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


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


Wichita was named after the band of Indians called Wichitas. They came into the Arkansas Valley in 1864 and settled along the Little Arkansas River, between the Junction and the old fair grounds. The country at that time was owned by the Osages. Some of the teepees (sic (sic of the Wichitas were still standing on the land now owned by William Greiffenstein, north of the city, as late as 1871. A chartered company was formed at Topeka, in the summer of 1868; comprised of Governor S. J. Crawford, W. W. H. Lawrence, J. R. Mead, E. P. Brancroft, A. F. Horner and I. S. Munger. Mr. Munger removed from Topeka to Wichita during the year 1868, when the survey and plat of the original town were made by Mr. Finn. William Greiffenstein soon afterwards bought A. A. Moore's claim, now comprising Greiffenstein's additions, when the upper and lower town fight began. At that time, the business and prospects were away north of the present business center. Henry Vigus ran the "Buck-horn tavern," where every class of frontiersmen, as well as border terror, had a home. A music-box was one of the features of the hotel, which was in itself enlivening, often engaging the motley assemblies into a dirt floor dance, until, on one occasion, it provoke the ire of John Ledford, while the Buck-horners were engaged at the evening repast, when he jerked a navy from his belt and silenced it forever, "Durfee's ranch" was the headquarters; Milo B. Kellogg was Postmaster, clerk and book-keeper, assisted by Charles Hunter; Henry Vigus was doing the saddlery job work and Charles Garrison was mail rider. John Gifford, who kept a saloon and refreshment stand in the log house now used as a stable by N. C. Woodman, was the first man who died a natural death among the whites. A great many of the Wichita Indians died here during the cholera epidemic of 1866-67. At that early date there was no lack of amusements, as the soldiers stationed there had formed a negro minstrel troupe, which furnished amusement to the squatters. In 1870, D. S. Munger opened a hotel; Mr. Munger was also Postmaster, carrying the mail in his hat and delivering it to parties in person. Doc. Lewellen kept the first grocery store, in the log house just north of Woodman's, after Durfee's retirement. Lewellen's Hall was at the extreme north end of Maine street, and was once a grocery owned by Lewellen. It is now an adjunct to an elevator. It was in this hall that Uncle Jack Peyton delivered his celebrated lecture on "Theology and Theocracy." Uncle Jack was a character, as well as a saddler. Nature or an accident had shortened one of his legs, making one about two feet shorter than the other. When standing on his long leg he was about six feet high, and he had a ludicrous habit, when talking, of frequently alternating his height. He had a stentorious voice and dealt liberally in expletives. The subject of the lecture had been publicly announced by hand-bills, printed at the office of the Vindette, which boasted at that time of only one font of wood type. The hall was brilliantly illuminated with six tallow candles, held in their own grease. The stand consisted of a dry goods box and the seats were rough boards resting on nail kegs. The colloquial powers of the lecturer, which were usually quite vigorous and obedient to command, had been stimulated to a greater degree of activity on this occasion, by liberal imbibition (sic) into his stomach of invigorating fluids. Quite a crowd of ladies and gentlemen were present to greet the disseminator of theological knowledge. Standing on his elongated pedestal, as he commenced, he said, in a guttural tone, "Ladies and gentlemen, theology is religion, as taught by the ministerial profession. Theocracy is the - is - well, by blank anyhow" (assuming his shorter pedestal) "one defines the moral law; the other - blank is to blank." At this point up jumped James Vigus, who shouted, "Jack Peyton don't know what he is talking about. I want to tell you why people get drunk." Here Uncle Jack exclaimed, "Sit down! Who paid for these candles? Who rented this hall?" In this strain the lecture proceeded for nearly and hour, until nothing but shrieks of laughter and the occasional popping off of a revolver through one of the open windows could be heard. [Image of Wichita Wheat Market]

