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


[TOC] [part 12] [part 10] [Cutler's History]


Water Works.--The erection of water works was first decided upon in September, 1881, although the need for such great aid to the health and prosperity of the city had long been apparent. The ordinance conferring power upon the Topeka Water Supply Company to put in water pipes and perform the other work incident to such an undertaking is a voluminous one, but may be briefly summarized as follows: Water was to be taken from the Kansas River and properly purified; not less than fifteen miles of pipe should be laid; the privilege of necessary excavations in the streets, subject to the usual conditions, was given the company; these rights were conferred for twenty years, and at the expiration of that time the city agreed to buy the works of the company at a fair valuation, set by the District Court of Shawnee County; the city rented one hundred and fifty fire hydrants, and had the right to increase this number to three hundred, byond which number the rental of fifty dollars per year was abolished. A clause was also added giving the Water Supply Company the right to issue bonds, and providing for the free supply of water to the fire department, the city buildings, the public schools, and six watering post fountains. It was also stipulated that work should be begun by October, 1881, and water be laid out on in the fifteen miles of pipe by September, 1882, and that the city might enforce the laying of mains in any readily accessible graded street. These terms were acceded to by the company, and work was at once begun by the contractors, Messrs. Russell & Alexander, to whom had been given the entire work of construction, as also the furnishing of the pumping apparatus and the digging of the mammoth well which was to supply it. For this work they received $158,000 in cash. This did not, however, include the purchase of the lands owned by the company, and consisting of the island, containing about six acres, and eight city lots, on the south bank of the river. Work was pushed rapidly, and on July 4, 1882, water was placed in the mains and an official test made. The machinery was found adequate to the task, and threw ten one-inch streams through fifty feet of hose, and one hundred feet in height. The pumps employed are of the Holley pattern, each of the two frames at the pumping works carrying four engines and four pumps. Under ordinary circumstances but one frame is kept in operation, but the other is always ready for instant use. While the power of these pumps is officially stated at three million gallons every twenty-four hours, it is fully five millions, as the regular working of the pumps of thirty-two strokes per minute might safely be doubled. The water supply, while practically from the Kansas River, is drawn from a giant well seventy-five feet in diameter and extending seven feet below the bottom of the river bed. This is located upon the island, while the pumping machinery is upon the south bank of the river. The officers of the company are: C. C. Wheeler, president; M. H. Case, vice-president; Byron Roberts, secretary; John Francis, treasurer; Robert Mood, superintendent. The Directors are: C. C. Wheeler, M. H. Case, Byron Roberts, P. I. Bonebrake, D. W. Stormont, W. S. Mellen, Geo. R. Peck, A. S. Johnson and S. S. McFadden.

Fire Department.--Up to the year 1870 no steps had been taken towards protecting the city from fire, and after the destruction of the post-office and other prominent buildings in 1869, it was deemed advisable to organize a Fire Department. In February, 1870, the city authorities purchased fire apparatus to the amount of $8,000, consisting of one Silsby, third-class, fire engine, hose-carts, hose, etc. In March, 1870, a volunteer fire department, composed of sixty-five members, was organized under the following named officers: G. A. Finch, president; H. T. Beman, vice-president; W. Peck, secretary; A. Knowles, treasurer; T. Billings, chief engineer; A. Foulkes, foreman engine company; G. W. Veale, foreman hook and ladder company. One of the first purchases after the organization was effected, was a a pair of horses for the steam engine. One of these horses, "old Charlie," now twenty-two years of age, is still in the service on the "retired list," and is the pet of the department.

During 1872 a Babcock chemical fire engine was added to the apparatus. In April, 1872, T. Billings was succeeded by G. O. Wilmarth as chief engineer, which position he has retained up to the present time. At this time the only engine house in use was a building on Quincy street, south of the old Methodist Church. In October, 1873, the department occupied a large commodious stone and brick building, 50x100 feet, on Quincy street, north of the old Methodist Church, which was erected by the city for that purpose. In 1874 a Champion two-horse chemical fire engine was purchased at a cost of $1,700.

In January, 1875, the force was reduced to sixteen efficient men and made a "Paid Department," with its discipline increased and improved accordingly. In 1877 a new steam fire engine was purchased at a cost of $4,200. It is of the size known as "second-class," and is in every respect one of the finest steam fire engines in the West. During the year following the department moved into the new city building, erected on the corner of Seventh and Kansas avenue, which place they still occupy, and which is provided with all the modern improvements and facilities for quick and speedy work, as well as affording comfort and conveniences for the men. The cost of this department building with all its fittings and fixtures necessary to do the work, was $10,000. As the growth of the city increased, improvements were from time to time added to the working appliances of the organization, and the discipline and system improved until at the present time it is one of the indispensable departments of the municipal organization, and is at that state of efficiency which makes it the pride of the city.

