How gratifying it must be to the old settlers who have lived to witness the boundless prairies transformed into cultivated fields, the rude cabin and dugout supplanted by handsome residences and a school system second to none in the United States. Time has wrought many changes in a social way, old friends and comrades have been separated, not a few have gone to "that undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns," some wandered back to their former eastern homes, others with that ever restless spirit that marks a certain character of people have pushed further west, or perhaps into the Indian territory, while many still remain in the home of their adoption and these almost universally express themselves as being loath to leave the land wherein they suffered the trials and hardships of the early settlement, the memory of which more deeply endears the homes secured under discouraging circumstances.
Every country has its distinct attractions and advantages. Young men of vigorous minds and taste for adventure come west and find environments that fascinate in the whirl of busy western life; it gives a tonic effect which quickens the blood and gives vitality to hopes and ambitious. The opportunities are great and they become enthused over the future prospects of this great and splendid country.
Here he stands out a well defined character, while in the east the conditions are monopolized and all the avenues closed to the young man just emerging from the eastern academy and he comes west that he may witness his own work bear the fruits of his efforts.
Almost every nationality is represented in the building up of a new country. Not only the emigrant from almost every state of the Union, but many from foreign lands found homes in Kansas. The sturdy Scotch yoemen sought homesteads where they could enjoy the results of their broad acres free, unfettered and unburdened of rent. To the frugal and industrious German, much credit is due for the developing of the country and many of them have attractive homes and are as happy and contented as in their own Fatherland. Many emigrants came from Sweden and Norway. The great famine in Sweden caused thousands to emigrate to this country in the latter part of the 'sixties and the early 'seventies. They have made good, industrious and enterprising citizens.
In the town of Clyde and the townships of Elk and Aurora, there are many French people, both Canadian and Parisian. A large number came from the French settlement at Kankakee, Ill., and settled in and about Clyde, St. Joseph and Aurora. Many of them have attractive homes. England has also numerous representatives here engaged in various enterprises. There are also a considerable number of Danes and Welch, most of them rewarded with comfortable homes. Many brave sons of Erin bade their own country adieu and joined the western throng to become citizens of the "New Empire," the land o'er the far distant sea.
Previous to the year 1870, there were few settlers of the sixth principal meridian, and this country was considered part of the Great American Desert, inhabited by the murderous and hostile red man, who fled west with the appearance of civilization.
"He broke his bowstring,
Snapped his arrows,
Threw them upon the burial place of his fathers
And departed forever."
These vast prairies were awaiting the husbandman's plow to make them famous to the north, south and east, even to the Old World. At the present time no one can help but admire the condition of the farmers throughout the country. Every quarter section is more or less improved, nearly all have comfortable homes and many of them luxurious in their appointments and attractive in their appearance. The author visited many of the homes in the country and find they compare favorably with those of the eastern states.
Instead of the room usually about ten by twelve in dimensions, dug down in the side of the hill, covered with dirt, and which often presented a pitiable sight after a rain or a freshet, with its little smoky stove in one corner, the drenched bed clothes in another, and its inmates tramping in the mud of the dirt floor, we now find comfortable homes, and these same people wonder how they ever existed under those circumstances. An occasional ruin of a dugout is left standing as a monument to pioneer days, and in a few instances they are occupied; but there is an improvement over those of the early settlement, being more modern, showing proofs of progress even in the building of dugouts,
The women of Kansas have suffered equally with, if not more than the men, and were quite as heroic; but in relating the valor of her "liege lord" she is forgotten in story and song. Woman's strength lies in her heart, and her patient endurance is proverbial. Amidst privation and over work they kept before their eyes a vision of success, a happy home for the future, which gave an impetus to their courage and hopes that stimulated their light heartedness.
