Game was plentiful in those days, and deer, wild turkeys and prairie chickens furnished a fair supply of meat. Of wolves there was a superabundance. They often could be seen in droves, of six to ten, and when the sun had disappeared behind the western prairies and darkness began to settle down upon the earth, they came boldly up to the cabin of the settler and howled and howled.
But the howling of wolves, the screaming of wild cats and the screeching of owls, while they produced an unpleasant effect on persons of nervous temperament, yet it all served as a change to drive dull care away. No piano nor organs furnished music to the family, but the wild animals did their part. It is true that it was not always as melodious as could be desired, but it was better than none.
With the approach of the winter 1866 and 1867, very many of the settlers found that malarial troubles had arrived. Chills and fever, or ague as it was called, became very prevalent. In fact, but few homes in Crawford county escaped the scourge. It was not uncommon when calling upon your neighbor to find the whole family sick and confined to bed; not one able to wait on or care for the others.
To add to the peril of sickness, doctors were very scarce, and a long distance apart, so that father or mother, or both, became the family physician; and when any of the family visited some far-away town for provisions or other supplies, pills, quinine, leptandrum, cinchonia, calomel and capsicum were generally included. And such doses as they dealt out! No wonder that such diseases are almost wholly unknown in Crawford county now; those doses were enough to scarce[sic] anything away.
Soon after the election of April 15, 1867, Lafayette Manlove, the newly chosen county clerk, saddled his horse and rode from township to township, hunting for the township and county officers who were chosen at said election, securing their bonds and inducting them into office.
The justices of the peace and constables were the only ones who were likely to have official duties to perform. The road overseers had no roads to work, as none had been laid out. They had no bridges to build, for the public crossed the streams wherever it was convenient, and traveled in any or all directions as best suited its purpose.
The duties of courts and their administrative officers were not very arduous. Most of the justices of the peace had never seen a Kansas statute, and knew very little of the duties which the law imposed. Occasionally disputes acrose[sic] which sometimes ended in assault, when it became necessary to invoke the power of the law. Or a settler found some stray animal with his herds, and it became necessary to advertise and post the same and enter it on the book, or docket, of a justice of the peace. But not many such occasions arose. Perhaps it would give the reader a clearer understanding of the then existing state of things should the writer relate one of two instances.
A. J. Georgia, who had emigrated with his family from the state of Iowa, was one of the justices chosen at the election April 15, 1867. One day in the early part of June, while busily engaged in the field attending corn, he saw a man approaching from the south. The stranger was about fifty years of age, of medium stature, and full rotund build. As he approached and before a word had been spoken by either party, it became apparent to the justice that his visitor was a German and, from the blackened appearance of his eyes, had been in a fight. The man's name was Osterman, and in broken English he related the story of his troubles. He said he owned a claim about four miles south, and his neighbor, a man by the name of Jerry Elexson, wanted to drive him away so he could get the land; that he had refused to leave, and that Elexson had blackened his two eyes with his fist, and he wished to take the law on Elexson. The justice had no Kansas statutes, and knew nothing of the laws as laid down therein. He had no blank forms, except such as were contained in his head, and not a sheet of paper about the cabin. However, a flyleaf of a school book was torn out; the complaint written out by the justice and sworn to by Osterman; another blank leaf was converted into a warrant, which was placed in the hands of a constable, who proceeded to arrest Elexson. A jury found him guilty, and assessed a fine of five dollars, which was paid over by the court to S. J. Langdon, county treasurer, and was the only money received by him, as treasurer, during his term of office.
At the election above mentioned W. A. Martin was chosen justice of the peace, and T. Byron constable of Crawford township. As Martin was the nearest justice to Girard he was most frequently called upon to settle disputes among his neighbors. He was a man of good repute, and would rather be the means of effecting a compromise between the litigants than to try a case and get his fees. But sometimes he could not put off the complainant, and then proceeded cautiously, for fear of going wrong.