The present apparatus consists of two steam fire engines, three horse hose-reels, one hook and ladder truck, two two-horse chemical engines and 3,300 feet of hose. The Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph has been placed in the service for the use of the department, at a cost of $3,200, and now thirteen signal stations are located in various parts of the city.

By the close and careful inspection of fire risks and hazards, together with the strict enforcement of the building laws and the efficiency of this department, is attributed to Topeka's immunity from disastrous fires.

Police Department.--The present efficient police department of this city has grown into an organization, without which the municipal government of Topeka would be endangered.

At the first meeting of the first city council, held February 11, 1858, the appointment of A. L. Gordon was confirmed, as City Marshal. From this dates the establishment of the police force. In 1870 John Reed was appointed Marshal, and was assisted in his duties by two policemen. In 1875, the police force was increased to a chief of police and six men, H. C. Lindsey, Chief. In 1877, the force was reduced to five men; James Dustan, chief. In 1879, the force was increased to eight men, T. Billings, Chief. In 1881, the force was composed of eleven men, which was subsequently increased to twenty men. The present police force number thirteen men, under T. W. Cochran, Chief, and J. F. Carter, deputy.

The Excelsior Coke and Gas Company.--On June 8, 1869, an ordinance was published by the city authorities relative to proposed illumination of the city by gas. The provisions of this instrument were in favor of the Excelsior Coke and Gas Company of Topeka, and conferred the exclusive right to lay gas pipes in the public thoroughfares for the twenty-one years ensuing. The only limitations set upon the gas company were the repairing of breaks in the streets caused by their work; the erection of the gas works within the corporation; uniformity in price with companies in other cities, and the completion of the work within a year of the time of its commencement. Work was begun at once, the building on the corner of First and Monroe Streets erected, and the entire system placed in operation within the required time. But the immensely rapid growth of the city had not been estimated and the works were hardly completed befor (sic) it was found necessary to construct additions. Thus it went on from year to year until in 1880 it was decided to build anew, and the stone structure now in use was commenced. This work was completed in 1882, and crowned an expenditure by the company of about $60,000. Representing this sum are the old and new works and about ten miles of pipe. A large gas retort, having a capacity of 60,000 feet, was erected in 1880. This can hardly be regarded as a criterion of the capacity of the works as they can furnish 350,000 feet of gas daily. By January 1, 1883, improvements now in progress will be completed and capacity adequate for a city of 50,000 inhabitants be secured. The force of men at the works is from six to ten, and on street work from five to thirty. The present officers of the company are, Col. C. K. Holliday, president; J. T. Clark, secretary; D. L. Lakin, treasurer; B. E. Chollar, superintendent.

The company was organized December 2, 1868, C. K. Holliday having been president from the first. The works commenced supplying gas January 10, 1870, having laid two and a half miles of pipe.

Topeka City Railway Company.--This company was first chartered under the name of The City Railway Co., September 10, 1880. Incorporators were, F. W. Giles, E. Wilder, J. Thomas, J. L. Shellaburger, P. McVicar, J. W. Hartzell, Theodore Terry, and E. C. Devereaux. The first directors were Messrs. Hartzell, Terry, Devereaux, Giles, and Wilder. The first officers were, F. W. Giles, president; E. C. Devereaux, secretary; E. Wilder, treasurer. The capital stock was $25,000, which was increased to $35,000, in June, 1881. The enterprise passed into new hands before the building was commenced. The new officers and directors were: Directors--W. B. Strong, E. Wilder, A. Prescott, Joab Mulvane, George O. Manchester, J. W. Hartzell, and D. W. Stormont. Officers--Joab Mulvane, president; E. Wilder, secretary and treasurer; J. Hartzell, superintendent.

Under this management the track was laid during the months of April and May, 1881; from Topeka avenue, along Tenth avenue to Kansas avenue; thence north along Kansas avenue across the bridge, and as far north as Gordon street. A branch was also built from the main track east on Fifth street, to the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe passenger depot. The road as then built gave transit along the full length of the principal street, to all the leading hotels, the State capitol buildings, and to both railroad depots. The stable was built on Tenth avenue, near Kansas avenue, and road equipped with six ten foot and two twelve foot cars, and twenty-eight horses. The business of the road was encouraging from the beginning. Cars commenced running January 7, 1881.

