The Early History of Montgomery County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
MONTGOMERY County is situated in the southern part of the State of Kansas, the north line of the Indian Territory forming its southern boundary. It is further bounded by Labette County on the east, Wilson on the north and Elk and Chautauqua counties on the west. The general surface of the county is variable, being a succession of rolling prairies, broad, fertile valleys, and low hills. Elevated mounds, with steep declivitous sides, are found in places, rising abruptly out of the midst of a plain, to considerable heights.
These are, in some instances, peak shaped, while in others they are capped with an almost level plain, comprising, in some cases, several acres in extent. There are several of these mounds in the county, each of which bears some significant name, such as Table Mound, from its table-like appearance, and Walker's Mound, which took its name from a man named Walker, who was first to locate a claim bordering on its base, etc. These elevations are in no way connected with the "Mound Builders," but in their native magnificence bespeak the workmanship of a mightier hand, and wiser builder.
The water supply is abundant throughout the county, which is traversed from north to south by the Verdigris River, and its important tributary, Elk River, both of which are streams of considerable magnitude. In their flow through the county, they become confluent with several large creeks and streams, which, with their innumerable branchings, spread out over the entire surface. The Little Caney River runs through the southwest corner of the county, by which, with its important branches, Illinois and Cheyenne creeks, that part is sufficiently watered. The principal creeks are: Duck, Onion, Salt, Cheyenne, Illinois, Pumpkin, Rock, Sycamore, Drum and Big Hill. There are numerous other smaller ones.
The soil throughout the county generally, is remarkably fertile, particularly that found in the bottoms, which comprise about one-fourth of the entire area of the county.
Timber, as in most parts of the State, is scarce, being confined to the belts along the water courses, varying in width, from a mile to a narrow fringe along the less important streams. Occasional groves are found upon the uplands, but the timber is limited, and of inferior quality. The principal varieties of timber are the oak, walnut, ash, elm, cottonwood, box elder, soft maple and other varieties in limited quantities.
Coal has been discovered in various parts of the county, the fields covering about one-third of its area, in veins varying in thickness from one to two feet. It is found on the surface and, also, cropping out at the base of elevations. The quality of the coal is rather inferior at first, but becomes better as the mines are developed. As yet none of the mines have been utilized to any considerable extent, the use being confined to domestic and local demands. The mine upon J. M. Altaffer's farm, in Independence Township, is, perhaps, the most extensively operated, from which there are about ten thousand bushels mined annually. In localities where the coal abounds, an abundance of potter's clay is also found.
Inexhaustible quarries of fine building stone are numerous. The varieties are sand, lime and flag-stone; much of the sand-stone being of the fine grain and texture, which is so valuable in the construction of stone fronts, window caps, etc.
From this it will be seen, that the county is eminently superior in its natural advantages; with numerous streams affording fine water power privileges; extensive coal fields; unfailing stone quarries; timber in considerable quantities, and a productive soil. The county has within its limits, all that is necessary to the existence of a rich, prosperous and populous community.
Montgomery County comprises a portion of that body of land which was set apart and known as the "Diminished Reserve of the Osage Indians," and embraced an area of 8,000,000 acres. There was a strip of land, however, three miles in width, extending along the east side of the county, which did not form a part of the Reserve, but was a portion of what was called the "Ceded Lands," and was obtained from the Indians in 1867, and opened to settlement. For a long time the right to this strip was in controversy in the courts, between railroad corporations and settlers.
The settlers, however, were persistent in their efforts, and through the indomitable pluck and energy of their leader, Gov. M. J. Salter, finally succeeded in obtaining a decision of the United States Supreme Court in their favor. Immediately upon relinquishing their rights to this strip, the Indians, about 3,600 in number, moved farther west and scattered along the valleys of the Verdigris and Elk rivers. Each band, of which there were seven, having an under chief, and the whole under a head chief, lived apart and established villages, bearing the name of the leader of the respective band.
White Hair, the head chief, made an encampment near the north line of the county, on the east bank of the Verdigris. Below this a few miles, at Lightman's Ford. Little Beaver found his quarters, and Napawalla settled on the north side of Elk River, near where Radical City was afterward established. On the southside of the same river, Chetopa and his band halted, and built their village near the west end of Table Mound. About six miles south of where Independence now stands, on the west bank of the Verdigris River, was the site of Big Hill, or Gov. Joe's village; Claymore near Kalloch Station, and Black Dog on the west bank of Onion Creek, near its mouth.
The Government agency was located near the mouth of Drum Creek, on its north side, and was held by Maj. Snow, who was succeeded in 1868 by Maj. I. N. Gibson, a Quaker gentleman, who was held in high esteem by both the whites and Indians. This general respect he retained throughout the adjustment of the serious difficulties between the races in 1869 and 1870, occasioned by the unauthorized attempts of settlers to trespass upon and occupy these lands, the rightful property of the Indian.
