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


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


By the partition of Stafford County in 1874, the two southern tiers of Congressional townships of that county were annexed to Pratt, but, in 1879, Stafford was restored to its original boundaries, and the townships that had been annexed to were severed from Pratt. The population of the county had so increased by the spring of 1879 that in April of the year, the Governor was memorialized to organize the county. A census-taker was appointed by the Governor to take the census of the county, and upon his report being made, the Governor issued a proclamation organizing the county of Pratt, and locating the temporary county seat at Iuka. He also appointed John Sillin, Thomas Goodwin and L. H. Naron, County commissioners and L. C. Thompson, County Clerk.

The Commissioners appointed by the foregoing proclamation held their first meeting at Iuka,
July 29, 1879, and were sworn to a faithful performance of the duty by J. W. Ellis. They then organized by electing L. H. Naron Chairman.

Various opinions are expressed by the early settlers as to what became of the first Commissioners' journal, but whatever the facts connected with it may have been, certain it is that it mysteriously disappeared, and the business transacted by the first Commissioners is written in this history from information given by the early settlers who are acquainted with all the details. About the only business of their first meeting was to divide the county into five municipal townships and three Commissioner districts, and to designate various voting precincts. A special election was ordered to be held September 2, 1879, to perfect the organization of the county, by electing a full set of county officers, and to permanently locate the county seat. The chosen at that election were John Sillin, L. H. Naron and Thomas Goodwin, County Commissioners; L. C. Thompson, County Clerk; Samuel Brumsey, Clerk of District Court; James Neely, Probate Judge; R. T. Peak, Treasurer; Samuel McAvoy, Sheriff; M. G. Barney, County Attorney; A. H. Hubbs, County Superintendent of Schools; Phillip Haines, Register of Deeds; J. W. Ellis, Surveyor and P. Small, Coroner. All the interest in the election was centered in the contest for the county seat, for which there were three competitive points-Iuka, Saratoga and Anderson. The fight was hotly contested, but when the Commissioners met to canvass the vote, the returns of three townships were thrown out on account of irregularities, and Iuka was declared the county seat. This result gave great dissatisfaction to the people of Saratoga, and they sued out a writ of mandamus in the Supreme Court, by which the Commissioners were compelled to count the votes of the three townships they had thrown out. The result of the re-count was that neither place had a majority of the votes cast, and a new election was ordered, Anderson being dropped from the list of competitive points.

The second election on the county seat question was ordered to be held on August 19, 1880, and the people of Iuka and Saratoga exerted themselves to the utmost. Means not recognized as being altogether legitimate were resorted to, and one of the champions for Saratoga, named
W. F. Gibbons, went down to Medicine Lodge, in Barbour County, and agreed with W. H. Weidner to pay him $40 if he would take about fifteen cowboys into Pratt County thirty days before the election to vote for Saratoga. Each cowboy imported was to receive $5, free whisky and a free dance at Saratoga on the night of the election. Weidner located the cowboys and furnished a list of the names to Gibbons, as per agreement, and received $25 as part payment. Before the election took place, another party from Saratoga, named W. F. Foster, went down to see the cowboys, and to make sure they were all right. While there he saw Weidner, who demanded the balance due him on the contract, $15. Foster told him he ought not to charge so much, that he had had very little trouble, and that he ought to be satisfied with the $25 he had received. Weidner Contended that a contract was a contract, and insisted upon Foster paying the balance due. Foster said that Gibbons had instructed him to pay him no more. "All right," said Weidner, and he went away, remarking that he would have his pay. He then revealed the whole scheme to George Orner, of Medicine Lodge, who guaranteed him his $15, which was paid. When Gibbons failed to comply with his agreement with Weidner, the cowboys all left Pratt County, and Saratoga lost their vote. The election took place upon the day ordered, and the result of it was that Iuka had an overwhelming majority, and was declared the permanent county seat.


