Early History of Chautauqua County
William G. Cutler (1883)
Chautauqua County was formerly, in common with Elk County, included in the county of Howard. By an act of the Legislature, which took effect on the 1st day of June, 1875, that portion of Southern Kansas known as Howard County, became divided into two equal parts, and called Elk and Chautauqua Counties, the latter comprising the south half of old Howard County.
Chautauqua County, therefore, lies in the most southerly tier of counties in the State, the north line of the Indian Territory forming its southern boundary, while on the east lies the county of Montgomery, Elk on the north and Cowley County on the west. The county is twenty-one miles from north to south, and thirty-one miles from east to west; having an area of 651 square miles, or 416,640 acres.
The general surface of the county is rough and broken, abounding in rocky ridges and high, bluffy elevations. Toward the north, it becomes more even, and in some places sufficiently smooth to admit of cultivation; but a very large portion of the county is incapable of being cultivated at all. There are, however, rich level bottom lands lying along the streams susceptible of easy tillage and highly productive. It is estimated that the bottom lands comprise about one fourth of the entire county, and from these nearly all the agricultural products are derived.
The county is covered with a rich growth of wild grasses, however, which with its numerous streams and springs of healthful water and abundant growth of timber for shelter, makes this one among the finest stock-growing regions in the State. The principal of the water courses are the Big and Middle Caney Creeks and Salt Creek, each of which is fed by numerous other streams of varied size and importance. A considerable growth of timber is also found in this county, and although the greater portion and the best quality is found along the streams, yet in some places it covers the hills and draws. The principal varieties of the timber are cottonwood and white oak, and other varieties in limited quantities, while that upon the bluffy lands is made up of a species of oak, vulgarly known as "black jack."
The mineral resources of the county are practically unimportant so far as discoveries have been made. Coal has been found in some parts, but in such limited quantities as to render its development unprofitable, the veins being surface veins of from only three to fifteen inches in thickness. A few specimens of lead ore were discovered in the south part of the county, but further investigation failed to reveal the presence of the mineral in quantities sufficiently large to justify its development, and the enterprise was abandoned. There is, however, an almost inexhaustible supply of sand, and limestone of excellent quality and valuable for building purposes, which abounds generally throughout the county. Pottery and fire clays have been found in some localities, but in small amounts, the latter having been utilized to some extent.
Law and government
Although the Kansas Constitution was amended in 1986 to allow the sale of alcoholic liquor by the individual drink with the approval of voters, Chautauqua County has remained a prohibition, or "dry", county.
The first white settler that located in what is now Chautauqua County was Richard Slater, who came in July, 1868, and settled on a claim in Salt Creek Valley, in Salt Creek Township, in the northeast corner of the county. The land, however, was not open to settlement at that time, being owned by the Big and Little Osage Indians, from whom it was obtained by the Government under a treaty made with the Indians while holding their grand council on the Verdigris River in 1870. In July, 1869, William Bowcher settled in Lafayette Township, and, in the fall of the same year, settlement was first made in Harrison Township by O. Hanson; in Sedan Township, by H. S. Hallady; Caneyville Township, by Alexander Shawver; in Summit Township; by George M. Ross, and in Belleville Township, by John W. Morris and John Sutton.
O. Hanson, the first settler to enter what is now Sedan Township, having limited means and no vehicle, was compelled to transport his worldly goods to his place of settlement on a "stone-boat." The population of the county, given for various periods, shows more plainly the rate of increase and degrees of development of the county in point of settlement.
In 1870, the population of Howard County numbered 2,794, and in 1875, just prior to the division of the county, it was 13,632. Just following the creation of Chautauqua County, in 1875, its population was 7,417, and in 1878 it was 9,246, or an increase in three years of 1,829. In 1879, it was 10,537, or an increase in one year of 1,291. In 1882, the population numbered about 12,000.
On the 4th day of June, 1870, M. Smith, Probate Judge of Howard County, issued the first marriage license to J. M. Cole and Margaret J. Comer, and on the next day united them in the legal bonds of matrimony.
