The name is suggestive of its location and the geographical center of the county is very near that of the township. It was organized May 23, 1873. Zacariah Swearinger was its first settler. The long divide between the Solomon and Republican of this highland is a plateau ranging from one to three miles in width, and numerous fine farms are found there. South of this upland the country is quite hilly and broken, as is also the western portion; however a rich limestone loam prevails throughout and yields a bountiful crop of grain. The whole surface of these highlands is underlaid with magnesia limestone. Bituminous coal has also been discovered, but not extensively mined. Both branches of Oak creek take their rise in this township; there is also what is termed the "Middle Branch."
Lincoln township, wherein the city of Concordia is situated, was organized January 3, 1873, and contains twenty-four square miles of land. It comprises the north half of town six and south half of range three west, and all that part of town five lying south of the Republican river. About one-half of its surface is rich bottom land. The eastern part is drained by Oak creek and the western by Lost creek, both traversing the township north to the Republican river. The Republican river forms the boundary line on the north, between Lyon and Sibley townships. It is bounded on the east by Lyon and Nelson, on the south by Center, and on the West by Buffalo.
Starr township includes town eight, range one, and is the extreme southeastern township of the county. Its creation was effected October 6, 1873. James T. Brook was elected trustee. The township is drained by Chapman creek and its tributaries which flow in a southwesterly direction. Chapman creek is fed by many springs, affords water the year around, and is also skirted by timber.
Oakland was organized July 10, 1874, and completed the present list of townships in Cloud county. It occupies town eight, range two west. the division, J.L.B. Stanton, who had been elected trustee of Meredith taken into the new township and became its first trustee. The first families to settle in this township were I.E. Burkhart, Isaac Smith and A.J. McAllister. It is located in the southern tier of townships and is second in number from the east line of the county. The surface is drained by the east branch and middle branch, tributaries of Pipe creek. The people of Oakland township are well-to-do and rank with the most prosperous of the county. As the undulating prairie sweeps away from some of the high elevations in Oakland township, a fine view of the Solomon valley is given, presenting one of the finest landscapes of the entire country.
An extended history of Aurora township appears in another part of this history.
Prior to 1866, the towns of Clyde, Concordia, Jamestown, Glasco and Miltonville were unknow[sic] and where they now stand, the lithe-limbed deer and antelope gamboled, herds of buffalo tramped and the red man reveled in wild freedom, while the prairie grass rolled and tossed in the breezes like a vast green sea.
The early settlers of Cloud county evinced confidence in its future and backed their belief with evident sincerity, looking forward with an eye of hope and faith to building homes for themselves in the new western country. The vast sums of money that have been expended to build schools, the erection of their beautiful court house, the expenditure for pavements and beautifying the cities, all evidence the fact that her citizens possess high moral stamina. The many charming residences with their beautiful green lawns and shade trees exhibit a pride that is highly gratifying, and even the lowliest homes are not without these luxuries.
The year 1866, following the close of the Rebellion left many soldiers foot loose, many of whom were discharged in this state and naturally sought the broad prairies of Kansas. Among this number are a few of the old settlers at the present time, and some others who date their coming during this year. In 1866 the county was organized and the original town company of Clyde formed, making this an interesting period in the history of Cloud county.
The country at this time was in a crude state. Where Clyde now stands, "Uncle Heller" and his son David lived in a crude log house. They had built a new one which was required as a store-room for the few goods of Chauncey Cowell and Charles Davis, which had just been brought into the country. The next house was erected on the west side of the creek - a cabin built of round logs with a dirt roof occupied by Joseph Berry. The next building was similar in architecture and occupied by Tom Hay. The next house was built by J.B. Rupe and occupied by Andrew W. Smith. Still further west, on what is known as the William Crammer farm, lived Ed Neely. The Cline residence stood on the Kennedy farm, later owned by Reverend Cornforth. Israel Heller lived in a cabin adjoining his father's on the cast. This was the extent of what might be termed the Elk Creek settlement.
All the land under cultivation at that time in this community was ten acres on the Heller farm, about the same amount on the Donald McIntosh claim, which was probably broken by the Conklins, and five acres on the claim of Ed Neely. This may seem a poor exhibit for a settlement which had been in existence six years, but there were continual drawbacks to its advancement, constant exposure to the outbreaks of the savages and the great drouth of 1860. Notwithstanding the small population three of their number enlisted in the army: Joseph Berry, Emanuel Cline and David Heller, and nothing was done by way of improvement on their claims. Cline, while in the army, had his cabin torn down and burned for camp fire by a portion of the Eleventh Kansas, who were passing through this section.
