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


[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]


In 1855, the Territorial Legislature, the same that enacted the laws which have passed into history as the "Bogus Statutes," divided that portion of what is now known as the State of Kansas, commencing at the north line of the State at the northwest corner of Marshall County, and running south to the northwest corner of Davis County, thence west to the northwest corner of Saline County, thence south to what was then the north line of the Osage Reservation, which was fifty-four miles north of the south line of the State, and all east of said north and south line, into counties. The territory thus described embraced what is now known as Wabaunsee County. As originally established, "Richardson" was the name given to the county, in honor of Governor Richardson of Illinois; but subsequently, in 1859, the name was changed to Wabaunsee. The county was made one municipal township and was attached to Shawnee County for judicial and revenue purposes. In 1859, there being the necessary population requisite to organize a county, a petition was signed by the inhabitants and presented to the Governor of the Territory, praying that the county be organized into a separate and distinct corporation for all purposes corporate, revenue and judicial. The prayer was granted, and to perfect the organization an election was held on the ___ day of March, 1859, for the election of county officers. There were two voting precincts in the county -- one at Alma, and one at the village of Wabaunsee. The whole number of votes polled was 111, which resulted in the election of the following named officers: County Commissioners -- Henry Harvey, J. M. Hubbard, G. Zwanziger; Probate Judge -- J. M. Hubbard; Clerk of the Court -- J. M. Harvey; Sheriff -- John Hodgson; Registrar of Deeds -- Moses C. Welch; County Attorney -- R. G. Terry; Coroner -- Auguste Brasche; Treasurer -- Henry Harvey; Surveyor -- G. Zwanziger; Auditor -- S. F. Rose; Superintendent of Public Instruction -- J. E. Platt.

After the organization of the county was completed, the commissioners divided it into four townships, named respectively, Alma, Wabaunsee, Mission Creek and Wilmington. Alma embraced the territory now comprised in the townships of Alma, Washington, Farmer and Mill Creek. Wabaunsee embraced the present township of that name, and what was afterwards Zerandale township, but which was subsequently, by act of the Territorial Legislature, set off and annexed to Riley County. Mission Creek Township embraced its present territory, and Wilmington was composed of what is now Wilmington and Rock Creek Townships. The territory that now constitutes the townships of Kaw, Newbury, and Maple Hill then formed a portion of the Pottawatomie reserve lands, and was not open to white settlement. In 1869, the Pottawatomie reserve lands were opened to settlement, and in 1870, all the territory embraced therein which was located in Wabaunsee County was made into a township, to which was given the name of Newbury. In September, 1872, a new township was created and named Maple Hill, the eastern portion of Newbury Township being set off for this purpose. Again, in July, 1875, Newbury underwent another division, by which what is now known as Kaw Township was taken from its northern territory, thereby bringing Newbury Township to its present limits. In September, 1873, the townships of Washington and Farmer were created from territory originally included in Alma Township; and still earlier by one year, in October, 1872, Alma was reduced in size by taking from it the territory necessary to create Mill Creek Township. In October, 1872, Rock Creek Township was formed, the territory necessary therefor having been taken from the west half of Wilmington Township. By these geographical divisions that took place from time to time as the population increased, the county has been divided into eleven townships, which, though not altogether equal in extent of area, are very fairly proportioned.

Following is the list of the present county officers: Commissioners -- F. L. Raymond, B. H. Younker, George Mogge; Probate Judge -- John T. Keagy; County Attorney -- G. G. Cornell; Clerk of District Court -- H. G. Licht; County Clerk -- D. M. Gardner; Treasurer -- Charles Ross; Register of Deeds -- S. H. Fairfield; Sheriff -- H. J. Pippert; Superintendent of Public Instruction -- Matt Thomson; Coroner -- E. W. Eldridge; Surveyor -- W. T. Mahan.

