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


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


The first American to cross the county was undoubtedly Zebulon Montgomery Pike, the discoverer of Pike's Peak, who reached the Republican River at Scandia the 25th day of September, 1806. Here he is said to have found a Spanish flag planted in a pile of stones, and, notwithstanding that the prevailing sentiment among his followers was that it looked "prettier" than the American flag, history records that upon the present site of Scandia he first raised the stars and stripes over Kansas soil.

The first settlers in the county were: Daniel and Conrad Myers. Daniel's wife being the first white woman to enter its limits, with a view of making it a permanent home. John Myers, a cousin of the two brothers, came with them in February, 1861, and died the following April, his being the first death in the county. Lincoln, the son of Daniel and Matilda Myers, was the first child born in the county--date, September 15, 1861.

The first, last, and only soldier who went from Republic County, was Spencer Cory, who enlisted as a private in Company C, Second Kansas. He died at Springfield, Mo., of disease contracted in the army, after a service of a little over a year. The marriage between M. Way and Mary Tuthill was the first in the county.

The first post-office was Salt Marsh, now Seapo, and James G. Tuthill the first postmaster, which position he has held ever since. James Van Natta was the first justice, and was appointed by Gov. S. J. Crawford. He held the office four years.

The first law suit in the county was tried before him in 1869. Henry Mead sued Conrad Myers for breach of contract, and each party to the suit was his own lawyer. At this time there were no attorneys nearer than Marysville and Manhattan.

The law library of the county then consisted of the "Territorial Laws" of 1859, the Session Laws of 1865, the Testament and Psalms in one volume, and the Blue Laws of Connecticut; the latter being furnished by J. C. Riley, the first trustee of the Republic precinct, then attached to Washington County.

The first election was held on the fourth Monday of March, 1868. Although this election was not held at the duly appointed date, the officers elected were subsequently appointed by the commissioners of Washington County. The result was as follows: J. C. Riley, trustee; James E. Van Natta, justice; J. H. Frint, constable.

The first car-load of cattle fed in the county, and the first two car-loads of hogs, were fattened by J. Hindt.


There are no Mormons in the county, but a great many have passed through the county on their way to Salt Lake, and it is believed that a company of nineteen were massacred near the present town of Scandia. Charles N. Hogan, a scout, relates that a company of twenty Mormons were crossing the county before any settlement had been made, when they were attacked by a band of Indians, and all killed but one. The nineteen were afterwards buried by the soldiers on a high bluff, near the Republican River. Adjoining the village of Scandia, on a high bluff, on the farm of R. L. Whitney, is a large grave, containing a number of skeletons, which, if the scout is correct in his statement, is doubtless the grave of the unfortunate nineteen. The grave, when discovered, was covered with triangular flag stones, placed vertically in the ground a few inches apart.


In 1864, during the great Indian scare, every settler left the county, except Conrad Myers. Raids had been occurring almost from the commencement of the war, but the situation had not, until this year, seemed sufficiently dangerous for the whole country, to warrant an organized armed resistance. In September of this year, however, a mounted and well-armed company of militia was formed, composed of the early settlers of Clay, Cloud, Washington and Republic counties. It was commanded by Capt. Isaac M. Schooly, with headquarters at Elk Creek, now Clyde. In the summer of 1868, the Independent Salt Creek Company of State Militia was organized, composed wholly of the early settlers of Republic County. It numbered about fifty men--W. P. Peake, First Lieutenant, and afterwards Captain, and W. H. H. Riley, First Lieutenant. The same year a company was organized in the northern part of the county, commanded by R. T. Stanfield. This company built a fort, and made several incursions into the Indian Territory. It was during August of this year that Gordon Winbigler, who had a claim in Jewell County, was killed within a short distance from the fort. A number of the men were out cutting hay, when they were surprised by a band of Indians. They rushed for the camp, and all could have reached it, had not Winbigler stopped to pick up his hat, which the wind blew from his head. This solicitude for his hat cost him his life, an Indian's lance severing his jugular vein before reaching the camp. Mr. Winbigler had a little dog, that after the death of his master set up a terrible howl. The Indians have a superstition that the spirits of those who are killed take the form of animals, and when this little dog set up its mournful howl, they, after several ineffectual attempts to kill it, came to the conclusion that it was Winbigler's spirit, and was there to torment them for his death. This attack upon the White Rock settlers was made on the same day that White was killed in Cloud County, the attack being simultaneous all along the frontier, from the Saline to the Republican, the Indians murdering about forty men, women and children, indiscriminately.

