|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
|PART 1:||Location, Topography, Etc. | Map and Population | Early History | County Organization | Schools and the Press|
|PART 2:||Statistics of Growth | St. John|
LOCATION, TOPOGRAPHY, ETC.
Stafford County is a portion of that wide stretch of territory of the State of Kansas embraced in the great bend of the Arkansas River. At a point twelve miles south, and thirty miles west of the southwest corner of the county, the river takes a northeasterly direction, which it follows for a distance of about seventy miles, until it reaches a point seven miles north of the center of the north line of Stafford County, when it turns to the southeast, which course it pursues until it reaches a point about twelve miles south and sixty miles east of the southeast corner of the county, from which point its course is almost due south. Stafford County is centrally located in the territory embraced within this bend of the river. It is in the third tier of counties from the south line of the State, and in the first tier west of a central line drawn through the State from north to south. The county seat is 180 miles east of the west line of the State, and 220 miles west of the east line. The county is bounded on the north by Barton County, on the south by Pratt, on the east by Reno and Rice, and on the west by Edwards and Pawnee Counties. It contains 506,880 acres, or 792 square miles, and, for municipal purposes, is divided into twelve civil townships, and for local government into three Commissioner districts.
The surface of the county is one vast level plain, except that at intervals there are long lines of numerous sand hills, some of which reach a considerable altitude. One line of these hills extends diagonally across the entire county, from the northeast to the southwest, and another line stretches across the northern portion of the county. To a person unacquainted with the country, these hills, at a distance, look like great belts of timber, and so deceptive are they in appearance that absolute observation is required to dispel the illusion. The county is almost without either streams or creeks, the only one of any importance within its borders being Rattlesnake Creek, which runs diagonally across the county from the southwest to the northeast. An abundance of good well water, however, can be had in almost any part of the county at various depths, from ten to thirty feet. Farmers living away from the vicinity of the stream, experience no difficulty in finding ample water for stock from wells, the pumping being done by wind-mills, with which nearly every farmer having stock is supplied. The county is utterly destitute of timber, and substitutes for fuel are found in corn cobs, corn stalks, and other material, which answer the purpose very satisfactorily. Coal can be had by going to the railway stations, but the long distances it has to be transported by rail and wagon makes it rather expensive.
The nature of the soil is light and extremely sandy, and in many portions of the county it is so sandy as to be utterly unfit for cultivation. The untillable portion, however, is confined to the sand hill elevations, and although the small valleys between the sand hills are also of a very sandy character, they are yet capable of cultivation, and are quite productive. Beneath the surface are various kinds of sub-soil; in some places it is a kind of bluish colored loam, and in others it is loam of a yellowish hue. In some places gypsum forms the sub-soil, and in a few considerable alkali is found.
The soil seems to be suitable for the raising of all kinds of cereals, and wheat, oats and rye yield abundantly. Sorghum is a never-failing crop, and one that can be relied upon with certainty in all seasons. The entire county is sub-irrigated and in sinking wells a sheet of water is invariably struck at various depths, corresponding with the elevations of the surface. In the flat or level places it is usually met with at a depth of from ten to twelve feet. This subterranean water is not in veins, but one vast sheet from three to four feet in depth, and is confined to no particular locality, but underlies the entire county. Like most of the western counties in Kansas, Stafford is excellently adapted to stock-raising, and to this industry farmers are turning their attention, many having herds of cattle numbering from 200 to 800 head. A good deal of attention is also given to sheep raising, there being over 30,000 head in the county, in flocks ranging from 300 to 2,500. In most part the grass is that kind known as buffalo but in some places blue-stem exists. The abundance of these grasses, and the facility with which a never-failing supply of good, pure fresh water can be had, give the county superior advantages for stock-raising.
CHART OF POPULATION (FEDERAL CENSUS).
