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


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


The northern part of the county as far south as a line one-half mile north of the northern boundary of Township 16, comprised a part of the Shawnee Indian Reservation, which was opened to settlement by the act of Congress of May 30, 1854. Of this land a strip nine miles wide, and extending east and west, was a part of Shawnee County. South of this and extending across the entire county, was a narrow strip, which extended to the southern limits of Shawnee Reservation.

* For the early history of the county the writer is indebted largely to a history by the late Hon. James Rogers, of Burlingame, published some years since. In many places his own words are used.

The southern part of the county, from the above named line, comprised the greater part of the Sac and Fox Indian Reservation, which was a tract of land twenty miles north and south, and thirty miles east and west. Of this, a strip twenty-four miles east and west, and extending to its southern limits, together with the narrow strip lying between it and Shawnee County, was set apart by the legislature of 1855, and called Weller County, but all that was open to settlement was the narrow body of Shawnee lands.

The portion of Osage County then included in Shawnee was soon divided into two townships, called Burlingame and Wakarusa. These have since retained nearly their original boundaries, and the name of the latter is changed to Ridgeway.

On February 11, 1859, by act of legislature, the name of Weller County was changed to Osage, an act for its organization being also passed.

On February 23, 1850, the Legislature passed an act, attaching the nine mile strip formerly belonging to Shawnee, to Osage County, its present boundaries being then established.

In the year 1827, the United States Government opened a mail route from Independence, Mo., to Santa Fe, N. M., on the route that had been selected some time before by the freighters, and known as the Santa Fe Trail. This was the finest natural road in the world, and the immense freighting business over it continually increased, until by 1854, millions of dollars worth of freight was transported over it annually. This road entered the present Osage County from the east, about on the lines between Township 14 and 15, extended west, crossing One Hundred and Ten Creek, and continuing in nearly a direct line to where Burlingame now is, and up what is now Santa Fe Avenue in that town, and thence west crossing the western boundary of the county.

The Fort Leavenworth and Santa Fe Trail extended across the northwestern part of the county, and united with the main road some distance farther west.

There was also a road from where Baldwin City now is, to the Sac and Fox Agency. Besides which there were many cross roads, and short cuts from different points, but the Santa Fe Trail was the terminus of them all.

When Kansas was formed as a territory, May 30, 1854, the only white settlers within the present limits of the county were two men living on One Hundred and Ten Creek, at the crossing of the Santa Fe Trail, and who had married Shawnees. Besides these, there were a few at the Sac and Fox Agency.

In 1844, the Sac and Fox Indians were removed from Iowa to their Kansas Reservation, the limits of which have been described. The first Indian Agency was established on the Marais des Cygnes River, at Greenwood, Franklin County. Sometime afterwards it was removed about eight miles further up the river to where Quenemo in Osage County, now is, the latter place being known as the new agency.

In 1854, there was a trading-post at the Agency owned by Baker & Street of Westport, Mo., but kept by a man named Case, who lived there with his family. The other white people there were Gen. Whistler, an ex-army officer, and Indian trader, and John Goodell. Both of these men had long before married into the tribe and were living with their Indian wives. Goodell's wife was Quenemo, from whom the town of that name derives its appellation.

At that time the tribe numbered about fifteen hundred and with the exception of the chiefs and head men, lived in wigwam villages at different points on the reservation.

In 1858, the Government caused to be erected at the expense of the Indians, a large number of houses of wood and stone along the Marais des Cygnes and its tributaries. Saw-mills were erected at the old agency, and a large quantity of lumber was sawed. The contract for building the houses was let to R. S. Stevens, who received payment in Indian Scrip. They were rough and cheap buildings, with two rooms, a porch along one side, and were built in unhealthy places. It was with the greatest reluctance that the Indians paid for them, and then it required the greatest effort to get them to live there. They soon tore up the floors and broke out the windows. They drew, with charcoal, rough pictures on the walls, of steamboats, locomotives, and other objects of wonder they had seen in the east; and pictures of the various wild animals of the plains. They soon deserted the houses, declaring it made them sick to live in them, and again returned to their wigwams.

