KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS

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


OTTAWA COUNTY, Part 2

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

EARLY EXPLORATIONS.

The early travelers and gold hunters found this country in the possession of the Kaw Indians, a tribe not so treacherous and bloodthirsty as the Sioux and Pawnee. The first white men to venture into this Indian haunted frontier to commence the noble work of winning the country from its thralldom of barbarism were William Still, George Darling, and a Frenchman named La Pere. In May, 1855 they built a cabin near the mouth of Coal Creek (then Myer's) and cultivated a garden that year. They were a part of the Reader colony, the larger portion of which settled at Solomon City, at the junction of the Solomon and Smoky Hill rivers. At this time they were almost beyond the frontier, and within the Indians' hunting grounds. The settlements of safety were many miles east. In June, 1855, a party from Ohio explored the Solomon Valley, with the design of selecting a location for a large colony from that State, but the Sioux war on the Smoky Hill River, and the fact of the Kansas River not being navigable, caused them to abandon their design and seek a location less liable to invasion from the Indians. Of the first three settlers in the county, La Pere was probably killed by the savages. The Sioux were in camp on the Saline River, and to them he went on a friendly visit, but never returned. In 1855-'56 the Sioux war and border ruffian troubles had the effect of checking the great immigration in prospect for the valley west of the Kansas River. In the fall of 1857 Mr. Myers, who gave the name to the creek, came into Ottawa County, but settled on Turkey Creek, Dickinson County. In the fall of 1858 Wm. Frost located near the mouth of Coal Creek. During this same season a number of settlers took claims, but did not permanently locate until in the spring of 1859, when the following came into Ottawa County: S. M. Wright, one and a half miles north of Minneapolis; E. W. Branch, just adjoining the town site; Jacob Humburger, four miles northeast, on Pipe Creek; H. R. Little and Josiah Hocker, adjacent to Wm. Frost's old claim, near the mouth of Coal Creek and the eastern boundary line of Ottawa County. Messrs. Wright and Branch build the first cabins occupied by families in the county, and their wives were the first white women who entered its limits for the purpose of making homes there. In 1857-'58 the hunters and trappers who visited Solomon Valley gave names to many of its creeks. For some unexplained reason these wayfarers left a wagon-load of plunder behind them, just above Minneapolis, for the ownership of which a lawsuit was subsequently tried in the District Court, at Junction City. Judging from the evidence there produced, the "gentlemen" who gave Fisher, Lindsey, Brown and Chriss creeks their names, were not the most savory morsels of humanity in the world. Most of the names of these Solomon Valley creeks have since been changed - in respect to the living. The great drought of 1860 checked immigration. In the fall of 1861 came the Indian scare. Mr. Still moved down into Dickinson County with his family; Messrs. Humberger and Darling into Saline, and the Branches went East to live. Mr. Wright, who had also fled, returned in the fall of 1863, as did Mr. Still. During the early part of 1864 the Indians became again very troublesome. Their raids were frequent in adjoining counties, and some of the settlers in Ottawa County lost their lives. In the spring of 1864 six settlers in Saline, Ottawa and Mitchell counties lost their lives. This induces a number of them to band themselves together for protection. Israel Markley, S. M. Wright, J. C. Boblett, J. C. Stull, A. and S. Z. Boss, Thomas Dalrymple, Chapman, H. S. Wooden, J. M. Jones, Al and Ed Schellenbrand and others built Fort Solomon, which stood on the river near the present residence of Hon. E. Holingsworth. Log houses were also built in the form of a square, and enclosed with palisades. Inside of the enclosure was a good well, and every precaution was taken to be prepared for a long siege, which, fortunately, the settlers were not obliged to endure. The majority of the people in the county at this time lived in these houses from the summer of 1864 to the spring of 1865. Major-General Custis gave the unpretentious garrison a noted little gun, known as "Jim Lane's Pocket Piece." It is still in the county, a souvenir of those days.

