The Early History of Morris County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Morris County is situated in the center of the eastern half of the State. This county is bounded on the north by Davis County, and a portion of Wabaunsee; on the south by Chase County and a part of Marion; on the east by Lyon County and a portion of Wabaunsee, and on the west by a part of Dickinson and Marion counties. The county contains eleven civil townships, and in shape is square, except that in the northeast corner its square formation is broken by the southwest corner of Wabaunsee County, while in the northwest corner, a strip about two miles wide and four miles long is taken from the square and added to Dickinson County. The county contains 700 square miles, or 448,000 acres, and, except at the points where its square formation is broken, is twenty-four miles from north to south, and thirty miles from east to west.
The surface of the county, in most part, is rolling prairie. Along the Neosho River, however, and especially in the vicinity of Council Grove, the banks of the stream rise to considerable height, these elevations occurring sometimes on one side of the stream and sometimes on the other. From the top of these elevations the land rolls away in gentle undulations, without being marked by abrupt acclivities or sudden declivities. The highest point in the county is supposed to be at Council Grove, and viewing the face of the county from this, it presents a surface resembling, somewhat, that of a great sea or ocean rolling onward in gradual swells.
The extreme western portion of the county, however, while the uplands have not acquired that altitude to entitle them to be termed "bluffy," is considerably broken, and does not possess that regularity of surface presented by other portions of the county. The ridges, or watersheds, have an east and west direction, and while sufficiently sloping to afford excellent drainage, are not so abrupt in their descent as to cause any loss of soil by a too precipitate flow of water after heavy rainfalls. The face of the county is considerably scarified by numerous streams and creeks, on nearly all of which are fine belts of timber. Along these streams and creeks are valleys, which vary in width from about one-half to two miles, and the land in these valleys is denominated "bottom" land. Not quite one fourth of the land in the county is comprised in these bottom lands, the proportion being about as 18 to 100.
The timber along the streams and creeks consists of oak, hickory, walnut, cottonwood, hackberry, elm and sycamore, and their average width is between one-fourth and one-half mile. Away from the streams, that sameness of scenery which characterizes large expanses of prairie is interrupted and diversified by numerous artificial groves of forest trees, ranging from ten acres and upwards, the longest containing about sixty acres.
The character of the soil is generally rich and deep, and in ordinary seasons is very productive. The subsoil is limestone, which is located at a depth of from two to ten feet beneath the surface, although in some places, but these are few, it is visible on the top of the earth. Occasionally a gravel knoll is found, but taken altogether the soil is good. Less than one-fourth of the county is denominated "bottom land," being that portion located along the streams and creeks. In these low lands, the soil is extremely rich and exceedingly fertile. Its depth is much greater than that of the higher lands, reaching from four to ten feet, while on the uplands the average depth ranges from two to five feet. There is little, if any, superiority in quality, the only difference being that the bottom lands have the advantage in resistance to drouths (sic). Either on uplands or lowlands all kinds of cereals can be raised abundantly when visited by a moderate rainfall.
Grasses of all kinds grow to great luxuriance in all parts of the county, and of this yield there is never a scarcity, be the season what it may, unless when burned up by scorching "siroccos," which are of very infrequent occurrence. If the superiority of the county for stock-raising purposes is excepted, its chief adaptability is agriculture. In addition to these it offers superior advantages for dairying and cheese making, which follow as a natural consequence from its wide ranges of excellent pasturage. The opportunities offered for the successful establishment of these branches of industry have not for some reason or other, but chiefly from lack of railroad facilities, been taken advantage of, and farmers content themselves by cultivating and raising the usual cereal crops and by giving some attention to stock.
These pursuits, it is true, are those which most closely adhere to the adaptability of the soil, and hence to these the greatest attention is given. Wheat, oats, corn, rye, flax, and barley are sure crops under anything like reasonable circumstances; nor is this the case alone with the bottom lands, as the upland farms are cultivated to great success and yield abundantly.
Horticulture and arboriculture can also be successfully pursued, as the soil is well adapted to forestry and the cultivation of orchards. The statistical history will show that the people are becoming awakened to the great importance attached to both these branches, which, though not pertaining to farming proper, are elements which the farmer cannot disregard without great disadvantage to himself. All that needs to be done to have fine orchards and beautiful groves of forest trees is for the people to plant the seed, and in a very few years the soil of Morris County will furnish the fruit-laden orchard and the sylvan grove.
Water Courses and Their Names
The county is well supplied with water, creeks and streams being but a few miles apart. The Neosho River is the principal stream, and to this nearly all the lesser streams in the county are tributary. The upper portion of the river may be divided into the East and West forks of the Neosho, the former rising in Highland Township and running north for a few miles, when its course becomes easterly until it reaches Parkerville. Before it reaches Parkerville, however, it receives the water of Level Creek, a small stream running in an easterly direction through the upper portion of Highland Township.
From Parkerville the course of the river is south by east, receiving on its way the waters of Haun Creek and Crooked Creek, which enter it from the south and about a mile apart. Both of these creeks take their rise in the north of Elm Creek Township, one in Section 6 and the other in Section 4. Flowing now in a southeasterly direction, and at a point about five miles from Parkerville, the Neosho receives the water of Lard's Creek, which is a stream of considerable size, and which takes its rise in Ohio Township close to the northern boundary line of the county, and a little below this it receives the tribute of Gilmore Creek, which, rising in Elm Creek Township, flows in an easterly direction until it empties into the West Fork of the Neosho as it passes through the southwest corner of Neosho Township.
About one mile from this point Slough Creek adds its tribute. This creek rises a little north of the center of Ohio Township, and is about twelve miles in length, its course being due south. In the northeastern portion of the County, Munker's Creek, and Middle Creek, after being fed by several smaller streams, form a junction, and these constitute the East Fork of the Neosho. The two forks unite at the south side of Section 3, in Council Grove Township, and at this point it may be said the Neosho River proper begins. Still containing its southeast course its waters are swelled by those of Big and Little John creeks, which have their rise in Warren Township and run in a southerly direction until they empty into the Neosho a few miles south of the City of Council Grove.
Its last northern tributary in the county is Rock Creek, quite an important stream, and which has its rise in Wabaunsee County, and which enters Morris County at the dividing line between Warren and Valley townships, and from thence it flows due south along the eastern boundary of the county until it mingles its waters with those of the Neosho at a point near the village of Dunlap. After the junction of the two forks is formed, its southern and western feeders are Canning Creek, Elm Creek and Four Mile Creek, which flow almost in a northeasterly direction, and Indian Creek, which runs in a due easterly course along the southern boundary line of Valley Township and the county.
After having been fed by these different streams and creeks, the Neosho leaves the county at a point about two miles north of the southeast corner, and one mile south of the village of Dunlap. In Diamond Valley Township, which is the southwest township of the county, there is quite a stream, named Diamond Creek, which flows in a southeasterly direction, whose tributaries are Six Mile Creek, and two or three smaller creeks of but little importance. In the northwest township, there is a stream of considerable size, named Clark's Creek. This creek is about fifteen miles in length and has its rise at the boundary line between Clark's Creek and Diamond Valley townships, and runs almost due north, receiving on its course the waters of the Mulberry and Shoemaker creeks, which are its tributaries, and passes out of the county at Skiddy, a point on the northern boundary line between Morris and Davis counties. In addition to these numerous water courses, there are several very excellent springs in the county, the two most important being Diamond Springs and Hill Springs, so that with the clear running streams and creeks, and her various bubbling springs, the county is well supplied with an abundance of good, pure water.
As it may be somewhat of a curiosity with some as to how the different streams and creeks received their names, we will now give their origin as believed to exist according to the facts, or as established by tradition. The Neosho river was named by the Kaw Indians long before Kansas was thought of as a land of settlement for the white man. The tradition, as it came from the Indians, is that about three-fourths of century ago, a party of Indians traveling westward from the Missouri River, had been long suffering for water, and had come to stream after stream, only to find them dried up. At length they came upon a stream containing water, and in their delight at finding it they cried out Ne-o-sho which being literally translated, means Ne, water; o sho stream-in, or as put in plain English, "Stream with water in it." Hence the name Neosho.
Rock Creek, which is the next largest stream in the county was originally named and known by the Indians as Ne-co-its-ah-ba which means "Dead Man's Creek." This name was given to it by the Indians on account of the terrible slaughter that once took place upon its banks between two tribes of hostile Indians. The modern name of "Rock Creek" was given to it by westward bound travelers on account of the rocky bluffs that line its banks. The name "Munker's Creek" indicates its origin. It was named after J. C. Munkers, who was the first white man to settle upon its banks. "Elm Creek" takes its name from the magnificent elm trees by which it is bordered.
When Gen. J. C. Fremont in 1846, was exploring the "Great American Desert" to find a way to the West, he had in the company under his charge a man who was known by his comrades as "Big John." At a point where the old Santa Fe trail crossed the creek, there is a bluff of considerable size from which flows a large spring of beautiful clear water. While Fremont was in this region, Big John, on one of his foraging expeditions, discovered this spring, which is located near the head of the creek, and hence the name of "Big John Creek," by which it has since been known. The rocks about the spring have inscribed upon them the date of its discovery, and by whom discovered.
Travelers on their way to Santa Fe over the old trail, while passing through that portion of Morris County now known as Diamond Valley Township, once came upon a cluster of magnificent springs which they hailed with as much delight as the poor pilgrim hails an oasis in the desert. So pure, clear and sparkling was the water that they named them Diamond Springs, and thus the stream flowing from them derived the name of Diamond Creek.
About 1836 an exploring party under the charge of Lewis and Clark, had found its way as far west as Morris County and encamped on the bank of a stream in the northwestern portion of the county, to which they gave the name of Clark, and hence the present name of "Clark's Creek." "Lard's Creek" is named after the first settler upon its margin, William F. Lard. "Slough Creek" takes its name from the sloughy character of the land along its course. "Canning Creek" and "Gilmore Creek" are named after first settlers in their vicinity. "Four Mile Creek" is thus named because it is just four miles south from Council Grove.
The history of Council Grove may be said to be the history of Morris County, as it has been the scene of almost every interesting incident that has transpired in the county, not only since its organization, but for long before. The point from which commences the history of the county ante-dates Territorial days, and begins as far back as 1847.
What is now Council Grove has been mentioned by travelers as far back as 1820, but this mention has no bearing whatever upon any of the facts, incidents, happenings and transactions that go to make up the history proper of the county, all of which transpired in 1846, and subsequent thereto. It may assist the reader so conspicuously in Kansas History to state here, that by a treaty concluded with the Indians in 1825, the United States Government procured the right of way for a public highway from the Missouri River to the eastern boundary of Mexico, which, having been established, passed into history as the "Sante Fe Trail." This trail ran through Morris County, and part of it now constitutes the Main street of Council Grove.
Until 1847 the territory now embraced in Morris County was held by the various Indian tribes as neutral ground, upon which all had a right in common to hunt on its soil and fish in its streams, and the wooded belts along the Neosho and its tributaries formed excellent hunting fields. A treaty was made with the Kaw tribe of Indians in the latter part of 1846, or early in 1847, by which a tract of land twenty miles square was obtained for a reservation, which included the land on which is built the town of Council Grove.