As early as 1867, when the cupidity of railroad corporations became aroused respecting these lands, there came to light what is known as the "Sturgess Treaty," than which a more stupendous fraud is not known. At this time the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company sought to effect a treaty with the Osage Indians, through the company's agents, the Sturgess Brothers, of Chicago, by the terms of which the company was to obtain possession of the entire Diminished Reserve, upon payment to the Indians for the land at the rate of eighteen cents per acre. The matter was brought before Congress for its consideration, and the objects of the treaty were defeated by the action of that body.
At a very early period, several trading posts were established by parties who furnished the Indians with flour, coffee, powder, lead, dry goods, trinkets, etc. and in return took as payment hides, furs, and other articles of Indian commerce. Perhaps the earliest establishment of this kind was that made on Pumpkin Creek by G. L. Canada in January, 1867. R. W. Dunlap came into the county late in 1867, and in February of the next year began trading at a point near the mouth of Drum Creek; and about the same time John Lushbaugh located a post at the junction of Pumpkin Creek with the Verdigris River.
The goods with which Dunlap opened his store were brought by Thomas Overfield, on a wagon from Ottawa, then the nearest railroad station and distant more than 100 miles. During the winter of 1868-'69. Mose Neal opened a trading store at the mouth of Big Hill Creek, and in the early part of 1869, Maj. Fitch began a similar business at a point on the north side of Elk River, near its confluence with Sycamore Creek.
Eb. Moseley began the business of trader a short time before Dunlap, having his post at Black Dog town. Newton Miller also had a post in the supply of this band. Hitherto, aggressions upon the Indian domain, in this section, were slight.
The treaty for the purchase of the Osage Diminished Reserve was effected between the Indians and the United States Government, at the agency on Drum Creek, on September 10, 1870, and was stipulated for and signed, on the part of the Government, by J. D. Lang, of Maine, John V. Farwell, of Chicago, and Vincent Colyer, of New York who had been appointed a commission for this purpose; and on the part of the Osage Indians, was signed by Pi-na-push-a, To-wand-ga-hee, Che-to-pa, Black-Dog, Na-pa-wal-la, Strike-Axe, Wah-tan-ca, Chin-cu-a-cah and others.
The official survey and creation of the county dates from 1869, and was made to embrace 636 square miles of territory, carved out of the Osage Reserve. The name Montgomery was applied to it, in honor of the celebrated General, Richard Montgomery. Upon the treaty being effected with the Indians, the land was thrown open to settlement, upon which filings and entry could be made at the land office at Humboldt, Kan.
The first filing was made by N. S. Ramsey, on a tract of land in Louisburgh Township, and the first entry was made by Thomas Neal, on a tract in Drum Creek Township. There appears to be some difference of opinion as regards who the first permanent settler in the county was. Hon. E. E. Wilson, in his able and authentic history of the county, published in Edwards' County Historical Atlas, accords the honor to a colored man named Lewis Scott, who settled in the southeastern part of the county in February, 1867. A more detailed investigation of the matter discovers the fact, that it was more than a year prior to the date given when the foot of the first settler pressed the soil.
In January, 1866, G. L. Canada settled at a point on Pumpkin Creek, which was subsequently selected as the site for the village of Claymore, and to whom the honor of being the first settler undoubtedly belongs. Perhaps, the second man to set foot on Montgomery County soil, as a permanent settler, was Daniel Wilson, who made a settlement, June 14, 1866, locating in the extreme northern part of the county, on the Verdigris River, near White Hair's Ford. In August, 1867, Wilson built a cabin on his claim, and put up a quantity of hay; but his presence was distasteful to his dusky neighbors, who put a torch to his hay and cabin, and all was consumed. No sooner had he constructed another, when that too was demolished. Such treatment was not relished by the hardy pioneer who, becoming disheartened, and finding it useless to make further attempts, left the place. It was not long, however, before he regained his courage, and in September of 1868, he returned to the scene of his former disasters, this time effecting friendly relations with the Indians, and remaining unmolested.
Those who settled in 1867, besides those already named who had established trading-posts were Zachariah Crow, - Terwilliger, William Rutherford and perhaps a few others. Among those who came during the next year, were John Russell, J. B. Rowley, Patrick Dugan, William Reed, William Roberts, Christian Greenough, John Hanks, H. W. Conrad, Alexander Duncan, J. A. Twiss, Col. Coffey, O. F. Johns, J. Roberts, T. C., J. H., and A. Graham, P. R. Jordon, G. W., and W. L. Mays, H. A. Bethuran, J. H. Conrad, Moses Roller, R. Stallcup, M. McGowen, R. M. Bennett, John Campbell, Jacob Thompson, Thomas Brock, J. Kappell, Levi Mann, Phillip Waldron, N. P. Morgan, A. P. Patter, W. Sherill, J. Simmons, Rachel Greeno, J. Weddell, Mortimer Goodell, E. Goodell, D. R. B. Flora, R. W. Dunlap, John McIntyre, Mrs. E. C. Powell, Thomas C. Evans, Lewis Choteau, - Brewer, - Pierce, George Spece, Dr. Koutz, James Parkinson and, perhaps, some others.
