|KANSAS COLLECTION BOOKS|
|PART 1:||Location, Topographical and Descriptive | Map and Population|
|PART 2:||Early Settlement | Border Indian Troubles|
|PART 3:||Incidents of Pioneer Life | First Things|
|PART 4:||County Organization and County-Seat Troubles | War Record | Statistics of Growth | Schools and Churches of the County|
|PART 5:||Alma | Biographical Sketches (Braman - Gregory)|
|PART 6:||Biographical Sketches (Hall - Zwanziger)|
|PART 7:||Wabaunsee | Eskridge|
|PART 8:||Other Towns|
LOCATION, TOPOGRAPHICAL AND DESCRIPTIVE.
Wabaunsee County is located abut midway between the north and south lines of the State, and about seventy-five miles west of the Missouri River. The county is bounded on the north by the Kansas River, on the south by Lyon County, on the east by Shawnee County, and on the west by Morris County and a portion of Morris and Riley Counties. The north line of the county follows the sinuous course of the Kansas River, by which it presents a rather rugged and irregular appearance, the northeast corner being six miles further south than the northwest corner, and the center of the north line being about three miles still farther north than the northwest corner. The east line of the county is perfectly perpendicular and the south line horizontal, these two lines forming a regular right angle. As the county was originally established, it embraced, in addition to its present territory, a portion of what is now Riley and Morris Counties. By enactment of the Territorial Legislature in 1870, the greater portion of Zeandale Township, which at that time was the northwest township of the county, was set off from Wabaunsee and annexed to the county of Riley; and by the same enactment a tract of land about six miles square was severed from the southwest corner of Wabaunsee and annexed to Morris County. By this severance of territory the west boundary line of the county lost its uniformity, and represents the side of a square with two smaller squares taken from the northwest and southwest corners.
The topography of the county is very much broken and uneven, but much more in the central than in any other portion. Along the boundary lines of the county the country is more level, and the undulations more gradual, but in the central portion the acclivities are abrupt and high and the declivities sudden and deep. It cannot be called rolling or undulating prairie, and I know of no word more appropriate to express the topography of the center of the county than "bluffy." It is one continuous chain of bluffs, some higher than the others.
Numerous streams and creeks also break the face of the country, and on the banks of these watercourses some very fine timber grows, consisting of several varieties, chief among which are oak, hickory, walnut, cottonwood and sycamore. These belts of timber vary in width from less than one-fourth to one-half mile, and furnish ample fuel. The flat lands lying along these streams and creeks are denominated "bottom" lands, the soil of which is exceedingly rich and productive, nine successive crops of wheat having been taken from some of them without a change or a failure. These creek valleys are not very wide, running from one-half to one and one-half miles in width. It is seldom that these valleys extend from both sides of the stream along which they lie, the valley being sometimes on one side of the stream and sometimes on the other, upland and bottom land alternating according to the winding of the watercourse. On one side will be a long stretch of bottom land, while from the other rises abrupt, high bluffs. The sinuosity of the streams gives a peculiar formation to the character of the surface, causing the lowlands along their margins to assume the shape of basins. By far the greater portion of the county is upland prairie, which is used chiefly for stock ranges, and which affords excellent pasturage; agriculture being confined almost entirely to the bottom lands along the creeks.
