Railroads are perhaps the chief factor in the accomplishment of the purposes of modern civilization. Though the activity which they give to methods in nearly every industrial undertaking lays a heavy strain upon the nerves of the people, making it questionable whether the facilities which they afford bring an adequate compensation for the tremendous outlay of energy, they are now considered indispensable for maintaining the present social and commercial conditions of the country. The dread of distance and the loss of time have so lost ground as anxiety-producing elements that they are now no longer taken into account. With railroads the people accomplish in a day what, a generation ago, would have required a year. As the modern steamship, with its convenience, comfort, luxury and speed, and the network of ocean cables which encircle the earth, have brought the fulfillment of the prophecy, "I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no more sea," so railroads have accomplished a like condition on the continents.
At the close of the war, April, 1865, Sedalia, Missouri, on the Missouri Pacific, and Rolla, Missouri, on the St. Louis & San Francisco, were the nearest railroad points to Cherokee County. The nearer of these was more than two hundred miles away, and travel to and from either was made by stage or by private conveyance, either of which was slow and dreadfully wearing. Merchandise of all kinds had to be brought in on the slow-going freight wagons, many of which were drawn by oxen. It would take more than a month to make a round trip. However, those engaged in the work enjoyed it; and slow as the methods were in those pioneer days, life seemed to be as much worth the living as it is to-day, with all the modern ways and means which rapid-transit facilities enable the people to employ.
As late as 1869, Pleasanton, Kansas, one hundred miles north of Columbus, was the nearest railroad point; but by the latter part of that year the road was finished to Fort Scott. This was the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad. It was pushed on rapidly toward Columbus, and on April 8, 1870, the first freight train entered the town. This was a heyday for Columbus. On the 11th of April the first passenger train came; and on the 18th the people were given a free excursion to Fort Scott. These events marked the beginning of an era in the history of the town, as well as in the history of the county.
The building of the railroad south from Fort Scott was delayed by the opposition of the Land League; and even after it was finished to Baxter Springs traffic over the line was often interrupted. It was partly for the protection of the company's property, that soldiers were kept in the county as late as 1872, when the d ispute between the settlers and James F. Joy was settled by the United States Supreme Court.
The Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad was finished to Baxter Springs the same year it reached Columbus, and the latter place remained the terminus of the road many years; then it was extended to Galena, and on to Joplin, Missouri. It did more to develop the county than any other road, at least for a long time, as from the main line, in the north part of the county, switches were extended to the coal shafts then opening up for supplying the markets as far north as Kansas City; and the road had much to do in opening the great lead and zinc mines at Galena.
In the fall of 1872 the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, which had then been finished to Carthage, Missouri, was extended west, to the east line of the State of Kansas. This was done by Edward Brown, who had built the road from Peirce City, Missouri, to Carthage. At the State line a town was laid off and named Brownsville. This remained the terminus of the road, from about 1868 until 1872, when the road was extended through Cherokee County. In the meantime a narrow-gauge railroad was built from Weir City, in the northern part of the county, to Messer, in the middle eastern part. This was independent of the other road, and as such it was operated three or four years. After the completion of the St. Louis & San Franciscp road through the county, traffic on the narrow-gauge road ran down, and the road was torn up and abandoned. It was a non-productive investment, even at its best.
While Brownsville was the terminus of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad, the promoters of the contemplated extension were busy devising means for the carrying out of their plans. Townships were besought to vote bonds, all along the proposed route, and every other possible effort was resorted to for raising funds. Two towns were laid off, one east and the other west of the present town of Crestline. Some enterprising men at Carthage, Missouri, and a few from Cherokee County, got up an organization, issued bonds and sold them in the New York market, realizing many thousands of dollars upon them. They were entirely worthless; and as soon as the victims found out the truth a criminal action was brought, and a number of persons in Carthage were arrested. The affair broke up a wealthy banker, whose son was the legal adviser in the fraud, and it is said that others were seriously damaged in a financial way.
The St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad was completed to Columbus in the fall of 1876, and on the first day of January, 1877, the company's station was opened for business, under the care and management of J. M. Filler, who is still in charge of the company's business at Columbus, the company never having had any other agent here. If he continues in charge until the first of January, 1905, he will complete 28 years of continuous service for the company.
In 19O1 the St. Louis & San Franscisco Railroad Company bought the controlling interest in the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Memphis Railroad Company, formerly the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad Company, and since the purchase the properties of the two companies are known as the property of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway Company. The stations of the two companies in Columbus, were combined into one, in charge of J. M. Filler, of whom mention has been made.
