Before speakng of the railroads that have been constructed, it may be interesting to briefly consider some of the projects which were formed on paper, but which never proceeded far enough to materialize into a road composed of wood and iron. If Labette county had succeeded in securing a large number of miles of railroad within her limits, it has only been after repeated efforts and many failures. I shall not attempt to speak of all the projects that have been instituted for bringing roads to this county, but will mention a few on which some work of a preliminary character was done.
On December 19, 1868, J. F. NewIon and other citizens of the county obtained a charter for the Oswego, Fort Scott & Sedalia Railroad Company, the purpose of which, was to secure the building of a road from Sedalia to Oswego. So far as I know, this was the first railroad charter obtained by our people. The subsequent building of such a line of road to Parsons shows that this first attempt on the part of our citizens was not without some basis on which to rest.
On June 30, 1870, a charter was obtained by R. W. Wright, C. H. Bent, and others, for the construction of the Oswego, Parker & El Paso Railway. The intention was to secure a road from the northeast to Oswego, and thence southwest to Parsons and through the Territory. A great many public meetings were held in the interest of this contemplated road, and in the fall of 1870 a preliminary survey was made from Cherokee through Oswego to Parker. All that seemed lacking to secure the success of this enterprise was the necessary financial aid.
Among the visions of the eccentric Colonel Hartshorn was one of a railroad running from Florida to the Columbia River through Labette county. John Elston, R. A. Hartshorn, and others associated with them, procured a charter on October 27, 1870, for the construction of the Florida, Memphis & Columbia River Railway. It was some time before the definite location of this road through, the county was agreed upon, and such location was to depend upon the aid that could be secured, but it was finally decided to locate it from Columbus through Montana and Parsons. During 1871, a number of townships voted bonds to aid in the construction of this road.
My impression is that the Memphis & Northwestern Railway Company was a reorganization of the F. M. & C. R. Ry. Co., of which I have just spoken, or at any rate, that the two were in some way covering the same territory. This company did quite an amount of work in the winter of 1872-73 on the line of road from Columbus to Parsons. Watson Bros. & Co., of Montana, were the contractors, and secured a large amount of grading to be done and the abutments to be put in for a bridge across the Neosho at that point. This was as far as the work went, and the contractors lost what they had expended in pushing it thus far.
Among the many efforts to secure a road from Sedalia or some other point to the northeast of this county, was one by the town of Labette, soon after its location, in 1870. The Sedalia, Fort Scott & Santa Fe Railway Company was organized, and in September, 1870, a preliminary survey was made from Fort Scott to Labette. Arriving at the latter place, the surveying party received a warm welcome, and were feasted at the principal hotel.
Parsons was never content with her railroad facilities. There are few points in any of the adjoining counties to which she has not at some time had a projected railroad. In 1872 the proposition was to build a road southwest to Independence, and a very large amount of the paper work was done to secure it, and some propositions for municipal aid were voted upon.
The preliminary work for this road was legaly done in 1876. It was to run southeast from Parsons through Montana.
In 1883 a company was organized to build a road from Oswego through the county in a southwesterly direction, and thence on west. Some municipal aid was voted to this road, but not enough to secure its construction.
In 1886 the Salina, Colorado & Southeastern Railway Company was organized, with a view of running a road through Parsons, Montana and Columbus, extended from these points both northwest and southeast. A right-of-way was secured, and some grading was done. Municipal aid was voted along the line to quite an extent.
Chetopa was scarcely behind Oswego in her efforts to secure railroad advantages. At a very early day steps were taken by her citizens to induce the building of a road from some point on the Kansas City & Gulf Railway so as to give her an outlet to Kansas City and northeastern points. Representatives of Mr. Joy visited Chetopa, and delegates from that place went to Kansas City, and negotiations were conducted for a long time. Possibly we may say the building of the Minden branch was a realization of these anticipations. Chetopa also made an effort to secure the Atlantic & Pacific, and has always had in view railroad connections with Baxter Springs and the east.
From these ineffectual attempts at railroadbuilding, I wish now to turn to those which resulted in securing the end sought. From the first settlement of the county, two lines of road were confidently expected: one from the north and the other from the east. What course they would pursue on entering the county was only a matter of conjecture. Both, Oswego, and Chetopa expected these two roads, and each took active steps toward securing them. While the first efforts of our people were made toward securing an eastern outlet, the road from the north was the one which their efforts seemed the most likely to secure first.
M. K. & T. RY.
Depot at Parsons
MACHINE SHOPS. - It was the general understanding, when Parsons was designated as the point where the two branches would unite, that shops would be located at that place. In October, 1871, George W. Chess, contractor, broke ground for the roundhouse and machine shops, under the supervision of George Thornton, civil engineer. In December following, Proctor & Pardee, contractors, commenced the mason work, and by the close of 1872 the machine shops were so far completed as to be ready to commence operation, and in May, 1873, the roundhouse was ready to receive engines. These shops have been added to from time to time, and have been made very complete in their construction and furnishing. A large force is kept constantly at work in the various departments, making and repairing the rolling stock of the road.