In May, 1869, young Granstadt, a lad of fourteen, son of F. E. Granstadt, was herding some horses with two other boys, near the present site of the railroad depot at Scandia, when a band of Indians swooped down upon them from the bluffs. Two of the boys reached the colony house, but Granstadt was shot and seven horses driven away.

In 1869, Capt. Stanfield, A. Davis, W. P. Phillips and Clarke Tenike were besieged in the block house by over one hundred Indians. A message stating their situation was tied to a cow's tail. The next day the cow arrived at Scandia with the message, but the Swedish settlers were afraid to venture to the relief of the party.

On the 25th day of May, 1869, a party of seven hunters from Waterville, with J. McChesney as guide, were in the vicinity of White Rock Creek, near its mouth, when they discovered a party of Indians on the divide north of that stream. They playfully fired upon them at long range, knowing that their ammunition would not reach the savages. The Indians saw their action, disappeared in the lowland, and did not return the fire. Although McChesney warned them that their thoughtlessness might lead them into danger, the party thought no more of the affair, and instead of taking the precaution to cross the creek, went into camp on its western bank. The next morning (May 26), just as the hunters were preparing to continue their journey, they were attacked by a party of Indians, who undoubtedly had been in ambush during the night. Two of the party were killed in the creek, one after he had got across, and the others, with the exception of McChesney, were butchered in the timber, on the west side of the stream. When the attack was first made, McChesney jumped, as if shot, and fell into the water. An Indian pursued him with a spear, but fortunately, at that moment, one of the party, to all appearances unhurt, rushed past the savage into the woods. The Indian's attention was turned to him, and McChesney crawled along down the river, and by secreting himself under an overhanging bank, escaped, and reached Scandia in safety. The fortunate man is an uncle of John W. McChesney, widely known in the newspaper circles of Northwestern Kansas. After 1869 there were no more lives taken in this county, and in 1870 and 1871 immigration was very heavy.


The county was organized in 1868, and Gov. Harvey fixed the county seat at Pleasant Hill, eight miles northwest of Seapo. By a vote of the people in the fall of 1869, it was removed to Belleville, but was not permanently established there until the next year. The first election in the county was held on the fourth Monday of March, 1868, the whole county being in one precinct. The vote cast was as follows: J. C. Riley, trustee, 8; I, M. Schooly, ditto, 5; J. E. Van Natta, justice, 13; J. H. Frint, constable, 6; his opponent, 6. Mr. Riley states that although the whole number of votes cast was only thirteen, as much electioneering and political "mouthing" transpired during the day, as though the woods were full of voters. Although, the day was not the legal election day, the officers chosen were made "good" by appointment from the commissioners of Washington County, to which Republic was attached for political and judicial purposes. In 1869, Rev. R. P. West, the first representative, had a bill passed through the Legislature, detaching Republic County for judicial purposes, but neglecting to attach it to any judicial district. Consequently, until the next session of the Legislature the county was without a judicial organization, except that formed through the efforts of Justices of the Peace and Probate Judge. In May, 1870, the citizens of the southern part of the county petitioned for a relocation of the county-seat at Belleville. The immigration to this county in the spring of 1870 was very heavy, and those who came here with the design of permanently settling were greatly interested in this matter. The election for voting on the county-seat question was fixed for August 16, 1870, and consequently the new-comers were not legally qualified voters. Belleville, Scandia and Salt Marsh were the competitors. It is not the province of history to give an opinion as to the merits of any local disputes. It is sufficient to say that illegal votes were cast from all sections of the county; that citizens of Manhattan even took a part in the election; and that, finally, the whole of White Rock precinct, and 100 votes were thrown out by the judges of election. As a result the vote stood: Belleville, 166; Scandia, 76; Salt Marsh, 62. The county-seat was therefore declared fixed at Belleville. In 1880, a vigorous attempt was made to move it to Scandia, but without success.