By a treaty in October, 1859, the Indians ceded to the Government all the western part of their reservation, which was to be held in trust and sold for their benefit.

The land disposed of by the above treaty was opened for sale under sealed bids in 1860. A great many bids were made by residents of Kansas, but they were either overbid by parties in Washington, or else other lands of a poor quality on which they did not bid at all were awarded them. The best of the land was bought by Hugh McCullough, Secretary of the Treasury; John P. Usher, Secretary of the Interior; and Wm. P. Dole, Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The greater part of the remaining lands were awarded to Perry Fuller, R. S. Stevens, and John McManus, who were holders of large amounts of Indian scrip, which they used in payment at its par value.

Although contrary to the wishes of the tribe, in 1867, a treaty was made with its chiefs and head men, by which they were to give up the remainder of their reservation to the United States Government. In October, 1868, the treaty was ratified by the President, and in due time the Indians were removed to Indian Territory. They then numbered 800. The best of the lands were given away to the chiefs and Indian head men, and to a few white men who had been instrumental in securing the treaty. The remainder were opened to actual settled and sold for $1.50 per acres.

The first settler to locate within the limits of the county after May 30, 1854, was John Frele, who came with his family soon after that date and stopped at the point on the Santa Fe trail where Burlingame now is. They only person living anywhere in the neighborhood was a Shawnee Indian who had a cabin, by a spring, in what is now the northern part of the above named town. Frele bought this claim, and moved into the cabin. The next winter a son was born to Mrs. Frele. This was the first white child born in the county.

Before August 1, 1854, I. B. Titus, James and John Aiken, Alphonso Prentis, and a few others took claims on Switzler Creek. John Skidmore, Wm. Aiken, John Ward, Hollam Rice, Samuel Devaney and Henry Harvey, with his sons George and Samuel, located on Dragoon Creek.

One August 2, Fry P. and Mobillon McGee arrived at One Hundred and Ten Creek, and bought out the claims of two white men then living there. On the same date Moran McGee and C. M. Linkenauger selected claims near the mouth of Switzler Creek. Of the settlers up to this time all were pro-slavery men except Harvey and his two sons, who were Quakers.

In September, 1854, the American Settlement Company was formed in New York City, and offices were opened on Broadway. The project of the company was to locate a town-site somewhere in Kansas and to build up a large city. The proposed town was to be named Council City, and was to be laid out with streets one hundred and fifty feet wide, along which trees were to be planted, and a park of eighty acres to be laid off. A committee, consisting of Loton Smith, George M. Barnes and J. W. Kerr was appointed to visit Kansas and select a location. Starting at once, they prospected in various parts of the territory, and selected a site just east of Switzler Creek and adjoining the present Burlingame.

In the fall of 1854, quite a large party started out from the western counties of Pennsylvania to settle in a colony somewhere in Kansas. Most of them were from Mercer, Bradford and Indiana counties. Prominent among them were George Bratton, Absalom W. Hoover, J. R. Stewart, Marcus J. Rose and Thomas Black. On the arrival of the Pennsylvanians at Kansas City, they fell in with another party from New York and other Eastern States, who were waiting for the return of the Council City locating committee. Early in November, the committee having returned, the entire party, numbering about one hundred, started out. On the 9th they encountered a severe snow storm, but they pressed on, and on the 14th arrived at their destination.

Soon after their arrival a number of the party selected claims as near the proposed town-site as possible, but the greater number of them, who had been clerks, or engaged in occupations that unfitted them for hard labor, and who had come with the expectation of gaining untold wealth without work, were so discouraged that they started back within twenty-four hours. Of those who located claims only fourteen remained during the winter, as cold weather was fast approaching and they had no places to live and but few tools to work with. George Bratton, Absalom W. Hoover and some others were accompanied by their families, and they built cabins or dug caves at once, and there they lived quite pleasantly during the winter. The weather was mild and there was little suffering. Early in the spring nearly all who had located claims the fall before returned, and all went to work making improvements on their farms.

