The first settlement upon the land where Sabetha is now situated, was made by Captain A. W. Williams, a native of Rochester, N. Y., who came from Wisconsin in the early spring of 1857, locating upon the site of the future town, and having one-half section of land surveyed and filed in the spring of 1858. The name which it now bears, was given the village at this time, being the same as that of Jim Lane's somewhat famous fort, two miles east, in what was afterward Brown County. This fort in Brown County was named Lexington. Plymouth was down the Pony Creek, north of it. In 1857 Captain Williams established a store, and received a commission as post-master, the few settlers being obliged prior to this time, to go to the Missouri river, a distance of nearly fifty miles, for their mail. During the same year there arrived at, or very near, the new settlement, George, John L. and William Graham, Edwin Miller, William Slosson, Isaac Sweetland, Lawrence R. Wheeler and Noble H. Rising, the last named establishing the second store soon after his arrival.
Of these early settlers, Captain A. W. Williams is now living in the vicinity of Seneca; William Graham and Isaac Sweetland are still active citizens of the town which they helped to build, and which they have watched almost from the time of its conception; George and John L. Graham are dead, the latter yielding up his life for his country. Captain Williams, in addition to being the first post-master, was also the first justice of the peace. He relates that his sales averaged two hundred dollars a day during the Pike's Peak emigration of 1858 and 1859, the new town being situated directly upon the St. Joseph and Denver trail, a fact which would have been of manifest advantage to the permanent growth and prosperity of the settlement, had the temptations which it offered not been too much for many of its own citizens, upon whom it depended for its stability. Captain Williams' store building burned down shortly after its erection, was rebuilt, and continued under the same proprietorship until 1861, when it, together with that of Noble H. Rising was closed, the owners entering the army. This occasioned the opening of a new store by one John J. Goodpasture, distinguished as the only man left in Sabetha at the time.
The first preaching in Sabetha, or more properly speaking, the first attempt at a religious organization, occurred in 1859, Williams' store being occupied for that purpose, and a Methodist circuit rider, by the name of Rawlins, officiating. The first wedding was that of W. G. Sargent and Fanny Gertrude Whittenhall, united in marriage December 27, 1859. The first birth can no longer be definitely determined, there being various claimants to the honor. The first school was taught by Rebecca Hawkins (now Mrs. C. P. Branigan), during the summer of 1860, in a log building owned by John J. Goodpasture, and at one time kept as a hotel by Noble H. Rising. The attendance varied from five to eighteen pupils.
The first town company was that of 1859, the incorporators, under a special act of the legislature, being James Oldfield, Isaac Sweetland and A. W. Williams. No special advantage being taken of the act by those interested, an incorporation charter, under the general laws of the State, was issued by Thomas Moonlight, Secretary of State, on August 24, 1870, to William B. Slosson, John T. Brady, Thomas B. Collins and Archibald Moorhead, of Kansas, and Eldred P. Gray, Benjamin Childs and Jefferson Chandler, of Missouri, these parties being organized as the Sabetha Town Company, with a corporate term of existence of ten years, it being understood that they were liable in the sum of $4,000 to A. W. Williams, who owned the title to the town site.
At the time the war interfered so seriously with the growth of so many of our Western towns, Sabetha contained three store buildings, a blacksmith shop, owned by Captain Philip Rockefeller, and two or three dwellings. For ten years there was no change of importance, the new growth, which has resulted so favorably, being inaugurated by the advent of the railroad in 1870. At this time a drug store was opened by E. B. Gebhart and T. K. Masheter, succeeded by the junior partner in 1872, sold to Wright & Behne in 1875, transferred to Masheter & Wright in August, 1876, T. K. Masheter resuming sole proprietorship in June, 1879, and being succeeded by McCullough & Glass in February, 1880. This is the oldest store, continuous as to the original business in the town.
As has been said, Williams' grocery store building, also occupied as the postoffice, was destroyed by fire in 1860. In March, 1875, the residence of John T. Brady was consumed, the loss being about $1,500, and in 1877, Masheter's drug store building was burned, entailing a loss of $4,000. No other fires of importance have occurred, and devastating winds, so formidable upon the Kansas prairies, have so far, treated Sabetha kindly by their non-attention. Its prosperity, since the arrival of the railroad did away with the last important obstacle to its growth, has been remarkable, its present population being about 1,100.
