The citizens in a newly settled country are often compelled to resort to strenuous measures in order to protect themselver[sic] from lawlessness. This is exemplified in the event that razed to the ground the Conklin house, whose inmates were supposed to be, beyond a doubt, horse thieves and necessitated being dealt with accordingly. The county was yet unorganized and the one to which it was annexed was in poor condition for prosecuting criminals, hence the settlers took the law into their own hands.
Charles and Peter Conklin, with two sisters, during the year 1862, were living in their cabin on the old town site of Eaton city, afterward owned by Daniel McIntosh. They were known to be regular horse thieves connected with an organized band operating in a line, with Fort Kearney as the probable terminus. One of their stations was said to be a point on Wetheral's creek, and another at the "big bend" of the river. The horses stolen were generally supposed to have been taken from Missouri, rather than from the people along the border, but the settlers from Washington, Clay and Republic counties were generally aroused.
That there were exaggerated reports there can be no doubt, one of which was that they were guerrillas. The latter was not generally believed, but in all probability was put in circulation by a few of the leading spirits in order to increase the feeling; the most prominent of whom was a man by the name of Rose, who lived on Wild Cat creek, and Fox, the founder of Clifton. The latter felt a little interested for suspicions were being formed that he was a man not without a blemish. The Conklins had it in their power to unveil the villiany of Fox, and such a man under existing circumstances would be unrelenting in his persecutions and yet he seemed to have much influence.
The number of citizens that gathered together with the determination to make short work of these boys was thirty. Luckily for them, however, a rumor of this affair reached them and they escaped, thus averting a crime. A majority of the mob were bent on vengeance and determined that this house should be pulled down, and the two sisters with an orphan child living with them were left homeless. In justice to the settlers of this county, it can be said they voted against this last shameful act.
While the house was being torn down, Peter and Charlie Conklin were lying concealed a short distance away and witnessed the whole performance. The next thing was the search for the fugitives, but after scouring the country about, the exploration proved a failure. Had they been discovered there might have been several lives forfeited. One of the Conklins afterward reported that during this search one of the number was within a few yards of them. Upon being asked what he would have done had he been found, replied that he did not know exactly, but in all probability would have lived, inasmuch as he had two loaded revolvers.
In order to escape punishment, they repaired to Leavenworth, where they enlisted in the United States service. They were followed to Leavenworth and were demanded of the military authorities, but their persecutors were told they would not be surrendered under any charges short of blood, so this ended the affray and a safe asylum had been found. The cabin pulled down over their heads, they were left with nothing to shelter them from the inclemency of the weather but a sheet stretched over a pole with no one to befriend them, no kindly hand to administer comfort, but were compelled to endure the frowns of an excited and prejudiced public, and pointed out as being the sisters of horse theives.[sic] During this time they were drenched by a severe rain storm. They were shown no mercy under the pretext that the brothers, out of sympathy, would come to their relief, thus making an opportunity to prosecute the intentions of the mob.
In order to show up the character of one of these "ring leaders," the substance of a speech delivered by Delilah, one of these unfortunate women, is given. This was probably the first public speech delivered in the county. After the house was torn down this woman, naturally feeling indignant and wishing to unburden her mind, and knowing the character of one of the mob, addressed something like the following language to James Fox: "You old thief, I will give you a piece of my mind. You are too cowardly to do any stealing for yourself, but want others to do it for you and then divide the spoils. Because my brothers would not go into any such arrangement with you, and fearing you might be caught in your thieving inclinations, you have incited this crowd against them. They are much better than you are and the sooner the people find it out the better."
This was rather a short address, but much too pointed for Fox. He hung his head, his countenance bearing the impress of conviction. To show how prophetic she was, this same Fox after leaving the county toured the state of Missouri in the cowardly profession of a bushwhacker. One of the Kansas militia, with whom Fox had been the means of stirring up unfriendly family relations, says the last he saw of him was his body shot full of bullet holes.
