Pages 25-30, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.


  WOODSON COUNTIES, KANSAS. 25

Thirty-five Years of Peace

Nearly all the early settlers of Allen county were young men and women, full of energy and ambition and hope, and with the return of peace they came back to the long deserted towns, to the weed grown farms, and bravely set themselves to build up the waste places, to repair the ravages of war and enforced neglect. With them came hundreds of other, many of them ex-Union soldiers, attracted by the heroic record the State had made duing[sic] the war and in the long period of border warfare that preceded it, and by the opportunity to secure free homes under the homestead and pre-emption laws. With ceaseless industry and indomitable pluck the old settlers and the new comers applied themselves to the herculean task of subduing the fertile but rebellious soil and building up schools and churches and all the institutions of a free, self-governing community. The statistics presented elsewhere show the rapidity with which this work was accomplished.

As in most of the other counties of Kansas, one of the first things to engage the attention and excite the feeling of the people was a fight over the county seat. As has been already stated, Cofachique was designated as the first county seat by the legislature which organized the county. The first Free State legislature removed the county seat to Humboldt, and it remained there until alter the war. It had to fight for the honor, however, almost from the beginning. The first battle occurred March 25, 1860, when the matter was submitted to a vote of the people, Iola being the principal competitor. Humboldt people proved to be the best voters, however, casting (so the envious Iolans declared at the time) twice as many votes as they had legal electors. The returns showed 562 votes for Humboldt, 331 for Iola, 72 for Vernon, 4 for Center, and 2 for Cofachique, so Humboldt retained the prize. For the next four or five years, the people had other things to think of. But as soon as the war was over the agitation was resumed and on May 10 of that year another election was held resulting as follows: Iola 243, Geneva 35, Humboldt 2 and Vernon 2. The county seat was accordingly removed to Iola, where it has since remained. Prior to this last election the legislature had moved the south line of the county some four miles north of the original location, thus throwing into Neosho county a considerable territory whose settlers would otherwise have voted for Humboldt. This fact, together with the fact that the southern part of the county was not so thickly settled as the northern portion and that a considerable number of the citizen of Humboldt and vicinity had not yet returned from the army, doubtless accounted for the large preponderance of the votes in favor of Iola. The contest engendered a great deal of bitter-

26 HISTORY OF ALLEN AND  

ness at the time and the feeling continued for many years afterwards. It gradually abated, however, and now, happily, little if any of the old antagonism remains.

When the county seat was removed to Iola 100 lots were donated by the town company to the county to aid in the erection of public buildings.

In July, 1866, bonds were voted to raise funds to procure a court house, and a frame building, located at the southwest corner of Washington and Jackson avenues, where Shannon's hardware store now stands, was purchased from George J. Eldridge and fitted up for the use of the county officers. This building was used until 1877 when the present court house was bought for $1800 and the old one sold for $500 to the school district.

In 1868 $10,000 in bonds were voted to build a jail, and the stone structure still in use was erected the following year at a cost Of $8400.

In November, 1871, a tax was voted of $5000 to purchase and fit up a poor farm. On February 12, 1872, a tract of land consisting of 160 acres in Carlyle township was bought from David Funkhouser for twenty-five dollars an acre, and Dr. J. W. Driscoll was installed as the first keeper.

The most notable event of the years immediately following the war was the coming of the railroads. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas was the first to arrive, building down the right bank of the Neosho and reaching Humboldt April 2, 1870. To secure this road the city of Humboldt voted $75,000 in bonds and a few of its citizens bought for $13,000 160 acres of land (a fairly good price considering the fact that there were then thousands of acres of land in the county to be had from the Government for the taking!) in order to provide the road with depot facilities and right of way. The price was not thought to be too great, however, for the luxury of a railroad, and the completion of the track was celebrated with elaborate rejoicings. A few months later the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston (now the Southern Kansas division of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe) railroad entered the county from the north, and its arrival also was celebrated at Iola and at Humboldt with much "pomp and circumstance", and there was no suggestion that the $125,000 in bonds which the county had voted to secure it was too high a price to pay.

Those were "the good old days" in Allen county. New settlers were coming in every day, money was plenty, crops for the most part were good and prices high. Various manufacturing enterprises were undertaken, the most notable of which perhaps was the King's Iron Bridge Company, to secure which the city of Iola voted $100,000 in bonds. Nobody seemed to think it incongruous or impossible that an industry which must import from long distances at high rates of freight both its fuel and its raw material and which was to manufacture a product for which there was no market, should be located here. And so the Company went to work in the summer of 1871 built enormous shops (now constituting the first floor of the main building of Works No. 1 of the Lanyon Zinc Company) brought in and set up expensive machinery and actually built a bridge or two. It failed, of course, and after a year or two moved its machinery to Topeka where another bonus was secured. But it made things hum at Iola while it lasted.

