produced this selection.

William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas
was first published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.


PART 1: Location and Natural Features | Map and Population | Early History | First Events | Indian Troubles | Political Organization and Elections
PART 2: Schools, Etc. | Washington City
PART 3: Hanover City | Clifton | Greenleaf | Palmer | Hollenberg | Haddam | Vining | Barnes | Summit (or Linn) | Other Post_Offices


Washington County is fifth in the first tier of counties stretching west from the Missouri River. To the north lay Jefferson and Gage counties, Nebraska; east, Marshall County; south, Riley and Clay counties; west, Republic and Cloud. Washington County is embraced within that fertile territory which lies between the Blue and Republican rivers as they flow southeast into the Kansas River. The Little Blue River pays most particular attention to Washington County, draining, with its branches, all except its southwestern portions. This section, comprising Strawberry, Clifton and Sherman townships, is watered by Parson Creek, East Branch, Peach Creek, and other streams, which flow south into the Republican River. Mill Creek flows east through Mill Creek Township into the Little Blue River; Pierce Creek southeast through portions of Union, Hollenberg and Washington townships into the same; and Coon Creek takes the same general direction through Lincoln Township, and also empties into the Little Blue. The Little Blue proper drains the greater portion of the county included in Hanover, Charleston, Washington and Little Blue townships. Joy Creek, Devil Creek, and other tributaries of the Little Blue in the northern part of the county, serve to further advance its reputation as an abundantly watered section of the State. Springs also abound, good well water being reached all the way from ten to sixty feet. The streams are bordered with timber, the belt averaging from forty rods to half a mile in width. The native varieties are oak, walnut, hickory, elm, cottonwood, ash, locust and elder. Trees have been planted, more or less, throughout the county, the varieties which succeed best being cottonwood, box elder, soft maple, black walnut and elm. The best grazing land is found in the northern part of the county. Nearly 100,000 acres of land are yet in the market, but lands are, to a great extent, in the hands of railroads and speculators. The whole county is thus divided: Bottom land, 8 per cent; upland, 92 per cent; forest (Government survey), 2 per cent; prairie, 98 per cent; average width of bottoms, one-half mile; general surface of the country, undulating.

Washington County contains 900 square miles, being exactly 30 miles square. Of the 532,000 taxable acres of land in the county, less than 28 per cent is under cultivation. Corn and wheat are the great products. Live stock is also a "paying" investment. The herd law has been in force for ten years, and the general sentiment throughout the county is in its favor. Besides farming and stock-raising, horticulture is receiving considerable attention, and excellent varieties of fruits are raised.

Wild fruits grow in plenty, such as plums, strawberries, grapes, raspberries, mulberries and gooseberries. There are five different kinds of native grasses -- the tame, such as timothy, clover, blue grass and alfalfa are successfully grown.

An excellent quality of common and magnesian limestone is found in most parts of the county except the southwestern. Sandstone exists in fair quantities in the eastern, northern and western tiers of townships. At Hollenberg are found fine limestone quarries, while pottery clay is being utilized at Hanover. The few traces of coal which have been discovered have not, so far, led to any valuable results.



                                              |  1870.|  1880.
(a) Charleston Township...................... |  .... |    466
(b) Clifton Township......................... |   713 |  1,590
(c) Hanover Township, including Hanover City. |  .... |  2,108
(d) Hollenberg Township...................... |  .... |    885
(e) Lincoln Township......................... | 1,633 |  1,439
(f) Little Blue Township..................... |  .... |  1,526
(g) Mill Creek Township...................... |   597 |  1,222
(h) Sherman Township......................... |  .... |  2,045
(i) Strawberry Township...................... |  .... |  1,258
(j) Union Township........................... |  .... |    535
(k) Washington Township, incl Washington City | 1,238 |  1,836
                         TOTAL................| 4,081 | 14,910
Hanover City................................. |  .... |    578
Washington City.............................. |  .... |    675
(a) In 1874, from parts of Hanover, Hollenberg and Washington.
(b) In 1870, parts to Sherman and Strawberry.
(c) In 1870, from part of Washington;
    in 1874, part to Charleston.
(d) In 1870, from part of Washington;
    in 1874, part to Charleston.
(e) In 1870, part to Little Blue.
(f) In 1870, from part of Lincoln.
(g) In 1870, part to Union.
(h) In 1870, from part of Clifton.
(i) In 1870, from part of Clifton.
(j) In 1870, from part of Mill Creek.
(k) In 1870, parts to Hanover and Hollenberg;
    in 1874, part to Charleston.


