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


[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]


The first settlements in Phillips County were made in the vicinity of Kirwin, the fine farming lands in the vicinity and the beautiful location of the place, near the Solomon River attracting settlers. The natural advantages of the place and the energy of its business men have made it one of the most noted and prosperous young cities in the Solomon valley. Kirwin is situated three miles from the east and seven miles from the south line of the county, near the north bank of the Solomon river, at the mouths of Deer and Bow creeks. It was the first railroad station in the county, the Central branch of the Union Pacific Railroad having reached there in November, 1879. The government land office, (the details of the business of which may be found incorporated in the history of Phillips County), was removed from Cawker City to Kirwin in 1875, and the land transactions for several counties centering at Kirwin has greatly aided in building up the town. The town was incorporated as a city of the third class in 1878. The business of the place is represented by five general stores, three drug houses, three agricultural implement stores, four groceries, three confectioneries, three restaurants, two hardware stores, four hotels, two harness shops, one wholesale and retail furniture house, one meat market, one bank, barber shop, marble works, two newspaper offices, six law and land firms, four physicians, four livery and sale stables, one gunsmith, one billiard hall, two blacksmiths. The Methodists and Congregationalists have neat and commodious houses of worship, and regular services every Sabbath. The Baptists and Episcopalians also have church organizations, and have regular services, but no church buildings. There are Sunday-schools connected with the two first named churches, and together they number about one hundred and eighty scholars. One of the handsomest school buildings in the Solomon valley is located in Kirwin. It is a large two-story house, built of magnesian lime stone, and erected three years since at a cost of $9,000. The building has a seating capacity of three hundred. Several substantial stone and brick buildings, in addition to the school house, have been erected during the past three or four years, among them the Warner House, Belford Block, Moulton Block, Commercial Hotel, Kirwin Bank building.

The first settlers in Kirwin and vicinity came in 1869. The first actual settler was C. J. Van Allen. John Lindsey was the first homesteader, coming soon after Van Allen, and taking land in what is now Valley Township. The town was named in honor of Col. Kirwin who was sent to this section of country soon after the war of the rebellion, and erected a stockade on what is now the Lyman Perkins farm, one mile and a half southwest of town. The chief object in the erection of the stockade was the protection of the overland emigrants to California. After a year or two the "fort " was abandoned and Col. Kirwin was removed to another section of the country. Among the early settlers were H. P. Gandy, Isaac V. Lee, Capt. Chute, Rollin Calkins, J. C. Hale, C. J. Lamb, E. L. Dustin, W. T. Belford, Joseph Wood, B. F. Lozier, now P. M. of Kirwin, A. B. Parsons, A. Weaver, S. Brigham, N. S. Drew, the Hill brothers, Richard Corcoran, John Butler, Wm. Cadwell, James and Forbes. The stockade built by these early settlers in 1871, afterwards served as a "store" where Capt. Chute and Joseph Wood sold whiskey, flour, tobacco, powder and shot, and traded for buffalo robes and furs. The first birth in Kirwin was a child of Judge Shurtz in 1873. The first marriage of which any authentic account can be obtained was Ephraim Kincaid and Miss Watson In 1872. The first death in Kirwin was a child of Joseph Penewell, in 1874. The Kirwin Town Company, organized in 1871, consisted of C. J. Van Allen, William Pounds, E. L. Dean, B. F. Lozier and A. B. Parsons. They made a claim on four quarter sections covering the town and vicinity, and the last named, Dean, Parsons and Lozier owned fifty-seven of the original one hundred shares. The first general store in the town was built by C. J. Van Allen for Geo. Mundy, and stood near the spot now occupied by D. H. Moulton's dwelling house. The second store house was built on East Main street and stood on ground now occupied by A. Stockman's residence. Dean & Parsons bought and set up on the Solomon River, near Kirwin, in the spring of 1872, a steam sawmill, undoubtedly the first steam mill started in Kirwin. The first school was taught in Kirwin in 1873 by Miss Maggie Shurtz, who gave lessons in her own home in the south part of town. The same year a school house was erected on the school square in the northwest part of town, between Second and Third streets. Three years since the first-built school house was removed to give place to the present elegant stone public school building.