The water courses by which the county is meandered are numerous, all of which are denominated creeks, and to each of which is given a particular name. The largest stream in the county is Mill Creek, to which many of the smaller streams are tributary. There are three branches of Mill Creek, named respectively, East Branch, West Branch, and South Branch. These branches are fed by still smaller branches, the largest of which are Illinois Creek and Spring Creek, which flow into the West Branch, while a few lesser creeks are tributary to the East Branch. The East Branch and the West Branch form a confluence about four miles south of Alma, from which point the course of the stream is northward. The West Branch and Spring Creek take their rise in Washington Township, which is the western township of the county; Illinois Creek and the South Branch take their rise in Farmer Township, which adjoins Washington Township on the east; and the rise of the East Branch is in Mill Creek Township, at a point near Bismark. The East and West Branches, after receiving the waters of their tributaries, form a junction at Alma, from which point it takes the name of Mill Creek proper, and runs east by north until it empties into the Kansas River at the northeast corner of the county. After passing Alma it receives the water of Henry's Creek, which has its rise in Wabaunsee Township, and still further east Mulberry Creek and Snokomo Creek, add their tribute, both of which have their rise in Newbury Township, Mulberry running from the north and Snokomo from the south, while Maple Hill Township helps to swell the current by adding the water of Dry Creek. Rising at almost the western boundary line of the county, and flowing in a northeasterly direction across the entire county until it empties into the Kaw or Kansas River at the northeast corner, Mill Creek forms the most important stream in the county. It is not the only stream, however, as in the southeast portion of the county there is Dragoon Creek and Elm Creek, both of which have their rise in Wilmington Township, and flowing in a southeasterly direction, become tributaries of the Osage or Marais des Cygnes River. In the southeastern portion of the county there is Rock Creek, which has its rise in the township bearing the same name, and which, flowing in a southwesterly direction, winds its way until it becomes lost in the greater waters of the Neosho River. In the northern portion of the county there is Antelope Creek and Wells Creek, the former rising in Wabaunsee Township and the latter in Kaw Township, both of which run north and are tributary to the Kansas River. Mission Creek is another stream in the eastern portion of the county which rises in the Mission Creek Township, the course of which is due east until it enters the Kansas River, about twelve miles west of the city of Topeka, the capital of the State. Excepting a few minor streamlets, which occasionally furnish water where cattle may drink, the streams and creeks described constitute the water system of the county.
The character of the soil differs in quality according to localities. That of the low or bottom lands is deep, rich, and fertile, ranging from two to ten feet in depth, while that of the uplands is shallow, and very uncertain as to crops. The soil of the bottom lands along Mill Creek and its tributaries is exceptionally rich and fertile, as also is that of the Kansas Valley in the Northern portion of the county. In the lowlands that lie along the streams and creeks, the soil is alluvial in character, and has been formed by sedimentary deposits resulting from recurring overflows, to which has been added washings of earth from the adjoining uplands, and also the accretions rising from decomposed vegetable matter. The depth of the soil varies with the width of the valleys, it being much deeper where the valley is narrow than where it is wide. These valleys constitute the chief farming lands of the county. On the uplands the soil runs from six to fifteen inches in depth, excepting upon the higher bluffs, which are usually found to be faced with flat limestone, which in many cases covers the surface, while in others it is to be found two to six inches, and sometimes more, below the surface. In many localities, where the ground is not so broken and bluffy as in the central portion of the county, and where the prairie, although upland, is more undulating, and the acclivities and declivities are not so abrupt, there are numerous spots of excellent farming land which are, as yet, uncultivated, and which are devoted to grazing and haying purposes. The difference between the soil of the upland and that of the low land is not so much in quality as in quantity, as where in the former case it is measured by inches, in the latter it is measured by feet. The uncertainty of the uplands for crops, except in unusually wet seasons, has caused settlers to locate chiefly on the low-lying lands along the streams and creeks; but while the upland prairie is almost destitute of settlement, there is not a single foot of the soil but has passed into individual ownership, and while it is still unoccupied, it is nearly all under fence, and it is no unusual thing to see tracts containing thousands of acres embraced within one enclosure.
