BONNIE BUNCE 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 Topography | Map and Population | Early Settlers
PART 2: County Roster and Elections | Yates Center
PART 3: Biographical Sketches (Bailey - Pickett)
PART 4: Biographical Sketches (Skinner - Wilson)
PART 5: Neosho Falls
PART 6: Piqua
PART 7: Toronto
PART 8: Other Townships


Woodson County takes its name from Gov. Silas Woodson, of Missouri. When, however, this honor was conferred on the unknown and unsettled tract in the third tier of counties west of the State line, the space designated by the Legislature contained little if any of the territory which now bears this name. To understand this matter, it is necessary to go back to 1855 and the proceedings of the famous "bogus Legislature." Among the acts of that body was the laying-out of a whole block of rectangular counties. This act was passed before surveys were made and boundary lines of counties were given in miles from the points named. The initial point for counties south of the Kansas River was the mouth of that river.

The southeast corner of Johnson County was twenty-six miles south of that point, the southeast corner of Lykins (Miami) was twenty-four miles further south; Linn stretched south twenty-four miles more; Bourbon thirty miles, and McGee ran to the southeast corner of the Territory. Four tiers of counties were blocked out in exact conformity to these, and in the third tier lay Woodson, the second from the south line and occupying almost the identical land now known as Wilson.

In 1857 the counties of the third tier were crowded northward, and Wilson, taking in what was Woodson, pushed the latter to nearly its present boundaries.

In 1861, through a blunder on the part of the Representative from this county, a new survey and location of boundaries took the south line a strip three miles in width and gave it to Wilson County, which has ever since held it.

By the act of 1857 the boundaries of Woodson County were defined as follows:

The county of Woodson shall be bounded as follows: Beginning at the southwest corner of Anderson County,; thence south along the west border of Allen County to the northwest corner of Dorn County; thence west with the section lines to the corner to Sections 14, 15, 22 and 23 of Township 28 south of Range 13 east; thence north with the section lines dividing the second and third tier of sections, to the southwest corner of Coffey County; thence east along the south boundary of said Coffey County to the place of beginning.

By the general statutes of 1868, Woodson County is bounded as follows:

Commencing at the southwest corner of Anderson County; thence south with section lines and the west line of Allen County to the south line of Township 26 south; thence west with said township line and the north line of Wilson County, to the east line of Greenwood County to the corner to Sections 14, 15, 22 and 23 of Township 23 south of Range 13 east; thence east on section lines and the south line of Coffey County to the place of beginning.

The county is largely upland, having but ten per cent of bottom land. Forest covers six per cent, the remaining ninety-four per cent being prairie. The Neosho, which enters near the northeast corner of the county and runs southeasterly to the county line, is the principal stream. The Verdigris cuts across the southwest corner of the county, and Owl Creek rising near the center of the county runs to the eastern line. Aside from these supplies of water are numerous small creeks and springs. Wells are sunk to a depth of from twenty to forty feet. Along the streams are belts of timber, varying in width, but averaging a half mile. In these belts are found oak, hickory, black walnut, hackberry, locust, sycamore, elm and cottonwood. A large number of box-elders and cottonwoods have been artificially produced by settlers. Coal is found in veins of considerable thickness, and prior to the construction of the St. Louis, Fort Scott & Wichita Railway was the principal resource of the population for heating purposes. A fine quality of sandstone is found at various points, and near Yates Center a number of quarries are in operation. When first taken out this stone contains considerable water and is very readily worked, but it hardens to a fine consistency after brief exposure.



                                          | 1870. | 1880.
(a) Belmont Township .................... |   622 |   557
(b) Center Township ..................... |   ... |   703
(c) Eminence Township ................... |   ... |   412
(d) Everett Township .................... |   ... |   712
(e) Liberty Township .................... |   363 | 1,100
(f) Neosho Falls Township,                |       |
    incl Neosho Falls City .............. | 1,406 | 1,193
(g) Owl Creek Township .................. | 1,096 |   768
(h) Perry Township ...................... |   ... |   537
    Toronto Township .................... |   340 |   553
                                          | 3,827 | 6,535
    Neosho Falls City ................... |   532 |   552
(a) In 1872, parts to Center and Eminence.
(b) In 1872, from parts of Belmont and Owl Creek.
(c) In 1872, from parts of Belmont and Perry.
(d) In 1871, from parts of Liberty and Neosho Falls.
(e) In 1871, part to Everett.
(f) In 1871, part to Everett.
(g) In 1870, part to Perry; in 1872, part to Center.
(h) In 1870, from part of Owl Creek;
    in 1872, part to Eminence.


