Oswego is a city situated along the Neosho River in the eastern part of Labette County, located in southeast Kansas. The population was estimated to be 1,996 in the year 2005. It is the county seat and second most populous city of Labette County. Oswego is about 12 miles north of the Oklahoma state line and 30 miles west of the Missouri line. It is situated along the Neosho River valley. It is at the junction of U.S. Route 59 and U.S. Route 160.


Oswego was the outgrowth of a trading post established in the early 1840s by John Mathews. Up to 1865 there were no other white persons in the community and the place was called "White Hair's Village" because an Indian chief of that name made his home there. In 1865 a number of settlers located at this point and the name was changed to "Little Town." Two years later the Oswego town company was organized and so named for Oswego, New York, whence many of the settlers had come. Lots were given away to every person who would erect a building, with the result that the town grew very rapidly. The organization of Oswego as a city of the third class took place in February 1870. The town was made a city of the second class by proclamation of the governor in 1880.

The first frame house was put up by Dr. William S. Newlon in September of 1865. The first frame store building was erected by Thomas J. Buntain, though the first store was opened in a log building in 1865 by Rexford & Elsbee. The postoffice was established in 1867 with Nelson Carr postmaster. At that time there were two provision stores, Oswego being on the military road. M. George had opened a blacksmith shop and D.W. Clover a hotel, which was not only an inn for the public, but the county headquarters, a political rendezvous and a news center. This was the second hotel, the first having been built in 1866 by William A. Hogaboom.

In 1868 Mr. Shanks operated the first pottery and made several kilns of stoneware; a cotton-gin was set up the same year. The first bank was opened in 1868 by W. M. Johnson, who was forced two years later to make an assignment of all that he had to satisfy his creditors. The second bank was started in July 1870, by B. F. Hibart and H. L. Taylor, which was a success. The State Bank of Oswego started business a few weeks later, but discontinued after a short time, as there was not business enough for two banks. In September 1870, a steam sawmill was erected by Macon, Krell & Cowell.

The first newspaper was the Oswego Register, established in 1868 by E.R. Trask. The first church was the Congregational, which was organized in May 1868, and the Presbyterian church was founded in July of the same year. The first school was taught in 1867. The public library association was organized in 1877; the telephone system was put in operation in 1882; the waterworks in 1887; and the first electric lights were turned on July 12, 1888, but were turned off a few months later.

An Early Contemporaary History Of Oswego
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Oswego is situated in the east part of Labette County, two miles from its eastern boundary, on the Neosho River, which here makes a sharp bend to the east. The town site is sufficiently elevated and uneven to afford excellent drainage. From time immemorial, on account of the widely extended and picturesque view obtained from it, this spot, previous to its settlement by white men, had been a favorite resort for the Indians. The valley of the Neosho, with its broad belt of timber, is visible for many miles to the south, east and north; the valley of the Labette to the west, and far beyond it, from twelve to fifteen miles distant, extends from north to south, the long line of table land which divides the valley of the Neosho from that of the Verdigris.

This spot was for many years the home of the celebrated Indian chief, White Hair. It is the cemetery of his three wives, who were buried according to the custom of his tribe, on the surface of the ground, and covered over with a pile of stones. It was also for a time the home of the notorious John Matthews, an Indian trader, and confederate guerrilla chief, whose little daughter was burned to death by a prairie fire a short time before her father was killed. Matthews' house stood on the government road, from Humboldt to Fort Gibson, near a famous spring in the east part of town. Up to 1865, the place was known as "White Hair's Village," when the name was changed to "Little Town."

During this year the first white settlers arrived upon the ground. They were from the first favorably impressed with the location. It was presumed to be healthful, it commanded a view of a broad expanse of country, it was contiguous to a large body of timber, it possessed an abundance of fine building stone, and numerous springs flowed from the hillsides down the ravine on either side. But little, if anything, was left to be desired. These first settlers arrived in the fall, and immediately commenced the erection of log cabins for their protection during the coming winter, and until such time as more commodious houses could be built. Their names were: J. C. Rexfor, A. P. Elsbee, C. C. and D. M. Clover, C. H. Bent, Samuel Collins, J. Q. Cowell, Jaber Smith, W. C. Watkins and W. R. Williamson. Rexford & Elsbee opened for sale a small lot of goods in a small log building.

In the spring of 1866, the number of the settlers was increased by the arrival of James Jones, T. J. Flournoy, J. F. Newton, Richard D. Sloan, H. W. Thompson, H. W. Bridgeman, N. H. Carr, T. J. Buntain, Hiram Hollinsworth and C. W. Talbot. In the early summer, William Herbaugh, D. W. Clover and others arrived. Elsbee, Bridgeman & Carr opened a store and established a trading post, Elsbee having an Indian wife.

