1904 History of Cherokee County Kansas


CHAPTER IV.


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SOME EARLY DOCUMENTS, LETTERS AND OTHER THINGS.

After I had about completed the history of Cherokee County, using such material as it had been my fortune to secure, it chanced that a number of documents, letters and other things came into my possession. They are here given as additional information concerning the early struggles of the people who came to make homes in the Cherokee Neutral Lands district. Some of these old papers will be read with much interest by the early settlers yet living, while the younger generations cannot fail of being impressed with an idea of the hardships which their ancestry bore, for the sake of their own immediate comfort and the yet greater comfort and happinesss[sic] of their descendants.

In 1867, William H. Dodge published a little pamphlet, entitled "Dodge's Sectional Map of the Cherokee Neutral Lands," with a description of the country and an invitation to immigrants. A good copy of the map itself is not available for reproduction, but the pamphlet is interesting, as it is a rather minute description of the country. In his preface Mr. Dodge says:

"The many favorable accounts of the Cherokee Neutral Lands I received, while vainly searching for United States Public Lands, on which to make a home, in Southwest Missouri, induced me to go and see it; and on reaching it, I learned that the treaty with the Cherokee Indians, by which these lands were obtained for white settlement, was so framed by the commissioners who treated for the lands as to give railroads and other land speculating companies an immense advantage over the settlers, who are justly fearful that some 'trick of statecraft' so often practiced now-a-days by our government officials, will deprive them of their little improvements, and to prevent which they are organized in neighborhood clubs. As no correct information could be got (without personal inspection) of the character of these lands, or the late surveys of it, to guide the emigrant, or to enable many of the settlers to get the numbers of the lands they are on, together with the many rumors of these lands being sold in a body to this, that or the other land speculating company, increasing the apprehension of the settlers, and creating the general belief that the Secretary of the Interior, the commissioners, half the members of Congress, and all the Railroad Companies were designing another gigantic land swindle to rob the settlers and emigrants of their hard earnings, I resolved to make a complete and correct map of the country, while in it, which I did by tracing the section lines, and wrote out, as best I could, the following imperfect description of the country, and publish both to induce and direct immigration to fill it up before government schemers can accomplish their hellish design of enslaving western emigrants--the most useful class of American citizens--by depriving them of this last chance to get homes, without patronizing that monstrous and shameless curse to our country, LAND SPECULATORS."

The author of the pamphlet then goes on to give a description of his travels over the entire Cherokee Neutral Lands district. That part of his travels which relates to the lands now forming Cherokee County is here given in his own language:

"There is considerable settlements on Lo wer Cow Creek and its tributaries. The towns of Neutral City and Pleasant View are located here on the military road. All the good timber is claimed by settlers, but many of these timbered claims are offered for sale cheap, and immense tracts of excellent prairie land lies here, yet unclaimed, inviting immigration. Mills and machinery of every description is much needed here and would pay handsomely for such enterprise.

"Went then to the Missouri line, fixing the point where Spring River enters (the state), and tracing it thence to where it makes its final exit from the Neutral Lands, locating its tributaries, Centre, Turkey, Short, Shoal, Shawnee, and Crooked Creeks. Spring River is a bold rapid stream of clear water, about one hundred and fifty feet wide, ten inches deep on the shoals at low water, running over a rocky and pebble bed, and affording great water power and fine mill seats. Shoal Creek, its principal tributary, is nearly as large as Spring River, and of the same character, affording the same advantages--both skirted by large bodies of good timber. The mill seats and timber claims on these streams are all taken up, some of them are offering for sale at from $1,200 to $2,000.

"Timbered hills come quite down to Spring River on the side next to Missouri, along Shoal Creek, giving an abundance of mill timber. Enterprising men are erecting mills at and near the mouth of Shoal Creek, where the town of Lowell is laid out, which has superior advantages to build up a town. With unsurpassed water power, an inexhaustible supply of good timber in the midst of a great farming country, and bounded by Long and Tennessee prairies on the east, Round and Kretchfield prairies on the north, Spring River prairie on the south and the great fertile Neutral Lands on the west, is destined to make a considerable town in a few years.

"Baxter, two miles south of Lowell, west side of Spring River, is a rival town. It attained a start and some note as a military post during the late war, but even with that start it cannot compete with Lowell for manufacturing importance.

