The Early History of Lyon County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Lyon County is in the fourth tier of counties from Missouri, being in the line of the Great Neosho Valley and nearly at the head waters of that river. The Osage River has its rise in Osage, Wabaunsee and Lyon counties, its branches watering the northeastern sections of the latter district. Eagle, Allen, Dow, Rock, Badger, Plum, Coal and Dry creeks, tributaries of the Neosho River, water thoroughly the central and southern portions of the county, and, to a partial extent, the northwestern. The Cottonwood River, a branch of the Neosho, flows east through its southern central portion. Elm Creek and One Hundred and Forty-second Creek, tributaries of the Osage, and the north and south branches of the Verdigris River, furnish an abundant water supply to the northeastern and southwestern portions of the county. There is also a good supply of springs, water being obtained for drinking purposes at a depth of from twenty to forty feet.
The agricultural reports divide the face of the country as follows:--Bottom land, 15 per cent; upland, 85 per cent; forest (Government survey), 8 per cent; prairie, 92 per cent. The general surface of the country is undulating, the bottom lands varying in width from one half a mile to four miles. The soil generally is composed of a deep, black loam, mellow and rich; the subsoil being porous and impregnated with lime, which accounts for its good grain-growing qualities. Naturally, blue and white limestone abounds, and sufficient sand for building purposes is found. Some pottery and fireclay are reported, but these deposits have not been much developed. A medium quality of surface coal, veins varying from one to two feet, has been discovered in the northeastern and southwestern portions of the county, cropping out of the creek banks. It has been utilized to some extent in Jackson, Elmendaro and Centre townships.
The average width of the timber belts is one mile. Cottonwood, hackberry, oak, walnut, burr oak, hickory, coffee bean and mulberry comprise the natural varieties of wood. Farmers throughout the county are also doing considerable planting of shade and ornamental trees.
Lyon County is situated in the exact center of the State, north and south, and is almost parallel with the center of population, east and west, being a short distance to the east thereof. It has become, to a great extent, what its early settlers meant it to be, a railroad center and an emporium of trade for Central Kansas. Previous to their exhibit of foresight and determination, a number of settlers had located in the county, but foreseeing the natural advantage of locating at or near the junction of the Neosho and Cottonwood rivers, many of the enterprising pioneers settled in that vicinity.
By common consent, however, the very first settler of the county was Charles H. Withington, who located in the extreme northern part of the county, on the old Santa Fe road, a short distance south of what is now Allen Postoffice, Agnes City Township. Mr. Withington was one of the earliest settlers of the State, coming to Kansas in 1846, being gunsmith to the Sac and Fox Indians. Removing to Council Grove five years later, he opened a store for the Santa Fe and Indian trade, and following his old proclivities, when, in June, 1854, he became a resident of Lyon County--then unorganized--he planted himself again on the old Santa Fe road, opening a trading post and becoming the first storekeeper in the county.
In 1851 he was appointed United States Mail Agent, with headquarters at Council Grove. He obtained and held the trade of the immigrants who passed along the Neosho Valley, many of them settling with its borders in 1855, `56. His store became known far and wide as the only "commercial establishment" in southern Kansas, outside of the regular Indian posts. Would-be settlers looking for claims, found in Mr. Withington's place of business as good a hotel as the times would afford, and in Mr. Withington himself as accommodating a landlord as his accommodations would allow.
In 1857, when the bulk of the early immigration flowed to this county, and for years afterward, Mr. Withington was prominent in all affairs of moment to the county, as will be ascertained by consulting pages which follow. He died at Sacramento, Cal., November 4, 1881. At the time he was stopping with his brother, R. H. In June, 1880, Mr. Withington's wife had preceded him, and his own death was no doubt hastened by his grief over her loss.
In April, 1855, Oliver Phillips settled on One Hundred and Forty-second Creek, and is, without doubt, the second permanent resident of the county. He moved to his present location on Duck Creek, in 1857. Under the Leavenworth Constitution of 1858, Mr. Phillips was elected a representative from the county, and in 1859, was sent as a delegate to the Osawatomie Convention, which organized the Republican party of Kansas. He has been Commissioner of his county, and Assessor repeatedly, and is generally respected.
The next day after Mr. Phillips' arrival, Chris. Ward also located on One Hundred and Forty-second Creek. About the same time came J. S. Pigman, who, in 1857, went into business at Columbia, which had been founded two years before by Mr. Withington and others. In May, 1855, Charles Johnson and James H. Pheanis located on the Cottonwood River. Mr. Johnson still lives on the old homestead. Mr. Pheanis has since sold his farm removed to to Emporia, then returned and located on land near his former home. At about the same time David Vangundy settled on the Cottonwood, above its junction with the Neosho River, and John Rosenquist took a claim just below. Joseph Moon and Rev. Thomas J. Addis (a lonesome Free-state man) and his family, increased the number of settlers near the junction.