In the spring of 1847 the Kaws were moved on to the land embraced within the limits of the reservation. Up to this time not a white man was settled upon the soil of Morris County. In the fall of the same year, one Seth M. Hays, a citizen of Westport, Missouri, having obtained a license from the Government to trade with the Indians, came to the Kaw reservation and established his trading post at Council Grove. Other traders followed soon after, the next that arrived being the Choteau Brothers, in 1848, and a trader named Kennedy in 1849.
The Sante Fe Trail to New Mexico having been established, a contract was let by the Government, in 1849, to Waldo, Hall & Co., to carry the United States mail to Santa Fe, a point seven hundred miles west of the Missouri River. For a number of years after the trail was opened Council Grove was the only trading post between Independence, Mo., and Santa Fe, and, as a consequence, became a point of considerable importance to westward bound travelers.
The Methodist Episcopal Church, with a commendable desire to cultivate and enlighten the mind of "Lo, the poor Indian," did, in 1850, enter into a contract with the Government to establish a school for the education of the Kaws. To further the plan of enlightenment, the Board of Missions did, in the same year, erect a stone mission or schoolhouse, at Council Grove, and sub-contracted with T. S. Huffaker to teach the school, who acted in the capacity of teacher until 1854, when the school was discontinued. Besides the mission school several other buildings were put up in 1850, and among them a depot for the storage of government supplies and other military material. The Mail Company also put up several buildings, and all the inhabitants of Council Grove at that time, and, in fact, in Morris County, were those either in Government employ or in possession of permits from the same, numbering some twenty-five in all.
At that time the Kaw Indians on the reservation numbered about 1,700, and the agent of the tribe resided at Westport, Mo., that law at that time not requiring these gentlemen, to whom was entrusted the care and overseership of the Indians, to reside upon the agency. Things at the "Post," as it was called, moved along peacefully and quietly until 1854 each year adding a few to the population, and as a trading post Council Grove was well known. Seth M. Hays built the first house that was erected, not only in Council Grove, but in Morris County, which was a log store on the west bank of the Neosho River, on the old Santa Fe trail, near to the east end of the bridge which now spans that stream, and directly opposite the ground on which now stands the Commercial House.
In 1854, Kansas became a Territory by the passage of the act by Congress known as the Kansas-Nebraska bill. Soon after the passage of the bill, Mr. Reeder was appointed Governor of the new Territory of Kansas, and soon thereafter, with a full corps of staff officers, arrived at Council Grove, which he contemplated making the capital. In this he failed, however, owing to the fact that the land required for that purpose could not be obtained from the Indians.
Up to this time no attempts at settlement had been made in any other portion of the county than Council Grove, but in 1854 we find that one J. C. Munkers took a claim, and settled upon what is now known as Munkers' Creek, in Neosho Township.
About one of the first official acts of Gov. Reeder was to order an election for members of the Territorial Legislature. In the election proclamation, the Territory was divided into election districts, and the district of which Morris County then formed a part, placed two candidates in the field, one of whom was A. I. Baker, and the other Mobillon McGee.
At that time party excitement ran high, one party being designated as "Free-state" men, and the other as "Border Ruffians." The Territory at that time was not divided into counties. The Free-state men put forth Baker as their candidate, and the "Border Ruffians" placed McGee in nomination. The real issue was whether Kansas should, ultimately, be admitted to the Union as a free or slave state, and as both the free States of the North and the slave States of the South had been planting colonies over the populated portions of the Territory, preparatory to the struggle that was sure to take place for the ascendance, the agitation and excitement attending the first Territorial election was exceedingly high, and but very little friction would have been required to create a blaze.
The election was held on the 30th day of March, 1855. Baker was fairly elected, and received his certificate of election from the Governor, but McGee, on some trumped-up cause, contested the seat with him, and border ruffian element being largely in the ascendancy in the Legislature, Baker was denied the seat and McGee was seated. The Legislature that convened shortly after, by virtue of this election, divided a large portion of the Territory into counties, and according to the division thus made, the county of Wise (now Morris), was created.
The system adopted by the Legislature for organizing the counties was very simple and easily carried out. In many instances several counties were formed into one district with only one organization, so that the several counties constituting one district would be, virtually, nothing more than municipal townships. Thus Wise (Morris), Breckinridge (Lyon), Madison (Greenwood), were comprised in one district, and the place designated by law for the transaction of business pertaining to the district was Columbia, in Madison County, a point about two miles east of the present city of Emporia, so that for judicial and revenue purposes, Wise County occupied the position of a municipal township attached to Breckinridge County.
The same Legislature that divided the Territory into counties and districts also appointed the several Boards of Supervision for the government of each. Those appointed for the district above described were T. S. Huffaker, C. H. Withington, and Harmon B. Elliott. The law provided that the chairman of the board should be ex officio Probate Judge, and Mr. Huffaker, of Morris, having been appointed chairman, became thereby Probate Judge.
The Drought of 1860
Owing to the belief that prevailed in the greater portion of the country that no corn could be raised in Kansas on account of the severe droughts that visited the "Great American Desert," of which Kansas was considered a part, no attempt was made to raise this cereal until five years after the first white settlers had located in Morris County. The first corn planted in the county was on the farm which was opened for the benefit of the Kaw school in 1851. The rainfall that year was plentiful, and, contrary to expectations, the yield was large. The success of this crop gave the settlers encouragement, and the following year corn was planted extensively. It proved almost a failure, and for the next six years that followed, owing to scarcity of rains and hot winds, not more than half a crop was raised, and some seasons it fell far short of even this.
In 1858 and 1859 the crop was tolerably fair, and 1860 gave promise of abundant crops and a glorious harvest. Throughout the spring the weather was all that could be desired, and the promising crops filled the hearts of the people with gladness. The cup was only raised to their lips that it might be dashed to the ground before they tasted of its sweetness. May came and went, but no rain. June was fast passing away, and yet not the slightest indication of rain was visible in the clear, blue sky. Towards the latter end of June the fierce and scorching siroccos set in, and by the first of July all vegetation was utterly ruined, and the face of the country that in the beginning of May gave such bright promise of yielding an abundant harvest, was so burned and parched that it resembled one great Sahara. Nothing green was visible; not a blade of grass, not a leaf on a tree or bush but what scorched and withered. Wheat, oats, corn garden vegetables, berries, vines, fruit, everything, was all dried up and burned to a crisp. Cattle and other animals sought shelter and protection from the scorching winds by seeking pools of water in the beds of the streams, and standing or lying in them during their prevalence, and men would remain shut up in their houses, unless actually compelled to go out, while they continued to blow, which, usually, would be from 10 a.m. to about 5 p.m.
Not a single bushel of corn was raised in Morris County that year. This was a very severe stroke upon the settlers, all of whom had but limited means and depended upon their crops for a livelihood. Some became discouraged and moved away, and that they did so was not to be wondered at, because very few care to meet starvation, and this was what threatened them if they remained. Others, and by far the greater number, remained, determined to put the capabilities of Kansas soil to a further test. Some would say that "one swallow did not make a summer," adding that, "it was a strange country that had no drawbacks."
The question that was uppermost in their minds, however, and one that caused them considerable anxiety was: "How can we procure subsistence during the year, and seed for next season?" To men in their situation this was a very serious and perplexing question, and one extremely difficult of solution. Want became so pressing, and poverty so pinching, that appeals for aid were made to the liberally disposed of other States, not only for the people of Morris County, but for those of the entire State. The appeals were not made in vain, and the supplies came pouring in by the train loads. All the relief supplies were sent to Atchison, which was made the distributing depot for all other parts of the State, but Morris County being then on the extreme frontier, and one hundred and seventy miles from the base of supplies, her people had great difficulty in obtaining relief.
The only way of getting to Atchison was by team, and oft and again did poor and needy settlers find their way to Atchison only to discover that they had their pains for their labor. This was a most trying time for the settlers, and during the fall and winter of 1860, and the first half of 1861, the people suffered great hardships. For the first five months of 1861 the people were fed by charity. Food, clothing, and provisions were furnished by the liberal people of the East, and also seed wheat, oats, corn, potatoes, etc. Had it not been for this timely succor most of the settlers would have been compelled to abandon their homes, as they were utterly destitute of absolute necessities and without means to buy. It was some years before the county recovered from the effects of this blow, and the tide of immigration that had set in towards the county began to recede.
Prior to the organization of Kansas into a Territory, and for a long time subsequent thereto, great trouble was experienced arising from the uncertainty which existed as to what was the true boundary of the land set apart for the Kaw Reservation. Settlers were commencing to come in considerable numbers, and, being ignorant of the boundary lines of the Reservation, many of them took claims and settled within the prescribed limits. This caused no little amount of trouble between the settlers and the Indians, which, on certain occasions, threatened to be serious. This state of affairs coming to the knowledge of Gov. Reeder, he, shortly after his appointment as Governor of the Territory, requested the authorities at Washington to furnish him with a correct and authenticated map of the Territory, on which would be clearly defined and marked the lands embraced within the Indian Reservation.
In due time the request was complied with, and the Governor received one of "Eastman's Maps," which was duly certified as being correct by Col. Manypenny, the then Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The location given to the Kaw Reservation by this map was west and south of Council Grove. This indicated that the lands lying between Council Grove and the eastern boundary line of the county were open for settlement by the whites, and being thus understood, many settlers made claims and located in the vicinity of Rock Creek, and also in the Neosho Valley north and south of Council Grove, under the impression and belief that in so doing they were locating upon the public domain.
Each year brought its complement of settlers, and in those days of trouble and uncertainty, each sought a location as near to the center of population as possible, and as a consequence, the lands located along the Neosho River were eagerly sought and readily taken. Two causes, and, probably, a third, contributed to the desirability of these lands. The first, doubtless, was the heavy belt of timber on either side of the stream; the second, the choice and fertile soil of the valley; and the third, their proximity to Council Grove, which, by this time, was a point of considerable importance as regards trade, and, also, as considered, in point of population. Council Grove being then the extreme western trading post, and being surrounded upon three sides by Indians, who, however peaceable they seemed might, at any moment, be moved to acts of hostility, had a tendency to cause the settlers to avoid isolation, and to make their settlement as compact as the circumstances would admit of.
Year by year the Indians beheld their territory encroached upon by the whites, and their best hunting grounds gradually slipping from their control, and soon began to exhibit signs of restlessness. This spirit of restlessness developed itself in 1857, by loud complaints being sent to the Great Father at Washington, in which the grievances of the Indians were set forth. On these being made known to the authorities, the then agent for the Kaw tribe, John Montgomery, was ordered to have the lands of the Reservation re-surveyed and the boundary lines distinctly marked. The survey made in accordance with this order unsettled things generally, as according to the boundary lines of the Reservation as established by this survey, its limits extended five miles west of Council Grove, and fifteen miles east, and ten miles north and ten miles south, so that had Council Grove been located five miles further to the east, it would according to the Montgomery survey, have been the exact center of the Kaw reservation.