Though the women lived in log cabins or the more primitive dugouts, with their hopeful contentment they made it shine with a luster that is often lacking in the palaces of kings and queens. They talked up their country and gave encouragement to every useful enterprise that came within their midst. Their lives were not devoid of romance or excitement altogether. Most of the early settlers were a mirth-loving people; they were full of the milk of human kindness and sympathy for their fellow pioneers. They were full of hope, of ambitions that were not frustrated. Sentiment entwined itself around these beautiful valleys and they became attached to their homes in the "New Empire,"
The citizens were on an equality in point of dress and finance. Their wardrobes did not often consist of more than two garments, either in winter or summer, the residence of a few years exhausting the clothes they brought with them. They often times resorted to all kinds of economy. The men wore ragged shirts and trousers, the material of which was rendered problematical by vari-colored patches. One of the old-timers related how his overalls were entirely worn out at the knees and had been patched repeatedly. So to even things up, as it were, his sister cut off the legs, turned them around, sewing them on with the reverse side to the front, thus enabling him to attend Sunday school in the regular order until times permitted of the purchase of a new pair. Nevertheless, we dare conjecture that even in this predicament the man from Missouri did not forget his chivalrous Chesterfieldian bearing and his appreciation for etiquette.
The women wore their calico dresses and sun bonnets to church, and the new comer who had not been introduced into the society of the frontier, were often a subject of ridicule for appearing in their superior apparel. Often times you would see a head crowned by what had been a hat. Many men went barefooted or thrust their sockless pedal extremities into great cowhide shoes. A prominent citizen of Concordia related his first glimpse of a dance in the far west, the substance of which is as follows:
"The time and occasion was the glorious Fourth. There was the usual Fourth of July addresses, orations, lemonade stands, etc., but the chief attraction to this spectator was the mazy dance given on a platform in the open air. The fair maidens in muslin and calico gowns were not the butterflies of society as it is to-day, but buxom lasses of the Kansas prairies, who blushed and smiled as some love-sick swain with calloused bare feet, perhaps, or coverings of leather with holes cut in them to accommodate some peculiar pedal excresences, balanced and bowed or whirled her in the alluring quadrille, while the 'fiddler' sawed 'Arkansas Traveler,' or 'Devil's Dream,' and the prompter shouted, 'Heavens to Betsy, and six hands round,' etc., etc.
"It was a wide open, free-for-all galop, where the most ill-assorted pairs pirouetted over the platform. There was the lath-legged youth in the glory of his paper collar, with his graceful partner of liberal avoirdupois bumping about like June bugs in a dark room. Then there was the tall man who had selected for his partner a maiden whose dimpled chin struck him about the waist line, and the timid youth was observed holding his partner as if he feared she plight not have a clean bill of health, while another held on like a sheriff with a writ of attachment.
"The women danced well, but what chance would a graceful woman have in the grasp of some specimen of ungainly masculinity whose grasp would throttle the exhaust of a locomotive. This does not apply indiscriminately to the society at that time, but there is an element similar to this in all new countries and some not so new. Although their dancing was not exactly the poetry of motion, they had gathered, together from all parts of the country, and it was a halcyon day of genuine pleasure long to be remembered. Perhaps they saw themselves as others seen them, for there has been a complete modification in the code of ball room ethics."
The Kansas winds have been harnessed by hundreds and thousands of windmills. For the benefit of readers who may be unfamiliar with the various definitions of Kansas wind, as she is blown, the Columbus Advocate makes the following classification:
"Zephyr- Wind not to exceed twenty miles an hour.
"Breeze - Wind not faster than fifty miles an hour.
"Draught - Wind after it has developed speed sufficient to exert suction.
"A Little Blow - Wind not faster than ninety miles all hour.
"Real Blustery - When it becomes necessary to hang rocks on school houses to keep them from going along with the atmosphere and for the merchants to lariat their signs.
"Tornado - Any wind doing sufficient damage to give farmers a grip on the insurance company.
"Cyclone - A tornado with a cork screw tail and a brusque way of doing things, especially barns and churches."
