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


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


In 1855, the first Free-State elections were held, and here too, some political frauds were committed, as at a caucus held by them, more ballots were cast than there were voters present. A Free-State legislature at Topeka was elected, and from the Council City district, Henry Todd and Wm. Toothman were elected members of the Lower House; and Lucien Fish of the Senate. Early the next year, this legislature met and elected Philip C. Schuyler Secretary of State, but as the United States Congress did not recognize its legality, he never fulfilled the duties of the office.

The first military company was organized in 1855, and was called the "Old Free-State Guards." Henry Todd was Captain; Wm. Toothman, First Lieutenant; G. I. Drew, Second Lieutenant, and L. D. Joy, Orderly Sergeant. It was about the close of the year when the organization of the company was completed, after which it marched to the defense of Lawrence at once. Gen. Lane, Pomeroy, John Brown, Schuyler and Winchell were already there and manifested great joy at the appearance of the company. Each of its members was armed with a six-shooter rifle. These guns proved to be utterly worthless, and Loton Smith took them to Missouri, where he represented himself to be a friend to the Pro-slavery party, and sold them for a high price, and with the proceeds bough good rifles for the company.

During the year 1856, the troubles between the Free-State men and the border ruffians assumed a serious aspect. In June another military company was organized by the free-soilers. A portion of Buford's Company from the Southern States was sent to drive the Free-State men from the country. They camped on One Hundred and Ten Creek, where they remained all summer, made several raids on the Free-State settlers and committed many outrages. Joseph McDonald was robbed of a wagon-load of provisions, on the Santa Fe trail, while en route from Westport. As he was a cripple and a non-resistant his life was spared. He then went to Leavenworth for another load, and narrowly escaped being robbed again.

Horace L. Jones, who lived at Council City, had succeeded in getting possession of three hundred dollars of the New York Tribune fund, raised for the benefit of the destitute of Kansas. He refused to give it up or expend it for the sick, but sent a man with his team to Leavenworth, to purchase a load of flour and groceries, with which to start a store. On his way back the load and team were captured by the border ruffians, who sent the man down the river on a raft. Jones was considered one of the leading men of the settlement, and was known throughout the Territory as "Buffalo" Jones. Two or three years afterwards he left Osage County.

From June until December, it was impossible to get provisions from the Missouri River, unless the wagons were protected by an armed guard. Many depredations were committed on Free-State settlers. On the 4th of July nearly every man in the settlement went to Topeka to celebrate and to prevent the border ruffians from making an attack on the Free-State Legislature, which was to convene on that day. They were dispersed at the point of the bayonet, by a body of soldiers under Col. Sumner, and immediately returned home. A short time after, a plan was laid by Buford's men to burn and rob the entire settlement, which was prevented only by the timely warning of Fry P. McGee a Pro-slavery man.

In 1857, immigration to the county increased, and soon the Free-State men had a very large majority. During this year political affairs moved on more smoothly. The laws passed by the "bogus legislature" of 1855, were not generally respected. During the summer a Deputy United States Marshal appeared for the purpose of collecting a poll tax of one dollar, imposed on each voter, by the Pro-slavery Legislature. He was resisted, and after being shot at a few times, he disappeared, never to return. Some time during the fall, a party of Free-State men came in from a distance, and began committing outrages on Pro-slavery men. Fry P. McGee, John Ward and Charles Skidmore were robbed of nearly all their personal property. The Free-State people of the neighborhood, however, followed them up, and compelled them to give up a portion of their plunder. At an election in the fall, Lucien Fish was chosen as a member of the Legislature. At a Free-State convention, P. C. Schuyler was nominated for Secretary of State, and with the rest of the ticket was elected, under the Lecompton Constitution.

In January, 1858, an election was held on the Lecompton Constitution. Only three votes were cast for it in what is now Osage County.

In February, 1858, the bogus laws were repealed, and the next month Justices of the Peace were elected for a term of two years. For Burlingame, Wm. Lord and John Drew were elected. The township had been formed on September 21, 1857, and the October election was held at a building opposite the Burlingame Hotel. The judges of election were Thos. Russell, Wm. Lord and C. D. Marple.

In 1859, a terrible storm of wind and rain swept over the county, which resulted in great loss of property. Many persons were badly injured, but no lives were lost. In Burlingame several buildings were blown down, while at Superior nearly every building was completely demolished.