The result of this survey was, that all the settlers who had located on any portion of the territory embraced within the twenty miles square defined in the Montgomery survey as the Kaw Reservation, became trespassers upon Indian land and were notified to leave. This promised to give rise to serious complications between the whites and Indians, and also between the settlers and the Government. The people had taken their claims and made settlement in good faith, having all due respect for the lands embraced in the Reservation as described by the Eastman authenticated map, furnished by the Government to Governor Reeder and without any intention whatever, of perpetrating any wrong upon the Indians; and when notified to surrender their claims after having made valuable improvements thereon, became justly indignant and exasperated.
It was now their turn to send up their grievances to Washington, which they did, and upon proper presentation of their case to the authorities, Commissioners were appointed to appraise the value of improvements made, and award compensation in accordance therewith. This was done, and each settler was awarded what was considered adequate compensation for the improvements he had made, and thus the threatened complications were, for the present, overcome. Had they received the full face value of their awards, the compensation would have been reasonable fair, but the United States Treasury being at time in a somewhat depleted condition they were given what was known as "Kaw Land Scrip," from which they only realized about fifty cents on the dollar.
The year 1859 will long be memorable in Morris County. At that time the population of the county was about 600, most of whom were settled either in Council Grove, or its immediate vicinity. The Indians, though apparently friendly, would occasionally, whenever good opportunity presented, steal the settlers' horses and whatever else they could lay their hands upon, if they thought they could do so without detection. In their practice of these peculations, they had stolen two horses, and these were demanded of them by the whites, and also that the thieves should be surrendered for punishment. While the settlers were never without their apprehension of trouble from the Indians, yet at this particular juncture they little thought it was so near at hand.
At an early hour on the morning of June 2, 1859, the whole community was thrown into commotion, if not consternation, by a band of about one hundred Kaw Indians who came galloping into Council Grove all painted, feathered, and fully equipped for war. The older settlers, who had been taught by experience the meaning of these warlike indications, saw at a glance that the savages were bent on mischief, and that great danger was impending. Taken thus unawares for a short time they were at a loss how to act, but they knew they were at the mercy of the Indians. If they were fearful of the consequences, they knew enough not to make their fears known to the newer settlers, lest an alarm might be created that would lead to a panic, and they also knew enough to present as bold a front as possible to the Indians, and thus the wiser heads determined to await further developments.
On came the Indians down Main street from the west until the head of the line came in front of the store of S. M. Hays, where a halt was ordered. Their leader was Ah-le-gah-wah-ho, who, about a year before, had been deposed as chief of the tribe and another put in his place. After halting his warriors, the leader rode up to Mr. Hayes and, still sitting on his pony, addressed his as follows: "You sent for these two horses which my boys stole from a Mexican trader. You sent us word that we must not only give up the horses, but that we must turn over to your people the two men who stole the horses, that your people may punish them. The horses you can have, but the men you can't have without a fight."
Hays controlled himself as best he could, well knowing that if a fight should ensue the Indians would have all the advantage, as they had come fully prepared for such an emergency. Ah-le-gah-wah-ho, taking his silence for fear, began to taunt and insult the whites, and to heap abuse upon them for interesting themselves about a Mexican, who was not a white man, and who was no better than an Indian, and also told them very plainly that they should not meddle with what did not concern them. The abuse was too much for Hays and he lost his temper, and told his clerk to reach him two revolvers that were lying behind the counter in the store.
While this parley was going on, the Indians had broken their formation; some went galloping through the cross streets while the main body gathered around their leader, and completely filled Main Street in front of Hays' store. When Hays had received the revolvers from the clerk he fired them into the air in front of the Indians, in doing which he had a double purpose, one was to frighten the Indians, and the other to warn the settlers to get armed and be ready for whatever might occur. The Indians only wanted a pretext to commence the fight, and instead of being frightened by the firing of Hays, some of the more impetuous among the warriors cried out, "Hays is shooting at us, shoot him." On hearing this, Hays retired within his store and shut the door, but two or three white men who were on the street became targets for the Indians. Whatever words were exchanged between the Indian leader and Mr. Hays, was done through Mr. T. S. Huffaker, who acted as interpreter.
Some of the young bloods among the Indians, more fiery than the others, on hearing the cry, "shoot him," fired, and one man by the name of Charles Gilkey, who was standing beside the interpreter, received a dangerous arrow wound in the lower part of the neck. Another young man by the name of Parks, while in the act of crossing the street received a dangerous bullet wound which stretched him senseless on the ground. Everybody supposed that Parks was killed. Mr. Huffaker, who had been the Indian school teacher from 1850 to 1854, and who spoke the Kaw language fluently, and who was greatly respected by the tribe, on seeing what had been done, and knowing well that still greater danger was threatened, told the Indians that they had killed one man and probably mortally wounded another, and that they had better leave town as soon as possible, as the white people would surely avenge the outrage and injury.
The Indians instantly wheeled their horses and galloped out of town, and in less than an hour's time all their tents, which before had been visible on the high ground south of Elm Creek, which runs immediately south of Council Grove, were struck and packed, after which the tribe took up its march in the direction of Four Mile Creek, where, in addition to artificial means of defense they could also have the advantage of those, which, in this locality, nature offered. No sooner had the Indians left town than the whites assembled to counsel together as to what was best to do. Messengers were sent all over the country and into the neighboring counties to apprise the people of what had happened, and to warn them of the impending danger, and for as many of them as possibly could come, to hasten to Council Grove as soon as possible. The whites decided upon a war, and, if necessary, to prosecute it to extermination. Of those present a company of forty men immediately organized of which H. J. Epsey was elected Captain, and W. H. White, Lieutenant.
Immediate war was decided to be inevitable, all believing, as expressed in council, that if the Kaws were allowed to go unpunished for the outrage committed by them that morning, there would be no safety for the whites thereafter. The company, forty strong, armed with various kinds of weapons, some with rifles, some with shot-guns, and some with revolvers, marched off in the direction of where the Indians had taken up their position. They found the Indians prepared to meet them, having sent all their squaws, papooses and old men of to a safe distance. When within about two hundred yards or so of where the Indians had posted themselves, the company halted for further deliberation.
The Indians were about four hundred strong, and had posted themselves to the best advantage. They tantalized the whites after they had halted, and beckoned them to come on. Notwithstanding their paucity of numbers and inferior arms, many of the whites were very anxious to be led against the red men, although to have done so, could only have resulted in their utter destruction. Were it not for their earnestness in the matter, the idea of forty men, poorly armed, insisting on being led against four hundred savages, all well armed with rifle, bow, and tomahawk, and all trained to fight from boyhood, might be set down as Quixotic. It may speak well for their bravery, but is a poor recommendation of their discretion.
Wiser counsel prevailed, however, and a few of the older settlers who clearly saw the terrible consequences that would result from too hasty action on the part of the company, interposed, and asked the officers to postpone further action, while some one authorized to speak for them, went forward to communicate with the Indians, and, if possible, avert further bloodshed. In doing this, another object would be accomplished, inasmuch as it would give the settlers from the surrounding country and adjacent counties time to reach Council Grove, form, and march to their assistance.
The older heads among the settlers saw that to undertake to carry out the desire of those who were anxious for immediate fight, would only lead to useless slaughter, and would put in jeopardy the life of every white person within a radius of twenty miles, very wisely counseled delay. This was the trying moment for the settlers of Morris County, because not only their own lives and those of their wives and children, but the lives of those in adjoining counties depended upon their action.
When the word of that had been done and was going on went abroad, the settlers were not slow in responding to the call, and in a short time they commenced to assemble in Council Grove as fast as horses could carry them. Those who had wives and children, brought them with them, deeming it safer to have them in town than to leave them unprotected at home. All the women and children were placed in the Kaw Mission, a substantially built stone building, 36x50 feet, and two stories high, which was erected in 1850, as a school-house, in which to educate these same Indians they were now going to fight. That afternoon about 150 men organized and marched to reinforce the company of forty men that had gone down in the forenoon.
Having decided to communicate with the Indians, the next thing to be considered was who would be the man to undertake it. The man that would undertake it would risk his life in so doing, but T. S. Huffaker seeing that the slightest mistake would bring on a conflict, volunteered to be the negotiator between the whites and the Indians, than whom no man was better qualified for the undertaking. Having taught the mission school from 1850 to 1854, many of the Indians had set under his instructions, and he was perfectly familiar with all their habits and customs, and also with their language, and, in addition to these the Indians looked upon him with a kind of reverence.
There was a space of about two hundred yards between where the whites halted and there the Indians had taken up their position, and from where they were stationed the Kaws could see that the whites were being rapidly reinforced, because as parties arrived at Council Grove from the more distant places they immediately hastened to join their brother whites where the danger was most threatening. The whites could now press their demand with a show of strength which if not sufficient to insure compliance, would cause the Kaws to treat with seeming respect, at least, any person sent by the whites to treat with them. Mr. Huffaker was authorized to go to the Kaws and demand in the name of the whites the surrender of the two Indians who had that morning shot Gilkey and Parks, to be dealt with as should be decided upon by a council of whites. The settlers preserved their line formation and as Mr. Huffaker proceeded slowly down towards the Indians each man stood ready to advance at the first indication of treachery towards him.
Mr. Huffaker was met by the chief to whom he made known the proposition he was authorized to make, whereupon a council of Indians was held and the decision arrived at was that they would surrender the Indian who shot Parks, but not the one who shot Gilkey, as they could not tell by whom he was wounded. This was only a device to save the Indian by whom Gilkey was shot, because they knew at the time that he was sitting with them as one of the council. He was a young chief, much loved and honored by his tribe and their great desire was to save him if possible. Mr. Huffaker told them he would go back and notify his people of their decision.
By this time the number of whites had increased to be about equal that of the Indians, and Mr. Huffaker knew that every minute's time gained was to the advantage of the whites. He returned to the Indians and told them that nothing short of a surrender of both Indians would satisfy his people. On hearing this the Indians offered $8,000 and forty ponies as satisfaction for the shooting of Gilkey, but Mr. Huffaker refused to entertain the proposition.
On hearing this ultimatum of the whites the young chief who was guilty of the shooting arose and left the council, but returned in a short time all armed and prepared for fight. Addressing the council he said that inasmuch as they had about decided to surrender him to the whites, thereby sanctioning his death, he would sell his life as dearly as possible, and signified his intention of first killing his own chief and then the white man who demanded his surrender. This address was a little too late in coming, because had a fight ensued then the advantage in numbers and arms was on the side of the whites.
The fiery speech of the youth had no effect towards stirring up the older warriors, but still they hesitated to give him up. They tried every way to save the young chief, but to no purpose. They increased the money offer to $10,000, but Mr. Huffaker told them that money was no object. They had committed an outrage upon the settlers, and had shed the blood of two of their people, and unless both were given up his people were determined to fight.
"You may kill some of us," said Mr. Huffaker, "but it will be the last of your tribe, because white men will come who will avenge us, and even now soldiers are on their way from Fort Riley. Now, I shall walk to my people and remain there while I count twenty, and will then walk back half way to where I shall set this stick, and there I shall again count twenty, and if both Indians are not surrendered by that time, I shall return to my people and upon you rest the consequences."