The same year (1855) Lorenzo Dow settled on the creek which bears his name, and, with him, R. H. Abraham, Wm. Grimsley and Thomas Shockley, on Allen Creek; Joseph Hadley, Wm. H. Eikenbery and Joel Haworth, on the Cottonwood, west of the present site of Emporia; Dr. Gregg, Mr. Carver, James Hendricks and others, near the junction; Albert Watkins on One Hundred and Forty-second Creek; John Fowler, on the Cottonwood below Emporia, and G. D. Humphrey and L. H. Johnson on the Neosho, above the present city. Among the settlers of 1856, may be mentioned, Charles N. Link (who located in Douglas County in 1854), Sol. Pheanis (from whom the creek was named), Moses Puckett, Silas Howell, D. Roth, Isaac Cox, Eli Davis, Curtis Hiatt, Andrew Hinshaw, W. J. Carney, Milton Chamness, N. Lockerman, P. W. Manning, Mr. Taylor (from whom the creek was named), and S. G. Brown.
One of those events which seldom happened to disturb the equanimity of the early settlers of Breckinridge County, was the killing of Mrs. Carver, the daughter of David Vangundy, who lived near Neosho Rapids. The settlement in that vicinity was largely composed of the Pro-slavery element, and in September, 1856, a Free-state mob from Topeka, robbing as they went, came to Mr. Carver's house and demanded admission. Being refused, they fired into the building, two of the shots taking effect in the body of Mrs. Carver, who was in bed at the time. The unfortunate young lady, a bride of only a year, died soon after. The mob then continued on their course along the Cottonwood, and before they left this region, visited Columbia, and Mr. Withington's store, at Allen. For the particulars of this raid the reader is referred to the sketch of Neosho Rapids.
In 1857 occurred a great influx of settlers; consequently, as in all new but growing communities, the problem of sufficient mail communication became the uppermost one for immediate solution. During 1855-56 the mail for the Cottonwood and Neosho Valley settlers had been thrown from the Santa Fe stages, and placed in Mr. Withington's hands for distribution. Joseph Hadley then mounted a horse and acted as carrier, the settlers whom he thus accommodated raising the money to pay him for his services. By the summer of 1857 the department still "accommodated" the people of Breckinridge County by giving them an occasional mail from Jefferson City to Council Grove, the post-office for Emporia being at Columbia, three miles below.
Besides the irregularity of the mails, there were other reasons why the citizens of the new town of Emporia did not appreciate this arrangement. As was then observed: "We do not feel inclined to trust our letters to the tender mercies of the Pro-slavery residents of Council Grove, and prefer to carry our mail matter by private hands, rather than risk the present uncertainty." But a great cry of distress went up from all the people, whatever their political bendings. The key-note of the cry was "We must have mail communication with Topeka." The cry was answered.
Most of the mail was finally ordered sent to Lawrence--box 500--which was brought down to Emporia in "private hands" and deposited in the hotel, where the settlers helped themselves--"with no one to molest or make afraid." The Emporia News proposed that a regular semi-weekly mail be established between Emporia and Lawrence--a pony express. The application was refused by the General Government. But in the fall of 1857 John Fowler resigned as Postmaster at Columbia, and the office was removed to Emporia.
H. W. Fick became the Postmaster here, and the mail facilities of the county were soon brought into better shape. In August "Dow's weekly hack" commenced to run between Emporia and Topeka, and Walker's hack was put on the road about the same time between Emporia and Lawrence. But even in January, 1858, it is recorded that there were "about three bushels of mail directed to Emporia lying in the Osawatomie office, seventy-five miles away, the route from that point being by way of the Sac Agency, Le Roy and Ottumwa." The mail was supposed to be a weekly mail, carried on horseback.
Decently regular mail routes were established the next year from Council Grove to Fort Scott, via Emporia; from Butler, Mo., to Council Grove, and from Lawrence to Emporia. In August, 1860, tri-weekly coaches were put on the route between Emporia and Lawrence. By March, 1861, Emporia was receiving tri-weekly mails from Lawrence, semi-weekly from Council Grove and weekly from Topeka, Fort Scott, Cottonwood Falls, Tonawanda and Butler, Mo. The growth of the postal service in Emporia and the county is traced elsewhere--the early attempts at establishments being what applies to the topic now being treated.
