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


[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]



In October, 1854, Cyrus K. Holliday, a young Pennsylvanian, arrived at Lawrence, and the following month, in company with Dr. Charles Robinson, agent of the New England Emigrant Aid Society, proceeded up the valley of the Kansas to locate town sites for the fast coming Eastern emigrants. Among others, the present site of Topeka was selected as one especially desirable, and the gentlemen returned to Lawrence.

About the 20th of November, Messrs. Enoch Chase, M. C. Dickey, George Davis and Jacob Chase arrived in Lawrence from the East. After remaining there a week, they started up the Kansas River for the purpose of securing farms, and, should a favorable location be discovered, of founding a town; having the assurance of Dr. Robinson that he would aid them by sending forward emigrants to such place as they should select. Arriving at the present site of Topeka on the 29th, they decided that this was the location they desired, and immediately made their claims--a quarter section each. On the Lenora, the last boat that steamed up the Missouri in the fall of 1854, were the following gentlemen--all seeking new homes in Kansas: Fry W. Giles, Daniel H. Horne, T. G. Thornton, Timothy McIntire, Jonas E. Greenwood, George F. Crow, William C. Lenicar, L. G. Cleveland and S. A. Clark. The party walked from Kansas City to Lawrence, arriving Saturday evening, December 2. On Sunday evening they held a meeting to decide on future movements. At this meeting, Dr. Robinson, Mr. Holliday, and Mr. M. C. Dickey were present by invitation, and spoke so favorably of the site upon which the latter, with his three companions, had located, that the new comers decided to send four of their party on the morrow, accompanied by Messrs. Robinson, Holliday and Dickey, to examine and report on the advantages of the location for a town site. Messrs. Horne, Giles, Cleveland and Clark, were appointed a committee for this purpose--Mr. Horne being chairman of the committee--and the party started "up the Kaw," on Monday morning, December 4. They arrived at their destination the same evening, and found the three settlers who were on the ground, busily engaged in erecting a log house at the foot of what is now Kansas avenue; near where the old mill afterwards stood. The house, although quite limited in dimensions and not finished, sheltered the whole party during the night. The next night, unfortunately, the rousing fire built in the rather open fire-place reached the dry grass which hung in festoons through the chinks in the roof, and in a few moments the flames and smoke drove the tired and sleepy men to such shelter as one tent could afford. The roof only was burned, and the next day the work of reconstruction commenced. All was well on the night of the 4th, and early on the following morning, the 5th, a thorough examination of the proposed town site was made by Mr. Horne, and after a brief consultation with the other members of the committee, it was decided that here was the place, and this was the time to locate the city "which was to be." A meeting was held in the forenoon, of which C. K. Holliday was chairman, and the nine men--strangers a few days before--then and there organized a town company, and staked out the town which has in less than thirty years grown to be the beautiful city of Topeka. Articles of agreement were drawn up by which the town site was divided into one hundred shares--each member of the company to receive one share, and the remainder to be reserved for future settlers. Even at this pioneer meeting provision was made that the future capital of the State should rival the national capital as a city of "magnificent distances," and the broad avenues and spacious parks of the Topeka of 1882, are begotten of the wisdom and foresight of the pioneers of 1854. The first party that located surrendered their claims for the location of the town site, and selected others adjoining. C. K. Holliday was chosen President of the Town Association, the names upon the contract being C. K. Holliday, F. W. Giles, Daniel H. Horne, George Davis, Enoch Chase, J. B. Chase, M. C. Dickey, L. G. Cleveland. Dr. Robinson was made an honorary member of the association, and returned to Lawrence on Tuesday, with authority to send the remainder of the party. The proposed limits of the city were two miles east and west, along the banks of the Kansas, and one and a half miles north and south upon the prairie. It was surveyed into lots 75x150 ft. by Mr. A. D. Searl, of Lawrence--the Levee to be 130 feet wide, and four of the principal avenues, each way crossing transverely the same width; the remainder of the streets to be 80 to 100 feet wide; the city association to number fifty members. A meeting was held to choose a name for the new town, and, after some difficulty, Topeka was selected--the Indian word for wild potato--which vegetable grew plentifully upon the rich bottom land along the river. The name was suggested by Mr. Giles.