As has been mentioned, the first school in Sabetha was that taught by Rebecca Hawkins (now Mrs. C. P. Branigan) during the summer of 1860. The second teacher was Hattie Rockefeller, the third Thomas Phillips, others in direct succession being Abijah Wells, Mary Perry, A. J. Wagner, D. L. Anderson, William Churchhill, Susan West and E. Philbrook. The first school building, a frame structure, was erected in 1866, being first occupied by Mary Perry. It was built by the district at a cost of $2,100, and was abandoned only because of the necessity for more room. This demand was filled in 1871, by the building of a fine frame edifice, costing $5,000, reinforced by a third, one of the best brick buildings in Northern Kansas, in 1882, at an expense to the district of $7,700. Each of these buildings, now in use, contain four rooms, and are admirably adapted to the purpose for which they were intended.
The schools were graded in September, 1880, by Professor T. W. Cunnick, into primary, intermediate and grammar departments. In 1882 a High School was established. Since these improvements in method, the progress of the schools has been rapid, the roster showing three teachers and two hundred and ninety pupils during the school year of 1880-81, increased to five teachers and three hundred and ninety pupils in 1881-82, an additional teacher being secured in 1882-83, to help meet the demands of the five hundred pupils enrolled. The studies are those corresponding to the ones required to obtain a first-class county certificate.
Previous to the year 1874 the town of Sabetha had no government distinct from that of the township. The condition of the streets and alleys, the preservation of the public peace, the general welfare of the citizens as affected by ordinance, were matters for the County Board of Commissioners and the Township trustees. During the summer of the year mentioned, in response to a petition of the citizens, then numbering 600, Judge P. L. Hubbard, District Judge of the Second Judicial District, issued an order for the incorporation of Sabetha, in accordance with the laws of the State, as a city of the third class.
An election was ordered for August 15, 1874, George W. Larzelere, Isaac Sweetland and Ira F. Collins being appointed Judges; Samuel Slosson and John Kaffer, Clerks, and Albert West, George E. Irwin and 0. 0. Marbourg, Board of Canvassers. The result of this election was to place in office, Ira F. Collins, Mayor; A. E. Cook, Police Judge; M. E. Mather, Isaac Sweetland, John Muxworthy, John T. Brady and G. H. Adams, members of the Council.
Official Roster. - Since 1874 the city officers have been as follows: 1875 - Mayor, W. H. Hook; Police Judge, L. R. Wheeler; Council, M. E. Mather, John Muxworthy, L. V. Turner, W. M. Slosson, A. L. Austin. 1876 - Mayor, Ira F. Collins; Police Judge, L. R. Wheeler; Council, J. E. Black, J. Martin, H. Ely, A. Hawkins, J. E. Corwin. 1877 - Mayor, J. E. Corwin; Police Judge, L. R. Wheeler; Council, J. E. Black, A. Hawkins, H. Ely, Joseph Brown, J. Martin. 1878 - Mayor - J. E. Corwin; Police Judge, L. R. Wheeler; Council, Hiram Ely, Ira F. Collins, W. G. Sargent, W. M. Slosson, A. Hawkins. 1879 - Mayor, Ira F. Collins; Police Judge, J. E. Corwin; Council, W. M. Slosson, A. Hawkins, John Liver, T. K. Masheter, D. D. Wickens, Joseph Brown, E. J. White, A. L. Austin, J. Swearingen. 1881 - Mayor, Joseph Brown; Police Judge, J. W. Irwin; Council. D. D. Wickens, E. J. White, L. S. White, B. T. McCullough, A. Hawkins. 1882 - Mayor, J. E. Corwin; Police Judge, James W. Irwin; Council, A. Hawkins, W. Hicks, John Liver, B. Wickham, Hammond Tarr.
The Press, Churches, and Societies
The first Paper in Sabetha was the Advance, established May 7, 1874, by George W. Larzelere and James H. Wright. The former withdrew November 6, following. February 4, 1875, William L. Palmer joined J. H. Wright in its publication, but remained only six weeks. J. L. Peltier was connected with the paper for a few weeks, dating from August of the same year. July 28, 1876, Wright sold the paper to E. A. Davis, who continued until January 18, 1878, when it was discontinued. The Advance was republican in politics. The Nemaha County Republican was established at Sabetha, October 5, 1876, by James F. Clough, and June l, of the following year, J. C. Hebbard, formerly of Seneca and now of Topeka, became Associate Editor, a position which he retained for about one year. The paper, as its name indicates, is Republican. It is a seven-column folio, and ably represents the interests of the town and surrounding country.
It is a somewhat difficult to determine what church organization deserves precedence in the religious history of Sabetha, for the reason that several of its societies are the direct outgrowth of those established at Albany In the early history of the county. Congregational denomination was undoubtedly the first to secure a foothold in the immediate vicinity, a Congregational church being organized at Albany, on September 26, 1858. Its early history will be found in the proper place.