Another "establishment" of early times, which is of the supremest importance to the pioneer, is the saw mill. The first ones built in this county were in the spring and summer of 1857. Parham & Phelps operated one near Emporia. On the opposite side of the Neosho River, one-half a mile north of Parham's mill, was the mill of Dr. Armour, while eight miles west, on the Cottonwood River, was Joel Hayworth's establishment and six miles below, at the junction, G. D. Humphrey operated one. Mr. Humphrey built and operated the pioneer mill--the firm being afterwards Humphrey & Goodwill. In December, 1858, W. T. Soden purchased from Mr. Link a mill site, with water privilege, about four miles west of Emporia.
In 1859 the "American Steam Saw Mill" was in operation on the south side of Cottonwood River, one mile west of its junction with the Neosho, M. M. Baker, proprietor. In the summer of 1860 the county supported seven saw mills, the one at Emporia operated by Britton & Isbell; Dr. Armour owning one a mile north; Joel Haworth on the Cottonwood, seven miles west; M. M. Baker (the American) seven miles east; G. D. Humphrey on the Neosho, at Forest Hill; Mr. Bests, at Waterloo, and Mr. Bywater, at Americus. With the war came the suspension of many of these mills, which suffered with all other industries.
As previously intimated, the sagacious early settlers of Breckinridge County saw at once their natural advantages of position--especially those who located near the junction of the Neosho and Cottonwood rivers. They perceived what a splendid inlet and outlet for railroads the valley of these rivers made, and knew that somewhere near their meeting the future metropolis of the county, and perhaps of central Kansas, must be located. The citizens of Emporia therefore early began the agitation of railroads, which were to run up and down these natural courses.
The first public meeting ever held in Emporia was a Fourth of July celebration, and the third one a public gathering to discuss railroad matters--date, July 21, 1857. The settlers began to arrive early in the day, and had assembled in sufficient numbers by 11 o'clock, A. M., to select a committee on resolutions, consisting of John O. Wattles, of Moneka; W. A. Ela of Hampden; P. B. Plumb, W. B. Swisher, Abells; A. S. Frazer, and Z. Stubbs, of Breckinridge County. The meeting then adjourned until 2 o'clock, P. M., as C. K. Holliday, president of the Topeka & St. Joe Railroad, and Prof. W. Oakley, of the same corporation, were expected to be present and address the gathering.
They came and spoke, Col. Holliday delivering an enthusiastic address of nearly an hour's duration, demonstrating the grand importance of securing connection with that road and thus with the chain of iron bands running along the shores of the lakes to the East. A glowing set of resolutions were adopted, delineating the splendid position of Emporia as a natural railroad center and commercial mart for central Kansas. The following "whereas" fairly illustrates the sense of the meeting:
Emporia, by its central position in Kansas, offers all the advantages for a point of general radiation, as well as a point of termination for the roads entering the Territory from the east, north and south, and to unite and extend onward toward the setting sun, as that proposed from the Kansas River to the Gulf of Mexico will undoubtedly pass down the Neosho Valley, and that from Jefferson City (via Versailles, Clinton and Butler to the line, thence through Moneka, Hyatt and Central Southern Kansas) will also terminate here, or, passing through, terminate in Santa Fe; and that now being constructed from Hannibal to St. Joe, and from thence to Topeka, will, in all probability, be continued to this point, thus opening the heart of Kansas--which is the heart of the country--to the wealth and commerce of the world.
In the spring of 1864 steps were taken to organize the Neosho Valley Railroad, to run from Fort Riley to Emporia, via Council Grove. It soon became evident, however, that the A., T. & S. F. road, of which it was to be a branch, would make the line quite an insignificant adjunct to the main route. In April, 1864, the Neosho Valley Association was formed, composed of citizens from Woodson, Coffey, Lyon and Riley counties--Judge Bent, president. Its object was to obtain control of the land grant which had been voted the A., T. & S. F.--every alternate section, for ten sections in width on each side of the road--and make the Neosho Valley & Fort Gibson road a branch of the U. P.
Senator Lane introduced the bill extending the Neosho Valley line to Fort Riley; also making Emporia the terminus of the Lawrence & Wakarusa road. An amendatory act was passed in June, covering these points and making the Valley road a branch of the Union Pacific. Thus originated the M. K. & T. road, now the Missouri Pacific. Although $125,000 bonds were voted by the county in September, 1865, to aid in the construction of the Lawrence & Emporia line, the bonds were not issued and no work was done. In May, 1867, the Topeka & Emporia Company was formed, and in June, 1869, $200,000 bonds were voted to the A., T. & S. F., and the road was completed to Emporia in July, 1870.