In the summer of 1867, quite a number of new and valuable settlers arrived. Among them were Dr. William S. Newlon, Rev. T. H. Canfield, D. W. McCue, W. P. Bishop, A. L. Austin, Dr. R. W. Wright, and the Waskey brothers. In the summer of 1866, measures were taken to organize a town, and a preliminary survey made. About this time the name "Little Town," was superseded by "Oswego," many of the settlers having come from near Oswego, N. Y. In August, 1867, the Oswego Town Company was legally organized and chartered, the incorporators being Dr. John F. Newlon, president; D. W. Clover, secretary; J. Q. Cowell, C. C. Clover, T. J. Flournoy, Thomas J. Buntain, and D. M. Clover. A. L. Austin was chosen treasurer of the corporation.

The town company was re-organized in the winter of 1867-68, and the stock distributed into thirty-two shares. From the time of the complete and final organization of the company, the town made rapid growth. This was doubtless in part owing to the liberal manner in which the company dealt with private and public parties. A town lot was donated to every person who would erect thereon a dwelling house, to private business enterprises, which gave a promise of being of material benefit to the town, to the public schools, to other public enterprises, and to every church organization that desired a lot for the purpose of erecting thereon a house of worship.

The first frame house in Oswego was erected in September, 1867, by Dr. William S. Newlon, previously to which time there had been built about twelve log cabins. A frame store building was erected by Thomas J. Buntain, and later in the fall the town contained eleven log building and ten frame ones - the population consisting of sixteen families, less than one hundred inhabitants.

Nelson Carr was the first Postmaster, appointed in 1867. At this time there were four stores and a blacksmith shop, the stores being kept by Carr & Bridgeman, Waskey & Sons, J. Q. Cowell and R. W. Wright. Besides these, there were two provision stores. The first blacksmith was M. George. The first hotel was kept by D. W. Clover. It was a log building with a frame front, and stood where now stands the Oswego House. This frame front was utilized for many purposes. Besides being the hotel office and reception room, it served for County Clerk's office, County Attorney's office, Justice of the Peace's office, and as a place of general rendezvous for all the people within reach; where all kinds of neighborhood foreign and political discussions occurred.

In the spring of 1868, immigration began to flow in rapidly, and all new comers were met by the citizens of Oswego with generous hospitality, with the view of encouraging them to stay; acting in part, perhaps, on the principle that loneliness and poverty desire to be relieved.

Oswego was incorporated as a town February 8, 1870, the first Board of Trustees being R. W. Wright, J. F. Waskey, M. Read, J. F. Newlon and W. M. Johnson. It was organized as a city of the third class April 6, 1870, with J. F. Newlon, Mayor, and for Councilmen, J. T. Pierson, E. R. Trask, W. Wells, D. W. Clover and R. W. Wright. It was organized as a city of the second class March 16, 1871. M. Read was elected Mayor in April, 1871; J. F. Waskey, 1872; R. W. Wright, 1873, '74 and '75; and C. M. Condon in 1876, '77, '78, '79 and 1881. The city government is now under the management of the following officials: Mayor, C. M. Condon; Clerk, Thomas Bulwer; Attorney, J. A. Gates; Police Judges, E. D. Kiersey, J. E. Benseter; Constables, Frank Blanchard and A. Y. Sweet.

Up to the close of 1867 Oswego had no regular mail service. Although D. W. Carr had previously been appointed Postmaster, yet no mail route had been established and the mails were brought from Humboldt and Osage Mission by private individuals, employed by the citizens of the town and country. With the beginning of 1868, a weekly route was established by the Government. A rather strange method of distribution seems to have been used at that time. It is said that when the mails arrived a large crowd would be gathered from a distance of fifteen and twenty miles around awaiting their mails.

As the Postmaster opened the packages the names upon them would be called, and in case a response was heard the package or letter would be flung in the direction from which the sound appeared to come, and the owner would jostle through the crowd. After his package had passed the inspection of several parties, he would gain possession of it. A very tasty and commodious office room is now provided from which a large mail is distributed daily.

In addition to the institutions especially enumerated, Oswego contains the following: 4 drug stores, 5 dry goods stores, 12 groceries, 2 photograph galleries, 11 physicians, 12 lawyers, 4 hardware stores, 9 hotels, 1 marble monument factory, 1 pork packing establishment, 1 furniture factory, 3 saw mills, 5 loan and insurance offices, 3 furniture stores, 2 agricultural implement dealers, 4 livery stables, 5 blacksmith shops, 1 public reading room and library, 2 jewelry stores, 2 book stores, 1 patent medicine factory, 5 grain dealers, and a population of about 3,500.