  WOODSON COUNTIES, KANSAS. 27

For awhile town lots were held at enormous prices, and land adjoining the town was sold at figures which were not reached again for nearly thirty years. Of course the bottom fell out when the shops were removed, and the only pleasant thing to remember now in connection with the King's Iron Bridge Company is that the courts declared the $100,000 bonus voted to secure it forfeited, and that the building which it erected was of material assistance a quarter of a century later in securing the location of an industry which is a benefit and a pride to the entire county.

The collapse of the local boom resulting from the withdrawal of the Bridge Company was followed by the general panic of 1873. and that was followed by the drouth and the grasshoppers,—one disaster following hard upon the heels of another. The people would have soon recovered from the collapse of the boom, if the panic had not struck them; the panic would not have hurt them much, if the drouth had not come; the drouth would soon have been forgotten if it had not been for the grasshoppers. But collapse and panic and drouth and grasshoppers all together hit us hard, bringing a long period of business prostration and actual destitution that will never be forgotten by those who passed through it. Only one other period in the history of the county can be compared with it, and that was the year of the terrible drouth, 1860, and that was worse only because there were fewer people and they felt more keenly their isolation and distress.

As has been already stated, the collapse of the boom, the panic and the drouth, although bad enough, could have been endured. It was the grasshoppers that brought the people to their knees, helpless and well nigh hopeless. These pests appeared first in August, 1874. Coming in countless miriads, their gossamer wings fairly veiling the sun in their flight, they settled down upon the fields and within a month the scanty crop that remained after the unusual drouth of the summer was devoured. Not the green things only, such as the melons, pumpkins and all the vegetables of the garden, but the dry blades of the standing corn and all the other field crops were destroyed. One who has not seen it cannot conceive how completely this avalanche of locusts swept the country of everything in the nature of vegetation. The result was that hundreds of families found themselves facing the winter with nothing to support the lives of themselves or of their animals. And so many of them sold their property for the little it would bring under such circumstances and left the county, while many others were forced to the humiliating necessity of accepting the "Aid" that came in response to the call that went out from Kansas for help. Societies were organized for the relief of the needy, and the county commissioners appointed Robert Cook and I. C. Cuppy to go to Ohio and Indiana and solicit food and clothing. Some of the later settlers in Allen county think they have occasionally seen hard times here; but they dont[sic] know anything about it! In Iola the small frame building (then one of the largest in town,) owned by J. W. Scott on the corner now occupied by DeClute's clothing store, was rented by the commissioners for use as an "aid depot," and the writer of this remember well how the dejected farmers, driving scrawny horses, hitched often with rope harness to dilapidated wagons, used to

28 HISTORY OF ALLEN AND  

drive up to that store through the dreary fall and winter of 1874 to have the little jag of "aid," as it was called, doled out to them, shamefacedly carrying home the few pounds of beans and corn meal and bacon that was to keep their families from starvation. That is what the old settlers mean when they talk about hard times! There was only one alleviation, and that was the prairie chickens! Whether they came because of the food supply furnished by the grasshoppers, or whether they were sent as the quail were sent, to the famishing Israelites in the wilderness it is not the province of sober history to speculate upon; but that they did come, and in unprecedented numbers, is indisputable. And they were exterminated! The people having nothing else to do, and in desperate need of the food they supplied and of the money they commanded on the market, trapped and shot them ceaselessly and without mercy. That was the beginning of the end of the prairie chickens in Allen county.

In the spring of 1875, the people, those that were left, plowed and planted as usual, but the grasshoppers reaped. The eggs that had been deposited in the ground in the fall hatched out in relays through the spring and early summer, so that whenever a fresh crop appeared, there was a fresh army of grasshoppers ready for it. Having no wings the young 'hoppers swept on foot over the country, leaving behind them—dust! The wheat, the corn, even the prairie grass, every green blade of any kind, went into the insatiable maw of this remorseless army. All through the spring and into the summer this continued, and the people were in despair. And then, one day, early in June, there was a shimmer of gossamer wings in the sunlight, as there had been the August before. The army was departing. Whither it went is as little known as whence it came. By the middle of the month the last of the innumerable host had disappeared. The people plowed and planted again, and providence smiled on their courage and perseverance. The early and the later rains came in their season, and the crops raised were so phenomenal that in the plenty of 1875, the want of 1874 was well-nigh forgotten.