Although many settlers were located in this county prior to the war of the rebellion, all were, up to 1860, trespassers. The wide strip which took in all of Woodson County and a small strip of Coffey was the reserve of the New York Indians. This strip began at the State line and ran westward beyond the survey lines, while on the south it joined the Osage reserve. The part of the strip now embraced in Woodson County was never occupied by any of the New York tribes, their only settlement being a temporary one near Fort Scott. Finding that the Indians would not settle on the reserve, the Government in 1860 had all of these lands offered for sale and opened to pre-emption at the land office at Fort Scott. News of this movement having been circulated throughout the county, the squatter settlers hastened to the land office and made the appropriate entries. Thus peacefully the well-nigh mythical Indian inhabitants forsook their lands, leaving them to the further improvement of the pale faces.

It is extremely difficult to determine who were actually the first settlers in the county. Many who came at an early day have passed on, following the setting sun, and many have passed from the sight of the great luminary. Jack Caven, John Woolman, John Chapman and others reached Neosho Falls on March 2, 1857. About the same time Thomas Sears took a claim in Liberty Township and William Stockebrand, August Toddmann and August Lauber, in Center Township. These, although the best known of the pioneers, were not the first, Reuben Daniels settling in Belmont in 1856; David Cooper in Toronto, and John Coleman in Owl Creek Township in 1856.

Many notable propositions have come up in the brief history of the county for the decision of its voting population. In 1861, the banking law was approved by a vote of 62 to 7, and the same election gave Lawrence 71 votes and Topeka 5 for the State capital. sic In 1867, the fall election was made trebly interesting by the submission of the question of elective franchise (lost 56 to 187), of striking the word white from the Constitution (lost 88 to 149), and of women suffrage, striking out the word "male" (lost 94 to 141).

In 1875, the year following that of the loss of crops, an effort was made to secure bonds in the sum of $5,000, for the benefit of the destitute of the State; but the people probably thinking charity begins at home, the effort failed. The matter was voted on February 27, the vote standing 199 to 395.

On November 2, 1880, the measure which has exerted the greatest influence in the State and county, the prohibitory amendment to the Constitution, was passed by a vote of 748 to 530.

On August 16, 1858, the Board of County Supervisors met at Neosho Falls and proceeded to lay off the county into the townships of Neosho Falls, Liberty, Owl Creek, Belmont and Verdigris Townships.

On May 22, 1858, the Board of Supervisors of Woodson County, consisting of I. W. Dow, G. J. Caven and William Phillips with Charles Cameron, Clerk of the board, met at Neosho Falls and passed an order for the conduct of all county business at Neosho Falls. At a meeting the same month, N. G. Goss & Co. donated a jail building to the county for as long a time as Neosho Falls should remain the county seat. On February 24, 1865, the county officers "being thrown out of their office," a contract was made with I. W. Dow for the erection of a suitable building, but as he was unable to complete his work, Dow's Hall was rented at $36 per year. Neither jail nor court house could long secure the county seat, and on November 5, 1867, an election was held to permanently locate the seat of justice. This resulted in giving Neosho Falls 129, Center 2, Coloma 2, and the southwest quarter of Section 11, Town 25, Range 15, 118. This is the site of the present county seat, Yates Center. The ball thus set rolling, elections followed each other rapidly. On September 21, 1868, Neosho Falls received 313 and Chellis 199. The next recorded election took place November 3, 1873, and gave Defiance 506, Kalida, 530, and Waldrip 1. Kalida, which thus became the county seat, was two miles southeast of Yates Center, and Defiance was six miles east. Both towns were at a later date transferred bodily to Yates Center. On February 23, 1874, the vexed question came up again, and Defiance was victorious over Kalida by a score of 643 to 491. A year later a new factor came up in the fight and a fresh election was called. This gave Defiance 235, Neosho Falls 301, and Yates Center 335. A second election to decide between the Center and the Falls took place September 12, 1876, and was hotly contested, resulting, Neosho Falls 426, Yates Center 488. This settled the question, which has never since been revived.

