Brown County,

Brown County is a county located in Northeast Kansas, in the Central United States. The official county code for Brown County isBR. The population was estimated to be 10,236 in the year 2006. Its county seat and most populous city is Hiawatha.


Early History of Brown County
by William G. Cutler, 1883

Location and Natural Features
Brown County is situated in the northeastern portion of Kansas, being located in the first tier of counties, from Nebraska. Doniphan County lies to the east, Atchison and Jackson counties to the south, and Nemaha County to the west.

Brown County has, according to the Government survey, two per cent. of bottom land and ninety-eight per cent. of upland. It is also divided into eight per cent. of forest and ninety-two per cent. of prairie. The average width of the bottom lands along the line of streams is one mile. The varieties of timber found in the county are: Walnut, oak, hickory, cottonwood, elm, linn, box elder, soft maple, sycamore, willow, mulberry, cherry, hackberry, buckeye, honey locust, crab apple and plum. The average width of natural timber belts does not exceed one mile.

The principal streams of the county are the Walnut, running in a general northeasterly course and emptying into the Nemaha River, the Delaware, running southeast into the Kansas River, the Wolf River southeasterly into the Missouri, Roys Creek northeast to the Nemaha, Greggs southeast into the Delaware, Little Delaware southeast to the Delaware, Spring and Mulberry creeks run southeast into Walnut Creek, Pony Creek northeast.

Water is found at various depths but rarely at more than forty or less than twenty feet depth. Coal is found in thin veins at different points, but has never as yet been successfully worked. Stone is abundant throughout the county, both limestone and sandstone appearing frequently. As a rule this stone crops out of the surface and can be obtained without great trouble or expense. It is used for foundations, and in many instances for entire buildings.

Early Settlement
Prior to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill there was, as far as is known, no settlement of whites in this county. Wandering hunters had passed through on their excursions and may have been enticed by the abundance of game in the neighborhood and other favoring circumstances to halt for a considerable length of time, yet permanent settlement was unthought of. Long trains of prairie schooners winding along the divides over the old California trail passed near where Hiawatha now stands and the Indian bands scoured the level prairies and pitched their taipes at innumerable points, yet none thought of continuous residence.

The earliest records state that Thurston Chase and James Gibbons staked claims on Wolf Creek on May 11, 1854, and made some small improvements, but returned to the East in less than a month. Two weeks later a party composed of C. H. Isely, Peter and Christ Luginbuhl left St. Joseph for an exploring trip through this part of the country. The second days travel brought them to a point a few miles east of the site of Hiawatha, where they camped near a small stream just before nightfall. With night came a storm which pelted and drenched them to a disheartening extent. To add to their troubles the discovery of a band of mounted Indians was made by the gleam of the lightning.

In the morning the Indians had disappeared but the party were more than willing to abandon their venture, and made good time back to St. Joseph. In June of the same year W. C. Foster came to Brown County, but passed through and settled in the eastern part of Nemaha County, having been informed that this section was a part of the Indian Trust Lands. On learning his error he removed the same fall to Brown County where he still lives.

From this time forward the tide of pioneers poured into the fertile country and before the close of 1854 the farms of the newcomers dotted the land in every direction. From Major E. N. Morrill has been obtained a partial list of those who came to Brown County during this period. E. R. Corneilison and Wallace Corneilison August 3; Thomas Brigham, Henry Gragg, Isaac Sawin, Marcellus Sawin, John, William and King Belk, J. L. Wilson, William and Thomas Duncan, B. F. Partch, Jacob Englehart and Benjamin Winkles.

The fall and winter of 1854-55 was one of those rare, genial seasons which occasionally come to Kansas, and the tide of immigration was unchecked. From this time dates the erection of the residences of many of the substantial settlers of the county - Amasa Owen, J. K. Bunn, Henry Smith, Stephen Hughes and his wife (who is said to have been the first white woman in Robinson Township) and a host of others whose claims to the remembrance of posterity have been forgotten.