The first sermon was preached in town by Rev. Mr. Hitchcock, a Baptist minister, in 1872, in a frame shanty on the north bank of the Solomon, and it was not until 1879 that a church building was erected, the Methodists being the pioneers.

The first postoffice was established in 1871 and H. P. Gandy was appointed postmaster. He retained office but six months. C. L. Dustin was appointed and held the place one year; then W. T. Belford was chosen and remained in office eight years. One year since B. F. Lozier, the present incumbent, received the appointment. The money order system was established in Kirwin in 1877. The salary of the Postmaster is $1,400. The first regular store was opened in May, 1872, on the south side of East Main street, by Dustin, Cottrell, Nixon & Co. Dustin soon retired from the firm and left the country, and the following year the store was removed to a new building erected on the south side of the public square.

Kirwin was charted as a city July 24, 1880. The first officers were: Horace Moulton, Mayor; F. Campbell, W. T. Belford, E. W. Warner, W. D. Jenkins, J. H. Skinner, Councilmen; C. E. Russell, Marshal; C. E. Don Carlos, Clerk; H. J. Cameron, Treasurer. Horace Moulton was reelected Mayor, and was succeeded by A. B. Stoddart, then Horace Moulton was again elected. At the last election Col. F. Campbell was chosen. Present officers: F. Campbell, Mayor; J. H. Skinner, Dr. R. H. Trusdle, F. L. Ingersoll, A. Stockman and Thomas Fife, Councilmen; George Noble, Marshal; H. B. Camphell, Clerk; M. H. Wilson, Treasurer. Council meets in regular sessions the first Monday in every month.

There were Indian scares in both 1871 and 1872. The people of Kirwin and the adjacent settlements were notified that bands of hostile Sioux, Pawnees and Omahas would certainly attack them. In fact several bands of the savages came to the immediate vicinity. Full preparations were made for a vigorous resistance. All retired to the stockade, taking their few women and "plunder" with them, but no attacks came. The Indians only "paid" a few debts to whites who had mistreated them.

In July, 1872, three children of Duncan Potts and wife, who had just arrived from Iowa, were drowned by a water-spout, west of Kirwin. The family were encamped in a gulch east of Marvin. They managed by great exertions to save their own lives and one of their children. But one of the dead bodies was found.

The last Indian "scare" was in 1878. The news came to Kirwin and Phillips County that the hostile Indians were raiding in Decatur and Rawlins counties on the west, and that the people of Phillips should prepare to meet the shock. Messengers arrived in hot haste with the news that large bands of the cruel and bloody Cheyennes were approaching the eastern sections, killing the settlers, driving off their stock and burning houses. Hundreds of settlers from the west flocked into Kirwin and other parts of Phillips County, and it was determined to meet the hostiles. But, fortunately, government troops arrived and the Cheyennes were driven back before reaching Kirwin. That is the last of the threatened Indian raids, as they are now on their reservations, and there is no longer danger in that quarter.


In December, 1882, Mrs. Millie McHurin, formerly Mrs. Cisley, of Kirwin, was arrested in Graham County charged with the murder of George T. Lord, also of that city. The following are the attendant circumstances, as given in the Kirwin Independent:

"About the middle of May, 1880, George T. Lord, a well known citizen of Kirwin, left this place with a well equipped outfit and a considerable sum of money, with the avowed purpose of going to the mountains, to be gone an indefinite length of time. His neighbors were given to understand that unless he prospered in his enterprise they would not hear from him. >From Kirwin Mr. Lord drove up Bow Creek and over to Stockton. Here he sold his load of bacon and came back to Bow Creek Crossing, where his team ran away, breaking the tongue of the wagon and slightly injuring himself. The team was caught, and with the assistance of Joshua Kincaid the breaks were repaired. A Mrs. Cisley, who is well known in this community, and who had been a housekeeper for the Lord family for a long time previous to the departure of Mr. Lord, joined him at this point, she being accompanied by a child four years old. As soon as the wagon was fixed the party traveled to the southwest. They reached Monument Station on the evening of May 28th, and after watering at the railroad tank they went down the ravine to the southeast about three miles, where they went into camp for the night. And this is the last time Uncle George Lord, as he was familiarly called, was ever seen alive. The next morning a cattle herder looking for stray stock, seeing their camp went toward it to inquire about his lost cattle. Mrs. Cisley seeing him coming, left the wagon and went toward him meeting him about forty rods from the wagon. When asked if she had seen any cattle near there she said that there had been no cattle near there, but that she had seen some in another direction, with which information the herder went away in the direction indicated. Mrs. Cisley and her child reached Collyer May 29th, having driven about sixty-five miles, and driving about sixty miles on Saturday, May 30th, she reached Hayes City about dark. At Hayes she sold the team, harness and wagon, worth at least $350, to Mr. Madden, a liveryman, for $102. She stated while at Hayes that her husband had died out West. In a few days after making the sale she returned to Phillips County.

About the middle of June, 1880, the dead body of a man, who had been shot in the back of the head, was found in the ravine three miles southeast of Monument, where George T. Lord, Mrs. Cisley and her child had camped. The body was much decomposed, and had evidently lain there several weeks. Near by was found some clothing. boots, feather bed, etc. The station agent at Monument took charge of the clothing, which has been preserved, and another resident took the feather bed. Notice was sent to the coroner of Ellis County, in which jurisdiction the body was found, but the distance was so great, and the body had lain so long that no inquest was held and it was buried near where it lay.

Sometime since Mr. and Mrs. John Abrams received information from Mrs. Warren, formerly of this place, and then living at Atwood, Rawlins County, that the station agent at Monument had some clothing that had been found near the body of a murdered man, and gave such a description of them as left little doubt that the dead man was none other than George T. Lord. Mr. Abrams, John B. Lord and G. M. Davis started for Monument some three weeks ago, where they identified the clothing, and gathered facts concerning the matter. They then took the trail of the woman with the wagon and team, to Hayes, gathering a train of circumstances that proved the terrible truth, that George T. Lord was murdered for his money and property. At Hayes they found one of the horses and a gold ring that the woman had sold. Fully satisfied that Mrs. Cisley was guilty, they filed a complaint, charging the crime against her, and returned to Kirwin.

According to a prearranged plan, John Abrams, John B. Lord, (son of deceased) A. G. McBride, county attorney, James Scott, Sr., and G. M. Davis, all of this place, met Sheriff Allen, of Trego County, at Logan yesterday morning and they all proceeded to the place where Mrs. Cisley, (now Mrs. McHurin) lives. Starting early in the morning they reached the place about noon. Mrs. McHurin was taken by surprise, though when told that she must consider herself under arrest she made an effort as though to get a revolver from a bureau drawer, but was defeated and secured. Search of the premises was made and many things that had formerly belonged to the deceased were found and identified. The silver watch, the mittens and an otter skin muffler were among the things found.

Mrs. Cisley (now Mrs. McHurin) was taken to Logan, whence she was taken to Lenora on the night train. From Lenora she was taken to Wakeeney, where she will be held to answer for the crime of which it now seems certain she is guilty. The parties who made the arrest are reticent about giving details as to her actions after arrest, but it has leaked out that she broke down entirely and made a full confession of her guilt. From the reports we learn that Mr. Lord had with him at the time he was murdered about $1,000 in cash. and other property worth some five hundred dollars, all of which was taken by the woman. That he was shot in the back of the head while sleeping in the wagon, the bullet fracturing the skull in front but not coming through, and causing instant death, is certain. The case against Mrs. Cisley is wholly upon her confession,(if she has made one) and upon purely circumstantial evidence, but so strong are the circumstances, so plainly marked is the trail she has left that there can be no doubt that this woman, Cisley, is the cold blooded murderess of George T. Lord. No man had more friends than the deceased. Bluff, honest, generous, he was, notwithstanding his rough manner, respected by all who knew him. He had faults-but who has not? And now the mystery of his long-continued silence is solved. It was the silence of the grave."