In the year 1865 the county received an influx of discharged soldiers, coming to take advantage of their soliders' claims. This rapid increase in population induced Israel Markley and J. C. Boblett to build the Elkhorn saw and flour mill, the first of the kind in the county, in 1864-'65. With the exception of horse-stealing, comparative quiet and peace prevailed in this county from 1865 until 1868. Up to this time only one man was known to have been killed by the Indians. His name was Peter Miller. A band of Pawnees came to his place, the farm now owned by Levi Yonkey, in July, 1862, and killed him and plundred (sic) his cabin. The Cheyennes, Kiawas, Arapahoes, and Sioux used to congregate at the "Great Spirit" spring, "Waconda," and from there make raids on the Republican, Solomon and Saline Valleys. The town Wauconda, on the Solomon River, in Mitchell County, is situated near, and named after, this spring. Early in the morning of August 12, 1868, the Indians came pouring into the valley of the Solomon, and during the three succeeding days laid waste the fair settlements as far down as Yonkey's farm, which was in the northwestern part of the county. There were none killed, however, in Ottawa, but in Mitchell and Cloud counties their victims were many. C. C. Clark was attacked just below Delphos, as he was retreating down the valley, with his family in his wagon, but by fast driving, with his reins in one hand and his revolver in the other, he kept the cowards at bay and reached Minneapolis in safety. On the fourteenth of the following October another raid was made through Ottawa County, which was far more disastrous than the one of August. A large amount of stock was driven off, all the household plunder they could carry stolen, four lives taken, and one woman carried away captive. The victims were Peter Karns, old Mr. Smith, John Andrews and Alexander Smith. A Mr. Morgan was severely wounded, and his wife carried away into captivity , from which she was not released for eight long months. Mr. Morgan had gone to gather corn on D. Mortimer's farm, which is close to the river in the northern part of the county, and was in the field when attacked. The attack was so sudden that he did not have time to unhitch his team, which he was in the act of doing when the savages approached him. He left the horses partly unhitched and ran for the river, pursued by one of the Indians, who wounded his victim just as he reached the bank. Morgan fell, rolled over the bank, and was left as dead. In the meantime one of the horses freed himself and started for home, followed by the Indians with the other horse, and what they needed of the harness. Mrs. Morgan, seeing the lone horse and supposing the team had run away and perhaps killed her husband, was returning to the field with the animal when she met the Indians and was taken captive. It was a grand reunion when she returned, for she found her husband alive whom she had believed to be dead, and he found the noble wife he had begun to believe was not among the living. As the Indians were pursuing Mr. Smith, who they killed, they came upon Mr. Virtue, whom they felled with a spear and left for dead, but he was only slightly injured. On the 9th of June, 1869, they made a raid on Sumnerville. They surrounded Captain Pierce's house, but his son and Ben Makley succeeded in keeping them out of the building. About the same time they burned the Smithville postoffice and killed two young men - Messrs. Dyer and John Wier. These last raids were made principally for plunder. The Indians in the last raid were pursued by a band of settlers. The same day John Lyon, Hendershot, Sticklet and other pursued some thieving Indians ten miles and killed one of their number, but failed to secure the stolen property.

On the 14th of August, 1868, Governor Crawford was telegraphed the situation at midnight, and in four hours he was in Salina, and on the night of the 15th stopped at Asher Creek. His influence caused the General Government to send out, under Generals Sheridan and Custer, the expedition that recaptured Mrs. Morgan and Miss White. The latter was taken from Cloud County one month before Mrs. Morgan was captured. Her father was killed at the same time. There were no more raids into the county, but it was two or three years before the fear of incursions really passed away.

The first settlers in Ottawa Coutny were William Still, George Darling and La Pere, a Frenchman. They build a cabin in May, 1855, near the mouth of Coal Creek, and cultivated a garden, but the Sioux war induced them to leave in the fall.

The first permanent settlers came in 1859. They were S. M. Wright, E. W. Branch, Jacob Humburger, H. R. Little and Josiah Hocker.

The first while women in the county were Mrs. S. M. Wright and Mrs. E. W. Branch, who located with their husbands in 1859.

The first birth in the county occurred in 1859. The parents were Mr. and Mrs. S. M. Wright, to whom a son was born.

The first death was that of Mrs. E. W. Branch. Her demise occurred on the 13 of August, 1859, soon after occupying her new home, and by her request she was buried on the present site of the Minneapolis Cemetery.

Matilda Jones and W. D. Bruce were the first couple married in Ottawa County, this event occurring in 1865. They were married in old Fort Solomon.

The first school was taught at Concord, in 1864, by Miss Charlotte Ingersoll.

The first sermon was preached by Rev. J. H. Hawley, of the Methodist denomination, in 1865. Most of the citizens were present at this first religious gathering. It was held at Mrs. Boss's log cabin at Fort Solomon.

Seymour Ayers and John Knight, appointed in 1864, were the first Justices of the Peace in the county.

The first Postmasters were S. Z. Boss and J. C. Boblett, appointed in 1864, the former for Bennington and the latter for Ayersburg.

The first physician, Dr. McHenry, came in 1867.

The first mill, at Elkhorn, was built by Israel Markley and J. C. Boblett, in 1865.

Colonel John Kerwin started the first store at Fort Solomon in 1866.

Jerome Ingersoll was the first lawyer, locating at Bennington in 1865.

