Wakefield Colony.This colony was composed of English settlers, and its formation and settlement in Clay county was due as much to the efforts of Rev. Richard Wake as to any other agency. Wake was an English minister who came to the United States in 1854, and appreciating the opportunities for colonization on the cheap prairie lands of the West, succeeded in settling two English colonies in the vicinity of Lincoln, Neb. He became widely known in Great Britain through his advocacy of the prairie states as a field for immigration, and in June, 1869, he received word from John Wormald and Alexander Maitland, of England, saying: "Select 100,000 acres in Kansas for colony." Consequently, on July 8, he arrived in Topeka for that purpose. He inspected some lands of the Santa Fe railroad, but made no selections on account of the price. He then went west to Junction City and in company with Capt. A. C. Pierce, to whom he had a letter of introduction, drove out to view lands lying between the Republican river and Chapman creek. He reported his selections to London and early in August a party consisting of Wormald, Maitland, Batchelor and others sailed for the United States, arriving at Junction City on the 21st of that month, the first two named gentlemen being authorized and empowered to purchase the land if it was approved. They ratified the selections and steps were at once taken to organize the colony.
The lands selected consisted of 32,000 acresodd sections of railroad landsvalued at $102,000, one-fifth of which was paid down at the time of purchase. The contracts were signed by the Kansas Pacific railroad and the National Land company. "On Aug. 25, 1869, the founders of the colony were incorporated as the Kansas Town and Land company, Richard Wake, president; John Wormald, secretary; Alexander Maitland, Col. Loomis, C. Wake, R. H. Drew and J. D. Bennett." The following day, Aug. 26, Wakefield was laid out by Wake, Wormald, Maitland and Loomis, and was named by Col. Loomis, partly in honor of the president of the company and partly for Wakefield, Eng., the former home of the secretary.
The first large party arrived in Junction City on Oct. 6, and consisted of 77 persons. During the winter following many others came from time to time, and another party arrived the spring of 1870. A severe drought affected Kansas in 1870 and the new comers suffered a failure of crops. The founders of the colony were blamed and, in spite of anything the Kansas Land and Emigration company could do, emigration from that source was checked. Succeeding years, however, proved more fruitful.
Among the organizations in the colony the most important were the Kansas Land and Emigration company, the Wakefield Bridge and Ferry company, the Agricultural and Literary Society and the Wakefield General Market company. A newspaper was also published in the settlement, called the Wakefield Herald, the first issue of which appeared early in 1871.
The religious makeup of the colony was divided between the Methodist Episcopal church, under the pastorate of Rev. Richard Wake; the Union church, with Revs. William Todd and Edward Moore, as copastors; while the Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Baptists were also represented. These colonists suffered many drawbacks, the greatest of which was an ignorance of the dry climate, so different from that of England. Economic conditions were also unfavorable. Money was scarce, there was no local demand for their products, the Kansas City market was easily overstocked, and the visitation of grasshoppers in 1874 and 1875 also added to their misfortunes. Many of the colonists were thoroughly discouraged, and some sold out and returned to England, but the greater part remained, though some sought other localities.
"The colony rapidly lost its associative character. The monthly market was early discontinued, and one by one the remaining corporations, including the Kansas Land and Emigration company, passed out of existence." Of the colonists who remained all made a success, and their farms are now in one of the finest sections of the state.Pages 858-859 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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