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


[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]


This is the shire town of the county, or the county-seat. Had it not been for the severance of territory by which (sic) the northwest and southwest corners of what constituted the county as originally established, Alma would be very near the geographical center of the county. It is located on the north side of Mill Creek on the side of the rising ground as it ascends from the valley. The rise upon which the town is built is not abrupt, but rises gradually towards the west, and when beyond the limits of the corporation the ground makes another dip until it rises in still higher hills farther west. Viewing the town from the hills on the east side of the creek, Alma seems to sit in a valley. Looking down from these hills, the course of the stream can be seen through the timber; beyond the stream is the valley, on the west side of which is visible the track of the Santa Fe railway, and still beyond this the town commences. There are hills to the north, south, east, and west of it, and the perspective is not bad, viewed from a distance. To the northeast of town can be seen the tower of the salt works, while to the northwest, considerably elevated, stands the public schoolhouse, which is built of stone, is two stories high and of considerable dimensions. A short reference here as to the manner in which the town originally started may not be out of place. Taking advantage of an old law which existed in territorial days, by which a number of persons could form themselves into what was known as a "town company," and claim one hundred and sixty acres as a town site, a number of individuals in St. Louis organized themselves into such a company and sent Gottlieb Zwanziger out to Wabaunsee County to select a town claim. This was in 1857, Mr. Zwanziger selected for the company one hundred and sixty acres of land, a part of which is now embraced in the present corporate limits of Alma. To make these town claims good, the law required that the company by which a town site was selected should make certain improvements, by way of putting in buildings at a certain time, in default of which their claim was forfeited.

The St. Louis company having allowed its claim to go by default, Mr. Zwanziger entered a claim in which was embraced eighty acres of the tract which had originally been selected by the company of St. Louis as a town site. After having secured his claim, Mr. Zwanziger set off forty acres for prospective town purposes. Nothing, however, was done towards building a town until after Alma became the county seat in November, 1866. Shortly after the change in the county seat was effected, an association of citizens of Alma Township was formed, their object being to take steps towards building a town. The forty acre plot which had been set aside by Mr. Zwanziger was purchased of him by the Alma association, two hundred dollars being the price paid. The association then engaged Mr. Zwanziger to survey the tract and lay it off into streets, blocks, and lots. The town as thus surveyed and laid off became the stock of the association, which was divided into shares, each member taking so many shares and each share representing twenty-five dollars. Up to this time there was not a single house on the town site, notwithstanding the fact that it had been made the county seat. The lots were offered at sale and from the proceeds first derived therefrom a frame building was erected on the southeast corner of Main and Missouri streets in which to transact the county business, and this was the first building put up in the town. About the same time that the building was put up for county purposes, a smaller one was built for the county clerk's office, a little south from the county building. These buildings were put up late in 1866. The next building put up in the town was the "Alma Hotel," which was built by John Winkler in the spring of 1867. It was erected on Missouri street nearly opposite the county building, and was of good proportion for a town without inhabitants. Mr. Winkler's wife was the first lady settler in Alma, and their son, Robert, was the first child born within the city limits. These three buildings constituted the nucleus of the present city of Alma. In 1868 it was incorporated as a village by the county commissioners, upon petition of the residents who then numbered about twenty. By the, then, law of the State the granting of licenses to sell liquor was left to the county commissioners, but in cities, towns and villages it was left to the corporate authorities. As the commissioners were opposed to granting liquor licenses, the object of having Alma incorporated as a village was to take the licensing power out of their hands and place it in the hands of the village council. The members of the first village council were S. R. Weed, chairman; August Meryor, Henry Schmidt, John Winkler, and Herman Dicker. S. R. Weed also acted as police judge, and N. H. Whitmore was attorney for the council. Up to 1871, the growth of the town was very slow, but in February of that year another contest for the county-seat took place which resulted in favor of Alma. Greater faith in the future being now established, its growth became more rapid, and, though comparatively slow, was steady. The county-seat question being settled in favor of Alma, the people of the town donated to the county four lots, and agreed to erect a stone court house at a cost of not less than $6,000, upon condition that the county-seat should not be changed for twenty-one years; but in the event it should be, then the building and the lots should revert to the people of Alma. The proposition was accepted, and in 1872 a very fine stone court house was erected at the cost of $8,000. Of this amount $4,000 was raised by private subscription and the balance was paid by Alma Township. The next buildings of importance that went up in order of time, were the schoolhouse, which was erected in 1875, which is a fine, commodious structure two stories high and built of stone; the Catholic Church commenced in 1874, and completed in 1877, a very fine stone edifice; The German Lutheran, quite a large stone building and built in 1878; the Methodist Church, frame, erected in 1878; the German Evangelical Church, stone, built in 1881; and the Congregational Church, frame, constructed in 1881. In 1875 a party prospecting for coal commenced boring just outside the corporation line, and when down to a depth of 586 feet struck water strongly impregnated with salt. Upon this discovery being made a company was organized to establish salt works. The brine was of very superior quality and excellent salt was made from it; but owing to the high price of fuel, which rendered it impossible to carry on the works to paying advantage, after running at intervals for several years the works finally ceased operation in the spring of 1882. One chief drawback to the town, and, in fact, to the county, has been, that up until 1880 there was not a foot of railway in the county. The nearest railway point to Alma was Manhattan, in Riley County, distant about twenty miles and situated on the north side of the Kansas River. In 1880 the A. T. & S. F. company built a railway diagonally across the county from northwest to southeast which runs within a few rods of the business portion of Alma. From this the town received quite an impetus, and since that time building has been carried on quite rapidly. The mercantile business of the place consists of four dry goods and clothing stores, one clothing and hardware, two hardware, two drug stores, one millinery establishment, one furniture store, one bank, one harness shop, two lumber yards, and two hotels, the "Winkler House" being the most commodious and best appointed. Most buildings are of stone, of which there is an endless supply in the vicinity and easily obtained. There are no manufacturing establishments in the city and its business is entirely supported by the farming community located up and down the valley, and from the farmers of Farmer and Washington Townships. Alma remained a village until February, 1871, when by an act of the Legislature it became a city of the third class, its first mayor being S. R. Weed. The census of 1880 showed the population of Alma to be 329, and it is now (1182) estimated at a little over 400, which would give it a gain of about 80 in two years. The first store built and opened in Alma was by Schmitz and Meyer in 1867, and the first school opened was in 1868, with Mr. Rush as teacher.