Two years previous to this "happy consummation" --in June, 1867--the county voted the M. K. & T. R. R. Co. (the old Neosho Valley) $200,000 in bonds, and that line was built through the county in 1869-70. The two roads intersect each other at Emporia, the Missouri Pacific entering the county from Americus Township. Its principal stations are Americus, Neosho Rapids and Hartford. The A., T. & S. F. passes from Reading Township, in a southwesterly direction, to Emporia, where it bends directly to the west, the principal stations being Reading and Plymouth.
The Kansas City, Emporia & Southern, and the Kansas City & Emporia lines may be said to lie in the near future. The charter of the Kansas City & Emporia road dates from January, 1881. In September, 1882, Jackson Township voted $20,000 in bonds to aid in its construction. Its course is surveyed for nearly an air line between the two points. Some grading has already been done in Osage County.
By the spring of 1860 the population of the county had reached 3,500, but during this year a series of misfortunes occurred, which checked its progress for years. That long and discouraging drought commenced in the fall of 1859, and for all practical purposes no rain fell until October 26, 1860. The county had scarcely any development in agriculture, and the settlers had the scantiest of stocks on hand to meet such an unforseen crisis. Many of them became completely disheartened and returned to the East. During the winter and spring those who had remained were relieved from actual suffering; but the long-to-be-remembered drought of 1860 had a demoralizing effect not only upon the county then, but upon its future prospects.
The heavy taxes of this fall and the war coming in the spring of 1861 with all its train of "set-backs," crushed Breckinridge County, for the time, almost to the ground. And the effects of the war were necessarily felt by sections which responded the most generously to the call for troops. The first company which left this county was the "Emporia Guards," in May, 1861. They were commanded by Capt. W. F. Cloud, and joined their regiment at Lawrence. They did good service, fighting bravely at Wilson's Creek. A. J. Mitchell raised an artillery company also. In the fall of 1862 P. B. Plumb raised a company of 150 men for service in the Eleventh Regiment. In 1864 the Lyon County Militia assisted in the campaign against Price. The mention of these organizations does not include the enlistments of those who joined other commands by ones, twos, threes and dozens. Lyon County acquitted herself heroically, and had the brave man, whose name she assumed, lived until the end of the Rebellion, he would have applauded her war record.
Many men from Lyon County also served against the bushwhackers and the Indians of the West. The most noted raid ever accomplished by the former in this vicinity, and which resulted in the shocking death of an old and respected resident of the county, occurred July 3, 1862, and is of such an unusually bold a nature than an account is extracted from the Emporia News:
It will be remembered that some few weeks ago we gave the particulars of the killing of an old man named Anderson by Judge A. I. Baker. Baker had branded Anderson and his two sons, Bill and Jim, as belonging to a band of horse thieves; and for this and perhaps one or two other reasons, which it is not necessary to make public, Anderson sought his life, and was shot by Baker in self-defense. At the same time, a Mexican, one of the band of horse thieves and desperadoes to which the Andersons belonged, was hung by a mob. Bill Anderson was arraigned on the charge preferred by Baker and bailed out. He swore vengeance on Baker and others and left the country. It was supposed at the time--and the awful tragedy which we are about to relate proves the supposition to have been true--that they had gone to Missouri to join Quantrell.
On Thursday evening, the 3rd of July, at 8 or 9 o'clock, Bill Anderson, Jim Anderson, Lee Griffin (another of the gang which had left), accompanied by two others, one of them supposed to be Quantrell himself, arrived at the residence of Judge Baker, on the Santa Fe road, when one of their company proceeded to his house and reported himself as a lone traveler, and told Baker he wished to procure some whisky. Baker went to his store, a short distance from his residence, to get the whisky, and when in the act of going into the cellar the other four members of the gang rushed in and discharged several pistols at him, two of them taking effect in his body.
Baker reeled upon the steps, drew his revolver and fired into the crowd, hitting Jim Anderson in the thigh, but not seriously wounding him. Baker fell into the cellar in an expiring condition. A young man named Segur, a brother-in-law of Baker's, was present and was shot and thrown into the cellar with him. The cut-throats supposed this latter gentleman to be Elisha Goddard, of Americus, against whom they had a grudge for taking a prominent part in the hanging of their comrade, the Mexican, and against whom they had sworn vengeance. They then closed the door and piled boxes and barrels upon it, and set them afire.
