Pages 610-617, 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.


610 HISTORY OF ALLEN AND  

Neosho Falls

(BY MISS FLORENCE L. SNOW.)

When strangers come into the town of Neosho Falls, they notice first the broad, smooth graveled streets and the beautiful embrasure of the river, and then they invariably put the question, "Where are the falls?" The changing flow of water over the mill dam is most disappointing and the explanation that the riffle above the town site is responsible for the name is always met with dissatisfaction. But this gradual fall in the deliberate stream, just nine feet in two miles, was the determining factor in the genesis of the place and because the men who founded it had the sense of euphony, Neosho Falls is a matter of natural right as well as verbal beauty.

It was in the spring of '57 that this riffle in the Neosho river gladdened the eyes of these pioneers. They had come from Iowa in an open buggy, two young comrades, full of the life that belongs to new countries and fresh enterprises, and they were looking for a suitable place to build a saw mill and to push their fortunes.

One of them was a practical mill wright, Isaac W. Dow, a native of Maine, of strong well-bred universalist stock, lithe and active, clear-sighted generous-hearted and ready for whatever might come. The other was N. S. Goss, Stickney Goss, as many who knew him in the early days still affectionately call him. He was a little older than his friend, and had recently sustained the loss that shadowed all his life—the death of his beautiful young wife. The descendant of an old Puritan family, he had passed his later boyhood in Wisconsin whither his father had emigrated from Lancaster, New Hampshire. He made the best of scant educational advantages, cultivated a natural fondness for all sorts of bird life, and began the business activities which had prepared him for the Kansas venture. Of nervous temperament and a rather delicate but elastic physique, he had a great capacity for patient, persistent work, and with a kindly, genial spirit and various other qualifies of leadership, he was especially well fitted to become the main stay of an infant town as well as the "Father of the Neosha Valley."

After carefully inspecting the banks of the river and calculating the water power, the friends decided that the mill should be built, and Mr. Dow remained in camp "with the Indians," as he himself puts it, on what afterwards became the Reuben Slayers farm, while Mr. Goss went to St. Louis for the lumber and machinery.

There were only two settlers in the vicinity, John Woolman, three miles west of the chosen site, and John Chapman who had a cabin near Spring

  WOODSON COUNTIES, KANSAS. 611

Creek, though to these might be added the Indian agent who was located three and a half miles east—the Leonard Fuqua who still lives near Kansas City. The east bank of the river was thickly wooded for a prairie country, but to the west of it the level ground stretched away without even the shadow of a rock to the low bluffs that mark the ancient boundary of the water. Yet it seemed a promising country, and it was highly probable that it would appeal to many of the families who were seeking new homes in the famous territory. The mill was built, the people came, and lumber was made for their cabins.

The first of these rude dwellings belonged to Enoch Fender, and his wife, who has recently followed her husband to the undiscovered country, was the first white woman in the settlement. Then Stevens and Ruggles put up a grocery store and the original Falls House. Mr. Ruggles was the son of one of the first missionaries to the Sandwich Islands; had been named for one of the native chiefs, and in his utter disregard of his parents' teaching, gave additional emphasis to a most original and interesting character.

With this beginning the two initial nestors secured the necessary land and laid out the proportions of the future town, and a postoffice having been granted to the ambitious settlement, Mr. Goss was appointed postmaster. He also carried on considerable business with the Indians, and a grist mill was added to the original industry.

When the war came on the village contained some very strong effective factors. Robert Mowry had come from Lawrence to assist in the building of the mill, and the great water-wheel that he created was a nine day's wonder. An ardent abolitionist, he had been in the thickest of some of the Lawrence troubles, and an equally devoted Methodist, he began the religious service in the new home that resulted in course of time in the organization of the Methodist church. He was, to the last of his days, which were all spent in Neosho Falls, a seer of visions and a dreamer of intense religious dreams, yet be always stood for practical righteousness, and strove with all his power to forward the common ambition of making a good, clean, enterprising town.

Another notable addition was James Crane and his family. He had been a pioneer in Wisconsin, and was accompanied by Dr. Whitney and his wife and their daughter, and son-in-law, Mr. and Mrs. Hurd. The party had taken adjacent claims near Iola, but being dissatisfied, had moved into the Falls where Willis Hurd, the first child born to the community made his advent early in '60.

