Fort Scott, the county seat of Bourbon county, is located in the eastern portion, on the Marmaton river, about 4 miles west of the state line, on the site of the old military post established in 1842. The first building was a rude log hut. A postoffice was established soon after the military post, and was maintained as long as the place was occupied by troops. The first settler was John A. Bugg, who located there as a sutler. In 1843 H. T. Wilson purchased a partnership in the business, and six years later purchased the entire stock, at the same time being made postmaster. When the government offered the buildings of the fort for sale, Mr. Wilson bought one of the largest and turned it into a residence. Another building, afterward known as the "Free State hotel," was bought by A. Hornbeck for $500. Others were bought by Edward Greenwood and J. Mitchell. The first hotel was opened in the west block of the government buildings by Thomas Arnett.
When Kansas territory was thrown open to settlement in 1854, a number of settlers came into Bourbon county from Missouri, and Fort Scott received its share. Some of the first men to locate in the town were Dr. Hill, R. Elarkness, D. F. Greenwood and Thomas Dodge. Nothing was done toward organizing a town company until Jan., 1857, when George A. Crawford, Norman Eddy, D. H. Wier, D. W. Holbrook, James E. Jones and Charles Dimon came to Fort Scott to purchase claims and lay out the town. On Jan. 8, 1857, the Fort Scott Town company was organized with George A. Crawford, president; G. W. Jones, secretary; and H. T. Wilson, treasurer. The company purchased the claims of H. T. Wilson, S. A. Williams, G. W. Jones, N. E. Herson and A. Hornbeck. It was incorporated in Feb., 1860, and obtained title to the land the following September. The company donated the lots to the settlers who had purchased the government buildings, lots for churches, one to the government for a national cemetery, and set aside a square for the county, upon which to erect a court-house and jail.
OLD GOVERNMENT BUILDING, FORT SCOTT
In July, 1857, the government land office was opened at Fort Scott. The receiver was ex-Gov. E. Ransom, of Michigan, who was accompanied by George J. Clark, and George W. Clark arrived about the same time, having been appointed register. In August a number of settlers arrived and the town began to grow. A store was opened in the old quartermaster's building by Dr. B. Little & Son; John G. Stewart started a blacksmith shop; George A. Crawford, W. R. Judson and C. Dimon bought the Free State hotel, which had become a popular stopping place for travelers. A Mr. McKay in 1858 opened the Western hotel, which at once became the headquarters of the pro-slavery men. In the early winter a sawmill was erected at the foot of Locust street, where lumber was sawed for the building erected by the town company and a number of the frame dwellings. Soon after the settlement of Fort Scott began it was recognized as the leading pro-slavery town of southeastern Kansas, and held the same relation to southeastern part of the territory that Atchison did to the northeastern. (See Bourbon County.)
Early in March a dispute developed in the town company, George A. Crawford and George W. Clark being the principal disputants. Late in April matters reached a climax, when Crawford and two of his friends were notified to leave the town within 24 hours. Some of the soldiers stationed at the fort were drawn into the controversy, and it looked serious for a time, but within a few days Hamelton, Brocket, and some of the other border ruffians left and were not heard of again until after the Marais des Cygnes Massacre (q. v.), in which they took the leading roles.
On April 24, 1861, a Union demonstration was made at Fort Scott, and local differences were lost sight of in face of the great issue. At the outbreak of hostilities, many of the loyal citizens enlisted for the defense of the Union, and Fort Scott has a long roll of honor of those who lost their lives in defense of the country. Several forts were built in the town, viz: Fort Henning, at the corner of First street and Scott avenue; Fort Blair, at the corner of Second street and National avenue, and Fort Insley, north of the plaza. At one time there were 2,000 troops stationed in the town, and while it was menaced no Confederate force ever reached it.
The first school taught in Fort Scott was a private one in 1857, and the next year another was opened in the old government hospital building. Up to 1860 the school population of the town was only about 300. In that year the town was incorporated and the first mayor elected under the charter was Col. Judson. H. T. Wilson was chosen president of the council. No permanent school building was provided until 1863, when a building was erected which served the three-fold purpose of school house, church and city hall. In 1870 the central school building containing 12 rooms was erected at a cost of $60,000. Since then steady progress has been made in Fort Scott along educational lines, and today it has as fine a public school system as any city in the state. The First Presbyterian church, established in 1859, was the first religious organization in the town. St. Andrew's Episcopal church was partially organized the same year. The Catholic church was established in 1860 and was followed by other denominations.
The first newspaper in Fort Scott was the Southern Kansan, which first appeared in 1855. J. E. Jones started the Fort Scott Democrat in the winter of 1857-58. The Western Volunteer was started in 1862, and within a few months it was enlarged and the name changed to the Fort Scott Bulletin. These pioneer newspapers have been followed by a number of publications, some of which have been but short lived.
The first railroad to reach Fort Scott was the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf, which was completed to the city in Dec., 1869, thus putting the town in communication with the east. Today the town has fine transportation facilities afforded by the Missouri Pacific, the St. Louis & San Francisco, and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroads, which radiate like the spokes of a wheel from the city.
Early in its history, Fort Scott became recognized as a manufacturing center. A brewery was started in 1863; a planing mill in 1876; a foundry and machine shop began operations in the fall of 1869; the woolen mills were opened in 1873; the Excelsior mills, for the manufacture of flour, in 1871. With the opening of the coal beds in southeastern Kansas, Fort Scott became established as one of the leading manufacturing centers in the state. In 1909 there were 36 manufacturing establishments in the city; the capital invested was $626,000, and the net value of the products was $340,000. The city is lighted and heated by natural gas, has waterworks and electric lighting systems, an electric street railway, and in 1910 had a population of 10,463.Pages 672-675 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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