In a self-governing community, economic conditions always influence strongly the political action of the people. Sometimes with, but oftener without reason, the party in power is held responsible for good times or for bad. It is secure if times are good; and it is very insecure if times are bad. And so it happened in Allen County. From its organization, the county had been strongly Republican, and that party retained power almost without an effort, until the panic and the drouth and the grasshoppers came. And then, not perhaps because it caused these calamities to come, but because it was in power when they came it had much trouble. Those who had been its strongest leaders, and many who had been its staunchest supporters in the prosperous days, deserted it. There was a time, in 1874, when some, even of those who remained true to it, were so dismayed by the opposition against it, that they advised against putting a Republican ticket in the field. This timid counsel was rejected, and the battle was fought, but after it was over, all the Republican party had left was honor and two minor county officers, the nearest to total defeat ever suf-

  WOODSON COUNTIES, KANSAS. 29

fered by that party in the history of the county. In that year Hon. John R. Goodin, of Humboldt, was elected to Congress on the "Reform ticket," the first man not a Republican to be elected to Congress from the Second District.

For a number of years following the visitation of the grasshoppers, no events transpired of special importance or interest. A succession of average crops soon restored nomal[sic] conditions and the people pursued the even tenor of their way, illustrating in the main the saying "happy is the people which has no history." There was a steady, although not a large stream of immigration, and the country gradually filled up with a splendid class of intelligent, self-respecting, law-abiding and industrious citizens. The history that was made was chiefly that of the individual citizen, much of which will be found in the biographical part of this work.

In 1880, after a lively contest between Humboldt and Iola as to which should gain the prize, a branch of the Missouri Pacific, at first known as the Fort Scott, Wichita & Western, was built through the county from east to west, passing through Iola, and giving birth to the towns of LaHarpe and Moran. In 1888, the Kansas City & Pacific Railroad, (now a branch of the M. K. & T.) was built through the eastern part of the county, crossing the Missouri Pacific at Moran and giving birth to the villages of Bayard, Elsmore and Savonburg.

The years from 1882 to 1888, were marked by a great many deeds of violence, extending to even loss of life, and much litigation growing out of a dispute over the title to a large body of land in the eastern part of the county, mostly in the townships of Marmaton, Salem and Elsmore. These lands, many thousand acres in all, had been granted to and were claimed by the M. K. & T., and the L. L. & G. Railroad companies, and nearly all of them had been sold to individual purchasers, although comparatively few tracts were occupied by those holding the railroad title. The claim was made that the railroad companies had not complied with the conditions of the grant, and had, therefore, forfeited their rights to the lands. Acting on this opinion some three hundred men had entered upon the land, each one claiming a quarter-section as a homestead. These men formed an organization known officially as "The Settlers Protective Association," but designated commonly as the "Land League," and began a strenuous contest to make good their claim. Eminent attorneys were employed and in many cases physical force was resorted to in the maintenance of what the settlers believed to be their rights. Fences built by those claiming under the railroad title, were destroyed, a number of houses were burned, two men lost their lives, and the growth of the entire county was materially retarded. Of course the matter got into the courts immediately, and for many years the "League cases" made up a considerable portion of the docket of the district court of Allen County. Case after case was carried to the higher courts, and it is only within the past year that final decision has been rendered in the last of them. To present all the details of the controversy would occupy a great deal of space, and would serve no good purpose. Let it suffice to say in a general way, that the railroad title has been confirmed by

30 HISTORY OF ALLEN AND  

the courts, and the recollection of the unfortunate contest and the distressing events that grew out of it, is rapidly fading away.

Allen County had a very light attack of the "boom" fever that was so virulent in many parts of the State during the 80s. A few spasmodic efforts were made to inoculate it with the virus, but it did not "take." Nevertheless, the county suffered with the rest of the State when the bubble burst and the reaction came. From 1890 to 1895 things were very quiet, indeed. The towns made no growth to speak of, and the population of the county showed little if any increase, although those who were here added steadily, if slowly, to their acquisitions, and were every year in somewhat better circumstances than the year before. In 1895, however, owing to the discovery and development of the the natural gas field, an account of which is made the subject of a separate chapter of this book, and to the resulting location of large manufacturing enterprises, the county began to gain rapidly in both population and wealth. From that time to the present the advancement has been most gratifying, and, there is is perhaps not a county in the State that is now enjoying a greater degree of universal prosperity.

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Pages 25-30, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.


Tom & Carolyn Ward
Columbus, KS

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