Strictly speaking, the earliest history of Washington County commences in 1542, when Coronado's Expedition marched from Mexico to the northern boundary of Kansas, crossing the Little Blue River near the eastern boundary of Washington County. In 1820, Major Long's expedition crossed that portion of the "Great American Desert" now known as Washington County. A few years thereafter this portion of the State became seamed with roads converging towards Santa Fe, and traders, missionaries and herders repeatedly trod its soil, but not to make it a permanent abiding place. In 1845 the Mormons passed through the county, on their way to their new home in Utah. One of their favorite camping grounds was at "Mormon Springs," on Ash Creek, three miles south of Washington City. Close to these springs is a high rock, composed of red sandstone, upon which were carved the names of many of these Latter Day Saints, with date of their visit. The emigration has now passed on and left no sign behind in this locality.

West of Washington about eight miles, on the old military road, there is still a large sandstone upon which are carved the names of many early settlers. Formerly the Mormon emigrants had inscribed their names thereon, but these traces are now obliterated. The line of the road, however, can be plainly traced through the county, especially northwest of the Little Blue, about the mouth of Sandy Creek, near the Sixth Principal Meridian.

The early history of Washington County proper, however, begins with its first settlement by a white person. In July, 1857, James McNulty came from Iowa with his family and settled in Marysville. Here he spent the summer, fall, and a portion of the winter, but choosing a locality further west, selected a beautiful piece of land about five miles west of the present city of Washington, on Mill Creek. This was in February, 1858. Mr. McNulty returned to Marysville for his family, having erected a cabin for their accommodation--the first building in the county. It was afterwards sold and moved to the head of Turkey Creek, where, in a renovated and improved condition, it is now occupied. When Mr. McNulty returned to Washington Township he brought with him Ralph Ostrander, who settled adjoining him, on what is known as the "Lavering Place."

In May, 1858, Gerat H. Hollenberg, one of the most respected and useful citizens who ever lived in Washington County, settled on the Fort Kearney road and started a ranch which he called "Cottonwood." Mr. Hollenberg was born in Hanover, December 19, 1823, coming to this country and going to California during the gold fever excitement in 1849. He accumulated money, went to Australia with a mining party, returned to New York, started for Kansas and established a ranch on the Black Vermillion, Marshall County, in 1857. In May, 1858, he married his wife and brought her with him to Washington County. For seventeen years, as a private citizen and public officer, Mr. Hollenberg labored for the county's advancement. At one time he was a Representative, and acted as County Commissioner for many years. In 1869 he laid out the city of Hanover, and worked for it night and day. In the summer of 1874, being in poor health, sailed for his native country, but died on passage, July 1, 1874, and was buried in the ocean. A fine monument was erected to his memory in Hanover cemetery upon which is the inscription, which is well merited, "Founder of Hanover and Father of Washington County." John and M. Lott settled near the "Cottonwood" ranch the next year--at least in the same township.

In the spring of 1858 George G. Pierce and D. E. Ballard settled in Washington County, and in the spring of 1859 selected the site of a town, about a mile and one-half north of the center of the county. The location was abandoned the coming fall, however, and the present site chosen in the spring of 1860. In the fall of 1858 Jacob and Daniel Blocker staked their claims on Mill Creek, in the township by that name, being the only settlers west of Washington City, except McNulty and Ostrander. In the winter of 1858-'59 George Foster settled on the place, afterwards bought by James Brown, in Lincoln Township. William Tarbox settled in Little Blue Township, northeast quarter Section 35, in March, 1858, and William Mercer, on the creek which now bears his name, in June. Rufus Darby and M. Woodward, with their families, located near Ballard Crossing, in July, but when the Government survey was made, they found they were upon school lands, and the next year moved up on Mill Creek. In 1858 S. F. Snider, the first Probate Judge of the county and who held the office for several years, first came to this section and built three cabins in the southwestern part of Charleston Township. The next spring Jonathan Snider and S. Stonebreaker located permanently in this vicinity, and S. F. Snider did not "come to stay" until the spring of 1860, when he brought with him John and Richard Bond and Fred Fisher. In the summer of 1859, N. and Peter Eslinger located on Parson's Creek. W. Parson, from whom the creek took its name, settled at Clifton during 1859. The above mentioned comprise the principal settlers who had homes in Washington County, up to the fall of 1859.