After the disastrous effects of the first fire in Topeka had been remedied Messrs. Horne and Cleveland built a sod hut, which they occupied during the winter. This was near what is now the corner of Topeka and First avenues.

During the winter of 1855, about thirty-six persons joined the Topeka settlement, six of the number being ladies, and Mrs. F. J. Case the first lady that arrived. Her husband built a log house, with blacksmith shop in the rear, in which they resided. Several sod huts and shake cabins were put up before spring, besides a board shanty by A. W. Moore, which was the first boarding-house, and where, according to the Lawrence newspaper could be found "as good fare as any in the Territory." January 13, 1855, the town received its first newspaper puff in the following words copied from the Herald of Freedom:


"A new town site with the above name has been selected, and is now rapidly filling up with Eastern people. It is located about twenty-five miles above this point, on the Kansas River, and will probably be a place of considerable importance. Several of our most active business men are connected with the movement, and they are bound to make it 'go ahead.' It is said there is fine country around it, and nature has been prolific in her bounties. A steam saw-mill, and all the various appliances of civilization will be introduced there, upon the first renewal of navigation in the spring. The name is said to be the original Indian one for the Kansas River."


When the settlers of 1854 came to the banks of the Kansas at Topeka, there was no road directly up the river, that part of the country being broken by ravines, ridges and streams. Leaving Lawrence, the traveler took the old California or ridge road, and passed west over the high prairie, with the valleys of the Kansas and Wakarusa to the right and left, skirted in the distance by dark fringes of timber. For about seven or eight miles after leaving Lawrence, the settlers' cabins were scattered thick along the road; then it was a solitary drive until "the forks" were reached, seven miles further on. This point was the juncture of the Tecumseh road with the California, the former branching off to the northwest, and leading through a broken country to the town of Tecumseh; the latter passing still farther west over the ridge, to turn toward the south and cross the Kansas, fifteen miles above, at Papan's Ferry. At the forks there were a few cabins as early as the summer of 1854. Leaving Tecumseh, and proceeding west along the bottom lands near the river, now and then passing a settler's cabin, the emigrant, after proceeding about five miles, came upon a beautiful rise of land, and found himself in the new town of Topeka--the Kansas River to the north, with its rich bottoms, and beyond the river the heavily wooded reservations of the Papan's; to the south, over the prairie, the Shunganunga; the land rising wave above wave to the west, with "Burnett's Mound" in the distance, marking the country of the Pottawatomies.

Early in May, 1855, a new road was laid out, branching off from the California highway, a little east of Big Springs, and running thence nearly direct to Topeka, a much more smooth and level route than by the Tecumseh road. This road crossed the Shunganunga near the house of Mr. Cleveland, and connected at Topeka with the old Papan Ferry--then owned by Messrs. Martin and Coville--and then by a road north of the Kansas, with the great military road from Leavenworth to Fort Riley.


In January, 1855, Messrs. Dickey and Holliday made a journey to Kansas City as agents of the Emigrant Aid Society, to bring up the steam engine for the new saw-mill, which was completed and put in operation in the spring.

In March, a postoffice was established, and Fry W. Giles appointed Postmaster. The office was kept in a log cabin, east of Kansas avenue, the cabin being also used as a blacksmith shop by H. H. Wentworth. The emoluments of the office amounted to the munificent sum of two dollars per week.