Schools, Churches, and Societies
The first school taught in the county was that at Oswego in 1867, by Mrs. Herbaugh, and was kept in a small log house which stood in the south part of the town. The building had no floor except the earth, and the seats were rough planks resting upon large stones. The school furniture, however, was soon improved by having holes bored in the planks, and legs inserted, thus affording the excellence of benches. The district was not officially organized, and was formed and supported among the citizens by individual contribution.

A school district, also the first in the county, was organized soon after the election of J. S. Newlon as County Superintendent, and a school building was erected. It was a small frame structure, and after the erection of the stone schoolhouse, the old frame was donated to the county for a courthouse. This stone house is a substantial two story building, containing four rooms, two in the upper and two in the lower story. This building also soon became insufficient for the accommodation of the schools, and several of the departments found accommodation in buildings rented from private parties.

In the summer of 1882 work upon the erection of a new building began, and was completed in the fall of the same year. It is a large, two-story brick structure seventy-two feet long by seventy feet wide, containing eight large rooms, and costing about $12,000. The grading of the schools began in 1871. It has since been undergoing improvement, until at present they are under a thorough and most complete system.

The school population of the city is 814, while the enrollment is 695, and the average daily attendance 399, under charge of a superintendent and eight efficient teachers, namely: M. Chidlster, superintendent; O. R. Bellamy, Minnie Cunningham, Ida Mark, Sarah Crane, Hattie Smith, Kate Clover and Jennie King, teachers.

The first regular gospel messenger sent to minister unto the people of Oswego was Rev. T. H. Canfield, a Congregationalist, who was sent out by the American Home Missionary Society. There had, however, been heralders of the gospel among the settlers as early as 1858. Foot prints of a missionary named J. P. Barnaby, a Southern Methodist, are still traceable. He was succeeded by J. E. Ryan, who organized or established a large circuit including Labette County within its limits. Various missionaries had temporarily visited the opening fields and planted the gospel banner, but nothing was permanent until the advent of Mr. Canfield in 1867. The first religious services were conducted in dwellings and such places as could be found convenient.

The First Congregational Church, through the efforts of Rev. Mr. Canfield, was organized in Oswego, December 1867, the first officers being elected May 10, 1868. The church edifice, a small stone house, was erected in 1869 as the first in the town, the money being raised by subscription, the building costing about $1.100. There is a present membership of thirty-five. The church has been without a regular pastor since the resignation of Rev. E. F. Smith, in August, 1882.

The Presbyterian Church was formed July 28, 1868, through the special efforts of Rev. C. V. Morfort, who was the first minister of this denomination to preach in the town, having delivered a sermon on the fourth Sunday in April, 1868. The church house was built in 1873, and dedicated in December of that year, and is a small frame structure. The congregation, numbering about forty members, is under the charge of Rev. John Elliott as pastor.

The Baptists of Oswego met in the courthouse April 29, 1869, and under the direction of Revs. F. L. Walker, F. Clark and C. A. Bateman, an organization into a church body was effected, Rev. F. Clark was moderator. The society was incorporated May 31, 1870, with a membership of seventeen. The church was erected in the summer of 1873, and dedicated on the second Sunday in August of that year. There are now 126 members, and Rev. C. T. Daniel is pastor.

The Christian Church was established in Oswego in 1874 under the direction of Elder J. W. Randall, with fifteen members. A building was erected in 1879. It is a one-story frame. The congregation now has a membership of ninety, and the pastor is the Rev. T. E. Shepherd.

The Catholic Church organized a society in 1878, among a following of three families under Father Bonanziul. The church structure, a small frame, was built the same year costing about $1,000. The membership has increased to twenty-five families, and is under the spiritual guidance of Father Haspenthal.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in February, 1868, by Rev. J. Mark, with a membership of about twelve. The first missionary work done in the county was by preachers of this denomination, as early as 1858. The church building, a one-story frame house, 40x60 feet, was erected in 1870, at a cost of about $4,000. The congregation has flourished since its organization, now having a membership of 125, with Rev. H. McBirney, pastor.

The Second Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1880 by the colored people of the city. An old store building was procured and fitted up for church uses. Rev. D. Ross is pastor. There is also the African M. E. Church, composed of colored people, of which Rev. J. Brewer is pastor. Also a colored Baptist Church, with Rev. A. W. Green, pastor.