As in many other counties, the county-seat question has been a bone of contention in Wabaunsee County. In 1859, when the county was first organized, the seat of justice was established at Wabaunsee, this being the only place in the county at that time bearing any resemblance to a village, and for the further reason that Wabaunsee Township was then by far the most thickly populated township in the county. Its location, however, was far from being central, Wabaunsee being situated in the northwest corner of the county. Owing to this fact, and from the belief that, when the county became more thickly settled, efforts would be made to change it to a more central location, no permanent county buildings were provided for the occasion. Subsequent events were to prove that the belief as to change of location was well founded, for a few years after the question of changing the county seat began to be agitated, and in 1866 the matter was submitted to the people by the commissioners. The contest was between Wabaunsee and Alma, and the election took place on the 22nd day of November, 1866. The fight was hotly contested on both sides, but when the ballots were counted, Alma came off the victor by 28 votes out of a total of 258. This was a hard blow to Wabaunsee, but the fiat of the people had gone forth, and towards the latter end of December, of the same year, all the records of the county, with the county officers, were loaded on two wagons and conveyed to Alma, where a small frame building, about fourteen feet square, had been built to receive them. At that time not as much as a single dwelling house had been erected on the town site of Alma. The following spring, the frame building now occupied by Fred Crafts as a drug store was erected for county purposes, which, when completed, was taken possession of by the county officers, and into which the records were moved. Alma now had the county seat, but still she was not happy. The fear of losing it, which had so haunted the people of Wabaunsee, soon began to take possession of the Almaites, and the questions that bothered them were: How long will it remain? Can we hold it? The uncertainty that hung about the permanent location of the county-seat, which was rendered more uncertain by the fact that up to this time there was no railroad in the county, and no prospect of one in the near future, retarded greatly the growth of Alma. In 1870, the question of another change was agitated, and again the matter was submitted to the people, the contesting points being Alma, Newbury and Eskridge. The election was held on the 7th of February, 1871, at which 842 votes were cast, of which Alma received 369, Newbury 217, and Eskridge, 256. There being no choice, another election was ordered to be held on the 21st of February, 1871. Now was the trying time for Alma, because at the preceding election an understanding was had between Newbury and Eskridge that, in case there should be no choice, whichever of these two places received the smallest vote should drop out of the contest and join forces with the other. Excitement ran high, and people were appealed to by all manner of argument. Speeches were made and committees were sent out to visit every voter in the county, and sound him upon the question, and if found doubtful, "fix" him if possible. Placards and handbills setting forth in glowing colors the advantages of one place over the other were posted up on every school-house and at every crossroads. Circulars were scattered broadcast over the county setting forth that one place was destined to become a great manufacturing, and the sic a great commercial, emporium. All that could be said or done, either for or against the other respective localities, was faithfully performed. In one of these circulars this sentence appeared: "Alma is pledged to give the county a safe, well-built and handsome stone building, worth from six to ten thousand dollars," and compares this with the offer of Eskridge "to give the county the use, for a stated time, of a wooden building."


At the breaking out of the war for the Union, the population of Wabaunsee County, all told, was about 1,050, the voting population numbering about 250. The settlers being nearly all from the Eastern States, and, chiefly, from New England, renders it almost unnecessary to write anything on the position of Wabaunsee in the struggle for freedom. The historian, however, in gathering material for history, much write for the future as well as for the present, and must not omit to write of things, merely because the subject matter upon which he writes is well known to people who are contemporaneous with himself. The manner in which Wabaunsee County responded to the call of the nation for men, to put down the Rebellion, constitutes one of the brightest pages in its history, and deserves to be recorded in indelible letters, so that if the occasion ever arises, when like services may be required, the noble example of her sons may be followed by those who come after them. There were probably not over two hundred men in the county, subject to military duty, at the commencement of the War of the Rebellion. Of this number, the following enlisted in the Union Army and went into active service in the infantry regiments:

Second Infantry. Company B. -- E. C. D. Lines, A. M. Reed, A. Hankimmer, H. L. Isbell, M. C. Welch, I. C. Isbell.