"Wirtonia, located at the forks of Shawnee Creek, is another 'would-be town' like Neutral City and Pleasant View, boasts of two dwellings and a store, and all of them, with Baxter, are making pretensions for the future county seat of Cherokee County; but from their geographical positions, and the general wish of the settlers to locate the county seat in the center of the county, I predict that neither of these places will get it. I would respectfully suggest Centralia as a proper place for the future county seat of Cherokee County. It is a beautiful and elevated point, commanding a very extensive view of the surrounding country. The soil of the Spring River country is generally a gray clay, gravelly in places, and said to be excellent for small grain. There is also fine tracts of black land in the valleys of Shawnee and Crooked Creeks, well adapted to raising corn. * * * The prairie near Spring River is rolling, with many beautiful mounds and gentle elevations, affording splendid building sites. * * * Many springs of pure and some of mineral, waters greet the traveler and emigrant to this country, that gives it a peculiar charm and fascinating interest. There is considerable settlement here; new houses dotting the prairie miles out from timber, indicating the industry, and great numbers of the hardy frontiersmen that have chosen these beautiful and fertile lands for their future homes, and yet there is room for four times as many more.

"Crossed westward over the high ridge, or plain, that rises near Fort Scott, bending a little westward around the head of Drywood Creek runs thence nearly due south the entire length of the Neutral Lands, terminating at the Blue Mounds in the government strip--the projected Kansas City and Mexican Gulf Railroad, by the way of Fort Scott and Fort Gibson, will probably be located on this ridge or plain, dividing, as it d oes, the streams that run southeast into Spring River from those that run southwest into the Neosho River.

"This plain, or table land, is of so easy ascent and so broad that the traveler scarcely knows when he is on top of it, which is gently rolling * * * rising in places into mounds and promontories where limestone and sandstone appear on the surface, and wide valleys with gentle slopes between them.

"This vast prairie is generally good land--black, red and gray clay soil, gravelly in places, with occasional spots covered with an incrustation of evaporated white salicious matter, miscalled 'alkali.' This vast prairie is almost uninhabited, but it will not long remain so, as no part of it is too far from timber to haul lumber for building, and there are signs everywhere of stone coal to furnish fuel to the thousands of families who will find here the elements out of which to make comfortable homes * * *.

"Continuing westward, traced Tar and Keel creeks to where they pass the southern boundary of Kansas into the Quap-paw lands. Tar Creek is covered in places with a black oily scum that oozes out from its banks, indicating the presence of petroleum somewhere close by, perhaps in the coal beds underlying the high plain just described, whose black soil in many places looks greasy, which with this tar on the water warrants me in pronouncing this an oil region * * *.

"Traced Fly, Maple, Lost and Cherry creeks and the Neosho River to the mouth of Lightning Creek, which is a curiosity in itself. The creek forks twice, and runs in every direction, the prongs crooking and winding everyway and everywhere in dense timber * * *.

"The Neosho River is a sluggish, deep stream, about one hundred yards wide, of dirty looking water; it is fordable for one on horseback sometimes, but it is not safe to cross at some of the fords, as its banks are boggy in places. There is a ferry near the mouth of the Lebet River, from which point down the Neosho may be made navigable for small boats in the winter and spring seasons.

"The face of the country along the Neosho is nearly level; immense marshes, caused by the overflow of the stream, extending along them for miles * ~ *. These marshes produce the finest grasses on which stock of every kind keep in good condition 'the year round,' requiring very little feed or attention, and which, if cut in proper season, makes excellent hay * * *.

"The west half of Cherokee County is perhaps not so much settled as the east half, and the people take less interest in public matters, such as securing the offices and getting the county seat over to their side of the county, but they are unanimously opposed to speculation in land in all its forms, and in favor of the county seat being made at the centre of the county, and like the people of Crawford County are in favor of the county owning the section of land the future county seat will be built upon, which will give all the people an equal benefit of the increased price of town lots * * *. The general wish of the people of Cherokee County to have the county seat at the centre of the county, has induced some 'patriotic' persons to claim the town site I have indicated on the map as Centralia, but these 'public spirited men' have misjudged the character of these honest, hardy frontiersmen if they think to speculate in this way, for if they are not willing to take a fair remuneration for the improvements they hold, or may claim to hold when the voice of the people shall demand it in the name of the county, they may be politely invited to leave the country."

After thus giving a running desciption[sic] of the country, which will enable the reader to get a generally fair idea of what it was before any implements of tillage were applied to disturb the virgin soil, the author proceeds to issue an "Invitation to Emigrants;" and with the invitation he also lays down some suggest ions to those who may be mindful of journeying to this goodly land. He also indulges in what some may term vituperative censure of the high officials of the day, who are mildly charged with conspiring against the interests of the people. Here is what he says:

"Having got around to where I commenced, completing the data to make a correct map of the Neutral Lands, it is my duty to the people to extend to them the invitation of the settlers, to all who want homes to emigrate to, and take possession of, these fine farm lands, which will strengthen the cause of the settlers against land speculators, and, by virtue of great numbers, command the respect of Congress, so as to get an act passed recognizing the rights of the settlers.