The social fraternities are represented in four large and liberally supported lodges. These are the Adams lodge, A., F. & A. M., the Royal Arch Chapter, the Commandery, and the Oswego Lodge of Independent Order of Odd Fellows.

The Adams Lodge, No. 63, A. F. &. A. M., was instituted October 20, 1868, with H. C. Bridgeman as worthy master; F. D. Howe, senior warden, and W. S. Newton, junior warden. The lodge has experienced extensive growth, now having a membership of 100. The present officers are H. C. Cook, worthy master; J. C. Patterson, senior warden; M. S. Douglass, junior warden: J. M. Bowman, secretary, and J. B. Montgomery, treasurer. A large hall was built in 1879, which is handsomely fitted up for a lodge room.

Oswego Chapter, No. 15, F. A. M., was instituted October 19, 1869. W. S. Newlon was elected high priest; C. Monague, king, and D. W. Clover, scribe. J. W. Wier is high priest, and J. A. Gates, recorder.

The Commandery was instituted in August, 1874, with F. A. Bettis, eminent commander. From a few members in the beginning, the order has largely increased, now having a membership of forty-eight. The present officers are: H. C. Cook, eminent commander; J. A. Gates, generalissimo, and H. S. Coley, captain general.

The Order of the Eastern Star was formed February 27, 1873, by a number of ladies and gentlemen of the city of Oswego. John T. Keller was chosen worthy patron; Amanda M. Keller, worthy matron, and Martha A. E. Alexander, assistant matron.

Oswego Lodge, No. 36, I. O. O. F., was instituted June 5, 1868, with the following charter members: J. Q. Cowell, N. D. Tower, T. H. Canfield, S. S. Smith, D. W. Clover, J. Jones and S. S. Smedley. The present officers of the lodge are R. P. Smith, noble grand; A. Ball, vice grand; F. W. Felt, secretary, and J. W. McNamar, treasurer.

The Oswego Literary Association was organized December 20, 1877. On the 5th of January, 1878, organization was effected by the following named persons: C. O. Perkins, B. F. Hobart, Nelson Case, C. L. Wyman, M. Reed, F. H. Atchison, F. Beyle, J. B. Hoover, S. L. Coulter, R. Nixon, W. S. Newlon, Mary A. Higbey, F. B. McGill. Articles of association having been filed with the Secretary of State, December 24, 1877, and incorporation secured, a capital stock of $1,000 was announced, and 1,000 shares issued, 420 of which were distributed among 102 certificate holders. The fund has been kept at 12 per cent interest. In 1882, the total receipts were $714.17; expenses, $189.10. The library is small, but a reading-room is maintained, and made the principal feature of this commendable enterprise. Additions to the lists are gradually being secured.

The Press, Banks, and Manufactures
The Oswego Register was the first paper published in Oswego. It was established in 1868 by E. R. Trask. The paper passed through several hands, and then passed away. At different times it was edited by Clover & McGill, Bishop & Crum, Perkins & Crum, J. Shorten, and Trask & Newton. There are at present three papers in successful operation, the Republican, Democrat and Independent. The publication of the Republican was begun August 5, 1881, by H. H. Brookes and I. W. Patrick. In August, 1882, Patrick bought Brookes' interest and became sole editor and proprietor. The paper was started both as a daily and weekly, as it has since continued, and is Republican in politics.

The Labette County Democrat, published at Oswego, was established in 1879, its first issue having been made on October 16th, of that year. It has now entered on its fourth volume. It was founded by Messrs. King, Capell & Frye, but for the past two years has been under the proprietorship of G. S. King who has had editorial charge of the paper since its commencement. Being the only Democratic paper in the county, it enjoys a large patronage from members of that party, and has a large subscription list, being a live and interesting paper, alive to all important issues.

The Oswego Independent, was established January 15, 1872, by F. P. McGill, as a Republican journal. In the spring of 1879 it came under the proprietorship and management of Mrs. Mary McGill, her husband being deceased, and is edited conjointly by J. S. Waters and J. E. Bryan. The daily, an eight column folio, was added in the fall of 1881. The Enterprise enjoys a gratifying degree of prosperity, being liberally patronized by a large number of readers of all political creeds.

Banks. - Oswego contains two monetary institutions as banks of deposit, each of which is on a solid financial basis. C. M. Condon's banking house was established in 1870, by B. F. Hobart and H. R. Taylor. In 1872, J. C. Longwell bought Taylor's share and became part owner. In 1875, it belonged to Hobart alone, and in the following year, C. M. Condon became a partner, the firm being Hobart & Condon; and in 1882, C. M. Condon became sole proprietor. It is a private bank, and has a capital of $100,000. The banking house was erected in 1880.