These drawbacks had a discouraging effect on new comers, who, finding innumerable obstacles to surmount, would become disheartened and leave, consequently let no one be hasty in condemning the sturdy old pioneers who bravely withstood the trials and hardships of frontier life for this seemingly poor showing, but rather wonder why they did not all return to the land of their nativity, where a substantial existence could be obtained without the dangers incident to the frontier.
The early settlers were neighbors even when thirty, forty or fifty miles apart. For several years in this small neighborhood there was but one mowing machine, and that did duty for all. John Cory was the lucky owner, and usually had to go about thirty miles from home to some of his nearest neighbors to mow. Among these were the Clovers and Nyes, on Petes creek; Corys, Van Nattas, Myers and Wests, on Salt creek; Hagamans, Thorpes and Randal Honey, on Elm creek: Hellers, Neelys, Morleys, B.V. Honey, Coopers, Seaburys and Chesters, on Elk creek. Even some could be mentioned who lived at Sibley and White Rock that helped to constitute the settlement. These are what might be called the primitive settlers of the Republican valley. Of these John Cory has been the most successful so far as this world's goods is concerned.
During the year 1866, the Elk creek settlers began agitating the important subject of establishing schools. It was no uncommon thing at that time to hear the old bachelors denounced as a perfect nuisance, for next to the Indians they seemed the most despised, and when he came and took up a claim, they rightfully considered his action as so much against the prospect of schools, and an injury to the growth and prosperity of the country; but emigration was coming in and some action in regard to schools must be had. Early in the spring of that year a meeting was called at "Uncle" Heller's for the purpose of divising means for building a school house. "Uncle" Heller was chairman and Joseph Berry secretary.
Believing that Elk Creek would become an important point eventually, they decided to build a "good one," the size to be sixteen by twenty-two feet; material, hewed logs, dirt roof and cottonwood floor. Each settler signed four dollars apiece, which was to be paid in work and the meeting was adjourned. To the people of Cloud county to-day it might seem a house of such dimensions and material could soon be built; but much hard struggling and parleying ensued before this house was completed. There were more vexations connected with it than the present magnificent building that graces the city of Clyde to-day.
The building was commenced with the expectation of having it ready for school in the early summer months, but the 14th of July had arrived before they were ready for the "raising." The question was, how this latter event could be brought about. A plan was happily hit upon by F.B. Rupe. The settlers all turned out, and connected with the raising, a picnic at "Uncle" Heller's; an enjoyable affair, attended with a feast, consisting of all the luxuries the country afforded, but the house still lacked much of being completed. It was necessary to have a roof, floor and paint. These seemingly insurmountable difficulties were eventually overcome. but not until some time in the winter.
A Doctor Rogers was employed to teach the first school, whose services as an instructor amounted to nothing. Sometimes he would be in the room during school hours, again he would not. He would tell his pupils to remain and study while he went over to the store and read the newspaper, talked politics, or discussed the ordinary topics of the day. The result can be imagined: romp and play the order of exercise. Nevertheless, to this man must be given the credit of being their first school teacher, though by many he was thought to be unequally balanced. The school was taught by subscription.
This building served not only as a school house, but as a public meeting house for all other occasions, even court business for the county, the commissioners meeting in it to transact their business. Dirt would often come rattling down through the roof in piles upon the writing desk, yet it was the best in the county, and continued to be until their frame school house was built. It was in this cabin that Clyde's gifted and witty Judge Borton made his first law speech to the "unsophisticated natives," before a board of county commissioners, where a man had been arraigned on a charge of having made his listment of taxable property to the assessor too small. The judge defended and cleared him.
On April 30, 1866, the log house formerly owned by Herman & Davis as a store building was raised. Frank Rupe says the first drunkenness in Clyde occurred on this occasion. This house was erected by Cowel & Davis, the first merchants of the settlement. There are several persons now living in Clyde who assisted in the raising of this house, viz: W.H. Page, J.B. Rupe, F.B. Rupe and U.J. Smith, all of whom doubtless remember the good old-fashioned dinner that greeted them at "Uncle" Heller's.