Baker, who was in the agonies of a horrible death, reached over his hand and bade Segur farewell, saying, "I am going." Young Segur although mortally wounded, recollected a back window in the cellar, and through this he mustered strength to escape from the horrible fate of burning to death. He lived about twenty-four hours after his escape. Judge Baker's head, arms and legs were literally burned to ashes. A portion of the body was saved from burning by some object which had fallen upon it during the conflagration. The devils then set fire to the remainder of his property, consisting of a large stone dwelling, several outhouses, a carriage, etc. They also stole two fine horses.
After they had completed their hellish work at this point, the murderers started towards Missouri, on the Santa Fe road, committing depredations and stealing horses at every point which they passed. After leaving Baker's, the first settler is a man called Dutch Henry, and whom they robbed of clothing and money.
They then went to the residence of C. H. Withington, of Allen, and, after placing all the men about the premises under arrest, they demolished a saloon, knocking the proprietor down with a pistol and setting fire to his house. Owing to the lumber being green, the building did not burn. Jim Anderson seemed determined upon killing our friend Withington, but his life was spared through the intercession of Quantrell and Bill Anderson, the former of whom Mr. W. recognized, having been somewhat acquainted with him a few years ago in Missouri.
Here they stole three horses belonging to the Kansas City & Santa Fe Mail Company, and a rifle belonging to Mr. Withington. They stayed at Allen until nearly daylight. When they started they took the prisoners with them, and on releasing them Quantrell is reported to have said something in this wise: "Gentlemen, we now have possession of Kansas, and if I had time I would issue a proclamation. But I will only say this much: Let it be remembered that Quantrell disturbs no man who minds his own business."
At Elm Creek they fired into the house of a Mr. Jacoby, who had taken some part in getting them arrested. It was their intention to have killed this gentleman, but a Santa Fe train, which was encamped near Jacoby's residence, saved his life. At the next station they stole two more horses, belonging to the Kansas City & Council Grove Stage Company. From this place they proceeded on down the road, avoiding Burlingame, and threatening Hollam Rice--who, as those who have traveled the road between here and Lawrence, will recollect, kept a kind of a stopping place at Dragoon Creek, near Burlingame, and who lately left for Iowa, because of his supposed complicity with this band of horse-thieves--they would lay that town in ashes. At 110 creek they compelled Mr. Harris to get breakfast for them in double-quick time, threatening to blow his brains out if he did not do so. They left there a little after daylight, and were probably in Missouri by noon of that day.
In the fall of 1860, previous to the war, came the grasshopper raid; in June, 1866, after the war, came the freshets, damaging thousands of dollars' worth of property. These six years, from 1860 to 1866, may be designated Lyon County's unfortunate period, but soon after that she took a fresh and more vigorous start. Railroads were built, crops were moderately good, and by 1870 her population had increased to 8,014. The earthquake of April 24, 1867, cannot be called either a retarding or a fostering influence. It shook up the county, generally, for about fifteen seconds, and created such a panic in the Normal School, at Emporia, that several of the scholars were bruised while attempting to make too hasty an exit down stairs. So endeth the first earthquake.
The Territorial Legislature of 1855 organized Breckinridge County, attaching it to Madison County for civil, criminal and military purposes. It was named to honor Vice-President Breckinridge. The county seat of Madison County was Columbia, situated one and a half miles southeast of Emporia, and founded during this year by the first settler in Breckinridge County, Charles H. Withington, assisted by T. S. Huffaker and Wm. D. Harris, the other two incorporators. The bogus statutes which brought Breckinridge County into being, fixed the terms of the United States District Court in 1855, on the second Thursday of October, and in the county of Madison on the third Thursday of October. During and after the year 1856 the terms of court in Breckinridge County were to commence on the third Monday of July and December. Saunders W. Johnson was Judge of the Third District, but held no court until December, 1858.
These same bogus laws of 1855 made the County Commissioners to consist of the Probate Judge and two other members chosen by the Legislature. A Sheriff was also to be elected, and all were to hold their offices until the general election in 1857. The Commissioners appointed the Clerk, Treasurer, Coroner, Justices of the Peace and Constables. On the 25th of August, 1855, the Legislature elected the the following officers for Breckinridge County: Probate Judge, T. S. Huffaker; Commissioners, Harmon B. Elliott and Charles H. Withington.; Sheriff, John B. Foreman. John Ratliff was appointed Clerk. These were the first officers for what is now Lyon County.