In the spring of 1855 a Settler's Protective Association, or Claim Club, was formed by the settlers on Walnut Creek for the purpose of enforcing the rights of those who had staked out claims and were bone fide settlers. This was, it will be remembered, in the year of the border ruffian or bogus legislature excitement, when armed Missourians took possession of the polls and elected a legislature to suit the views of themselves and Pro-slavery friends in Kansas. Such proceedings aroused, as they well might, a sense of insecurity in the possession of claims, and the natural determination to make, by a sense of innate justice, laws of their own. Matters, however, never came to a serious head, and beyond quiet enforcement of the law, there was no incident worth preservation. Coupled, however, with the law relative to claims, was one relative to the sale of fire water to the Indians, which brought about an incident strongly characteristic of the times and the men. The story, as related by Hon. E. N. Morrill, is as follows:

The first trial for violating this code took place at the house of Jesse Padon - a small log - hut which all the settlers prior to 1882 will remember as standing on the banks of the Walnut, near Schmidt's sawmill. Complaint was made that Robert Boyd and Elisha Osborn had been selling whisky to the Indians. The settlers, sixteen in number, had gathered with the firm determination to enforce their laws at all hazards; but one in the whole settlement was absent and he was too ill to attend. When they were ready to proceed, E. R. Corneilison called their attention to the fact that the accused were not present, and asked that they be sent for. This was summarily overruled, and the trial went on.

Witnesses were examined; the testimony was brief and to the point, and after a very short deliberation a verdict of guilty was rendered, and it was decided that the stock of liquors of these men should be destroyed, and that they should pay a fine of $20 and leave the county at once. Padon was appointed to carry out the sentence, and the others all went along to assist in enforcing the law. The house in which Boyd & Olson kept their liquors stood at the edge of Pilot Grove, about three miles from Padonia. When the squad arrived at the house of the accused they were called out and informed that they had been tried, convicted and sentenced, and that the officers of the law were then and there prepared to enforce the order. They replied that they would cheerfully give up their liquors and pay the fine, but begged not to be forced to leave their homes.

They also promised faithfully that they would never again be guilty of a like act. After the party had duly considered the matter and taken a snifter all around, they concluded that it was too bad to waste such valuable property; so the parties paid the fine of twenty dollars, promised to sell no more to the Indians, and were allowed to retain their liquors and remain at their homes. The twenty dollars were equally divided among the posse, each receiving $1.25 for his days work, and all returned to their homes.

Two year later a claim club was formed at Hiawatha. This year (1857) saw an influx of great numbers of speculators who took claims, and after hiring the erection of a shanty and breaking of a few acres of land, returned. These men were sometimes not over nice in choosing their lands with reference to the right of predecessors, hence arose the need of a body with power to make good its claims. It was no uncommon thing in this year to see as many as fifty speculators hanging about the Benton House, the only building in the town, awaiting for the completion of work on their claims.

The first business house erected in this county, was a cross-roads store, built in 1857, by M. L. Sawin, near the old Carson schoolhouse. The first recorded marriage was that of Hiram Wheeler and Eliza E. Root, which took place on July 30, 1857. This was followed in September by that of J. Roberts and Miss Sarah McCready, and of Captain John Schilling and Miss Susan Meisenheimer. The first child born in the county was Isaac Short, who saw the light in August, 1855.

The first Fourth of July celebration in the county, took place in 1857, on the farm of John Roe, on Mulberry Creek. Speeches were made by W. C. Foster, D. McFarland, W. G. Sargent and others, and the crowd of about two hundred had a highly patriotic and very good time. The same summer religious services were held on the farm of E. H. Niles, and a Sabbath school was organized by Mr. David Peebles. A school was taught near Robinson the same year by David Guard, of Indiana.

The first postoffice in the county was that at Claytonville, established August 8, 1858, with George E. Clayton as Postmaster. Prior to this time there had been postal service of a private character, established in the summer of 1857, to supply the pressing need of news from the East, felt by all the settlers. Iowa Point, in Doniphan County, was the nearest postoffice, and Philip Weiss was hired by the settlers to go there weekly with a requisition for their letters. For this duty two dollars a trip was paid, and the carrier eked out his income by carrying passengers and freight. A postal route from St. Joseph to Marysville, Kas., had been ordered in 1855, and this would have supplied Highland and Hiawatha, but it was not put in operation until 1858.

As early as 1860, an effort to secure a railway from St. Joseph, Mo., through the northern tier of counties was made, and four miles of track was built between Ellwood and Wathena, in Doniphan County. Work was stopped the following year by the breaking out of the war, and for five years the scheme lay in abeyance. In 1866 a bill granting 125,000 acres of land to the Northern Kansas Railway passed the Legislature. On May 12th of the same year a meeting was held at Hiawatha, and Samuel Lappin was elected president.