William Matthewson was freighting through Wichita as early as 1860. His wife, who crossed the Arkansas River at Wichita in 1865, is believed to have been the orst (sic) woman who ever crossed this stream. The first sermon was preached at "Durfee's ranch," in 1868, by Rev. Mr. Saxley, a Baptist; the hymn sung on that occasion was "Old John Brown," which was all the audience knew. Mrs. Vigus was the first white woman that made Wichita her home. She died in 1871, respected and mourned by all who knew her. Mrs. D. S. Munger, the hostess of the Munger House, is still living and held in kind remembrance for her many endearing qualities. Mrs. Waterman, Mrs. Everets, Mrs. Sagles, Mrs. Hunter, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. H. Allen, Mrs. Abraham Smith and Mrs. Meagher were all pioneer ladies and are still living in and about Wichita. Sedgwick Hoover was the first child born in the county, December 26, 1869, being the date of his birth. He was named after his native county. The first child born in the village of Wichita was Frank H., son of Joseph Allen; the date of whose birth was July 3, 1870. He survived only two months. Maud Teeter was born a few months prior but not in Wichita. The first marriage was that of Perry Eaton, in the winter of 1869. Reuben Riggs opened the first law office during the winter of 1869-70, and H. C. Sluss in the spring of 1870. Steele, Bright & Roe opened the first real estate office; next was H. E. Ban Trees & S. H. Smith, then Stephens, Rouse & Reeves. J. M. Steele is still in the business. Bunnel & Roys, Healey & Neiderlander, Hobbs & Wilhite, Elliott & Mahin, Hatfield & Co., and F. A. Sowers, about in the order named, are the real estate men at present engaged in the calling at Wichita. Joseph Allen opened the first drug store, followed by Aldrich & Simmons. Jack Ledford purchased Mr. Hubbard's interest with Mr. Matsil in the general merchandise business getting in addition the grand hotel, then being the front (now the rear) part of the Fremont. Ledford named the Hotel "Harris House" in honor of the maiden name of his wife. The hotel was not run by him over a month before he was killed in a street fight, almost in front of his hotel, February 28, 1871, by a company of United States soldiers and a band of Government scouts, who sought to arrest him for his complicity in a previous transaction, wherein a Government train of fifty wagons had been plundered, the stock driven off and several of the drivers murdered. Edward W. Smith had a grocery and general outfitting store in the frame building on Main street, now owned by W. C. Woodman, and next door south of his bank. J. H. Black and Lee Nixon were his clerks. J. M. Johnson opened the first exclusive grocery store in the same building that Jacob Wingardt is now using for a carpenter shop on North Main street. Mr. Bailey opened the first hardware store in a little frame building that stood about where J. A. Black's "Diamond Front Grocery" now stands. Michael Zimmerly started a hardware store and tin shop nearly opposite, and Schattner & Shorb kept a saloon in a frame building that stood upon the lot now owned by Deacon Smith, one door north of the present postoffice. H. H. Allen ran the first boarding house on the corner opposite Smith's carpenter shop, on Upper Main street. John Martin ran a restaurant north of Steele's real estate office, and just opposite was the Bismarck saloon. Doc. Oatley had a story and a half residence where the Occidental now stands, and just north, in the building still standing, E. H. Nugent started the first bakery and sunk the first drive well ever operated in Wichita. Where the Lynch building now stands, Hills & Kramer opened the first regular dry goods store, although Mr. Hughes kept a small stock of dry goods and clothing previously, in the building north of W. Mason's dwelling, on Main street. The Vidette building stood a few rods farther north. The Vidette was the first newspaper printed in the Arkansas Valley, for its entire length. Charles Hill opened a drug store in a small frame building near Kimmerie & Adams's tombstone shops, afterwards building a few doors farther south. In the meantime Solomon Kohn came down from Hays City and rented the frame store room now south of Lynch's on Main street, where he opened out in dry goods, groceries, clothing, boots and shoes, etc. He soon built lower down, next door to Charles Hill's. The first church edifice was an adobe, with a dirty roof, that stood half a block north of Third street, on the east side of Main street. It was built by the Episcopalians, under the guidance of the then pastor, Rev. J. P. Hilton. It was a unique structure. A rude cross was nailed up in front of the entrance, the light was admitted through two small square apertures cut high up in the mud and secured by wooden shutters; the roof waved in summer with highly colored prairie flowers and a luxuriant growth of tall grass, and rattled in winter time with the wind whistling through the naked sunflower stalks, that grew up there, also. The vestrymen were William B. Hutchinson, of the Vidette, Charles Schattner, of the Bon Ton Saloon, George Richards, a tramp printer, "Doctor" William Dow, a professional gambler, and John Edward Martin, whose chief anxiety in life was to find some place where he could not be found by the citizens of the place he last emigrated from. It was during the administration of this vestry, when J. R. Mead, who had donated the church its ground, proposed to swap for another site, farther away, and some of the officers thought in an inferior location. At a meeting of the vestry called to consider this proposition, the discussion grew warm, but the matter was finally settled by a powerful speech from Mr. Hutchinson, which was as follows: "Fellow Christians, I don't care a blank what the other officers of this church do on this question, but as for me, I say, most emphatically, that I will never consent to see J. R. Mead or any other one of you, cheat Jesus Christ out of a foot of ground. "* The proposition was unanimously declined. In July, 1870, as recorded in its municipal history, Wichita was incorporated as a village. W. C. Woodman & Sons opened the first moneyed institution in 1870, since merged into the Arkansas Valley Bank. The Wichita bank was opened in 1871, as a National Bank, but it closed in 1875.