Organized in 1879* 1880. ---- Clear Creek Township . . . . . 808 Cooper Township . . . . . . . 516 Hayes Township . . . . . . . . 329 Lincoln Township . . . . . . . 371 Saint John Township . . . . . 678 Seward Township . . . . . . . 390 Stafford Township . . . . . . 876 York Township . . . . . . . 778 ----- Total: 4,746* All the townships organized from original territory in 1879.
The boundary lines of Stafford County were defined by the Legislature of 1870, and for several years the county remained unorganized. The Legislature of 1875, with the intention of obliterating the county from the map, partitioned the territory embraced in Stafford County, and added that portion included in Towns 21, 22 and 23, Range 15 west, to Pawnee County, and that portion included in Ranges 11, 12, 13 and 14, of said towns, was annexed to Barton County, while the south half of the county, excepting that portion embraced in Range 15, Towns 24 and 25, was added to Pratt County. By this division, it was thought that Stafford County was wiped out; but after each of the counties mentioned had taken its apportioned part, two Congressional townships remained, being Towns 24 and 25, Range 15, so that, while Stafford County did not lose its identity, its dimensions were cut down to a strip of territory six miles east and west by twelve north and south. This was the condition of the county until 1879, when, by a decision of the Supreme Court, the act of the Legislature dividing the county was declared unconstitutional, and the county was restored to its original boundaries.
In the meantime, a good many settlers had located in the county, W. R. Hoole taking and settling upon the first claim entered in the county in May, 1874. His claim was the north half of Section 4, Town 21, Range 14 west, where he prepared himself a dugout in which he lived. In June, 1874, John Birbeck located on the southwest quarter of Section 10, Town 21, Range 14 west, upon which he built a frame house, and this was the first frame building erected in the county. About the same time, Martin Fitzpatrick and James O'Connor entered claims, upon which they located, followed soon after by Elisha Williamson, Ed. Williamson, F. Williamson, Abe. Lash and H. Campbell, all of whom settled in the northern portion of the county, while J. C. Stone, R. M. Blair, Jesse Vickers, E. B. Crawford, Ed. Hadlock and W. Z. Nutting settled in the eastern portion of the county, and James Neeland and two or three others in the southwestern portion. These were among the very earliest settlers of the county, but these were not the only settlers who came to the county in 1874, as there was a settlement of some ten or twelve families settled in the eastern portion of the county, that was known as the Missouri settlement, and a few families were also located some distance north of what is now St. John. The first prairie broken in the county was by John Birbeck in 1874. The first child born in the county was born to Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Hoole, on April 8, 1875, a boy, whom they named Edwin.
In the spring of 1875, a large settlement of Mormons, or Latter-Day Saints, located in the county, in the vicinity of what is now St. John. There were about forty families in the settlement, and they named the place Zion Valley. Here the first post office in the county was established with William Bickerton as Postmaster. This William Bickerton was the prophet of the community. Shortly after their settlement, they erected a frame temple, about 40x70 feet; but, dissentions entering the flock, it became scattered, and a few years later the temple was sold to Swartz Bros. who converted it into a hardware and drug store.
In 1876, but few settlers came to the county. No attempt at settlement in the northeast portion of the county had been made prior to that year, but during 1876 a few moved into that locality and located in the vicinity of what is known as the Salt Marsh, F. M. Morgan being one of the first. The Salt Marsh is a tract of land in the northeastern portion of the county, extending in a southwesterly direction, about eight miles long and ranging from one to four miles wide. In 1876, a company was organized for the purpose of manufacturing salt, but ascertaining by experiment that its manufacture would be unremunerative, the undertaking was abandoned, and the marsh became an excellent pasturage for stock, several parties in the township having from 300 to 800 head of cattle. The first schoolhouse built in the county was erected in the summer of 1876, on Section 4, Town 21, Range 14 west, and was known as the Hoole Schoolhouse. It was a frame building, and the first teacher was Miss Ella Miller.