The first issue of the Wabaunsee County News was made at Alma, April 1, 1869, by A. Sellars, and G. W. Bertram as editors and proprietors. It was then known as the Wabaunsee County Herald. Bertram sold his interest to S. H. Fairfield October 1, 1869, who became one of its editors and proprietors, and who, in March, 1871, became the sole proprietor by purchasing the interest held by Sellers. After Mr. Fairfield had gained full control of the paper he changed its name to the Alma Union, and Rev. R. M. Trumbull became principal editor, which position he held until December 1, 1871. On May 1, 1872, Fairfield re-sold to Sellers, who became sole editor and proprietor, and by whom the name of the paper was again changed to the Wabaunsee County News, under which it has been regularly issued since that time. About the time Mr. Sellers re-purchased the paper, he transferred a half interest in it to his brother, George Sellers, and it has remained in their possession from that time until now. The paper is a weekly and is issued on Wednesday of each week. Its circulation is between 700 and 800, and it is devoted chiefly to the interests of Alma and Wabaunsee County. In politics it is Republican.

The Land Mark was the next paper that made its appearance as a county paper, and was started by E. H. Sandford in the spring of 1871, who was the sole editor and proprietor. In the spring of 1874 the office and material were moved to Alma, where the paper was issued regularly until November, when it was moved back to Eskridge and soon thereafter the publication of the Land Mark was discontinued. The Alma Blade, was the next paper to spring into existence in the county and was started March 1, 1877, by R. Cunningham & Co. It was short-lived and expired in February, 1878. The Home Weekly was started in Alma, in October, 1881, with W. W. Cone editor. Its publication was continued at Alma until the spring of 1882, when the office was moved to Eskridge where it has been published and issued regularly each week since that time. It is a six column folio sheet, devoted to general news and the interests of Eskridge chiefly, and the county generally. It is Republican in politics, and has a circulation of between 400 and 500.

The Congregational Church of Alma is the oldest Protestant Church in the place. It was organized in 1875. It is a thriving society. Rev. John Scott is the present pastor.

