In the winter of 1866-7 reports were rife that the Cherokee Neutral Lands were about to be sold in a body, to James F. Joy, of Detroit, Michigan. This was very unpleasant news to the settlers, who had been promised by Andrew Johnson, then president of the United States, that they should have their lands under the homestead act. The effect of this report was to call the people together for mutual protection. No telephone, nor telegraph, nor even a mail route afforded means to spread the news of the proposed gathering; but men on horseback rode up and down the creeks and notified the settlers to assemble on Cow creek near the Mission crossing, on a certain day at ten o'clock.
Long before the hour appointed, the people began to arrive. They came on foot, on horseback, in covered wagons drawn by oxen, mules or horses, and by the fixed time several hundred were on the ground. The meeting was called to order, and S. J. Langdon was made chairman, and Robert H. Barton was elected secretary. The chairman stated the object of the meeting to be to consult to the best means to secure the settlers' homes, and prevent their being sold to Mr. Joy. Many were the plans suggested, and finally a motion prevailed that money be raised and some one be sent to Washington to represent the interests of the settlers. A collection was taken, and netted $68.80.
Many gave their last cent, and would have given more if it had been possible, so anxious were they to secure a home on these lands. For weeks and months they had toiled through almost impassable roads, in many instances with ox teams, to bring wife and little ones to the land of promise, where they could build for themselves homes, and now, when the hope was almost realized to see the coveted prize snatched away to satisfy the greed of one man, was quite sufficient to arouse every man to do his best.
W. R. Laughlin was selected as the man to go on the mission, and two days later was on his way, by stage to Kansas City and from there by rail, to the national capital.
This was the beginning of the Land League, and the land troubles, as they were usually called. Leagues sprang up in almost every neighborhood, and the members met to discuss ways and means to secure their homes. The delegate sent to Washington made favorable report, but as time wore on money must be raised to defray his expenses, and the members of the league found it a great burden. Finally when the land had been sold by the secretary of the interior and the sale confirmed by supplemental treaty, the League was merged into a semi-military secret organization, with signs, grips, and countersigns, prepared to resist eviction from their homes.
About this time a test case was made up and submitted to the supreme court of the United States. The suit was brought in the nature of ejectment, S. J. Langdon being the defendant. The settlers employed as counsel Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts, and Judge William Lawrence, of Ohio. These lawyers were to receive as compensation the sum of three thousand dollars. The decision was in favor of James F. Joy, and the legislature of the state of Kansas appropriated three thousand dollars to pay the settlers' attorneys. During the land troubles men became very intolerant, and many acts were committed which cannot be approved, Many people were driven from their homes because they expressed a belief that Mr. Joy would hold the lands. The surveyors who were engaged in locating the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad were captured by a company of Leaguers, their wagons and other equipments, including surveying instruments, were burned, and the surveyors brutally treated and sent north.
As a result of such disorder the United States sent a company of soldiers to Crawford county, where they were quartered for several months; first on Cow creek; north of Girard, and then moved south to Limestone, west of what is now the town of Beulah. The Leaguers went so far as to declare that no political party, except the League, should put a ticket in the field to be voted upon at any election. In the fall of 1869 a call was made for a Republican county convention to meet at Girard. When the primaries met at Iowa City, and other places, they were taken possession of by the Leaguers, and the election of delegates prevented. At Iowa City the voters assembled to the number of nearly one hundred. Politically they were Democrats and Republicans, but they all claimed to be Republicans, and that they had met to elect delegates to the Republican convention which should meet in Girard on Saturday. As no hall could be had they met outdoors, on the east side of a small store. In the crowd were six Republicans who were determined to exercise their rights as citizens. When therefore the chairman elect announced that the primary was now ready to elect delegates, one man, Job Taylor, arose and said "the real Republican convention will now meet on the other side of this building." He immediately started for the other side, followed by the other five. The six organized and elected the six persons delegates, prepared credentials and adjourned. The crowd on the other side elected their entire number and ordered them to go to Girard and carry their guns, and not allow any "Joyites" (as they called all who did not subscribe to their ways) to hold a convention.
