It is one of the oldest towns in the county. At an early day the large business and residence lots were planted to forest and orchard trees, which have during the last quarter of a century, grown to a remarkably large size, and afford the most perfect shade and an abundant yield of fruit. There hardly a residence lot but that will in itself form an orchard and a sort of a park.
The town has a population of about 1,000. It has five churches, two schoolhouses, two banks, twenty-one stores, three hotels, two livery stables, one elevator, one saw-mill, two printing offices, and shops of various kinds. The site of the present town of Oskaloosa was settled as a land claim in February, 1855, by Dr. James Noble.
In August, 1855, Jesse Newell, Joseph Fitsimons, with several others, came from Iowa to select a place for settlement somewhere in the State of Kansas. The neighborhood around Dr. Noble's place was chosen as the most desirable. Newell then conceived the idea of laying out a town there, but not having the money to buy the land, he kept his own counsel, not mentioning it even to his own party. But returning to Iowa he sold his farm the following winter, and then he and Joseph Fitsimons with their families, again returned to Kansas, arriving at the farm of Dr. James Noble on May 16, 1856. Jesse Newell bought the claim of Dr. Nobel and moved into the cabin occupied by him. Fitsimons camped near where the public square now is, and soon after purchased a claim joining Newell's.
During the summer of 1856 Newell built and started a steam saw-mill on the west side of his claim, near a spring which he had found the year before. In July, 1856, Newell and Fitsimons laid out a town of forty acres, with blocks, streets and alleys, after the plat of Oskaloosa, Iowa, and the town was so named from the Iowa city.
The first stone building was erected early in 1856, by Isaac Newhouse, but was purchased by Joseph Fitsimons, who opened the first store. Early in 1857 the post-office was established, and Joseph Fitsimons was appointed postmaster. The first birth in the vicinity was that of Mary E., daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas H. Noble, born February 12, 1855. She died in the May following. The first death on the town site was that of Louis Trapp, a young man who died in 1858.
The first sermon preached in the neighborhood was by Elder Terry Trapp, a Baptist minister, who began holding religious services at his house, in the spring of 1855. He resided about two and a half miles northeast of the town. A church organization, known as the Slough Creek Baptist Church, with a few members, was duly organized and meetings were held each month.
In the spring of 1857 the first school, one paid for by subscription, was taught by Miss Mary Finnicome, in a frame building of native lumber. The house was simply a rough board enclosure, and was situated in the eastern part of town. It now forms a part of T. H. Noble's store. Miss Finnicome afterward became the wife of Joseph Fitsimons. The first marriage in the new town was in 1859, and was that of Wm. D. Trapp and Miss Ruth A. Grimes.
In the spring of 1857, the founders of the town feeling unable to manage the business alone, a town company was formed. Its members were: Jesse Newell, who was president; Joseph Fitsimons, Franklin Finch, Henry Owens, N. B. Hopewell, V. F. Newell, John Newell, Isaac Newhouse, Wm. Meredith and W. C. Stagg. During the year 1857 the town grew very slowly, but by its close had about a dozen buildings. One of these was a very large hotel, built of native timber by Thos. H. Noble.
During the year 1858 the town grew very rapidly. The Delaware diminished reserve joined it on the south, and as it was expected that it would soon be open for settlement, large numbers of settlers located at Oskaloosa, erected small houses and waited, each anxious to secure a first choice of claims. By the close of the year the population numbered several hundred. The most of the population was of a temporary character, and their buildings were moved to farms which they had purchased in the vicinity. In October, 1858, the county seat was located at Oskaloosa by a majority of four votes. During the year 1859 the town continued to flourish, and there was still a large floating population.
The summer of 1860 was that of the big drouth, and a great many of the temporary settlers left the town. Notwithstanding this, however, many enterprises were undertaken. A newspaper, the Independent, was established, and a schoolhouse, church and grist-mill erected. The school then had three departments. By the close of the year the population did not exceed 500. Owing to the failure of crops, the year 1860 was a dull one, and the citizens devised various schemes to while away the time. Samuel Peppard invented a sailing wagon, and intended to take a trip in it across the Plains to Pike's Peak. The wagon was similar to an ordinary light wagon, weighed about 350 pounds, had a bed three feet wide, eight feet long, and six inches deep. A mast, with a sail nine by eleven feet in size, was raised over the center of the front axle.