"In the hope of contributing something to this end, I will state a few facts that all may know the unsearchable virtues (?) of some of our government officials who, in place of being our servants, try to become our masters.

"The Commissioners who made the treaty with the Cherokee Indians, by which these lands were obtained for white settlement, inserted two remarkable provisions in it, for reasons best known to themselves and those who sent them to make such treaty. One of these provisions is that 'no preemption or homestead claim shall be recognized, except improvements made before the treaty, July, 1866!' when the country was occupied by Indians and no white settlers in it. This pro- vision is contrary to existing laws making all unappropriated lands of the United States or Territories subject to the preemption and homestead laws; the other and most extraordinary provision of this treaty empowers the Secretary of the Interior to sell the whole eight hundred thousand acres in a body. This again is a violation of the laws regulating the sale of United States public lands in subdivisions by the local land officers, for which all surveys are made. But these commissioners, like many others of the 'big fish' of our times, do not regard the laws or care what becomes of the 'small fry,' where there is a chance of getting rich by violating law and the plain principles of justice, if there is any possibility of succeeding in such unprincipled villainy. I don't make any charges against those silk stocking government gentlemen; but I ask all sensible men if these unusal,[sic] unnecessary and unlawful changes in the manner of disposing of public lands don't look like these commissioners and the Secretary of the Interior designed to perpetrate a monstrous fraud by a wholesale robbery of the frontiersmen, whom they knew would emigrate to and fill up these fine farming lands as soon as the Indians should remove from them?

"In conformity with the provisions of this treaty Mr. Secretary of the Interior sold the whole eight hundred thousand acres of land in a body to an 'Emigrant Aid Society,' of which perhaps he was president! This sale was declared illegal, and broken by the Attorney General, but the philanthropic Secretary was resolved to exercise all the power vested in him by the treaty, as it was too good a chance to 'serve the country' and make a splendid fortune by the operation, so he sold it to a Railroad Company; and the sale was again broken on the same grounds and the secretary was removed from office.

"Now, this treaty has in it illegal provisions, and all action taken under it declared illegal by the Supreme Court, and meanwhile these lands are being rapidly filled up with settlers, it will require an act of Congress to dispose of the lands, and as many of our Congressman are leading railroad men, known to be making efforts to get these lands, the settlers have much cause of alarm, and are fearful that they may be robbed of their little improvements by the liberality of our too liberal Congress, who may take a notion to vote themselves another empire of good farm land, under the pretense of 'aiding the construction of some railroad' * * *.

"Now, as the land speculating government officials have great advantage of the settlers in the treaty, and as they are poor and too few to expect justice in the disposal of these lands by Congress, they are all anxious for immigration to settle up the country this fall, so that our virtuous law makers may not disregard and trample upon their rights. I would respectively advise all who want homes to go to the Cherokee Neutral Lands at once, leave the women and children where they are, two or more men associate together and take provisions enough to last while they are building a house, each helping the other,--and cut hay for winter, then return and bring your families to their new homes. None need fear that they will not get homes, some may not get timber lands, but all can get good lands. The people in this devoted country are organized into clubs, and are doing all that they can to prevent these lands from falling into the hands of railroad or other speculating companies; they are holding meetings, getting up petitions, passing resolutions, etc."

Some person, whose name was not given, has sent me another pamphlet, the title of which is,--"Manifesto of the People of the Cherokee Neutral Lands." It is somewhat lengthy, and it is signed by C. C. McDowell, W. R. Laughlin, A. Perry and C. Dana Sayers, the first two from Cherokee County, and the others from Crawford County. There is no date to the pamphlet; but the subject matter indicates that it was within the period known as the "troublous times" in Cherokee and Crawford Counties. The pamphlet is in the same tone of the preceding paragraphs, speaking out clear and emphatic as to the injustice to which the settlers believed themselves shamefully subjected. From their view point, the action of the government was unjust and in utter disregard of the rights of the people The document starts out something in the vein of the Declaration of Independence. Some of the paragraphs are here given:

"In view of the many false statements that have been published throughout the country, by the monopolists in regard to the legal standing of the Cherokee Neutral Lands case, and also as to acts charged against the settlers on this tract, justice requires that the world should know the truth. It has been thought proper, by the people, through the undersigned selected committee, to set forth to all whom it may concern, and especially to the working and thinking, common people of the United States, the real state of affairs here, with some of the facts and arguments in favor of the settlers.

"We feel confident that if this case is properly understood by the people of our country, it will be seen to involve several issues more important and far-reaching than the mere question of title to a tract of land, as between two claimants; questions bearing directly and powerfully upon the rights of American citizens, to protection by laws already standing on the statute books of the nation and of the State; as against monopolies, individual or corporate.

