Stevens County, one of the southern tier, the second county east of Colorado, is bounded on the north by Grant county; on the east by Seward; on the south by the State of Oklahoma, and on the west by Morton county. It was first created in 1873 and named in honor of Thaddens Stevens of Pennsylvania. The boundaries were defined as follows: "Commencing at the intersection of the east line of range 35 west with the 6th standard parallel; south along range line to its intersection with the south boundary of the State of Kansas; thence west along said south boundary line of the State of Kansas to where it is intersected by the east line of range 39 west; thence north along range line to its intersection with the 6th standard parallel; thence east to the place of beginning."
Ten years after it was created the county was obliterated and became a part of Seward. In 1886 the legislature reëstablished the original boundaries and later in the year it was organized. In May J. W. Calvert was appointed census taker, and made his returns to the governor on Aug. 3. According to his figures the population was 2,662 and there were 868 householders. The taxable property amounted to $313,035, of which $140,380 was real estate. A large petition in favor of Hugoton for county seat was presented to Gov. Martin along with the returns. The governor made his proclamation the same day, designating Hugoton as the temporary county seat and appointing the following officers: County clerk, J. W. Calvert; commissioners, H. O. Wheeler, J. B. Chamberlain and John Robertson.
The other candidate for the county seat was Woodsdale, located 4 or 5 miles northeast of Hugoton. The people of that town employed the noted lawer,[sic] Col. Samuel N. Wood, to represent them, and to prevent the complete organization of the county on the ground of a fraudulent census. Mr. Wood came to the county and proceeded to gather evidence in the case to present to the governor. He traveled over the county to ascertain the number of actual residents and to secure affidavits to the effect that there was not sufficient population to organize. It was about Aug. 15 when Mr. Wood came to the county. The temporary commissioners had already divided the county into voting precincts in such a manner that the whole north side was without a polling place. A public meeting was held at Woodsdale and a large crowd examined a copy of the memorial for Hugoton, to which 400 names were attached, and also the census roll containing 2,662 names. It is said that the latter contained the names of over 200 pair of twins. It was voted to bring proceedings to disorganize the county. The people of Hugoton called a meeting two days later and resolved to stop Mr. Wood from bringing the matter to the attention of the governor. The next day Col. Wood started to Topeka with the evidence, in company with Capt. J. C. Price, who was going to Meade Center. They were met on the road by a mob and taken into custody on representation that they were arrested, but no warrant was presented. They were taken southwest into "No Man's Land," the intention being to keep them there until after the election on Sept. 9. Their disappearance created great excitement at Woodsdale. A posse of 25 men under Capt. S. O. Aubrey started out in search of the missing men and the citizens of Woodsdale threatened to burn Hugoton if Wood was not brought back. Word was sent to Topeka, and the governor sent out a number of officers who spent some time investigating, but did not accomplish anything. The affair caused considerable concern over the state, as it was feared the captives would be killed. They were rescued by Capt. Aubrey and his men about the last of August.
At the election held a few days later the following officers were chosen: County clerk, C. W. Calvert; register of deeds, H. F. Nichols; clerk of the district court, W. E. Allen; treasurer, O. W. Kirby; sheriff, A. P. Ridenour; surveyor, George B. Teames; attorney, John B. Pancoast; coroner, W. J. D. Halderman; probate judge, W. H. Guinn; commissioners, J. E. Hunt, J. B. Chamberlain and W. A. Clark. Hugoton received a large majority of the votes for county seat. There were, however, but 289 votes cast, which gave color to the contention of the Woodsdale people that there were less than 300 votes in the county. By that time proceedings had been instituted in the supreme court asking that the fraudulent organization be set aside. While this suit was pending the legislature of 1887 passed two acts which interfered with it and made the organization legal. The county was in a continual state of turmoil. The state militia had to be sent out to protect the county officers while they canvassed the returns of the election of 1888.
In that year a party of men from Hugoton followed Sheriff Cross and his posse into "No Man's Land" where they murdered the entire party except a boy of 19 years, who escaped to tell the story. Believing that there was no court which had jurisdiction over that territory they openly boasted of their deed. Col. Wood spent considerable time investigating the matter and finally ascertaining that the courts of Texas had jurisdiction over "No Man's Land," he brought the murderers to trial at Paris in that state. C. E. Cook, O. J. Cook, J. B. Chamberlain, C. Freese and J. J. Jackson were found guilty. A new trial was granted them on a technicality and their release was secured. Determined that Col. Wood should not live to try them again, they laid a plot to kill him. He was shot and killed by James Brennan at the court-house at Hugoton on June 23, 1891. The men who had been found guilty of the murder of Cross and his party were never tried again.
While all this had been going on the county was going through the hard times incident to pioneer conditions. In 1890 the population was 1,418, very little more than half the reputed population of 1886. During the next ten years the suffering brought on by poor crops was augmented by the financial panic which was general over the country. Many of the people left for the southwest, which was just opening up, and in 1900 the population of the county was but 620. A series of good years resulted in building up the county again, and the population in 1910 was 2,453.
The county is divided into 3 townships, Center, Harmony and Voorbees. The general surface is an undulating prairie with sand hills. There is no timber. The bottom lands are from one-half to three-fourths of a mile in width and comprise about 2 per cent. of the area. The only river of importance is the south fork of the Cimarron, which flows northeast across the northwest corner. Sandstone is found near the river, and gypsum and clay in other parts of the county.
The value of farm products marketed in 1910 was $737,947. The leading crop was broom-corn which brought $200,000; milo maize was worth $153,384; Kafir-corn, $106,475; wheat, $66,856; live stock sold for slaughter, $65,560. The value of live stock on hand was $616,170. The assessed valuation of property was $2,877,104.Pages 764-766 from volume II 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 July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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