The first election was held on March 30, 1855, for the purpose of electing a delegate to the first Territorial legislature. Gov. Reeder named Council City as the voting place. On the day previous to the election, a large body of Missourians, armed with rifles and having a large quantity of whisky arrived at Council City, and camped in the woods just north of Titus' cabin. They spent the night in drinking whisky, yelling, cursing the Free-State cause and firing their guns.

On the morning of March 30, the regularly appointed Election Board met at the unfinished log cabin of I. B. Titus, about fifty yards south of the bridge that now crosses Switzler Creek east of Burlingame. No sooner were the polls declared open than the Missourians appeared on the scene, tore a window out of the cabin, drove away the judges, and appointing others of their own number, took possession of the polls, and drove the few Free-State men away. They spent the day in drinking, swaggering about, with threats of violence toward the Council City people; all voted, and some of them several times. At night they closed the polls and moved back as far as One Hundred and Ten Creek, where they camped, continued their drunken orgies and went through the form of counting the votes, declaring Mobillon McGee to be elected by an unanimous vote (about 250). Though he had located a claim the fall before, McGee was then a resident of Westport, Mo. The next morning the ruffians resumed their march to Missouri

Gov. Reeder was then at Muncie, and was at once apprised of the violent measures used at Council City, when he ordered a new election, at which Hollam Rice was elected, receiving twenty-eight votes, every one in the district. Gov. Reeder issued a certificate of election to Rice, but upon meeting the legislature excluded him and admitted McGee.

Ridgeway, then called Wakarusa, had been settled some time before. The first settlers were Allen Pierson, and his two sons, John and Elias. Soon afterward O. H. Bronson, a Pro-slavery man, located there. The March election was conducted about the same as at Council City, and Bronson declared elected to the legislature.

In the spring of 1855 there was quite a large immigration, the greater number locating around Council City. A large block house called the council house was erected. A portion of it now stands in the western part of Burlingame. The town site of Council City was surveyed and staked into lots, and comprised all the territory between Dragoon and Switzler, for three miles above the junction.

The following were among the early settlers in the county: Phillip C. Schuyler came in the spring of 1855, and purchased a claim comprising what is now a large portion of the city of Burlingame. Samuel R. Caniff came with Schuyler, and purchased the claim of John Frele, and moved thereon at once. This is now a part of Burlingame. Abel Polley, Wm. Tillinghast, Abram Leonard and E. O. Perin selected claims on Dragoon Creek, the last two named erecting cabins at what was afterward Superior. John Drew settled northwest of Burlingame, and David Hoover northeast. Henry and John Smith, A. R. Bothel and Ithiel Streit located on Soldier Creek; Wm. Lord, A. N. Havens and Armi Smith on Plumb Creek, J. G. and Henry Morrell, and Victor McDonald bought out claims on Switzler Creek, and Lucien, William, Charles and Edmund Fish located two miles further east.

Among other early settlers, J. Q. Cowee, B. V. Beckus, J. B. Sanders, John R. Stagg, Caleb Beckus, Orlo and M. C. Drinkwater, James Brownlee, T. J. Bass and T. Clelland settled in the Wakarusa Valley. They were all earnest Free-State men. Jonathan West settled still further east, near the north line of the county. In what is now Ridgeway Township, prominent among the first settlers were Wm. Atchison, Geo. Roberts, H. H. Heberling, Robert and Morris Clark, Joseph Law, and Phillip T. Huff, the last of whom was the first Justice of the Peace for that township. Of the first settlers on One Hundred and Ten Creek were Wm. D. Harris, formerly an Indian trader and postmaster on the Santa Fe trail, Geo. J. Johnson, Henry and Charles Rubo, James T. Shepard, John Rehrig, L. M. Wyatt and D. B. Burdick. In the extreme southern part of Ridgeway Township were T. M. Gilmore, John H. Hook, Robert Watts, James and John Coleman, Frank, Peter and James Duffey. Between Burlingame and One Hundred and Ten Creek were E. S. Borland and Michael Supple. In the eastern part of the county were Peter Paulson, and John and Peter Peterson.