The Legislature of 1860 bounded the county and named it after the Ottawa tribe of Indians. From that time up to 1865 Ottawa, with Clay, Dickinson, Saline and all the unorganized territory west of these counties, was attached to Davis County for judicial purposes. R. H Little, of Ottawa, was a member of the first grand jury that sat at Junction City, and Isaac Markley was defendant to the first suit docketed in the District Court, under State laws, when Ottawa was a part of Davis County. Mr. Markley gained his suit. The Legislature of 1865 attached Ottawa to Saline County for judicial purposes. Dickson and Saline counties had been organized, and the change was made for the convenience of the people. S. Z. Boss was appointed Justice for Ottawa.

In July, 1866, Seymour Ayers prepared the papers for the organization of the county, it having, supposedly, the required population of 500. Governor Samuel J. Crawford completed the work by appointing Amassa May, Henry Dresher and A. J. Willis, County Commissioners; J. H. Ingersoll, County Clerk; and designating Ayersburg as the county seat until the people should choose for themselves. The first election took place in the following November; result as follows: Commissioners, G. R. Ingersoll, A. H. Boss and Silas Seaman; County Clerk, H. S. Wooden; Treasurer, Geo. Culver; Sheriff, D. Pierce; and J. H. Ingersoll, County Attorney.

Minneapolis and Lindsey were candidates for county seat honors. They are equally distant from the exact center of the county. As stated, the Governor designated Ayersburg as the county seat until the people should select a place. This was done in the fall of 1866, the vote resulting in favor of Minneapolis. The votes of 1870 and 1872 resulted also in giving the county seat to that city, and the question is, probably, permanently settled.

The county rents building in Minneapolis for the county offices; a square has been set apart whereon to erect a substantial court-house as soon as the county becomes sufficiently settled and wealthy. The poor farm is well supplied with buildings.

The Solomon Valley Railroad, a branch of the Kansas Pacific, runs along the Solomon River, from Solomon City to Beloit, where it connects with the Central Branch R. R. It was built to Minneapolis in 1877 and extended to Beloit in 1879 and 1880. The county issued $100,000 worth of bonds in aid of the Solomon Valley Railroad.

With the exception of the year 1874, the insects have not very materially injured the crops of the county, not having proved so detrimental to its financial prosperity as an insufficient amount of rainfall. For some time the question of a sufficient supply of moisture to produce good crops was a serious one, and many have come and gone on account of not being able to stay and try the experiment. With the exception of 1860, the drought has never destroyed both the early and late crops. This section, however, is more subject to droughts than that further east, being nearer the dry plains of the West.

Ottawa County has been visited by three cyclones since 1878. The first occurred the 30th of May, 1879, and passed in a northeasterly direction, entering the county from the southwest. It did no damage until it reached the valley of Salt Creek, from which point it was very destructive, until it passed the northern line of this county, beyond which point it seems to have done no material damage. Within this short distance of about twelve miles the fields were laid waste, twenty dwellings blown to pieces or badly wrecked, and six lives lost, besides considerable damage being occasioned to stock and fowls. The loss of property, not including crops, was estimated at over $15,000. The names of those killed are Katie Krone and her sisters, Mrs. Vosh and Mrs. Anna Vosh; Mr. McCalmot, and a traveler by the name of Jacob Garber from Center County, Pa., who had taken shelter from the storm under one of Mr. Krone's sheds. There were a number of other persons seriously injured. On the night of the 10th of June, just ten days after the cyclone above mentioned, the flourishing village of Delphos, twelve miles northwest of Minneapolis, was partially destroyed by a huricane (sic). It commenced at Cawker City and continued down the course of the Solomon River, greatly devastating the center of Ottawa County. At the time it struck Delphos - about 10 o'clock- the citizens of Minneapolis were gathered at an ice-cream festival for the benefit of the suffers of the former cyclone. The charitable entertainment was not disturbed, as the hurricane passed to the north. Thirty-three houses were totally destroyed at Delphos, which was fully one half of the town and included almost its entire business portion. It is remarkable that no lives were lost, but this is due to the fact that the lesson of the cyclone was fresh in the minds of the citizens, as they were within two miles of its path, and when they saw the threatening cloud and heard the fearful rumble and roar of the maddened elements, they sought safety in cellars. The damage to property was about $26,000. The path of the hurricane, which was here much wider than that of the cyclone, crossed the latter at right angles about two miles southeast of Delphos, and destroyed two new dwellings that were rising from the ruins of the cyclone.