Eighth Infantry. Company E. -- Capt. John Greelish, Wm. Richardson, R. M. Kendall, Wm. Blankenslip, Ephraim Smith, J. P. Kendall, J. B. Bancks, G. W. Barnes, L. P. Cawkins, Charles Cooney, J. H. Dunmire, Henry Harvey, T. O. Hill, T. Ingersoll, L. D. Johnson, Henry Naegilli, Josiah Richards, Daniel Spear, John Wells, S. Bickford, Charles Burns, J. H. Cummings, Henry Grimm, A. W. Harris, Z. Johnson, J. W. Johnston, Henry Lutz, Amos Reese, A. J. Smith, S. J. Spear, John Saylor, F. M. Weaver.

The following enlisted in the cavalry service: Second Cavalry. Company A. -- W. C. Studibaker; Company B -- James Dickson; Company F -- Charles Ross, W. B. Doty, G. W. Eddy, G. F. Hartwell, A. S. Waters, S. B. Easter, Eli Watson; Company K -- C. E. Bisby, Columbus Foster, A. H. Kelsey. Fifth Cavalry. Company A -- Hamilton David; Company L -- B. C. Benedict. Sixth Cavalry. Company F -- Joseph Weisse, E. W. Wetzold. Eight Cavalry. Company E. Haynie Thompson. Eleventh Cavalry. Company E -- Benj. Cripps, Ira Hodgson, A. D. McCoy, Geo. Hodgson, I. H. Isbell, G. H. Hill, A. H. Brown, J. N. Smith, George Ross, Riley Frizzie, Albert Kees, Wm. Mahan, W. F. Isbell, W. H. Lapham, L. J. Mossman, Samuel Sage, C. G. Town, Samuel Woods; Company G -- J. F. Chapman, T. S. St John, J. V. B. Thomson; Company K -- Capt. J. M. Allen, Lieut. J. M. Hubbard, J. H. Pinkerton, J. B. Allen, Moritz Krauz, D. Schwanke, P. C. Pinkerton, W. A. Limbocker, Henry Grimm, S. H. Fairfield, Albert Dieball, G. D. Ensign, Isaac Fenn, Edward Hoffman, Jacob Isler, Hiram Keyes, A. T. McCormick, John McNair, Sebast. Nehring, G. Siegrist, R. M. Widney, Wm. Wiley, R. P. Blain, R. J. Earl; Company L -- Lieut. J. Van Antwerp, J. T. Green, G. B. Cotton, E. A. Kelsey, Wm. Smith, John Smith; Company M -- John N. Doty.

For 112 men to enlist and voluntarily go to the war out of a total of 200 subject to military duty is an example of patriotism, fully equal to the Spartan age, and which places Wabaunsee County high up on the roll of honor in the terrible four years' conflict for liberty.


The growth of the county in population has not been rapid, nor is this to be wondered at, when it is borne in mind that less than one half of the county is adapted to farming purposes, and not even this much, except in unusually rainy seasons, and that it is only a little more than a decade since one-fourth of the county has been open to settlement. Added to these is the other fact that, until the latter part of 1881, the county was without any railroad facilities whatever, and the one that traverses it now, being only a branch of the A. T. & S. Fe, running north and south from manhattan on the north, to Burlingame on the south, a distance of fifty-five miles, offers none of those advantages that tend to encourage immigration. Considering these circumstances, its growth has increased about as rapidly as could reasonably be expected. The following table will show its increase during the last twenty year:(sic)

Year      Population      Increase
1860         1,023              ----
1870         3,362             2,339
1875         4,649             1,287
1878         5,386               737
1880         8,757             3,371
Total increase in twenty years 7,734

The material growth of the county has more than kept pace with the growth in population, as will be seen from the following figures:

The acreage of field crops in 1872 was...........32,401
 "     "    "    "     "   "  1881  " ...........83,973
                Increase in nine years...........51,572

         Value of field products in 1877....$391,562.92
           "   "    "      "     "  1878.... 390,522.65
           "   "    "      "     "  1881.... 717,130.25