On the 21st of March, the first church in town was organized by the Methodists; Rev. A. Still, Presiding Elder; J. S. Griffing was appointed Pastor; F. J. Case, class-leader, and H. H. Wentworth, Sunday-school Superintendent. The first religious service was held in a grove on the bank of the Kaw. Early in the spring a party of forty-two arrived, and the town plat was soon dotted with the camps, wagons, farming implements, and household furniture of the Pennsylvanian and Northwestern farmers who were waiting to commence work as soon as the spring rains should make the earth ready for the plough. To accommodate the increased population, another boarding-house was opened--"The Pioneer Hotel"--a long cabin with berths one above another, around the sides, and a long table in the center--one room and everything handy. Minium & Zimmerman were the first proprietors of this hotel, which was nearly opposite where the Shawnee mill how stands. Guilford Dudley subsequently served as "mine host" of the hotel, and it is remembered by old citizens that he managed to perform with efficiency and despatch (sic) the many and various duties, appertaining to the position. The hotel soon outlived its usefulness--better buildings taking its place. It stood for several years, serving as a shelter for cattle and known as the "Pine-away House," and was finally blown down by a Kansas breeze. In April, J. T. Jones opened a store on the west side of Kansas avenue, between Second and Third streets. On the 13th of the same month, Farnsworth Bros. commenced their new store, (afterwards famous as Constitution Hall), the stone for the foundation being taken from the ravine back of the Gordon House. During April, Mrs. Enoch Chase joined her husband, and they moved onto their claim west of the town site, and into their famous new house, "with a wooden floor." J. C. Miller commenced to make tinware under a tree near the foot of Kansas avenue about this time, and also on the 18th of April commenced the erection of the first brick house in the city, near the corner of Kansas avenue and Sixth street. He occupied this house for many years, after its completion, as a residence, having his tinshop for a time in the basement. It is now (1882) the office of Drs. Mulvane & Munk. Early in the spring R. L. Mitchell started a cabinet shop on the northwest corner of Sixth and Harrison; L. W. Horne had a brick-yard in operation a little out of town, and was advertising his readiness to supply all demands for brick at $8 per thousand. Messrs. Giles and Cleveland moved onto their claims on the Shunganunga; Daniel Horne found enough men to form a military company, which he organized and called the Topeka Guards; three ministers--Rev. Messrs. Pool, Burgess and Wentworth, had settled within the limits of the township, and the medical fraternity was represented by Drs. Martin and Merriam. When May came, with its fresh leaves and flowers, the new neighbors were ready for recreation and fun. Wives had come from their Eastern homes to join their husbands--all were hopeful--and on the 17th of May, 1855, the people gathered for their first merry-making in the new town.

First Picnic in Topeka.--The account of this early merry-making is copied entire as furnished to the Herald of Freedom (Lawrence), May 26, 1855:

                                        TOPEKA, May 18, 1855.

Editor, Herald of Freedom.--Being appointed as a reporting committee to furnish you the proceedings of the Picnic Party, which took place in Topeka on the 17th inst., and cause the same to be presented to you for publication, we, therefore, comply with this appointment, and beg leave to lay before you the following report:--

Some ten days ago the ladies of Topeka conceived the idea of getting up a picnic party, that the people of this region, who had come from different portions of our country, might have an opportunity of becoming more thoroughly acquainted with each other, and to perpetuate a custom, which is very prevalent in the East. The ball was thus set in motion, which was to bring about the happy result, which we are about to detail, and the time appointed was the 17th inst.

The morning dawned upon us, and was just cloudy enough to make it comfortable, and shield us from the scorching rays of old Sol. The copious showers of rain, which fell the night previous, effectually prevented us from being discommoded by dust. The underbrush was removed from the beautiful grove which skirts the Kansas River, by the enterprising young men of the place, and when finished, was a most lovely site for our gathering. The overhanging boughs, which nature had covered in rich green foilage, and the soft verdant carpet spread beneath our feet, made the place and the occasion delightful. In good time the ladies, of whom there was a goodly number, began to assemble, accompanied by those made of coarser material.

