Chetopa, the third largest incorporated city in Labette county, is located at the junction of the Missouri Pacific and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroads 10 miles south of Chetopa, the county seat. It is lighted by electricity and natural gas, and has waterworks and a fire department. There are three public school buildings, an opera house, fine church buildings, 2 banks, 2 weekly newspapers (the Advance and the Clipper), flour mills, a creamery and a brick plant. It has a money order postoffice with six rural routes, telegraph and express offices, and some well stocked stores. The population in 1910 was 1,548.
The site of Chetopa was located by Dr. Lisle for a colony formed at Powhatan, Ohio, in 1857. At that time John McMurtry was living within the present limits of the town. The place was named for Chetopa, the Osage war chief, who was living in the vicinity at the time, and who was a great friend of Dr. Lisle. The little settlement flourished until the war broke out. In 1863 about 40 houses in and about Chetopa were destroyed by the United States troops to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Confederates. After the war was over the settlers returned, and others came with them and the permanent settlement was begun. The Chetopa town company, with George Lisle as president, met at Humboldt in 1868 and the town site was selected. A charter was secured in March of that year and the sale of lots began. The first building on the new site was the Western Hotel, opened by Perry Barnes. M. H. Dersham erected a house and put in a stock of drugs. Several other business enterprises were started that year. A weekly stage line was established between Fort Scott and Chetopa in 1869, which was soon made tri-weekly. The growth of the town was slow until the railroad boom, which began in Feb., 1870, when $50,000 bonds were voted to the Missouri, Kansas & Texas company, which completed its line to Chetopa. This was to be the railroad center for this part of the country. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas officials promised to build their shops and locate their offices here, and people came with a rush to get in on the "ground floor." Large wholesale and retail enterprises were undertaken on borrowed capital. The National Hotel was built at a cost of $12,000, costly public improvements, for which the town had to be bonded, were erected, the public school house costing $24,000. Finally a disagreement between the railroad officials and persons interested in the town caused the railroad support to be entirely withdrawn. All prospects fell with a crash. People moved away, property became a drug on the market until the assessed valuation of all property was less than the town's bonded indebtedness.
Chetopa was chartered as a village in 1869 and became a city of the third class in 1870. The trustees of the village were M. G. Pratt, W. Gage, Henry Lisle, Leander Brown and A. S. Corey. The following were the first officers of the city: Mayor, F. M. Graham; councilmen, W. B. Gregory, C. H. Ludlow, W. A. Nix, G. A. Degraff and Dr. L. P. Patty. The postoffice was granted in 1859, but on account of there being no mail routes it was of no value to the town until 1866, when it was arranged to get the mail weekly from Humboldt. Col. W. Doudna, was the first postmaster.
The first bank was opened in 1868 and operated for two years, the next was opened in 1870 by Ketchem & Co., and was succeeded the next year by the National Bank. The first flour mill was built by Gilbert Martin in 1869. The library association was established in 1875.
The first and most disastrous fire occurred in 1871, when $25,000 worth of property was destroyed. Another fire in 1873 destroyed property to the extent of $4,000, and another in 1882 burned several good business houses. A hook and ladder company was organized in 1871, and a fire company in 1874.
The town was invaded in 1873 by the Hiatt boys from the Territory, who were there for plunder and robbery. They were driven out before any damage was done.Pages 323-325 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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