There were in 1882, twenty-one organized school districts in the county, and only eight school buildings, the greater portion of them being built of sods. Some of these sod schoolhouses are quite comfortable, being plastered on the inside and reasonably well furnished with seats and benches. In some of the districts, school is held in private houses. The great difficulty in getting material with which to build is one reason why the school buildings are not of a better class. In 1881, the school population of the county, that is, children between the ages of five and twenty-one years, was 365, of which the females outnumbered the males by five. In 1882, the school population increased to 506, a gain in one year of 141, which would indicate quite an advance in the population of the county. The increase was about evenly divided between males and females, the former numbering 249 and the latter 257. The number of pupils enrolled in 1881 was 342. and on 1882, the enrollment was 371. The average daily attendance in the former year was 200, and in the latter 220. In 1881, the number of teachers employed in the county was fifteen, of whom two were males and thirteen females, and 1882 the number employed was eighteen, the males being five and the females thirteen. The average wages per month paid in 1881; was, males $22 and females $14.85, and in 1882 the pay of male teachers was the same as in the preceding year, while that of the females was advanced to $15.53. In 1882, the number of districts sustaining public schools for three months or more during the year was fifteen, and the number failing to sustain school for three months or more during was six. The assessed valuation of the county per school district in 1882 was $7,141, and the number of mills levied for school purposes was fifteen. The school bond indebtedness was $1,591, and the estimated value of school property in the county was $2,416. In 1882, there were twenty persons examined for teachers, and seventeen certificates granted, of which seven were of second grade, and ten of third. On August 1, 1881, the amount in the hands of the District Treasurer was $68.77; the amount received during the year following from district taxes was $711.69; from the apportionment of State and county funds, $213.68; from sale of bonds, $381; from all other sources, $186.45, making a total received during the year for all school purposes of $1,561.59. The amount paid out during the year, for teachers' wages and supervision was $854.03; for rents, fuel, repairs, etc., $71.23; for sites, buildings and furniture, $18.35; for all other purposes, $126.53, making a total of $1077.14, leaving a balance in the hands of the District Treasurer on July 31, 1882, of $484.45. The first school established in the county was at Iuka, in 1878, and the person who taught the school was Miss Laura Long, whose wages were paid by private subscription.

Pratt County Press was established in August, 1878, by M. C. Davis and J. B. King, who continued to publish it until the spring of 1880, when King retired, leaving Davis sole editor and proprietor, by whom the paper was published until November, 1880, when he sold it to B. F. Lane and A. S. Thomson. In May, 1881, Lane sold his interest in the paper to H. P. Cooper, after which it was published under the firm name of Cooper & Thomson, until September, when Cooper parted with his interest to Thomson, by whom the paper has been published since that time. The paper is a seven-column folio, Republican in politics, and has a circulation of about 300.

Pratt County Times, was established in October, 1881, by H. P. Cooper, with C. T. Warren as editor and publisher. In September, 1882, Mr. Warren purchased the paper and became sole editor and proprietor, and by him the paper still continues to be published. The paper is a five-column quarto, Republican in politics, and has a circulation of about 500.

Excepting two flouring mills, there are no manufactories of any kind in the county. One of the flouring mills is located at Springvale, in the southwest corner of the county, a little south of the head-water of Turkey Creek, on which creek it is located. It is a small water mill, having two run of stone, and was built by Johnson & Stiles, in 1879, at a cost of $10,000.

The other mill in the county is located at Iuka, the county seat, and was erected in 1883, by Knapp, Casebolt & Co. This mill is operated by steam-power, and has four run of buhrs. The building is 30x60 feet, and three stories high, and is valued at $12,000.