Only a few meetings were held by the Commissioners. Columbia being out of their way, and furthermore the troubles of 1856 interfered with them. In 1855 Mr. Withington was elected to the Council and Arthur I. Baker to the House. They were Free-state men and the Legislature Pro-slavery; they never obtained their seats. The next set of county officers consisted of Mr. Baker, of Agnes City, Probate Judge; C. Columbia and C. H. Withington, Commissioners: and Elisha Goddard, Sheriff, appointed by the Legislature. This occurred February 17, 1857, and at the same time Breckinridge was detached from Madison County, and Agnes City, the residence of Judge Baker, was declared. But the first regular convention for the nomination of county officers was held at Americus, September 26, 1857. The action of its members gave dissatisfaction to a number, and a rival ticket was put in the field by the convention which met at Kansas Center, October 1. The voting was done viva voice, the election being held October 6. and the Americus ticket triumphed. It was: A. I. Baker, Probate Judge; E. Goddard, Sheriff; N. S. Storrs, Treasurer; Clerk and Recorder, 0. V. Eskridge; Surveyor, - Voke; Coroner, W. B. Swisher; H. W. Fick and William Grimsley, Commissioners.
Prior to this election, the people had not generally recognized the authority of the county officers; and the organization of the county into municipal townships, and the regular discharge of official business dates from this time.
Dating from this year (1857), when the influx of immigration was at its height, was the agitation to annex three miles of Madison County to Breckinridge. In February, 1859, a bill was passed by the Legislature, making the change. Although the Legislature had made this addition to the original territory of Breckinridge County, which was twenty-four miles square, a mass convention of the newly-attached "three-mile strip" assembled at Columbia, the old county seat, and resolved that as the Governor ignored the change and would refuse to commission officers elected, they deemed it inexpedient then to organize. But their fears were soon dispelled, and the three-mile strip became a part of the county, politically as well as territorily. In March, 1859, four new townships were formed, and Cottonwood and Emporia extended south to the new county line.
It was during 1858-59 that the bitterest fight occurred between Americus and Emporia over the location of the county seat. Emporia desired to postpone the settlement of the question, until the southern portion of the county should acquire the "three-mile strip." But the advocates of Americus brought the matter to a vote in October, 1858, and their town was declared the county seat by a majority of fourteen. But there were still doubts as to the legality of the submission so that although the Board of Supervisors made all the preliminary arrangements, in March, 1859, to build a jail and court house at Americus - and as was facetiously observed, in the "Morisco style of architecture" - "Spanish castle" style - the order was rescinded during the next month.
The first meeting of the United States District Court, Judge Elmore presiding, was held in Americus, December 20, 1858. It was to have been held at Agnes City, but between the date of notice and time of assembling, the change in the county seat had occurred. The term lasted two days, the cases tried being mostly for trespassing on school lands. The petit jurors were: U. P. Oakfield, R. W. Stevenson, William J. Carney, Van R. Holmes, E. P. Bancroft, Emporia Township; Zimri Stubbs, E. Yeakley. William McClelland, Benjamin Wright, C. H. Dake, Fleming Smith, Americus; R. H. Best, Albert Watkins, John Watkins, John Wayman, Leonard Bush, Kansas Center; John Lohr, Mathias Friel, David Riddle, N. W. Douglas, Agnes City; Ell Davis, Samuel McVey. David Roth, George W. Evans and William Holsinger, Cottonwood. Grand Jurors: R. W. Cloud, William Wendell, Robert Best, Oliver Phillips, Kansas Center Township; J. 0. Hyde, William Perry, G. M. Walker, Leigh McClung, Emporia; Dempsey Elliot, George Rees, John Conner, William McCullouch, Americus; James Jackson, Messrs. Morgan and Moon, Cottonwood; George Lea, William C. Anderson, G. B. Griffith, Agnes City.
The second term of court was also held in Americus, closing March 21,1859. William 0. Luineker - was acquitted on a charge of larceny, and the indictments for trespasses on school lands, and for selling liquor without a license, were held by Judge Elmore to be fatally defective, being accordingly quashed.
But although a court house was not erected In Americus. It continued to be regarded as the county seat, up to the time of the general election of 1860, held November 6. Emporia received 884 votes for the honor. Americus, 141; Fremont, 73; Breckinridge Center, 14; Forest Hill 1. This election put an end to the contest.
Among the early-day towns which figured considerably In 1858, 1859 and 1860, may be mentioned Fremont, Waterloo and Forest Hill. As is above noticed, they were competitors for the county seat. Fremont was laid out in 1857, eight miles north of Emporia, and at one time had attained to almost the dignity of a village. William B. Swisher was President of the Town Company. The town soon contained about a dozen houses, a good general store and several shops. Fremont is now farming land and no trace is left of Emporia's former competitor.