Three days later an election to decide the question, "Shall the people of Brown County subscribe $125,000 to the capital stock of the northern Kansas Railway?" was held, and resulted in the defeat of the proposition. On June 16, 1866, an amended proposition asking for bonds to the amount of $100,000 was carried by a majority of 102. Shortly after the Northern Kansas was merged in the St. Jospeh (sic) & Denver City Railway. This railway company was not, however, ready to build at once, and the matter lay in abeyance until several years later.

On January 5, 1869, a request was received by the County Commissioners for a slight modification of the contract, so that the bonds of the county might accrue to the railway as the road was constructed and not be reserved until its completion. This proposal was submitted to the people at the general election of the same year, and resulted in a vote of 422 for, to 288 against the measure. In accordance with this vote Hon. E. N. Morrill, then County Clerk, was ordered on April 14, 1870, to subscribe $100,000 to the capital stock of the railway company, which was done. The road was completed the following year, trains running to Robinson in February, and to a temporary depot near Hiawatha in March.

It is of rare occurrence that a railway in a single year makes all arrangements for right of way, for its relations with cities and villages en route, and completes its track of more than a hundred miles in a single year. Yet this has been done by the Missouri Pacific. In July, 1881, the project of running an extension from Atchison, Kan., to Omaha, Neb., was first broached. On July 31, a petition signed by two fifths of the resident taxpayers was presented to the County Commissioners, calling for a special election to determine whether the county should subscribe for the $10,000 of the stock of the Missouri Pacific Railway Company. In accordance with this petition and election in the several townships was ordered for August, 1881.

On August 20 the election was held simultaneously in Mission and Padonia, and a week later in Hiawatha and Washington townships. This resulted in favor of the proposal in all but Padonia Township, and it was accordingly ordered that the County Clerk for the county subscribe the required amount to the Railway Company, issuing to pay therefor ten bonds of $10,000 each, having twenty years to run, and payable at the fiscal agency of the State of Kansas in New York City.

In the latter part of May, 1882, the new line was completed from Hiawatha to Omaha, and the link between Atchison and the former place was nearly finished. It then was decided that a freight division should be made either at Hiawatha or falls City, and Col. Everest, attorney for the railway, made overtures to both places looking toward the location of the round house and shops of the road. Meetings were held at Hiawatha, and the demands of the railway in return for the location of these buildings stated. They were in brief the relinquishment of the stock of the company, and the donation of a long and narrow strip of ground suitable for side tracks and buildings.

After some discussion of this proposal it was acceded to and a committee appointed to draw up a contract for the county. Land to the amount of twenty acres, lying north of the old depot was purchased at a cost of $2,200, and a deed of the same transmitted to the officers of the Missouri Pacific. The land will be at once put in shape, and the construction of the buildings be begun. It is hard to estimate the amount of benefit accruing to the town from this action, which brings an immediate increase of population of at least 200 and business of the road will come more workmen and more trade for the merchants of the town, and it would not be surprising to see, ten years hence, a population of railroad men only of a thousand people.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,482 km² (572 mi²), of which 1,478 km² (571 mi²) is land and 4 km² (2 mi²), or 0.27%, is water. The Wolf River has its source in the county. Brown State Fishing Lake, formerly known as "Brown County State Park" is in the county, 8 miles (13 km) east of Hiawatha.

Brown County's population was estimated to be 10,236 in the year 2006, a decrease of 476, or -4.4%, over the previous six years.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 10,724 people, 4,318 households, and 2,949 families residing in the county. The population density was 7/km² (19/mi²). There were 4,815 housing units at an average density of 3/km² (8/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 86.87% White, 1.56% Black or African American, 8.82% Native American, 0.21% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.73% from other races, and 1.81% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.32% of the population.

There were 4,318 households out of which 31.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.80% were married couples living together, 9.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.70% were non-families. 28.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the county the population was spread out with 26.40% under the age of 18, 7.40% from 18 to 24, 24.00% from 25 to 44, 22.70% from 45 to 64, and 19.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 93.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.80 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $31,971, and the median income for a family was $39,525. Males had a median income of $29,163 versus $19,829 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,163. About 10.60% of families and 12.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.40% of those under age 18 and 11.80% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns
Incorporated cities
Name and population (2004 estimate):

Hiawatha, 3,287 (county seat)
Sabetha, 2,532, (of which only a small portion lies in the county, the majority of the area and population being in Nemaha County.)
Horton, 1,869
Everest, 307
Fairview, 262
Morrill, 259
Robinson, 203
Reserve, 97
Powhattan, 87
Willis, 67
Hamlin, 52

Unincorporated places

Unified school districts
Hiawatha USD 415
Brown County USD 430

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