Elliott Carriger

ELLIOTT CARRIGER. The year 1854 is the most significant in the entire history of Kansas as the settled abode of civilized white man. To say that a man came to Kansas in 1854 means that he was identified with all the conditions, events and developments which made a territory and then a State out of a region which in all preceding years of American history had lain barren and fruitless. It was not only on account of his early arrival in Kansas territory but also because of the widespread influence of his character and activities that the late Elliott Carriger should be remembered in history and given such tribute as the printed page can supply.

This early pioneer of Shawnee County was a Tennesseean by birth, and was born in Carter County of that state in 1816. His father was John Carriger, and his grandfather was a native of Germany. His grandmother, whose maiden name was Elliott, was a native of Ireland.

It was unusual for young men born a century ago, unless they were destined for some of the learned professions, to obtain a college education. Elliott Carriger was an exception. Though reared on a farm, he was a college graduate and for some time taught in the institution where he was educated. He was a man of unusual natural talents and his early training fitted him remarkably well for the useful and energetic career he led. For a time he operated a foundry at Elizabeth, Tennessee. While there he married Angie Allen.

Soon after his marriage he built a boat, and embarking with his wife and household goods he floated down the Ohio River, up the Mississippi to St. Louis, and from there proceeded to the far western limits of civilization, locating in Independence, Missouri. He was a prominent man in that section of Missouri and at one time served as deputy sheriff of Jackson County.

In 1854, fired with enthusiasm and a desire to bear his part in the making of a new State of Kansas, he came from Independence by wagon to what is now Auburn in Shawnee County. The locality in which he settled was known as Brownsville. Brownsville itself was across the river from his home and could not properly be described as a town. It was the home of a Mr. Brown who operated a blacksmith shop and a few Indian cabins stood in the vicinity of that shop. Elliott Carriger possessed among other attainments a genius for mechanics. At that time the early settlers were busy in erecting their cabins of logs, and he quickly saw a means of establishing a profitable business and also a valuable service to the early community. Going to St. Louis, he brought back the machinery parts of a sawmill, and after some difficulty and labor set it up and operated it by horse power. This old lumber mill furnished great quantities of the building material which entered into many of the early homes in this section of Kansas.

Not only in mental attainments but in physical proportions was Elliott Carriger well fitted for the task he had assigned himself in pioneer Kansas. He was a man who weighed about 200 pounds, was of commanding presence, was absolutely honest, fair in his dealings with his fellow men, and universally respected. At the same time, though of unflinching courage and firm in his intention to do right as he saw it, he was very sociable and had friends almost without number. On account of his superior education he was the trusted adviser to practically the entire neighborhood.

Elected a justice of the peace he used that office not as a routine means of according justice, but for the purpose of securing an adjustment of personal difficulties by sound counsel and reason. Many interesting stories are told of him in the capacity of justice. Any number of neighborhood quarrels were settled by getting the parties before him and applying reason and common sense to the case at hand. On one occasion a couple came to him to get a divorce. The squire told them that he could not separate husband and wife but that he could unite them. By skillful questioning he sifted the difficulties to the bottom, eventually sent the dissatisfied couple away once more harmonious and reunited.

While living in Jackson County Mr. Carriger was in that rough and somewhat lawless district which the James boys afterwards made famous. A man of his disposition and character could not but arouse some enmity in such a neighborhood, and one time an assassin attempted his life and did shoot him through the left knee. That wound always troubled him afterward and kept him from the active responsibilities of farming. Farming was not so much his occupation in Kansas as the directing of extensive stock interests. In the early days he was elected one of the commissioners of Shawnee County, and filled that office when the Santa Fe Railway was built through the state and at the same time that Charles Curtis, now United States senator from Kansas, was county attorney. Elliott Carriger bore an important part in all the varied history of his locality in early Kansas. His death occurred in August, 1891, when he was about seventy-five years of age. He and his wife had three sons and five daughters. Five of them are still living, four in Kansas and one daughter in Cincinnati.

William A. Carriger, the only surviving son of this splendid Kansas pioneer, was born at Independence, Missouri, December 16, 1850. Since he was four years of age he has lived in Shawnee County, and has long enjoyed a successful position as a farmer in Auburn Township and as a leading citizen.

He secured his education in the common schools and in the State Normal School at Emporia, and since the completion of his education has devoted all his energies to farming and the handling of cattle. He now owns 365 acres in his home state in Auburn Township. He is a man of progressive public spirit, a democrat, but has never aspired to local office and is a member of the Masonic order and the Grangers. For a number of years he and his brother, the late James Carriger, owned and operated their land in partnership. His brother's widow now operates the household of the old homestead and Mr. William Carriger conducts the farm. The late James Carriger died in January, 1899, and left one son, Elliott, who is now principal of the graded schools at Silver Lake. Mrs. James Carriger was Emma D. Carriger, born in Sonoma, California, daughter of Nicholas Carriger, who went to California by overland ox train in 1846.


A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Secretary of the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, copyright 1918; transcribed 1997.
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