Although a considerable number of permanent settlements had been made during these years, yet so few, indeed, were the number living within the county, at that time, compared with the wide expanse of country over which they were scattered, that it was only occasionally that the traveler came upon the rude cabin, dug-out or sod house of a settler. No improvement of importance had yet been made, so that up to 1869 there were but few and scattered evidences of anything except Indian occupancy. In the midst of such surroundings of uncivilized life, the hardy pioneer of Montgomery County had come to make his home, enduring the trials, braving the dangers, expecting the rewards.
In order that a settler should obtain and occupy a "squatter's claim," at this time he was obliged to secure consent from the Indians, which was easily done by paying them a few dollars in money. The price, however, varied with different bands. In the treaty which the settlers made with the Osages in the Upper Elk Valley, in 1869, the agreement was, that settlers should hold and occupy a prairie claim upon payment of $5, and $10 for a timber claim. Demands for this rental were more frequent than the terms of the agreement allowed, but upon a determined refusal by the settlers, these unauthorized collectors would go away without a word.
In no case, however, would they forget to dun a man whenever they met him, whether he was entitled to pay or not, nor did they regard the frequent refusals which they met, nor the severe rebuffs and denunciations they sometimes received, from the enraged squatter. In case there was any dissatisfaction arising from the payment of these sums, in any way, the Indians would demand a "talk," and not unfrequently it would have been better for his own interests, had he made no attempt to compete with the loquacious Yankee, in wordy settlements of this kind.
Although numerous settlements had already been made, yet it was not until 1869, that the resistless march of emigration first crossed the Verdigris River to occupy and possess the "promised land" that lay beyond. Alarmed at this bold step on the part of the settlers, to thus intrude upon and occupy their territory, the Indians began to protest against further invasion, and attempted to prohibit emigration from crossing the Verdigris; but to no purpose.
During the winter of 1869, the banks of the Verdigris were alive with camps and campers. Families spent the winter, living in covered wagons or in huts constructed of hay. On the spot where Independence stands, about 40 families lived in these hay houses during that winter, and the place was known to the Indians as Pashe-to-wah, or Haytown. So rapid, indeed, was the influx of settlers, that in the brief period of three years, between 1867 and 1870, the population of the county had increased from a few scattered settlements to the number of 7,564.
Everything now began to show signs of permanence and stability. Rumors of prospective railroads became noised abroad; improvements, both public and private, were made, and of a costly character; town builders were busily at work, establishing towns, which in their view, were sure to become important railroad points and the county seat; the county was filled with every manner of bogus characters who preyed upon the ignorance and credulity of settlers; here were real estate agents and claim speculators, who for a few dollars would locate a man on whatever place suited him, whether the same had been taken before or not; and not unfrequently the one agent would locate several parties on the same claim; speculators sold claims to which they never had a shadow of title or right.
All was a busy scene of bustle and excitement. This condition of things had the effect to attract emigration thither. As an illustration of the intense excitement which prevailed during this time, may be mentioned the fact, that the people of the county had voted county and township bonds, for various purposes, to an aggregate amount of nearly a million of dollars. Such was the general rapacity and the willingness of the people to vote indebtedness upon themselves, in the excitement of the hour, that a large school building was erected at Independence in 1873, costing $23,000; costly bridges were constructed by various townships; the erection of schoolhouses; and the aids given to railroads, etc., are a few instances of the uses to which this extravagant outlay of public money was applied. Money was readily loaned at from twenty-five to fifty per cent interest to private parties, wishing to improve their claims. As a result of this reckless and extravagant voting of bonds, the rate of taxation upon personal property became enormous, since all levies had to be made upon that class of property, as none of the real estate had yet been deeded. Such was the state of financial matters under which the people of the county had placed themselves prior to 1872.
The first settlements in the county were effected before the regularly authorized surveys had been made, and claims were taken at random, or according to lines, called the "tow string surveys," established by private parties who were chiefly interested in the fees charged, caring little whether lines, sections and quarters were correctly located or not; nor whether they would correspond with the legal survey when made. As the natural consequence of such uncertainty, when the authorized survey was made, it frequently happened that parties found themselves the possessors of a piece of land they did not claim, while that which they thought they had, would fall to their next neighbor.
Numerous disputes and wranglings arose among settlers respecting rights to claims, which called into requisition the "Settler's Claim Club." This institution, as the name indicates, was composed of the settlers combined together for the purpose of hearing and adjusting difficulties that arose among themselves or between any of their number and strangers respecting claim rights. In its functions, the club was legislative, judicial and executive. A code of laws was drawn up which defined the rights of settlers to claims, prescribing the mode and manner by which they could rightfully be taken, and also what was necessary to entitle the same to be held and occupied, etc. In case a dispute aros[sic] involving questions of this character, the matter was brought for hearing before the club, witnesses were brought and examined, and the matter was fully determined "according to the law and the evidence." A decision having been reached, speedy execution followed.
