|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
COUNTY LIMITS--TOWNSHIP DIVISIONS.
Shawnee was one of the original counties, established by the first Territorial Legislature. The boundaries, as then defined, were erroneous, but were established after the Territorial survey had been made. February 20, 1857, they were thus defined: Beginning at the southwest corner of Douglas County, thence west with the section lines to the corner of Sections 14, 15, 22 and 23, Town 15 south, Range 13 east; thence north with the section line to the middle of the channel of the Kansas River; thence down said river, by the middle of the main channel thereof, to the northwest corner of Douglas County; thence south with the west boundary of Douglas County, to the place of beginning. The entire county, as thus described, was south of the Kansas River, and embraced the northern part of Weller, now Osage County. Weller County entire, with Richardson (now Wabaunsee) County on the west, were attached to Shawnee for civil and military purposes.
The first subdivision of Shawnee County into municipal townships was made by order of the County Board, at their first session, September 14, 1855. All the territory north of the Wakarusa River, was formed into Tecumseh Township, all south of the same into Yocum Township. Topeka Township was organized, February 23, 1857, and, in the following autumn, the county was again subdivided into the townships of Tecumseh, Topeka, Brownsville, Burlingame and Wakarusa, each township to constitute an election precinct. By act of the Territorial Legislature, February 23, 1860, the limits of the county were changed as follows: The six government townships lying south of the township line between Towns 13 and 14, were detached, and became part of Osage County, and, by the same act, there was detached from Jackson County and added to Shawnee County all the territory previously belonging to Jackson, and lying south of the second standard parallel. This tract extended the boundaries of Shawnee County north of the Kansas River, and made Topeka the most central and convenient point for the permanent county-seat of the reconstructed county. The addition north of the Kansas River, embraced a fraction more than congressional townships. This change in the county boundaries necessitated a reconstruction of the municipal townships, and, by action of the County Board, March 17, 1860, the county was divided into three towns: Tecumseh, comprising all the eastern portion of the county lying south of the river; Topeka, the territory north of the Kansas, and the northwestern portion, lying south of the river; and Auburn, comprising the southwestern part of the county. These towns were subdivided April 20, Monmouth being set off from Tecumseh on the south; Williamsport, from Auburn, on the east; and the new territory north of the river erected into the town of Soldier. Dover was detached from Topeka, on the west, October 1, 1860. By act of the State Legislature, approved February 28, 1868, the northern boundary of the county was extended north, so as to include within its limits "the whole of Towns 10, from Range 13 east to Range 16 east (inclusive), except Sections 1, 12, 13, 24, 25 and 36, in the last named township." Sections 1, 12, 13, 24, 25 and 36, in Town 10, Range 12 east, were also added. This added four congressional townships on the north, and completed the territorial area as it now is. Silver Lake was, by act of the County Commissioners, March 16, 1868, set off from Soldier Township. Rossville was set off from Silver Lake, on the west, January, 1871. Menoken, the last township erected, was set off from Silver Lake, on the east, July 18, 1879. The present subdivisions are: Lying north of the river - Rossville, Silver Lake, Menoken, and Soldier; lying south - Dover, Mission, Topeka, Topeka City, Tecumseh, Auburn, Williamsport, and Monmouth.
As at present constituted, the county is virtually in the form of a square of twenty-four miles, the only variation being in the tract lying north of the Kansas River, which lies five miles further west than that lying south, thus deflecting both the east and west lines, north of the river, to the westward, that distance. The north and south lines are parallel, twenty-four miles in length, and the same distance apart, running due east and west. It is bounded on the north by Jackson County; east by Jefferson and Douglas counties; south by Osage County, and west by Wabaunesee and Pottawatomie counties.
Under Territorial Rule.-- As previously stated, at the first session of the Territorial Legislature, held in 1855, the limits of Shawnee County were defined, and the town of Tecumseh was designated as the county seat. A Probate Court was established, also a County Board of Commissioners, of which the Probate Judge was to be chairman. By joint ballot the Legislature elected the following county officers: Probate Judge, William O. Yeager; County Commissioners, William O. Yeager, Chairman, Edward Hoagland and William Yocum; Sheriff, George W. Berry (declined to qualify, and John Horner appointed September 24, by the County Commissioners).
The County of Shawnee was fully organized early in September, 1855, the following additional officers having been appointed: County Clerk, Hon. John Martin; Treasurer, Thomas N. Stinson.