The Sabetha Congregational Church, (formerly the Albany Church) was reorganized in Sabetha in 1871, with Rev. O. A. Thomas, Pastor. In 1874, the society erected a fine frame church building, at a cost of $4,000 and with seating capacity for 600. Rev. H. W. Shaw succeeded O. A. Thomas about 1872, remaining until 1880, when Rev. Alfred C. Hogbin, the present incumbent, assumed the Pastorate. The present membership is 200.
The Methodist Episcopal Church. - A society of this denomination was organized in the old schoolhouse at Sabetha, in 1868, by Rev. F. W. Meyer. There are no local church records in existence, except from the year l877. The following list of pastoral incumbents, however, is believed to be correct: 1868, Rev. F. W. Meyer; 1869, Rev. John Madison; 1870, Rev. John Deming; 1871, Rev. E. Gill; 1872, Rev. D. Campbell and Rev. B. F. Parlett; 1873 and 1874, Rev. E. C. Chilson; 1875, Rev. C. Minear and Rev. M. Spencer; 1876, Rev. M. Spencer; 1877, Rev. F. F. Otto; 1878 and 1879, Rev. W. H. Underwood; 1880 and 1881, Rev. J. Biddison; 1882, Rev. C. W. Shaw. In 1874, the society erected a church building, at a cost of $3,000 and with a seating capacity for three hundred, the structure being dedicated January 27, 1878, by Bishop Thomas Bowman, of St. Louis. The number of actual members enrolled at present is about one hundred and seventy-five.
The Sabetha Baptist Church was organized in 1871, with about eight communicants. Its first Pastor was Rev. Granville Gates, who remained until 1876; from 1876 to the spring of 1878 Rev. Peter Carey and Rev. J. Walters officiated, each of whom continued in the pastorate but a brief period; upon the departure of the latter Rev. Granville Gates resumed his former position, being succeeded by W. A. Bigart, the present Pastor. The society erected a handsome church building in 1875, at a cost of $1,200. Its seating capacity is two hundred. The number of members one hundred.
The German Reformed Church was organized in the year 1880, with thirty members. Its Pastor from the first has been Rev. D. J. Greenewald. The society worships in the Baptist Church.
A Catholic society, numbering about twenty members, has been receiving occasional ministrations for about two years from Rev. Father Timothy Luber. In 1882, a fine frame church building was erected, at a cost of $2,500. It has a seating capacity for 400.
Sabetha Lodge, No. 162, A. F. & A. M. - On October 21, 1875, a charter was granted to Willis M. Slosson, Master; John E. Corwin, Sr. Warden, and Jeremiah E. Black, Jr. Warden, to establish and have control of the above lodge. Its original membership was nineteen. The present officers are: J. Swearingen, W. M.; D. D. Wickens, Sr. W.; H. C. Haines, Jr. W.; J. S. Love, Secretary; G. H. Adams, Treasurer. The lodge has now about eighty members, and meets in Whittenhall's Hall, in Opera block.
Central City Lodge, No. 125, I. 0. O. F.. - A charter was granted on October 16, 1875, to Theodore Pope, L. H. Wright, C. B. Bichmond, J. C. Sherrard, J. F. Moon, J. W. Irwin, Samuel Ludwig, John Liver, W. J. Robbins, John Palmer, O. F. Manville, J. S. Elliott, W. B. Kurtz, and J. A. Fulton, as constituent members of the above organization. J. F. Moon was elected Noble Grand, and W. J. Robbins, Secretary. The first meetings were held in what was then Miller's Hall, the Lodge subsequently adjourning to Richmond's Hall, and finally to Opera Hall. It has now eighty-five members, and the following officers: John Liver, N. G.; Frederick Khoeler, V. G.; W. Wilson, P. G.; Hiram Fulton, Recording Secretary; Hiram Ely, Permanent Secretary, and J. W. Irwin, Treasurer.
Excelsior Lodge, No. 2272, K. of H. - This Lodge of the Knights of Honor, was instituted August 4, 1880, the charter being granted on the 19th of the same month, to James F. Clough, D. D. Wickens, T. K. Masheter, G. C. McGuire, A. D. Hook, John Liver, W. H. Whelan and others. Its original membership was twenty-four. The officers were: Dictator, D. D Wickens; Past Dictator. J. F. Clough; Vice Dictator, W. W. Jenne; Assistant Dictator, W. H. Craig; Chaplain, J. Swearengen; Guide, S. A. Gronninger; Reporter, G. C. McGuire; Financial Reporter, T. K. Masheter; Treasurer, J. E. Corwin. The present officers are as follows: Dictator D. C. McGuire; Past Dictator, W. M. Walker; Vice Dictator, J. L. Thompson; Assistant Dictator, E. B. Gearhart; Reporter, W. W. Jenne; Financial Reporter, J. Swearengen; Chaplain, E. M. Ashly; Guide, N. S. Smith; Treasurer, E. Ukele. The present membership is twenty-five. The lodge occupies Opera Hall for its meetings, as it has from the time of its organization.