This was carried out by a committee waiting upon the party against whom the decision had been made, informing him that the club had determined he should relinquish all claims to the subject of dispute; whereupon notice was given him to deliver over the property to his opponent within a specified time, which in most cases was promptly done. Upon a failure to obey the mandates of this court with promptness, the defiant was waited upon by another committee composed of the body of the club, and, if not awed into submission by the presence and threats of this posse, he was visited with such punishment as the nature of the case required, or as was sufficient to enforce obedience. An instance of this sort of executive duty took place near Independence in the spring of 1870. The dispute arose over a claim between George Paul and a man named Stevens, a butcher living in the town. Paul, it seems, was living on a claim about a mile and a half northwest of Independence, which Stevens "jumped," as it was termed, building a house a few rods from Paul's, into which he moved with his family.
Paul seeing his rights trampled upon, appealed to the club for protection. After due consideration, the club found in Paul's favor and notified Stevens to abandon the premises. Stevens, however, was refractory and refused to obey. The time in which he was to leave having expired, a posse formed and at the dead hour of night invaded his dwelling from which the inmates were forcibly removed to the open prairie and the house set on fire and burned. A similar affair took place during the same summer in Sycamore Township.
A man named Atkinson attempted to wrongfully lay claim to a piece of land belonging to another man. The matter was taken before the club, and Atkinson, refusing to obey its determination, was punished by having his building demolished, he being forced to fly. This was the work of that well-known club which had appropriated the dignified title of "Montgomery Guards." It was a time, too, when these organizations, however useful in their day, should have disbanded, giving way to those "higher powers," Justices of the Peace.
The members of the Guards, however, not content to await the tedious and often unsatisfactory actions of these courts, had taken the matter in their own hands. But in this particular instance it would have been better for the members "had it never existed;" for the entire club, thirty in number, were arrested on a charge of riot, brought before Squire Bunker's court at Independence, and upon trial, found guilty. Thus ingloriously terminated the existence of the "Montgomery Guards," and the last of the claim clubs.
There were several of these organizations in various localities in the county, embracing nearly every law-abiding and peaceably-disposed citizen. Instances occur, too, in which these clubs took in hand matters of a criminal character, as in the case of the assassination of John A. Twiss in the southern part of the county. Twiss, a peaceable and respected citizen, was attacked by a party of three men and foully murdered. This unprovoked act of crime and butchery called forth the indignation and vengeance of the citizens. The criminals were apprehended, a preliminary investigation had, and the guilt was fixed upon the parties charged, who were hanged to an oak tree that stood near the cabin of the murdered man. But municipal organizations being perfected, these clubs became things of the past, giving way to legally constituted tribunals and court of laws.
County Organization, Etc.
By a proclamation made by Governor James M. Harvey, on June 3, 1869, the County of Montgomery became legally organized as a corporate body. A Board of Commissioners was appointed composed of H. W. Crawford, H. A. Bethuran and R. L. Walker; and E. C. Kimball was appointed Clerk, and the seat of government for the county temporarily fixed at Verdigris City. On June 11, these parties appeared before W. S. McFeeters, a notary public and received the oath of office.
The first official act of the Board of Commissioners was to divide the county into townships and fix the voting precincts. Three townships were made, viz: Drum Creek, Westralia and Verdigris, which have since been redivided and changed, making in all twelve townships. Three voting places were named - one for each township. That for Drum Creek was at Fitch's store; for Verdigris at Verdigris City, and for Westralia at the town bearing the same name. The Oswego Register published by E. R. Trask, was made the official paper.
At the second meeting of the Board, July 7, a permit was granted to W. C. Dickey and Daniel McTaggart to establish a ferry on the Verdigris River, at a point near Verdigris City, and also one to W. L. Bailey and H. C. Crawford for a similar enterprise at Westralia. Steps were taken to establish a public highway to lead from the town of Westralia to the west line of the county. The third meeting was held August 27, at which E. K. Kountz was appointed Probate Judge, George Hoag, Sheriff, and Daniel McTaggart, County Treasurer.
An election for the choosing of county officers, and also for fixing the county seat, was held November 2, 1869. The greatest interest seems to have been at Independence, as an aspirant for county seat honors. On the morning of the election a wagon-load of Independence men started early to the polls, in order that they might secure control of the election board; but, notwithstanding their rapid travel, reached the place in time to find they had only gotten one member. Close watch upon voters was kept up during the day at the polls, and challenges were frequent, necessitating nearly all votes to be sworn in.
A canvass of the vote was made, and the vote of Drum Creek precinct was thrown out, on account of the returns being certified to as a copy instead of the original poll-book. As a result, Liberty was selected as the county seat, and a Board of Commissioners elected who were friendly to that place. The Independence people were sore under this galling defeat, and filed a notice of contest before the Probate Court of Wilson County, to which this county was then attached for judicial purposes.
The matter was brought to the consideration of the court December 23, which decided, in effect, that no election had been held, and consequently no contest could be made. This, of course, placed matters in status quo , and the old board still continuing in the exercise of their official powers, proceeded to cause the seat of government to be removed from Verdigris City to Liberty, which was done in the face of many protests and much dissatisfaction.