The first regular religious services in the county were in 1855, at the Council City settlement. Rev. John Lowry was the minister. He was sent out by American Missionary Society, and for three months meetings were held regularly at the cabins of the settlers. Sometimes at one place and sometimes at another. The attendance was always good, although almost the only mode of conveyance was by ox-teams.

When the town of Council City was projected Loton Smith was sent out as resident agent, but sometime in 1855 he was succeeded by James M. Winchel, who located in the spring of that year.

On March 29, 1855, Albert Cornelius, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ithiel Streit was born. This was the second birth in the county.

The first female child born in the county was Miss Emma Bratton, on June 29, 1855. She is the daughter of Rev. and Mrs. George Bratton, and is now living at Burlingame, the wife of Samuel Shibley.

The first store in the county was opened at Council City in the spring of 1855, in a log cabin just north of the spring, across the ravine. It was kept by Samuel Allison.

The first post-office was established on April 30, 1855, and called Council City. Loton Smith was appointed postmaster, but did not serve personally. James Bothel was deputy postmaster, and did most of the business. The post-office was kept at Allison's store.

In the fall of 1855 James Bothel and Joseph McDonald bought Allison's store, and for several years were the leading merchants of the county.

Up to the fall of 1855 several deaths had taken place, and cemetery grounds were selected about one mile west from the post-office. But as it was afterward found to be on a school section, the site was abandoned and the present cemetery grounds selected.

The first Fourth of July celebration was in 1855, at the place where the county poor farm now is. About seventy-five persons were present, and speeches were made by P. C. Schuyler, Loton Smith, and J. M. Winchell.

The first marriage recorded in Osage County is that of John Riffenbark to Hannah Thompson, January 23, 1860. M. Rambo, as Justice of the Peace, performed the ceremony.

The first school was taught by Miss Louisa Todd, the daughter of Henry Todd, in a tent adjoining the council house. This was in the spring of 1855. The school was supported by subscription, the greater part being paid by bachelors.

The first settlements were made before there were any surveys, and each settler selected as nearly 240 acres as possible. They then banded together to protect each other in possession of the claims. It was afterward found that only 160 acres were allowed to a settler, and when surveyed the section lines cut the original claims into irregular fragments, and on making final proof each settler was required to make oath that he had not agreed to convey any portion of his claim to any one else. All this created general confusion, and many were the quarrels and law suits that resulted.

In the spring of 1856, the Council City town site was abandoned, and J. M. Winchell and several associates laid out a town two miles south from Burlingame, which they named Fremont. A saw-mill was at once erected on Dragoon Creek, near the mouth of Switzler. Its sawing capacity was only two hundred feet per day, and the boards were from one-half inch to one and one-half inches in thickness. Not proving a success, this mill was soon moved away.

In May, 1856, Schuyler & Caniff brought in a large steam saw-mill, and erected it near the center of the proposed town of Burlingame. A large business was soon done. The old council house was occupied as a hotel, and its very moderate accommodations were severely taxed by the influx of travelers.

During the summer of 1856 nearly every one in the settlement was sick with malarial disease, and there was no skillful physician in the neighborhood. Loton Smith and many others died from want of care and medical attendance. The people were also badly in want of necessary provisions and were compelled to live on melons, squashes, pumpkins and green corn, or starve. As soon as the corn became hard enough to be grated, holes were punched in the bottoms of tin pans, and it was grated from the cob. Previous to that time Absalom W. Hoover had made a hand-mill of lime-stones (sic). After the corn became ripe and hard this mill was kept running constantly. Settlers came from many miles to grind their corn here.

In 1857 the Burlingame town site was surveyed, and named in honor of Anson Burlingame, afterwards United States Minister to China.