The county buildings consist of a small frame building used as a court house, and an apology for a jail. A square, occupying the most eligible position in Belleville, stands vacant, awaiting the time when the county shall feel able to erect suitable buildings. The poor-farm of 160 acres, situated two miles west of the county-seat, has a very neat and comfortable dwelling house upon it, and good smaller buildings necessary to a farm.

The county roster, given in order, without their time of service, is as follows: County Commissioners--John Harris, J. M. Campbell, J. C. Reily; W. Newlon, Z. P. Rowe, J. Harris; Z. P. Rowe, J. H. Frint, G. W. Johnson; J. H. Frint, J. P. Williams, L. C. Hanson; J. C. Reily, Robert Kyle, J. Manning; W. D. Day, J. T. Glasgow, J. H. McCall; J. C. Keene, L. C. Hanson, J. H. McCall; John Goud, A. B. Bachelor, J. F. Wells, G. M. Edwards, J. F. Wells, Flure Wohlfart.

County Clerks--John McFarland, P. P. Way, S. W. Scales, Chauncy Perry.

County Treasurers--J. G. Tuthill, Trowbridge, I. O. Savage, E. M. Crummer, S. G. Stover.

Probate Judges--Daniel Myers, J. C. Griffith, Joseph Booth.

Register of Deeds--John McFarland, E. O. Kindy, R. J. Adams, E. A. Hallowell.

County Superintendents of Schools--J. M. Lawrence, J. H. McCall, J. C. Price, D. C. Gamble, A. D. Marble, W. Lancaster, C. R. Brown, B. F. Saylor, Charles Hogin.

County Attorneys--N. T. Van Natta, A. F. Heeley and N. T. Van Natta.

Surveyors--William Hardaker, N. O. Wilkie, J. G. Arbuthnot, J. C. Price, E. W. Wagener.

Coroners--W. F. Compton, J. C. Reily.

Clerks of the District Court--L. R. Dobyns, C. Perry, John Brown, Frank Armstrong, C. F. Woodward, J. E. Hallowell.

Senator--I. O. Savage.

Representatives--R. P. West, A. D. Wilson, G. L. White, W. P. Peak, N. T. Van Natta, Almond Shaw, William More, W. H. Lee.

The county has $28,500 in bonds outstanding with a sinking fund of $5,000 now on hand June, 1882. In 1881, there were 209 dwellings built at a cost of over $40,000. Acres in farms, 323,799; acres of winter wheat, 10,836; spring wheat, 17,482; rye 9,317; oats, 7,825; barley, 192; buckwheat, 181; potatoes, 1,559; sorghum, 484; flax, 200; millet, 1,948; bushels of corn on hand in 1881, 535,902; tons of hay on hand in 1881, 21,714; pounds of butter made in 1881, 348,535; horses, 7,471: mules, 645; cows, 4,766; cattle, 9,189; sheep, 9,336; swine, 40,298; apple trees bearing, 5,734; pear, 867; peach, 59,528: apple trees not bearing, 51,925; pear, 1,888; peach, 138,213; plum, 13,874; cherry, 13,475.

In 1861, there were five white inhabitants in the county, and thirteen in 1862; in 1870, 1,281; in 1875, 8,048; increase in five years, 6,767; population in 1878, 10,132; increase in eight years, 8,851. Rural population 9,119; city or town population, 1,013; per cent of rural to city population, 90. Population in 1880, 14,913; in 1882, 16,254.

Th (sic) drouth of 1861, was the most severe in the history of this county. There have been several since, that ruined the corn and other late crops, but the small grains have generally yielded something. The grasshoppers have made two or three raids, the most destructive of which occurred in 1874, and extended throughout the State, and over the greater portion of Nebraska. The crop of small grains escaped their ravages, but the corn was completely destroyed. During several years the chinch-bug did great damage to small grains with the exception of rye and winter wheat. The cold wet weather of the spring of 1882, nearly exterminated them, and it is believed that they are not likely to appear again for a number of years in sufficient numbers to materially effect the crops.