The friends of Independence had set their heads together and evolved a piece of strategy in which they proved successful. Charles White, bearing a certified copy of the case contested before the Wilson County Probate Court, was sent to Topeka to lay the matter before the proper authorities of the state, and by this means secured the appointment of a new Board of Commissioners, composed of W. W. Graham, Thomas Brock and S. B. Moorehouse. After White returned from the capital, he in company with L. J. Stephenson, procured a wagon, and gathering in the newly appointed Board, drove them to Verdigris City, where, seated in the conveyance, the Board organized by electing W. W. Graham, Chairman, and appointed J. A. Helphingstine County Clerk, Samuel Van Gundy, County Treasurer; J. K. Snyder, Register of Deeds; and R.B. Cunningham, Superintendent of Schools.
The Independence Pioneer was named as the official paper of the county and the District Court ordered to be held at Independence on the 9th of May, 1870. The Board then appointed Independence as temporary county seat, and ordered the offices to be kept at that place. On May 13 an action was begun in the District Court to compel the commissioners to move the county offices to Liberty; but the case was dismissed by the plaintiffs, and the matter left at rest. Thus the old Board of Commissioners were superseded, but they were not willing to submit to such seemingly unauthorized proceedings. Finding it useless to dissent, however, after a few weeks they surrendered their records and gave up the contest.
With the organization of the county, on June 3, 1869, the county seat was temporarily fixed at Verdigris City, by the appointment made in the Governor's proclamation. At the regular county election held on the 2d of November, of the same year, it was deemed changed by the Board of Commissioners, and was taken to Liberty, the place thought to be determined by the vote of the people. The matter was taken before the courts for contest, and it was decided that no election had been held. In May, of the following year, the case, about which there was so much dispute and dissatisfaction, was taken before the authorities of State and a new Board of Commissioners was appointed, who, when they had regularly organized, named Independence as the seat of government for the county, and ordered that all the officers should take up their quarters at that place, which was accordingly done.
In the following November another regular election was held, and among the issues to be determined was, as to where the county seat should be located. The election was an exceedingly warm one and much fraud was practiced and illegal voting done on all sides. In this contest, however, Independence came out victorious over its most potent rival, Liberty, by a majority of 279 votes, the vote being 839 for Independence and 5?0[sic] for Liberty. This was the final determination of the matter, the seat of government becoming fixed at Independence, where in right it should be, as the most central and available point in the county.
The first building the county possessed was a log court house, located at Verdigris City, when the county seat was at that place, and was moved to Liberty by order of the County Commissioners. The county seat was afterward fixed at Independence, when the old log building was abandoned, and shortly after the change was made a new court house was built by Samuel Van Gundy, and was the first brick building in the county. It is still used by the county for offices and court room. Until the erection of this house, the District Court had occupied the schoolhouse at Independence in its first sitting, and Rose & Fay's hall in its second, then in the present court house.
Prior to its incorporation. Montgomery was attached to Wilson County for judicial purposes. Within her own limits there were no courts of justice, but the absence of these was in a measure supplied by the self appropriated authorities of the claim clubs, which surrendered all authority npon[sic] the advent of those courts of high judicial standing, Justice's Courts. For a higher tribunal than these, resort was made to the courts of Wilson County, Montgomery County was made a part of the Eleventh Judicial District, and by the authority vested in the County Commissioners, the District Court for and in the county was ordered to be held at Independence on the 9th day of May, 1870.
The time for the convening of the court had arrived and all the dignitari s[sic] of the law were on hand. The session was held in the school building, and the following court officers were present: Hon. W. C. Webb, Judge; L. J. Stephenson, Clerk of the District Court; C. M. Ralstine, County Attorney, and C. White, Sheriff. Those reported on the grand jury were: Daniel McTaggart, George A. Brown, George Whitfield, William Jackson, William Addy, J. Porter, W. H. Cox, Elijah Vanzandt, Samuel Van Gundy, Frank Coventry, L. C. Judson, B. E. Clark, J. J. Gregory and W. O. Sylvester, and on the petit jury were. Edward Barnett, A. M. Smith, William Orwig, John Saunderson, Thomas Reed, Elias Lovett, J. K. Snyder, S. D. Kelley, David Hodson, George Stills, E. T. Saunders and A. J. Stevens.
The grand jury at this sitting returned six indictments, one for murder in the first degree, three for murder in the second degree, and two for assault with intent to kill. The first jury trial before this court was had May 10, 1870. The title of the case was, the State of Kansas against Henry Adams. The charge was grand larceny, and the verdict of the jury in the case was "not guilty."
Those admitted to the practice of law were: D. B. Brown, O. P. Smart, Thomas Harrison, C. H. Wyckoff, John Helphingstine, T. B. Jennings, W. G. Clark and L. C. Judson. The first sitting of the court was held in the school building, and the second in Rose & Fay's hall, and the third in the present court house, in which it has since been held in regular term.