Having thus conveyed his intentions to the Indians Mr. Huffaker turned around and deliberately walked back to where the whites were standing in line, resting upon their arms. Having counted to twenty he slowly walked back to where he had set the stick and again counted twenty, but no sign was given by the Indians to indicate their willingness to comply with his demand. Believing the Indians meant to fight he turned again to rejoin the whites, and had gone but a few steps when the Indians called to him and told him the two guilty ones should be given up.
They were then brought forth, bound and tied, and delivered over to the whites. They were tried in no court, no judge heard their case, no attorney plead for them, no jury deliberated upon their guilt or innocence, they had wantonly shed the blood of two white men who had done them no injury, and, according to the Western notions of dealing with such offenders, justice demanded that they should suffer death. This was the verdict, and in compliance therewith both were hung where the lumber yard now stands, on the south side of Main street, between the river and the court house.
The Indians came and took away their remains, and whether they merited such condign punishment or not, it was certainly a pitying sight to see the mother of the young chief cut and lacerate her head, neck and breast, and with the blood that flowed from her self-inflicted wounds rub the post on which her son had breathed his last. Some time after this the United States grand jury took cognizance of the matter and indicted for murder several of the parties supposed to be implicated in the hanging. They were tried, but nothing came of it beyond the expense and inconvenience they suffered in consequence thereof.
Sale of the Kaw Lands
Up to this time and for some time subsequent Morris County had been exceedingly slow of settlement. Three causes contributed to this result. First, Kansas was still considered by many as part of the "Great American Desert," altogether barren and unproductive. Second, it was the home of various tribes of Indians who were either openly or secretly hostile to white settlement; and third, and the one that bore most against the settlement of Morris County, was the uncertainty that attached to the Kaw Reservation lands. If people located upon desirable claims they had no certainty of being left in peaceable possession. They did not know but that after having made valuable improvements it might be discovered, as had been the case once before, that they had settled upon Indian lands and would be dispossessed.
Ever since 1854 promises had been made by the Government or by parties speaking for it, that the Indian title to the lands would be extinguished and that they would be thrown open for settlement, but years of feud, strife and uncertainty had passed without anything in this direction having been done. The effect that this state of uncertainty had upon the settlement of the county will be better understood when it is known that nearly one-half of the entire land in the country was embraced within the Kaw Reservation. The Indians were desirous of parting with their title to the lands, and had repeatedly expressed a willingness to dispose of them and move further west, but no notice had ever been taken of their offers.
In 1859, one Alfred B. Greenwood was appointed Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and was either sent, or came upon his own motion, to negotiate with the various tribes of Indians for their lands. Whatever schemes or plans were gotten up by the agents of the Government for their own benefit in connection with these lands, is no part of this history, and will only be mentioned in a passing manner, in order that the work may be better understood. Without notifying the local agent, stationed upon the lands, of his coming, Greenwood one day made his appearance at the old Kaw agency, four miles east of Council Grove, and immediately called a council of the Indians, to whom he made known the contents and stipulations of a treaty that purported to have been prepared at Washington.
Some of the Indians came to Council Grove and apprised the citizens of what was going on at the agency, and instantly nearly every one in the place hastened to the spot to prevent what they considered a gross and outrageous swindle. The settlers presented their case to the Commissioner and insisted upon a modification of the treaty, and, to some extent, succeeded; but their demand to have a provision inserted recognizing the rights of those who had settled upon the lands prior to the Montgomery survey, was not conceded. The treaty was signed, and among its many provisions was one providing for the sale of 150,000 acres of the land to the highest bidder. The bids were to be submitted under seal, and a commission was to be appointed by which the lands were to be appraised. When the appraisers were appointed the settlers presented a statement of their case to them, and succeeded in having the lands appraised at a maximum of $1.75 per acre, the minimum being fixed at seventy-five cents.
The treaty made by Greenwood with the Indians gave rise to great dissatisfaction among the whites, and a public meeting was called to give expression to their feelings upon the same. It was decided by the meeting to send a delegate to Washington to prevent, if possible, the ratification of the treaty by the United States, and Judge Elmore was chosen to delegate. When the treaty came up for ratification in the Senate, it was amended so that all settlers who had made improvements upon their lands prior to 1857, licensed traders, and all other persons lawfully residing on the lands, should have their claims adjusted by the Secretary of the Interior, and that they should have the lands upon which they had settled and made improvements, at the appraised value of $1.75 per acre.
Another difficulty now arose, which relates more particularly to Council Grove history than to that of Morris County. Under the law that gave parties the right to organize themselves into town companies, those who had made improvements upon the land known as the "town site" formed themselves into a town company, and claimed the land in common except one, and he was the agent of Jacob Hall. His refusal to take part in the organization arose from the fact that Hall claimed a section of land by virtue of act of Congress, as mail contractor, and the section that he claimed embraced that included in the town site. After the Greenwood treaty had been amended and ratified by the Senate, the Town Company immediately presented its claim for the land to the Secretary of the Interior and asked for a patent.
They now learned for the first time, that Hall had anticipated them, and had made application for the same land, basing his claim on an act of Congress, and ignoring the treaty recently made and ratified. From these opposing claims arose a fierce and bitter contest, both sides employing the ablest counsel they could procure. The contest was a protracted one, but finally the land was awarded to the Town Company and they received patents therefor. For a long time the decision was supposed to have settled forever all disputes between Hall and the Town Company over this land, but Hall dying about seven years afterwards, his heirs brought suit for the recovery of the land, which suit is still pending, or was until recently, in the Circuit Court of the United States.
The Greenwood Treaty
Several years later, in 1862, renewed trouble arose on account if this Greenwood treaty. By the provisions of the treaty a commission was appointed to allot the lands to the several members of the Kaw Indians, giving to each forty acres. The land to be thus allotted was denominated the "Diminished Reserve," and upon this some white people had settled as early as 1856, and though they had been regularly warned off about every year since the Montgomery survey in 1857, they persisted in holding their claims. The admonitions and warnings of the Government were utterly disregarded, until finally the Government sent a company of soldiers to remove them. Knowing well the utter inutility of resisting United States troops, the settlers offered no further resistance, but quietly packed up their goods and departed from the Reservation. The following day the soldiers, also, took their departure, but they were not gone over twenty-four hours when the settlers all moved back on to their claims.
The Government finding that, in order to keep the settlers out of possession and to prevent a conflict between the whites and the Indians, it would be necessary to establish a military post, made a proposition to the settlers to pay them for their improvements, which was accepted, and thus the complications that arose over the Diminished Reservation were peacefully settled and amicably adjusted.
During 1861 and 1862 the population of the county remained about stationary, neither increasing nor diminishing, although the vote cast in 1862 was a little less than that of 1861, which, doubtless, can be accounted for by the fact of a number of the people going into the army. There is, probably, no county in the State that has experienced such trouble over the Indian lands within its boundary as has Morris County. They have been a perpetual drawback to the county almost to the present time, and frequently gave rise to difficulties that threatened serious results.
Thus in 1862 we had the "Kaw Trust Lands" coming up as a bone of considerable contention. Under the Greenwood treaty, these lands to be advertised for sale and the bids were to be made under seal. The settlers having received, through a friend in Washington, a copy of the appraisement, bid in every instance the exact price fixed by the appraisers. Month after month passed by but still the settlers heard nothing from their bids. They called upon their representatives in Congress for information, but could receive no satisfactory answer.
While in this state of doubt and uncertainty as to the disposition of the lands, it was brought to their knowledge that some parties had overbid them a few cents on the acre, and such a storm of indignation broke forth that showed they were in no spirit to be tampered with. They demanded of their Senators and Representatives in Congress an explanation of the facts connected with the bids, but these gentlemen could not enlighten them. Through a friend in Washington they ascertained that one Robert Corwin, of Ohio, was the highest bidder for about seventy of the choicest claims, he having bid from one to ten cents an acre more than the settlers.
On learning this the wrath of the people knew no bounds, and they instantly made their case known to Hon. J. N. Lane, who was at that time United States Senator from Kansas, and to Hon. A. C. Wilder, who was then Representative in Congress. These gentlemen immediately addressed a communication, of which the following is a copy, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs:
WASHINGTON CITY, D.C.
March 7, 1863.
Sir: We have just been informed that the sealed bids for the Kaw Trust Lands have been opened, and develop the fact that the hardy actual settlers upon such lands are about to be robbed by a heartless speculator who has never been upon said lands. That said speculator, intending to filch from the settlers their homes and hard earnings, has overbid them a few cents on the acre in the expectation of obtaining the title to some seventy-five farms, proposing to sell the same to the settlers at an advanced price or drive them from their homes, many of whom are now in the army battling for their country.
In the name of these, our constituents, and as their representatives, we do solemnly pray you to accept the bids of the actual settlers and reject the bids of the heartless speculator, and if, in discharge of your official duty, this cannot be done, award the lands to the settlers at the advance price bid by the speculator, giving them a settlement time to signify their assent to the same. In behalf of the people of Kansas, and in the name of justice, we file this, our solemn protest, against permitting one acre of the land of the actual settlers going into the hands of the cormorant speculator, who has bid thereon, until the actual settler has had a fair opportunity to purchase the same. Yours truly,
J. N. LANE.
A. C. WILDER.
HON. W. P. DALE
Commissioner of Indian Affairs,
In order to give better and more forcible expression to their indignation, a meeting of the settlers was held at Council Grove, on April 4, 1863, and in the preamble and resolutions adopted they pledged themselves to stand together as one man in favor of the settler. They resolved that any person, either at home or abroad, who attempted to rob a settler of his claim was no better than a robber, and should and would be treated as such. The Interior Department at Washington was strongly condemned and denounced. They resolved that the robberies committed upon the Government and the Indian by Corwin and others in building contracts were a disgrace to the nation; that they had reason to believe that Corwin received $20,000 from Stevens' contract for putting up buildings for the Indians; that they would defend their rights to their lands to the utmost extremity, and before yielding to heartless speculators and robbers they would destroy their improvements and would pursue any other course that would render the locality extremely disagreeable and uncomfortable for speculators or their agents. The people were thoroughly aroused and in earnest, and any effort to enforce the award to Corwin would surely have caused bloodshed. The opposition to the lands being awarded to Corwin was so great and promised to be productive of so much trouble that all the bids submitted for the "Trust Lands" were rejected, and on August 31, 1863, the lands were again advertised, and bids were to be received until October 5 following.
In 1860 and 1861, one Robert Stevens, who had previously entered into a large contract with the Government to build houses for the Indians, finished his contract, having erected in all one 150 stone houses, but as the old settlers of Morris County still characterized the job as a huge swindle, and as it has little bearing upon the history of the county, we will say nothing concerning it further than that after the houses were completed the Indians used them for stables and dwelt in their tents.