Alma Lodge, No. 161, A. F. & A. M., organized 1874. Its first officers were: L. J. McCrumb, W. M.; Robert Minnas, S. W.; John W. Taylor, J. W.; John C. McElvain, Treas.; H. G. Licht, Sec.; Ed. Herrick, S. D.; S. H. Fairfield, J. D.; Joseph W. Bishop, Tyler. Present Officers: Freed Crafts, W. M.; J. T. Keary (sic), S. W.; J. L. Fix, J. W.; H. G. Licht, Sec.; F. C. Simon, Treas.; Charles Ross, Treas.; (sic) T. R. McElroy, J. D.; Ed. Herrick, Tyler. Present membership: twenty-five.

Alma Lodge, I. O. O. F., organized May, 1880, with twenty-eight members. First officers: Andrew Lang, N. G.; William Shubert, V. G.; Charles Weaver, R. S.; Dr. Green, P. S.; T. N. Watts, W.; Henry Weygand, Con.; Joseph Fields, Treas. Present membership, sixty. Present officers, N. G., G. M. Keine; V. G., J. M. Eck; R. S., Matt Thomson; P. S., C. M. Rose; Treas., Charles Ross; Warden, W. T. Mahan; Conductor, J. B. Cassady.

Alma Lodge, No. 76, organized June, 1881, with twelve members. Officers: P. M., W. H. G. Licht; M. W., D. M. Gardner; F., Dr. T. N. Watts; Rec., J. M. Eck; Fin., A. F. Adabold; Treas., S. H. Fairfield. Present membership, nineteen.

Edward Lyon, No. 29, organized October, 1881, with twenty members. Officers: J. C. Keagy, P. C.; S. F. Wright, S. V. C.; Fred Crafts, J. V. C.; E. A. Kilson, Adjt.; Joseph Fields, Q. M.; W. T. Mahan, O. of D.; M. W. Rock, O. of G., S. M. Gregory, S. M.; Albert Diebold, Q. M. S.; S. H. Fairfield, Chaplain.


DAVID R. BRAMAN, J. P., was born in Avon, Lorain Co., Ohio, in 1828, and for upwards of a quarter of a century was a sailor on the great Lakes; for many years owner and commander of the schooner American Eagle. In 1861, he married Miss Elizabeth W. Aldrich, of Dover, Ohio. Mr. Braman was Justice of the Peace of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, for four years. His home for many years, was within a short distance of Cleveland, where he owned and rented a fine farm, but in March, 1876, he removed to Alma, where he has built him a substantial stone residence. Besides several building lots in Alma Township, Mr. Braman owns a thousand acres of upland. He was elected to the office which he now so ably fills in march, 1882.

JAMES CARROLL, attorney, was born in 1844, in the town of Belleville, Ontario, and while yet an infant, his parents removed to Sidney, Shelby County, Ohio. Upon completing his education, Mr. Carroll entered upon the study of law with Messrs. Martin & McKercher, of Sidney, but in 1864, he enlisted in Columbus, Ohio, in Company F, Forty-seventh Ohio Volunteer Infantry, participating with his regiment in active service, and being taken prisoner (while suffering from a fractured ankle), by the rebels near Goldsboro, N. C. He was three months confined in Salisbury, N. C., and Augusta, Ga., and was liberated at the close of the war, when he returned to Ohio, and, resuming his studies was admitted to the bar in 1876, at Lima, Ohio. He located in Alma in 1879, and has since continued to practice his profession. Mr. Carroll is a member of the Lyons Post No. 76, G. A. R., and also of Alma Lodge, No. 170, I. O. O. F.

GEORGE G. CORNELL, County Attorney, was born in 1828, in North Bristol, Ontario Co., N. Y. Studied for the legal profession, and graduated from the State National Law School at Poughkeepsie, and in 1856, commenced practice in Canandaigua, N. Y. In 1863, he removed to Carbondale, Ill., where his brother Alanson B. Cornell was associated with him as a partner under the firm name of Cornell Brothers. They removed to Iowa City in 1865, remaining there several years when the junior partner took charge of a Chicago branch of the firm. In 1876, the Iowa City office was closed, and the partnership dissolved two years later. The subject of this memoir located in Alma, in 1878 resuming the practice of his profession, and in 1880 was elected County Attorney, which office he still retains. Upon the breaking out of the war, before any government bounties were offered, Mr. Cornell and his three brothers, Eugene, Alanson B., and Stephen raised and equipped two full companies of Infantry, in Ontario and Livingston Counties, N. Y. Messrs. E. and A. B. Cornell entered the field as Captains and Stephen as Lieutenant of troops so raised. Eugene, the youngest, was killed in the battle of Antietam, while leading on his men to the last charge made upon the enemy, in that great battle.