* Since this page has been electrotyped we have been assured from reliable sources that these words were never used by Mr. Hutchinson.

In 1872, Wichita was made a city of the second class, and out of a vote of 479, E. B. Allen was elected Mayor; Michael Meagher, Marshal; William Baldwin, City Attorney; Charles A. Phillips, Treasurer; J. M. Atwood, Police Judge. During this year, the structure now spanning the Arkansas River, at the west end of Douglas avenue, was erected at a cost of $27,000. The bridge was built by W. J. Hobson, contractor, and paid for by a joint stock company, organized for the purpose. It nearly paid for itself in tolls the first year, and would have made the company rich, had it not been for the pluck of A. A. Moore, Hills & Kramer, J. C. Fraker and others, "northenders," who forced it to be sold, by starting a free bridge near the junction of the two rivers, where the park now is. The county then bought it, and abolished tolls.

In 1872, Wichita became the principal headquarters in Kansas of the Texas cattle business. It was here where the great herds from Texas centered, and where they obtained their first shipments by rail. Two million dollars exchanged hands in the cattle traffic at Wichita that year. There were driven into Sedgwick County, that year, three hundred and fifty thousand head of Texas cattle, and thirty-five hundred car loads were shipped from there by rail, during the same period. At this time, Wichita was the liveliest and most uproarious town between the two seas. James G. Hope was Mayor. Large sign boards were posted up at the four conspicuous entrances into town, bearing the strange device, "Everything goes in Wichita. Leave your revolvers at police headquarters, and get a check. Carrying concealed weapons strictly forbidden."

The streets clanged with the noisy spurs of Texas cow boys and Mexican ranchmen, while the crowds that marched along the resounding sidewalks, were as motley as could be seen at any one spot in America. Texan sombreros and leather leggins; brigandish-looking velvet jackets, with bright buttons, close together, of the Mexicans, buckskin garments of the frontiersmen, and the highly-colored blanket; representatives from a half dozen different tribes of Indians, were familiar sights on the streets. A brass band played from morning until far into the night, on a two story platform raised over the sidewalk, against the large frame building, still standing, opposite the New York store. This music was to attract customers to gambling dens. In the rear of the real estate office of Steele & Smith was pitched a large tent, in which was given the wonderful exhibitions of Prof. S. Gessley, the armless wonder. His performances were described as follows in his programme for that distribution:

"The famous Gessley minus arms,
sporting in his coach and four,
Sat in calm repose
With the reins between his toes.
He loads, primes, put on a cap,
And fires off a gun,
And often goes to shoot wild game,
For want of better fun.
He handles the pen with the ease
Of any in the land;
In fact, his foot is turned into a hand."