In the following is given the names of those who have occupied the various official positions connected with the political government of the county since its organization to the present time.
State Senators - H. C. Whitney, A. M. York, W. A. Peffer, Daniel Grass, A. B. Clark.
Representatives - J. E. Adams, W. H. Bond, B. F. Devore, E. B. Dunwell, T. B. Eldridge, M. S. Bell, A. A. Stewart, C. S. Brown, William Hustin, L. A. Walker, Wm. Stewart, J. M. Heddins, O. F. Carson, L. N. Humphrey, W. C. Mastin, C. J. Corbin, A. B. Clark, J. P. Rood, J. H. Norris, Alexander Moore, J. P. Rood.
County Clerks - E. C. Kimball, J. A. Helphingstine, S. M. Beardsley, J. A. Helphingstine, E. T. Means, John McCallagh, Ernest Way.
County Treasurers - Daniel McTaggart, Samuel Van Gundy, J. A. Busby, Cary Oakes, Joseph Barricklow, F. S. Palmer.
Clerks of the District Court - L. T. Stephenson, J. L. Scott, T. O. Ford, H. D. Dodd.
Register of Deeds - J. K. Snyder, W. S. Mills, N. H. Ives, G. S. Beard, E. P. Allen.
Probate Judges - E. K. Kountz, J. M. Scudder, W. H. Watkins, E. Herring.
Sheriffs - G. S. Hoag, C. White, P. Q. Bond, J. E. Stone, J. T. Brock, Lafayette Shadley.
County Attorneys - C. M. Ralstine, Frank Willis, A. B. Clark, J. D. Hinkle, Ed. Van Gundy.
Superintendents of Public Instruction - J. A. Helphingstine, N. Bass, B. R. Cunningham, C. T. Beach.
Surveyors - Ed. Foster, B. R. Cunningham, A. G. Savage, G. B. Leslie.
Coroners - M. L. Ashmore, J. H. Kingston, W. M. Robinson, J. Coleman.
County Commissioners - First Board, H. C. Crawford, H. A. Bethuran, R. L. Walker; Second, W. W. Graham, Thomas Brock, S. B. Moorehouse; Third, W. W. Graham, H. D. Grant, John McDonald; Fourth, J. C. Frazier, W. J. May, W. S. Renfro; Fifth, W. J. Wilkins, George Hurst, J. H. Rudd; Sixth, T. R. Pittman, J. E. Cole, W. H. Harter; Seventh, W. R. Brown, Henry Mounger, A. P. Boswell.
Railroads and County Societies
Early in the history of the county the people became wild on the subject of railroads. They were not content with the slow and tedious methods of horse back and stage coach travel, and lumber wagon transportation, but believed that a railroad was necessary to satisfy their advanced demands, and to raise them up to the standard of the times. Every argument that ingenuity could invent was produced to convince the doubtful and stimulate the weak, in the belief of the splendid results that must inevitably follow so grand an enterprise.
When the public anxiety became inflamed to the highest pitch a proposition was placed before the people, by the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company, asking them to contribute in county bonds the amount of two hundred thousand dollars toward building a railroad. This was what a majority of the people wanted and, in June, 1870, a vote was taken on the proposition, and out of a total vote of 2,166, there were 1,340 votes in favor of the bonds, to 826 against them. The proposition, too, was indefinite as to where the line should be run, but was simply that a line of not less than twenty-one miles of road should be built somewhere within the limits of the county.
The election, too, was an extremely loose one, as ballots in some instances were cast regardless of age or qualification. Those living in the vicinity of Independence, from whence the controlling vote came, were particularly zealous, believing that the road would, without doubt, make that an objective point. But as it afterwards turned out, they had unnecessarily congratulated themselves; for, instead of the road being built to or in the direction of the place, it bent its course several miles to the east of it, turning southward and terminating at Coffeyville, in the southeastern part of the county. Here, then, was Independence deserted by the railroad company, and left standing alone far to the west, and fairly raging in indignation, threatening revenge for such cruel treatment from this soulless corporation.
An effort was then put by the county to defeat the delivery of the bonds to the company. The matter was brought before the United States Court at Leavenworth, in July, 1871. The county was represented before the court, by E. W. Fay, of Peru; A. H. Horton, of Atchison, and Stillings & Fenlon, of Leavenworth. After a time the Board of County Commissioners ordered the suit abandoned, making concessions in favor of the railroad company; whereupon it was ordered that the bonds be delivered according to the terms of the agreement, which was accordingly done.
The bonds were then sold by the company and passed into the hands of innocent purchasers, who, as the coupons fell due, presented them for payment; but the county authorities declined even to make a levy for their payment. A suit was immediately instituted for their collection by law, in which the county thought again to test the legality of the bonds. This suit was attended with much quibbling and dilatory moves, by means of which it hung in the courts for several years.
A compromise was finally effected between the Board of County Commissioners and the bondholders, whereby the bondholders agreed to take new bonds in payment of the old ones, at the rate of sixty-five cents on the dollar, and thus the matter became permanently settled, at an expense to the county, however, of about $30,000. The amount of the bonds thus disposed of did not cover the entire amount by $20,000, which was in the hands of an English firm, and which was afterwards redeemed by county treasurer Cary Oakes, at fifty cents on the dollar.