Although erected before the formation of the town company, this building might be considered the beginning of Clyde and the first house built in the county crowned by a shingle roof, and first to be decorated on the inside by what was then considered a splendid lot of goods by Cowel & Davis, and within its walls W.S. Herman and Hugh Kirkpatrick commenced their career as clerks. This building was also distinguished as being the birthplace of the Republican Valley Empire, published by H. Buckingham. The first number was issued on Tuesday, May 31, 1870. Great interest was manifested by the citizens of Clyde when the first number of this paper was being printed. The emigrants who were coming in by hundreds, as they passed the office with their household effects on a prairie schooner manifested great surprise at seeing a press in full blast so far in the wilderness. This historical building was burned to the ground on September 22, 1882.
An article contributed by Mrs. Alice L. Bates to a volume on the schools of Kansas is as follows:
In the month of May, 1866, a party of five might have been seen wending their way from the "Elm Creek settlement," where Clyde is now situated, to the present town of Washington, Kansas, then only one log hut. The member of the party in whom we are interested was Miss Rosella Honey, who was seeking Mr. Horfine, superintendent of Washington county, and also of Shirley county (now Cloud), for the purpose of taking a teachers' examination.
There were no roads, only the paths of the buffalo or the dim trail made by an occasional wagon. At last darkness overtook them and they lost their way. There was not a glimmer of a friendly light to beckon them on their way, yet on they went. At last the barking of a dog told them they were not alone in that region. A rude cabin was found, the inmates aroused and information received that they were several miles out of their way; also that the superintendent had gone to Junction City to mill.
The journey had been made in vain and must be repeated. Imagine the disappointment of the party, especially Miss Honey, who was anxious, as teachers usually are, to take examinations. The second attempt was more successful. The examination consisted of a few oral questions in arithmetic, grammar and geography. More than this, she read a paragraph in the newspaper and wrote her name. Compare this with two days' continuous writing after four weeks' hard work in the institute, and most teachers will conclude it was something to have lived in the "good old times."
The next month Miss Honey began the first school in what is now Cloud county. It was known as the Elm Creek school, taught in a log house, the typical early school house of the county. There were neither doors nor windows; only "logs left out." The floor was kindly provided by nature, the seats were logs split in halves with pegs, which served as legs driven in the convex side. Desks and blackboards there were none. Among the distinguished visitors during the term was a tribe of Otoe Indians.
There was an enrollment of eighteen pupils and for teaching these "young ideas how to shoot," Miss Honey received eight dollars per month. The term was three months in length and the last day was celebrated by the marriage of the teacher to W.M. Wilcox.
To Milo Stevens, who has been a resident of Clyde for many years, belongs the distinction of having taught the first school in the embryo city of Concordia. He received a salary of twenty dollars per month.
Claim jumping was indulged in to some extent in the early settlement. An unprincipled fellow would often select a claim and either contest the right himself, or call to it the attention of an eastern emigrant, who could rely upon the claim jumper swearing to all that was necessary, proceed to consult a lawyer, and get out papers for the contest.
This character of individual became so common that in several localities he was visited by a committee provided with "hemp" and other paraphernalia necessary in the event that he did not make an exit. He usually compiled with the law laid down upon this occasion.
The dwelling of the homestead settler on the frontier known as "dugouts," were temporary structures, the memory of which is fast fading into oblivion. Hastily constructed by the pioneers for the immediate shelter and comfort they afforded their families until time and circumstances would permit of more substantial residences being erected.
These temporary homes are almost entirely a thing of the past, few remaining as a reminder of those primitive days. Occasionally one is left standing for the sake of "Auld Lang Syne," as it were, and few are still inhabited; but these latter were built in more modern architecture, with windows, floors and are comfortable habitations. In driving over the country the author has found the tumbled down remains of several of these interesting boroughs, for many of them were little less than a hole in the ground. Now and again a rock wall or front is still standing (against some hillside) that did duty as a settler's domicile and could these walls talk they would tell many a tale of life on the frontier, commingling of loneliness, sorrow, pain, hardships and suffering, often times made lighter, perhaps, by happy visions of a future home. A description of these relics are not given for the past or present, but that the coming and future generations may know the design and style of residence that prevailed among the homestead pioneer. The site was generally selected on a hillside or base of a ridge. Walls were usually made by digging out the earth, and were walled with rock when obtainable, or a layer of logs or poles. The excavation was ordinarily about twelve by fifteen feet, with a large fork set in the ground at each angle, and poles were laid across with a ridge pole in the center sufficiently strong to hold the heavy weight of earth and sod - the covering of the roof.