On Saturday at Girard they encamped in the public square, and presented quite a warlike appearance. After dinner the convention assembled in a small room near the southwest corner of the public square. An American flag had been fastened to a strip, sawed from the edge of a board, and the staff stuck in a knothole in the board which was used as a counter. While getting ready for the work of the convention Col. C. G. Hawley, who had seen service in an Ohio regiment during the Civil war, was called upon for a speech. Responding to the call, he was standing upon the counter near the flag when one of the Leaguers seized the staff and attempted to take down the flag. Quick as a flash the colonel stuck a cocked revolver in the man's face, and with an oath told him to let the flag alone. It is needless to say that the fellow gave up the job quick, and the others, seeing that the members of the convention were in no mood to be trifled with, gave up their intentions and departed for their homes. So that, what at first appeared to be a cloud of war dissolved in the sunshine of peace.
The first town laid out in Crawford county was southeast of the present site of Pittsburg, about three miles. Only one house was built. This was in the spring of 1860. The one house built was a schoolhouse. The removal of the settlers from the Cherokee Neutral Lands, which occurred the next fall, required that all buildings should be burned, hence the only building in the town of Pleasant Ridge was consumed by fire, the torch having been applied by United States soldiers.
The town of Arcadia in Lincoln township was laid out on or near Coxe's creek, in the year 1860, on the military road which extended from Fort Scott to Fort Gibson in the Indian Territory, and was the second town laid out in the county. The town was then called Hathaway. As early as 1862 Hathaway boasted of a house, which consisted of two rooms, built of logs. Before and during the war this house was the theatre of many stirring scenes. It was a typical frontier town. Here was a stopping place for the weary traveler, and here many tarried a night to rest. It was a motley crowd that gathered there. United States troops, Indians, speculators, and seekers after fortune. Many were the nights that the house was incapable of sheltering all its guests, but if the weather was warm beds were made on the ground, with the azure blue of a Kansas sky above for a covering, and here the weary traveler sought the arms of Morpheus and dreamed of loved ones far away, or perchance, had the day been full of mishaps or dangers, he saw in his dreams such sights as did not contribute to his rest. Since the war the town has moved further south, and is now a thriving business place; with good business houses, fine residences, and all the elements that go to make up a thriving business. Here is the junction of the old Fort Scott and Memphis Railroad and the Arcadia and Cherryvale branch, all now operated by the Frisco.
After the war, in 1865, many of the families that were removed by United States soldiers in 1860 returned to the claims which they had previsouly occupied. Among these were Francis Dosser, whose original claim is the northwest part of Pittsburg, and all of which is laid out, and nearly all occupied by fine residences, Lincoln Park being a tract of thirty acres in the northwest corner of said claim. Three daughters who were born and grew to womanhood on this claim still live in Lincoln township; namely, Loretta Stotts, Terrace Stotts and Emma Hinkson. Willis Banks also returned to his claim, which was situated two miles east of Girard, and found his cabin still standing. He afterward sold it and moved farther down Cow creek, and took a claim which he also sold, and went to Bakersfield, California. Mr. Daniels also returned to his claim, two miles south of where Pittsburg now stands. It was at his cabin that the first Neutral Land legislation was enacted.
Among those who found their places occupied, when they returned from fighting the battle of their country in 1865, were two brothers, Captain William C. Beck, of the Sixty-second Pennsylvania, and Captain Geo. Beck, of the Thirty-seventh Wisconsin Infantry. These brothers had a strenuous life as soldiers, the former in the Fifth Army Corps, and the latter in the Ninth (Burnside's) Corps. On the 4th of June, 1866, they arrived on the Neutral Lands, full of determination and they had been to Texas, and returned with a herd of cattle which, the following autumn, they drove to Illinois, and then shipped to Chicago. After disposing of their cattle they visited their old home in Pennsylvania; after which they returned to Crawford county, bringing with them a steam sawmill, the first that ever came to the county. The mill was shipped to Sedalia, Missouri, which town at that time was the terminus of railroad facilities. From Sedalia the mill was hauled to Crawford county, by Virgil and John Harrison, with a team of twenty-eight oxen. The roads were almost impassable, the streams without ferries or bridges, and oft-times a block and tackle had to be employed to pull the wagons out of the mud. It took eight weeks to make the trip, and men and teams were in a sorry plight when they reached Crawford county. The mill was set up four miles southeast of Iowa City postoffice, and served an excellent purpose, sawing lumber, and grinding corn for the settlers.