In May, 1859, a man named Daniel Sigmun, from Missouri, who had been visiting friends in this section, was found lying dead upon the old Mormon trail, about three miles southeast of Washington. The man was stabbed in the side and shot under the chin. Messrs. E. B. Cook and W. Way had been with William Hemphill, on the Republican river near the bend, assisting Judge Adams to build a ferry-boat so as to make a more direct route between Atchison and Denver. They discovered the body, and at first supposed that Sigmun had committed suicide, the location of the gun-wound seeming to point to that theory. But the grass was found to be trampled around him, and other evidences were discovered of a desperate struggle. Mr. Way feared that he might be suspected of the murder, and a strong suspicion in those days was almost equivalent to a lynching. He therefore left the body where it was and it was buried by some California emigrants. The friends of Mr. Sigmun learning of his fate began their search for the murderer. Two theories were advanced. The same day that Mr. Sigmun was found dead a band of Otoe Indians had passed along the trail, closely pursued by the settlers from Wild Cat Creek from whom they had stolen horses. They might have found the man in their path and killed him. Also, upon the day that Sigmun was found dead, a certain James McCarty had sold his claim on Coon Creek and was traveling the murdered man's way. Many of the settlers decided upon the latter theory, and in June McCarty was arrested. There was, as yet, no officer of justice in the county, but McCarty was arrested and confined in a little log house this side of Waterville. The citizens then induced Rufus Darby, who was every day expecting an appointment as Justice of the Peace, to try the prisoner before a citizens' court. He was not qualified to administer oaths, and consequently the witnesses were not sworn. The testimony, however, was so purely circumstantial, and "lame" at that, that McCarty was discharged by the prospective Justice of the Peace. During the same month Mr. Darby received his appointment, and the suspected murderer was tried again, with a like fortunate result. The trial, the second time, was held at Mr. Darby's house, and the testimony of the defense seemed to prove an alibi, quite strongly. The crowd in attendance was large and highly excited, and had the verdict been different, McCarty, no doubt, would have met the close embrace of "Judge Lynch."

The first preachers, says Dr. Williamson, that visited this county, were Elder Hartford and Elder Robertson, of the Episcopal Methodist Church. On their first advent to Washington, they called at a house about sundown, to stay all night. The men in the house thought it was some of the boys playing a practical joke on them, so the halloed back some some western adjectives. That alarmed our preachers, and they left, starting down Mill Creek. By this time, the proprietor came home and told the boys their mistake. They started out forthwith across the fields to call them back or head them off, but this had the effect of scaring the preachers worse, thinking robbers were after them. They rode out a few miles on the prairie, unsaddled their hosres sic and laid down to sleep supperless. In the morning they started again, and soon came in sight of M. G. Driskell's. After breakfast they went back to Washington, holding a meeting that evening in the log house on the John Penwell farm. This was Brother Hartford's first sermon as a preacher, and the first religious services in Washington county. The next morning Elder Hartford, with a few biscuits in his pocket, started to his work on the Republican, but sundown found him lost and beyond the settlements. Taking the prairie and his saddle-bags for a bed that night, he took a fresh start again at early sunrise. After traveling some fifteen miles, he came to a solitary house, the site of which is now the city of Clay Center. From there he went to Little Mill Creek, his home. This was in the year 1860.


So far as is known no one was ever killed by Indians within the limits of Washington County, but the people of the county, especially during the raids of 1863 and 1864, were often panic-stricken, and twice deserted the county en masse. Until the breaking out of the war, and the denuding of the military forts of troops, the Cheyennes, Arapahoes and other wild tribes were kept in check. They did not claim that their rights were molested as long as settlers kept east of a line drawn from the Great Bend of the Arkansas river to the Republican. As soon, however, as they realized that most of the troops were engaged in other business than keeping them quiet they commenced to make their demonstrations, quarreling with the Otoes and falling upon the whites. In the spring of 1864 bands of Sioux, Cheyennes and Arapahoes appeared along the Little Blue, in Washington and Marshall counties, on the war path -- following the Otoes toward their village. They were armed with bows and arrows, spears and raw-hide shields. They first plundered John Ferguson's house, on Mill Creek; then O. S. Canfield's. They found Mrs. Canfield in the house alone, and a dozen of them outraged her most horrible. Rufus Darby was just returning from Marysville, riding a pony, upon which he had thrown a bag of provisions. He was entirely unarmed, and his feelings may be imagined when he observed fifteen or twenty of the wild-men of the plains dashing along toward him, brandishing their long spears and otherwise conducting themselves like blood-thirsty fiends. They surrounded him quite, grunting savagely, "Pawnees?" asked their prisoner, in fear and trembling, but hoping for the best, "Cheyennes," answered they in chorus, glaring at him savagely. He thought that now his time had surely come, especially as they told him, with a scowl, when he remarked that he was going to his wigwam, "No go wigwam; this way." All except two of the Indians then galloped away in the direction indicated--toward Mr. Hallowell's. sic His provision bag, which had tumbled from his pony, was replaced, and with an Indian guarding him on each side Mr. Darby was silently guided toward the Hallowell sic house. When he arrived he found young Mort Hollowell sic, a stout, plucky young fellow of eighteen, engaged in a hand-to-hand conflict with a Cheyenne brave for the possession of his new Sunday overcoat. The savages had not, so far, offered to take away anything without leaving a buffalo robe in exchange. Young Hallowell sic wanted to keep his coat, and the Cheyenne buck wanted it too. When Mr. Darby came upon the scene the Hollowells sic were so surprised that hostilities ceased, and the Cheyenne warrior darted off in the bushes with his precious plunder. Mr. Darby entered the house, and, seeing a gun standing against the wall, picked it up and fingered it carelessly, not knowing whether it was loaded or not. The Cheyennes, however, took the alarm and scattered pell-mell. The Hallowells sic and Mr. Darby went in pursuit, armed with three guns, and Mortimer recovered his best coat. Although the Darbys and the Hallowells sic escaped luckily, others were not so fortunate. A general panic ensued, and most of the settlers in the county fled south and gathered at the house of Orville Huntress, near the present site of Clay Center. About two hundred people encamped there until the scare was over. Following is Dr. Williamson's account:

"The first place they struck was Mr. Furguson's sic, afterwards Mr. Canfield's, one of the oldest settlers on the Creek, plundering the houses and insulting the women. Traveling on down Mill Creek, in the vicinity of Mr. Wertman's, the Indians took prisoner Rufus Darby. With one on each side of him, armed with spears, they took him down to Washington to the log house of Jesse R. Hallowell sic, where another band of Indians were plundering his house of bedding (they called it swapping). Leaving there they followed down Mill Creek, plundering on their way G. M. Driskell of bedding and blankets. Rich Bond they corralled on the mound above John Bond's barn. Andy Oswalt was also taken prisoner. After taking them a few miles down the creek they let them go. Many of the citizens took the alarm and started for Marysville, in Marshall County. The citizens that were left then held a meeting in Washington, at what is now called the Collins' stable, the result of which was that William Cummings and D. E. Ballard were appointed to reconnoitre sic the whereabouts of the Indians, and ascertain their number. Saddling their ponies, armed and equipped with rifles, revolvers and blankets, they started south. Night found them at Parson Creek, hungry, tired and cold, but no Indians. By this time the boys found they had no matches. I suppose they rubbed two sticks together, but it wouldn't work, so they hung up a blanket, shot into it and made it smoke, then raised the wind, took puff about till they got a fire, and got some supper. The next morning bright and early our scouts started south again, but still no Indians. But resting at noon they found what proved to be bituminous coal. Filling a blanket with the same, they returned home, showing their treasure, which is now known by the name of the Clyde coal banks.

"Still later in the fall of the same year there were Indian troubles, and J. R. Hallowell sic, Mort Hallowell sic, and the women and settlers around, forted up in the Humes' log house in Washington, keeping guard over night. Just at sunrise a dark object was seen crawling up the ravine by the parsonage. Some of them wanted to shoot, but about that time Elijah Woolbert, Sr., raised up, waved his broad brim hat and shouted at the top of his voice, "Halloa, you wouldn't shoot a native, would you?" The following fall scouts brought word from the west that the Indians were attacking the settlements. The citizens of Mill Creek, with their cattle, oxen, and wagons, pushed to Washington, camping on the high land, on what is known as the George Shriner farm, south of Washington. That night might be heard the lowing of cattle, the lamentation of the women and children, the bleating of the sheep, for they were leaving with their chickens and all their household goods. Some pushed on the next day to Harden's Ford, returning home in a few weeks, as the excitement subsided.

In August, 1864, the Cheyennes and Arapahoes came up the Little Blue valley again, waging war against the settlers of Colorado and Western Kansas. Near Oak Grove, six miles above Hanover, a family named Eubanks were scalped and murdered, several men killed in that vicinity, and young lady named Laura Roper carried into captivity. Most of the settlers in this county fled to Marysville, where a public meeting was called to discuss ways and means of self-protection. Rufus Darby was chairman of that meeting and G. H. Hollenberg, treasurer. Money was raised to pay scouts $4 or $5 per day to scour the country and report any traces of the enemy. This was done for several days, the excitement died away, and the settlers of Washington County and other alarmed districts returned to their homes. The Indians were afterwards pursued by the State militia and driven toward the source of the Republican. A company was raised in this county, Mr. Hollenberg being active in the muster and commanding a regiment. The Indians were driven to the source of the Republican. From all reliable accounts the State troops had the plundering propensity quite strongly developed. The advantage gained by the settlers who owned property was that they were not in danger of their lives from the soldier boys, but they kept a sharp eye upon the hens and pigs and all eatables of a fascinating nature to healthy appetites. Neither could the boys resist a buffalo hunt, and several delays were occasioned in their pursuit of savages by the unsoldierly pursuit of the shaggy monsters. In 1868 the Indians made another raid through Washington, Cloud, and Republican counties. Their depredations here were confined to thieving, the raid of 1864, being the one which was noticeably destructive of life in this vicinity.