The steering apparatus was attached to the front axle, and resembled the tiller to a boat reversed. It was first tried on May 9, but the wind being high it was wrecked. It was soon repaired, and a party consisting of Sam. Peppard, Steve Randall, J. T. Forbes and Gid. Coldon started for Pike's Peak. They had about 400 pounds of provisions and ammunition. They made the trip to within about one hundred miles of Denver in safety, but were then struck by a whirlwind which completely demolished the vehicle, and injured its occupants. They had been on the road about four weeks, but only traveled nine days. Sometimes they traveled at the rate of fifteen miles per hour.
During the dull times, in the early history of Oskaloosa, several of the most prominent men organized themselves into a "Lazy Club." Among them were G. B. Carson, Thomas H. Noble, Abram Sinnard and W. Trapp. Carson was president for a long time. The club had rigid rules, and if any member was seen to have any implement of labor, his case was promptly investigate, and if he was proven guilty of having performed any work, he was expelled. The badge of distinction was a Barlow knife, which was awarded to the champion lazy man.
At one time Tom Noble and Abe Sinnard were contestants. They were lying under the large oak tree, but the roadside, north of town, when the stage drove toward the spot where they were. Thinking it about to run over him, Noble rolled just out of the path, but Sinnard simply asked the driver to drive around. He got the knife. Trapp afterward carried it for a long time, but finally had to give it up to a man living below town, who was too lazy to carry it himself, but had his little boy tie a string to it and drag it after him. He kept it until the club disbanded.
Among the leading citizens of Oskaloosa in 1860 were Dr. Buckmaster, Thomas Moore, T. H. Noble, J. W. Day, Dr. Gambel, Terry Trapp, Jesse Newell, Franklin Finch, M. R. Dutton, W. C. Barnes, Jacob Boucher and A. J. Pierce. G. B. Carson kept the leading store, and Joseph Fitsimons was Postmaster. During the war of the Rebellion the town made little improvement. In fact, it hardly held its own, either in population or in the amount of business done.
After the close of the war, the town revived a little, but for a great many years did not increase its population but a very little. A great many public and private improvements were made, however. The old buildings, built for temporary accommodations on first settlement, steadily gave way to neat and attractive residences and large and substantial business houses. This order of things was kept up until 1880, when the number of inhabitants was less than 800. The next year, however, the city began to revive a great deal, and now has a population of about 1,000. Though small, it has always been a thriving business point, s there has never been any attempt to build up the town too fast for the country naturally tributary to it.
Oskaloosa was incorporated as a town on the 27th day of August, 1869, by judge J. F. Bliss, in accordance to petition presented by J. W. Day, and duly signed by a majority of the citizens of the village. The following-named parties were appointed Trustees: John B. Johnson, John N. Insley, George W. Hogeboom, John W. Roberts and Terry Critchfield. The present city officers are Henry Keeler, Mayor, and W. T. Irwin, Clerk.
The Jefferson Mutual Aid Association of Oskaloosa, Kan., was incorporated under the laws of Kansas in 1882. Hon. A. McLouth, president; H. C. Deming, vice-president; M. L. Critchfield, secretary; J. M. Howard, treasurer; J. W. Balsey, M. D., medical examiner; W. F. Gilluly, attorney; M. V B. Deter, general manager of agencies. The objects of this association are to furnish mutual protection at actual cost to persons, male or female, between the ages of twenty and seventy-five years; to accomplish all the good that is claimed for any mutual aid; to combine the efforts of all its members for mutual relief, aid, and the payment of a fund to the families or devisees of deceased members by voluntary contributions or assessments at time of death; placing relief benefits within the reach of the poor as well as the rich, that not the officers, are the association, and the capital remains in the hands of the members until needed to pay a loss, the surplus, if sufficient, will be applied on the next loss, and no assessment made.