The first money that came into the official possession of a County Treasurer was contributed by the famous "Bully Smith." Smith had been on a prolonged spree, and descending upon the town went about, like the Irishman, looking for "some boy to tread on the tail of me coat." Being known as a desperate character, he found no one to accommodate him, and began a promenade in front of Col. N. S. Goss's office, pouring out a torrent of abuse of the sort generally expressed in print by dashes. No attention being paid to this, he hurled a stone through the window, hitting the Colonel, who was sitting within. Goss came out instantly, and before Smith fairly knew what had happened, a writ had been sworn out before Judge D. H. Miller, and the iron hand of the Sheriff had gathered in the man that boasted that no man could take him alive. A fine of $10 was imposed, a gold coin transferred to the Judge, and Smith left, vowing never to return. This coin was transferred to the County Treasurer Haughawout and reposed in his pocket, the only county safe, for some months. Smith finally returned to the town, and apologizing to Col. Goss for his action, suggested a compromise which was effected, the fine remitted, and a quantity of whisky procured on which a large party became exceedingly happy. This was prior to the prohibitory law.

This same "Bully Smith" had a little difficulty about a land entry with a neighbor named Ray, late in 1860. Ray, knowing that an entry at the land office at Fort Scott would settle the question, started for that point and reached a ford on the Marmaton, where he was overtaken and shot by Smith, who returned to the town and openly avowed what he had done. Many other crimes of this nature were laid at Smith's door, and never denied by him. These facts made a residence in this county extremely undesirable, and Smith emigrated to California, where it is reported he "died with his boots on." Crimes of this nature were not uncommon in the days of border ruffianism, and those bushwacking which soon followed. Many a man was shot in cold blood for little more than a whim of his murderer. In 1858, a settler named Coleman, living on Owl Creek, was called to his door and shot dead by unknown men. No reason was ever given for the act except that he was known to be a Free-state man. Many other incidents, which would throw a baleful light on the worst side of pioneer life might be cited, but these will suffice.

On April 5, 1859, the County Commissioners met and proceeded to canvass the vote on the question of adopting a constitution. But three of the townships made returns. Of these, Belmont voted for a constitution solidly, no votes being polled against, and 13 in favor. Neosho Falls gave 51 for, and 1 against, and Verdigris 13 for and 3 against the adoption of a constitution. Thus the total vote stood 77 to 4.

Education.--The first school taught in the county was that in District No. 3, Toronto Township, which was started in 1858. Neosho Falls, in District No. 8, also had a school this year. District No. 1 was organized in Liberty Township in 1859; No. 13 in Center Township in 1862, and No. 5 in Owl Creek Township the same year. The county had in 1878, when the first report was made, fifty-seven school districts; in 1879, fifty-nine; in 1881, sixty-two, and in 1882, sixty-four. The population between the ages of five and twenty-one was in 1878, 2,236; in 1879, 2,502; in 1881, 2,567, and in 1882, 2,638. The number of pupils enrolled was in 1878 ----; in 1879, 2,086; in 1881; 2,150; and in 1882, 2,128. The average attendance in 1877 was not given; in 1879, it was 1,225; in 1881, 1,350 and in 1882, 1550. The total expenditures in 1877 were not given; they were in 1879, $14,662.03; in 1881, $14,538.72, and in 1882, $16,744.04. The amount of school bonds is not reported prior to 1881, when they amounted to $3,340. To this sum was added during 1882, for sadly needed school buildings, $10,500.

War History.--In November, 1861, a company of soldiers for service in the Union was raised at Neosho Falls with B. F. Goss Captain and I. W. Dow First Lieutenant. This was part of what was known as the Iola battalion. These troops were consolidated with others and formed part of the Ninth Kansas Cavalry. They participated in the engagements of Wilson Creek, Prairie Grove, Pea Ridge, and many others, and after two years' service on the border went south into Arkansas, where they remained until the close of the war. Many returned to Neosho Falls, and other points in the county, while others formed new ties and drifted to fresh harbors, and still others parted their moorings forever and drifted out from the noise and carnage of battle to the endless calm of the unknown sea.