We now arrive at that period when events took place that not only startled the settlers of Morris County, but the people of the whole country, the year that ushered in the War of the Rebellion. After the commencement of hostilities between the North and the South, the people of the county were kept in a constant state of feverish excitement by perpetual threatened invasion from hostile Indians on the south and west, and by incursions of guerrillas and bushwhackers from Missouri, who, after committing all manner of violence in the eastern portion of the State, were working to the mountains and plains of New Mexico and Colorado where they could prey upon trains crossing the plains, and murder all the defenseless people who favored the Union. It was during one of the bushwhacking raids in 1862, by the gang known as Bill Anderson's, that Judge Baker, one of the most respected citizen of the county, and his brother-in-law, George Segur, were murdered at Baker's home on Rock Creek.
At the commencement of the war, the Anderson family, the male portion of which consisted of the old man and two sons, Bill and Jim, lived in Kansas and not a great way from Baker's. They were natives of Missouri, and had moved to Kansas in those ante bellum days when it was thought Kansas could be made a slave state by colonizing largely from the South. The people of the neighborhood looked upon the family as hard characters, and it was an open secret that they had committed several murders. To kill, steal, and plunder was their business, and they became quite a terror to the community.
The breaking out of the war opened up to them grand opportunities for carrying on their hellish business, of which they were not slow to take advantage. About this time several other desperate characters joined them, and among them one Lee Griffin, and a notorious scoundrel, named Reed. They established their headquarters at Council Grove, and from this point would sally out and commit all manner of depredations, including murder, rape and horse-stealing. In one of these marauding excursions they stole two horses from Mr. Segur, who was father-in-law to Judge Baker.
On hearing of this, Baker, with several others, started in pursuit and overtook the party on the Santa Fe trail, some distance west of Council Grove. The horses were recovered, and Baker swore out a warrant of arrest against the Andersons. This coming to the knowledge of old man Anderson, he swore he would take Baker's life, and arming himself with a rifle, and with murderous intent, he went to Baker's house. Baker having been previously informed of Anderson's design, met him prepared, and before the latter could carry out his murderous purpose Baker shot him dead.
The following night the young Andersons, with Griffin and Reed, went to Baker's house, intent on killing him, and called him out, but Baker, apprehensive that something of the kind would occur, had secured a friend or two to stay with him, and when he made his appearance he did so fully prepared and determined to sell his life as dearly as possible. Finding themselves thwarted in their purpose to kill Baker that night, they retired to the brush where they lay concealed watching for an opportunity to dispatch their victim. After thus waiting for a week or two without finding the opportunity they sought, they departed for Missouri, the resort during the war of guerrillas, bushwhackers and cut-throats.
More than a month passed by without anything being heard of the Andersons and their gang, and a faint hope began to be entertained that they had seen the last of them in the neighborhood, when on the morning of the second day of July, 1862, the Andersons were discovered skulking in the vicinity of Baker's house. They had returned the evening previous, and with them was another villain, a stranger, unknown to anyone in the community. Learning of Baker's absence from home, the Anderson gang secreted themselves in the neighborhood, leaving the stranger to watch Baker's house and apprise them of his return. On the evening of July 3, Baker, with his wife, returned from Emporia, which fact was immediately communicated by the stranger to the Andersons.
At that time Baker kept a supply store near the Santa Fe trail, which stood about seven or eight rods from his house. The Andersons were not long in perfecting their plans. The stranger was sent to Baker's house, instructed to tell him that he was "boss" of a train that was camped a short way off, and that he desired to purchase some supplies. Baker never having seen the stranger before, and this being a usual occurrence, was entirely free from suspicion, but yet in those unsettled times when every man on the frontier went armed, he took the precaution to buckle on a pair of revolvers, and thus prepared, and accompanied by his brother-in-law, George Segur, he went with the stranger to the store. It was now well into evening, so that under the darkness the Andersons could station themselves close to the store without running much risk of detection.
Baker had just about finished putting up the stranger's order when the Andersons, with their partners in crime, rushed into the store and fired, wounding both Baker and Segur in the first discharge. Taken thus by surprise, and being outnumbered two to one, Baker and Segur in their wounded condition sought shelter in the cellar, where the murderers sought to follow them, but Baker, firing through the cellar door, wounded Jim Anderson in the leg, breaking his thigh bone. The Andersons then withdrew from the building and set fire to it. In the cellar Baker told his brother-in-law that he was mortally wounded and could not live long, and advised Segur to escape through the cellar window, which, after much difficulty, he succeeded in doing.
While the store was being devoured by the flames, the desperadoes watched outside lest Baker should escape, and thus one of the most respected citizens of Morris County was burned to death in the cellar of his own store by this gang of cut-throats, after having been mortally wounded at their hands. Segur died from his wound on the following day. After finishing their hellish work in Morris County, the murderous gang returned to Missouri to ply their nefarious business of guerrilla warfare and bushwhacking.
Although Col. S. N. Wood had, by authority of the Secretary of War, and of the Governor of Kansas, organized the "Morris County Rangers" in the early part of the year 1863, guerrillas were not deterred from making plundering and murderous incursions into the country. Thus we find that on the 4th of May, 1863, Dick Yeager and his band of guerrillas encamped in the vicinity of Council Grove. No doubt his intention was to sack the town, but the people armed themselves and posted sentinels each night and frustrated his plans. After domineering over the citizens for some time with high hand, and using threats and insults, he withdrew with a portion of his band to Diamond Springs, where, without either ceremony or provocation, they shot and killed a citizen named Augustus Howell, and severely wounded his wife.
Another thing that tended to save Council Grove and its people from the ravages of Yeager, was the fact that Capt. Rowell, with a company of the Second Colorado Regiment, was stationed close to the town to guard the mails and Santa Fe trains. Throughout the year 1864, the people were kept constantly on the alert. Now it would be a guerrilla raid that would call them to arms, and now a visit from hostile Indians. Many were the depredations committed this year by marauding bands of both whites and Indians, but the people, knowing the insecurity of life and property in those harassing years, were always on the qui vive, and while the depredations perpetrated in the adjoining counties were quite serious, Morris County escaped with but few, and these were of a trifling character.
In the year 1867 occurred the lynching of one of the guerrillas, and the affair caused a great deal of excitement in Council Grove. In the fall of 1866 a man named McDowell came from Missouri and made Council Grove his stopping place. As was subsequently ascertained, McDowell, during the war was a guerrilla and bushwhacker, and when the war closed, having no desire to cultivate the arts of peace, became a desperado, and many are the dark deeds laid to his charge. Of these he boasted, and seemed to take pride in telling how many men he had killed in his time. People paid very little heed to his boasting at the time and set it all down to braggadocio. At that time one W. K. Pollard kept a livery stable in Council Grove, and one day McDowell went to the stable and hired a team for ostensible purpose of going to Junction City.
As the sequel proved, in hiring the team he had no other object than to steal it. Not returning that day Pollard became suspicious and started after him next morning. On reaching Junction City he found that McDowell had gone farther, and was, by that time, probably out of the State. His next step was to procure a requisition from Gov. Crawford, after which he started in pursuit of the thief, and succeeded in overtaking him at Nebraska City, where he arrested him and brought him back to Council Grove. Here he had a preliminary examination and was held for trial at the District Court.
In all probability he would have been tried by ordinary process of law but for a little transaction that took place that changed the aspect of affairs. While McDowell was under confinement it so happened by some mysterious agency that the Deputy Sheriff of Shawnee County, one Cunningham, put in an appearance, and whatever freemasonry existed between McDowell and Cunningham will never be known, but certain it is that Cunningham secretly passed McDowell a revolver for the evident purpose of securing his escape by shooting the guard. Cunningham was detected in the act, however, and before McDowell had an opportunity of using it for any purpose it was taken from him.
If ever Cunningham stood upon the brink of eternity it was then, for no sooner was it made known what he had done than he was surrounded by as an indignant and determined a set of men as ever cast a noose around the neck of a villain. He trembled with fear, and well he might, for he was facing a crowd of resolute men, never to be moved by threats, and, in his case, not easily moved by appeals for pity. The rope was prepared and certain doom seemed to await him, but through some mysterious and unaccountable agency, known only to the initiated, he was saved, but never will he be so near the grave again until he enters it, as he was upon that occasion. He immediately left town, nor did he stand upon the order of his going.
The more the people thought and talked of what had taken place, the more exasperated they became, and that same night a body of disgusted men surrounded the guard, seized McDowell and carried him to the center of the bridge that crosses the Neosho River at Council Grove. He begged and pleaded and screamed for mercy, but all his begging, pleading and screaming fell upon deaf ears, for he was about to taste of that kind of mercy that he, by his own boasting, had shown to his helpless victims when they appealed to him. A rope was brought, one end of which was fastened around his neck, after the fashion usually adopted in such cases, and the other was made secure to the railing of the bridge. Up he was lifted and over he was dropped, and there he was left dangling until the next morning when he was taken down and an inquest held on his body by J. T. Stevenson, a Justice of the Peace, and a verdict rendered according to the facts--death by strangulation.
A few days after this occurred, the whole community was thrown into considerable excitement by a rumor that a party of Quantrell's band and Bill Anderson's, to which McDowell had belonged, were on their way to wreak a terrible vengeance upon the people of Morris County, and Council Grove in particular. It turned out to be mere rumor, however, but the excitement was none the less for all that.
The Cheyenne Outbreak
This occurred on the 3rd of June, 1868. Like a thunderbolt bursting from a clear sky, and without the least note of warning to indicate what was about to happen, four hundred Cheyennes burst upon the town all armed and painted for war. When the Indians reached the west end of the town, they divided their forces, one-half following along Elm Creek to the south of town while the other continued to march along Main Street.
The people were taken completely by surprise, and could not surmise what the approach of so large a body of Indians, all painted, bedecked and mounted for war, meant, unless it was indiscriminate slaughter of the whites. Notwithstanding this assurance, the settlers, knowing the treacherous nature of the red men, were not altogether at ease and held themselves in readiness for whatever might happen. The Kaw tribe was at that time stationed about two and a half miles east from Council Grove, on Big John Creek, and the agent for the tribe was Major E. S. Stover.
The cause for the Cheyennes being on the war path may as well be stated here. During the year previous, the Kaws and Cheyennes lived at peace with each other, and visited the wigwams of each other in a friendly manner. Not far west from Council Grove both tribes herded their ponies within easy distance of each other and between the two.
"All seemed as peaceful and as still
As the mist slumb'ring on yon hill."
The Cheyennes had about one hundred ponies in their herd, with eight or ten Indians to watch them, and the Kaws had about fifty ponies in their herd with only one of the tribe to watch them. From where the Kaws were at that time encamped, on the high land on the south side of Elm Creek, they could see anything that transpired on the plains where the ponies were being herded. One day the Kaw who was herding the ponies of his tribe saw several Cheyennes come toward where he was stationed, and thinking they were coming for no other purpose than to make a neighborly visit, and exchange a friendly pipe, he lay couched upon the grass awaiting their approach.
Before the unsuspecting Kaw had an idea of what was going to happen, his spirit was sent to the happy hunting ground, and all the Kaw ponies driven off. The Cheyennes thought they were unobserved, but a party of Kaws had been watching their movements from the high ground where they were encamped. Their natural cunning told them not to drive the Kaw ponies directly to their own herd, and they therefore made a wide detour to the south and west, expecting thereby to reach their own camp, and at the same time, throw the Kaws off the trail.
