The politicians will no doubt consider the organization of Cloud county one of the most interesting parts of this history. The participants were beginners in matters of this kind, some just coming from the army, and all from localities where subjects of this kind were given but little or no attention. This applies not only to the county but the state, if, for instance, we take some of its legislation in regard to the county.
As an example take the statute enacted in 1860, where the legislature not only prescribed the boundary of the county, but actually legislated its organization, appointing three commissioners, all out of the county, consisting of F.F. Blake, M.S. Essic and Lorenzo Gates, of Clay county, near Bachelder, giving these non-residents the power to divide the county into election precincts and establish the temporary county seat.
Section four of the same act says: An election shall be held on the fourth Monday of April in which the county and township officers shall be elected to hold their respective offices until the next general election. If it were said these men were the first county commissioners, in all probability none of the old settlers would have known what was meant without this explanation, and yet, such really is the case, for their powers were precisely the same.
Who the two first named gentlemen were or where they lived is not known, and perhaps neither of the three men knew that such honor was conferred upon them. This same kind of legislation was applied to Republic and Ottawa counties. The matter has been referred to, to show that while small corporations may blunder, larger ones where more talent is expected may also make mistakes, and it is also a part of this history.
The statute of Kansas provides that in organizing a new county three freeholders must state on affidavit there are not less than six hundred inhabitants in the county and twenty freeholders must by memorial petition to the governor to appoint three special commissioners therein named, and also one person named for county clerk and the place designated for the temporary county seat. These preliminaries were complied with and all that was necessary to complete the organization was for the governor to use the appointing power. The names of those three lenient freeholders can not be given. Many had grave doubts as to there being that many inhabitants. Moses Heller, G.W. Wilcox and Dr. Lear were the persons designated for county commissioners, N.D. Hagaman for clerk and "Elk Creek" for the county seat.
The next thing to be considered were the candidates for county officers at the general election. For this purpose the first county convention was called to be held in the little log school house on Elm creek, September 1, 1866. Unlike the politicians of to-day there were no aspirants. Nobody wanted office; for filling a county office without a predecessor and consequently without any one for an instructor, minus a salary, was not very desirable. The county was not canvassed.
On the day appointed for the convention John B. Rupe, F.B. Rupe, John and Lew Fowler, David Heller, Thomas and James Williamson from Elk Creek attended the convention. Among those from Elk Creek were J.M. Hagaman, J.M. and Cal Thorpe, Quincy and Randall Honey, N.D. Hagaman, Obadiah Thompson, Matt Wilcox and others from that settlement. Mr. Taylor and son-in-law represented Sibley. The assembly was not large but the house was filled - a fair proportion considering the population.
The convention was opened by J.M. Hagaman, who nominated Thomas Williamson for chairman. Mr. Williamson said he had acted as chairman of church meetings but questioned his competency to fill this position; however, he went forward and took the chair. Matt Wilcox was elected secretary. Being young and inexperienced he remarked, "he didn't know how." "Sit right down here," said Hagaman, "and I will show you how." He complied.
Other preliminaries being dispensed with the first nomination was for a representative. Cal Thorpe nominated John B. Rupe; J.M. Hagaman was put in nomination. It was moved by F.B. Rupe that these nominees in brief speeches define their position on politics. Mr. Rupe facetiously remarked that this was rather rough, as neither of them were speakers. Mr. Hagaman refused to make a speech. In a few well chosen remarks Mr. Rupe told how he had beena[sic] soldier during the late war, knowing it would have the desired effect on the convention. The vote was taken and he received the nomination.
The representative being disposed of, the next in order was a delegate to the state convention which met that year at Topeka on the 5th of September. This honor fell to J.M. Hagaman. Matt Wilcox was nominated for county clerk, Quincy Honey for sheriff and Zachariah Swearingen for treasurer. Mr. Hagaman (father of J.M. Hagaman) for probate judge, John Fowler, county assessor, Dr. Lear, county superintendent, and Lew Fowler, William English and Robert Smith for commissioners. Ed. Neeley ran independent for probate judge, and was elected.
The nominations being completed it occurred to J.B. Rupe that at the Republican county conventions in his native county they always appointed a Republican central committee and made the motion that such a committee be appointed by the chair, which was done. Luckily for Mr. Rupe no one called upon him to explain the duties of such a committee, for in all probability the explanation at that time would have been a failure. J.M. Hagaman was elected chairman, thus this act of the convention gives it the just claim of organizing the Republican party in Cloud county, and all who took a part in it are entitled to the honor of being its aiders and abettors.
After the convention had done its work, Mr. Hagaman, thinking empty honors were not exactly what he was seeking, stated he was a poor man and could not go to Topeka unless at least his expenses were borne, and it was nothing more than fair that the people should do this. At first it was a damper, as they were all poor, but the argument was convincing. Twenty dollars of twenty-five dollars, the amount asked for, was forthcoming after considerable effort.