These two unfortunate victims, the Conklin sisters, were turned out of doors to suffer indefinitely. No one must be allowed to move them to their friends, for the decree of the mob was, "lynch anyone that attempts it." The agony of mind and body must have been intense, not knowing what future was in store for them, perhaps starvation. This fearful suspense was continued for about two weeks; finally the sympathy of J.M. Hagaman, who denounced the outrage of tearing down the house, became aroused to the extent that he yoked up his cattle and took them to a place of safety among their friends. This act of courage on the part of Mr. Hagaman should always redound to his credit.
The Conklin affair was one of the most outrageous that ever took place in the county, and that good men had a hand in it has its excuse in the statement made in the beginning of this article. This house was the first built on the town site of Eaton city; was a good hewed log building covered with shakes and considered at the time a very good one, as the most of them were covered with dirt. If this first house was standing great importance would be attached to it.
A part of the history connected with this affair partakes of a romantic nature. As usual in such incidents, a woman was connected with the case. Had it not been for a little love affair these boys would have met a tragical death. While the bob was in course of preparation great effort was made to prevent the Conklins from knowing anything about their movements. The whole success depended upon this and various opinions were given as to the mystery of their notification. Some accused Uncle Heller of having delivered it. Had he done so it would have been a good deed, but had it been known it is hard telling what his fate might have been.
Pete Conklin was paying his attentions to a young girl in the settlement, though under strong protest by her parents. She served him well at this important stage of the game, and could claim the indebtedness of prolonging two lives. At the time of the disclosure, she, with the two Conklin boys and Emanuel Cline were at Uncle Heller's, when Mr. Cline observed the following. The girl remarked: "Pete, come here, I want to tell you something." Pete obeyed, after which he remarked in an excited manner, "Charlie, come here, I want to tell you something." Soon afterward one of the boys with a revolver in hand approached Mr. Cline in an excited way, so much so that he began to fear that he was doomed, and remarked," the first d-d man that passes that bridge is a dead man."
So this little episode shows how they got their information. Mr. Cline, fearing that they might put the threat into execution, stationed himself near the bridge to warn the mob of danger. When they approached and saw him standing by himself, and not knowing his business, for about all they could think of at that time was horse thieves, they arrested him; but after a brief explanation he was released and the project of giving fight at the bridge was given up.
The year 1864 was one of the most eventful in Cloud county's history. The savages were making war on the whites in Minnesota and thousands of men and their families of innocent women and children were being murdered. There had been depredations committed in the southwestern part of Nebraska, and many of the ranchmen fell victims to the murderous tomahawk. The carnage was carried on, on this side of Fort Kearney, the enemy consisting of forces, that had they been so disposed, might have wiped the settlements out of existence within sight of Fort Riley, before they could have been checked; the settlers being so few and in such defenceless condition, it struck terror to the hearts of the people along the border of the frontier. Consequently the appearance of Indians in August of 1864, was followed by great fear and consternation, and a general flight or concentrating of the few settlers scattered along the creeks. These facts staring them in the face, it is no wonder they should become alarmed.
They could do nothing better than to congregate at Clay Center. All the settlers in the county, with the exception of Moses Heller, Israel Heller, Abram Cole, Andrew Smith, and possibly J.D. Robertson, left for this purpose. Conrad Myers, of Republic county, refused to go. R.P. West was at this time enroute to Fort Kearney and was not among the number. These are perhaps the only parties who remained at home. Before R.P. West started for Fort Kearney he induced Miss Mary Morley (now Mrs. John B. Rupe) to stay with Mrs. West during his absence. Late in the afternoon they received a message from Captain Schooley to be in readiness to start with him and his family to Clay Center. They took a different view of the situation, and after consulting together concluded to risk their chances at home. About midnight they received another message without option. They were told if they did not go willingly they would be taken by force, consequently they joined the party at Captain Schooley's and they started with about all of the Salt creek settlers before daylight for Clay Center.
G.W. Glover, at that time living on Petes creek, could not for some reason get started with the rest, and remained one night longer. The next morning he yoked up his cattle and started, but while on the way, leisurely driving along eating melons, they were met by a dozen or fifteen men who had started to look for them, under the false alarm that they were murdered and their house burned; a rumor started by Mr. Crop and family, who had passed the day previous, and possibly imagined they saw a smoke and as they said smelled burning feathers. Mr. Crop was too much alarmed to stop, but went hastily on to Manhattan.