In June, 1878, a violent wind swept over the county from a point three miles east of Scandia, in a southeasterly direction, destroying one house that was in its path, and carrying, for a considerable distance, wagons, mowing machines, and farm implements. One man was borne along some distance, but was not seriously injured. The most fatal storm known in the history of Republic County, was the great Easter storm of April l3, 14 and 15, 1873. The wind blew like a hurricane from the north with rain and snow, and the thermometer for the first day stood at freezing point. One family, six miles east of Belleville, fearing that their frame house would be carried away, went to a neighbor's, who lived in a stone house, for safety. The husband of one of the families was in Waterville, and the other had gone to another neighbor for assistance, but the latter believing there was no danger would not take his team from the barn. When the husband returned he found his house blown down, and the two families, seven in all, scattered about the prairie, frozen to death. The pouring rain had saturated their clothing, which was soon frozen encasing their bodies in ice. One woman was found with a babe in her arms, sitting against a wagon wheel around whose spokes her hair had been caught and fastened with sleet. She was dead, and the child which was still alive, soon expired. The frame house that was deserted was not materially injured by the storm. The wind blew so strong that no beast could face it without soon becoming exhausted.

There are 108 organized districts in the county with a school population of 4,274. Average salary of teachers per month, males, $28.11; females, $22.11. Total number of school houses, 101: log, 7, frame, 75; brick, 3; stone, 16. Value of all school property, $53,497. But few of the school grounds are as yet ornamented with shade trees. The schools are generally in a good condition, and the people are wide awake to the interest of education.

The railroad facilities of the county are very good. Through the northern tier of the townships of Cloud County, runs the Missouri Pacific branch, a branch of which runs up the Republican Valley to the northern limits of the county. The Burlington & Missouri River railroad runs along the north boundary, coming within the county in the northwest corner; and it will not be long before a road will be constructed by one of these two powerful companies through the center of the county, north and south, touching Belleville, and the coal and salt fields of the southern tier of townships. No railroad bonds were ever issued by the county. The Republican River branch was secured because it could be built with little expense, there being only a few short grades to build in its whole length. There are eight stage routes through the county.


Belleville, the county-seat, centrally situated on the picturesque and fertile table lands, was located and laid out by the Town Site Company in the fall of 1869. The members of the original company were: J. C. Reily, David Cory, J. E. Van Natta, T. C. Reily, H. G. Jackson, John Cory, J. H. Campbell, N. T. Van Natta, John McFarland, B. F. Saylor, R. P. West, A. B. Tutton, Henry Frint and two others. Within two years most of the stock was sold to second parties. The last officers of the company were V. Van Trump, president, and C. H. Smith, secretary. There is now no organization.

The town has a charming location, commanding views from five to twenty miles in all directions. Owing to its elevation, the supply of soft water is generally over 100 feet below the surface, but the water is of an excellent quality. It is only ten miles from the coal mines, giving its citizens the advantage of cheap fuel, which few towns in Kansas and Nebraska enjoy. The coal and salt fields are just below the town, and the Burlington & Missouri River Road or the Missouri Pacific will probably soon cross the county, from north to south, through the coal region, and Belleville, being on a direct line, will doubtless be supplied with railroad communications. In fact, the former road has made one or two surveys to the coal mines, passing through Belleville. In 1870, the county seat was removed to this place, an account of which may be found elsewhere. Some unsuccessful efforts have been made to remove it from Belleville.

The population of Belleville is now about 400. January 11, 1878, it was incorporated as a city of the third class, and the following officers were elected: W. H. Woodward, mayor; Chauncy Perry, Edward Knowles, D. Muller, E. E. Chapman and F. N. Munger, councilmen; C. H. Smith, clerk, and W. Haskett, police judge. 1882: F. N. Munger, mayor; W. A. Brock, S. G. Stover, C. Perry, J. E. Hallowell, J. S. Beckwith, councilmen; V. Van Trump, clerk; J. C. Reily, police judge.

With the exception of a few months, Mr. V. Van Trump has been the postmaster since the establishment of the office at this place in 1870.

The people are wide awake to the interests of education. The present schoolhouse, a fine two-story stone structure, was built in 1872 at a cost of $6,000. The first school was taught in August, 1870, by Mrs. W. S. Latham. There are now two grades; L. T. Billingsly is principal, and Miss May Tucker, assistant. The school is in a nourishing condition, and has some patronage from the surrounding country.