The products of the county are, mainly, agricultural, and consist of wheat, oats, corn, rye, and barley. Within the past few years flax has been cultivated to some extent, and each year finds more attention given to its culture. Millet, timothy, hungarian and clover are also extensively cultivated, while from the soil, in its primitive and natural state, a superabundance of rich and nutritious grasses grow in great luxuriance. Fruit also is among the products that receive a great deal of care and attention, and in ordinary seasons, apples and peaches yield immense crops. Potatoes are raised in abundance, and no little care is given to the cultivation of esculents, such as turnips, beets, carrots, and other roots, but these chiefly, although cultivated and raised in large quantities, are mostly used for stock-feeding purposes. The chief products, however -- that is, those that spring from the soil -- are wheat, oats, and corn, of which immense quantities find their way to Chicago, St. Louis, and other chief marts. Plums, cherries, and other small fruits, including grapes, strawberries, raspberries, and currants, are raised quite extensively in the older settled portions of the county. In the timber along the streams and creeks, natural, or wild fruit, grows in abundance. This consists chiefly of wild plums, grapes, strawberries, mulberries, gooseberries, raspberries, blackberries and wild currants, while in some localities, after the trees have shed, walnuts and hickory nuts can be shoveled up by the bushel. Hay is a product of vast importance to the county, not only on account of the immense quantities cut and put up for feeding purposes during the winter months, but also on account of the amount transported out of the county, and which is a source of considerable revenue.
The mineral resources of the county, if there are any, are as yet undeveloped, excepting rock, consisting chiefly of various kinds of limestone, which is used extensively for building purposes and for fencing. Coal has been found in various parts of the county at different times, but of a very inferior quality, and so limited in thickness of vein as to preclude any attempt at successful operation.
But little or no attention has been devoted to the establishment of any manufacturing industries. For this there are several reasons, among which are, absence of railroad facilities, scarcity of fuel, paucity of population, and lack of material. If we except three cheese factories, two in Mission Creek Township, and one in Wabaunsee Township; the two flouring mills, already mentioned, and the salt works, we except all that has been attempted in the way of manufacturing. At present nothing is being done at the salt works, nor have they been in operation for some time past. That there is ample brine in the well, and of superior quality, has been established beyond a doubt, and that excellent salt has been made when the works were in operation, to the amount of from twenty to thirty barrels a day, is a fact beyond dispute; but the facilities are lacking by which the operation of the works can be made profitable. It is true, however, that Wabaunsee from all natural appearances, was never designed for a manufacturing county, but there is no reason why an oil-mill and also a woolen mill should not be established there in the near future. The water power is there limited, it is true, and there is no county in the State better adapted to the cultivation of flax and the raising of sheep.
In the county there are some eight or nine good mill sites on Mill Creek, where ample power could be had for milling purposes. Only two of these are at present utilized, one being in Paxico, in Newbury Township, and the other in Alma Township, about one-half mile from the city. The former was constructed in 1880, by the Strosch Bros., and the latter in 1858 by G. Zwanziger. Both of these are flouring mills, the former having three run of buhrs, two for flour and one for corn; and the latter four, three for flour and one for corn. The mill near Alma was the first built in the county, excepting one built by the government for the use of the Indians, on the Pottawatomie Reservation. The government mill was washed out by high water in 1857, and was never rebuilt, and the following year Mr. Zwanziger erected his mill. In 1862, the ownership of the mill changed, Mr. Zwanziger selling out to the present proprietor, Mr. L. Pauly. As the population of the county increased, the mill became altogether inadequate to supply the demands of the people, and shortly after falling into Mr. Pauly's hands, he doubled its capacity, and he is now taking steps to enlarge it still further. The system by which the stream is dammed to get the utmost power, is somewhat peculiar, and may be classed among those things that are set down as being much better understood by having been seen once than from any attempt at description. About a mile from where the mill stands, the east and west branches of the stream fork, and at this point the first dam is built. Close by the mill is another dam, and from this a race is constructed through which the water is conveyed to the mill where it falls a distance of twelve feet upon a forty-inch Lefelle wheel and thus its power is obtained. The size of the mill is 40x52 feet, it is three stories high; is solidly built and its capacity is 300 bushels a day. The mill at Pasico sic is a very solid stone structure, and is fitted up with the most improved machinery. These two mills, however, are far from being adequate to the demands of the people, and at present a third flouring mill is being constructed farther down the stream in Maple Hill Township. It does not fall within the province of the writer to say what advantage may be taken of the idle water powers in time, but in a county where the wool of thousands of sheep might be gathered annually, and where flax and hemp are of easy cultivation, to say that these unused powers will be utilized in the near future, might not be considered a wild prophesy.