The first formal meeting of the Commissioners was on the 17th of September, 1855, the principal business before the Board being the providing of ways and means for the erection of county buildings at Tecumseh. It was contracted that the Tecumseh Town Association should erect the court house, said association donating a site for the same, besides other town lots to the county. The cost of the building was to be defrayed by territorial and county tax. During this session of the Commissioners, the counties which had been united for civil and military purposes, Shawnee, Weller and Richardson, were divided into two voting precincts as follows: Tecumseh Precinct and Precinct "110."
On the 10th of October, 1855, John Martin was commissioned by Governor Shannon County Clerk and Register of Deeds for Shawnee County. On the 15th, John Horner was appointed Assessor, and during the remainder of the year and through 1856, all the surplus energy of the county officials was expended in the effort to raise the requisite revenue for carrying on the business of the county, including the funds for the payment of the balance due on the county buildings at Tecumseh.
The Free-state men, not believing in the doctrine of taxation without representation, were passive or active opponents of the tax gatherer, and the duties of that official became so onerous and disagreeable that it was with difficulty any person could be found willing to accept or retain the office. Mr. Horner was followed in rapid succession by Edward J. Newsom, Gerard C. t'Hooft, Anderson Imes, John C. Sims, William P. Fain, and Edward L. Yates - the latter being appointed in the early part of 1857. During the same period the office of Sheriff was held by George W. Berry, John Horner, Benjamin D. Castleman, and James B. Whitaker.
On the 21st of April, 1856, the following town corporations were notifed to file maps or plats of their respective towns, preparatory to an assessment of town property for taxation: Tescumeh, Topeka, Big Springs, Washington, "110," Brownsville, Paris, Council City, and Glendale. The notification found the Free-state towns refractory, and the county officials were unable to increase the funds in the treasury to any great amount.
Free-State Rule.-- The first convention of the Free-state party in the county was held at Brownsville, September 17, 1857. Judge P. C. Schuyler was chosen president of the meeting, C. Clemans and H. Harvey, vice presidents; F. W. Giles and O. H. Sheldon, secretaries. The following nominations were made: For Member of Council, Cyrus K. Holliday, Topeka; Representative, James A. Delong, Brownsville; Judge of Probate, Philip C. Schuyler, Burlingame; Sheriff, Jehiel Tyler, Tecumseh; Treasurer, A. Polley, Burlingame; Recorder, F. W. Giles, Topeka; Surveyor, Joel Huntoon, Topeka; County Commissioners, Harvey W. Curtis and Hiram Shields.
Justices of the Peace were nominated at a subsequent meeting as follows: Joseph C. Miller, J. N. Frazier and P. T. Hupp.
A full Opposition ticket, both for county officers and members of the Territorial Legislature, was nominated at Tecumseh. The result of the election was an overwhelming victory for the Free-state ticket, and the end of Pro-slavery rule in the county. The vote by precincts was reported as follows: Topeka, Free-state 335, Pro-slavery 57; Tecumseh, Free-state 153, Pro-slavery 57; Wakarusa, Free-state 91, Pro-slavery 5; Burlingame, Free-state 110, Pro-slavery, none; Brownsville, Free-state 88, Pro-slavery, none. Free-state majority 711.
The Free-state nominees were all triumphantly elected, and it was then found that under the territorial laws, as then existing, several of the offices were non-elective - the sheriff, surveyor, recorder and justices being appointed by the County Board. To meet this exigency the new board at its first business meeting, January 18, 1858, appointed Mr. Giles Clerk of the Board of Commissioners, ex-officio Clerk of the Probate Court, and Recorder for Shawnee County. Mr. Huntoon was made Civil Engineer, and Mr. Tyler received a commission as Sheriff from acting Governor Stanton, November 30, 1857.
P. C. Schuyler, who was elected Probate Judge, declined to serve, and Edward Hoagland, Esq., after being appointed to the same office, commissioned by the acting governor and again elected by the Board of Commissioners, qualified on the 26th of February, 1858, thereby also becoming Chairman of the Board.
Messrs. Miller and Frazier, who were elected Justices of the Peace, declined to serve, the Territorial Legislature not having repealed the offensive enactments of the first Legislature. Mr. D. H. Horne, who was elected Constable, also refused to serve.
The Board of County Commissioners, as finally qualified, were: Edward Hoagland, President; Harvey W. Curtis and Hiram Shields.