On the top of these rude structures there was often growing in harmony together a mass of prairie grass, weeds and sunflowers. The front of the dugout is usually built of stone, or logs, with space for a door, perhaps one window, rarely two, sometimes none. In some instances a hole would be left for the purpose of admitting air and light. The floor was almost invariably of terra firma leveled smooth and cleanly swept.
Many of these crude huts sheltered families who had seen better days - even some who had been reared in the lap of luxury and have since figured most conspicuously and prominently in the history of Cloud county. Most of these pioneers were an intellectual, industrious people who came west to secure homes and to better their condition. They had all seen better days. There were no drones among them; for that class of people would not dare face the hardships a new country must impose. The settlers' wives were brave and true women and many of the dugouts were models of cleanliness and neatness, and comfortable to the extent of their provisions for making them so.
A Sunday school teacher in Glasco asked one of his brightest pupil's "What kind of a house did Adam and Eve live in?" The young hopeful studied a moment, and thinking of the Kansas primitive mode of dwelling, replied, "In a dugout, I guess."
The following pioneer wedding ceremony performed by the late Reverend R.P. West, as given by Colonel E.J. Jenkins in The Northern Tier. is well worth reproducing:
"I was invited by a settler to visit one of those 'dugouts' and witness the marriage of his daughter. 'Be sure and come,' said the hospitable farmer and his wife, as they departed from town, with a goodly portion of provisions to he transformed into a wedding dinner. It was a mild October day, and committing the care of the office to the register and clerks, I shook the dust of Concordia from my feet, and rode into the country to attend the wedding at the 'dugout' of my friend.
"His primitive mansion was situated at the base of a ridge, surrounded with a beautiful grove of his own planting. As I rode up the lane, on one side of the corn-field, the frosted blades rustled in the winds, and the weedless ground was checkered with gold-colored sweet pumpkins. On the opposite side was a corral, in which several well-fed milch cows stood lazily, or leisurely walked toward the watering trough at the sound of the creaking of the well wheel, denoting that it was the time for moistening their capacious stomachs with nature's beverage. As I approached the dwelling my friend was issuing his commands to the playful children while caring for teams that had arrived, while his wife and a couple of neighbor ladies were dexterously plucking the feathers from the body of a large turkey and other fowls, and the prospective bride, blushing, and happy, was receiving her lady friends. Beneath the branches of the grove was a sward of blue grass, sown and cultivated by the settler. After caring for the teams, he showed me his farm, his fields and his improvements, closing his conversation by avowing his determination to build a more substantial residence in the near future.
"The hilarity of the guests upon arrival, evidenced that they were thorough partakers of the genuine enjoyment of witnessing a weddlng on the frontier. The whole scene was one of happiness and pleasure.
"A number of the neighbors and friends of the parties had arrived, conspicuous among whom was the officiating clergyman, the Reverend Romulus Pintus Westlake, with the conventional plug hat shading his manly brow, his bland countenance wreathed in happy smiles.
"I will not attempt to assume the role and claim the privilege of the professional 'Jenkins,' who frequents places of fashionable resort to describe stunning toilets and print personal gossip; but let this suffice for a description of the toilets of the homestead wedding party, that the neat calico dresses and sun-shade hats of the ladies, and the cheap but durable raiment of the gentlemen, were in harmony with the times, and with the plain, domestic spirit that prevailed in the homestead region. The hour having arrived for the ceremony, the 'dugout' being found inadequate to accommodate the assembly, an adjournment to the grove was carried unanimously. The Reverend Romulus appeared to be in his natural element, supremely happy, prefacing the ceremony with a flow of eloquence, and an elaborate allusion to the happy union about to be consummated beneath the canopy of heaven, according to the institutions and laws of God and man. After he had pronounced the parties man and wife, he proceeded, in an impressive manner, to give them some gratuitous advice as to their marital obligations, throwing in some camp meeting phrases concerning their duty to lead Christian lives. such as, 'Train up children while young, in the way they should go, and when they become old they will not depart from it,' and kindred benevolent injunctions. Good advice, I thought, but rather premature.