Connected therewith, under the pavilion, was also the child wonder, born alive (but then dead), with two heads, four arms, two feet, and a perfect body; also a pig with two bodies, eight legs, etc. To attract the crowd a hand organ, filled with doleful and disjointed tunes, ground unceasingly, while at ten-minute interludes, all day long, would ring out the sharp report of the gun the professor fired with his toes, followed by the deep Pennsylvania Dutch accent of the professor, yelling in his hilarity until it could be heard above the organ and band over the way, "Dere she goes again; kick like a mool." Mix all this with the motley caravan that thronged the streets; the fighting, yelling, swearing, and the frequent ring of the revolver, sometimes carrying death with it; the night scenes at the dance houses, with the painted courtesans, drunken brawls, and occasional shooting carnivals of death - an you have something of an idea of the appearance of Wichita in 1872-'73. S. S. Prouty, in a letter to his paper the Topeka Daily Commonwealth, from Wichita, written in October, 1872, says: "The population of Wichita is decidedly heterogeneous. Here may be seen people of every class, shade and character. The sleek and well dressed speculator, with airs suggestive of genteel living and plethoric purses; the independent, money-making, somewhat don't-care-a-cuss-ativeness cattle-drover; the rollicking, reckless, free- and-easy and money-spending herder; the substantial citizen; the professional gambler, and the long-haired desperado of the plains, are here brought together of necessity. A description of Wichita would be incomplete without a notice of the notorious dance house on the west side of the river, kept by that singular personage, Rowdy Joe,' or Joseph Lowe, his real name. Joe has been a frontiersman for many years, and has experienced about as much roughness as any other man. His dance house is patronized mainly by cattle herders, though all classes visit it, the respectable mostly from curiosity. I understand that the receipts at his bar have averaged over $100 per night for months. The receipts are from drinks. No charge is made for dancing, but it is expected that the males will purchase drinks for themselves and female partners at the conclusion of each dance. Joe is his own policeman, and maintains the best of order. No one is disposed to pick a quarrel with him, or infringe upon the rules of his house. A dancing party at this place is unique, as well as interesting. The Texan, with mammoth spurs on his boots, which are all exposed, and a broad-brimmed sombrero on his head, is seen dancing by the side of a well dressed, gentlemanly appearing stranger from some eastern city, both having painted and jeweled courtesans for partners. In the corners of the hall are seen gamblers, playing at their favorite game of poker. Jests and conversation suitable to the place and occasion are heard."


The history of Wichita as a municipality dates from July, 1870, when it was incorporated as a village. The first Town Board comprised C. A. Stafford, Pres; E. W. Smith, Treas.; Jno. Peyton, Morgan Cox and C. T. Pierce. C. H. Smith was appointed Clerk; I. Walker, Marshall, and H. E. Vantrees officiated as Police Judge.

In November of the same year, the original town site was enlarged by the filing of the plat of Hilton's addition, and in December, English's addition was entered.

April 3, 1871, Wichita entered upon its existence as a city of the third class, and polled 156 votes at the first election, which resulted in the election of the following officers; Mayor, E. B. Allen; Councilmen, W. B. Hutchinson, S. C. Johnson, C. Schattner, George Schlichter, A. H. Fabrique, George Vantillburgh. Other officers, D. C. Hackett, Attorney; H. E. Vantrees, Police Judge; O. W. Brownwell, Clerk; N. W. English, Treas; M. Meagher, Marshal. By the spring of 1872, the population had increased so rapidly that an organization of the second class was effected, and the following officers elected: Mayor, E. B. Allen; Councilmen, J. A. Stevenson, A. Schattner, H. Owens, H. H. Lindsay, J. M. Martin, A. J. Longsdorf, J. C. Fraker, William Smith; Attorney, W. Baldwin; Police Judge, J. N. Atwood; Treasurer, C. A. Phillips; Engineer, M. Kellcher; Assessor, M. B. Pride; Marshal, M. Meagher.

The following named gentlemen have officiated as Mayor from 1871 to 1882, inclusive: 1871-72, E. B. Allen; 1873-74, James G. Hope; 1875, George E. Harris; 1876-77, James G. Hope; 1878, William Grieffenstein; 1879, *Sol. H. Kohn; 1880-82, W. Grieffenstein, Present (1882) officers are Mayor, William Grieffenstein; Councilmen, N. A. English, F. G. Smith, C. E. McAdams, J. P. Allen, M. Zimmerly, P. Getto, J. M. Allen, J. L. Dyer; Police Judge, A. A. Glenn; Justices of the Peace, J. Junkermann, W. W. Thomas; Attorney, W. F. Walker; Treasurer, C. Kimmerie; Clerk, F. Schattner; Constables, J. F. Thomas, E. Grady; Marshal, James Cairus; Engineer, A. Bailey.
(*Resigned in August; term filled by William Grieffenstein.)