The first marriage in Salt Creek Township was that of Ebenezer Horton and Martha Starks, February 14, 1869; in Caneyville, John C. Johnson and Helen Cooley July 2, 1871; in Harrison Township, Hiram Winter and Mary Conklin, March, 1871; in Sedan Township, J. M. Culver and C. Helms, February 15, 1872.
The first birth in Harrison Township was that of Grundy White, March 9, 1870; in Salt Creek Township, Abigail Slater, February 20, 1869; in Lafayette Township, Robert Narrow, July 5, 1870.
The only Democrats that have been elected to offices of importance on a square political fight were Col. Donaldson, County Attorney; Eli Titus, Sheriff, and E. S. Cummings, Representative. L. P. Getman established the first store in the county, at Elgin, and John Lee, William Gamble and Beadle Welsh started the first saw mill at the same place, and which they brought from Wisconsin in 1870. It was at this place that the first preaching in the county was held by Rev. S. Records, in the first schoolhouse that was erected; and W. C. Watkins was the first class-leader. Watkins, it is claimed by some, was the first settler in the county.
In 1875, two men by the name of John Bybee and Jesse Peterson, living in what is known as "Hell's Bend" in the southwest part of the county and who had been long-time friends, got into a quarrel which almost resulted in the loss of life. On the 4th of July of that year, Bybee, in company with others, went to Peterson's residence, a log house, and shot at Peterson through a crack between the logs, but without effect. Bybee was arrested and brought to trial, which was delayed by one means and another, lasting through a period of between two and three years, and was finally acquitted. The old feud, however, stood unabated, and in 1877 the parties again came in contact at Cedarvale, and operations began. Bybee shot at Peterson without effect, who in return shot his antagonist through the jaw. Peterson was held for trial and was discharged, and soon afterward left the county, going to Texas. Following this escapade, Bybee fell a mortal victim to a shot fired by a man named Fell, whom Bybee had accused of stealing his horses.
Another instance of a murderous character was that which took place between a sporting man by the name of Jack McCallister, familiarly known as "Happy Jack," and L. M. Finch, the two having become involved in a difficulty, whereupon Finch shot McCallister. In 1871 is recorded the murder of Jones by one McClarning. The trouble arose at a dance that was held south of Sedan, a short distance, at which Jones made some remark concerning some of the ladies which the other in resenting, caused a disturbance, resulting as above related. McClarning was arrested, tried and found guilty, and is now serving out the penalty of his offense in the penitentiary. In the spring of 1872 took place the murder of one Harper, by his brother, the scene of the affray being in the vicinity of Peru. The quarrel from which the murder took place arose concerning a water bucket.
The incorporation of Chautauqua County was provided for in the act under which its formation took place, taking effect June 1, 1875. Upon that day M. B. Light, as Clerk of the county of Chautauqua, removed to Sedan, the place appointed to be the county seat by the terms of the division act. The other county officials were detained at Elk Falls by injunction, until the constitutionality of the act should be tested by the Supreme Court, the matter having been brought before that tribunal. The constitutionality of the measure, however was upheld by the judgment of the court; the entire matter was put to rest, and the necessary changes were made.
The sentiment of the people of Chautauqua County upon the location of the county seat was put to the test in the general election of 1875, and by this mean all the disagreeable and expensive features of a county seat election were happily avoided. As a further inducement to allow the matter to remain quiet, a proposition was made by the town of Sedan, to donate a court house, in an uncompleted state, to the county, in case the county seat be allowed to remain with them, which offer was accepted. According to the terms of the promise, the substantial stone walls of a court house were at once erected, and turned over into the hands of the county authorities for the completion of the building.
By this means the county was provided with a suitable building for all needful purposes, at the minimum expenditure of only $2500, which otherwise would have cost the county not less than $8,000. The first corps of officers elected in Chautauqua County were: Representative, H. Berry; Sheriff, J. L. Mattingly; District Clerk, T. N. King; County Clerk, E. B. Hibbard; Probate Judge, N. Wheeler; County Attorney, J. D. McBrian; Superintendent Public Instruction, J. C. Ross; Treasurer, W. Jones; Register of Deeds, W. F. Lemmon; Surveyor, A. Ellis; Commissioners, John Lee, E. M. Hewings, J. W. Springer; District Judge, W. P. Campbell; State Senator, H. C. St. Clair.