In August, 1859, the land sales took place in this district. The settlers were generally poor, and without money to pay for their claims. Nearly all had to borrow money, and some disposed of their land at once; in many instances getting but a small portion of its real value. The usual rate of interest was 5 per cent per month, and this with the principal was secured by a mortgage upon their lands. The greater number of those who remained afterward lost their land, it being sold under mortgage, as it was impossible to pay such a rate of interest, much of which had to be compounded every year. There was a poor market for crops, and the savings of the settler were very small.

The great drought of 1860, which extended throughout Kansas, was particularly severe in Osage County. From June, 1859, to November, 1860, there was no rain to afford any nourishment to vegetation. Everything dried up, and there was no crop of any kind raised. The settlers were soon reduced to a suffering condition, and many left the country. Those who remained were only saved from starvation through aid in the form of provisions and clothing sent by the people of more Eastern States. Aid societies were formed, and through them the most of the goods sent in were disbursed. In Osage County, S. R. Caniff, of Burlingame, and O. H. Sheldon, of Superior, were appointed to distribute aid and goods to the needy. Outside contributions were liberal and all were kept from severe suffering, though many privations were endured.

On January 11, 1861, one of the most severe snow storms ever known in the history of the country began. Considerable suffering was endured, but no lives were lost. On a level the snow would measure more than twenty inches in depth, and it drifted so badly that travel was suspended for nearly three weeks. It remained on the ground for twenty-four days, when it disappeared as suddenly as it came, and the streams were filled to overflowing. This was the first wet period for more than a year. Notwithstanding the big storm and the drought of the year before, the stock were in good order in the spring.

The first grasshopper raid was in 1866. On the 15th day of September they appeared in clouds, and beginning to descend it was not long until every green thing was eaten, and all growing crops, completely destroyed. Not only this, but they deposited their eggs by the countless millions. But a small percentage of these hatched out, yet the next spring there were enough to seriously injure the wheat crop. The young corn was damaged, but before June they had flown away, which gave sufficient time to replant corn, wherever it was necessary, and taken all in all good crops were raised.

In the summer of 1874, the grasshoppers again appeared in myriads. It was just at the close of the small grain harvest and little damage was done except to corn and gardens. Late crops of all kinds were utterly destroyed. But little corn was raised. During the following winter times were very hard, and many citizens were compelled to accept aid sent in from Eastern States. Eggs were again deposited, which hatched out in the spring, and the fields of growing grain swarmed with young grasshoppers. The small grain crop was somewhat injured, but the corn crop was good, as the pests had left the country by June 1. Still suffering from the partial failure of the year before, there were probably more privations endured until the crop of 1876 could be gathered, than at any other time since the very early years of the settlement of the country.


During the earlier years of settlement, the citizens of the northern part of Weller County voted at Burlingame, and no objection was made until Superior became a rival town. Being refused a chance to vote, though containing only about thirty voters, Weller County took steps to secure an organization, an act for that purpose being passed by the legislature February 11, 1859, and the name changed to Osage. A commission composed of A. Leonard, A. H. Shurtleff and T. R. Merritt, was appointed to select judges of an election, which was to take place the fourth Monday in March.

The first meeting of the County Commissioners was held April 27, 1859, at Superior. The Board was as follows: V. R. Morrill, M. Rambo, and A. T. Dutton. E. M. Perrin was Clerk, and John Rambo, Deputy.

At an election on June 7, J. L. Rooks was elected Judge; D. B. Burdick, Sheriff; and J. Perrill, surveyor.

The first regular election was November 8, 1859, and resulted as follows: J. R. Carrier, Superintendent of Schools; M. Rambo, Judge; C. C. Crumb, Sheriff; A. N. Hulburd, Register of Deeds; W. O. Fisher, Attorney; John Rambo, Clerk; A. T. Dutton, Treasurer; J. P. Perrill, Surveyor; and A. Leonard, Coroner.

On June 7, 1859, delegates to the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention were elected. In Osage County, James M. Winchell was chosen from Superior, and Hiram D. Prescott from Burlingame. At the meeting of the convention, Winchell was chosen its President by a unanimous vote, and by his great ability, gained the respect of the entire body. He was afterward a prominent candidate for the United States Senate. Before coming to Kansas he was a school teacher. He was visionary, but bold and energetic, and always exerted a great influence on his associates. He was an inveterate enemy of Gen. J. H. Lane, and lost no chance to make his feelings known. After the war began, he became Washington correspondent of the New York Times, and soon became reconciled to Lane, after which they were warm friends. He speculated in gold and became rich, but afterward lost all, and retired to Westchester County, New York, where he died a few years since.

In the fall of 1859, a legislature was elected under the Wyandotte Constitution; O. H. Sheldon, H. H. Heberling and S. R. Caniff were chosen as members from what is now Osage County.