In 1886-87 the Nevada & Minden Railroad. Later known as the Missouri Pacific Railroad, was built through the county, from about the center of the north line of the county, to the southwest corner of the county, a distance of 25 miles, of which there are 24 miles lying in a direct line. This road crosses the St. Louis & San Francisco road at Sherwiin Junction, six miles west of Columbus. It passes through the coal fields in the northern section of the county.
In 1894 the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway was e xtended from the company's main-line, at Parsons, Kansas, to Mineral City, about nine miles northwest of Columbus, where the company had bought large tracts of coal lands. In 1901 this road was continued, through Columbus and Galena, to Joplin, Missouri, making the length of the line 52 miles, 32 of which lie in Cherokee County, besides more than 20 miles of side tracks and switches in the coal fields.
Besides the roads which I have mentioned, the Kansas City Southern Railway touches Cherokee County, at the northeast corner, having a little more than three miles of track in this county.
In addition to the railroads which are described in the preceding paragraphs, Cherokee County is one of the few counties of the State of Kansas which have electric roads. About two miles of the Southwest Missouri Electric Railway lie in this county, having the city of Galena as its present western terminus. This road is soon to be extended to Baxter Springs, and probably entirely through the county.
Probably no other county in the State of Kansas has its railroad property so well distributed as is found in Cherokee County. Out of the 14 townships of the county all but one have railroad property. Lyon township, in the southern central part of the county, has none. The following table, for the year 1904, shows the distribution of the county's railroad property valuation:
Townships. Valuations. Pleasant View .................$ 32,268 Cherokee ...................... 93,418 Mineral ....................... 84,915 Ross .......................... 131,513 Sheridan ...................... 34,209 Lola .......................... 102,293 Salamanca ..................... 95,590 Crawford ...................... 111,758 Shawnee ....................... 54,908 Lowell ........................ 56,667 Garden ........................ 19,125 Spring Valley ............... 102,859 Lyon .......................... Neosho ........................ 38,682 Cities. Baxter Springs ................ 17,501 Columbus ...................... 30,859 Empire ........................ 20,703 Galena ........................ 31,037 Scammon ....................... 8,705 Weir .......................... 24,579 ---------- Total Valuation.............$1,092,596
In the following table, showing the mileage of railroads in the county, it will be seen that the St. Louis & San Francisco Company has a number of branches, and that these have a number of side tracks, the side tracks, in some instances, being more than the main lines of the branches. These are in the mining districts of the county.
St. L. & S. F. Division Main Line Side Track Short Creek .............. 9.31 7.98 Cherryvale ............... 2.18 19.12 Weir ..................... 2.01 14.91 Girard ................... .22 Joplin, north and south... 25.55 22.71 Galena ................... 1.99 5.32 Main, east and west....... 25.63 2.22 ------ ------ 66.89 72.26 M. K & T...................... 32.18 20.83 Missouri Pacific ............. 25.03 1.19 Kansas City Southern ......... 3.31 ------ Totals ..................... 127.41 94.28 94.28 ------ ------ Total mileage of track...... 221.69
The Arkansas, Missouri & Kansas Railroad Company has lately mad e a survey through Cherokee County, entering the east side of the county near the middle of the east line, and running northwesterly, leaving the county at a point eight miles east of the northwest corner. The main line will be about twenty miles, in the county, besides a large mileage of side tracks, as the road will lie through the coal fields. The road is now in process of construction. When completed, it will add much to the assessable property of Cherokee County.
With one exception, the townships of Cherokee County have steered clear of rail road bonds; but in some instances the struggles were fierce and long continued. In the early days, following the close of the war, between the years of 1868 and 1880, a horde of "sharks," "grafters" and "confidence men" swarmed into Kansas, as well as into other States, for the sole purpose of securing fraudulent bonds upon every municipality not guarded against their wily, sinuous methods. Not all the smooth, artful schemers with which the country was then infested were sent out by railroad companies; most of them were what are more recently called "promoters," bankrupts, broken-down politicians and reckless adventurers, who had been spewed out of respectable circles in the older States and cast away as worthless. They alighted here and there, in the West and in the South, and wherever an unsuspecting community could be found they set to work with a showing of fairness which would deceive the very elect. Petitions were circulated, elections were held, bonds were voted, issued and sold to "innocent purchasers," the promoters disappeared, and the people were left in a state of helplessness equaled only by their amazement at the deft, cunning manner in which they had been swindled.
