Greenwood County, one of the original 33 counties erected by the first territorial legislature, is located in the southeastern part of the state, the fourth county west from the Missouri line, and in the third tier north from Oklahoma. It is bounded on the north by Chase and Lyon counties, on the east by Coffey, Woodson and Wilson, on the south by Elk, and on the west by Butler and Chase.
As first laid out Greenwood county comprised a square area about equal to the adjoining counties, but later Madison county was disposed of, half of it being given to Lyon county and the other half to Greenwood, which made it irregular in shape.
The first settlement was made in 1856, by people from the south who entertained pro-slavery views. All but one of them left at the breaking out of the war. The next spring a number of settlers came to Madison and Lane townships. Among them were D. Vinning, Austin and Fred Norton, Anderson Hill, Wesley Pearson, Mark Patty, Myrock Huntley, E. R. Holderman, William Martindale, E. G. Duke, James and W. F. Osborn, Issac Sharp and David Smith. In July of the same year the following persons settled in the same neighborhood: Josiah Kinnaman, Archibald Johnson, Peter Ricker, Adam Glaze, John Baker, Wayne Summer and William Kinnaman. In the next two or three years the growth of the county in population was rapid, but most of the settlers being poor people, who had come to the new country to better their condition, money was an unknown quantity, and just as they began to realize a little income from their holdings the drouth of 1860 reduced them to the condition of starvation. Supplies could only be obtained in Atchison and had to be brought 160 miles by teams. Storms and exceedingly cold weather, together with the enfeebled condition of the teams from scanty rations, made it well nigh impossible to get food on which to subsist. Most of the stock died and the next spring found the settlers without animals with which to put in their crops. However, those who were able to overcome this difficulty raised a good crop in 1861.
The various accounts of the organization of the county as well as the addition of a half of Madison county do not agree as to dates. However, there is an act on the statute books of 1860, whereby the county of Greenwood was organized, Eureka made the temporary county seat, and the following men were appointed commissioners: James Ashmore, A. Clark and H. B. Slough. The act further provided that the commissioners should divide the county into townships, not to exceed three, and establish election precincts, and that an election for county officers should take place on April 4, 1860. For some reason these instructions of the legislature were not carried out for the next legislature (1862) passed an act organizing Greenwood county, stating in the preamble that, as Madison county had been divided and half of it given to Greenwood county, and as the citizens of that territory given to Greenwood county had now no government it was thought expedient to organize Greenwood county. The division of Madison county then must have taken place prior to 1862 instead of in 1867, as given by some historians. The act of 1862 appointed as commissioners, R. H. Gassoway, Franklin Osborn and M. E. Stratton, and directed them to meet at Janesville which was to be the temporary county seat. The commissioners were instructed to divide the county into townships and to establish election precincts ten days before March 4, 1862, at which time an election should be held to choose county officers. The act further provided that the first regular election of a full corps of county officers should take place at the regular election in Nov., 1862, before which time the county was to be districted and a commissioner elected from each district.
The commissioners met on March 14 and divided the county into the following townships: Lane, Pleasant Grove, Janesville and Eureka. The election was held on March 24, but it does not appear for what purpose, the commissioners having already appointed the county officers as they had been instructed to do by the act. These officers as appointed were: Probate judge, I. M. Todd; county clerk, W. M. Hill; register of deeds, E. Tucker; sheriff, James Steel; county treasurer, William Martindale. C. Cameron became register of deeds in place of Tucker, who declined, and D. Nichols was made sheriff instead of Steel.
The county was bonded in 1871 for $30,000 to build a court-house, and $20,000 more was added before the edifice was finished.
Greenwood county suffered considerably during the war period. It was the scene of violence from all quarters. It suffered especially because its people were divided on the slavery question and wrought personal and property damage against each other. It was exposed to the attacks of hostile Indians and both the Southern and Union guerrillas. Its villages were sacked and burned on a number of occasions. In 1861 a rough fort was built at Eureka and named in honor of Col. James Montgomery of the Tenth Infantry. It was erected by the home-guard under Capt. Benis and was occupied by them during the entire term of the war.
There was a strip of territory about 10 miles in width along the southern part of the county that had belonged to the Osage Indians and was not opened to settlement until 1870. This interfered with the early development of the southern portion of the county.
The end of the war did not altogether end outlawry as is evidenced by the assassination of William and Jacob Bledsoe, who had been arrested on charge of horse stealing in 1865. They were arrested merely on pretext and it is thought they were murdered by their guard. A man by the name of Robert Clark was also brutally murdered in his cabin on the Verdigris in the presence of his wife and children in 1866, by an outlaw named Wash Petty. In 1874 O. C. Crookham was shot while gathering corn in his field, by Alexander Harman, who was rendered insane by the settlement of a business matter between the two relating to a mortgage held by Crookham on the property of Harman.
Railroad negotiations began as early as 1870, and a number of bond elections were held during the '70s on propositions submitted by various roads. The bonds carried in almost every instance but the roads were not built. The first road to comply with its contract was the line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe (at that time the Kansas City, Emporia and Southern), which enters the county about midway on the north line and runs directly south through Eureka and Severy into Elk county. This was in 1879. The next was the St. Louis & San Francisco, which was built in 1880. The third was what is now the Missouri Pacific, running directly across the central part of the county from east to west. This road reached Eureka in June, 1882. There are two other lines in the county, a line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe running along the east side of the county from Madison Junction to Toronto in Woodson county, and a line of the Missouri Pacific running from Madison east into Coffey county.
At present there are 15 townships in the county, 11 having been added since the organization of the county. They are Bachelor, Eureka, Fall River, Janesville, Lane, Madison, Otter Creek, Pleasant Grove, Quincy, Salem, Salt Springs, Shell Rock, South Salem, Spring Creek and Twin Groves. The towns and mail stations are, Eureka, Barry, Carrol, Fall River, Climax, Fame, Flint Ridge, Hamilton, Hilltop, lvanpah, Lamont, Lapland, Madison, Neal, Provo, Piedmont, Quincy, Reece, Ruweda, Severy, Star, Thrall, Tonovay, Utopia and Virgil.
The surface of the county, except for the bluffs along the streams, is undulating prairie. The bottom lands average one-half to one mile in width and comprise 10 per cent. of the total area. The timber belts which follow the streams are from 40 to 80 rods in width and contain hickory, burr-oak, Spanish oak, walnut, maple, elm, box-elder, mulberry, black ash and locust. Of the geologic deposits, blue limestone is abundant in the north, sandstone in the south, magnesian limestone in the west, and potter's clay in the southwest. Mineral paint has been found in the central and southwestern portions of the county and there is a vein of cement several feet in thickness in the central west. There is a salt spring in the southeast.
Fall river, flowing through the county in a southeasterly direction, is the principal stream. The Verdigris, Willow and Homer, all in the northeast, join just beyond the county line. Spring and Otter creeks are the two largest tributaries of Fall river.
Of the 739,000 acres of land in Greenwood county, 525,000 have been brought under cultivation. The total yearly income from farm crops exceeds five million dollars. The value of the corn crop in 1910 was nearly three-fourths of a million, grass and hay crops over half a million, and live stock nearly three millions. Kafir corn, wheat, oats, Irish potatoes and poultry are other important products. The assessed valuation of property for 1910 was nearly $34,000,000. The population was 16,060, making an average wealth of more than $2,000 per capita.Pages 792-795 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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