The principal industry of the county during the first two or three years of its settlement was gathering the buffalo bones that lay thickly scattered all over the county. Men would go out with their teams and wagons, some of whom had racks made for the business, and gather up the bones, which they would haul to the nearest railroad station, where they would sell them at prices ranging from $3 to $9 a ton. Very good wages could be made at the business at first, but the bones were soon all gathered within distances at which it could be followed profitably, and then bone-gathering was discontinued. During the years 1877-78, a great many newcomers settled in the county, and by 1879 the population was sufficient to have the county organized.
The county having been restored to its original boundaries, a memorial was presented to the Governor, asking for the organization of the county, and on the 2d day of July, 1879, a proclamation was issued by the Governor, appointing J. C. Towsley, Fred Baumgardner and M. B. Walker, county Commissioners, and Frank Cox, County Clerk, and designating the town of St. John as the temporary county seat.
The Commisisoners appointed by this proclamation met for the first time, July 14, 1879, and organized by electing J. C. Towsley Chairman. At that meeting, the county was divided into six municipal townships, named Hayes, Seward, Lincoln, St. John, Clear Creek, York and Stafford. A special election was ordered to be held August 18, 1879, to perfect the organization by the election of county and township officers, and to permanently locate the county seat. At that special election, the officers elected were C. M. Johnson, representative; G. M. Detwiler, F. R. Baumgardner and J. C. Towsley, Commissioners; S. M. Nolder, County Clerk; J. B. Smith, Treasurer; George W. Hovey, Probate Judge; Berlin Zenor, Register of Deeds; J. W. Miles, Sheriff; George W. Bausman, Clerk of the Court; F. M. Morgan, County Attorney; W. S. Tyrrell, Coroner; H. L. Fitch, Surveyor, and N. L. D. Smith, County Superintendent.
There were five contesting points for the county seat, as follows: St. John, Stafford, Newburg, Livingston and Center. The total vote cast at the election was 822, of which St. John received 411, lacking just one of a majority, and that one was in town, but either through carelessness or laziness the man did not vote. There being no choice, St. John was continued as the temporary county seat. Another special election on the county seat question was ordered to be held April 5, 1882, and on the 12th of the same month the board met to canvas the vote, but owing to some omission or irregularity in the return of Stafford, the vote of that township was thrown out, and another election ordered to be held April 14. The total vote cast at that election was 697, of which St. John had 290 votes, Stafford had 214, and Bedford had 193. None of the places having received a majority of the votes cast, Bedford was dropped from the list of competitors, and another election was ordered to be held April 18, 1882, the competitive points being St. John and Stafford. At the election held in compliance with this order, 799 votes were cast, of which St. John received 431 and Stafford 368, and the former place was declared the permanent county seat.
The Representatives that have served in the Legislature from Stafford County have been C. M. Johnson, elected in 1879; J. C. Towsley, elected in 1880, and F. B. Crawford, the present member, elected in 1882. The county officers for 1883 have been as follows: E. H. Young, J. B. Cook, E. W. Dewey, County Commissioners; T. A. Hays, County Clerk; J. Neelands, Treasurer; E. M. Broughton, Probate Judge; C. S. Mace, Sheriff; C. B Weeks, County Attorney; W. Dixon, Clerk of District Court; J. A. Steelman, County Superintendent; W. S. Tyrrell, Coroner.
The following appropriation for the benefit of Stafford County was made in March, 1883, by the Legislature:
For the payment of the expenses incurred in restoring Stafford County to its original boundaries, the sum of $1,000. Said amount to be paid out as follows: To E. B. Crawford, $250; to Jesse Vickers, $250; to Samuel R. Estle, $250; to Joseph W. Tyrrell, $250. Provided, that said sums appropriated to Messrs. Crawford, Vickers, Estle and Tyrrell shall be received as full compensation for any and all claims against the State of Kansas arising out of said restoration of Stafford County.