After remaining a while at Clay Center, the settlers fell back to Clifton. Fear were entertained for R.P. West's safety, but he escaped unharmed. Returning home he found no one there and as the next Sabbath was his day for preaching at Clifton, he hastily repaired to that point, where he found Mrs. West. This was a joyful occasion, pleasing to Mr. West for two reasons first, the meeting of his wife: second, he had the fugitives to preach to, which occasion he gladly improved, taking for his text the appropriate passage found in Isaiah 1:19, which reads as follows: "if ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land."
After discoursing from this text to the very best of his ability, he concluded with the following remarks: "And now my friends let me say this is our land and if we are obedient we shall eat the fat of the land, but you must quit stealing the Indians' traps and ponies and quit poisoning their dogs. Do this and my word for it, and I am sure I am backed by the Word of God, there is not enough thieving, murderous red skins in the western world to run us away from our homesteads. So now my suffering fellow frontiersmen let me say my faith is in God and my home is on Salt creek, they will find us there.
At the conclusion of these earnest and practical remarks, Captain Sshooley[sic] came out of his tent and begged permission to say a few words. Leave being granted by the preacher, the captain spoke as follows: "Ladies and gentlemen, I want every man and boy that belongs to my company to come in tomorrow morning at ninee o'clock and get a gun and ammunition, for I believe in fighting Indians with lead and not with prayers." Then Reverend West said: "That's right, captain, keep your powder dry, but trust the Lord." And then the congregation was dismissed. Reverend West then proceeded to Clyde, where he ministered to a few kindred spirits, then accompanied by his devoted wife started for their home on Salt creek, singing as they went: "There is a spot to me more dear than native dale or mountain, etc." They arrived safely home, where through all the trials of the settlement of this country they could be found ready at all times to feed the hungry, spiritually or materially, clothe the naked or give chase to the red man.
A consultation was held at Clifton and a location decided upon for building a fort. They chose a place near G.D. Brooks' claim. This fort or block house, was called by way of derision, Fort Skedaddle number three, Clay Center being number one and Clifton number two. In the meantime a scouting party under command of Captain Schooley, went out as far as White Rock, but finding no Indians, the majority of them returned, thus making good the celebrated words of Mrs. Schooley to the wives of those who went. "You needn't be alarmed, the captain won't take them into danger." G.D. Brooks, J.M. Hagaman, J.C. Chester and others, went much farther and satisfied themselves there need be no further immediate fears in regard to Indians, so things gradually quieted down and for a time went on peaceably.
Company C, Seventeenth Regiment, Kansas State Militia, was organized early in 1864. Of this Colonel J.M. Schooley was captain; J.M. Hagaman, first lieutenant: J.C. Chester, second lieutenant; Daniel Myers, third lieutenant and G.D. Brooks, ensign. In commenting upon this militia, Mr. Rupe says: "As is stated there were thirty privates in this company. He thinks they were heavily officered, if Mr. Brooks was considered a commissioned officer, there would be one to every six men. Who ever heard of a third lieutenant? And for ensign, would have to go to the unabridged dictionary to find it, 'an old extinct commissioned office that required the carrying of the flag.' now performed by the color bearer." He further says, "so far as numbers were considered, no fault could be found, but the manner in which this militia was composed made it very inefficient. How they happened to choose such a man as Schooley for captain can only be accounted for on the ground that he was a braggart bombast, and fooled the people. His remarks after the sermon of R.P. West revealed his character. He should have been elected ensign and left at home for the want of a flag to carry. The old settlers all seemed to regard him as a coward."
Had G.D. Brooks been commissioned captain, the result would have been different, as all who knew him could well attest his great courage; but he was given a mere nominal position. Mr. Hagaman and J.C. Chester were also men to be relied upon, in times of danger none were braver, and the same might be said of Daniel Myers.