The growth in the population of the county has been rather slow, owing to certain causes that operated against its settlement. All the land in the county, except the northern tier of Congressional townships, being embraced in the fifty-mile strip included in the Osage Reservation, or Trust Lands, left only a strip of six miles wide across the northern portion of the county subject to homestead, and that that was so subject, was about the poorest portion of the county, and hence it was not desirable land for homesteaders. The remainder of the county was subject to pre-emption, but in order to pre-empt required the payment of $1.25 per acre, and settlers did not deem it necessary to pay this so long as Government land was to be had for nothing. Another drawback to the settlement of the county was the long distance it was from a railroad, the nearest railroad point being forty miles away. The absence of fuel was another serious drawback. Notwithstanding all these drawbacks, however, two or three settlers did locate in the southwestern portion of the county as early as 1873. Actual emigration, however, did not take place until 1877, and during that and the two years following, the emigration to the county was quite large. The United States census for 1880 shows the population of the county that year to have been 1,890. During the next two years there was a falling off, as shown by the Assessor's returns for 1882, of 366, but in the summer of that year the tide of emigration turned again, and by the spring of 1883, the population had grown to over 2,000. The following statistics, taken from the compiled record of 1882, will tend to show what progress the county had made in material wealth. The number of acres in farms that year was 48,334, of which 15,900 were under cultivation. For assessment purposes, these lands were valued at $113,437, or about one-fifth the actual value. During the year ending March 1, 1882, there were erected fifty-three farm dwellings, valued at $5,135, or about $97 each. Very many of these houses were made of sod, and hence the low average value. The winter wheat sown in 1881 was 2,935 acres: rye, 117; spring wheat sown in 1882 was 67 acres; corn, 7,500; oats, 293; buckwheat, 23; Irish potatoes, 71; sweet potatoes, 75; sorghum, 787; broom corn, 569; millet and Hungarian, 2,372; prairie millet, 18; rice corn, 301; and prairie pasture, 656. This average has been greatly increased since the above returns were made. The tons of tame hay cut in 1881 were 387, and prairie hay there were cut 2, 232 tons. The value of garden products sold during the year was $373, and of eggs and poultry, $1,408. There were only 170 pounds of cheese made in the county during the year ending March 1, 1882, while the amount of butter made was 28,377 pounds. The live stock in the county was represented by 447 horses, 148 mules and asses, 570 milch cows, 1,429 other cattle, 16,489 sheep, and 952 swine. These figures have been greatly augmented during the past year, the sheep alone trebling in number and cattle more than trebling. The animals sold for slaughter during the same period amounted in value to $8,618, and the wool clip was 32,497 pounds. Considerable progress has been made in the cultivation of fruit trees, of which there were in bearing 455 apple trees, 2,132 peach trees, 18 plum, and 182 cherry. The number not in bearing was 440 apple, 6 pear, 32,870 peach, 936 plum, and 333 cherry. But very little fencing has been put up in the county, the aggregate being only 5,008 rods of which 212 are board, 660 rail, 25 hedge, and 4,1111 wire. The value of agricultural implements in the county was $13, 181. Forest trees have been planted to the extent of 227 acres, but during 1882 a great many timber claims were located, and thousands of trees planted.