There are many windy and disagreeable days that seem almost unbearable, but when the merry month of May comes and the blustering winds are over, the birds holding concerts of matchless melody in the trees and hedges, and the sun smiles serenely, one forgets that the winds ever blew so furiously and almost reproach themselves for having mentioned it complainingly.
The following item, clipped from Peck's Still, is apropos of the subject and the idea prevalent among eastern people regarding Kansas cyclones:
"The little town of Clyde, Kansas, is mighty full of vinegar for a place of its size. The principal amusement the boys have there is to scare the daylights out of visitors from the states by telling big stories about cyclones.
"There are two young fellows in business there named Will May and Charley Armstrong. They have a store where they buy butter, and eggs, and things, and pack them for the eastern market. Last June, Uncle Armstrong, father of Charley, and a young fellow named Charley Farmers, were out there visiting. The hosts entertained the guests to the most hairstanding. stories about cyclones, until they were so nervous they couldn't sleep at night.
"One night the guests had retired, and the zephyr was pretty loud. Will and Charley got into the room adjoining that occupied by the guests, and began to talk about funnel-shaped clouds, trees torn up by the roots, horses flying through the air, and wagons being taken up bodily and carried away, talking so the guests could hear them. Then they prayed for strength to pull them through the fearful ordeal, and, pretending that a cyclone was upon them, they started down stairs, head over appetite, to get into the refrigerator in the cellar, for safety, yelling to the guests to fly for their lives.
"Uncle Armstrong is getting pretty well along in years, but he got down to the cellar about ten stairs ahead of young Farmer, and asked to be allowed to get into the refrigerator first. It seemed a little cruel to the boys to let the guests get in there with nothing on but their undershirts, but they were going to have some fun, so they put them in among the cakes of ice, and Uncle Armstrong sat down on the zinc floor and allowed that if his life was spared till morning he would never set foot in Kansas again. Young Farmer sat on a firkin of butter, and leaned against the zinc lined side of the refrigerator and tried to pray, but he had forgotten the combination, and couldn't make a first payment.
"Will and Charley went up stairs ostensibly to lock the safe, but really to go on with the program. The first thing they did was to fire off a shotgun, and roll a keg of shingle-nails down the cellar stairs, and yell to the guests in the refrigerator to look out for God's sake, as the house was struck by lightning'
"Young Farmer got down off the firkin, and got on his knees, and tried to repeat some Sunday school lesson, but all he could thing of was, 'Evil communications corrupt two in the bush.' The old gentleman, who was struck in the small of the back by a piece of ice that fell off some butter, thought he was struck by lightning; so he began to sing, 'A charge to keep I have.'
"The boys up stairs got a bag of buckshot, and opened it, and every little while would throw a handful onto the outside cellar door, right above the heads of the freezing occupants of the refrigerator, at the same time pounding a piece of sheet iron to make thunder. They kept this up for an hour, and then got a barrel, and filled it with broken glass and pieces of crockery, and they would roll it across the floor above, while one would take an ax and pound on some bar iron that was leaning against the wall, making a most hideous noise.
"Charley Farmer said he supposed he was as well prepared to die as he ever would be, but he said he would give ten dollars if he had his pants down there.
"Uncle Armstrong asked him what difference it made whether he had his pants on or not, and Charley said he didn't want to be ushered into the New Jerusalem with all his sins on his head, before the angels, and nothing on but a knit undershirt.
"They were discussing this question when Will May crawled down stairs with a tin wash-boiler, and just as Charley rolled the barrel of broken window glass down the cellar stairs, Will mashed the boiler against the refrigerator, and both gave vent to a dying groan, closed their eyes and then all was still.
"The prisoners thought it was all over, and they didn't stir for about ten minutes. They thought the house had blown away, and left them alive, and they were inclined to be thankful even for that, when Charley and Will came down and opened the refrigerator, and told them the storm was over, but it was the almightiest cyclone that ever passed over Kansas."
A funnel-shaped terror in the form of a cyclone visited Cloud and Clay counties on May 2, 1895, dealing death and destruction. There were six fatalities and the more or less serious injury to about thirty people, scores of farm buildings were razed to the ground, live stock killed, orchards and groves despoiled.