August 8, 1881, a new company under the name of The Toppeka City Railway was organized, with a capital stock of $50,000. The incorporators were: G. O. Manchester, Joab Mulvane, T. J. Kellam, I. T. Lockard, J. F. Goddard and A. Prescott.

The directors were: Wm. B. Strong, E. Wilder, Joab Mulvane, George O. Manchester, A. Prescott, J. W. Hartzell and D. W. Stormont. Officers were: Joab Mulvane, president; E. Wilder, secretary and treasurer. The new company bought all the stock, property and franchises of the original company, and continued the conducting of the business. October 1, 1881, Mr. Jesse Shaw was elected superintendent. On the morning of October 21, about 3 o'clock, a fire broke out in the barn which totally destroyed the cars, horses, and tools of the company, involving a loss of nearly $8,000 above the insurance. The origin of the fire was never discovered, and was supposed to be the work of an incendiary.

The barn was immediately rebuilt, and cars temporarily hired. In the following December, new twelve foot cars were purchased, and put upon the road, being drawn by mules. In April, 1882, the road was extended on Tenth street, as far west as Polk street, and a double track laid between Fourth and Tenth streets on Kansas avenue. In June, 1882, the track was extended north from Gordon street to Hartzell's Park, and adequate additions made to the rolling stock of the road. The system contemplates the laying of a track westward on Sixth avenue, from Kansas avenue, so soon as the grade is permanently established. Already the company have in operation four miles of road, built in the most approved manner, four foot gauge with solid Macadamized road bed and tram rail. The company now runs seventeen cars, and owns upwards of forty mules. Its barn, rebuilt on the site of the one burned, is 50x100 feet in size.

The officers for 1882 were Joab Mulvane, president; G. O. Manchester, vice-president; E. Wilder, secretary and treasurer. Directors, besides the above, C. C. Wheeler, J. R. Mulvane, D. W. Stormont, and C. K. Holliday.

Topeka Bridges.--The contract for building the first bridge across the Kaw was let to Messrs. Jones, Kidney & Co., the work to be completed in May, 1858. The cost of the structure was estimated at about $12,000, the bridge to be 900 feet in length, with a turn-table 100 feet in length in the center, to admit of the passage of river boats. The officers of the Bridge Company were: President, Dr. F. L. Crane; Secretary, J. Fin Hill; Treasurer, F. W. Giles. It was finished according to contract, Saturday, May 1, 1858, and while it lasted was a source of great pride to Topeka. The local paper of May 8 says: "The tide of travel across the river at this point is increasing daily and hourly * * * Besides the local travel for miles up and down the river, which is itself very considerable, this is the point of crossing for all trains for southern and southeastern Kansas, New Mexico, Arizona, California and much of the travel to Utah and Oregon." The article states that twenty emigrant teams, or 250 head of cattle can pass the bridge at the same time. The anticipations of the citizens of Topeka in regard to the commercial prosperity which the bridge was to bring to their doors, were speedily dashed to the ground. The great flood of July, 1858, raised the Kaw to the flooring of the structure, and on the 17th it divided and was carried in sections down the stream.

Ferries were re-established, and no other bridge was built until October, 1865, when a pontoon bridge was completed, Dr. Crane, being again president of the bridge company. That answered a pretty good purpose until the present bridge was finished, 1870. This is a "King's patent wrought iron tubular arch bridge." Six spans of 150 feet each set on stone piers, a roadway for vehicles and a foot walk on either side. The net cost was $81,000. It was first established as a toll bridge, but on July 15, 1871, the city and county voted the requisite amount of bonds, and it was made a free bridge. The bridge was commenced October 14, 1869, and finished February 24, 1870. The officers of the Bridge Company were: Mortimer Cook, president; C. N. Rix, treasurer; F. L. Crane, secretary. Company incorporated January 5, 1865.

The railroads centering in Topeka are sketched in the general, State history.

The Brush Electric Light and Power Company was organized August 1, 1881. Capital stock $100,000. One tower has been built, and a second one is proposed. Present officers, 1882: F. P. Baker, president; R. R. Moore, secretary and treasurer; directors, F. P. Baker, P. I. Bonebrake, R. R. Moore, W. H. Ward, N. Sneddicker, W. W. Gavitt and M. Edson.

The Topeka Power Company was organized May, 1882. Capital stock, $10,500. Officers for 1882: Dr. S. E. Sheldon, president; I. N. Baker, secretary; John Francis, treasurer; directors, S. E. Sheldon, I. N. Baker, John Francis, M. H. Case and C. B. Smith.