On February 23, 1860, an act passed the legislature, cutting off the southern part of Shawnee County, and adding it to Osage, making the dividing line between Townships 13 and 14, where it has since remained unchanged.

On February 27, 1860, another act passed the legislature, perfecting the organization of Osage County, and ordering the Register and Clerk to at once take possession of all records relating to Osage under its new boundaries. At the same time, Philip C. Schuyler, James M. Winchell and O. H. Sheldon were appointed commissioners to locate a permanent county-seat, and then to call an election for the approval of the voters, and also to make arrangements for the erection of public buildings. Should the citizens of the county not approve of the county-seat first established, another place was to be chosen, and another election called. The southern boundary of Osage County was also defined as it now exists, and a special election for the choice of county officers was appointed.

The commissioners appointed, located the county-seat at a point about midway between Superior and Burlingame, and named it Prescott.

On March 17, the county was divided into three commissioners' districts, and an election of officers appointed to take place on March 26. At that election J. L. Rooks, John Dodge and George Hall were chosen Commissioners; S. A. Fairchild, Judge; N. G. Densmore, Clerk; L. R. Adams, Register of Deeds; James Stewart, Attorney; D. D. Rooks, Sheriff; George Roberts, Coroner; C. C. Crumb, Treasurer; H. D. Preston, Surveyor; John Perrill, Assessor; and James Brownlee, Superintendent of Schools.

The county-seat election was held April 24, and Prescott rejected; therefore the seat of justice was held at Superior, a portion of the hotel being used as the court house.

The first term of district court for Osage County was held on October 14, 1861, at Superior. R. M. Ruggles was presiding Judge; E. S. Borland, Sheriff, and A. L. Hulburd, Clerk. Previous to the above date, the county was attached to Shawnee for judicial purposes.

In the fall of 1861, and also in 1862, James Regers was elected to the legislature from Osage County, over his competitor P. C. Schuyler, beating him by six votes the first year, and by only one vote the next time. They were warm friends, both free-soil Democrats, and ran only on their personal popularity.

The Legislature, early in 1861, made provision for another county-seat election. The contest was between several points, neither gaining a victory. Burlingame received the highest number of votes. On January 24, 1862, the first meeting of the County Commissioners was held at that place. Another election was held in April, with the following results: Burlingame, 138 votes; Versailles, 74 votes; and Havana 1 vote. This gave the county-seat to the first named town, where it remained for many years.


Burlingame, the county-seat, being located so far from the center of the county, as soon as the Indian reservation was settled, a movement was made to change its location. An election was held October 18, 1870, which resulted as follows: Lyndon, 1,145; Burlingame, 997; and Keithville, 2 votes. The county-seat was declared at the first named place by the Board of Commissioners. The Burlingame people, however, got out an injunction preventing the removal of the county offices and records. Thus began a series of county-seat elections which engendered much bitterness between different sections of the county, which, at times, threatened to seriously retard its progress. On August 6, 1872, another election was held with the following result; Burlingame, 954; Osage City, 456, and Lyndon, 1,042 votes. Neither place receiving a majority of all the votes cast, another election was held on August 20 between the two places receiving the highest number of votes. That election gave Burlingame, 1,407 and Lyndon 1,175 votes, and the former was decided to be the county-seat. In response to a petition, another election was ordered to take place on May 25, 1875. Burlingame despairing of retaining the county-seat, secured the laying out of a town on Section 34, Township 15, Range 15 east, near the center of the county, which was called Shireton. At the election Lyndon received 888, Osage City, 791, and Shireton, 785 votes. Neither place receiving a majority of all the votes cast another election was called between the two points receiving the highest number of votes, to take place June 8. Lyndon received 1,131, Osage City, 1,049, and Shireton, 288 votes. As only the two first-named points were considered to be legally in the contest, Lyndon claimed the county-seat. On the other hand as that town did not receive a majority of all the votes case, Burlingame secured an injunction against the removal of the county records. Pending the decision of the courts, the Sheriff and Treasurer moved their offices to Lyndon, some time in the fall of the year, but were compelled to move back to Burlingame by a mandamus. Upon a decision of the district court in favor of Lyndon, that town again tried to get the records, but another injunction was served, and the case was carried up to the Supreme Court by the Burlingame people. The Lyndon people then determined to get possession by force, and a small body of men was formed, and teams sent to bring away the records, but the citizens of Burlingame, learning that they were coming, formed themselves into and armed bank and took possession of the court house. They also sent out men, one or two at a time, to reconnoiter, but they were all captured by the Burlingame scouts and confined in the jail. Thus ended the first attempt.