The banking house of Marley & Marley was established as a private institution, December 13, 1880, with a capital of $50,000, by H. A. and J. W. Marley. Prior to the establishing of the bank, the firm had been engaged in the discount and loaning business.

The Oswego Manufacturing Company was established at Oswego, in 1876, by James Pierson and M. S. Douglass, as a planing mill and manufactory of various kinds of woodwork. The establishment passed through the hands of several parties, and is now owned by F. Jarnett, D. Goff and C. C. Clover. The building is two-story in the main, with shed additions, the whole measuring sixty-four feet in length, by fifty-five in width. The addition of a corn grinder was made to the machinery, in the fall of 1882. The entire enterprise employs five men, and represents a capital of $7,000.

The Oswego Flouring Mills were built in 1870, by Joseph Macon & Co. After passing through several hands it came into the possession of H. G. Miller and his son, S. B. Miller, in July, 1878. The building is a two-story frame, 10x60 feet, with a shed addition, 12x40 feet. The machinery has been refitted and is of the most improved patterns. Three run of buhrs are used, with a capacity of one hundred barrels per day, and the power is a forty horse-power engine.

The Oswego Wagon Manufactory was established May 1, 1882, by John Shotliff, for the making of the Oswego wagon. The shop is a one-story brick, 50x100 feet, adjoining which is a two-story brick building, 36x80 feet, the upper story of which is used as a paint shop, and the lower as a wareroom. A force of twelve first-class workmen is employed, the enterprise representing an investment of about $10,000. The aim is to turn out only the best class of work, and the shops are constructed with the view of manufacturing about five hundred wagons per year.

The Neosho River Flouring Mills were built in 1871, by R. Howell and N. W. Rathbun. In the fall of 1872, H. C. Hall purchased Rathbun's interest, the firm now being Howell & Hall. The mill building is forth feet square, two stories high, and is constructed of walnut lumber throughout. The mill contains four run of buhrs, with a capacity of 100 barrels of flour per day.

The power is derived from a dam which is solidly built across the Neosho River with a nine-foot head upon two turbine water wheels. All the machinery is of the latest improvements having been thoroughly refitted. Steam power was added in the spring of 1875, when the water race was being rebuilt and repaired, but was only used until that was completed, the supply of water continuing throughout the entire year.

The Oswego Valley Flouring Mills were started in December, 1881, by G. W. Bird & Co. The mills are under the special management of Bird, the other members of the firm being residents of Galveston, Texas. The mill building is a six-story brick, 50x70 feet in dimensions, contains six run of buhrs, three pairs of steel rollers, and is fitted up with the best of mill machinery, and is propelled by an eighty horse-power engine. Two straight grades and one patent grade of flour are made, the mill having a capacity for turning out three hundred barrels of flour per day. All the goods manufactured are shipped to the Texas markets.

In September, 1882, H. C. Draper began the manufacture of roofing and drain tile and brick. His enterprise, although of recent origin, is the most extensive of the kind in the State, and arrangements are being make to open the works on a larger scale during the coming spring.

Oswego is located at 37°10'4N, 95°6'34W (37.167728, -95.109453). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.5 km² (2.1 mi²), all land.

Oswego's population was estimated to be 1,996 in the year 2005, a decrease of 41, or -2.0%, over the previous five years.

As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 2,046 people, 776 households, and 489 families residing in the city. The population density was 369.1/km² (956.9/mi²). There were 890 housing units at an average density of 160.6/km² (416.2/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 91.30% White, 3.32% Black or African American, 1.42% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.20% Asian, 0.88% from other races, and 2.88% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.81% of the population.

There were 776 households out of which 30.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.0% were married couples living together, 10.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.9% were non-families. 35.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 20.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.29 and the average family size was 2.96.

In the city the population was spread out with 24.2% under the age of 18, 14.1% from 18 to 24, 23.9% from 25 to 44, 19.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females there were 105.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,656, and the median income for a family was $38,631. Males had a median income of $26,289 versus $20,000 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,974. About 8.5% of families and 10.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.9% of those under age 18 and 13.0% of those age 65 or over.

The Oswego school district (USD 504), with four schools, serves more than 500 students, including:

Oswego Neosho Heights Elementary School, grades K–5
Service Valley Elementary School, grades K–8
Oswego Middle School, grades 6–8
Oswego High School, grades 9–12

Many of these pages have used information from Wikipedia as their basis. Other information has been added by site owners as it is found and as time permits . We also invite users to submit info to be added to the site.
Copyright Genuine Kansas 2007