Railroads.--The first railway to make proposals to the county was the Union Pacific, which contemplated running a southern branch through the county; $70,000 of bonds were asked and the proposition submitted to the people on August 16, 1867. Returns were received from Neosho Falls, Liberty, Owl Creek and Belmont Townships, aggregating 105 for the measure and 115 against it. On November 5 of the same year a second effort was made to secure this road $71,000 in bonds, but it proved ineffectual, the vote standing 125 to 131. In 1870, the Humboldt & Arkansas River Railway was organized and proposed to build west from Humboldt across Woodson County. Owl Creek Township was asked for $50,000 in bonds; Belmont Township, $30,000, and Toronto Township $20,000. All bonds were to run thirty years, and only to be issued upon completion of the road. The proposition was accepted by a small majority in Belmont and Toronto, but lost in Owl Creek Township by a vote of 22 to 144. The road was never built. At the same Time the Fort Scott, Iola & Neosho Valley Railway asked $50,000 in bonds from Neosho Falls Township on condition of completing the road and putting it in operation by January 1, 1872. The same year it was proposed to issue $175,000 in bonds to the Paola & Fall River Railway and an election was held, but the point was taken and sustained that there had not been sufficient publication of the notice of election and the votes were never canvassed. About this time the Fort Scott, Humboldt & Western Railway made a bond proposition, but it was very effectually killed by a vote of 175 to 701. The next candidate was the St. Louis, Fort Scott & Arizona Railway, which received a vote of 745 to 504, the returns from Owl Creek Township, which were heavily against the proposition being thrown out. The road was, however, never built. On March 15, 1881, the proposition to vote bonds to the Kansas, Arizona Railway was submitted in Liberty Township and lost, 99 to 129. In June, 1881, the only cross-country railway that ever became a reality in the county made a proposition for the subscription of bonds to its stock. This road, the St. Louis, Fort Scott & Wichita, asked $28,000 of Center and $22,000 of Toronto Township. The measure met with comparatively little opposition in either place and passed by 124 to 71 in Center and 64 to 14 in Toronto. Work was at once begun on the road, and it was completed through the county the same fall. The latest candidate for assistance in railway is the Nebraska, Topeka, Iola & Memphis Railway, to which Neosho Township voted $20,000 in bonds on September 20, 1881, the ballot being 178 for the road and 39 against it.

Crop Acreage.--The following table shows the acreage devoted to the principal products of the county. A perusal of its columns will readily show the reader what crops have been found best adapted to the soil of the county:

  PRODUCTIONS. | 1872. | 1874. |  1876.   |  1878.   | 1880. | 1882.
Winter wheat . | 4,184 | 4,433 | 1,680    | 2,455    | 4,184 | 1,349
Rye .......... |   332 |   355 |   110    |   465    |   300 |   106
Spring wheat . |    54 |   186 |    13    |    33    |    25 |     8
Corn ......... |12,289 |11,155 |16,943    |20,943    |25,037 |33,141
Barley ....... |     1 |     8 |    17    |     7    |   ... |   ...
Oats ......... | 4,743 | 4,325 | 4,190    | 3,896    | 3,255 | 5,362
Buckwheat .... |   192 |    73 |    65.50 |   131.50 |    46 |    16
Irish potatoes |   510 |   517 |   542    |   420    |   516 |   354
Sweet potatoes |     7 |    21 |    16.62 |    21.61 |    10 |    11
Sorghum ...... |   174 |   322 |   135.50 |   167.50 |   322 |   409
Castor beans . |     4 |   183 |    62    |   105.50 |   165 |   222
Broom corn ... |   ... |    30 |    93    |    23.64 |    84 |    29

A Prehistoric Cave.--This cave is situated about twelve miles north of Toronto, on Section 13, Township 24, Range 14. Its mouth is about fifty feet wide and ten feet high, and the cave extends back about twenty feet. In the mouth of the cave lies a rock about nine feet long by six feet wide, the surface of which is nearly horizontal, the rock having evidently fallen from the roof of the cavern. On the surface of this rock are cut numerous figures of various sizes and shapes, some of which are indescribable. No system or regularity was observed by the inscribers, but the different groups of figures and groups of incisions are scattered promiscuously, often overlapping and interlacing each other, as if done more for pastime than for the purpose of leaving any record of events then occurring, to be read by future generations. Some of the figures represent the human body, others parts of the body, as the head, with a small hat on, and the marks down the chin, which may have been meant to represent the beard. One may have been designed to represent a little idol, another a bird's foot, another looks like a capital A, etc.

Great interest is manifested in them by the people of Woodson County, which is doubtless altogether owing to the fact of their mysteriousness. The same interest will probably always attach to them. There is but little reason to hope that they will be so deciphered as to throw any light on the history of the past.

These tracings, or figures, or hieroglyphics, as some call them, were discovered about May 15, 1858, by Esquire Robert Daly, while out on a private hunting expedition. At the time of discovery they were covered over with dirt and debris, and partially overgrown with moss. Mr. Daly, who was one of the first settlers in this part of the county, has resided in the vicinity ever since, and now lives about one and a half miles south of this prehistoric cave.

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