Seneca Library Association. - In 1871, the above association was organized, with S. W. Brooke, President; Emma Brady, Secretary. Its membership comprised, among others, J. T. Brady, Q. M. Edson, Mr. and Mrs. Prof. Philbrook, H. Tarr, Samuel Slosson and D. L. Gebhart. About twenty books were donated and purchased as the nucleus to a library. Until 1879, no change was made as to the method of conducting the affairs of the society, its only income being the result of yearly fees and fines imposed. On January 1 of the year mentioned, the society was duly incorporated under the laws of the State, with a capital stock of $1,000, divided into shares of $10 each. As now managed, it is in charge of a board of five directors; those now in office being, I. F. Collins, G. C. McGuire, C. L. Sherwood, J. F. Clough and H. Tarr. Its executive officers are: R. C. Bassett, President; H. Tarr, Secretary; C. L. Sherwood, Librarian and Treasurer. The library, which occupies a part of Sherwood & Marshall's drug store, consists of 650 well selected volumes in all departments of literature. Their use is free to stockholders, a yearly fee of $2 being charged to all others.
W. C. T. U. - In April, 1878, a temperance movement was inaugurated in Sabetha, by: Rev. H. W. Shaw, Rev. W. H. - Underwood, L. R. Wheeler, 0. Fountain, S. Slosson and G. H. Adams. Much good was done within a very short time, the encouragement being sufficient to induce the permanent organization of a branch of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union; this being thought a more advisable step than that of attempting to constitute a lodge. The list of charter members, included as prime movers: Mrs. T. W. Wickens, Mrs. H. W. Shaw, Mrs. W. H. Underwood, Mrs. O. Fountain, Mrs. Dr. Slosson, and Mrs. W. B. Slosson, assisted by twenty-six others, hardly less devoted to the cause than themselves. In September, 1878, under the auspices of the Union, a Band of Hope was organized, the result of the combined efforts of those interested being that in November, 1882, Rock Creek Township, in which Sabetha is the all important political factor, gave eighty majority for the prohibition amendment. The present membership of the Union is sixty.
Sabetha Cornet Band. - This is a comparatively recent organization, effected in February, 1882. Its members are: J. R.. McKee, John Muxworthy, G. J. Adams, C. R.. Gardner, G. E. Palmer, N. L. Mitchell, J. W. Cunnick, G. W. Meyers and M. Turner.
Public Building, Hotels, and Banks
The Sabetha Opera House, a very handsome two-story brick building, was erected in 1877, by W. S. White, W. M. Walker and the Sabetha State Bank, the latter owning the corner room of the first floor. Its entire cost was $8,000. Its second story is divided into two large halls, known as Opera Hall and Odd Fellows' Hall. The latter of these is occupied by the Odd Fellows' Lodge and as a public hall, the former for miscellaneous purposes.
The first commission issued to a post master at Sabetha was granted to A. W. Williams, the first store keeper, in 1858. Upon his enlistment in the army in 1861, John J. Goodpasture, the only male resident remaining in town became the official incumbent, to be succeeded in a short time by John C. Perry. The next commission was issued to D. L. Gebhart, who gave way to Samuel Slosson. The present post master, J. F. Clough, proprietor of the Nemaha County Republican, being appointed in August, 1877. For many years the mails were received and delivered at and from various store buildings, the office being frequently moved. In 1877 it was situated in the brick building now occupied by G. H. Adams, and was moved in September, 1881, to its present location, the east end of the Sabetha House. It is elegantly fitted up, its appointments having cost one thousand dollars. In April the office was increased to one of the third class.
Sabetha receives a daily mail from the east and west, via the St. Joseph & Western R. R., and also a daily mail by stage, from the Central Branch of the Union Pacific, which traverses the southern section of the county.
As early as 1858 travelers were entertained by A. W. Williams, who would deserve the appellation of Sabetha's first hotel keeper even had he not built a frame structure 36x50 feet, very early in the history of the town, which he devoted exclusively to hotel purposes. This was subsequently purchased by the town company in 1870, and leased by Albert West, who managed it as lessee until 1874, when he bought the title. A few years later it was abandoned as to the purpose for which it was designed.