The town of CRAWFORDSVILLE was laid out in 1866, on the banks of Lightning creek. Here was the first county seat, declared by Governor Crawford. The town had a store, postoffice, blacksmith shop, a school house, and four or five cabins, in which the families of the town lived.
In the summer of 1868 GIRARD was laid out, at or near the center of the county. The incorporators were Dr. Couch, Dr. Charles H. Strong, Dr. B. F. Hepler, S. D. McIntosh, Levi Hatch, Col. J. Alexander and E. J. Boring. Dr. Charles H. Strong christened the town, giving it the name of his home town in the state of Pennsylvania. Here within the limits of the public square Dr. Strong shot and killed a deer. He was looking for the geographical center of the county when a large buck sprang up from the tall grass and started to leap away, but the doctor had his trusty rifle and with a single shot brought down his game. Girard is laid out with a public square, surrounded with stores and other business houses.
At an election held November 5, 1867, Girard was declared to be the county seat, but the election was informal, as it lacked a petition from the people calling for an election for that purpose, and the commissioners ordered the records of the county returned to Crawfordsville. This order was made to comply with an order of the district court, in mandamus proceedings instituted by Dr. D. W. Crouse.
At a meeting of the commissioners held November 7, 1868, a petition was presented, signed by 577 citizens, asking that an election for the location of the county seat be held. The petition was granted, and ail election called for December 15 following; at which the vote decided that Girard should be the permanent county seat. From that time the town grew rapidly, business houses around the public square and residences farther out sprang up, if by magic. Early in 1868 a postoffice was established as with Dr. C. H. Strong as postmaster. Alive to the necessity of furnishing the means of all education to the children of Girard, a vote was taken on the question of issuing a thousand dollars in bonds to build a school house. The election occurred August 7, 1869, and was unanimous in favor of issuing the bonds. A house was soon built, and in the summer of 1870 Miss Maggie T. Hill taught the first school, for which she received forty dollars per month. Since then Girard has become an educational center, always foremost in everything that tends to elevate her people. It is needless to say that the educational influence has spread all over the county.
If the educational interests of Girard have been carefully looked after, so also have the moral and social. The Methodist church was the first to begin the work of preaching the gospel. Rev. Robert Stocker preached the first sermon, in a frame building on the north side of the square, and in 1873 Rev. McWhirt bought the schoolhouse which had been built in 1870, and it was dedicated as a house of worship. Soon after the advent of Methodism the Presbyterian church got a foothold, and erected a fine brick and stone building, at a cost of thirty-six hundred dollars. Rev. McClure was its first pastor. Then came the Christian, the Episcopal, and other churches, until Girard may well be called a city of schools and churches.
About the 25th of April, 1866, occurred the first murder and lynching, near Monmouth. The facts are well given by J. F. Price, editor of the Cherokee Sentinel, and we let him tell the story in his own language. He says: "It must have been about the 25th of April, 1866. Myself and wife, and her father, Lars Larson, arrived in the vicinity of Monmouth on the 14th of April, 1866, and settled down for a few days, in a cabin belonging to A. M. Watson, now living in Pittsburg. The cabin was on Lightning creek. The day after we settled in the cabin we started out to hunt up a claim of our own. We found nothing to suit us until we came to a place, now occupied by Thomas Hayes, three miles west of where Cherokee now is.