There are two organized religious denominations in the place - the Presbyterians and Methodists. There are a number of other denominations represented in the population, but not being numerous enough to sustain an organization, they worship with the Methodists and Presbyterians. The latter was organized in October, 1873, by Rev. Messrs. Clark and Taylor, with sixteen members, which has increased to over thirty. They built a $2,200 church in 1874 and 1875. Revs. C. E. Jones,----Loughlin, W. J. Moffit and W. R. Smith have consecutively held the position of pastor, and a new one is expected soon. The Methodists, now having a membership of about forty-five, organized in 1871. They have a $3,000 church edifice, and are in a flourishing condition. The pastors of this church have been Revs. R. P. West, G. E. Nicholson, J. J. Walker, J. T. Shackelford, T. B. Gray, C. G. Crysler, George Winterborne, B. W. Hollen and Rev. A. Hoffman, the present pastor.

The Belleville Telescope was the first paper in the county, established September 20, 1870, by J. C. Murphry. The first issues were about the size of legal-cap paper, and at that time there were only two houses in the town. It was suspended February 1, 1872; started again July 3, 1873, as an eight-column folio, and has been issued regularly ever since. It has a good circulation, and is a prosperous and well-edited county paper.

The Belleville Bank was established in November, 1881, by George N. and Earnest Davis. They have $25,000 capital, and are doing a general banking and farm loan business. They expect to soon erect a stone bank building.

In 1870 the Republic County Agricultural and Mechanical Association was formed. They held their first fair at Belleville the same year, and each succeeding year until 1876, since which time there have been no fairs held in the county.

Belleville Lodge No. 129, A. F. and A. M.--This lodge was instituted October 17, 1872. In connection with the Odd Fellows they are building a hall of brick with stone trimmings to cost $1,200. The society has about seventy-five members. N. T. Van Natta, W. M.; J. A. Mosher, S. W.; J. J. Scofield, J. W.; W. E. Hall, Treas.; C. Perry, Sec.; J. Nealeigh, S. D.; J. G, Rich, J. D.; E. A. Hallowell, S. S.; S. G. Stover, J. S.; A. R. Park, Tyler.

Belleville Lodge No. 96, I. O. O. F.--Instituted August 12, 1872. Forty members. W. Thompson, P. G.; J. S. Beckwith, A. G.; M. J. Creighton, V. G.: V. Van Trump, Sec.; D. Clemmons, Treas.; Harry Kindt, W.; W. A. Brock, C.; A. Dixon, R. S. N. G.; T. N. Noble, L. S. N. G.; A. J. Hill, R. S. V. G.; J. C. Keene, L. S. V. G.; J. P. Ball, R. S. S.; E. Mackey, L. S. S.

Belleville Lodge No. 55, A. O. U. W. was instituted in 1880, and has thirty-five members. J. S. Beckwith, P. M.; V. Van Trump, W. M.; W. W. Wait, Foreman; Eli Hasket, O.; L. C. Hall, Financier; C. Perry, Rceiver (sic) and District Deputy.

Olympian Lodge No. 36, K. P.--Instituted April 26, 1881, by Max J. Alwens of Atchison. Forty members. Officers: Chauncy Perry, C. C.; J. S. Beckwith, V. C.; V. Van Trump, Prelate; F. N. Munger, P. C.; J. E. Hall, K. of R. and S.; W. Thompson, M. of F.; Daniel Clemmons, K. of Ex.; John Nealeigh, M. of F.; D. Muller, I. G.; M. J. Post, O. G.

The Post of the Grand Army of Republic at this place numbers about thirty members. It was organized April 14, 1882. B. R. Hogin, Commander; S. G. Stover, S. V. C.; J. V. Ryan, J. V. C.; J. E. Hallowell, Adj.; D. C. Clemmons, Surgeon; W. W. Wait, Q. M.: G. A. Hovey, O. of D.; J. H. Bradford, O. of G.; A. O. Kindt, S. M.; D. C. Bowersox, Q. M. S. The town has a well organized band of ten pieces.

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