On one occasion J. Ury, who resided at Fort Scott, in Bourbon county, had several colts that strayed away and came to the vicinity of Henry Schoen's farm, near Girard, and fed on the range with the latter's stock. As they were outside his enclosure Schoen paid little attention to them, so they grazed in the vicinity all summer and the following winter. When spring came and the fresh new grass made its appearance, they wandered off and were not seen again in the neighborhood. Some time afterward, Mr. Ury learned that a herd of horses had been grazing in the vicinity of Mr. Schoen's farm, and started out to find his colts. Going to the farm of Mr. Schoen and, upon inquiry, being told that a herd, bearing the description given by Mr. Ury, had been in the neighborhood the summer and winter previous, he concluded that something was wrong. He proceeded to swear out a warrant, and the constable, Mr. Byron, took Mr. Schoen into custody. The case was brought before Esquire Martin.
Now it happened that John T. Voss, one of the ablest attorneys of the county, was away in Neosho county, attending court; and as he was the legal adviser of the defendant, the case was continued until Mr. Voss could be brought. Accordingly, a messenger was dispatched to bring Mr. Voss forthwith, the defendant choosing to remain in custody rather than furnish bail. The next day about noon Mr. Voss arrived, and the case was opened without further delay. As no testimony was produced showing that Mr. Schoen had the stock in his possession, the case was promptly dismissed, and the defendant discharged, the costs being assessed to the plaintiff.
But the end was not yet. Mr. Schoen had Esquire Martin and Constable Byron arrested for false imprisonment. This case was tried in the district court, before Judge D. P. Lowe, and a jury of twelve men, and a verdict rendered of not guilty.
One other case deserves mention. A suit for killing a yoke of cattle, and appropriating the beef to their own use, was begun against several citizens of Lincoln township. The suit was brought in the justice court of Esquire A. M. Brown of Mulberry Grove. On the day of trial a change of venue was asked and granted, the justice sending the case to Esquire Georgia of Baker township. It seemed as if nearly all the people of Lincoln township were interested in the case, for on the day of trial they came in droves, many with covered wagons, while more than fifty were on horseback. They camped about the log cabin of the squire, and picketed their horses on several acres of unbroken prairie. Some brought food for themselves and horses; others, intending to return at night, came without food.
But the case could not proceed for the want of important witnesses who failed to appear, and the constable, a Mr. Wilson, was sent back with subpoenas to bring the derelicts. Near midnight he returned bringing O. F. Smiley, one of the absent witnesses. One man, named Radikin, he did not get. The constable had found him in bed and apparently very sick. But the plaintiff would not proceed without this witness and the constable was ordered to bring him, or a certificate from a physician that he was unable to make the trip. About one o'clock in the morning the constable started back, arriving at Radikin's cabin just as the sun was gilding the tops of the trees along Coxe's creek, back of the house. He expected to find Radikin in bed very sick, but was told by the wife that Mr. Radikin had just stepped out and would be in shortly, requesting the constable to take a seat and she would call her husband. But the sound of an axe, in measured strokes, down near the creek, aroused the suspicions of the officer, who went out to find his man. Following the sounds of chopping, he found Radikin lustily swinging his axe, with no indication of feebleness. They went to the house, had a breakfast of cornpone and sorghum molasses, and arrived at the cabin of the justice about eleven a. m.
But what were the conditions at the squire's house? As before described, the building was sixteen by eighteen feet, with a loft for sleeping. When bedtime came Mrs. Georgia and her little daughter (now Mrs. Edith Wood) climbed the ladder to the loft, while blankets and other bedding were spread upon the floor, and the guests sought rest for the night. Every available foot of space was occupied. For this purpose the table and other furniture were removed from the room. But the court, with the dignity becoming his exalted station, leaned against some sticks of wood in a corner, and watched the sleepers and longed for day.