On the 9th of June, 1881, two years after the storm last mentioned, the southern part of the county was visited by a cyclone. The course of the storm was toward the east, and just after crossing the Saline, one mile north of the county line, it took the form of a cyclone, continuing thus for about four miles. Within that distance, in the order given, the houses of Messrs. Powell, Phillips, Frothingham, Peters and Davis were all destroyed. Mr. Parker's, only a part of which stood within the path of the cyclone, partially escaped. There were three occupants of Mr. L. F. Frothingham's house; himself and wife, Mary T., and Mr. George Combs, her cousin, all of whom were killed outright; the timbers of the house were scattered for miles. The body of Mr. Frothingham was found 450 feet from the site of the house, terribly mutilated and disfigured, the end of a board having been driven half way through his head. Mrs. Frothingham was thrown about seventy-five yards, her face and head badly bruised, and her cousin was still nearer the house - not so disfigured, but dead. They must have been killed at once. Some of the other families were severely injured, but all recovered. The cyclone lost its rotary motion and force within three miles of Bennington. It was accompanied by very heavy hail.

SCHOOLS AND COUNTY ROSTER.

The first school in the county was taught at Concord, in 1864, by Miss Charlotte Ingersoll. It was very small, as the school population was not more than twenty at that time. It is now about 4,000. The schools are numerous, and generally in an advanced and flourishing condition. The buildings are good and the latest and most approved text books and school apparatus are used. There are over eighty organized districts, with nearly as many good school-houses. The total valuation of all school property is about $50,000.

County Commissioners - 1866, appointed, Amassa Mav, Henry Dresher and A. J. Willis; 1866, elected, G. R. Ingersoll, A. H. Boss, Silas Seaman; 1867, A. H. Boss, C. H. Bellis, Levi Yockey; 1868, G. R. Ingersoll, T. Waddell,, H. H. Tucker; 1869, J. C. Boblett, Howard, Morton; 1871, G. T. Root, J. S. Morgan, G. R. Ingersoll; 1873, W. W. Frost, D. W. Fasig, M. Kelley; * * * 1882, George Mackenzie, H. Z. Towner and H. C. Bilderback.

Clerks - 1866, J. H. Ingersoll, appointed; 1866, H. S. Wooten; 1866, A. J. Willis; 1867, Chas. Boyle; 1869, A. C. Stull; 1871, F. M. Sexton; 1875, D. D. Hoag; 1879, Wm. Van Meter; 1881, W. W. Walker.

Treasurers - 1866, Geo. Culver; 1866, A. J. Simpson; 1867, W. J. Simpson; 1869, I. E. Carson; 1873, T. E. Scott; 1875, G. E. Burnham; 1879, J. W. Smith; 1880. J. S. Felt.

Probate Judges - 1866, Elijah Smith; 1870, Wm. Bell; 1872, D. D. Hoag; 1874, J. H. Hannah; 1878, Chas. S. Wyeth.

Sheriffs - 1866, D. Pierce; 1866, H. H. Lyon; 1868, Geo. Mackenzie; 1869, A. J. Smith; 1870, E. D. Loing; 1871, W. Tripp; 1873, D. D. Hoag; 1875, A. L. Carson; 1877, J. D. More and D. D. Hoag; 1879, D. D. Hoag.

Registers - 1866, H. C. Mason; 1869, F. M. Ivy; 1871, F. H. Holton; 1873, W. L. Harvey; 1877, W. H. Chappal; 1881, J. W. Thompson.

Superintendents of Schools - 1866, H. H. Tucker; 1870, W. A. Roberts; 1872, A. B. Crosby; 1874, J. H. Elder; 1876-'82, R. L. Hillman.

County Attorneys - 1866, J. H. Ingersoll; 1868, S. Y. Woodhul; 1869, J. F. Walker; 1870, A. J. Ingersoll; 1872, Bishop Perkins; 1874, R. F. Thompson; 1878, C. L. Bosworth.

Surveyors - 1866, Wm. Bell; 1869, More Spears; 1871, D. R. Crosby; 1873, W. L. Harvey; 1875, G. P. Crosby; 1877, H. F. Richards; 1879, W. E. Richards.

Coroners - 1870, David Cleave; 1872, Wm. Harvey; 1874, D. D. Slocum.

State Senators from Ottawa County - 1866, W. S. Blakely and W. A. Johnson.

State Representatives - 1866, R. D. Mobley; 1868, W. W. Lambert; 1870, Jacob Campbell; 1871, E. Hollingsworth; 1872, W. B. Davis; 1874, R. F. Thompson; 1874, R. D. Mobley; 1875, W. A. Johnson; 1877, H. H. Blair; 1879, Thos. Ellison; 1881, R. P. Blaine.

W. A. Johnston, of Ottawa, has been States Attorney.

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