Telephone Exchange Company.--The Topeka Telephone Exchange Company was chartered July 31, 1880, the incorporators being W. B. Strong, John R. Mulvane, Joab Mulvane, E. L. Smith and Joseph (sic) A. Corby. In October, 1881, the present telephone headquarters were purchased of the Western Union Telegraph Company, and a permanent organization effected, with the following officers: John R. Mulvane, president; W. B. Strong, vice-president; Joab Mulvane, treasurer; E. S. Smith, manager and secretary. The board of directors is composed of these officers and James (sic) A. Corby. The company now has a capital of $16,200 and operates about 100 miles of wire and 180 telephones.

Postoffice.--A postoffice was established at Topeka March 3, 1855, Fry W. Giles being appointed Postmaster. The postoffice was destroyed by fire in the spring of 1869, being then located at No. 108 Sixth street.

The postmasters have been as follows, in the order named: F. W. Giles, C. C. Kellam, S. H. Fletcher (postoffice destroyed in his administration), H. W. Farnsworth, Capt. Henry King, T. J. Anderson, present incumbent, whose duties commenced in May, 1881. The money order register was the only record saved at the time of the fire. The money order office was established July 3, 1865, Charles Clarkson purchasing money order No. 1. The postoffice was made an office of the first class in July, 1871, and the delivery system was established in 1879. Seven men are employed on the present force.

At present a magnificent stone custom house is being built on Kansas avenue, which will soon be occupied. When completed its cost will be not less than $300,000.


Topeka Opera House.--A stock company was chartered in October, 1881, with a capital stock of $10,000, for the purpose of erecting an opera house. The work on the building located on the corner of Seventh avenue and Jackson street, was immediately commenced and was completed and opened September 11, 1882. The structure, a substantial brick, is 70x140 feet, with a stage 60x67 feet. The auditorium is divided into parquette, dress circle and family circle, with a seating capacity of 1,500.

Constructed at a cost of $60,000, it is one of the most elegant and commodious temples of amusement to be found in the West. This opera house has twenty-one places of exit, and when filled to its utmost capacity can be emptied in one minute and a half. The present officers of the company (no president): George W. Herron, vice-president; George M. Knox, treasurer; G. E. Quinton, secretary; George C. Crowther, manager.

Crawford's New Opera House.--This new opera house is the successor of the old Costa's opera house, remodeled by L. M. Crawford in 1880, and destroyed by fire on December 2, of the same year. The present building was erected in 1881 at a cost of $40,000, and opened on September 4. Numerous additions were made in 1882, and the house was reopened September 11, 1882. Entrance is had, through heavy stuff curtains to the two galleries and the auditorium. The latter is fitted with upholstered spring seat opera chairs of the best construction, and carpeted from the doors to the stage with fine Brussels. Near the stage are placed gas log fires in open grates, and above them tall plate glass mirrors. The stage is 30x50 feet; the seating capacity 1,000, and the aggregate width of the seven entrances sixty-two feet. L. M. Crawford is sole owner and manager.

Lukens' Opera House is located on Kansas avenue, North Topeka, about three blocks above the bridge, and was built by J. A. Lukens in the summer of 1880 at a cost in round figures of $10,000. Its size is 60x70 feet, or a frontage of nearly three lots. It can seat comfortably 800 people; has a single gallery and a stage 20x50 feet. Arrangements have been made for movable opera chairs which admit of the temporary use of the auditorium as a ball room or skating rink. During the two years since its opening this theatre has maintained a reputation for bringing out only first-class companies, and has enjoyed a liberal patronage from both sides of the town. Mr. Lukens has always been sole owner and manager.

Topeka has as fine hotel accommodations as any city of its size in the country. Among the leading houses which have given her a reputation may be mentioned the splendid Windsor Hotel opened in February, 1881; the "Old Gordon" built in 1855, but enlarged and finely furnished in 1880 at a total cost of $35,000, now called the "New Gordon"; Adams House, built in 1871 at a cost of $55,000; the Dutton, erected in 1880 for $10,000, and the Palace, rebuilt in 1878 at an expense of $12,000. The Copeland, when finished, will be as complete in its appointments as any in Topeka. It will be opened in December, 1882; building and furniture to cost $55,000. The Fifth Avenue House stands well also with the traveling public. The Capitol Hotel was rebuilt in 1880 for $8,000.

[TOC] [part 12] [part 10] [Cutler's History]