Doniphan County, one of the 33 original counties formed by the first territorial legislature and one of the first counties to be organized, is located in the extreme northeastern part of the state. It is small in area, but important historically. The Missouri river forms its northern, eastern and a part of its southern boundary making 90 miles of river front, Atchison county on the south and Brown on the west form its complete boundaries. The white man's era in Doniphan county began with Bourgmont' the French explorer and embassador to the Indians. (See Bourgmont's Expedition.) The earliest settlement was effected in 1837, under the auspices of the American Board of Foreign Missions, which sent out Rev. S. M. Irvin and wife as pioneer missionaries. Six months later Rev. William Hamilton joined them. The Iowa and Sac mission was established and the two men wrote and printed a number of text books to be used by the Indians. The first mission school was taught by Rev. William Hamilton, Rev. S. M. Irvin, Miss Walton and Miss Fullerton. Lumber was brought all the way from Pittsburgh, Pa., in 1845 to construct a mission building.
The California road ran through Doniphan county and was used as early as 1847 by emigrants to the Pacific coast, but occasional emigrants passed through the county before that time, as is attested by the fact that Mrs. Comstock, the wife of an emigrant, died on the Oregon trail near the mission in 1842. This was the first death in the county. The first birth was Elliott Irvin, son of the missionary, in 1837. The first marriage in the county and probably the first in the state occurred on July 3, 1845, between Silas Fierce and Mary Shook. The ceremony was performed by Rev. William Hamilton. The first emigrant train of any consequence came through the county in 1842. It was led by Peter Burnett and was made up of 25 wagons. This was the beginning of the north branch of the California and Oregon trail.
"Squatter Sovereignty" had its birth in Doniphan county in 1854 immediately after the treaty with the Kickapoos. The first meeting of "The Squatter Association of Kansas" was held at the home of J. R. Whitehead on June 24 of that year. A. M. Mitchell of St. Joseph, Mo., was chairman; J. R. Whitehead, secretary; and the executive committee consisted of John H. Whitehead, H. Smallwood, J. B. O'Toole, J. W. Smith, Sr., Sam Montgomery, B. Harding, J. W. Smith, Jr., J. J. Keaton, T. W. Waterson, C. B. Whithead, Anderson Cox and Joseph Sicliff. Vigilance committees to guard the rights of settlers and claim owners against loss of their property by claim jumpers were appointed and the members paid 50 cents for each service. The county was organized in 1855 and named after Alexander W. Doniphan (q. v.), an ardent partisan in the slavery agitation. It was surveyed by John Calhoun, who in 1854 was appointed surveyor-general of the twin territories of Kansas and Nebraska. The first officer in the county was James R. Whitehead, who was commissioned constable of the district in 1854 after the state had been districted, and Doniphan, Wolf Creek and Burr Oak were named as voting precincts. The first commissioners were Joel P. Blair, Alexander Dunning and E. V. B. Rodgers. They held their first meeting on Sept. 18, 1855, and elected Mr. Whitehead county clerk, ex-officio clerk of the probate court, and register of deeds. The commissioners appointed by the legislature to locate a county seat staked off the site of Troy in October of that year. In the state election held in March, the polling places were controlled by armed Missourians. About fifteen minutes before the polls opened in the morning Maj. Fee, a free-state candidate, announced from the stump that the ticket of his faction would be withdrawn and the pro-slavery men would he allowed a clear field. Notwithstanding this armed men guarded the polls until they were closed.
Daniel Woodson, who had been acting governor, was the first receiver of the land office at Doniphan and later at Kickapoo, holding this position from 1857 to 1861. The Pony Express from St. Joseph to the Pacific coast went through Doniphan county, the route leading by the sites of the present towns of Wathena, Troy, Bendena, Denton and Purcell.
The drouth of 1860 caused great suffering in Doniphan county as well as other parts of the state and they received relief to the extent of 138,750 pounds of provisions. Doniphan being a border county suffered considerable annoyance and damage to life and property from the raids of the border ruffians, in 1860 guards were kept on duty in all the little cities at night. The women took an important part with the men in protecting their homes, and many are the instances of courage on the part of young girls and women in times of distress and danger. In one instance a girl in men's clothes was shot by the guard.