Subsequent to the organization of Howard County, the finances of the county suffered very materially from a number of causes, until the people became loaded with a weight of indebtedness, which even yet weighs upon them heavily. This indebtedness was brought about in several ways, beginning as early as 1871, when Elias Lovett, Sheriff of Chautauqua County, swindled it out of $500, and during the same year C. P. Douglas, County Treasurer, from some unknown cause, could not balance his cash account by exactly $1,662.41.
Following this, in 1874, E. D. Custer, County Treasurer, proved a defaulter to the amount of $10,000, making a total sum of $12,000 that had been stolen from the people of the county. In 1873, the records had been stolen, requiring heavy expenses in obtaining their recovery; the tax roles had been destroyed, and had to be duplicated and legalized by the Legislature, by reason of which, parties in some instances were called upon to pay levies that had already paid. This, with the continued drain upon the treasury upon the county seat contests, all served to pile upon the people of the county an enormous indebtedness, which at the time the division was made, amounted to nearly $60,000.
When the division of Howard County was effected, an equal division of its indebtedness was also made between the two counties into which it was formed. Thus the new county of Chautauqua sprung into existence, under the unfavorable condition of being weighed down with a debt of almost $30,000.
On the 1st day of July, 1876, the county issued bonds to the amount of $18,060, to fall due at dates ranging from 1885 to 1891, at ten per cent interest, with which the county indebtedness became funded. Later, in October of the same year, another issue of bonds was made, to the amount of $7,560, which were given in exchange for bonds already due.
The bonded indebtedness of the county in 1882 was $26,493.50, and the amount of outstanding county warrants was $873.50. The amount expended for county purposes during the last year was $15,840.92. Funds received during year, $26,343.18, and the total disbursements for the same time aggregated the same amount.
The total liabilities for the county is $37,289.37, while the assets, including the values of such properties belongs to the county in its corporate capacity, amounts to $27,843.60, or $9,445.77 less than the liabilities. The amount of outstanding school bonds at this time, and which were issued by the several school districts, amount to $16,980. From this it will be seen that the bonded indebtedness upon the people of the county for all purposes amounts to $43,473.50.
Directly upon the erection of the county, and the establishment of the county seat, it become supplied with a commodious court house. The promptness with which this want was supplied, was occasioned by the fact that one of the conditions upon which the town of Sedan was made the county seat, was that she should donate the unfinished walls of the court house to the county. The proposition was submitted to the town, and upon its being accepted by the county, no time was allowed to intervene until a compliance was made on the part of the city. Accordingly, in 1875, the substantial walls of the building were prepared and turned over into the hands of the county authorities upon completion.It is a two-story stone structure, the lower floor being occupied by the several county offices, and the upper as a court room. A substantial stone jail with steel cages was built in 1877. In connection with the jail is also a residence for the Sheriff of the county.
Schools and Businesses
The first schoolhouse in Chautauqua County was erected in 1870, at the village of Elgin, in Hendricks Township, and houses in other Townships were erected as follows: Salt Creek, May, 1872; Summit, Summer of 1872; Caneyville, October, 1872; Harrison, Summer of 1873; Lafayette, 1870; Belleville (Peru), 1875; Sedan (Sedan City), 1872; Jefferson (Cedar Vale), Spring of 1872.
Since the first settlement was made in the county, the establishment and improvement of the educational department has kept even pace with the physical and material development. Schools became established in localities as rapidly as the settlements would justify, and no means were spared nor delay suffered to interpose, until suitable and convenient school privileges were accrued in every part of the county. There are, at the present time, eighty-seven school districts in the county, an increase of forty-five in the last two years, each of which is supplied with a comfortable building.