The Burlingame Town Company was incorporated in February, 1858. About the same time the name of Carbondale was changed to Superior, and a Town Company incorporated. It was composed of J. M. Winchell with several associates from Wyandotte, who united with him and put forward strong efforts to build up the town. For some time there was strong rivalry between the two towns, and at one time it looked as if Superior would soon crush its rival. A road was opened through it from Centropolis to Allen, Dragoon Creek bridged, shops built, stores opened, and about thirty dwellings erected. Among the buildings, the Superior hotel was a very large one, and was afterwards used as hotel, court house, schoolhouse and church. That is the only building now left, and is occupied as a barn and granary.

There was another town projected in 1857, east of Switzler Creek, and called Arvilla. A store and two dwellings were erected, but finding difficulty in obtaining water, the new town was soon abandoned.

J. M. Winchell, Rev. Alonzo Shurtleff, and Prof. Daniels, then State Geologist of Wisconsin, formed themselves into a Town Company, and laid out a new town on the old Fremont site, which they called Carbondale. A steam saw and grist-mill was erected, and a Presbyterian Church organized, with Rev. James Brownlee, pastor, and preaching was held in a log-cabin.

Prairie City was the name of another town site on the Sante (sic) Fe trail. Its location was on Section 6, Township 15, Range 15 east. The first settlements began in October, 1856. The Town Company was formed in Kentucky. Dr. Robert Lester was one of its officers. The other early settlers were James Gilchrist, James Gilchrist, Jr., P. L. Doane, Joseph Bridgewalder, and John M. Carr. Mr. Lester was soon killed accidentally, and the town site was abandoned.

Young America was the name of a town projected on One Hundred and Ten Creek. The Town Company numbered fifty-three members. Among them were Hon. D. B. Burdick and Dr. Anderson. The place never succeeded in becoming a town.

Eureka was the name of a town projected by the Pennsylvania Colony in the fall of 1854. The site just east of Switzler Creek was soon abandoned, the settlers becoming interested in the Council City movement.

In 1858, another town called Havana was laid out, about four miles west of Burlingame. For a time it looked as if it would become the great town of the neighborhood. The City Company was made up of wealthy Germans of Chicago and St. Louis. About fifty German and French families located in the vicinity, large farms were opened, and in the town a store with a large stock of goods was opened, the machinery for a large mill was brought on, about half-a-dozen dwellings, and a large stone hotel erected. A large stone distillery and brewery was commenced. But its prosperity soon came to an end. The leading merchant failed, the members of the company quarreled, the settlers soon became dissatisfied with a country life, and it was not long until all left never to return, and the town became extinct. The hotel is now a barn, and the distillery became Davis' grist-mill.

A town was projected just west of the point where the Santa Fe trail crossed One Hundred and Ten Creek. It was called Versailles, and the Town Company was incorporated on February 20, 1857, with Henry P. Throop, D. T. Mitchell, and J. C. Thompson, as its members. For a time considerable business was done, and a large hotel built, but it never assumed the proportions of a town and has long since ceased to exist. The site was Section 2, Township 15, Range 15.

Previous to the Versailles town site, Fry P. McGee and W. D. Harris entered a town site at the Santa Fe trail crossing of One Hundred and Ten Creek, and names it Washington. No attempt was made to build up a town, however, though it became quite an important trading point.

Indiana City was laid out on a neighboring section, and a town site entered. Four small houses were framed, all ready to put up, in Louisville, Ky, and shipped out and erected. The town never became any larger. This was a portion of the present Scranton town site.

In Ridgeway Township was the site of two proposed towns, to be called respectively Georgetown and Ridgeway. Neither of them grew to be towns of any importance, though the latter is now a station on the Lawrence & Southwestern Railroad, and has a store, post-office, blacksmith shop, and a number of houses. A Masonic Lodge was organized in 1874, with the following charter members. C. M. McDivitt, Geo. W. Watson, C. H. Easton, J. S. Riley, H. K. Riley, Geo. R. Emory, J. B. Emory, J. S. Barbour and Joseph Law.

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