Kirwin Lodge No. 143, I. O. O. F., organized April 25, 1877. First officers: F. Campbell, N, G.; J. R. Gilmore, V. G. ; A. Stockman, treasurer; H. Moulton, secretary; John Stribel and D. H. Moulton, with the above officers, constitute the list of charter members. The officers for the semi-annual term, beginning July 1, 1882, L. E. Campbell, N. G.; Fred, Greub, V. G.; S. J. Hartman, secretary; E. W. Warner, treasurer present number of members, thirty-two. Meet every Tuesday evening in Moulton's hall.

Garfield Lodge, No. 39, Knights of Pythias, organized June 10, 1881. First officers: Horace Moulton, P. C.; E. W. Warner, C. C.; W. T. S. May, V. C.: L. J. Best, M. of E.; G. W. Wood, Prelate; C. E. Monell, M. of F.; M. H. Johnson. K. of R. and S.; A. L. Richards, M. A. There are twenty-four charter members. Officers for term beginning July 1, 1882, E W. Warner, P. C. ; W. H. Noll. C. C.; M. H. Johnson, V. C.; C. S. Knight, K. or R. and S.; C. W. Hull, M. of F.; H. A, Hatch, M. of E.: J. A. Griffis, M. A.; G. W. Wood, Prelate. Present number of members, forty-two. Meet every Monday night in hall in Moulton's block.

Kirwin Lodge, No. 175, A., F. & A. M., received a dispensation from the M. W. Grand Lodge of the State or Kansas in 1877, and was chartered the following year with Frank Strain as Worshipful Master; J. H. Skinner, Senior Warden; Lewis Mullen, Junior Warden; Horace Moulton, treasurer; B. F. Lozier, secretary. The lodge at present numbers thirty-eight members. The officers for the present term are: W. E. Rowe, W. M.; A. L. Richards, S. W.; Jas. R. Chamberlain J. W.; B. F. Lozier, treasurer; Morris Tester, secretary; A. J. Stiles, S. D.: W. H. McBride, J. D.; L. Wands, tyler. The lodge meetings are held on the second and fourth Saturdays in every month in Moulton's hall, west side of public square.

The Kirwin Bank was established in March, 1879, in the building on the northeast corner of the public square. The officers of the bank erected the fine two-story and basement brick building on the east side of the square, corner of East Main, at a cost or $7,000, and occupied in October of the same year. The building is well arranged for the purpose for which it was designed, and is provided with one of Hall's infallible time locks. The cash capital of the Kirwin Bank is $50,000. Cameron, Hull & Co., proprietors.

The Methodist Episcopal Church of Kirwin was organized in 1873. The first preacher in charge was Rev. E. H. Jewett, succeeded by Revs. Walter A. Seville, A. B. Conwell, J. H. Colt, Geo. W. Wood, and C. W. Caselay, present preacher. When first organized there were eight members, to-wit: W. T. Belford and wife, A. B. Cressy and wife, Judge John Shurtz, John Huff and mother; and Thomas Cox. The early meetings were mainly held in private houses, at Belford's store and in the school house. The church now used by the society was built at a cost of $1,600, and it has a seating capacity of four hundred. A Union Sabbath School was established in 1873, with six teachers, and met in Belford's hall; there were twenty scholars, and W. T. Belford was the first superintendent. After two or three years it became a Methodist school. At the present the school has six teachers and eighty scholars. Dr. G. H. Ensign is superintendent.

Rev. H. G. Brud is the presiding elder of the Kirwin district that embraces nearly all the northwestern counties.

[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]