The table--fifty feet long--which was spread with rich viands, fairly groaned beneath its load of dainty food. There was the mammoth fish, which but the night previous was enjoying his native freedom in the murky waters of the Kansas River, now stretched at length on a large platter, prepared to grace the festive board.

A barbecue, and other like substantial food, came in for their share of attention. A large and beautiful pyramid cake, surrounded by other minor ones, graced the table, while from the apex, as if a natural product a rich profusion of prairie flowers shot forth their smiling petals. But time would fail us even if it did not tire your patience, to give a full description of the good things which graced the festive board; suffice it to say that after a blessing from the Throne of Grace had been implored by Rev. Mr. Pool, the people joined with much apparent zeal to relieve the table of its burden, after which Rev. Mr. Wentworth, Rev. Mr. Pool, and Rev. Mr. Burgess--of our city--and Mr. Jordan, of Tecumseh, favored us with speeches, and though short, they were sweet, having a good deal of pith, and were received with showers of applause.

Rev. Mr. Burgess was then introduced as Toast-Master, by Mr. D. H. Horne, Master of Ceremonies, and gave the following:

Our Happy Homes in Kansas--Responding himself to the sentiment in a happy speech.

Mr. J. C. Miller gave the following:

Our Territory--May she soon become united as a free State, among the bright constellations that form the stars and stripes of our glorious Republic.

To which Mr. Stratton responded.

A Sentiment--
          Acquaintance and friendship we hope is now near,
              For this is the sentiment given;
          That we may be united together while here,
              As we hope to be, eventually, in heaven.

The Influence of Woman.--Ever elevating, purifying and refining in its tendency, and nowhere more welcome or needed than here. We hail its advent, and those who exert it, as harbingers of better and happier times. This was responded to by Dr. Merriam in a brief and happy speech.

Our Friends at Home--Far distant, but fondly remembered, may they be as prosperous and happy as they are dearly loved.

A sentiment:--
          The bachelor lives a most miserable life,
          Which cannot be improved till he marries a wife,
which was responded to by Dr. Merriam, who said he could endorse the sentiment most heartily; and was followed by Dr. Martin in the following language:

I hope the bearded bachelor gentlemen will soon get good wives, and by so doing improve their appearance, as did some of our married friends, who had worn their beards through the winter, but lost them on visiting Kansas City to meet their loved ones at the commencement of this season, always returning-- well shorn.

Voluntary toast given by a lady:

          Ladies there are, no doubt, who would share
          The homes of the bachelors, rude though they are;
          Then, bachelors, come, invite to your homes
          These ladies, as to find them, they come.

To the Single Ladies:--God bless them; bless them, too, with loving husbands and untold joys.

A Sentiment:--
          Here 'neath the shady bowers we ask all to come,
              That we may with them linger awhile;
          Here is trusting we may all have a home
              In the land that was once drear and wild.

The Future of Topeka--May it be as full of prosperity and fruition as the present is of promise and hope.

The Maine Law--May it be to Topeka what the main pillar is to the Temple of Liberty; having its foundation in the hearts of the people; may the superstructure be such as shall withstand the shafts of adversity until its topmost stone shall be laid in triumph, crying grace! grace! unto it.

This, and the preceding were responded to by Dr. Merriam, by saying that the future growth and prosperity of Topeka depended on the temperance and morality of its citizens.

Here the regular toasts were ended and voluntary toasts called for.


The Ladies.--May they be as successful in combining art and nature around their new homes as they are in combining them around the table here to-day; then will the heart of man be content.

Also by the same:

The First Picnic in Topeka.--May it be the first of a series that shall annually call us together in unalloyed friendship and union.

By D. H. Horne:--As this is the second Holliday in Topeka, may the third be graced with the presence, who is now absent in Pennsylvania.

Three hearty cheers greeted this toast. The pun is on the name of C. K. Holliday, President of the Topeka Association.

By F. W. Giles

Mrs. F. J. Case--The first lady to bless Topeka with her presence; may she be blessed in return with as many happy days here as she shall desire, surrounded by good neighbors and free institutions.