It was generally understood that Mr. Hagaman would carry with him the affidavit and memorial which the governor was to act upon. Had it not been for this, little importance would have been attached to the office; hence the effort to bear his expenses. The 6th of September dates the county organization so far as the governor had anything to do with it, but it could not be considered fully organized until all the county officers were elected, which was to take place at the next general election; also the county seat to be voted upon by the people.
The next convention was held in the unpretentious school house at Clyde, and the two following in the saw mill owned by Captain Sanders, of Lake Sibley.
The first Democratic convention held in Cloud county convened September 13, 1876.
L.J. Crans, chairman of the Democratic standing committee, called the meeting to order, whereupon Moses Louthan was elected chairman and F.A. Thompson secretary.
Should there be any who still cling to the idea that the name "Shirley" was given to Cloud county in honor of Governor Shirley, of Massachusetts, who was one of the pusillanimous[sic] appointees of the British crown in colonial days, the following letters and communications furnished by J.B. Rupe, through whose efforts the county bears its present honored name, are published.
Sol Miller says: The Kansas papers were discussing the subject of "fool names" of counties, a large majority of the counties of the state having them. Many of them are uncouth and one might imagine they were named after some of the characters in Dickens' novels. A number of names have been changed from the original ones and many others need changing,
Cloud county was originally named Shirley. The name sounds well but it is a solemn fact that the county was named for a notorious Leavenworth prostitute of war days named Jane Shirley, who was known to all "the boys." The legislature had one of its fool spells on of organizing and naming counties and in several cases could not be agreed upon. Ward Burlingame, who was reporting for a Leavenworth paper, suggested the name Shirley to a member sitting near by who "caught on" and moved that one of the counties be so named. It was carried and Shirley was the name of the county for several years.
The following is a letter from Dr. Thomas Lindsay to John B. Rupe in reply to an inquiry for information on the subject of naming Shirley county:
Honorable John B. Rupe, Sir: Yours of the 11th inst. received. I can give you some of the information desired but will not attempt to put in proper shape for print. You can rewrite it or rather use it for material for making up your history. I was a member of the committee on counties, etc., in the session of 1860 (territorial legislation). We were organizing counties, Washington, Republic, some in the southern part of the state, also your county.
In naming the counties (those which had not been previously named) .I. suggested the name of Sherman for your county. Sam Wood, of Chase county, was as usual poking his nose into other people's business and offered the name of Jane Shirley, of unsavory reputation and fame. In debate either before the committee or committee of the whole house, a Mr. Chandler, of Davis county, I think said that Shirley was the name of the town (township I suppose) where he was born, which formed a pretext for the blackguards of the house to leave off "Jane" and simply call it Shirley, but it was understood by most to mean Jane Shirley all the same.
It was with pleasure that I contributed my might to undo the act in a legislature where I suppose I made substantially the above statement on the bill to change the name. Although I did not get my original name (Sherman), but as the people of the county wanted another, 1 was satisfied to get the odious name off the statute book and map of Kansas.
Of course there were others besides Sam Wood concerned in fixing the foul name on the county, but at present I do not remember them well enough to put their names on paper. As you will probably not use this for some time, if there is anything more or explanation needed I will furnish it if requested. The committee were Ed. Lynde, of Jefferson, chairman; Jones, of Linn, Lindsay, of Anderson, Nelson, of Coffee, and Dutton, of Brown. Lynde is now in Kansas City - Lynde, Wright & Co.
Governor Shirley died about one hundred years before the county was named and a century had passed since he had been governor of Massachusetts. History records the fact that he was governor when that state was the most rebellious of all the colonies and was in constant quarrel with England, showing that his administration was more in sympathy with the crown than with the people, and consequently could not have been popular with them.
It is doubtful if any of the Massachusetts people know of Shirley favorably. She has had far more distinguished governors of modern times who were elected by the people and consequently more popular and well known. Among whom are John Hancock, Edward Everett and Nathaniel P. Banks.
Shirley died in 1771, but a short time before the Revolution, in Massachusetts, but had he lived until the day of this important event, judging from his course as governor, he would have been a Tory. Naming the county for Jane Shirley was a disgraceful act, and that J.B. Rupe as representative of his district was instrumental in having the name, changed to Cloud was in accordance with the wishes of the people of Cloud county.
The following narrative will doubtless strike many of the present population of Cloud county with astonishment and even the state might feel humiliated that it ever had a legislature transcending enough to enact so disgraceful a bill wherein this county was named Shirley. The position of J.B. Rupe, who enjoyed the distinction of being the direct mover in having the name changed, was not an enviable one, as much conjecture was engaged in as to what sort of man was sent from a county so strangely named.