FRED CRAFTS, postmaster, is a native of Plymouth, Mass., having been born there in 1835, and graduated from Boston High School. Eight years of his early life were spent at sea. Mr. Crafts came to Kansas in 1858, locating in Ogden, Riley county, where he resided for seventeen years; previous to the war he was engaged in farming, subsequently engaging in the drug business. In June, 1875, he came to Alma, and has since resided here, carrying on business as druggist and pharmacist, and in 1879, was appointed postmaster, which office he still holds. In 1861, he enlisted in Leavenworth in Company G, Fourth Kansas (subsequently the Tenth Regiment), in which he served thirteen months, and then was mustered out in order to receive his commission as First Lieutenant. He was subsequently appointed Captain in the Indian Brigade, serving with distinction, and participating in all engagements of the brigade until the close of the war. He is a member of the Lyons Post G. A. R.

PETER DEGAN, hotel keeper, was born in the town of Muchlham, Rhine Province, Prussia, in 1841, and with his parents came to America in 1846, settling in Dodge County, Wis. His father being a farmer, he assisted him until twenty-two years of age, when he enlisted in Fond du Lac, Wis., in Company A, Seventeenth Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers, and remained in the regiment one year, being mustered out on account of ill-health. Upon leaving the army he located for a time in Seward County, Mo., finally removing to Alma in 1869, and locating upon section 9, which he still owns. In 1873, he built the hotel known as "The Germania Hall," a stone structure on the corner of Main and Missouri streets. In 1866, Mr. Degan married Miss Barbara Dumbach in Mankato, Minn., by whom he has five children living. Mr. Degan is not a member of any organization, civil or military. and has never taken any interest in politics.

E. W. ELDRIDGE, M. D., is a native of Bristol, Elkhart County, Ind., studied medicine in the Cincinnati College of Medicine and Surgery, Cincinnati, Ohio, from which he graduated in 1879, locating in Alma in 1880; his practice is considerable. He has recently married. The Doctor is a member of Alma Lodge No. 170, I. O. O. F., and of Alma Lodge No. 76, A. O. U. W.

S. H. FAIRFIELD, Register of Deeds, was born September 4, 1833, in Middleton, Essex Co., Mass. When fifteen years of age, he bought his time of his parents, and in 1856. left New England for Illinois, remaining during the summer of that year in Mendon, Adams County. While there, Lawrence, Kan., was sacked and burned by the border ruffians. Mr. Fairfield with five others started in August for the scene of strife, via Tabor, Iowa, where a company of 100 men were gathered under the command of James Redpath. They reached Kansas in September, 1856. The company were disarmed by United States troops on reaching the Territory. Fairfield selected a claim near Wabaunsee, which he immediately proceeded to enclose and improve. After four years of hardships incident to pioneer life at that period, he returned to Tabor, Iowa, where he married Miss M. H. Burt. Returning to Kansas, he was in 1861, elected door keeper of the State Senate, and also of the High Court of Impeachment. He took an active part in the Sunday-school and other Christian work, and assisted in organizing the first Congregational Church in Wabaunsee, of which the Rev. Harvey Jones was pastor. September 1861, he enlisted in Company K, Eleventh Kansas Volunteers, and was mustered in at Fort Leavenworth two weeks later; he was detailed as clerk at regimental headquarters, subsequently being assigned to duty as postmaster of his Division, and the Army of the Border, and in 1863, had entire charge of the Military Mail in Kansas City for Missouri, Kansas and Colorado. In 1864, he rejoined the company, the regiment then being cavalry, and served as corporal until 1865, when he was detailed as clerk in the Quartermaster's Department of the Frontier. Returned to his company at Horse Shoe, Wyoming Territory, in the same year, and remained while engaged in subduing the hostile Indian tribes of the plains, being mustered out at Fort Leavenworth, September 15, 1866. While in the army, he participated in the battles of Marysville, Cane Hill, Prairie Grove, Van Buren, Lexington, and the Big Blue. At the close of the war, he returned to Wabaunsee. Three of his brothers and his father were in the army, as were also two of his brothers-in-law, one of the latter being killed and one dying from starvation in a rebel prison. With wife and children, he again commenced the battle of life, and in November, 1865, was elected Clerk of Wabaunsee County. In 1867, he removed to Alma, which had become the county-seat. He was appointed treasurer ad interim, and in 1867 was elected Treasurer of the county; was re-elected in 1869; also elected Register of Deeds, which latter office he still retains. Mr. Fairfield was editor and proprietor of the Alma Union for two years. He contributed literally to, and took an active interest in, the building of the court house; also in the building of the Congregational Church, of which he was the first Sunday-school superintendent. He has 400 acres of excellent land under cultivation, owns two residences and lots in the town of Alma, and has a quarter interest in the town of Fairfield. He is largely engaged in real estate and loaning business. Mr. Fairfield is a member of Lyon Post, G. A. R., and charter member of Alma Lodge No. 176 A. F. and A. M. Member of Alma Lodge, I. O. O. F., and a charter member of Lodge No. 76, A. O. U. W.