GENERAL OFFICES. - Theoretically, the general offices of the company were at Parsons almost from the first building of the road, but, practically, it was not until 1892 that the offices were located at that point. During the time they were in Parsons, negotiations were going on and efforts were being made for an evasion of the law requiring the general offices to he kept within the State. Finally the parties most directly interested consented that, in consideration of the company's making certain additional improvements in Parsons, they would not insist on the general offices remaining with them. When this arrangement was effected, the general offices were moved back to St. Louis in 1896.
NEW DEPOT AND OFFICE BUILDING. - The office room for the company offices located at Parsons had become entirely inadequate. To meet the needs, a new building was planned, and on April 1, 1895, work was commenced thereon. It was pushed to completion as rapidly as possible. It is a very fine structure, furnishing accommodations for the office force and a commodious depot.
SPUR ROAD. - In 1894 a spur was projected on which work was commenced late in the fall of that year, starting from the main line at Labette and running in an easterly direction to Mineral in Cherokee county. This was completed in the spring of 1895. Its main use is for the transportation of coal from the Cherokee county mines to the company's shops in Parsons.
The Memphis, Kansas & Colorado Railway Company was organized for the purpose of securing a road from Cherokee, on the Fort Scott & Gulf road, to Parsons, with a view of its extension both ways. The company was formed early in 1877. Parsons first voted $10,000 to aid this enterprise, and subsequently, after a protracted discussion, some favoring the project and others opposing making any donation, it was voted to take stock to the amount of $30,000, the bonds to be delivered upon the completion of the road into Parsons. Neosho township voted $5,000 in bonds. In April, 1878, the track-laying commenced from Cherokee west, and, on July 1, 1878, at 10 o'clock at night, the first train arrived in Parsons. The officers of Parsons refused to deliver the bonds, on the ground that the road was not completed by the time specified in the contract. Litigation ensued, which was carried to the supreme court, where it was finally determined that the city was not liable and the bonds were never delivered. In February, 1880, this road was sold to the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf Railway Company, and steps were at once taken to extend it from Parsons to Cherryvale. No municipal aid was voted along the line, but the people of Cherryvale secured the right-of-way as an inducement to its construction. The road thus built from Cherokee to Cherryvale was narrow gauge; some two or three years after its completion to Cherryvale it was made into a standard-gauge road.
In December, 1885, the Parsons & Pacific Railway Company was chartered to build a road from Parsons to Coffeyville. C. H. Kimball and Lee Clark were the leading spirits in the movement, and with the aid of eastern capitalists whom they enlisted in the enterprise the road was constructed, in 1886. On September 20, 1886, the first train ran from Mound Valley to Parsons. The company received municipal aid-from Parsons, $40,000; from Mound Valley township, $20,000; Canada township, $20,000, and some from Montgomery county.
During the building of the Parsons & Pacific road to Coffeyville, a company, in which the same parties were interested, was formed for the purpose of extending it from Parsons north, to Kansas City. In aid of this construction Parsons voted an additional $20,000, and the municipalities in the counties north, through which the road ran, extended liberal aid. The road was pushed quite rapidly along, and a connection formed with the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf, at Paola.
As early as 1884 an organization was formed of prominent men living along the proposed line of the Denver, Memphis & Atlantic Railroad for the purpose of doing the preliminary work, of securing the right-of-way, municipal aid, and putting the work in such shape that capitalists would be willing to take hold of the enterprise and build the road. Most of the members of this company lived at and between Larned and Chetopa. Col. J. B. Cook was the representative from this county in the company. Maj. Joseph Henson and Col. John Doniphan, of St. Joseph, Mo., who had some experience in railroad matters and were men of some capital, were also members of the company. Municipal aid was voted in nearly every township through which, the road was to be run. A survey and plat was made, and negotiations commenced with Jay Gould for the construction of the road. The time in which the road was- to be built under the conditions of the aid first voted having expired before any work was done, a second election had to be held and the aid voted again. The first plan also was to build a narrow-gauge road. In changing to a broad gauge the technical requirements of the law were not observed, and legislation had to be secured to cure defects, so that it was not until May 22, 1886, that the work began at Chetopa extending the road west from that point. Quite an amount of work had been done, commencing at Larned and extending east, prior to that. Two days later than this the construction train was put on, and by the close of June it was completed as far west as Edna. On July 2, 1886, the first train arrived in Chetopa from Edna, and during the summer Coffeyville was reached. The following aid was extended to secure the construction of this road through this county: A subscription of several hundred dollars by the citizens of Chetopa, and municipal aid; from Hackberry township, $10,000; from Elm Grove township, $20,000; and from Howard township, $20,000.
During the fall and winter of 1885-86 efforts were made by different citizens of the 13 county to secure the extension of the road from Nevada, Mo., in a southwesterly direction, but it was finally determined to build it to Chetopa; that place securing for it the right-of-way for about 20 miles and giving it 30 acres of ground in the city for depot and yard purposes. During the spring the work on it was rapidly pushed forward, and on April 6, 1886, the first train over this branch arrived in Chetopa.