The boundaries of Washington Township were defined by the Territorial Legislature of January, 1857. It was attached to Marshall County for judicial and municipal purposes. In the fall of 1858 occurred the first election ever held within the present limits of Washington County, to choose a representative of the Sixth District. Dr. J. P. Miller was elected, receiving 300 votes; T. S. Vail, Miller's successor, fifty-eight. The township cast just thirty ballots upon this important occasion. In April, 1859, George G. Pierce was elected supervisor of the township, D. E. Ballard, clerk, and William Tarbox, treasurer. On the second Monday in April, 1860, the township was organized into a county, and Mr. Pierce represented it in the last session of the Territorial Legislature of 1861, Mr. Ballard being its first State Representative during the same year. On the fourth Monday of April, 1860, occurred the election for county officers, resulting as follows: Commissioners, George E. Cadwell, Joseph Malin, William Hoffhine; Clerk, David E. Ballard; Treasurer, M. G. Driskell; Registrar, M. Bowen; Superintendent of Public Instruction, John M. Hoffhine; Probate Judge, S. F. Snider; Assessor, William M. Mercer; Coroner, Charles H. Bruce. When Judge Snider's name was first proposed he had been a resident of Kansas but a few days, having resigned the office of County Judge in Page County, Iowa, and removed to Washington. He told his friends that he was not even a legally qualified voter, but he was induced to run, upon the plea of dearth of legal timber and his own known ability, and elected, serving the county well for a number of years. Rufus Darby is sometimes spoken of as the first Probate Judge of Washington County, but the position he held was Justice of the Peace, receiving his appointment from the governor in June, 1859.

The time for holding the election to decide upon the county-seat was fixed for November, 1860. Washington had been incorporated the previous fall, and in August, 1860, the town company donated a number of lots to the county to induce the voters to favor this location. There were two other competitors. "Rogersville" was Judge Snider's pet, located on his farm, four miles northeast of the center of the county, in what is now Charleston Township. About four miles west of Washington was a paper town (West Union), located on James McNulty's claim, and fathered by him, Ralph Ostrander and James Darby. On the afternoon of the election day Judge Snider withdrew Rogersville from the race, and threw its seven votes for Washington, thereby selecting this point as the county-seat. The town company had already erected a log house, and here the first commissioners' meeting was held, and the county divided into Washington and Mill Creek townships. In 1862 Clifton Township was created; in 1868 Lincoln Township, and the county divided into four equal townships. In 1870 Little Blue, Hanover, and Sherman Townships were formed; in 1872, Strawberry, Union and Hollenberg; in 1874 Charleston Township. In January, 1879, the Otoe Reservation lands, in Washington County, came into market and that tract was annexed to Hanover Township. In March, 1871, the Twelfth Judicial District was created, A. S. Wilson appointed District Judge and William Hoffhine, Clerk.

In the fall of 1860 E. Woolbert built a large two-story log house, where he kept hotel and postoffice at the same time. In 1865, when he resigned as postmaster, he sold his house to S. F. Snider for $250. In 1868 Mr. Snider sold the building to the county, and it became known as the old stockade court house. Burning down in the spring of 1869, it was re-built by the county in 1871, and burned a second time December 15, 1872. Most of the county records were burned, as the fire occurred early on Sunday morning, and was not discovered until it had obtained great headway. The building was insured for $2,000 and was rebuilt by the Insurance Company in July, 1873. This is the present court house, a plain, unpretending two-story structure, which will doubtless soon be replaced by a more pretentious building.

Present county officers: Clerk, J. O. Young; Treasurer, H. C. Sprengle; Probate Judge, S. H. Maunder; Sheriff, T. M. Dolan; Register of Deeds, Charles W. Aldrach; Superintendent of Public Instruction, H. C. Robinson; Surveyor, Orland Sawyer; Coroner, Dr. H. Markham; District Judge, A. S. Wilson; Clerk of the District Court, R. O. Woody; Attorney, Charles Smith; Chairman of the Board, J. K. Brown.

[TOC] [part 2] [part 1] [Cutler's History]