Since Stafford County was organized, there has not been as much as one single criminal case tried in the District Court, nor are there any on the docket for trial. The county has a bonded indebtedness of $13,000 but no floating indebtedness, and her scrip is at par, with money in the treasury to pay every warrant upon presentation.
SCHOOLS AND THE PRESS.
The first school house erected in Stafford County was in the summer of 1874, and was built on Section 4, Town 21, Range 14 west. It was known as the Hoole Schoolhouse, and the first person to teach school in the county was Miss Ella Miller. There are now in the county thirty-seven school buildings, some of which are sod constructions and the remainder frame. The total school population of the county in 1881, between the ages of five and twenty-one years, was 1,331, of which 704 were males and 627 females. In 1882, the total school population was 1,309, of which 705 were males and 604 females, showing an increase of 1 male and a decrease of 24 females, being a decrease in the total school population during the year of 22. The number of pupils enrolled in 1881 was 707, males 384, females 323, and in 1882 the number enrolled was 832, males 442, females 390. The average daily attendance in the former year was 426 and in the latter 456. While there were, in 1882, only thirty-seven school buildings in the county, there were fifty organized districts, so that thirteen of the districts had no schoolhouses. The whole number of teachers employed in the county in 1881 was 45, of whom 16 were males and 29 females. In 1882, the number decreased to 39, of which 19 were males and 20 were females. The average daily attendance in the former year was 426 and in the latter 456. While there were, in 1882, only thirty-seven school buildings in the county, there were fifty organized districts so that thirteen of the districts had no schoolhouses. The whole number of teachers employed in the county in 1881 was 45, of whom 16 were males and 29 females. In 1882, the number decreased to 39, of which 19 were males and 20 were females. The average salary per month, in 1881, paid teachers was, males $23.21, and females $17.96, and in 1882 for the former it was $25.27, and the latter $22.34. The school bonded indebtedness of the county in 1882 was $2,451, and the number of districts that sustained public school for three months or over during the year was thirty-six, and the number failing to do so was fourteen. The average assessed valuation of each district was $6,624, and seventeen mills were levied for school purposes. There were 42 persons examined for teachers in 1882, and 40 certificates granted, of which 6 were first grade, 19 second grade, and 15 third grade. There were in the hands of the District Treasurer, on August 1, 1881, the sum of 673.59; the amount received from district taxes was $2,991.86; from State and county funds, $1,054.83; from sale of school bonds $437, and from all other sources, $655.54, making the total receipts during the year $5,812.42. The expenditures during the year were, for teachers wages, $3,084.14; rents, repairs, fuel, etc. $949.10; school apparatus, $19.78; for sites, buildings and furniture, $449.81; for all other purposes $121.23; total paid out for all purposes, $4,624.06, leaving a balance in the hands of the District Treasurer on August 1, 1882, of $1,188.36.
The Stafford Citizen was the first paper established in the county, and was started at Stafford in November, 1877, by T. L. Kerr. It lived about eight months and then passed out of existence.
The News was started in April, 1879, at St. John, by C. B. Weeks, but its existence only covered a period of four months.
The Herald was established in the summer of 1879, at Stafford, by Joel Reese, who continued to publish it until November, 1881, when it passed into the hands of R. M. Blair, who has continued to publish it since that time. It is a five-column quarto, Republican in politics, and has a circulation of about 400.
The Advance was established at St. John in March, 1880, by T. C. Austin, in whose possession it remained until September of that year, when C. B. Weeks took charge and control of the paper, and continued to publish it until April 1, 1881, when W. R. Hoole succeeded to the ownership, and published it until August, 1882, when he disposed of it to F. B. Gilmore, who remained at its head until March 12, 1883, when it passed into the possession of W. K. P. Dow. At that time Mr. Dow was publishing the Bee, but on getting possession of the Advance, he merged the former into the latter. It is a seven-column folio, Republican in politics, and has a circulation of about 450.