After the Civil war was over and the border troubles settled, the people began improvements again. Three miles of track had been laid in 1860 near Wathena by the St. Joseph & Grand Island Railway company. After the close of the war a new company was organized, and Doniphan county voted bonds for the construction of the road. Travel up to this time had been carried on by boat on the rivers and by stage and freight wagon west of St. Joseph, Mo. This first road entered the county at Elwood, passed through Wathena and Troy, leaving about midway on the western line. The next road to be built was the Atchison & Nebraska, for which the county voted $200,000 in bonds and gave in individual subscriptions $10,000. This road was built as far as White Cloud in 1871. The St. Joseph & Elwood bridge was built the same year. In 1872 a railroad was built from Wathena to Doniphan via Palmero by George H. Hall, John L. Motter, O. B. Craig, William Craig and George W. Barr. It was finally acquired by the St. Joseph & Western company and the rails were taken up and used on that line. At present Doniphan county has three lines of railroad, the Chicago, Burlington & Ouincy, extending from southeast to northwest, passing through Troy; the St. Joseph & Grand Island enters from St. Joseph at Elwood and crosses directly west; the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific enters in the southwest, runs northeast to Troy and east to St. Joseph.
When the county was first organized it was divided into five townships, Wayne, Washington, Iowa, Wolf River and Burr Oak. In 1856 Center township was formed out of the western portions of Washington and Burr Oak, in 1878 Union township was formed out of the territory of Wolf River, Marion was formed later between Washington and Wayne. A number of the historic towns of earlier times have disappeared from the map. These include Columbus, Charleston, Lafayette, Normanville, Mt. Vernon, Palermo, Ridge Farm, Syracuse, Walnut Grove, Whitehead and Wolf River. The towns and postoffices of the present are, Bendena, Blair, Brenner, Denton, Doniphan, Elwood, Fanning, Gabriel, Geary, Highland, Highland Station, Iowa Point, Leona, Moray, Palmero, Purcell, Severance, Sparks, Troy, Wathena and White Cloud.
The surface of the county is rolling except for the bluffs along the Missouri river. There are a number of smaller streams among which Wolf river is the most important. It enters from the west flows in a northeasterly direction through Leona and Severance and empties into the Missouri. Clear creek and Mission creek also empty into the Missouri.
The geological formations of Doniphan county are very interesting. Many relics of prehistoric ages have been taken from the bluffs and banks of streams. A few years ago a large tooth weighing 5 pounds was unearthed. Mounds in which the prehistoric races were accustomed to bury their dead existed in considerable numbers in the early days of the white man's occupation. Limestone is found in considerable quantities, also sandstone of a good quality and potter's clay. Coal is found to some extent but not in commercial quantities.
The area is 379 square miles or 242,560 acres, of which 177,297 acres are under cultivation. The principal products are wheat, corn, oats and fruits. The county is one of the foremost in horticulture, having about 350,000 bearing fruit trees. In 1910 the total income from farm products was $2,705,712, of which corn was worth $1,034,982; wheat, $119,247; and oats, $193,790. The assessed valuation of property was $24,909,152, and the population was 14,422, which makes the wealth of the county average nearly $1,700 per capita.
The educational advantages cannot be surpassed anywhere. There are 68 organized school districts with a school population of 4,553. The Highland University, which was the outgrowth of the early missions of 1837, is the oldest chartered educational institution in the state. There are Roman Catholic and Lutheran schools at Wathena. The first school for white children was estatblished[sic] near Highland in 1858. John F. Sparks was the first teacher. The school house, which was built of logs, was on the site of the building now belonging to district 56. In 1867 an unsuccessful attempt was made by the Methodist church to found a boarding school at Burr Oak.Pages 529-532 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.
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I
TITLE PAGE / LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
J | K | L | Mc | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z
Background and KSGenWeb logo were designed and are copyrighted by
Tom & Carolyn Ward
for the limited use of the KSGenWeb Project.
Permission is granted for use only on an official KSGenWeb page.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project