It will be observed by these figures that the value of the crop for 1881 is almost as much as that of 1877-78 combined, while if we compare the acreage, we find that in 1877 it was 46,147.25, and in 1878 it was 52,430.00, making a total for the two years of 98,577.25, or 14,604.25 more than the acreage for 1881, while the value of the product of the latter is nearly equal to that of the other two years, the difference in value representing only about $4.40 per acre of the aggregated acreage of the two years over that of 1881. This is a accounted for by the fact that 1877 was a tolerably good year for crops, while the crop of 1878 was exceedingly short; but on the other hand the crop of 1881 was considered very far from an average. If we look at a cause for this great difference, we will find it in the market price for these products for the various years, so that the material growth of the county cannot be measured by the value of its property, but by the improvements made upon realty and the increased accumulations of stock and other personal property. When we come to compare the increase in farm animals, then we begin to see evidences of material prosperity. In 1874, the value of farm animals was $20,019.00, whereas in 1881 it was $149,880.00, an increase in seven years of $89,861.00 (sic) In 1874 the products of livestock were valued at $142,108.47, in 1881 at $283,405.10, an increase of $141,296.73 (sic) In 1874, the value of horticultural products was $5,416.18, in 1881 it was $17,611.36, an increase of $12,148.18. The total valuation of products of 1881 in Wabaunsee County was $1,171,064.71, being an increase from 1874 of $759,361.48. The total assessed value of property, March 1, 1881, was $2,109,705.86, and the real valuation was $3,516,176.45, and the total value of all property was $4,687,241,16. The value per capita of products of was $149.89, and that of all assessed property was $438.04, while the per capita value of products and assessed property combined was $583.93. During the year ending March 1, 1881, there were erected in the county 104 farm dwellings, which were valued at $29,391. The number of acres sowed to wheat in 1881 was 14,862; rye, 861; spring wheat, 1,077; corn, 40,851; oats, 2,082; buckwheat, 50; Irish potatoes, 951; sweet potatoes, 58; sorghum, 202; castor beans, 18; flax, 785; hemp, 2; tobacco, 10; broom corn, 26; rice corn, 309; pearl millet, 62; millet and hungarian, 2,951; timothy, 59; prairie pasture, 7,895; clover, 90; prairie meadow grass, 10,681; making a grand total of 83,973 acres cultivated in 1881, irrespective of gardens. in 1881 there were in the county 335,784 rods of fence, or 1,083 miles. Of this 13,859 roods sic were of boards; 48,663 rods were rail; 72,317 rods were stone; 53,122 rods were hedge; 147,824 rods were wire, and the aggregate value of the whole was $346,618.55. As to quantity, stone occupies the second place, from which may be inferred the stony character of the soil, and it is no unusual thing to see stretches of stone fence extending for miles in length. If the position of Wabaunsee County is taken as to the rank it occupies, when compared with other counties of the State, relative to acreage of wheat, corn, and cultivated area in 1881, and also as to the number of farm animals, a better understanding may be had, not only of its material growth, but also as to the nature and character of the land, and those industries to which the county is best adapted. The rank of the county in the acreage of wheat was 48; in corn, 54; in cultivated area, 56; in horses, 33; in mules and asses, 56; in milch cows, 7; in other cattle, 18; in sheep, 41; and in swine, 50. These figures show at a glance, that the peculiar characteristics of the county are its extensive pastures and nutritious grasses. By the return of the assessors of the various townships furnished to the County Clerk, but not yet published, and which furnish the latest statistics as to the condition of the county, bringing them up to March 1, 1882, we find the number of acres to be enclosed in farms to be 200,855, and the number of acres under cultivation to be 89,000, which is an increase of 5,027 acres over the previous year. We also find that the number of acres sown to wheat was 13,841; to rye, 1,685; to corn, 38,361; to oats, 4,656; to Irish potatoes, 735; to sweet potatoes, 23; to sorghum, 225; to flax, 674; to millet and Hungarian, 3,060; to timothy, 49; to clover, 70; and the prairie grass under fence, 25,547. The tons of tame hay cut during the same year were 1,585; prairie hay, 44,542. The value of garden products marketed was $3,646; the value of poultry and eggs sold during the year was $9,769; the pounds of cheese manufactured in the factories and families was 236,458. The number of horses in the county, according to the same returns, was 5,535; mules and asses, 361; milch cows, 8,808; other cattle, 18,009; sheep, 5,937; and swine, 9,078. The value of animals slaughtered and sold for slaughter was $248,018, and the amount of wool clipped was 17,516 pounds. The number of apple trees in bearing was 22,981, and the number not in bearing, 60,825; number of pear trees in bearing, 848, and not in bearing 1,551; peach trees in bearing, 50,747; not in bearing, 32,282; plum trees in bearing, 853, not in bearing 958; cherry trees in bearing, 7,607, and not in bearing, 8,519. When all the circumstances connected with the history of the county are considered, it cannot but be admitted that the material prosperity of the county has been all, and more than all, than could have been reasonably expected.