About 11 o'clock the case was called, and it was soon ascertained that no testiniony could be presented to make a case. The attorneys for the plaintiff, therefore, entered a nolle and in a few minutes after one o'clock the cavalcade was wending its way northward and homeward.
The first school in Crawford county was taught as early as 1858, and was a private affair. Other schools were held on Drywood creek in the north end of the county. In the spring of 1860 five men came from Osage Mission (now St. Paul) to a point near the present site of Pittsburg, and in connection with Frank Dosser, who lived on a claim now thickly covered with buildings and business houses in said city, proceeded to lay out a town, on what is now section 33, [hand written note: 32] township 30, range 25 east. The site of this town lies one and a half miles south and three-fourths mile east from the intersection of Fourth and Broadway in Pittsburg. The town was named Pleasant Ridge. A schoolhouse was the only building erected, and in it one term of school was taught. But Pleasant Ridge was laid in ashes by the soldiers who were sent to drive out the settlers in that memorable autumn of 1860.
During the winter of 1866-7 a school was organized at Cato, on the north line of the county, and Dr. Charles H. Strong, who afterward became the first county superintendent of Crawford county, was the teacher. Upon the organization of the county, and the election of the county superintendent, schools sprang up in every neighborhood where a sufficient number of children could be brought together.
Dr. Strong, upon assuming the duties of the office to which he had been elected, exhibited rare faculties and most adequate knowledge of the business before him, and displayed untiring industry and undaunted perseverance in its execution. Before him lay Crawford county, without schools or school organizations. The settlements were mostly along the streams, and the present needs of the people were schools that would be easy of access to those already here. But Dr. Strong, with a prophetic view of the future, proceeded to lay out the county into school districts, as they should be when nearly every quarter section should become the home of happy children. Time has demonstrated the wisdom of his planning and now in his cheerful old age he lives to see the fruition of his thought and labor. He has lived to see men and women go out of the schoolhouses of Crawford county to fill places of honor and trust among the great and the wise of the nation.
The teachers' institute, an institution that has done more for the elevation of the schools of Kansas than any other one thing, had its inception in Crawford county. It is true that under the statutes of Kansas it was required of the county superintendents to hold an institute of one or two days' duration annually in each county, but the law, in its present form, which requires a school to be held in each county in which teachers may learn all that is best in teaching, was first put into operation here. When in 1874 Rev. S. T. McClure was county superintendent, serving his last year, he was very much impressed with the necessity of providing in some way means to assist the teachers of the county to do more and better work in their schools. Accordingly, after thinking the matter over, he concluded to hold a teachers' school, as he styled it, of two weeks, during the summer of 1874. This school proved a decided success, and was attended by a large number of teachers.
In the following summer the successor to Mr. McClure held an institute of five weeks, at which he had a general attendance of the teachers of Crawford county and several from adjoining counties. He had as his assistants Colonel McKinney, then superintendent of the schools of Fort Scott, Rev. Warren Mayo, of Columbus, Kansas, A. F. Allen, superintendent of school at Girard, and others. During the sessions of this institute General Frazier, at the time state superintendent of schools, visited the institute and spent several days among Crawford county educators. As he was about to depart for Topeka, his home, he was asked for an opinion as to the utility of such institutes. He replied that he was much impressed with the idea, and believed that each county in the state, where a sufficient number of schools existed, should have an institute. In the discussion that followed the county superintendent proposed that an effort be made in the legislature to secure the passage of a law requiring such institutes to be held. The outcome was the drawing up of a proposed bill which General Frazier carried with him to Topeka, and had introduced in the legislature the following winter, and which subsequently became a law. The above mentioned bill was prepared in General Frazier's room at the Andrus House, now the St. James Hotel, in Girard. With a small beginning, but like the rivulet which starts on its journey to the sea, and is joined by others until it becomes a mighty stream sweeping everything before it and carrying on its bosom the commerce of a nation, so this effort, to elevate the educational standard of Kansas, has grown and accumulated power until it has enabled Kansas to stand on an elevated plane of educational prosperity and progress.