The storm was entirely unhearalded; there had been a slight atmospheric disturbance all day, but late in the afternoon, rain fell and all misgivings of the elements had been restored. Just before dark, through the scud of low, flying clouds could be seen a great unbroken mass, heavy with moisture. The air was humid, and upon the horizon lay a light fog. The wind shifted, went and came in fitful gusts, and rain fell at irregular intervals. About 9:15 a rumbling noise was heard about three miles southeast of Miltonvale and the next moment a flash of lightning revealed its origin. A great funnel-shaped cloud was outlined against the sky, its taper end dipped the earth. The next flash revealed another, but similar shaped cloud moving at a rapid transit toward the first, both obliquely inclined toward the earth, like ships driven abreast of a furious gale. In a moment the two monster appearing forms were merged together, and then followed destruction in their wake. Through the influence of a counter current the cylcone[sic] suddenly veered and started northward toward St. Joseph, and from this point in a general northeasterly course through the northwest corner of Clay county. It leaped the Republican river between Clifton and Morganville and terminated within a few rods of the Washington county line on the farm of A. Balston, having traveled a total of twenty miles; its greatest width did not exceed three-quarters of a mile.
The home of Eli Baltagor was obliterated as it were, himself and wife killed and their six children all more or less severely wounded. In Clay county, east of the river, four lives were lost, seventeen persons badly injured and many homes destroyed and scattered with the winds.
February 29, 1876, the people of Sibley and Lincoln townships voted on the bonds to build a bridge across the Republican river at Concordia. The amount required was ten thousand dollars, seven thousand five hundred dollars for Lincoln and two thousand five hundred dollars for Sibley. The bonds carried by a large majority. The vote stood sixty-three for, and twenty-one against.
The bridge was completed in the autumn of the same year and on September 27, 1876, a grand bridge celebration took place at Concordia. The program consisted of the grand triumphial procession from the two sides of the river which met on the bridge, where the ceremony of driving the finishing golden spike took place and other dedicatory ceremonies followed by a fitting oration by the Honorable E.J. Jenkins, and congratulatory addresses on behalf of the united townships of Sibley and Lincoln.
August 7, 1876, a railroad convention was held at Clyde, in which the Concordia people joined, and all worked in harmony. Many speeches were made, the following well known men participating: Honorable S.D. Houston, Judge Borton, Judge L. Westover, the two latter of Clyde; L.J. Crans, J.M. Hagaman, W.E. Reid, Judge Strain and Honorable E.J. Jenkins, all of Concordia; the latter was chosen chairman of the Clyde railroad committee. He briefly stated the object of the meeting and suggested that they take into consideration the railroad situation, and confer as to the best mode of obtaining what they all wanted - a railroad. He then moved that Theodore Laing be chosen chairman, which was carried unanimously. H. Buckingham and W.E. Reid were chosen secretaries, and the following gentlemen were appointed a committee on resolutions: James Strain, E.J. Jenkins, M. McKinnon, J.M. Hagaman, W.S. Crump, A.W. Campbell and F.K. Teter. On motion, Messrs. Heins and Cooper, of Washington county, were added to the committee. The meeting was a success, and much good resulted from it. Judge Borton, in his happy manner; moved that, "Every man be a committee of one to talk railroad - blow railroad until the cars come whizzing up the Republican," which was adopted with loud applause. We find that in November the "Republican Valley Railroad Company" was incorporated with a capital stock of nine hundred thousand dollars, divided into nine thousand shares. Its place of business was Corcordia, the number of directors thirteen, viz: E.J. Jenkins, R.F. Allen, Frederick La Rocque, F.W. Sturges, M. McKinnon, W.E. Reid, H. Buckingham, William Conner, all of Concordia; W.S. Crump and J.M. Jones, of Clyde; Cyrille Lafond, of Shirley; R. Berry, of Clifton, and D.T. Smonse, of Peach Creek. The road was to run from a point on the Waterville & Western Railroad, at or near the town of Greenleaf, Washington county, through the counties of Washington, Clay and Cloud, to Concordia. Estimated length of railroad, fifty miles. Another year passed and still they had not succeeded, and it was becoming more evident that the extension of a railroad to Concordia was a dire necessity, when the farmers could no longer haul their thousands of bushels of grain, forty or fifty miles to market entailing many hardships as well as loss of time in hauling.