October 4, 1866, there were five municipal townships created as follows: Elk, Sibley, Shirley, Buffalo and Solomon. On September 6, 1871, petitions were presented and the township of Plainfield, which included that part of range 2, south of the Republican river and north of the center of town 7 and the township of Lincoln, which included that part of range 3 and 4 south of the Republican, north of the center of the town 7, and east of the center line of range 4, were organized.
During the interim from 1866 to 1871 the line between Elk and Sibley townships was changed to the line between ranges 2 and 3.
Elk township is located in the northeast corner of the county and is bounded on the south by the Republican river, which furnishes excellent water power. In this locality an abundance of red sandstone is found within a short distance of Clyde. The land consists of a rich sandy loam, which yields immense crops of grain and melons; the latter growing to gigantic proportions. (See Clyde's Carnival.) Elk creek intersects this township from north to south; its confluence with the Republican being in the vicinity of Clyde. This is one of the best watered localities in the county, Good water can be found at a depth of from eighteen to fifty feet. Clyde, one of the most flourishing little cities in northwest Kansas, is situated principally on the west side of Elk creek and just north of the Republican river, which touches near the city limits. The original township of Elk comprised all the territory north of the Republican river and west to range 2. The township was settled in 1859 by John and Lew Fowler, one Brown and Harlow Seymour.
Solomon comprises 34,560 acres of land and is one of the most prosperous townships in the county. The Solomon river enters; from near the center of the west boundary line and winds through the township to the southeast corner, furnishing fine water power. One of the best mill sites in the county is at Brittsville, on the Solomon river, owned and operated by Long Brothers. (See sketch.) About fifty per cent of the ground is bottom land, and about ten per cent is forest timber. This is also a fine stock raising country and one of the most prosperous farming districts in the state of Kansas. Solomon township originally extended across the entire southern part of the county and was thirty miles in length by nine to twelve miles in width. The first settlers were John Hillhouse, Robert Smith and James Hendershot, in January, 1865. In April of the same year H.H. Spaulding and M.D. Teasley came, while others followed closely during the first and second years following.
Sibley being bounded on the south and west by the serpentine course of the Republican river, is very irregular in outline. It has an area of thirty-five square miles; is ten miles long east and west, with a breadth of from little more than one to five miles. Its greatest breadth is across the center and nearly opposite the city of Concordia. It is bounded by the Republican county line on the north. About one-fifth of the surface is bottom land, one-fifth hills or spurs of the divide and the remaining three-fifths second bottom. Lake Sibley, a description of which is given elsewhere, is situated in this township. All the territory north of the Republican river to the Republic county line, and west from range 2, to the west line of the county, was included in the first creation of the township.
Shirley township originally extended from the county's east line, west to the center of range 3, and south to the center of town 7. Shirley is bounded on the north by the Republican river, on the east by Clay county and extends south of Colfax and west to the lines of Nelson and Lawrence townships. Elm creek intersects its southwest corner and flows in a northery direction through the entire length of the township, and empties into the Republican a short distance north of the little town of Ames. Beaver and Dry creeks run through the eastern part of the township. The inhabitants are composed almost entirely of French people, most of whom are from Canada and Kankakee, Illinois. St. Joseph, the Catholic town, founded by Father Mollier, is situated one mile east and one mile south of the center of the township.
As an original township, Buffalo comprises all the land west of Shirley township and north of the line between towns 6 and 7. It was reorganized July 2, 1872, and some of its former territory left unorganized. But during the same session Summit township was created and included the part left out by Buffalo. Dr. D.B. Moore was appointed its first trustee. Buffalo township is partially bounded on the north by the Republican river and is very irregular in outline. Buffalo creek enters the township from the west and flows almost due east across the township into the Republican river. The southern part is drained by White's creek; a tributary of Buffalo, and Wolf creek, of the Republican river. This is one of the most extensive wheat growing townships in the county, and the farmers are almost universally prosperous.
On January 2, 1872, this part of Solomon situated east of the line between ranges 3 and 4, was organized into a new township and given the name of Meredith. George W. Carver was appointed the first trustee. It is located in the center of the southern tier of townships, and the land is watered by First Pipe creek, which runs the entire length of the township from north to south. A more beautiful country or more prosperous people than the inhabitants in this locality does not exist in this part of the state. John Murphy was the first white child born in the township.