Salamanca township, on November 7, 1871, voted to bond itself, in the sum of $75,000, to aid in the construction of the Memphis, Carthage & Northwestern Railroad. The bonds were issued and placed in escrow with the Secretary of State, at Topeka, pending the fulfillment of what the people understood as the condition upon which they voted the bonds. Some time afterward, and while the people were resting easy under the belief that their interests were safe, the bonds were turned over to the railroad company. The company then hunted up an "innocent purchaser" and sold the bonds to him, it is said, at a discount of about 50 per centum. The construction of the road was then abandoned, and the people had nothing left but the figurative "gold brick" and a broad expanse of "blue sky." They took the matter into the courts, followed through a long course of expensive litigation and came out losers. But the people are now paying off the bonds, and in a few years more there will be nothing of them left. The manner in which they are discharging the task imposed upon them through fraud of the deepest dye displays courage of the rarest type.
As Columbus is situated in Salamanca township, its property owners have borne and are bearing their proportion of the burden of paying for something they never received. The Memphis, Carthage & Northwestern Railroad was practically nothing more than a railroad on paper, while the corporate existence of the company remains only in the memory of a few of the old settlers of the county.
I have before me the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad Time Table, No. 21, which took effect Sunday, November 27, 1870, at 8 A. M. The time table was handed me yesterday (July 14, 1904) by E. L. Martin, a locomotive engineer who helped in building the road through this place in the spring of 1870. His engine drew a construction train. While at Cherokee, 12 miles north of Columbus, he suggested Cherokee as the name of the station, and the name was given it. Mr. Martin has been an engineer for about 39 years, and he now runs an engine for one of the passenger trains betwee n Columbus, Kansas and Springfield, Missouri. According to the time table Columbus had but one passenger train each way a day. This train left Columbus at 8:11 A. M., and arrived at Kansas City, a distance of 148 miles, at 4:00 P. M., requiring seven hours and 49 minutes to make the distance, which was less than 19 miles an hour. The passenger trains made stage connections at the following places: At LesCygnes, for Butler, Germantown and Sedalia; at Pleasanton, for Mound City; at Fort Scott, for Nevada, Lamer and Humboldt; at Girard, for Osage Mission; at Columbus, for Carthage, Oswego and Chetopa; at Baxter Springs, for Seneca and Neosho, Missouri; Fayetteville, Bentonville, Van Buren, Fort Smith, Arkansas; Fort Gibson, Tahlequah, Perryville, Boggy Depot, Fort Arbuckle and Fort Sill, Indian Territory; and Sherman, Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco and San Antonio, Texas. Under the head "Special Directions," some rules are laid down for the speed of trains. "The speed of freight trains must not, at any time, or under any circumstances, exceed fifteen miles an hour; and that speed will only be allowed when trains are unavoidably detained and it becomes necessary, to prevent detention of other regular trains at meeting points." Another rule is: "Trains must not cross truss bridges at a greater speed than eight miles an hour."
Speaking of stage travel in those days brings to mind the fact that, with all of what would now be regarded uncomfortable methods for getting over the country, there was usually a good cheer and an ease of manner among fellow passengers by stage which went far toward compensating for whatever of hardship there might be. People in those days were not, as now, bent upon getting to their destination without loss of time. The distance, before starting, was often much dreaded; but after the start was made, and the passenger became acquainted with his fellow passengers and fell upon good terms with the driver, the worst was over. Conversation ran freely upon matters of general interest, and the constantly occurring incidents of the trip came in for their share of attention. There were rough roads and smooth roads; there were broad stretches of prairie, skirts of shady woodland and the deep, quiet forests, with their valleys and hills and their streams of limpid water; and there were the relays, and, at long distances, the cheerful inns where thirst could be quenched and hunger assuaged in a manner befitting the days of frontier life.
Railroads may annihilate distance and time, and they may do much toward meeting the feverish demands of a rushing, commercial age; but those who remember the days of stage coaches and steamboats, with the easy requirements and simple manners of the people, pleasantly recall many incidents and thrilling occurrences which, at this day of hurrying to and from, would pass without notice; and to those who do remember the slower methods and the primitive manners and customs of the people, it is a question, not yet determined, whether the achievements of our present civilization have not been attained at an outlay of energy and mental force greater in value than that which we have received in exchange.
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