Mr. Crane had a tough moral fibre and indomitable energy, and his wife was made of the same sterling stuff. They subscribed to the Congregationalist creed, and for many years abounded in good works. During the hard times of '60 he was sent to Wisconsin and Illinois to solicit aid for the settlers who felt that they must have help or abandon the country. He succeeded in getting an appropriation from the Wisconsin legislature for a

612 HISTORY OF ALLEN AND  

quantity of wheat, and Pusey Graves, who was one of the most interesting characters the town has ever known, assisted very largely in the work of systematic relief.

B. F. Goss, who organized the company we sent to the war, had joined his brother and built the first frame dwelling house in the settlement, and Dr. Allen McCartney who had a superior education and a great fund of dry humor had opened a drug store and begun a successful practice. Dr. S. J. Williams, an equally entertaining humorist, had also entered upon a similar avocation, and his eldest daughter, who still resides here, was the first female child born within our limits.

With such a nucleus for greater things the matter of education could not be neglected, and in the summer of '58 the first school was organized by a Miss Emma Coulter, of whom no record remains but that she was "pretty and stylish and well liked," and she was followed the next winter by Mr. Ebenezer Curtis who "had good advantages and attracted many pupils from the country." He went to the war and became a colonel, sharing in the promotion that was quite common among the men we supplied. The response to the call to arms had been so general that the little community was left at one time with only four men, O. P. Houghawout who carried the mail. Mr. Mowry, whose religious convictions kept him at home, Dr. McCartney whose practice made a stronger claim, and Major Snow, who came to the place early in '62 to take charge of the Indians who made up the Neosho agency. The neighborhood of the Indians made a good market for all sorts of produce, but it also added to the apprehension of the time and the temper of the women who held the homes remained firm and true. It was during this period that the Widow Brengle who had force and courage enough for a much larger sphere, made a memorable ride to Iola to carry a message in regard to a threatened raid. As soon as it appeared that no one else could undertake the errand she saddled her fleet little pony and hurried away over the wide, lonely prairie, stayed all night with some friends and was back again next day as if nothing unusual had occurred.

And so the life of the place went on. The men came back some times on leave—some new arrivals came in, divine services were held by Mr. Mowry, Mr. Lynn, a Presbyterian minister and Mr. Northrup, an earnest Congregationalist, and the school was kept up as teachers could be obtained. The year of '64 was marked by the opening of a private school by Miss Harriet N. Clark, a niece of the Goss brothers who had been most carefully educated in her Wisconsin home, and who had been very desirous of entering the missionary field. She had given up this hope on account of insufficient strength and her mother's objections, and undertook the arduous wartime journey to the new country feeling that in spending a little time with her uncles and engaging in teaching she could still enter upon a very useful career.

Mrs. Crane, in her husband's absence, had moved with her four children into the half finished Falls House, and kept a home-like hostelry. Lieu-

  WOODSON COUNTIES, KANSAS. 613

tenant Crane, from his station in Missouri, sent material to finish the large room to Central City, and Mrs. Crane, eager for the good work to go on sent the two younger children, George and Ada across country in the big wagon to get it. It was a large undertaking for people of twelve and fourteen, but they made the trip in safety, though they were overtaken by a storm, and in a short time Miss Clark began her work, using an organ which the music-loving father sent his daughter from Fort Leavenworth and which was the admiration and delight of the whole community.

The influence of this refined and lovely young woman was a very fortunate thing for the rising generation, and though one period of her history has been spent in another state, she has always been identified with all our nobler interests. Her father and mother decided to settle here soon after she arrived, and she married later on Captain W. W. P. McConnel, whose family has been equally prominent in our development. The Clarks, like the Cranes, were devoted Congregationalists, and the firm of Clark and McConnel for a long period represented our leading mercantile interests and entered into every worthy enterprise.

When the war was over we had the common season of rehabilitation, and as our citizens took up the work of making homes again, the town made steady advancement. Through the instrumentality of Mr. Goss, who had served as colonel in the state militia, the M. K. & T. Railroad passed through the town, and with its round house and land office brought a great accession of life and energy. It was an easy matter to vote bonds, and the township built the old bridge above the dam. It was a single, graceful iron span 225 feet long and endured an incalculable amount of stress and strain until the summer of '98 when it was wrecked by an undue weight and had to be replaced. In '69 the first school house was erected, and in '70 and '71 the Methodist and Presbyterian churches, after being freshly organized, were provided with the rectangular structures of the period. The county seat advantages belonged to us by natural right, and in 1870 we reached the dignity of corporation with a population of thirteen hundred souls, O. P. Houghawout being the first mayor.