This stratagem might have been successful had it not been for the observations taken from the camp. Comprehending at a glance the object and movement of the Cheyennes, the Kaws instantly mustered a party of their own warriors and intercepted the Cheyennes, whom they set upon and killed seven out of eight. The Kaws not only recovered their own ponies, but captured about forty of those belonging to the Cheyennes, and thus between ponies and scalps, they returned triumphantly to camp. They celebrated the affair by a war dance, at which many of the people from Council Grove and surrounding country were spectators. It was to avenge this act on the part of the Kaws that the Cheyennes appeared in the streets of Council Grove on the morning of June 3, 1868.
About two miles from Council Grove, on the east side of the Neosho River, was established the headquarters of the Kaw Agency, the agent, as already mentioned, being Major Stover. On hearing of the approach of the Cheyennes, the Kaws took up a position in the brush along the margin of Big John Creek. The Kaws were greatly inferior in numbers, but vastly superior in arms. The Cheyennes were mounted, while the Kaws were on foot.
As the Cheyennes approached, Major Stover rode out and met their chief; several of their braves between the two contending lines, and held a consultation with them in the interest of peace. Nothing would satisfy the Cheyennes but the scalps of seven Kaws and forty of their ponies, to which Major Stover would not listen.
While the consultation was being held, some of the more fiery and impetuous of the Indians exchanged shots. Among the Kaws was a brave who was looked upon as a kind of leader, named Bill Johnson, and when the firing commenced, Bill cried out, "Take care, Major Stover, you'll get hurt. Major Stover go away, you'll get hurt, I say." Nothing was accomplished by the parley between the Major and the Chief; the Cheyennes would be satisfied with nothing but the scalps and the ponies, and these being refused they determined to exterminate the Kaws.
The Major, finding his efforts to secure peace fruitless, returned to where the Kaws were posted in the brush, and it is said the first and only command he gave them was, "Give them h--l, boys." The Cheyennes were extremely wary about attacking, and the Kaws being dismounted and greatly inferior in numbers, were just as determined not to be drawn from their advantageous position. The Cheyennes would form in line out in the open ground, and then, facing to the right, would make a charge in Indian file, and when the head of the line would come within shooting distance of the Kaws, (they were mostly all armed with revolvers), the first man would fire and wheel to the left, and so on throughout the line, each warrior following his leader until they had formed quite an extended circle, and in this fashion they would ride and fire; always sure, as they approached the Kaws to throw themselves well over on the opposite sides of their ponies.
This kind of running fight was kept up for several hours, when the, fearing to attack the Kaws in their position, and being unable to draw them out into the open ground, retired from the field. The casualties were, three wounded, one of whom died the following day. There is good reason to believe that the Cheyennes had designs of perpetrating outrages upon the whites, because, instead of returning to camp, they moved up to the Solomon Valley, where they killed quite a number of settlers and committed other depredations.
Shortly after the close of the war, in 1865, a good many settlers, seeking homes in the West, located in the county, and this year and the one that followed were very prosperous years for the people. In 1866, however, the county, but particularly Council Grove, had quite a blow aimed at its prosperity. Up to this time Council Grove had carried on quite an extensive business, being the last trading post for trains going west, and the first point reached by trains coming from the west. Situated thus, and being located on the great and only highway between the Missouri River and New Mexico, its trade was immense. It was the rendezvous for all trains crossing the plains, and was the headquarters of the Santa Fe Coach Line.
Everything contributed to make it a place of great prosperity, and the prosperity it shared was felt more or less throughout the county. Just at this point of its prosperity, however, the Kansas Pacific Railway was completed almost to Junction City, in Davis County, a point about twenty-five miles north of Council Grove. To this point the Stage Company moved its entire outfit, and Junction City was now to realize the trade heretofore enjoyed by Council Grove. The Santa Fe trail was virtually deserted, and the long trains that were wont to form at Council Grove, now formed at the county seat of Davis County, and, instead of following the Santa Fe Trail, moved westward over the Smoky Hill route.
The people of Council Grove did not allow this vast trade to pass from them without an effort to retain it, and offered liberal inducements to the Stage Company to prevent them from moving, but all to no purpose; to Junction City they went and the business of Council Grove was staggered by the blow. Compared with what it had been, Council Grove became a quiet town. During this year, 1867, a slight shock of earthquake was felt in the county, and the scare created thereby was equal to any occasioned by either savage or guerrilla. Although the removal of the Stage Line Company, and the loss of business consequent thereon, was a severe blow to Council Grove, merchants continued to do a reasonably fair business. It is true their transactions were not nearly as great, but the business was steady, and when the balance sheets were struck at the close of 1867, dealers found that they had done reasonably well during the year.
In fact it was a year of remarkable prosperity all over the county. A great many new settlers had located in the county during the year, the winter was exceedingly mild, and the spring of 1868 opened out very auspiciously. People were now commencing to retire a feeling of security, and all fear of Indian outbreaks or raids of bushwhackers had about vanished. In this year occurred the Cheyenne outbreak, which caused a great deal of excitement. But after it was all over, the inhabitants of Morris County found out that they were a great deal more frightened than hurt.
The year 1869 was rather a quiet year, and had it not been for the shooting and killing of William Hess by William Polk in a difficulty that arose over some frivolous matter, would have been quite uneventful. Polk immediately fled, but was afterwards captured in Illinois and brought back to Cottonwood, where he was tried and acquitted. Settlers were now pouring into the county thick and fast, and 1870 was marked by such a flow of immigration into the county as, up to that time, had never been realized. Large herds of cattle were driven into the county to fatten on its rich, nutritious and abundant grasses, and everybody felt happy under prosperity.
Towards the end of the year, however, a small speck of war showed itself on the horizon, which, for some time, created considerable excitement. This arose from the fact that the vigilantes of Butler County, which joins Morris County on the south, had hung, for some real or supposed cause, a man named James Smith, and two brothers named Booth. Theses men had been at a former time residents of Morris County, and when it came to the knowledge of the people that three of their citizens had been hung by the vigilantes of an adjoining county, they were ready to wreak a terrible vengeance upon their neighbor.
Satisfactory explanations were made, however, and the people quieted down and the thing was soon forgotten. In 1871 new comers flocked into the county by the hundred. They came singly and in groups, and even by whole colonies, some of which numbered fifty families to the colony. Nothing occurred in the county of unusual interest until the fall of 1873, when the entire western portion of the county was swept as by a besom with a devastating prairie fire. The fire originated in the neighborhood of White City, on the northern boundary line of the county, and spread with terrible rapidity over that portion of the county above mentioned, lapping up with its fiery tongue in its mad career, houses, barns, out-buildings, cattle, farm implements, hay-stacks, and in some instances, human lives, and leaving nothing but desolation and devastation in its wake. The damage entailed upon the settlers by this fire was immense, and very many of the people lost all they had saved and accumulated by years of toil and hard labor. The history of the county from that time to the present is without any incident of special interest or unusual occurrence, and pertains more to material growth and advancement, and, consequently, can be shown better by statistical history than by narrative.
At the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion, the population of Morris County, all told, did not exceed 800 souls, and the returns of the election for 1861, show that the voting population that year was only 158. Among the settlers were quite a number from Missouri and other slave-holding States, and, as a consequence, they divided upon the issue of the war according to their proclivities. Those who favored the Union were largely in the ascendancy, and during the early days of the war, about fifty men from Morris County enlisted in the Union army, most of whom went into the Eleventh Kansas, which was recruited by Gen. Thomas Ewing, then of Kansas, but now of Ohio.
As the war continued, men kept enlisting until Morris County had furnished 125 soldiers, which, for a county that was, by some, considered "disloyal," on account of the Southern people among the settlers, was pretty good evidence of their loyalty. When it is borne in mind that, in 1861, the voting population was only 158, it will be seen that nearly every loyal man in Morris County, capable of bearing arms, went to war to fight for the Union and Liberty. In addition to this, one John Delashnmitt came from Iowa and enlisted in Morris County a company of Kaw Indians for service in the Union Army, which numbered eighty men.
In 1863, the people were so harassed and kept in such a continual state of excitement by guerrillas and bushwhackers, that S. N. Wood, who had gone out as Lieutenant Colonel of the Second Kansas, at the commencement of the war, but who had resigned and returned home early in 1863, received authority from the Secretary of War and the Governor of Kansas, to organize a military force, to be known as the Morris County Rangers. If there were any enlisted men in this organization, we failed to find a record of their names, but the following is a list of the officers:
Morris County Rangers, Cavalry--Captain, S. N. Wood; First Lieutenant, James Cairey; Second Lieutenant, Theodore Jones; Third Lieutenant, W. R. Terwilliger; Ensign, J. H. Black.
Neosho Guards, Cavalry--Captain, W. T. Lard; First Lieutenant, J. E. Bryan; Second Lieutenant, J. A. B. Bear; Third Lieutenant, Samuel Brown; Ensign, A. J. Crawford.
Clark's Creek Rangers, Cavalry--Captain, Charles Guenter; First Lieutenant, Henry Baxter; Second Lieutenant, Courtney Holmes; Third Lieutenant, John Warnecka; Ensign, S. Atchison.
Neosho Rangers, Cavalry - Captain, S. D. Price; First Lieutenant, T. J. Lambert; Second Lieutenant, M. Clairey; Third Lieutenant, M. Clevenger; Ensign, G. W. Black.
Council Grove Guards, Infantry--Captain, R. B. Lockwood; First Lieutenant, J. Stenger; Second Lieutenant, James Phinney; Third Lieutenant, N. C. Aiken; Ensign, William Lane.
First Settlers.--Council Grove Township, S. M. Hays, 1847; Choteau Bros., 1848; T. S. Huffaker, 1850, and Columbia Bros., 1852. Neosho Township, J. C. Munkers, 1854. Warren Township, C. P. Eden and Henry Thornby, 1857. Valley Township, Joseph Dunlap, 1857. Clark's Creek Township, John Warneese, 1857, and Jake Baxter, William Atkinson and Charles Guenter in 1858. Parker Township, William Black, 1860. Rolling Prairie Township, A. I. Bezen, 1867. Elm Creek Township, B. M. and Milton Phil, 1865, Diamond Valley Township, J. M. Douglas and John O'Byrne, 1858. Ohio Township, Norman Parker, 1870. Highland Township, Detroit Burton, 1864.
First Justices.--H. J. Epsey appointed by Governor Geary in 1858. The next shown by the records is Thomas White in 1859, and William Mansfield and Abraham Pollard in 1860. Clark's Creek Township, Marion Walters and W. M. Patton, 1860. Neosho Township, William Downing and Porter Fishier, 1860. Diamond Valley Township, A. F. Dickinson and Wesley Lyon, 1868. Elm Creek Township, S. Corey and G. W. Coffin, 1871. Parker Township, G. W. Churchman and Thomas Eldridge, 1871. Ohio Township, H. C. Abernethy and D. E. Welden, 1872. Highland Township, Detroit Burton, 1866. Valley Township, H. H. Knox and W. H. Martin, 1874. Rolling Prairie Township, Erie Johnson, 1874. Warren Township, H. P. Watts and E. Johnson, 1881.