By Dr. Martin:

Mrs. T. McIntire--The second lady who graced Topeka with her presence, may she live to see it flourish like a "green bay tree."

By T. McIntire:

The Single Ladies of Topeka--Who represent the different portions of our Union, may they succeed in effecting a more glorious union to themselves --to a man.

By F. W. Giles:

Miss H. Hartwell--As she was the first unmarried lady to grace Topeka, may some fine gentleman see that she is soon offered an opportunity of gracing the kitchen and parlor.

Several more impromptu toasts were given, which gave general satisfaction, and called forth much applause.

A vote was passed, thanking the ladies, various committees and the speakers and officers of the day.

The ornamental cakes remaining were sold at auction, the proceeds of which was voted to be given towards the erection of the first church in Topeka.

The whole passed off in a pleasant and agreeable manner, and all expressed themselves well pleased.

         Respectfully yours,   HARRIS STRATTON,
                               JOSEPH C. MILLER,
                               HENRY P. WATERS.

During the last week in May, 1855, the first steamboat of the season, the Emma Harmon, arrived at the Levee in Topeka, after a trip of six days from Lawrence. Messrs. Allen & Gordon completed during the summer a store 30x60 on the corner of Kansas avenue and Fifth street, and put in a large stock of goods. Cyrus K. Holliday built a shake cabin on his claim, adjacent to the town on the east, which cost him $37.50, and was occupied during the summer by Messrs. Hubbard and Mitchell--John Ritchie constructing his cabin of the limbs of the trees that Holliday and Giles left when they made their shake houses.

The first marriage in Topeka occurred in May, when S. J. Thomas and Harriet N. Hurd were united in the holy bonds, by Rev. Mr. Poole.

During the same month, May 30, 1855, Mr. William Scales lost a son--the first death in the little community.

In the summer a son was born to Mr. Israel Zimmerman. The boy was christened Topeka Zimmerman by Dr. F. L. Crane, and received from his generous godfather a gift of a lot 75x150 feet. Dr. Crane had visited the site of Topeka in October, 1854, and made a claim of land, and during the spring of 1855 ad become a permanent resident, and erected a dwelling on his claim.

On June 5th, E. C. K. Garvey, recently from Milwaukee, arrived in Topeka, accompanied by Mr. G. W. Brown, of Lawrence, the editor of the Herald of Freedom. Mr. Garvey proposed to establish in the city a newspaper, and to remove his family and business interests to this place, if sufficient encouragement should be offered to make the project a feasible one. A consultation was accordingly held in the little log cabin which served as "council chamber" of the association, and it was resolved to donate to the gentleman city interests, 57-58-59 provided "Esq. Garvey should establish a good weekly newspaper without delay," etc. F. W. Giles, Amos G. Adams, and Dr. S. E. Martin were appointed a committee to report to Mr. Garvey. The conference ended in an arrangement whereby the town association agreed to erect a publishing house 18x24, and two stories high for $400, for which they should receive two hundred weekly copies of the forthcoming paper, for one year. Other lots, which Mr. Garvey preferred, were given him, and the business of securing a paper for the town was continued by appointing J. F. Merriam, H. G. Adams, F. W. Giles, D. H. Horne, and S. E. Martin a committee to solicit subscriptions, and John Ritchie, H. G. Adams, and T. McIntire, building committee. This was the first building erected in Topeka of sawed lumber, and deserves somewhat special notice, as it is one of the few old landmarks that yet remain to recall to the memory of Topekans of 1855, the days of "Auld Lang Syne." All that part of the building fronting on Fifth street, and built of wood, was burned to the ground June 10, 1859. Mr. Morse was landlord of the hotel at the time. The part fronting on Kansas avenue was saved, and although changed in some respects, the same old building that was once "Commercial Headquarters" in Topeka--postoffice, variety store of manifold attractions, hotel, publishing house, and general rendezvous for a time for the discussion of vexed questions that then troubled men's minds--still may be seen on the southeast corner of Kansas avenue and Fifth street. It is somewhat overshadowed by the more pretentious buildings around, and seems in a quiet way to be awaiting the time when the vigorous growing city shall find that the old landmark has outlived its usefulness, and must give way to the pushing, aggressive march of modern progress.