"Here we stuck our stakes, and went down to Uncle Jake Miller's place, and registered as a settler, which entitled men to membership in a league, that meant riding on a rail any man who jumped the registered rights of a settler. After a rainy spell of a week we moved out to our claim. Not a stick had been cut toward building a cabin, but we camped on the prairie, at the edge of the woods, and began building a house of round poles, after the plan of a pen. This we sloped on one side, and covered with split boards, and made a rude door. The next day we went for the remainder of our goods, and more boards, leaving the wife, then a young woman, to keep house.
"On our return at noon we were told that a man had been there with an order for every member of the league to come to Monmouth at once, as a murder had been committed. Thinking the order meant expulsion, or court martial, not exactly understanding the nature of the institution we had joined, we left the team with wife, after showing her how to load and shoot a revolver and after having her practice shooting, and left her alone to keep the house, three miles from neighbors, and started to Monmouth. When we arrived at Monmouth, which consisted of a log store house, we found that a man by the name of Lem Shannon had been shot by robbers, and there was great excitement. Hundreds of settlers were there, but cool heads kept them quiet.
"The circumstances of the murder were as follows: Ralph Warner, a settler across the creek south of Monmouth, was the owner of a large herd of cattle. Fort Scott was then the postoffice, although forty miles away, and also the place where the stockmen met. On one of his trips to Fort Scott, Mr. Warner met the Tippie boys, who lived in Linn county. They were considered hard characters, and were accused of robbing their uncle of several thousand dollars, a few weeks before. They wanted to buy Warner's cattle, and a trade was made, which amounted to several thousand dollars. Mr. Warner's friends warned him that he was in danger of being robbed of his money either at home or on the road from Fort Scott.
"The plan of the Tippie boys was to buy the cattle and rob Mr. Warner of the money the same night. Two of the Tippie boys came down and stayed several days, and one evening just before dark paid for the cattle and started in the night with them for Fort Scott. Mr. Warner gather in the neighbor men as fast as he could, and prepared for the attack, thinking it would be that night. Just at dark two men were seen coming toward the cabin, but the men lying under the wagons outside, supposing them to be neighbors, paid no attention to them. The first thing to attract attention was the firing of guns in the house. The two other brothers had walked in on the waiting crowd and begun their work of death. Warner's brother-in-law Lem Shannon, had his pistol apart cleaning it, and he at once closed with the foremost robber and was shot while in his arms. A man by the name of William Lamb did the best he could and shot off the thumb of one of the robbers. The women held on to Mr. Lamb so as to prevent him doing effective work. Mr. Warner ran to the woods with the money and the robbers after him, but he escaped. Then there was hurrying to and fro, and a posse was sent after the men with the cattle to arrest them as accomplices. By this time black clouds rolled over the heavens, the lightning flashed, the thunder roared, and there was a deluge of rain, but on went the posse and overtook the men and cattle near the present site of Farlington. They took the men prisoners and drove the cattle back to Monmouth. Then there was a call for the league. No trace of the real murderers could be found, but it was evident that the men with the cattle would have to suffer as accomplices.
"It was decided that they should have a fair trial. There was no law or officers, in fact the county was not organized. Jacob Miller was elected judge, and others appointed to prosecute and defend, and so the trial began. Men were sworn and witnesses examined with as much form as if in a properly constituted court. Men paced the room with Winchesters, while outside a cordon of armed men stood guard. They expected that a band of robbers would try to liberate their fellows. We stayed until after dark, hoping to see the end, but, remembering our young wife out on the prairie among the Indians and wolves, we shouldered a 25-pound sack of flour and took a dog-trot for the cabin four miles away.
"The outcome of the trial was that after hearing the evidence the jury decided that these men were accomplices, and the crowd was then asked to form a line and when the command should be given for those to step forward three paces who favored hanging, nearly every man made three steps and the procession started for the timber, where the Monmouth cemetery is now located, and the two men were hanged till dead, and were buried under the tree where they were executed. The cattle were afterward turned over to the uncle, who claimed that the purchase money was stolen from him by the men who were hanged."
Pages 17-27 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 Hillarie Horine and other students at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, in September, 2002.
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