First Business.--The first store opened in the county was by S. M. Hays at Council Grove in 1847, followed the year after by Choteau Bros., and in 1852 by Columbia Bros. In 1861, at the same place, Alken & Thacher built a large steam grist and saw mill. Parkerville, a general store was opened by Eastman & Thomas in 1870, and at the same place in 1871, C. G. Parker erected a steam grist and saw mill. Skiddy, general store by College & McDaniels in 1870. White City, general store by Thornley & Dunbar in 1872. Dunlap, general store.
The first hotel in the county was built in 1856, at Council Grove, by Charles Gilkey.
First Church Buildings.--The first church building erected in the county was the Methodist Episcopal, South at Council Grove, in 1868; Congregational at the same place in 1871; Methodist at the same place in 1878. Methodist Church at White City in 1878. Methodist at Parkerville in 1880. Baptist Church at Skiddy in 1882. African Methodist Episcopal at Council Grove in 1879.
First Schools.--Council Grove, 1857, teacher, Miss Sarah Stevenson; Warren Township, 1868, teacher, Miss Amanda Harlow; Clark's Creek Township, 1859, teacher, Edson Baxter, at that time only fourteen years old; Elm Creek Township, 1868, teacher, Mrs. Bates; Neosho Township, 1859, teacher, Miss Sallie Fisher; Ohio Township, 1871, teacher, Mr. Lacy; Highland Township, 1871, teacher Henry Corbin; Parker Township, 1866; White City, 1873, teacher, Adam Dixon; Parkerville, 1871, teacher, William McCullom; Skiddy, 1873. First Marriages--T. S. Huffaker and Eliza Ann Baker, May, 1852, in Council Grove; Elm Creek Township, William Wiggins and Miss Berry, 1869; Ohio Township, A. F. Park and Mary J. Davidson, 1871; Warren Township, Thomas Roberts and Margaret Eden, 1871; Highland Township, James P. Kendall and Jemima K. Burton, March, 1867; Clark's Creek Township, William Parker and Caroline Atkinson, December, 1859; Neosho Township, William Horner and Miss Black, 1859.
First Postmasters.--The first Postmaster in the county was T. S. Huffaker, in 1854; Diamond Valley, Samuel Shaft, 1863; Neosho, B. Thomas, 1880; Elm Creek, L. M. Hill, 1866; Clark's Creek, Mr. Gilman, 1859.
First Things in General.--The first Commissioners appointed for the District, at that time, composed of Wise, Breckinridge and Madison counties, were: T. S. Huffaker, who was Chairman of Board and Probate Judge, O. H. Withington and H. R. Elliott, who were appointed by Governor Reeder in 1855. The first elected officers of the county were: W. B. Harrold, J. H. Ritchie and John Hammond, County Commissioners; Charles Columbia, Treasurer; S. N. Wood, County Attorney; A. J. Collier, Sheriff; Richard Utt, Assessor; A. C. Stewart, Coroner; and M. Conn, County Clerk. The first white child born in the county was Lucy Columbia in 1852.
First resident white woman in the county was Mrs. Mitchell. First man sent from the county to the Territorial Legislature was Christopher Columbia. First District Court was organized in 1858, with Hon. Rush Elmore as presiding judge. The first term of the court was held in October, 1858, and the place of holding it was in the old log cabin built by S. M. Hays in 1847. The court officers were: William Weir, of Wyandotte County, was prosecuting attorney; L. McCarthy, clerk, and W. B. Harrold acted as Sheriff. The place where the jury deliberated upon their verdict was under the shade of a tree that stood in the yard.
The first case that appears of record in the county is entitled "William Polk vs. J. J. Hawkins," the nature of the suit being for possession. The first instrument recorded in the county, as shown by the books in the office of Register of Deeds, bears date November 10, 1858, and is a deed made by S. Park to Samuel B. Bay, conveying forty acres in Section 24, Township 19, Range 7, which is now included in Lyon County. The first teachers' ld sic in the county was in 1864, at Council Grove.
County and Township Organization
Up to 1858, the county had no separate and distinct organization, but still formed a municipal township of the district composed of Wise, Breckinridge and Madison counties. In 1858 an election was ordered to complete the organization of the county, at which H. J. Epsey was elected Probate Judge and T. S. Huffaker, Harvey Munkers and Lewis Baum were elected Supervisors, but the latter gentleman failing to qualify, Thomas White was appointed to fill the vacancy. W. H. White became Justice of the Peace, N. S. Brazleton Surveyor, and Joseph Kempton was appointed Clerk of the Board.
Prior to this time there had been but one voting precinct in the county, but now that the county was fully organized, the Board of Supervisors at their first meeting in 1858 established three additional precincts, one at June Baxter's on Clark's Creek; one at William Downing's, on the Neosho; and one at Conn's Ranch, on Diamond Creek. The first question submitted by the Board for the people to vote upon, was one on which they were to decide whether hogs should be restrained from running at large. The election was held in October, 1859, and the porcine race were restrained by fourteen majority.
In the early settlement of the county, the prevailing sentiment of the people was strongly Southern, and hence the Territorial Legislature of 1855, by which the Territory was divided into counties, named nearly all the counties after southern celebrities. Thus came the names of Breckinridge, Madison, Davis, etc., and thus what is now Morris County was named Wise, after that Southern celebrity who, afterwards, as Governor of Virginia, sent John Brown to the gallows. By 1859, the tone of public sentiment had changed, owing to the large immigration that had set in from the Eastern, Middle and Northern States.
In this year, Hon. S. N. Wood was representing the county in the Legislature, and as the hanging of John Brown had aroused the indignation of all liberty-loving people, he had a bill passed by which the name of the county was changed from Wise to Morris, in honor of Thomas Morris, who was United States Senator from Ohio. The county officers chosen to hold their respective offices until November, 1860, were as follows: Probate Judge, James A. Robbins; Commissioners, W. B. Harrell, J. H. Richey and Jonathan Hammond; Sheriff, A. J. Collier; Assessor, Richard Utt; Coroner, A. C. Stewart; County Clerk, M. Conn; Treasurer, Charles Columbia; and County Attorney, S. N. Wood, and this concludes the history of the county while Kansas was a territory.
Kansas became a State and was admitted to the Union as such in 1861. After its admission, the state was divided into representative districts, and Morris, Chase, and Butler counties constituted the Thirteenth District. A. J. Chipman was the first man who represented the county in the State Legislature, and S. N. Wood had the honor of being the first State Senator from the county. The first election held in the county after Kansas became a State was in the spring of 1861, at which B. F. Perkins was elected Probate Judge; R. B. Lockwood, Clerk of the District Court, and T. S. Huffaker, Superintendent of Public Instruction. These officers were to hold their respective offices until January, 1862.
In November, 1861, a regular election was held, at which a full county ticket was elected. The officers chosen at this election were: Representative, Charles Columbia; Probate Judge, T. S. Huffaker; Clerk of the District Court, R. B. Lockwood; Commissioners, Jonathan Hammond, J. H. Richey, and C. R. Rhodes; County Clerk, John F. Dodds; Sheriff, A. J. Collier; Treasurer, R. B. Lockwood; Register of Deeds, John F. Dodds; Assessor, J. C. Munkers; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Lew Whitsitt; Surveyor, J. B. Collier; Coroner, Allen Crowley. The total vote of the county at this election was 158.
The present county officers are as follows: L. McKenzie, Fay Parsons, F. M. Wierman, Commissioners; John Sims, Sheriff; A. Moser, Jr., County Clerk; R. M. Armstrong, Clerk of the District Court; W. H. White, Treasurer; Jesse Hammer, Probate Judge; J. E. Drake, Register of Deeds; A. G. Campbell, Superintendent of Public Instruction; E. I. Prothrow, Coroner; J. M. Miller, County Attorney; Seneca Tyler, Surveyor.
Organization of Townships.--From 1855, when the eastern portion of the State was divided into counties, until 1860, Morris County comprised but one municipal township, and was known as Council Grove, and was attached to Breckinridge, now Lyon County, for judicial and revenue purposes. The organization of Morris County was completed in 1858, and at a meeting of the Board of Commissioners held March 17, 1860, the county was divided into three civil townships, viz.: Council Grove, Neosho, and Clark's Creek.
In April, 1868, another township was created from territory taken from the south of Clark's Creek Township, and to the township thus created was given the name of Diamond Valley.
Parker Township was established on the 5th day of September, 1870, and was made out of territory taken partly from Neosho and Clark's Creek townships.
Elm Creek Township was organized September 9, 1871, the territory comprising which having been taken from Council Grove and Diamond Valley townships.
Ohio Township was created February 9, 1872, and comprises territory once embraced in Parker and Neosho townships.
Highland Township was set off January 13, 1874, and was taken from Clark's Creek, Diamond Valley, and Parker townships.
Rolling Prairie Township was organized April 15, 1874, out of territory taken from Clark's Creek and Parker townships.
Valley Township was created April 15, 1874, from territory formerly embraced in Council Grove Township.
Warren Township was set off from Neosho Township, January 5, 1880.
These constitute the eleven civil townships of the county, as now organized, their geographical position being as follows:
A line drawn through the center of the county, from east to west, would leave Valley, Council Grove, Elm Creek and Diamond Valley townships south of said line, and also a strip about three miles wide from the south of Highland Township. The position of these townships, in the order named, is from east to west. All the other townships in the county are north of said center line.
County Seat Contest
Like many other places, Morris County has had its vexations, anxieties and tribulations over the question as to where the seat of justice should be located. From the time the county was organized until 1871, Council Grove held it by undisputed possession. This was the year in which Parkerville was incorporated, and scarcely was the town organization completed when it entered the lists to contest the county seat question with Council Grove. Petitions were widely circulated and submitted to the County Board of Commissioners, who ordered an election, so that the people might decide the question for themselves. The fight waxed hot and warm, the friends of the contesting points putting forth every effort that would add to their chances of success. Nor were they altogether particularly scrupulous about the means employed to secure victory, as they furnished abundant evidence to prove that "for ways that are dark and tricks that are vain," there are others peculiar as well as the heathen Chinee.
Voters were colonized in large numbers for the occasion, and were furnished temporary work at good wages, so as to hold them until after election. There were about as many herders scattered over the prairie as there were cattle, and if their flocks and herds were few, it was nobody's business, as American citizens their votes would count. When the result of a hard fought battle stands trembling in the balance, the general commanding must not stand hesitating between honor and expediency as to the employment of certain means, while the victory passes from his reach. Just prior to the election, a stranger would be struck to see the number of men employed on the streets under the Street Commissioner.
Other stratagems were resorted to, which shows that those who were directing affairs were not barren of ingenuity. People would come down from Parkerville to Council Grove, and inveigle away as many of the peripatetic voters as possible, and, in like manner, the people of Council Grove would operate in Parkerville.
On the night before election a number of laborers in Council Grove were thus enticed to go to Parkerville, and among them was one Irishman, who had been indulging rather freely in the "cratur." When they arrived at Parkerville, the descendant of Erin was taken to a hotel and assigned a room. Pat was not altogether reliable, for in his frequent potations he would give a whoop and "hoo-rooh" for Council Grove. After plying him with whisky, they undressed him and put him to bed, after which they left him, taking his clothes with them.