Churches, Schools, and Societies
The Methodist Episcopal Church was organized soon after the settlement of the town. On May 11, 1860, it became incorporated, with the following trustees: Joseph Evans, Joseph Fitsimons, Oliver Shrader, L. B. Conwell, Jno. W. Day, Jno. N. Hall, Jacob Boucher, Wm. T. Mormon and John Spurlock. Church lots were donated by the town company, and in 1860 a church was commenced, which was completed in 1861. The first pastor was Rev. J. Collins. The church has always had a large membership, and it in a prosperous condition. It was re-incorporated in 1881. Rev. R. E. O'Bryne is now pastor.
The Episcopal Church--St. Paul's Parish--was organized February 24, 1868. There were then seventeen members. The first rector was C. E. D. Griffith. On September 1, 1869 the corner stone was laid for a church. The building was a large one, constructed of brick, and completed in 1870. For several years the society was prosperous, but now no services are held, and there are but four members in the city.
The Presbyterian Church was organized by Rev. Wm. Wilson, in May, 1867, with eight members. The first elder was David M. Smith. For some time there was no regular minister, and occasional services were held by Rev. Messrs. Wilson and Thomas. The first regular minister was Rev. Mr. Irvin. In 1870, the erection of a church was commenced. It was a frame structure, and was completed and dedicated in February, 1872. The church now has a large membership, and is in a prosperous condition.
The African Baptist Church was erected in 1872. The society has large membership.
The African Methodist Church was built in 1872. The society has been organized for many years and is in a prosperous condition.
The public school district was formed in 1859 by J. H. Bennett, County Superintendent of Schools. A schoolhouse was soon erected, and in 1860 the school had three departments.
In 1865 the township voted bonds for the erection of a large two-story brick schoolhouse in the village of Oskaloosa. Work on the house was soon commenced, and it was completed in due time, and is still known as the township schoolhouse. The building was, in the fall of 1878, leased to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, for a term of ninety-nine years. A college was established and called Marvin College, in honor of Bishop Marvin, its founder, who promised to secure an endowment of $10,000, but he dying soon after, the school was kept up through the liberality of the citizens of Oskaloosa.
The new district schoolhouse is a large frame structure, two stories high, and was completed in 1881. It contains four large class-rooms, besides a number of necessary smaller ones, is well furnished, and has all necessary apparatus. The school is divided into four departments, each under an able and careful instructor, and is in a prosperous condition.
Oskaloosa Lodge No. 14, A. F. & A. M., was organized and received chapter early in 1859. There were then fifteen members. The lodge has always been in a prosperous condition, and in 1867 their hall was built. Its value is about $1,000. The membership of the lodge is large.
Oskaloosa Chapter No. 9, R. A. M., was organized under dispensation August 7, 1867. The charter was issued on the 17th of the following October. The first officers were: Chas. K. Gilchrist, high priest; Loven D. Price, king and Samuel Corn, scribe. The present officers are: M. E. Terry Critchfield, H. P.; E. Henry Keller, king; E. H. M. Mason, scribe; Comp. Wm. Blevins, Treas.; Comp. A. J. Buck, Sect.; Comp. J. C. W. Davis, C. H.; Comp. S. Corn, P. S.; Comp. W. H. Buckmaster, R. A. C.; Comp. J. N. Insley, Mst. 1st V.; Comp. D. M. Smith, Mst. 2nd V.; Comp. J. F. Hinton, Mst. 3d V.; Comp. James Townsend, Sent. The only death in this chapter was that of Nelson Chapman, who died September 18, 1872, and was buried with the rites of the Order.
Eagle Lodge No. 32, I. O. O. F., was organized October 11, 1867. The charter members were Thomas Hunter, J. F. Conwell, E. A. Graham, L. F. Busenbark, David Newhouse, James Peterson, H. M. Mason and A. Sinnard. The first officers were Thomas Hunter, N. G.; J. F. Conwell, V. G.; J. Peterson, Rec. Sec.; L. F. Busenbark, Per. Sec.; D. Newhouse, Treas.; and E. A. Graham, D D. G. M. The present membership of the lodge is thirty-five. They occupy a lodge in connection with the Free Masons. The present officers are: V. M. Stevens, N. G.; Geo. Wise, V. G.; J. H. Johnson, Sect.; W. E. Conwell, Treas.; Henry Morley, D. D. G. M.