Iuka, the county seat, is located on the northeast quarter of Section 4, Town 27, Range 13 west, of the Sixth Principal Meridian. The land on which the town is situated was a claim that had been taken by Rev. A Axline, J. W. Ellis, Robert Anderson, Eugene Ellis, A. W. Ellis, Charles Dunn, Calhoun & Sidorn and Annie Risley, and to the company thus organized the claim was deeded. The town site was surveyed and platted in July, 1877, by J. W. Ellis, after which the lots were equally divided among the company, except that Mr. Axline received two lots for every one received by each of the other members. This division having been made, the company then deeded half of the lots to the county, with a view of securing the county seat. The first building erected on the town site was put up by William Daum in August, 1877, who also, about the same time, put up a store building, he having been the first man in town to sell goods. About the time Daum put up his store, J. W. Ellis put up a small land office and also erected a dwelling house. Simultaneously with the going up of these buildings, Mr. Axline built the Iuka House, a building 16x32 and two stories high. This was the first, and thus far is the only hotel in town. Hotel purposes were not the only purposes served by the erection of the Iuka House, as during the fall and winter of 1877, the office was used for a church and Sunday school. Several other buildings were put up during 1877, among them one built by Charles Dunn, one by Eugene Ellis, one by A. W. Ellis, a drug and grocery store built by J. D. Sherwood, a grocery store put up by S. C. Calhoun, a printing office by Davis & King, and two or three residences. The town company that located the town of Iuka was composed of people from Iowa exclusively, from the counties of Davis, Van Buren and Appaloosa, but chiefly from Davis County. A good many others soon followed, and so far as the people are concerned, Iuka is an Iowa town out and out, only located in Kansas. For some months after the town was started, the people were without mail facilities, they having to go to Hutchinson, a distance of sixty miles, for their mail. This was a great inconvenience, but in the fall of 1877 this was removed by the establishment of a post office in the town, Rev. A. Axline being the first postmaster. In 1878, the town made but little progress, but during that year the first schoolhouse, not only in town, but in the county, was opened, with Miss Laura Long as teacher. The immense crops that were raised in Kansas in 1878 caused great immigration to the State, of which Pratt County and Iuka received a goodly share. In the fall of 1878 and spring of 1879, the population of Iuka was considerably increased by the arrival of new comers. In the latter year, quite a number of new buildings were put up, but the chief improvement of that year was the erection of the Presbyterian Church, as up to that time there was no church edifice in the town. There were several church organizations, however, and services were regularly held, Rev. John Prey, of the Baptist Church, preaching the first sermon ever preached in the town. The first church organized in town was the Presbyterian, which was organized in the fall of 1877, by Rev. A. Axline. Two years subsequently, they built a very fine frame church, at a cost of $1,500, capable of seating 400 persons. The church has now a member ship of fifty, and Rev. A. Axline continues as its pastor. The year 1880 was a very prosperous one for Iuka and that year the town improved rapidly. A fine one-story store building, 24x80 feet, was put up by E. L. Maxwell, now used by Briggs & Son as a dry goods and grocery store. The building now used as a court house was put up in that year by Cooper & Anderson, and a large two-story building that stood several miles from Iuka, at a place named Anderson-one of the competing points for the county seat- was purchased by Mr. Cooper and moved into Iuka, where he had it converted into a drug and dry goods store, being the one now occupied by Stephenson & Stewart as a dry goods store. The building now occupied by Dr. O. L. Peak as a drug store was built that year by J. A. Gray, and Seneca Taylor about the same time built the one in which the post office is now located. The improvements of 1880 were not confined to business houses, as quite a number of residences were put up, and a very fine livery stable, which was built by A. P. Johnson. During the year 1880-81, the population of the town was considerably increased by people who had located upon government claims, moving in after having proved up on their land. The year 1882 was one of little, if any, progress. The accessions made that year, either in population or in buildings, were limited to the smallest possible number. One improvement was made, however, worthy of mention in the history of the town. That year the ownership of the Iuka House passed to Robert Anderson, who, a few months after it came into his possession, had it enlarged to about three times it original size, making it sufficiently commodious to meet the wants of the public. Having enlarged the house, the name was changed from Iuka House to Lindell Hotel, by which it is now known. Never has a year opened more auspiciously for a town than 1883 has for Iuka. The Methodists, although having an organization since 1878, were at the commencement of 1883 without a church building, but about the beginning of the year work was commenced on a very neat frame edifice, which was completed in April. The building is of good size and neatly finished, and is not only quite an improvement, but an ornament to the place. The church was built at a cost of $2,000, nearly all of which was subscribed by the inhabitants. The Methodist Church at Iuka was organized with but very few members, in the spring of 1878, by Rev. Guy Hamilton, but since that time has grown to be quite strong. The Baptists and Christians have also organizations in town, but no edifices. J. A. Craig has just completed a very neat store building; H. P. Cooper has just finished a small drug store; L. C. Thompson is now erecting a fine two-story business house; Samuel McAvoy is putting up a residence; Knapp, Casebolt & Co. have about completed a fine flouring mill, and L. Creps has just established quite an extensive lumber yard, so that 1883 gives promise to be a year of unprecedented prosperity and progress. Iuka is quite a mail center, having one daily, two tri-weekly and five semi-weekly mails. The business of uka is represented by one grocery and hardware store, on general merchandising store, one grocery, one dry good, hats and caps, one notion and stationery store, one harness shop, one time shop, two drug stores, one dealer in agricultural implements, one livery stable and one lumber yard.

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