Louk, Trustee; Henry Oliver and S. Read, Justices, M. Wood and A. Wrager, Constables.

The Norton County Bee was established by Harmon & Baker, in Norton, January 1, 1877. In November, of the same year, the office was removed to Leota, where it remained a few months, was then returned to Norton, and after issuing a few numbers there the publication was discontinued.

The Free Press was started at Norton, October 7, 1878, and the Locomotive at Leota October 15, 1878; the first by Dr. A. A. Baker, and the last named by Nat. L. Baker. Both publications were short-lived.

The Norton County Advance was established at Norton, June, 1878. Pettigrew & Collins, publishers and proprietors. Their successors were Beckett, Beckett & Gowdy, and at present the paper is managed by J. H. Simmons and Hugh McCredie. The Advance has attained an excellent circulation, and is conducted with ability. The Advance is Republican in politics.

The Norton People, a seven column folio, Republican in politics, was established by its present editor and proprietor, Hugh T. Carlisle, July 15, 1880. The paper, has made its way, and enjoys a good circulation and fair advertising patronage; present publishers, Carlisle & McCredie; two papers have been consolidated under the name of the People.

Norton Lodge, No. 157, I. 0. 0. F., was organized April 12, 1879. Charter members: R. Rowley, David Reagan, John Wallace, Julian DeJean, A. G. Chambers, A. F. Harmer, W. E. Case, David Keagan. Present officers: W. E. Case, N. G.; J. H. Simmons, V. G.; A. Hepler, Treasurer; J. R. C. Stettler, Secretary. Norton Lodge has a membership of thirty, and holds its meetings in Odd Follows Hall every Saturday evening.

Norton Lodge, No. 199, A., F. & A. M.; organized in August, 1880. First W. M., Albert Graves. Present officers: Albert Graves, W. M.; W. R. Cannon, S. W.; John Randolph, J. W.; J. King, Treasurer; Samuel Means, Secretary; Frank Lockard, Senior Deacon; J. W. Vining, Junior Deacon; Samuel Will, Tiler. Regular meetings on the first Wednesday of each month, in Masonic Hall. There are thirty-five members attached to the lodge.

Norton Cornet Band was organized May, 1882, with the following members: E. M. Turner, Leader; Calvin Newell, Sol. Marsh, B. V. Wheeler; Charles Darling, A. Curry, Phillip Blue, Ed. F. Jones, Hall Harmason, A. N. Clawson, L. H. Thompson, Secretary.

Public School. -- Norton may not only be proud of her elegant school building, but of her efficient teachers. The schools of the town were started nearly ten years since by J. H. Simmons, an excellent educator and a gentleman of culture and refinement. The school building, built of magnesian limestone, is a large two-story edifice, located in a commanding, position in the south part of town. The cost of the structure was $3,500 and the building was finished in the winter of 1881. The teachers are at present employed, E. Borin, principal, and Annie Means, assistant.


This thriving town, located at the western terminus of the Central Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, located on the Solomon in the southern part of the county, was named in honor of Mrs. Lenora Hauser, was first settled in 1873, but it was not until the last few years, the prospect and finishing of the railroad, has it made much progress. The first settler in the village was R. C. Sadoris. A. Hendricks and George W. Hood came to the place soon afterward. The first town officers were G. W. Hood, Trustee; W. Griffin, Treasurer; A> Hendricks and A. Bowman, Justices, and George E. Dubois and Eph. Burris, Constables. The first school in the village proper was taught three years since, by Mrs. Alice Pugh, in the south part of town. Rev. Mr. Graham preached the first sermon, in the schoolhouse, in 1879. A post-office called Lenora was established in 1875, with R. C. Sadoris as postmaster. C. Lathrop built the first grist-mill in 1879. It is located on the Solomon, near the village. The first store was opened by A. Hendricks in October, 1875, near what is now the center of the town. Lenora is located on a rolling prairie. The town contains three general merchandise stores, one hardware, one drug, two hotels, one restaurant, one blacksmith, one wagon-maker, two shoemakers, two livery stables, three physicians, one barber shop, one billiard hall, one lumberyard, one meat market, one lawyer, one flour store, one newspaper office. Population, 125.

The Leader, a five-column folio, started in Lenora, as a Greenback organ, by Garretson & Topliff, March 16, 1882. August 17, 1882 the office was purchased by J. B. Wright, who made improvements in the appearance of the paper. With the advent of Mr. Wright The Leader became Republican in politics. It devotes considerable space to local affairs.

Edmond, a thriving village on the Central Branch Railroad, is located in the famous Solomon Valley, four miles from the south line of the county-seat. It is sixteen miles from the county-seat. The town contains an excellent flouring-mill, famed for good work. It is an excellent trading point for a considerable part of Graham and Norton counties.

[TOC] [Cutler's History]