Waterloo was laid out in 1858 by W. H. Mickel, fifteen miles northeast of Emporia. Mr. Mickel kept a hotel for several years, and the town grew to contain four or five other buildings. Travelers passing over the old State road between Lawrence and Topeka, patronized Brother Mickel to some extent, but the place never grew in an alarming degree. Forest Hill, another competitor for the country seat, gave up the ghost in 1860, although even then it contained only a few buildings. The "town" was situated on the high land on the east side of the Neosho, nearly opposite the junction being laid out in 1858.
The next important event in the general history of Breckinridge County, was the cutting of Madison County in two; attaching the northern twelve miles to this country, and the southern portion to Greenwood. This was done at the last session of the Territorial Legislature in 1861. There was considerable opposition, as the measure completely annihilated Madison County, but the legality of the act was soon sustained by the State Supreme Court, to which an appeal had been taken. This made the county thirty-nine miles long.
In February, 1862, the bill changing the name from Breckinridge to Lyon County received the Governor's signature. It was named in honor of the hero of Wilson's Creek, who had met his untimely death during the previous August.
The other changes in the limits of Lyon County, which have fashioned it to its present shape and dimensions are thus detailed in the history prepared by Jacob Stotler, editor of the News, from which, and from whom, much of the material here presented is taken: "In the legislative session of 1863 a law was passed detaching from Lyon County two miles in width of territory on the west side, from the south line of our county as far north as the north line of Chase County. In 1864 an act was passed detaching two miles in width of territory, on the west side of our county, from the line between Ranges 17 and 18 to the north line of the county, and attaching the same to Morris County, thus straightening the west line of the county and leaving it twenty-two miles wide. It contains 858 square miles, or 549,978 acres of land." Its boundaries are now as follows: "Commencing on the west line of Osage County, at the corners to Sections 14, 15, 22, and 23, of Township 15, south of Range 13 east; thence west on section lines and the south line of Wabaunsee County to the east line of Range 9 east; thence south, along said range line to the north line of Township 22 south; thence east on said township line to section line between second and third tier of sections in Range 13 east; thence north on section lines and the west lines of Coffee and Osage Counties to place of beginning."
The State officers who have represented Lyon County, will be found in their appropriate place in the general State history. The present county officers, November, 1882, are as follows: Probate Judge, L. B. Kellogg; County Attorney, J. W. Feighan; County Clerk, William F. Ewing; Clerk of the District Court, J. G. Traylor; Superintendent of Schools, J. E. Klock; Treasurer, Joseph Ernst; Sheriff, Thomas L. Ryan; Coroner, J. D. Davison; Register of Deeds, William F. Chalfant; Surveyor, Robert Milliken; Superintendent of the Poor, E. Brown.
In March, 1866, the people voted on the question whether they should, or should not, erect a suitable building in Emporia, for the accommodation of the country officers. The result of the election, 327 to 164, showed that some of the old feelings of rivalry still lingered in the breasts of Americus, Waterloo, and Agnes City. The building, a plain two story stone structures, was completed during the winter of 1867-68, at a cost of $19,795.
In 1875, at the general election, the people of the country declared most emphatically that they did not want any addition to the court house building.
The County Poor Farm is situated one mile southwest of Emporia. It comprises eighty acres of land, and a substantial two story brick building, used as a Poor House. The entire property is valued at $6000. The farm is in the trustworthy charge of E. Brown, and the inmates are given all possible comforts.
Schools and County Societies
The first school in the county was opened by Rev. G. W. Torrence, in the summer of 1858. In October of that year, Miss Mary Jane Watson opened a free school in Emporia, and about the same time O. A. Tripp taught at Forest Hill, and W. E. Dennison at Fremont. These were among the earliest schools in the county.
In November, 1867, G. C. Morse, the County Superintendent of Schools, made his first annual report, from which are taken the following figures: In the thirty-four districts, containing schools, there were twenty-six male and twenty-five female teachers. The amount of State school funds belonging to the county was $1,271.64; county fund, $624.75. Of the 34 districts, 25 possessed school buildings, 9 stone, 10 frame, 6 log. Total number of school average, 1,623; attending, 1,195. The value of the school property was $18,625.
As a contrast the following facts are taken from the report of the County Superintendent, for 1882: Lyon County is divided into 97 school districts, in which 148 teachers are employed. Of the 6,026 people of school age 4,859 are in attendance. The average monthly wages of teachers are, male, $35.72; female. $30.70. The total value of school proper is now $108,990, and this amount is soon to be increased by the erection of buildings in districts Nos. 57, 64, 92 and 93, and in the city of Emporia.