On July 5, 1877, a special election was held for the purpose of voting upon the question of a subscription by Cloud county for six hundred and forty shares of one thousand dollars each of capital stock of Junction City and Fort Kearney Railway Company, and in payment thereof, issuing to the railroad company sixty-four of the county bonds of the denomination of one thousand dollars each, or as many as would amount to four thousand dollars per mile of road constructed in the county, and made payable to the bearer at the fiscal agency of the state of Kansas, in New York City, thirty years after date, hearing interest at the rate of eight per cent per annum, payable annually. An election was called for the same day for the purpose of voting upon the question of subscription by Cloud county for seven hundred shares of one thousand dollars each of the capital stock with the Republican Valley Railroad Company, and in payment therefor, issuing to said railroad company seventy of the county bonds of the denomination of one thousand dollars, or to the amount of four thousand dollars per mile for each mile of railroad constructed.
When the election was over and the fight ended it was found that the Republican Valley Railroad bonds had been voted, and the Junction City and Fort Kearney bonds defeated.
President Pomeroy, of the Central Branch road, visited the Republican valley in the interest of his road, and was delighted with the result of the election in Cloud county, and with the substantial growth and development of the Republican valley region, He pronounced it the richest and most beautiful country he had ever seen, "A perfect agricultural paradise."
The contract for building the road was awarded to Wiley & Wilder, and was to be completed from Greenleaf to Concordia by December 5, 1877.
The people of Cloud county were jubilant over the prospect of seeing their fondest hopes realized - the locomotive steaming out of their fertile country laden with the products of their young commonwealth, and to herald to the world the coming to pass of the prophecy, "The desert shall bloom as a rose."
A special, the first train over the Central Branch, arrived in Concordia Monday, January 28, 1878, at about 4:30 P.M. On board were the officials of the road and many of Atchison's prominent business men. At Clyde they made an hour's stop and were joined by Judge Borton, and many others. They were received at the depot in Concordia by Mayor Reasoner and a large number of citizens from all parts of the country, with the Concordia Cornet Band, and banners floating in profusion. Their enthusiasm was unbounded. After the usual ceremony of firing guns, "hurrahing" and handshaking all around, the excursionists were preceded by the band and escorted to the hotel, where supper was served, after which the crowd convened at La Rocques's Hall at seven o'clock. The hall was filled to overflowing to listen to speeches, congratulating the Central Railroad Company for their assistance, energy and enterprise in pushing the road through to Concordia.
A speech of welcome was made by Mayor Reasoner, followed by Colonel H.J. Jenkins, who tendered one and all the freedom of their thriving metropolis. Speeches were made by Major Downs, the superintendent of the road, to whose untiring energy in pushing the road to a consummation the people felt under deep obligation. Judge Borton, Clyde's gifted and inimitable funny speaker, and without whom an occasion of this kind would not have been appropriately celebrated, made one of his characteristic talks. Captain John Seaton eulogized the metropolis of northwestern Kansas, and its enterprising people. F. W. Sturges, in his eloquent way, paid a fitting tribute to the completion of the most important enterprise in the history of Concordia and Cloud county. Major Marvin, chief engineer of the Central Branch Railroad, addressed the people, congratulating them upon this important event, It was a gala day for Cloud county. Everybody was jubilant, bubbling over with enthusiasm and good feeling. Flags and bunting streamed from every building, giving an air of patriotism to the occasion, and adding to the unmistakable evidence everywhere that this was the proudest and happiest day Concordia ever witnessed.