Mr. Garvey did not get settled in his new building, which was called the "Garvey House," until September, his household furniture and office fixtures meantime arriving and being packed or scattered in all conceivable places along the block on which the house was built. Although laboring under many difficulties, Esq. Garvey managed on July 4th, 1855, to issue the first number of the first newspaper in Topeka.

Early Newspapers.--The first number of the Kansas Freeman, E. C. K. Garvey, proprietor, was issued as above stated July 4th. It was printed on the open prairie, no office yet being ready, and made its appearance in the form of a half-sheet, with an apology, stating that the large press which had been purchased had not yet arrived from Kansas City, and no information could be obtained of its whereabouts. During the sessions of the Constitutional Convention, in October, the paper was issued daily; the energetic editor himself reporting all the proceedings of the meeting. The size of the Kansas Freeman was eight inches by twelve three columns to a page. It was printed by J. F. Cummings, and sold at two cents a copy.

In November, 1855, John Speer removed the Kansas Tribune from Lawrence to Topeka and Wm. W. Ross became his partner. Their printing office was in Constitution Hall--as yet unfinished--and during the following terribly cold winter it was at times almost impossible to print the paper. In the issue of January 28, 1856, the editor says the hands have been obliged to quit work for four days, on account of the exposed situation of the office--"paper froze up, cases filled with snow, smoke blew down the chimney," and it was impossible to get a better place. The paper was equally an object of pride to Topekans, and hatred to the Pro-slavery papers in the Territory--its bold and fearless denunciations of the enactments of the Kansas Legislature, calling forth deep and dire threats of vengeance, to which the determined editors replied: "It shall never be destroyed while we have power to defend it, nor silenced until its press and types are taken from us by violence, and, even then, their places should be supplied if it were possible to secure adequate means for that purpose."

The Kansas Philomathic Institute.--This, the earliest literary society in Topeka, was organized in the winter of 1855-6. Discussions were held every Saturday evening, and lectures were delivered on the evening of the first Saturday in each month. The officers elected for 1856 were: F. L. Crane, president; H. P. Waters, secretary; L. Farnsworth, treasurer; J. C. Miller, corresponding secretary; James Cowles, librarian; C. K. Holliday, historian; R. L. Mitchell, cabinet keeper; L. G. Cleveland, R. Gustin and W. W. Ross, standing committee. At the first anniversary, which took place at Union Hall, January 3, 1857, an oration was delivered by L. C. Wilmarth, a poem by L. Farnsworth, and a paper was read by Mr. J. C. Miller. There was a paper published by the members, called the Communicator, and the ladies, at this anniversary, contributed a little paper, named the Snow Wreath. The library contained 700 volumes.

The Big Springs Convention.--To the Free-state citizens of Topeka, the convention at Big Springs was a prelude of something better to come at Topeka --the beginning of a series of well concerted and skillfully executed movements to draw the attention of outsiders to the claims of Topeka as the future capital of the future State. Accordingly the delegation to Big Springs convention, which started from Topeka September 5th, was a sort of triumphal procession--headed by an immense wagon, "with music and banners." The Topeka string band--Samuel Hall, L. W. Horne, and John B. Horne, with violins, and D. H. Moore, with tenor drum, were among the musicians. The delegation was active and enthusiastic in the convention, and the State Constitutional Convention, which soon followed at Topeka, gave the citizens another opportunity to keep the ball in motion, which they did not intend should stop rolling until it was securely lodged within the walls of a State House.

[TOC] [part 7] [part 5] [Cutler's History]