The first attempt to organize a county agricultural society, was made in 1860, but after publishing a premium list, it became defunct. July 4, 1863, another attempt was made and a society organized at Emporia, with the following officers: R. H. Abraham, Pres.; E. Borton, Sec'y, and A. Gillett, Treas. After holding one fair, September 28, 29, 30, 1866, the society disbanded. In January, 1868, a re-organization was made, but soon shared the fate of its predecessors. August 8, 1871, the Emporia and Lyon County Mechanical Stock Association, now known as the Lyon County Agricultural Society, was incorporated, with a capital stock of $100,000. Corporators: E. R. Holdenman, C. H. North, P. B. Plumb, H. B. Cross, T. C. Watson, J. S. Cleveland, and N. Spicer. The society purchased a forty-five acre tract of land, one and one-half miles west of the city, and have made improvements from time to time. Among the many buildings are the main hall, 20x60, and floral hall, 25x60 feet. Present Directors: J. F. Stratton, J. A. Moore, J. M. Griffith, P. G. Hallburg, L. T. Heritage, W. B. Ross, E. Borton, L. L. Halleck, and W. T. Soden. Officers: J. F. Stratton, Pres.; J. A. Moore, Vice-Pres.; J. M. Griffith, Treas.; W. R. Griffith, Sec'y.
County Horticultural Society was organized in February, 1871, with about twenty members. During the first year 150 members were enrolled. First Officers: Prof. A. D. Chambers, of Hartford. Pres.; E. W. Cunningham, of Emporia, Treas.; R. Milliken of Emporia, Sec'y. First fair was held in the summer of 1872. The flora of the county receives special attention. Present officers: R. Milliken, Pres.; J. G. Klock, Vice-Pres.; R. J. Rudlsell, Treas.; Mrs. T. F. Stratton. Sec'y.
Lyon County Medical was organized April, 1882, with eight members. Officers: Dr. W. Hibben, Pres.; Dr. J. W. Trueworthy. Vice-Pres.: Dr. G. W. Frost, Sec'y and Treas. Board of Censors: Drs. L. D. Jacobs, J. W. Filkins and J. J. Wright. Regular meetings are held the first Tuesday of each month at Emporia.
George H. Rees made the first assessment of property in the fall of 1868. But his returns were so partial that they are useless, as are also those of 1859. From the figures returned in 1860, however, it is ascertained that the 190,488 taxable acres of land in the county were valued at $566.276; town lots, $66,212; personal property, $147,503 - total, $779,991. In 1861 the total Valuation was $693.030; 1862, $886,037; 1864, $1,085,220; 1874, $3,889,680. In 1875, the population of the county had increased to 9,542; In 1878 to 13,634.
The statistics for 1882 make the following exhibit: Taxable land in county, $2,359,999 (town lots, personal and railroad property in Emporia, $1,332,142.51); other property in county, $2,804,972.53 - total, $5,164,971.53. The total population of the county, exclusive of Emporia City which has 7,000, is 11,660. In the spring of 1882, there were planted 73,836 acres of corn, 3,992 of oats and 6,671 1/2 of millet and Hungarian. On March 1, 1882., 203,211 bushels of old corn was on hand. Agnes City, Americus, and Fremont, the "cheese" townships, manufactured 71,708 lbs. of that article during the year. The county turned out 359,712 lbs of butter, and sold poultry and eggs to the valve of $17,825. In the county are 8,111 horses, 41,356 cattle, 29,179 sheep and 18,808 swine.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,215 km² (855 mi²). 2,204 km² (851 mi²) of it is land and 11 km² (4 mi²) of it (0.50%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 35,935 people, 13,691 households, and 8,639 families residing in the county. The population density was 16/km² (42/mi²). There were 14,757 housing units at an average density of 7/km² (17/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 83.27% White, 2.27% Black or African American, 0.47% Native American, 2.04% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 9.79% from other races, and 2.16% from two or more races. 16.72% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 13,691 households out of which 32.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.80% were married couples living together, 8.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.90% were non-families. 28.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.12.
In the county the population was spread out with 25.70% under the age of 18, 16.20% from 18 to 24, 27.20% from 25 to 44, 19.10% from 45 to 64, and 11.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 97.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $32,819, and the median income for a family was $43,112. Males had a median income of $28,865 versus $21,338 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,724. About 9.60% of families and 14.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.60% of those under age 18 and 9.20% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Emporia, 26,639 (county seat)
Neosho Rapids, 280
Unified school districts
North Lyon County USD 251
Southern Lyon County USD 252
Emporia USD 253
Colleges and universities
Emporia State University