Erie, the judicial seat of Neosho county, is located 3 miles east of the geographical center of the county, a little north of the Neosho river, and at the junction of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroads in Erie township. It is lighted and heated by natural gas, which is found in the vicinity. Among its business enterprises are sawmills, flour mills, grain elevators, a creamery, oil refinery, canning factory, 2 banks, 2 weekly newspapers, and numerous mercantile establishments. It has express and telegraph offices and an international money order postoffice with five rural routes. The population in 1910 was 1,300.
Erie was founded in 1866 as a compromise between two rival towns in the vicinity"Old Erie" and Crawfordsville. In November of that year, the two towns having both been abandoned, a new site was selected and a town company formed by D. W. Bray, Luther Packet, Peter Walters and J. F. Hemilwright. A dozen others were admitted to membership later. The first house built was a log cabin by Mrs. Elizabeth E. Spivey. The building was afterward used as a school house and church, for a boarding house, and for various other purposes in the early days. The first store was erected by Dr. C. B. Kennedy, Dr. A. F. Neely and J. C. Carpenter in 1867, and the same year a hotel was erected by J. A. Wells. The first residence was put up by Virgil Stillwell. Carpenter & Porter opened the first law office early in 1868. The postoffice was established in 1866, with A. H. Roe as postmaster, and was moved to the new town in 1867. The first child born was Byron C. Wells, son of J. A. and Matilda Wells. In July, 1868, the county offices were moved to Erie. After a contest lasting several years the county seat was permanently located at Erie by a decision of the supreme court in 1874.
The early growth of Erie was remarkable. It developed from a single log house in 1867 to a town of 800 inhabitants in 1869, and this in spite of the extreme difficulty of obtaining lumber and other building materials. Its growth was checked by a destructive fire in 1872, and by a cyclone which swept the county the next year. The combined financial loss to Erie was $20,000. A depression followed and the town dwindled to 300 inhabitants, due to having no railroad. However, when the Atchison, Topeka & Santa built a line, running east and west in 1863, the town began to show prosperity again. New brick buildings were erected and new enterprises started. In 1887 the Missouri, Kansas & Texas R. R. running north and south was built through Erie. In 1899 the Erie Gas and Mineral company was formed, which drilled and discovered oil and gas. The telephone exchange was added to the conveniences in 1901.
Erie was organized by a decree of the probate court in 1869, and the following men were appointed trustees: J. A. Wells, G. W. Dale, John McCullough, Isaac M. Fletcher and Douglas Putnam. The trustees met on Dec. 30 of that year and declared the place a city of the third class. J. A. Wells was elected mayor and appointed all the other officers. The first newspaper was the Neosho County Record, established in 1876 by George W. McMillin.Pages 596-597 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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