Although Independence was unhappily disappointed in this instance, yet it by no means defeated or weakened her determination in that direction. A railroad she would have, cost what it might, and, hence, the next best thing was to secure a branch road. Committee after committee was delegated to solicit this, and also to open negotiations with the railroad authorities, in which they should agree upon the terms upon which it should be built. The town offered, as a proposition, to vote the company a subsidy of $7,500 per mile to assist in its construction; but the company was slow to accept, in order to stimulate the people to greater donations. Finally it came to the knowledge of the people of the town, in a quiet way, that in case they increased the donation already offered, by a cash contribution of $4,000, and one hundred lots in the town, the branch would be constructed. No sooner had the authenticity of this report became confirmed, than the company was approached upon the subject and the additional demands guaranteed, upon which the agreement was consummated.
So anxious, indeed, were many of the citizens of the town to secure the advantages to be gained by the enterprise, that a number of them entered into an individual obligation of $50,000, as a security and guarantee that the propositions agreed upon, would be faithfully carried out by the town. Accordingly a hasty construction was prosecuted and the branch was completed during the latter part of the year 1871, and on the first day of January, 1872, the reverberations of the steam whistle through the valley of the Verdigris, announced to the over-enthusiastic inhabitants of the town, the approach of the iron horse, drawing behind his giant form, the first train of cars that ever rolled into the station at Independence.
This branch was known as "Bunker's Plug," and was so named after Mr. Bunker, who was prominently engaged in obtaining it, and who also donated grounds for a depot. This was continued in operation as a branch road until the summer of 1879, when the South Kansas & Western road was built, westward through the county, connecting with the main line of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Southwestern road, at the town of Cherryvale, in the east part of the county. It was, however, but a westward continuation of "Bunker's Plug." During the same summer, the St. Louis, Warsaw & Western road was built, cutting across the northeast corner of the county, via Cherryvale, at which place it crossed the L. L. & G. road. The narrow gauge road was extended from Parsons, Labette County, to Cherryvale, in the fall of 1880. With this ended the construction of railroads in the county, and of which there is now an aggregate of sixty-five miles. The name of the South Kansas & Western road was afterward changed and became the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Railway.
Montgomery County Agricultural Society was organiz d[sic] in July, 1871, with Benjamin M. Armstrong, president; J. R. Galloway, vice president; and E. E. Wilson, secretary. The first fair was held, in Independence, in the autumn of 1872, and regular exhibitions have been held annually since that time. The present officers of the society are - M. J. Salter, president; A. T. Peterson, vice president; V. M. Dewey, secretary; and Cary Oakes, treasurer. In the Centennial Exposition, at Philadelphia, in 1876, the exhibition made by the South Kansas Tribune Company, for the county, ranked first among the products of the State, in grasses and grains.
A selection from the products of the county, under charge of L. A. Walker, was on exhibition at Bismarck Grove, in September, 1880. Some of the vegetables took the highest premium, and the entire collection was generally regarded as a fine display. The same collection, upon invitation by the authorities at the Kansas City Exposition, was placed upon exhibition at that place. The county took the highest premium and awarded a medal. A large exhibition ground is provided and supplied with a commodious exposition hall, stables, and pens for exhibiting stock, and also an excellent speed ring.
Schools and Other Statistics
That the citizens of Montgomery County paid early and liberal attention to the matter of the education of the youth and the establishment and maintenance of good schools, can not be doubted. In proof of the statement, it may be added, that as early as 1872 there were already organized eighty-seven school districts, nearly all of which were supplied with amply furnished and comfortable school buildings. The amount of bonds issued by the various districts for this purpose, aggregated $120,000. From this favorable start still further growth was made, so that, in 1878, a period of six years, there were 102 organized school districts in the county, and one hundred school buildings, of which four were log, ninety frame, four brick and two stone.
The number of the school population was 6,212, and the value of all school property was $101,817. Perhaps, the first term of school was taught by Miss Laura Foote, at Claymore, in 1869. And undoubtedly the next public school in the county was that taught by William Osborne, in the same year, at Elk City, the school being held in the hotel building erected by Thomas Harris. Subscription schools, however, had been taught at a very early date. In this county, of the lands set apart for school purposes, 4,270 acres remains unsold, of the average value of $3.50.
The annual report of the Superintendent of Schools shows a total number of districts in the county of 105; number of school buildings 103, or 126 school rooms. The total value of the buildings, furniture, etc., is estimated at $101,250.