About the time the matutinal rooster began to crow, Pat woke with a terrible thumping in the head. His mind was all confused, and it was a few minutes before he became sufficiently collected to comprehend the situation. He then got out of the bed and began to look for his clothes, but they were gone. He looked under the bed, behind the door, behind the washstand, but not a stitch of them could he find. Pat, however, was a man of good natural resources, and inasmuch as some one had stolen his clothes he could see no wrong in stealing somebody else's. Acting upon this principle he stepped out into the hall in his nether garments, and as many of the bedroom doors were open, the weather being warm, he had no trouble in clothing himself. The hour was early and not a sound was heard in the whole house. Pat went his rounds, taking a pair of pants out of this room, a vest out of that, a coat out of another, a hat out of the next, and last, a pair of boots, which he did not put until he reached the street.
It was nothing but a fair exchange, thought the son of Erin and he had got the best of the bargain. He then started out on foot for Council Grove, distant about twelve miles, and on reaching town he met Mr. Nichols, the Street Commissioner, for whom he had been working, and to whom he told his experience, adding, "Be jabers, they thought to get me to vote for Parkerville, and though they trated me moighty dasent, as you may see, here I am to vote for Council Grove." How the contest was conducted may be ascertained from the fact that there was nearly a vote cast for every man, woman, and child, in the county. At that time the population of the county was 2,225, and the vote cast on the county-seat question was 1,312, of which Council Grove received 899, and Parkerville 413, so the former place was declared to be the seat of justice of Morris County, and remains so to this year of grace--1882.
Railroads, Schools, Etc.
In September, 1865, the people of the county voted to the Santa Fe Railway Company, bonds to the amount of $100,000, thinking thereby to secure the building of the line through the county. The total vote cast in the county was ninety-six, all of which, except six, were cast in favor of the bonds. The company did not accept them, however, and constructed its line about twenty-five miles south of the county. On June 29, 1867, another vote was taken on a proposition for the county to take stock to the amount of $165,000 in the Union Pacific, Southern branch, at which 195 votes were cast, of which number 174 were for the proposition and 21 against.
This road is known in Kansas as the Missouri, Kansas, & Topeka Railway, and was built through the county in 1868. Its course is diagonal, running from the northwest to the southeast, and passes through Skiddy, White City, Parkerville, sic Council Grove and Dunlap. This road furnishes all the railway facilities the county has at the present time, but the people are very sanguine that they will have a direct east and west line in the course of a year or two, as bonds have been voted to aid in its construction and the line has been surveyed.
No mineral yet discovered in the county, although in 1874 a party prospected for coal in the vicinity of Council Grove, but after having bored down to a depth of 305 feet without discovering any indications of either bituminous or anthracite, gave it up as a failure, since which time the experiment has not been repeated. There is, however, in the county an abundance of superior magnesian and other kinds of limestone, suitable for building purposes, and also for making an excellent quality of lime. In Rolling Prairie Township, in the northern portion of the county, some very fine clay for pottery purposes has been found, and in Council Grove Township, at a depth of about 200 feet, a very thick vein, eight feet it is said, of pure gypsum has been discovered, but neither the clay nor the gypsum is utilized.
Aside from the steam flouring mill and Council Grove, the steam grist and saw mill at Parkerville, the grist mill at Dunlap, and two cheese factories in Parker Township, there are no manufacturing establishments in the county, nor are there any water privileges in the county to encourage the erection of any. A steam woolen factory or two might, however, be operated with profit to the owners, as the wool raised in Morris and adjoining counties would furnish an abundance of raw material to be manufactured, and the encouragement thereby given to the raising of sheep and the growing of wool would add greatly to the wool production. Aside from this the county has nothing to recommend it to those seeking fields for manufacturing enterprises, except that it offers superior advantages for the manufacturing of cheese and making of butter.
Schools and Other Statistics
The people of Morris County are not behind that of any other in the attention given to the education of the youth, and in furnishing ample facilities for the advancement of education. School taxes, although the heaviest the tax-payer is called upon to pay, are always paid cheerfully, and hence it is that a stranger passing through the country sees the prairie dotted with so many schoolhouses. There are in the county sixty-three school districts, and sixty-two schoolhouses, of which seven are built of stone, fifty-three are frame and one is built of logs.
The population of the county between the ages of five and twenty-one years in 1882, which is considered the school age, was 3,482. The number of pupils enrolled during the year 1882, was 2,509. The average daily attendance was 1,539. There were employed during the year seventy teachers, of whom thirty-one were males and thirty-nine females. The average salary per month paid to teachers was, males, $32.15, and to females, $28.75. The amount expended was $18,338.09. The County Superintendent reports the school rooms well supplied with maps, charts, dictionaries, globes, and all other apparatus necessary to advance the pupils, assist them in their studies, and give them a clearer understanding of the subjects involved in their lessons.
The first white school taught in the county was at Council Grove, in 1857, the teacher being Miss Sarah Stevenson. Mr. T. S. Huffaker, however, had been employed as early as 1850, to teach the Kaw Indians in the Mission building, and while thus employed, several white children attended his school.
For reasons already mentioned in this history, the growth in population of the county has been rather slow, and not anything like what the superior agricultural advantages of the county would warrant. Any person who has read the narrative history of the county will readily understand how the county has been so backward in settlement. It will there be seen that the "Eastman" survey, made prior to the creation of Kansas into a Territory, placed the lands of the Kaw Reservation west of Council Grove and embraced a tract twenty miles square. This embraced more than half of the county, and left only the eastern portion subject to settlement.
Again in 1857, when a dispute arose as to the boundary lines of the reservation, and a new survey was ordered, which is known as the "Montgomery Survey," the location of the reservation was changed so that the town of Council Grove became the center north and south, and all the territory in the county east of Council Grove, and to a point five miles west, was declared to be within the Kaw Reservation. The result of this was that all who had settled upon this territory were declared trespassers, and had to leave. Thus we find that in 1860, thirteen years after the first white settlers had located at Council Grove, the entire population of the county numbered only 770.
The "Montgomery" survey left only the western portion of the county subject to settlement, but the war coming on put a stop to immigration. After the war closed immigration set in again, but the large tract of choice lands held by the Indians was a great drawback to settlement. We find, however, that in 1870, the population of the county had reached 2,225, showing an increase in ten years, although virtually five, because from 1860 until 1865 immigration had almost ceased, of 1,455. All difficulty over the Indian lands having been amicably settled, and the Kaws moved away to the Indian Territory, the flow of immigration set in with greater force.
In the five years from 1870 to 1875, the population had increased 2,372, nearly double as much as it had in the ten years preceding 1870, thereby raising the population of the county in 1875 to 4,597. From 1875 to 1878, the increase in population was 1,059, or a total of 5,656, while during the next two years we find the increase to have been 2,766, as according to the census of 1880, the population of the county was 8,422.
By a comparison of figures, we find the material growth of the county to have been much greater than its growth in population would seem to indicate, although the same causes that operated against the one, also militated against the other. We find that in 1874 the total acreage of field crops was 19,117.25; whereas in 1880 it was 75,956.20, or nearly four times greater. If we take the value of products as a basis for comparison we find that they aggregated in 1874 $163,616.35, and in 1880 $901,997.69, showing the increase in six years to be $738,381.34.
We do not think it necessary to compare one year with the other to show the ratio of increase in material growth, as the latest statistics obtainable being those returned to the County Clerk by the assessors of the respective townships will sufficiently show that, in material growth, the county is advancing rapidly. By these returns we find that the number of acres sown to winter wheat in 1881 was 4,164; rye 732; spring wheat sown in 1882 1,896 acres; corn 41,426 acres; oats 9,588 acres; Irish potatoes 722 acres; sweet potatoes 41 acres; sorghum 656 acres; flax 1,215 acres; broom corn 68 acres; millet and Hungarian 2,677 acres; pearl millet 42 acres; timothy 113 acres; clover 156 acres; rice corn 76 acres; prairie meadow 2,040 acres; prairie pasture 15,420 acres, making a total of 81,032 acres. If we take the product of the two leading articles, wheat and corn, the value of the yield of these alone, at a reasonable estimate, will be $113,625.
In 1881 there were cut in the county 777 tons of tame hay, and 31,346 tons of prairie hay. The value of the garden produce marketed during the year was $2,854, and the value of poultry and eggs sold was $5,771. Of cheese there was made during the year 1881, in family and factory, 1,490 pounds, while of butter there was made 174,188 pounds. There were clipped in the county during the year, 30,047 pounds of wool, valued at $9,091.
The value of agricultural implements in the county was set down at $53,008, and the value of horticultural products at $1,468. The value of animals slaughtered, or sold for slaughter, during the year ending March 1, 1882, was $144,963.
There were in the county, in 1881, 4,046 horses; mules, 317; milch cows, 4,154; other cattle, 8,787; sheep, 7,977, and swine, 9,150, the aggregate value of which was $685,673.
There were nearly 200 farm dwellings erected during the year, at an aggregate cost of about $160,000. There were in bearing 15,123 apple trees; 401 pear trees; 47,057 peach trees; 1,566 plum trees, and 5,634 cherry trees. The number not in bearing was 49,452 apple trees; 2,706 pear trees; 49,268 peach trees; 2,714 plum trees, and 11,536 cherry trees. Another item representative of considerable value is that of fencing. It is safe to say that each rod of fence in a county will represent $1.50 in value. Now, there were in Morris County, in 1881, 19,364 rods of board fence; 28,493 rods of rail fence; 42,575 rods of stone fence; 92,904 rods of hedge fence, and 68,454 rods of wire fence, making in all 251,790 rods of fence in the county, which an average of $1.50 per rod represents a value of $377,685.
It is estimated that the number of acres in farms is 150,000, or about one-third of the land in the county. When one-third of the county is capable of producing and representing such immense wealth, what must it represent when fully developed? And it must be said of Morris County that it contains very little waste land, as by far the greater portion of it, probably four-fifths, is well adapted to agriculture, and capable of being improved.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,820 km² (703 mi²). 1,806 km² (697 mi²) of it is land and 14 km² (5 mi²) of it (0.78%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,104 people, 2,539 households, and 1,777 families residing in the county. The population density was 3/km² (9/mi²). There were 3,160 housing units at an average density of 2/km² (4/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.49% White, 0.34% Black or African American, 0.33% Native American, 0.23% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.70% from other races, and 0.88% from two or more races. 2.23% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,539 households out of which 30.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.70% were married couples living together, 6.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.00% were non-families. 28.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.90% 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 2.90.
In the county the population was spread out with 25.20% under the age of 18, 5.60% from 18 to 24, 23.90% from 25 to 44, 24.30% from 45 to 64, and 21.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 97.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.30 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $32,163, and the median income for a family was $39,717. Males had a median income of $28,912 versus $21,239 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,491. About 6.70% of families and 9.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.40% of those under age 18 and 13.30% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Council Grove, 2,253
White City, 492
Unified school districts
Morris County USD 417