The census of 1880 shows the school population of the county to be 2,097, while at present (1882) it is 4,421; or more than double what it was in 1880. The number of teachers employed in 1880 was 54, in 1882, 100. The estimated value of school property in 1880 was $4,550; in 1882, $52,200. The tax raised in 1881 for school purposes aggregated $71,242.48. J. C. Ross was the first County Superintendent, R. G. Ward second, J. T. Bradley third and D. E. Shartel the fourth and now in office.
There are three graded schools in the county, and are located in Sedan, Peru and Cedar Vale, these being the highest order of educational institutions in the county. Considerable attention is given to the educational interests by the people of the county, great care being taken in the selection of competent and judicious men for the position of Superintendent, under whom the grade of the schools have been advanced as rapidly as practicable, and the schools will compare in point of efficiency with those of older and otherwise more advanced communities.
Chautauqua County boasts of ten manufacturing establishments, aggregating a capital of $21,900. These, however, are mostly flouring and saw mills, there being one cotton gin and a few other unimportant establishments. These are as follows:
At Cloverdale -- flouring-mill, Frank Clark proprietor, capital $3500; cornmeal, W. N. Hall, proprietor, capital $600; flour mill, Tabler and Maxwell, proprietors, capital $3500. At Sedan -- Steam flour mill, M. Liebenburg and Co., proprietors, capital $3000. At Harts Mills -- flour mill, William Vail, proprietor, capital $1000; Peru steam and water, flour and saw mill, P. Norris, proprietor, capital $7000. At Mantanzas -- steam saw mill, J. Pennington, proprietor, capital $800. At Peru -- cotton gin, horse power, Logan, Fairfax and Co., proprietors, capital $500; saw and grist mill, H. Brauen, proprietor, capital $1000. Harts Mills -- a water-tower flour mill, Maim and Kyger, proprietors, capital $1000.
The increase in value of the live stock in 1880 over 1878 was $31,952.25; of 1882 over 1880, $113,027.75, and the increase of the same for the four years from 1878 to 1882 was $144,980. In 1882, the number of acres planted to wheat was 1,796, rye, 44; corn, 46,430; barley, 6;[sic]513; cotton, 456; flax, 348; tobacco, 5; broomcorn, 19; millet and Hungarian, 6,936; timothy, 42; clover, 5. Of fruit trees, there were in bearing 28,435 apple; 888 pear; 131,729 peach; 2,546 plum, and 8,160 cherry. The number of fruit trees not bearing were, apple, 46,140; pear, 2,213; peach, 46,539; plum, 3,883; cherry, 10,873. Number of acres in raspberries, 19; blackberries, 21; strawberries, 2. Number of acres in vineyard, 28, and the number of gallons of wine made, 17.
Artificial forestry has received but slight attention, there being cultivated 33 acres of walnut, 9 acres of maple, 18 of cottonwood and 43 acres of other varieties of trees. Of dairy products, there were produced 246,865 pounds of butter and 4,830 pounds of cheese. The value of animals slaughtered and sold for slaughter, $228,308, and the production of wool amounted to 30,171 pounds.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,670 km² (645 mi²). 1,662 km² (642 mi²) of it is land and 8 km² (3 mi²) of it (0.49%) is water.
Chautauqua County's population was estimated to be 4,109 in the year 2005, a decrease of 241, or -5.5%, over the previous five years.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 4,359 people, 1,796 households, and 1,235 families residing in the county. The population density was 3/km² (7/mi²). There were 2,169 housing units at an average density of 1/km² (3/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 93.83% White, 0.30% Black or African American, 3.58% Native American, 0.07% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.34% from other races, and 1.84% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.35% of the population.
There were 1,796 households out of which 26.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.30% were married couples living together, 7.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.20% were non-families. 29.40% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.34 and the average family size was 2.87.
In the county the population was spread out with 23.40% under the age of 18, 6.10% from 18 to 24, 20.90% from 25 to 44, 25.20% from 45 to 64, and 24.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females there were 93.60 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $28,717, and the median income for a family was $33,871. Males had a median income of $25,083 versus $21,346 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,280. About 9.00% of families and 12.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.80% of those under age 18 and 10.60% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Sedan, 1,289 (county seat)
Cedar Vale, 683
Unified school districts
Cedar Vale USD 285
Chautauqua USD 286