An attempt was made in 1871, to organize a hook and ladder company, which partially succeeded, but after a year's duration the company was disbanded. Under an ordinance passed by the city Council in 1873, a company was organized with forty men, under the following officers: C. A. Phillips, Foreman; R. Cogdell, First Asst.; C. H. Horner, Second Asst., and E. B. Jewett, Sec'y. The city purchased two fire extinguishers and hook and ladders at an expense of $1,200. In 1874, C. Phillips was appointed Chief Engineer and the department was classified into three companies known as "Frontier Fire Company," Nos. 1 and 2, and "Frontier Hook and Ladder Company." The foremen of the companies in the order mentioned were, C. H. Hunter, R. Cogdell, and C. K. Viney. In 1875, the organization disbanded, and for two years, the city was without a fire department. In 1877, "Frontier Hook and Ladder Company, No. 1," was organized with about thirty-five men, with the following officers: C. H. Hunter, Foreman; D. Cogdell, Asst. Foreman; Cecil R. Viney, Orderly; C. Jones, Sec'y. In 1878, two Champion Chemical Fire Engines were purchased by the city at a cost of $2,500. April 30, 1879, the company was incorporated under the laws of the State, by J. W. Wingard, J. H. Black, D. X. Williams, W. S. Corbett, William Dibbs, M. B. Kellogg, C. R. Viney, R. W. Aldrich. Officers: J. W. Wingard, Foreman; D. X. Williams, First Ass.; M. B. Kellogg, Orderly; C. E. Roberts, Second Asst.; G. W. Fryer, Sec'y.; C. H. Allen, Treas. Present Officers: J. W. Wingard, Foreman; C. E. Rogers, First Asst.; D. X. Williams, Second Asst.; C. R. Viney, Orderly; W. Atkinson, Sec'y; C. H. Allen, Treas. Present number of members, twenty-five.

Wichita Water Works. - November 23, 1882, a stock company was incorporated with a capital of $100,000, the corporators being S. Houck, F. Williams, H. W. Lewis, J. Jones, and R. Coggell. Its officers are S. Houck, President; H. W. Lewis, Treasurer; F. Williams, Secretary, and J. Jones, Superintendent. In the construction of the work, the main principles of the Holley System will be carried out, with the addition of a twenty-five foot "stand-pipe." The works, which are located in the northwest part of the city on the Little Arkansas river, will be completed in March, 1883, at an expense of about $90,000. Sixty hydrants have been purchased by the city, for which eight miles of main will be used. With the efficient Fire Department, and this system of Water Works, insurance policies will not command a premium.

Post Office. - July 9, 1868, a military post office was established where Wichita now stands, Capt. S. L. Barr, Fifth United States Infantry, officiating as Postmaster. Soon after, in the order mentioned, followed D. S. Munger, John dickey, J. T. Holmes, R. L. West, and M. M. Murdock, the present incumbent. In January, 1870, the first mail route was established form El Dorado to Wichita; C. M. Garrison, carrier. From a small fourth class office, the office is now one of the three largest in the State.

The number of letters mailed per day, on an average, is 1,530, or 535,500 for the past year, as per report. The number of letters delivered exceeds the number sent out by nearly one hundred thousand, or over two thousand daily. The revenues per annum are, per last report:

Box rents....................$ 1,520.00
Stamped matter sold....       15,825.08
Fees on money orders...        1,005.05
   Total government receipts $18,350.13

Amount of money orders paid during past year $249,600.00
Amount of money orders issued                 121,340.00

United States Land Office - This important factor in promoting the settlement of a new county was moved from Augusta, Butler Co., Kan., to Wichita in March, 1872. The office was then in charge of W. A. Shannon, Receiver and Mr. Alkin, Register. In the summer of the same year, W. S. Jimkins, was appointed Register, and J. C. Redfield, Receiver. In May, 1874, Mr. Jimkins, was succeeded by H. L. Taylor, and in January, 1877, Redfield was succeeded by Jas. L. Dyer, the present Receiver. In March, 1879, R. L. Walker, the present Register, succeeded H. L. Taylor. The district embraces the counties of Butler, Cowley, Chautauqua, Chase, Marion, McPherson and Barbour. In these counties above mentioned there are 1,000,000 acres, not yet entered, divided into the Osage Indian Trust, Cherokee Strip, and Public lands. Since January 1, 1882, about 1,200 entries, embracing 200,00 acres, have been made.

Board of Trade. - The Wichita Board of Trade was chartered July 30, 1880, with a capital stock of $20,000. First Board of Directors - A. W. Oliver, G. N. Byers, J. M. Allen, Wm. Innis, M. N. Levy, J. M. Keller, J. P. Allen, A. Kess, W. S. Corbett, H. H. Richards. Officers: A. W. Oliver, Pres.; G. N. Byers, Sec'y; J. M. Allen, Treas. Present officers: A. W. Oliver, Pres.; W. T. Corbett, 1st Vice-Pres.; J. M. Steel, 2nd Vice-Pres.; J. M. Allen, Treas.; J. H. Black, Treas. The present membership, which includes the principal business men of the city, numbers one hundred.

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