Wabaunsee will never be a very populous county, for the reason that fully seventy-five percent of the soil is much better adapted to stock-raising purposes than to agriculture. The higher uplands of the county being unfit for farming, settlers will not locate thereon, consequently, settlement will be limited to the bottom lands along the streams, the lower level lands, and the towns. On some slopes, good wheat can be raised in ordinary seasons, but unless there is an abundance of rain, corn cannot be planted and cultivated with any hope of securing a crop, and this will have a tendency to limit settlers to the localities above mentioned. Manufacturing can never be carried on to any extent in the county, if at all, because its water privileges are not of a character to warrant their establishment, and the scarcity of timber and absence of coal would render steam power too expensive, and in addition to these there is no natural material to manufacture. The natural adaptability of the county is for stock-raising; agriculture, horticulture, and arboriculture might be pursued advantageously and profitably. Trees of all kinds grow very rapidly, and, if properly cared for, Wabaunsee County might be made a forest. For the purposes to which nature has adapted it, agriculture and stock-raising, but few, if any surpass it, cattle ranges, embracing miles in extent, and covered with rich, nutritious grasses, abound in the county, capable of supporting as many herds as can conveniently find room to roam over them. Besides this there is an abundance of pure, clean water, so that stock-raising can be carried on with very little trouble, and at comparatively small expense. It presents a grand field for dairying and cheese-making, and with better facilities for reaching the leading markets, there is no reason why these industries should not be extensively pursued. The future may, and doubtless will, open up various branches of industry, of an agricultural nature, which present circumstances will not admit of, but though the people of the county may be rich in flocks and herds, and their granaries be filled to repletion with the choicest products of the soil, and though that contentment which is the offspring of smiling plenty may surround every hearthstone, yet nature has so formed Wabaunsee that it will never become a thickly populated county.

Up to 1880, there was not a foot of railway within the borders of the county. Completely hemmed in by railroads, but yet without the benefit of any, was the condition of Wabaunsee County until 1880. During this year the A. T. & S. Fe Railway company built a branch road from manhattan on the K. P. R. R., to a point on its main line named Burlingame, a distance of fifty-five miles. This branch runs through the county from the northwest to the southeast, and for this poor privilege the people of the county voted the company $140,000. Indications, however, point to the early completion of an east and west line running westward from Leavenworth, through Topeka, and along the Mill Creek Valley, through Wabaunsee County. The line has been surveyed, the contract for its construction let, and the road is already almost completed to the east line of the county. This line once running, through the county, Wabaunsee will be supplied with ample railway facilities, which will be the opening to the people of a new era of progress and prosperity.