The Central Branch, extension is one of the best constructed roads in the state. The bridge work is of the most durable character, especially is this true of the bridge which spans the Republican river at Clyde, which is a splendid specimen of architecture, massive timber and perfect construction, and has been pronounced one of the best in the state. The Central Branch was extended to Cawker City (then the county seat of Mitchell county), fifty-one miles distant from Concordia, May 13, 1879.
November 17, 1878, Jay Gould became the leading owner of the Missouri Pacific & Central Branch. He controlled about half the miles of railway in the state.
On the evening of Saturday, March 8, 1879, there was an enthusiastic meeting held by the people of Concordia, who assembled at La Rocques' Hall to discuss the extension of the Junction City and Fort Kearney Branch of the Kansas Pacific Railroad to their city. Mr. Smeed, chief engineer of the Kansas Pacific Railroad, who was sent to look over the proposed route, and to confer with the people he came in contact with, was present. Mr. Smeed was to report, what in his judgment, could be done with the promise from the management that they would act according to his report. Resolutions were then submitted wherein the people of Cloud count[sic] pledged themselves to do all in their power, in effort, energy and in voting all the bonds possible to secure the result, and requested the several townships to join in their efforts to secure the needed road, etc. A vote on the adoption of the resolutions were then taken and a more unanimous vote was never polled. Every man in the house who was a citizen of Lincoln township voted in the affirmative. The Clyde people did not favor the project.
On the 10th day of June, 1879, a special election was held in Concordia for the purpose of voting upon the question of a subscription of stock and issue of fifty-six thousand dollars bonds to the Junction City & Fort Kearney Railroad Company by the township of Lincoln. The bonds were carried by a majority of two hundred and eighty-eight in Lincoln, and fifty-five in Lawrence.
The result was gratifying to the people of Concordia, as it meant more enterprise would find its way to their city. Not a single Concordian voted against the bonds.
January 1, 1881, trains on this railroad stopped running into Concordia. The turn table was taken up and removed to Clyde, the depot locked and the agent went to Kansas City, and no more business was transacted. The doors and windows were nailed up and the tall, rank weeds grew in profusion about the place. What was once the busy depot was given over to grim desolation. The Kansas Pacific Railroad was said to have "gobbled up" fifty-six thousand dollars worth of bonds, and given Concordia, Lawrenceburg and Clyde the "slip." The next move was to devise a way to keep from paying the bonds voted. W.E. Reid journeyed to St. Louis where, in an interview with Jay Gould and S.H.H. Clark, general manager of the Union Pacific Railroad, in reference to the bonds voted to the Fort Kearney road by Lincoln, Lawrence and Elk townships, they assured him they would give the matter due consideration, and that the road should be operated to Concordia, or the bonds, or their equivalent be returned to the tax payers of the townships named.
In July, 1881, the report was circulated that the railroad was coming to Concordia by the way of Belleville without bonds or aid. As per agreement, the Burlington & Missouri River Railway people kept out of Kansas as long as Jay Gould kept out of Nebraska, but the Missouri Pacific was to be extended to Omaha, and the proposition to intersect as many of Jay Gould's lines as they could and make war against monopoly as a consequence.
In the the autumn of 1879, railroad fair was reduced from four to three cents.
Cloud county now has communication from all points of the compass. A branch up the Republican Valley to Scandia. and northward, connecting with the Burlington and Missouri Railway; also a line extending from Jamestown to Jewell City, Mankato and Burr Oak. The Kansas Pacific built a branch through the Solomon valley and established stations at Glasco and Simpson. The Kansas Central completed its line into Starr township, with the terminus at Miltonvale. The Burlington and Missouri Pacific extended their lines from Odell via Hanover, Washington, Cuba and Wayne, to Concordia.
Concordia is now one of the most flourishing railroad centers in northwest Kansas. The Burlington and Missouri, Santa Fe, Union Pacific and the Missouri Pacific give it connection with the east, west, north and south.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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