It was commented upon in a way far from pleasing to a man of Mr. Rupe's sensitive and pure nature. Others wondered if a county named in such a disgraceful way would be allowed to retain its title and suggested to Mr. Rupe the propriety of changing it, among whom was Governor Crawford.
Being satisfied that so long as this appellation was retained a stigma and burlesque would continue on the county and as this was the most opportune time for a change, Mr. Rupe introduced a bill substituting the name of Cloud. This was done in honor of Colonel W.F. Cloud, of the Second Kansas, one of the noblest and bravest of the state's heroes and a man the people need never regret their county being named for.
When the bill finally came before the committee of the whole Mr. Rupe had a great desire it should pass without any comment, but there was too much humor included, and in consequence C.H. Thompson, of Dickinson county, arose and stated that "inasmuch as the name of Shirley was an old established name, he would like the gentleman from that county to state his reasons for the desired change." This he did with a humorous grin, showing that so far as he was concerned he was well conversant with the facts, perhaps more so than Mr. Rupe.
However, Mr. Rupe explained as best he knew in defense of the bill. Others spoke pro and con, but more for the purpose of creating mirth. Conspicuous among that number was John R. Goodin, who received the sobriquet of "polished John," but his polish had no forebearance when he saw a chance to spring a joke on some member. He availed himself on this occasion of springing one at Mr. Rupe's expense. Many will remember Mr. Goodin as the Democratic candidate for governor in 1879.
Far the most telling speech made in favor of this bill and which, perhaps, turned the scales in its favor was made by Thomas Lindsay, of Anderson county, who luckily was acquainted with the details of the whole affair and furnished the house with a full statement of the manner in which the county derived the name of Shirley. He was an entire stranger to Mr. Rupe, volunteering his services unsolicited. Mr. Rupe listened to his speech with such profound interest that in substance it became indelibly stamped upon his memory.
He commenced by saying that when these three counties west of the 6th principal meridian were described with their respective boundary lines, names were readily found for Republic and Ottawa counties, but for Shirley they could not so readily agree. One of the committee proposed the name of John Sherman, who that year figured so prominently for speaker of the house of representatives, which finally resulted in the election of William Pennington, of New Jersey, but the name of Sherman suggested to the mischievous brain of one member of that committee the name of Jane Shirley, the names Sherman and Shirley sounding something alike.
Jane Shirley was a noted character at this time in the state. The committee, strange to say, agreed upon this name in full - Jane Shirley, but the chairman ashamed to report the bill in that shape, struck off the name of is name "Jane" and reported it as "Shirley." The members who suggested this objected to this unauthorized erasure and took the chairman to task for it, stating that the committee had agreed on the name Jane Shirley and insisted the name "Jane" should retain its place, which remark brought down the house in a perfect roar of laughter. After that had somewhat subsided it was plain something must be done to suspend this hilarity.
One man taking in the situation arose and said he could not see anything so bad in the name of Shirley; he knew of one conspicuous man in Massachusetts by that name who was a judge or held some honorable position in that state. This had the effect of somewhat sobering the legislature and they suffered the name of Shirley to pass, leaving off "Jane," despite the protestations of the man who insisted it should retain its place in accordance with the action of the committee.
This bill also met with much opposition in the senate, for that which is generally considered the most dignified part of the legislature frequently acks culture in some of its members. Sam Wood, who was a notable character for levity, belonged to that body and did his best through filibustering and trickery to defeat this change of name.
This man who at first busied himself in unearthing the act of 1860, when he heard of Mr. Rupe's determination, tried to dissuade him from his purpose by setting up other pretext that caused the act connected with such disgrace or rather that there was nothing out of the way about it, but a purer and nobler sense of honor prompted General Harvey, who despite the evil machinations of Wood, carried his bill through the senate, which ended the fight by Sam Wood to retain his favorite name of Shirley, though mutilated of the equally endearing "Jane."
It has been contended there is a mistake about this affair and that the county was really named for the governor of Massachusetts, but Mr. Chandler, who lent his influence in the wrong direction, does not mention the word governor. Mr. Rupe says that he doubts whether Mr. Chandler or any member of that legislature knew there was ever such a governor of massachusetts,[sic] as it was necessary to go back to the history of colonial days of that commonwealth to find the man bearing that cognomen, and then but to discover that he was in no way distinguished, for he was a regular appointee to the crown, and only spoken of as carrying out his master's wishes in opposition to the people; so it would seem that this claim was a conceited farce manufactured for the purpose of palliating a misdeed. Strange to say this act of Mr. Rupe's was unpopular; some of the people seemed to like the old name best but he is charitable enough to believe they did not understand all the circumstances in the case.
Colonel William F. Cloud
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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