The new board upon entering upon its work had a task before it even more difficult than to begin anew. Under the former rule, no bridges had been built; no school system had been inaugurated; no revenue collected; - what had been done was to levy taxes which could not be collected, and to build a court house at Tecumseh, whereby a heavy debt was incurred, which the tax-payers refused to recognize as binding on the county. Thus the incoming board found the county matters in the worst plight possible - in debt, disorganized, everything to do, and neither money nor credit wherewith to do it. They could not even build a bridge over Deer Creek, except by an ingenious financial device which should postpone the payment to a more propitious period. The estimated cost of said bridge was nine hundred dollars, and the proposal for bids for its construction provided the mode of payment as follows: "The whole sum payable in county bonds, redeemable proportionately at the rate of twenty per cent per annum, and bearing interest at ten per cent. The said proportion of twenty per cent and interest to be receivable in payment of county taxes." At a meeting, February 23, 1858, the poverty of the county was confessed by the Sheriff, he reporting to the Board that there was no jail or other provision for the safe keeping or care of persons in his charge, and no provisions for paying the board of several at that time in his keeping. Thereupon the fathers of the dead-broke county gave relief to the overburdened Sheriff, thus: "It is ordered by the Board that the Sheriff is hereby authorized to issue certificates of advance payment of any taxes for the county that may be hereafter assessed and collectable, and apply the funds thus obtained by him to defraying the expenses of boarding and guarding such prisoners, and that such certificates shall be received in payment of any county taxes hereafter assessed." What further progress the Board might have made in administration of county affairs, was cut short by a change in the form of government.
February 12, 1858, an act was passed by the first Free-state Territorial Legislature providing for the organization of Municipal Townships, with a Board of Township Commissioners; the chairman of the several town boards in each county constituting the County Board of Commissioners. Under the town system, then established, the first Board of Shawnee County consisted of the following named gentlemen: Topeka Township - Jeremiah Murphy; Tecumseh - Eli Hopkins; Wakarusa - P. T. Hupp; Brownsville - A. H. Hale; Burlingame - George Bratton. The first meeting of the new Board of County Commissioners was held at the house of Eli Hopkins, then and now living in Tecumseh, a few miles east of the village, September 4, 1858. Jeremiah Murphy was elected chairman of the "Supervisor's Court," as it was termed. No important transactions are recorded.
The desperate state of the county's finances came up for special consideration at the meeting held October 13, 1858. Although the Free-state party and bona fide residents were now fully represented in the Board, the old debts, incurred under bogus rule, still obstructed the collection of taxes, as the majority of taxpayers would pay nothing so long as there was a chance of its being applied on these outstanding claims. It will be remembered that the greater part of the debt had been incurred in the erection of a court house at Tecumseh, and as the designation of that place, as the county seat, had been made arbitrarily by the Territorial Legislature, the residents outside of that town demurred against the tax for the erection of county buildings, until such time as they should, by their own vote, decide where they should be erected. Accordingly they ignored, not only the bogus legislature, but the bogus county seat it established, and all the debts incurred under the county government then set up.
At this meeting it was ordered: "That the clerk make investigation of the records and papers in his office relating to the indebtedness of the county and manage the same in such concise and convenient manner as should enable the Board at its next meeting to consider and take action upon the same without hindrance or delay." The clerk therefore, in connection with the chairman of the Board, Jeremiah Murphy, under direction of the Board, made, on January 4, 1859, at a meeting held at Auburn, *an elaborate report, with resolutions, which was adopted by the Board, and published. As a history of the early financial management, and the final disposition made of the debts, the report is given, nearly entire:
The committee further reported orders outstanding, amounting to $745.55, which added to the court-house account ($8,556.49), and a large amount of script issued to jurors by the District and Probate courts, made the claims against the county about $11,000. The report concludes as follows:
From the subsequent records it does not appear that any of the above claims were ever paid or recognized as valid by Shawnee County. The repudiation was complete - not of an honest claim, but of an illegal debt incurred by illegal means, through irresponsible agents.
At a meeting of the Board held June 21, 1859, Loring Farnsworth was appointed County Treasurer, and R. M. Fish, Superintendent of Common Schools. John P. Greer was appointed County Attorney at the session of May 2, 1859.
The canvass of votes "for" or "against" the Wyandotte Constitution, was made by the County Board, October 18, 1859, and was: "For" 555; "Against," 50. At the same election, the county voted: "For the Homestead act," 516; against it, 53.