There are no places in the county possessing any peculiar interest, either to the sojourner or to the traveler. As far is known there is no place rendered historic, either in writing or in tradition, as the place where hostile tribes of Indians met in deadly combat and renowned chiefs performed wonderful feats of valor and heroism. In this respect, the history of the county is a blank. Nor has nature furnished the county with any of those wonderful places, either for beauty, grandeur, or health-imparting qualities, which the seeker for pleasure, the tourist or the invalid desires to find. If Buffalo Mound and the Mormon Trail are excepted, the country is devoid of anything to which is attached any peculiar interest. What interest attaches to Buffalo Mound is derived from the fact that it is the highest point of land in the county, and in a county the greater portion of which is all high bluffs and hills, this makes the mound somewhat conspicuous. How it obtained its name no one seems to know, but its shape bears a stronger resemblance to the back of a dromedary than to anything else. The mound is in Maple Hill Township, and south of Mill Creek, and is north of a chain of high ridges that terminate on the south side of the creek. A person can obtain a better view of the surrounding country from this point than from any other in the county. From the top of the mound the view embraces a radius of forty miles, and is very beautiful. Away below you, stretching out east and west, is the Mill Creek valley with its oceans of corn and innumerable stacks of grain, and through the heavy belt of timber that marks the course of the stream, glimpses of the water can occasionally be had as it winds its serpentine way to join the waters of the Kaw. In front of you lies the town of Rossville, in Shawnee County, whose spires can be distinctly seen rising above the trees. Still further to the west, in Pottawatomie County, can be seen the town of St. Mary's, and, extending the gaze still further westward, a glimpse can be had of Wamego, and that spire of curling smoke that you see rising above the timber tells of a passing train on the Kansas Pacific Railway. Allow your gaze to travel in a southeasterly direction from Wamego for a distance of about forty miles, until you reach a point where the earth and sky seem to kiss, and if the day is bright and the atmosphere clear, you can sight Topeka, the capital of the State. It is the grand view it affords that compensates the traveler for climbing to its hight. sic The belief prevails among the people that Gen. J. C. Fremont, on his exploring expedition through the great West in 1838-39, camped upon the mound and planted the stars and stripes upon its highest point, and this belief, however founded, adds to its interest.
The Mormon trail leads through Wilmington Township a little south of Eskridge. There is nothing remarkable about it, nor is it possessed of any other interest than marking the way that Brigham Young and his followers took in marching through the unexplored regions of the West in search of a place where to found a city and erect temples, where Mormons could worship without further molestation from civilization and Christianity.
POPULATION BY FEDERAL CENSUS.
1870 1880 (a) Alma Township . . . . . . . . . . . 890 1,057 (b) Farmer Township . . . . . . . . . . ---- 381 (c) Kaw Township . . . . . . . . . . . . ---- 594 (d) Maple Hill Township. . . . . . . . . ---- 604 (e) Mill Creek Township. . . . . . . . . ---- 521 Mission Creek Township . . . . . . . 445 1,068 (f) Newbury Township . . . . . . . . . . 475 926 (g) Rock Creek Township . . . . . . . . ---- 673 Wabaunsee Township . . . . . . . . . 517 985 (h) Washington Township. . . . . . . . . ---- 578 (i) Wilmington Township. . . . . . . . . 662 1,369 ------ ------ Total . . . . . . . . . . 2,989 8,756 -------------------- (a) In 1872, part to Mill Creek; in 1873, parts to Farmer and Washington. (b) In 1873, from part of Alma. (c) In 1875, from part of Newbury. (d) In 1872, from part of Newbury. (e) In 1872, from part of Alma; in 1875, part to Kaw. (f) In 1872, part to Maple Hill. (g) In 1872, from part of Wilmington. (h) In 1873, from part of Alma. (i) In 1872, part to Rock Creek. --------------------