Oskaloosa Lodge No. 62, A. O. U. W., was organized on October 22, 1880, with ten members. The first officers were: J. M. Howard, M. W.; D. W. Daniels, foreman; H. C. Deming, overseer; C. W. Roberts, recorder; J N. Standiford, F; J. W. Balsey, R.; C. Golden, guide. Chas. Smith is worthy master and J. A. Huron, recorder.
The Press, Hotels, and Banks
The Oskaloosa Independent, was established on July 2, 1860, by John W. Roberts. For the first two years, he wrote the editorials from his home in Ohio, and J W. Day was local editor and business manager. In May, 1874, his son, F. H. Roberts, became a partner, but in September, 1879, the partnership was dissolved, the senior member of the firm continuing the paper, until July, 1882 when F. H. Roberts took charge of the entire business.
The Independent is, with the exception of the Troy Chief, the oldest paper in the State, and has since its first issue been a strict advocate of the principles of the Replublican party, and of the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating drinks. Its tone has ever been moral and elevating. It is published in the same building where it was established, and the press occupies the identical position where it was placed in 1860. It is the leading paper of the county and has a large circulation.
In the fall of 1868, the Oskaloosa Democrat was founded by Stafford & Nesbitt, but its publication was only continued for a short time. In September, 1868, B. R. Wilson and L. A. Heil established the Oskaloosa Statesman, a Democratic paper. After one year Wilson became sole proprietor, and published it until the fall of 1872, when it was discontinued.
The Sickle and Sheaf was founded on October 3, 1873, by Jules L. Williams and B. R. Wilson, as a Democratic paper. In July, 1877, upon the death of Mr. Williams, Wilson became sole proprietor, and changed its name to the Oskaloosa Sickle, under which name he still continues its publication. It is a seven column folio, and has a large circulation. This paper is printed on a Washington hand press, which is undoubtedly the oldest one in the State, having been brought to Lawrence in 1854 by John Speer, who, after publishing the Kansas Tribune on it for some time, associated W. W. Ross with him, took it to Topeka, printing the first daily paper there on it. Speer soon sold it to Ross Bros., and, after changing owners several times, came into the possession of B. R. Wilson.
The Jefferson House is the leading hotel, and is well furnished. It occupies the site of the original Jefferson House built in 1858. Dr. S. S. Cooper is proprietor. The St. John's Hotel, Thomas Hutchings, proprietor, is a large hotel, in the northern part of the city. The Frontier House, J. F. Bliss, proprietor, is a popular hotel, but small. The Central House is centrally located, and is owned by Critchfield & Johnson.
The Jefferson County Bank was established in September, 1880, and was first known as Terry Critchfield's Bank, but since that time M. L. Critchfield was admitted as a partner, and the name of the institution changed as above. The Oskaloosa Bank was established in 1874, by F. M. Johnson, who is still sole proprietor.
Oskaloosa is located at 39°12'57N, 95°18'50W (39.215849, -95.313800). It is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and K-92, approximately 15 miles north of Lawrence, Kansas. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.4 km² (0.9 mi²), all land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,165 people, 439 households, and 291 families residing in the city. The population density was 494.3/km² (1,281.5/mi²). There were 478 housing units at an average density of 202.8/km² (525.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 98.03% White, 0.52% Native American, 0.69% from other races, and 0.77% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.97% of the population.
There were 439 households out of which 35.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.7% were married couples living together, 11.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.5% were non-families. 29.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.14.
In the city the population was spread out with 28.3% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 26.0% from 25 to 44, 18.4% from 45 to 64, and 18.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 94.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $33,684, and the median income for a family was $41,477. Males had a median income of $35,043 versus $23,295 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,677. About 9.8% of families and 13.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 14.4% of those under age 18 and 9.4% of those age 65 or over.