We also had a newspaper and the Washington press upon which it was printed had a history that was characteristic of the times. It had been brought to Leavenworth for free state service, taken to Lawrence for a similar purpose and thence to Burlington for the founding of the Patriot by Mr. Prouty. It was next purchased by Wm. Higgins, afterwards Secretary of State and some other citizens of Le Roy, and in '69 it passed into our possession through I. W. Dow and Captain W. W. P. McConnel. Some irregularities in this transfer resulted in a suit before the Supreme Court and the records show the judgment in favor of the last purchasers. Like any other pioneer the old press was built on heroic lines, and it was used here continuously until Mr. Stout's office was burned in '98 when it was destroyed with all the other property.

The paper, as founded by I. B. Boyle, was called The Frontier Demo-

614 HISTORY OF ALLEN AND  

crat, and was considered a very bright and breezy sheet. It was the first newspaper in the county, and it has passed through many changes. With W. H. Slavens it became a year later The Neosho Falls Advertiser, and in January of '73 it was purchased by W. W. Sain who changed the name to The Woodson County Post, and gave it a stronger Republican character. Mr. Sain had been in the county since '66 and had made a distinctive record as County Clerk and Register of Deeds, and it was during his exertions that the paper reached its highest tone and largest usefulness. It reflected the vigorous independence and decisive judgment that have always marked his place among us and only the very best that he could do was worthy of his readers. But with the removal of the county seat other business seemed to be more profitable, and Nathan Powell and H. D. Dickson bought out the enterprise and gave it a different sphere as The Neosho Falls Post.

Mr. Powell had had a varied experience in other fields, and Mr. Dickson was a young man of rare promise. He had begun his life here as a typo on the Advertiser and assisted Mr. Sain in the many ways paper in '78 but resumed control in '81, and after two or three other changes it was sold to J. N. Stout who still serves the community in the editorial capacity.

During the early seventies a comparatively large number of superior that are known to the clever foreman. He studied law as he worked, and became a leading figure in our political, as well as legal circles until his removal to Emporia where he still resides. He retired from the people controlled the life of the town. The land office had brought the Hon. E. T. Goodnow and a staff of enterprising assistants, and Mr. Goodnow's scholary training and refinement, his high religious tone and steadfast character were all intensified by similar gifts on the part ef his wife and their accomplished niece, Miss Hattie Parkerson. Major Snow having concluded the business of his agency brought his family from Baldwin and made a permanent home in our midst. The Goodrichs and Hamms brought various good gifts and influences, Joseph Bishop began the career among us which has been one of our strongest elements. The Woodwards and the Ennesses gave us various fine factors. D. W. Finney has been a continuous and persistent force in business, political and social circles. Colonel W. L. Parsons bought the mill of Covert and Cozine, put in new machinery and increased its capacity, married one of our noblest daughters and entered upon a continued period of usefulness. C. B. Graves, now Judge Graves, of Emporia, W. A. Atchison and T. J. Petit kept our legal lights aflame, though they left H. D. Dickson alone in the field, later on, and Dr. J. L. Jones had for a long time the largest and most successful practice in the county. Our schools had necessitated a larger building; the churches were in a flourishing condition; everybody had rosy visions, and altogether it was an era of happy work, pleasant intercourse and buoyant vitality

After a long conflict the county seat was finally fixed at Yates Center,

  WOODSON COUNTIES, KANSAS. 615

but we quickly recovered from the loss and assured ourselves that we could get along very well without the county business. Pillings Brothers established a woolen mill in '73 on the town side of the river which for a time was very successful, and in its failure paved the way for the flouring business of Finney & Son which now occupies the buildings.

In '71, I. W. Dow instituted a prosperous banking business which however, had a short life on account of the panic of '73. Mr. Dow then engaged in the lumber trade in which he continued until he left for Marceline, Mo., in '86. But after fourteen years he has returned to us, and his presence is greatly appreciated.

This period was also marked by the erection of a cheese factory by the Rev. John Creath who was also pastor of the Presbyterian church, and who became, when the business failed, the principal of the city schools. But the largest enterprise of the time was the Neosho Valley District Fair which held its first meeting in the fall of '75. The district was composed of the four sympathetic counties, Allen and Anderson, Greenwood and Woodson, the association was ably officered, and the stock made good returns in the development of the territory and rich fellow-feeling, though it absorbed some hard-earned cash. The convenient grounds were leased at first from Colonel Goss, and afterwards purchased. Even with the little work that could be done at best, they soon gained the reputation of being the most beautiful tract of woodland in the whole state, and they have always possessed a certain indefinable charm that draws people to them upon every possible occasion.