The Lyndon people then returned home and soon collected a force of about 400 men, from the southern part of the county, who were armed with all kinds of weapons. This enraged body of men marched upon Burlingame, determined to secure the county records or burn the town. Scouts were sent in advance to investigate, and they found the court house filled with armed men, intent on defending it and retaining the records. There was for a time danger of a battle, both sides having been worked up to crazy fury. At last the cooler among the leaders of each side met and offected (sic) a compromise, Burlingame consenting to give up the records, believing this the only way to save the town from being burned.

The first meeting of the County Commissioners at Lyndon was on November 16, 1875. The Supreme Court afterward affirmed the decision of the court below, and the county-seat remained at Lyndon.

But still the vexed question was not regarded as settled, and in response to a petition another election was called to take place March 12, 1878. Lyndon, Osage City and Burlingame were the contesting points. The contest was a bitter one, each town putting forth every effort to secure a victory, and on the day of election great frauds were committed in all parts of the county, but more particularly in the towns mentioned, each of which polled more than twice the number of votes that there were of voters in the township. As a result Lyndon receive 1,745, Osage City 5,204, and Burlingame 2,003 votes. This was more than double the number of legal voters in the county. On this election Osage City claimed to be the county-seat, and at first attempted to secure the removal of the county records, but the election frauds were so plain that the courts refused to have anything to do with it, and the matter was finally dropped.

Since the above named election, the county-seat has remained at Lyndon, and though the people have not yet voted to build county buildings, the question is generally regarded as settled.

When the county-seat was at Burlingame, a court house was built there by subscription by the citizens. At Lyndon no court house has been built, and the county officials occupy rooms in different parts of the town, leased by the county. There is a jail at Lyndon, and a substantial poor house, on the poor farm, not far from Burlingame.

The present county officials are: John C. Rankin, Treasurer; C. A. Cottrell, County Clerk; H. W. Jenness, Register of Deeds; J. D. McCabe, Surveyor; Alexander Blake, Probate Judge; R. C. Heiser, County Attorney; A. Cotterman, Clerk of Court; Harry Smith, Sheriff; Calvin Ransom, Coroner; Commissioners, First District, George S. Brock; Second District, H. M. Crum; Third District, A. I. Lanning; H. K. McConnell, Superintendent of Schools; Max. Buek, Representative, Forty-fourth District; W. C. Sweezy, Representative, Forty-fifth District.


On the breaking out of the civil war in April, 1861, the citizens of Osage County made arrangements to do what they could to serve their country, and on the 14th of the following May the following men enlisted in the Second Regiment, Kansas Volunteer Infantry:-Robert H. Baird, Samuel Houston, James R. Stewart, Orlando P. Rooks, Reuben F. Playford, William C. Chatfield, Norman Curtis, J. R. Drew, William Y. Drew, Thomas W. Rogers, H. A. Dutton, Silas M. Hills, John Hendry, Howard Schuyler, Charles W. Ryus, Frederick Schuyler, N. T. B. Schuyler, Julius D. Wright, John Rambo, A. W. Boyce, A. W. Baily, Robert A. Bratton, Charles H. Gooder, F. G. Hunter, Abraham Leonard, Fernando Olds and S. T. Shunk. After a campaign in Missouri the regiment was discharged on October 31.

During the war Osage County furnished more than its quota of volunteer soldiers, many of whom particularly distinguished themselves for bravery. No companies did more effective duty than did those from Osage. A great number served in the Eleventh Kansas Regiment. A great many left Osage County to join regiments from other States. Among them were A. U. Perrill and A. A. Hederstrom.

At the time of Price's raid, Gen. Curtis and Gov. Carney called out the Kansas State Militia, and nearly every able-bodied man in Osage County went out. The campaign lasted three weeks, when upon the retreat of Price, the men returned home. The militia from this county composed the Santa Fe Road Battalion, which was commanded by Col. M. M. Murdock.

Among prominent and brave men of the county who were killed or died during the war were: Dr. S. A. Fairchild who was killed by guerrillas while attending their own sick, E. P. Sheldon, S. F. Shunk, Thomas W. Rogers, Merritt W. Young, William West, Isaac F. Thiers, Joseph E. Cole, John and William Eckenkamp, Madison T. Hughes, Joseph H. Marple, Capt. Silas H. Marple, John C. Rooks, Augustine C. Rosencrantz, Henry Boyle, Capt. D. D. Rooks, George W. McDonald, John Collins, Horace, Loring and Edwin Dutton.

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