JOSEPH FIELDS, P. O. Alma, has always been a farmer, and has proven himself a very successful one. He was born February 21, 1832, in Belmont County, Ohio. In June, 1856, he married Miss Martha E. Johnson, of Kentucky, by whom he has had eleven children, ten of whom are living, the eldest being Mrs. A Walton, of Harveyville, this county; Charles D. Fields, now twenty-four years of age, is associated with his father as a partner, while Jeremiah is at present studying civil engineering at Washburn College. Mr. Fields experienced many hardships and struggles in his early life. Coming to this State without a dollar, he first located upon Dragoon Creek, this county, and, in 1875, removed to Alma Township. He now owns the whole of one Section, 230 acres being under cultivation, his average yield of wheat being twenty-five bushels to the acre. Has 125 head of cattle, 17 horses and 550 sheep. In 1880 he built a substantial and commodious stone residence, situated one mile from the town of Alma, which, together with his outbuildings and grain in stack, is fully insured. In 1862, he enlisted at Camp Dennison in Company D, One Hundred and Seventy-ninth Ohio Volunteers, but was discharged in the following February, on account of sickness. Immediately upon his recovery he became a member of Company B, Capt. Talbot, One Hundred and Forty-ninth Regiment O. S. N. G., and responded with his regiment to the call to arms in 1864, participating in all the engagements of his regiment until made Quartermaster's Clerk, in which department he remained until mustered out with his regiment by Gen. Sheridan, at Bolivar Heights. Mr. Field was treasurer of Wilmington Township for three years, has served four years as County Treasurer, and is at present a Trustee of Alma Township. Mr. Fields is Quartermaster of Lyon Post, G. A. R., and D. G. M. of the I. O. O. F., and a charter member of Lodge No. 76, A. O. U. W., and has always contributed liberally to all charitable and patriotic movements, ever taking a deep interest in the welfare of his adopted State.

DAVID M. GARDNER was born in New York City, July 4, 1850. His father, David Gardner, was a native of New Hampshire and a prominent citizen of that State, being largely interested in the iron manufacturing interest of New York City. In the year 1863, David M. Gardner settled in Bureau County, Ill., remaining in that county until the fall of 1869, when he moved to Wabaunsee County, Kansas, locating on Section 14, Township 13, Range 12, Mission Creek Township. November 23, 1873, he married Mattie S. Crandall, the oldest daughter of J. S. Crandall, of Wabaunsee County, Kansas. In the spring of 1874, he was elected to the office of Township Clerk, which position he held for three years. In 1877 he was elected sheriff of the county, which office he held until 1881, when he was elected o the office of County Clerk, which position he now fills. He moved to Alma, the county-seat of Wabaunsee County, in the year 1877. He is a charter member of Alma Lodge, No. 170, I. O. O. F., and P. W. M. of Lodge No. 76, A. O. U. W.

A. W. GREGORY, Deputy Clerk of United States Court, is a native of Syracuse, Onondaga County, N. Y., born in 1837, and is of Scotch descent. In 1853 he removed to Fulton City, Ill., where he remained until 1859, when he located on Section 32, Township 11, Range 10, in what was then Wabaunsee but is now Alma Township. His farm consists of 260 acres, nearly all of which are under cultivation. In 1864 he enlisted in Manhattan, in Company L, Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, his company being immediately assigned to assist in subduing the hostile tribes of Indians, and at the close of the war was discharged (1865) with rank of Sergeant. Mr. Gregory was Justice of the Peace in Wabaunsee County, 1862-63, and again from 1874 to the present time. He was Clerk of the United States District Court, 1874- 76; at present is Deputy Clerk of said court. Mr. Gregory is a member of Alma Post, G. A. R.

[TOC] [part 6] [part 4] [Cutler's History]