The fair reached its zenith in 1879 when the officers possessed sufficient influence to entertain for a day President and Mrs. Hayes, General Sherman and various state dignitaries. The decorations and music and speeches; the wonderful dinner that was spread for the guests; the beautiful buck-horn chair that was presented to the President; the surpassing display of produce and live stock, to say nothing of the chariot race that might have delighted an old Roman emperor, and above all the crowds and crowds of enthusiastic people. All these elements made up a very memorable event. "The time when Hayes was here" has never again been equalled.

The decadence of the fair through changing sentiment and circumstances, resulted in the purchase of the grounds by the city which takes much pleasure, but not enough pride, in the Riverside Park it has acquired. The Old Settlers' meetings, however, instituted six years ago by the people of the same territory, bring old friends and neighbors together, keep alive the spirit of good-fellowship, and give the blessed old trees fresh appreciation and opportunity.

It was not only in the work of the fair, but in various other channels that Colonel Goss remained our most distinguished citizen. As president of the M. K. & T. Railroad Company and as attorney for the Santa Fe, he had a large sphere of activity outside of the town, yet he always had time

616 HISTORY OF ALLEN AND  

and thought for every worthy home ambition. Through all the busy years he had spent his scant leisure upon the ornithological work which he loved more devotedly with the passage of time, and with financial success and partial retirement from business, the passion for bird study gained the ascendency. He spent much time in travel for the growth of his collection, and finally in '82 he accepted the invitation to occupy quarters in the State House where his exquisitely mounted specimens still remain as a most remarkable illustration of individual attainment. In '86 Colonel Goss published through Crane & Company a large and beautiful work upon the Birds of Kansas, and he has an appropriate place among leading American ornithologists. The most effective clauses in our Kansas bird laws are due to his exertions, and the feathered tribes still retain their sympathetic friend though the mortal man has passed away. He died suddenly in the spring of '91 as he must have wished, here in the town for which he was so largely responsible, and in full tide of his special aspirations, and the expression of his spirit still abides in all our atmosphere.

The removal of the round house and change in the M. K. & T. division, followed by the loss of the land office in '76 deprived the growth of the town of a very potent factor, but the office building was purchased for school purposes, and in 1878 Professor J. J. McBride organized the first high school grades, and in his teaching transmitted the finest intellectual inspiration our educational system has ever known. He was a graduate of Ann Arbor, and had had many other fine opportunities, which united with a sanguine temperament and tireless energy gave him a remarkable power of wakening the best possibilities in every individual pupil. And so strong was his personal charm that even when he was overcome by the lamentable elements in his character many of his pupils clung most loyalty to the better nature they had revered. To them his "faults are all shut up like dead flowerets," and because of the endless impetus he gave them they look back and call him blessed.

With all his imperfections he stood for the world of beneficent culture, and we owe to him, perhaps, more than to any other person, the reputation we have gained of being the "Athens of the county." The teachers who came after him fostered the tone that has made our schools the very best possible to the size of the place, and the spirit of our people has been unusually refined for so small a town.

And this has been a continued chararteristic through changing personality. In the last twenty years many of our best families have moved away to more enterprising places, though we possess a subtle attraction that often draws them back again. And while we have had during the greater part of this period many very slumberous seasons, we still enjoyed enough life to pass a very comfortable and pleasant existence.

Through fatal fires and the help of our building and loan companies many of our old business houses have been replaced by more com-

  WOODSON COUNTIES, KANSAS. 617

modious and substantial structures. In '82 the private bank of Houghawout and Goodrich was established in a convenient office built especially for it, and the enterprise has given us continued service, though the firm has been changed to Goodrich and Inge, and again to Inge and Stillwell. The Congregational church was erected in the same year, the permanent organization having been effected in '71 by Rev. T. W. Jones, of Arvonia, and the permanent home thus secured has given us one attractively modern place of worship. In '86 a large city hall was completed and furnished, having been made possible by an initial movement on the part of the ladies of the place, and a growing pride in our homes has made all our environment more and more inviting.

In '85 a branch of the Santa Fe railroad was built from Colony to Yates Center and with direct connection with Kansas City and larger shipping facilities, the farming districts have contributed more largely to our business. With the return of general prosperity we have felt the common impetus toward greater things, and in the last year we have made more improvements than during ten years before. In '98 bonds were voted for a new school house, and we have built a modern brick structure that will supply our needs for many years to come, and be a constant pride and pleasure. Former attempts having failed, a fresh effort is being made to discover the gas which has so abundantly blessed our neighbors, new people of the right stamp are coming in, and enterprise and hopefulness permeate the sir.

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Pages 610-617, 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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