In the early days of Crawford county as towns were unknown and the nearest railroad was at Kansas City, and the nearest postoffice at Fort Scott, any kind of a gathering was welcomed by the people. Hence, spelling schools and religious meetings were hailed with delight, and attended by young and old.
The first teachers' institute was held at Iowa City schoolhouse, presided over by Dr. Strong, county superintendent. It was held in the summer of 1868, and the people of the vicinity turned out en masse to its sessions. Iowa City was only a postoffice, and was kept by George Hobson, on his farm, two miles south of the present site of Pittsburg. The schoolhouse was built of logs, without floor. A log was sawed out of both north and south sides to let in light. The building was sixteen by eighteen feet, and about seven feet high at the eaves.
Dr. Strong had invited Colonel McKinney of Fort Scott to attend the institute. At the time Rev. Dr. Beatty, of the Episcopal church, was at Girard, looking over the field with a view to church work, and he too was invited to go to Iowa City to the institute. A hack having been procured, the three set out, over the prairies, to Iowa City, distant about fourteen miles, where they arrived at two o'clock p. m., and were welcomed by the people assembled. As they crossed Cow creek, at the Mission ford, the cabin of John Hobson, standing on the bank of the creek, was the first house seen since leaving Girard; and Dr. Strong announced that "this is Iowa City." To which Professor McKinney replied, "this," pointing to the cabin, "must be the Lindell Hotel." After the evening session of the institute was over they became the guests of Mr. Hobson, and went home with him for the night. The cabin consisted of but one room, and as Mr. Hobson had a wife and grown daughter, the Rev. Dr. Beatty, who was a bashful man, was somewhat worried about his preparation for bed, but with the assistance of the professor they got in bed and slept soundly through the night. It was a new experience for the reverend gentleman, and one never by him forgotten. In the morning, on going out, they discovered that they had stayed at the Lindell Hotel.
The spelling school was a diversion in which young and old participated, and it was no uncommon thing to get up a party and drive eight or ten miles to spell down some other school. The spelling book was studied more than any other book in the house. It was a frequent occurrence, when calling upon a neighbor, to find the whole family, father, mother and children, engaged in a spelling match, and often a man was seen studying his spelling lesson while driving along the road.
I cannot dismiss the subject of schools without calling attention to the fact that two of the most important elements in the educational system of Kansas had their beginning in Crawford county. The first, the institute, I have previously referred to. The second is the system of manual training. To Professor R. S. Russ belongs the honor of having first established manual training in the schools of Pittsburg, and, in conjunction with Senator E. F. Porter and Dr. Charles A. Fisher, secured the establishment of a state normal manual training school in Pittsburg.
The American people are essentially a people of law, and this sentiment finds expression in every community. The early settlers of Crawford county proved that they were no exception to the rule, for hardly had they stuck their stakes at the corners of their claims when a meeting was held to make some laws to govern the settlement of claims. The first meeting of the kind held in Crawford county was at the cabin of Mr. Daniels, which was one mile south of the present site of Pittsburg. There were present at that meeting Daniel Beecher, A. M., and George Hammond, Frank Dosser, S. S. Georgia, George and Isaac Hobson and many others. The meeting was organized into a legislative body, which proceeded to pass laws, with penalties attached, for the protection of the settlers; and to prevent claim jumping and other crimes. The usual penalty for violation of said law was hanging to the nearest limb strong enough to hold the violator. It is needless to say that claim jumping, horse stealing and other like crimes were unknown.
In those days it did not take all winter to do a little wholesome legislating. All the laws necessary to govern the people and protect the weak as against the strong, were passed in one afternoon, and the lawmaking body adjourned in time for supper.
Pages 7-17 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Matthew Johnson and other students at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, in September, 2002.
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