When the new board of county commissioners assumed their duties on January 8, 1872, the first petition for new townships that came up before them was town 5, range 5, which was organized and named Grant, for General Grant, then President of the United States. J.F. McCracken was the first trustee. G.W. Johnson and Reginald Reed were the first to take up claims in this township. Three valleys center near the middle of Grant township, which lie in the northeast corner of the county. Buffalo creek, Salt Marsh and the Big Cheyenne, and consequently has but a small per cent of upland. The great salt marsh of four thousand acres, lies partly in the northern portion of the township. There are many Danes in this vicinity, all of them prosperous and well-to-do citizens. This township has the largest per cent of wheat of any in the county.
The second petition, and following that of Grant, was town 7, range 1, which became Colfax township, named in honor of the vice-president of the United States, then in office. W.F. Campbell was the first trustee. George Ginter was the first settler, Colfax is situated in the southern part of the county and is bounded oon the west by Aurora and on the south by Starr. Both Grant and Colfax townships were organized April 11, 1872. The surface of the country in Colfax township, is the finest in the county; a beautiful undulating prairie. Mulberry, the principle stream, runs diagonally through the township. It is a small creek, but affords water very nearly all the year, and along its banks are numerous springs.
The following autumn after Grant and Colfax were organized Arion township was inaugurated. Its poetical name is significant of "Evening Star." Aurora township was admitted at the same time and was given the musical name of Aurora, which means "Morning Star." Arion is the township west of the center of the county. It is nine miles square. The greater part of the land is rolling prairie. The small valleys are along the creeks and extending back and away from them, is considerable tableland. Wolf and Coal creeks intersect Arion on the east, the west branch of Wolf creek on the west, and all furnish considerable timber. William Gilmore was the first trustee.
On October 25, 1872, the Nelson township organization was effected by the people of town 6, range 2, who presented a petition. This left only that portion of town 5, range 2, South of the Republican river in Plainfield township, and as that did not constitute the legal apportionment required it was attached to Elk, and the township "Plainfield" was extinguished. The surface of Nelson is drained by Elk creek.
On October 25, 1872, the citizens of town and range 2, petitioned for separation from Elk township and was organized as a township called "Lawrence," in honor of L.D. Lawrence, its earliest settler, who came there in 1864, R.F. Clarke was the first trustee. It is one of the northern tier of townships and is bounded on the east by Elk, on the South by Nelson, and on the west by Sibley. The surface is composed of about three-fourths river and creek bottom land. There is but a small per cent of upland and all the ground is tillable. The Republican river runs through the township and is fed from the South by Plum and Oak creeks and on the north by Salt, Upton and Little Upton creeks, and all find their confluence with the Republican river in Lawrence township. The largest of these streams, Salt creek, is fed by numerous springs and furnishes living water the entire year. It is spanned by a one hundred foot bridge. The coal fields adjacent to Minersville, lie in the northwestern portion of Lawrence township, and just over the line of Sibley. The inhabitants in this vicinity are composed of a large portion of Danes and Swedes, who are thrifty, enterprising citizens and have made for themselves good homes.
This township, originally a part of Solomon, was detached April 7, 1872, and organized under the name of Fowler, in honor of its earliest settier; but a month later, was changed to Lyon, in honor of General Nathaniel Lyon. J.H. Neal was the first trustee. It includes town 8 and the south half of town 7, in range 4. It is nine miles in length north and south, by six miles in width, and contains fifty-four square miles. It is bounded on the north by Arion, on the east by Center and Meredith. Ottawa county on the south and Solomon township on the west. The larger part of the township lies in the fruitful Solomon valley and the remainder on the divide between the Solomon and Republican river valleys. This is one of the leading live stock growing townships in the county. Chris creek drains the western part, Mortimer the central, and Yockey the eastern portion; all tributaries of the Solomon, which intersect the southwest corner of the township. Magnesia limestone in inexhaustible quantities is found in this locality, and is used extensively for building purposes.
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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