"The settlers on the Cherokee Neutral Lands are asking for no new or strange conditions, concessions or guaranties, no special favors, no local discriminations. We ask only the honest carrying out of the land policy of our government, and of laws which stand yet unrepealed, and that no public man or political party shall be permitted to openly violate. We have been industriously stigmatized through subsidized newspapers, by anonymous, penny-a-line publications, as trespassers, outlaws, murderers, and so forth, to the exhaustion of the vocabulary of moderately genteel Billingsgate. Hired emissaries have been, and still are being, sent among us to create division and confusion. Money has been, and still is being, lavished here and elsewhere, with the hope of overcoming us; the settlement of our country has been kept back; citizens have been harrassed[sic] by many malicious arrests and arbitrary 'bindings-over' to appear at court, not sustained by one particle of p roper evidence, done by a justice of the peace who is a mere tool of Joy & Company, and who does not live on the Neutral Lands. One of our number, Jeremiah Murphy, has been foully murdered by an assassin, and only because he was a Leaguer; Several others of our prominent men have been threatened with the same fate. Harrison McGinnis, one of our most resolute men was shot at twice, in Baxter Springs, while he was under arrest and disarmed and he saved himself only by his remarkable presence of mind. His would-be murderer was allowed to escape. To cap the climax, troops have been sent here, when their only possible errand was to aid the monopolists in preventing an appeal to Congress or to the courts, on the part of the settlers. No officer has been arrested, nor even obstructed in the performance of his duty as an officer; no state of anarchy has existed here; no man has been murdered or robbed by the Leaguers or other settlers.

"Let those whom it mostly concerns answer the question. 'Why are troops stationed on the Neutral Lands?' We may be unable just now to draw out an answer; but the time will come when higher authority than brought them here will demand the reason. There are but a few easily taken steps between the present state of affairs on the Cherokee Neutral Lands and the condition of countries where political meetings and other primary assemblies of the people are prevented or dispersed at the point of the bayouet.[sic] Farmers, men and women of the workshops, the factories and the mines in the United States, a blow at our rights as American citizens is a blow at yours. If capitalists can this year prostitute the military power of the nation, on the Cherokee Neutral Lands, other capitalists can do the same in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania or Ohio next year! The vast success of speculators during the last six or eight years, in building up powerful monopolies and corporations, by having special privileges granted them, and in robbing the people of bonds and of public lands, under the pretext of aiding railroads, has alarmed thinking men. Fortunes unheard of in the good old days have been extorted from the producers of the nation by adventurers who during the hurry and distraction of the war, wormed themselves into places where their votes or official action gave them opportunity for plunder. Success has made cowardly thieves bold and defiant. The strength which lies in ill-gotten million makes weak men strong. The power of money is cumulative; and common sympathy between successful men is fast building up an aristocracy which threatens us and our posterity, our institutions and our very form of government.

"In 1803 our government bought from France what has since been know as the Louisiana Purchase, of which the Cherokee Neutral Lands are an integral part. After Missouri became a state, and its western counties were being settled for the protection of its inhabitants, the government treated with the Osage Indians for this tract of land, with the stipulation that neither the Indians nor the whites should occupy the same, thus placing a strip fifty miles north and south, by twenty-five miles east and west as a barrier between the white and the red men. So it remained until the treaty-making power gave the Cherokee Indians the right to occupy the tract. In 1866 by a 'treaty,' the Cherokee Indians gave back the land to the United States, and attempted to do so, 'in trust,' and to empower the Secretary of the Interior to sell the lands for them. One of the last official acts of Secretary Harlan, then at the head of the Interior Department, was to sell as much of the tract as was not occupied by actual settlers at the date of the treaty, to the American Emigrant Company, for one dollar an acre; but Secretary Browning, on assuming the office, procured the opinion of Attorney General Stanberry that Harlan's sale was 'illegal and void;' and on that opinion set the sale aside. Browning then proceeded to sell the residue of the tract not occupied by settlers at the date of the treaty, to James F. Joy, of Detroit, Michigan, at one dollar and a quarter an acre. The American Emigrant Company threatened litigation; and matters remained in secret negotiation until maters remained in secret negotiation until June 6, 1868, when, to the utter surprise of the settlers, a supplemental treaty was put through the Senate, which assumed to cancel Mr. Joy's contract with Browning, and to assign to him the contract of the American Emigrant Company. Such is a very brief outline of the strange transactions by which the 'rings' cast lots for the garments of the settlers, and propose to divide among themselves the gains of this most infamous of all 'jobs' for robbing the settlers of the West.


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