The educational interests of the county receive great and close attention, and the people pay cheerfully, all the taxes imposed upon them for their support. The growth in schools has advanced more rapidly than any other interest in the county. Prior to 1859, the year in which the county was organized, there were but four schoolhouses in the county, all of which were built by private subscription. In considering the growth of the schools, it must be borne in mind that up to 1868, one fourth of the county was without white settlement, except by a few men who had intermarried with the Indians. There are now (1882) sixty-three schoolhouses in the county, located among the different townships as follows: Kaw Township, four schoolhouses, all frame; Wabaunsee, six, of which five are of stone, and one frame; Maple Hill, five, of which four are frame and one stone; Newbury, eight, of which one is log, six frame, and one stone; Alma, one stone; Washington, five, four stone and one frame; Farmer, four, three stone and one frame; Mill Creek, four, three stone and one frame; Mission Creek, seven, four frame and three stone; Wilmington, thirteen, seven stone and six frame; Rock Creek, six, four frame and two stone. The total number of school children enrolled in the county in 1881, was 2,306, of whom 1,238 were males, and 1,098 were females. The average daily attendance during the same year was: males, 591, females, 529; making a total of 1,120. This is not a fair criterion, however, of the number of pupils that attended school during the year, as in the winter season, the attendance was about three times as large as during the summer months. The number of children in the county between the ages of five and twenty-one years, in 1881, was 3,3211, of which number, the males were 1,707, and the females 1,504. The average wages paid teachers for the same year was: males, $33.20 per month, and females, $27.34. If these rates of wages are compared with those in 1860, it will be found that they have nearly doubled. The average wages paid in 1860 was $16 per month, whereas in 1881, the average paid male teachers was $33.20, and females, $27.34, which shows, certainly, a very liberal advance. The schools are well supplied with desks, blackboards, maps, charts, globes, and other apparatus, and the grounds of many of them are beautifully ornamented with shade and other varieties of trees. The present superintendent of schools is Mr. Matt Thomson.


Congregational. -- Organizations, 3; membership, 290; church edifices, 3; one at Alma, one at Wabaunsee and one at Maple Hill. Pastors -- Alma, Rev. John Scott; Wabaunsee, Rev. H. Gear; Maple Hill, Rev. William S, Crouch.

Baptist. -- Organizations, 2; membership, 140. No resident pastor, and no church building.

Lutheran (German). -- Organizations, 2; membership, 220; church edifices, 2; one at Alma, and one at Wells Creek. Pastors -- Alma, Rev. H. C. Senne; Wells Creek, Rev. William Lang.

Evangelical (German). -- Organizations, 2; membership, 125; church edifices, 2; one Alma and one at Wells Creek. Pastor for both churches, Rev. Mr. Welky.

Christian. -- Organizations, 3; membership, 175.

Methodist Episcopal. -- Organizations, 11; membership, 340; church edifices, 3; one at Alma, one at Eskridge, and one in Newbury Township. Pastors -- Alma, Rev. Josephus Collins; Eskridge, Rev. W. E. Glenndenning.

Presbyterian. -- Organizations, 1; membership, 22.

Society of Friends. -- Organizations, 1; membership, nearly 100; church edifices, one in Wilmington Township.

Roman Catholic. -- Organizations, 2; membership, 450; which includes the entire catholic population; church edifices, 2; one at Alma and one at Newbury. Rev. Father Hundhausen, who resides at Alma, officiates as pastor for both churches.

Nearly every church organization in the county conducts a Sabbath-school in connection therewith, and to these and to church matters generally the people give a good deal of attention. The first Church built in the county was the Congregational at Wabaunsee, by the members of the "Beecher Rifle Company" in 1856, by money furnished by parties in Connecticut; and the first minister who held services within its walls, was Rev. Harvey Jones, who remained its pastor for several years. It was a frame building, but in 1862 the frame was moved away and a very fine stone edifice was erected where it stood. The first preacher that occupied the pulpit of the Congregational Church in Alma was Rev. Harvey Jones, although before the building was erected, services had occasionally been held by Rev. Darius Scott, who was the first minister that ever preached in the city of Alma.

[TOC] [part 5] [part 3] [Cutler's History]