The school population is 7,376 and the average daily attendance for the year was 3,658 under the instruction of 161 teachers. There are three excellent graded schools in the county, viz. - those at Independence, Coffeyville and Cherryvale. Elk City has also a partially graded school system. There were also nineteen private schools held in the county during the year with an enrollment of 482 pupils. A normal for the special training of teachers is held annually. This institution was opened for 1882, on July 5th, and continued twenty weeks, conducted by C. T. Beach. The enrollment was 123 and the average daily attendance 101. The receipts of institute funds for the year, including balance from last year, were $324.36. Expenses were $296.75, leaving a balance of $27.61. The receipts for the county school funds, for the year ending August 1, 1882, amounted to $45,360, while the expense aggregated $41,898.21. The balance on hand August 1, 1881, was $7,488, and on August 1, 1882, $3,462. In 1882 there were school bonds issued by various districts to the amount of $8,685, making a total bonded indebtedness of the districts, mostly in the cities, of $31,330.
No more reliable or convincing proof of the development of a section of country can be had than that exhibited from the statistics of the acreage under cultivation, the amount of the cereals productions, the number of various sorts of animals raised, etc., for different periods of time. For this purpose, a review of the statistics, for the years 1878 and 1882, are given in the following, in a comparative view:
In 1870, the population of the county was 7,564; in 1875, it was 13,017; in 1878, 16,468, and in 1882, reached nearly 20,000.
The number of acres under cultivation in 1878 was 168,188.19, of the value of $1,826,760.81; and in 1882, it was 242,887, valued at $2,731,327.
In 1878, there was produced 42,253 acres of wheat; 166 of rye; 59,336, corn; 8,985, oats; 123, barley; 103, buckwheat; 980, irish potatoes; 74, sweet potatoes; 727, sorghum; 173 castor beans; 3, cotton; 2,757, flax; 1, hemp; 16, tobacco; 121, broom corn; 1,607, millet and Hungarian; 569, timothy meadow; 118, clover meadow; value of garden products, $5,856; value of poultry and eggs, $8,476.75; pounds of cheese produced, 4,690; pounds of butter produced, 24,959.
As against these same articles, there was raised, in 1882, 19,548 acres of wheat; 242, rye; 79,123, corn; 7,673, oats; 5, barley; 61, buckwheat; 1,022, Irish potatoes; 96, sweet potatoes; 734, sorghum; 2,471, castor beans; 445, cotton; 5,628, flax; 20, hemp; 4, tobacco; 190, broom corn; 8,000, millet and Hungarian grass; 454, timothy meadow; 188, clover meadow; value of garden products, $7,103; value of poultry and eggs, $22,774; pounds of cheese made, 3,455; pounds of butter made, 318,403. Of the various kinds of live stock there was, in 1878, of horses, 4,851; mules and asses, 1,012; cattle, 11,791, sheep, 4,175; swine, 25,746. In 1882 - horses, 5,458; mules and asses, 1,155; cattle, 16,639; sheep, 10,981; swine, 30,376.
The value of animals slaughtered and sold for slaughter in 1878 was $112,819.60, while in 1882 it was $305,045, or nearly treble what it was in 1878. The number of pounds of wool clipped in 1877 was 4,478, and in 1882, 23,332 pounds, or more than five times the amount produced five years ago. Of the number of fruit trees in bearing, there were, in 1878, apple, 45,503; pear, 467; peach, 205,766; plum, 2,167; cherry, 7,008. In 1882 - apple, 103,936; pear, 3,345; peach, 196,581; plum, 6,102; cherry, 17,747. Of fruit trees not bearing, there were, in 1878, apple, 145,394; pear, 2,916; peach, 59,386; plum, 5,973; cherry, 16,380. In 1882, there were - apple, 70,576; pear, 6,136; peach, 31,859; plum, none; cherry, 5,821. In 1882 there were 3,552 acres of artificial forest under cultivation.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 651 square miles (1,687 km²), of which 645 square miles (1,671 km²) is land and 6 square miles (16 km²), or 0.95%, is water.
Coffeyville Municipal Airport, Independence Municipal Airport
U.S. Route 75, U.S. Route 160, U.S. Route 166, U.S. Route 169, U.S. Route 400
Montgomery County's population was estimated to be 34,570 in the year 2005, a decrease of 1,630, or -4.5%, over the previous five years.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 36,252 people, 14,903 households, and 9,955 families residing in the county. The population density was 22/km² (56/mi²). There were 17,207 housing units at an average density of 10/km² (27/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 85.77% White, 6.07% Black or African American, 3.19% Native American or Alaska Native, 0.47% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.13% from other races, and 3.34% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.08% of the population.
There were 14,903 households out of which 29.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.00% were married couples living together, 10.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.20% were non-families. 29.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the county the population was spread out with 25.00% under the age of 18, 8.60% from 18 to 24, 24.70% from 25 to 44, 23.30% from 45 to 64, and 18.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 93.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.60 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $30,997, and the median income for a family was $38,516. Males had a median income of $29,745 versus $20,179 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,421. About 9.20% of families and 12.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.80% of those under age 18 and 10.90% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2005 estimate):
Independence, 9,284 (county seat)
Elk City, 299
Unified school districts
Caney Valley USD 436
Coffeyville USD 445
Independence USD 446
Cherryvale USD 447
Colleges and universities
Coffeyville Community College
Independence Community College