"During the delivery of this exhortation, Romulus became so impressed with his subject, that with the surrounding scene and his anxiety for the happiness of the entire assembly, he appeared to be entranced, as though suddenly inspired by the thought that he was in the midst of a wedding revival, similar in excitement to a camp-meeting outpouring. His musical and earnest voice rang out clear on the autumn breeze to the most remote portion of the assembly, and these were some of his expressions:
"'Are there not more of the young people in this crowd who desire to be made as happy as this couple, by uniting in the holy bonds of wedlock? If so, now is the accepted time. Let them come forth to the altar of conjugal bliss and embrace the present opportunity to be made happy."
"That appeal seemed to produce an electrical effect, as a couple of swains stepped forth from their seats, each leading by the hand a blushing damsel, with whom they had previously commenced a preliminary courtship.
"At this juncture in the proceedings, Esquire O-, a venerable homestead settler, arose and objected, when a controversy occurred between him and Romulus, the 'squire saying:
"I have been jestice of the peace two terms, and the statut of Kansas does not 'low any one to marry without fust gittin' a license, and as I am a jestice of the peace, and by virtoo of my office as a peace officer, it is my bounden duty to object to these young people being married without fust gittin' a license:
"Romulus replied 'Squire, I can marry them, and they call afterwards procure the license, for human events are uncertain, and when a woman is once in the notion of marrying, if she is disappointed, she may not again consent to marry the man to whom she is first engaged, and should that be the misfortune of either of these young men, they may drift away on the sea of despair and commit the unpardonable sin of suicide. Remember, 'squire, that you and I were once young."
The 'squire replied, earnestly: 'I say the p'int o' the business is, the license shall be issued before the marriage can be permitted, and it is my bounden duty as a jestice of the peace to see that the law is not violated."
"'Squire, I can marry them and the license can be issued and dated back. I have known marriage licenses to be dated back under less favorable circumstances than those surrounding these young people."
"The 'squire still persisted in his objections, and the matter was finally submitted to me. I promptly decided that the justice was right, when Romulus yielded, and advised the young men to 'hold the fort' until they could procure the license, and he would then marry them free of charge.
"In due time the tables were spread in the grove, and dinner announced. Such a dinner! It seemed that culinary skill had been taxed to the utmost to prepare the bountiful repast spread before the assembly - roast turkey, pyramids of cake, columns of pumpkin pies, suberb[sic] coffee, goblets of sweet milk, neatly indented rolls of choice butter, etc., etc. But why describe it? To appreciate such a dinner, one must be seated at the table and assist in dispatching it. I could verify my description of it by the affidavit of the Reverend Romulus, whose fondness for good dinners was signally displayed on that occasion. I became alarmed lest he might injure his health, as large portions of the turkey rapidly succumbed to his voracious appetite. My astonishment increased, however, when he attacked a column of pumpkin pies, and created sad havoc among the jelly dishes and other desert.
"Dinner oven, the fiddler took a position on a bench under the shade of the trees, and the young people quickly formed for the customary dance. A number of the middle-aged men and women joined in the quadrille, and seemed to have renewed their youth as they tripped lightly to the inspiring music.
"The Reverend Romulus became silent and thoughtful, and uttering some partially incoherent remarks about the waywardness of mankind, called for his horse. I insisted on his remaining until the quadrille was ended, when we could say farewell to our host and the bride and bridegroom, and as an extra inducement, intimated that at the close of the ceremony he had omitted to salute the happy couple. I also urged that after taking leave of our friends I would accompany him, as our route homeward was in the same direction for several miles.
"Meantime the dance progressed. The whole scene was one of enjoyment. The music, borne by the breeze to every part of the grove, and interrupted only by the clarion voice of the promoter, created a marked sensation of pleasure. A group of elderly ladies gossiped as they watched the agile movements of the young men, and graceful, modest promenading of the young ladies. A stalwart settler, leaning against a tree, declared to a neighbor that, 'no new got-up cotillion could compare with the "old Virginia reel," when he and the old woman were young.'
"The healthful, blushing faces of the ladies, and sun-tanned features of the gentlemen, when dancing, were radiant, indices of genuine pleasure and happiness.
"Romulus assumed an air of sadness, and addressing me, said, 'The human heart is as prone to evil as the sparks to fly upward.' As we rode down the lane his wit and humor revived, and when we separated beyond a grove, his musical voice rang out clear on the evening air as he sang, 'When I call read my title clear,' etc.
"I could but reflect that, though eccentric, he possessed a noble heart, and the cause of Christianity was in trustworthy keeping within the boundaries of his circuit on the frontier."
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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