In 1870, a hotel building opened in Albany by Edwin Miller, was moved to Sabetha. It was a two-story, cottonwood structure, still standing upon Main Street, and occupied now as a dwelling. The Sabetha House was built by the town company in 1871, managed by W. I. Robbins for a time, and finally purchased by Jackson Swearengen, in 1879. It is a substantial brick building, three stories in height. Hook's House was built in 1870. burned in February 1873, rebuilt, and continues to accommodate the public, under the original proprietorship. It is a large frame structure, conveniently situated to the depot.
A private institution, known as the Sabetha Exchange Bank was established in 1873, by M. E. Mather; J. S. Lemon and I. T. Hosea, of St. Joseph, becoming partners in 1875. On January 1, 1877, the affairs of the bank were closed, the design of the capitalists chiefly interested being to organize a joint stock company for banking purposes.
The Sabetha State Bank, was organized early in 1876, being opened for business on March 6, of that year. Its incorporators were J. S. Lemon, I. T. Hosea, Edwin Knowles, Willis Brown and J. E. Black, these constituting its first Board of Directors. The officers were: Willis Brown, President; J. E. Black. Vice-President; Edwin Knowles, Cashier. The subscribed capital of the bank is $50,000 the paid in capital $39,000. The concern occupies the corner of Opera block, that portion of the structure having been built and elegantly fitted up by the company in 1877. It contains a Hall burglar proof safe, with improved Yale time lock. No change has been made in the officers, except that G. H. Adams has succeeded J. E. Black as Vice-President, and a newly created position is filled by Charles E. Clarkson, as Assistant Cashier. The Board of Directors comprises J. S. Lemon, I. T. Hosea, Edwin Knowles, Willis Brown and G. H. Adams.
Sabetha claims to be the leading shipping point for grain and live stock, between St. Joseph and Hastings, Neb., presenting the following facts in support of its assertion. In 1871 the first warehouse was built by two firms, Slosson Brothers, and Brady & Collins, the latter firm disposing of its interest shortly after the completion of the building, to L. R. Wheeler, who, with the Slossons, managed it until 1881, when it was sold to J. E. Price. Mr. Price immediately converted it into an elevator, at an expense of several thousand dollars; put in a twenty-five horse power engine and the newest and best machinery known to grain dealers. These improvements enable him to elevate, clean, weigh and load for shipment 800 bushels of grain per hour, a capacity which is frequently tested.
Gregg Brothers & Co.'s grain company of St. Joseph, Mo., own and operate at Sabetha, the largest grain elevator on the St. Joseph & Western Railroad southeast of Hastings, and west of St. Joseph. It was built in 1875 by William Gatton, sold in 1876 to M. E. Mather, and three years later transferred to H. Gregg, one of its present owners. The elevator is well and solidly built, has a capacity of 30,000 bushels of corn and small grain, and is in the efficient charge of E. P. Neal. Thirteen car loads of grain have been cleaned, weighed and shipped here in one day.
The Sabetha Flouring Mills were build in 1872, by L. J. Sprinkle, who sold it to Smith & Kurtz. The latter sold his half interest to Willis M. Slosson, who subsequently bought Smith's interest, also. Other owners in direct succession have been: W. E. Stitt, L. B. Brinson, I. N. Speer & Co., and finally Speer & Hubburd, who assumed control in May, 1882. The mill during the year last mentioned, was thoroughly remodeled, new and improved machinery constructed in connection with the mill, with a capacity of 18,000 bushels, all of the machinery, of both mill and elevator, being operated by a forty-horse power engine. The Superintendent in charge is George C. Maguire; the head miller, J. C. Hendrie.
Sabetha is located at 39°54'11N, 95°47'58W (39.903109, -95.799408). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.4 km² (3.2 mi²). None of the area is covered with water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,589 people, 958 households, and 611 families residing in the city. The population density was 308.5/km² (798.8/mi²). There were 1,049 housing units at an average density of 125.0/km² (323.6/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 97.76% White, 0.93% African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.19% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.19% from other races, and 0.73% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.31% of the population.
There were 958 households out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.7% were married couples living together, 5.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.2% were non-families. 34.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 3.01.
In the city the population was spread out with 23.4% under the age of 18, 6.4% from 18 to 24, 22.8% from 25 to 44, 17.3% from 45 to 64, and 30.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 85.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.4 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $36,450, and the median income for a family was $45,000. Males had a median income of $31,958 versus $21,458 for females. The per capita income for the city was $22,126. About 3.7% of families and 7.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 8.8% of those under age 18 and 7.3% of those age 65 or over.