It was at first expected that this line of road would run through the western part of the county its entire width from north to south, but on the organization of Montgomery county it was proposed to change the route, and that county voting liberal aid, the proposed location was changed so that the road only crosses the northwestern corner of this county a short distance and then enters Montgomery.
To secure connection with St. Louis was among the first things that the citizens of 0swego desired after the town was fairly started. The first effort in this direction of which I have any knowledge was the organization of a local company known as the Oswego, Carthage, Mount Vernon & Springfield Railway Company, for which R. W. Wright and others secured a charter January 27, 1869. On December 9, 1870, the Oswego Register published an account of the proposed extension of the Southern Pacific Railway from Springfield to Wichita. About that time delegates from Oswego attended meetings at Carthage and Columbus, at which the project was talked up. On May 21, 1870, on the petition of quite a number of citizens, the board of county commissioners made an order submitting to the voters of the county a proposition to issue county bonds in the sum of $150,000 to the Southern Kansas Railway Company on condition of its building a road through, the county-seat, and west as near the center of the county as practicable. This left out important points in the county through which the road could not pass, and before the day fixed upon for voting the proposition was withdrawn. On December 20, 1870, a meeting was held at Oswego, at which it was determined to have an east-and-west road. On May 23, 1871, Oswego voted $75,000 in bonds for the Atlantic & Pacific Railway. On this proposition there were but five votes against the bonds. On June 28, 1871, delegates from Montgomery, Labette and Cherokee counties met at Oswego, and decided to form a local company to aid in procuring the road from Springfield west. On August 13, 1871, a charter having been procured, the directors of the State Line, Oswego & Independence Railway met at Oswego, and organized by electing H. G. Webb, of Labette county, president; Milton Douglas, of Cherokee county, vice-president, A. W. Jay, of Cherokee county, secretary; J. B. Emerson, of Montgomery county, treasurer; and J. J. Browne, of Labette county, attorney. In September, 1872, a survey for the line of road from Millersville to Oswego was made. Another local company, designated the Memphis, Carthage & Northwestern Railway Company, had been formed, and contracts for the construction of the road as far as Oswego were entered into. A large force of hands was put upon the road, and the grading was nearly completed. While the bonds which had been voted could not be legally issued until the road was completed to Oswego, still, to aid its construction, by general consent of the citizens a part of the bonds of Oswego township were sold and the proceeds applied towards paying for the grading. Without going into details, it is sufficient to say that this local company failed, and for some time nothing further was done toward the extension of the road. On January 4, 1875, Joseph Seligman bought this Memphis, Carthage & Northwestern road, and in February a new company was formed. On March 22, 1875, the Pierce City & Kansas Railway Company was consolidated with the State Line, Oswego & Independence Railway Company, the consolidated companies taking the name of the Missouri & Western Railway Company. Joseph Seligman was president and Edward Livingston secretary and treasurer. Additional bonds were voted by Oswego city and township. To show the interest which Oswego, felt in securing this road, it may be mentioned that one evening at a public meeting held in the court-house personal aid to the amount of $32,745 was promised, all of which was afterwards paid, to secure this enterprise. On June 15, 1876, definite arrangements were made with Seligman for the construction of the road. Hobart & Condon were awarded the contract for preparing the road-bed from Minersville to Oswego. From this time the work progressed satisfactorily, and on Thursday, December 14, 1876, just at dark, the construction train reached the foot of Commercial street, in the city of Oswego. The end of the road remained at Oswego until 1879, when arrangements were made for pushing it westward, and during that season it was completed as far as Wichita. This construction was done in the name of a local company and with Hobart & Condon as chief contractors, but as soon as it was completed it came under the management of the "Frisco" company.
There have been at least three strikes upon the M. K. & T. Ry., which have more or less affected the people of this county. In July, 1877, the workmen at other points on the road struck; the men engaged in the shops at Parsons did not formally strike, but appointed a committee to confer with the strikers; work was suspended for some time, but matters were finally arranged between the company and its employees so that no strike was made in this county. In March, 1885, the workmen in the shops at Parsons, as well as the train-men generally, went out on a strike. For a number of days freight traffic was completely blocked, but passenger trains continued to be operated. The differences between the company and its hands were satisfactorily settled, and they all, or nearly all, were taken back into the company's employ. The most serious of all strikes was in March, 1886. It extended all along the line of the road. On March 6th the machine shop whistle at Parsons sounded at 10 o'clock A. M., and the entire force of railroad employes ceased work and marched out. An effort was made by the governors of Kansas and Missouri to effect a settlement of the matters of difference between the company and its hands, but were unsuccessful. New men were employed by the company, but were not allowed to work, the old employees being of sufficient force to prevent their performing their duties. The strikers placed a guard around the company's property to prevent its being injured, but would not allow anyone to assist in moving trains. Adjutant General Campbell came down from Topeka and conferred with the strikers, but could not prevail upon them to come to any terms. Toward the last of March many of the strikers became more desperate and defiant than they had been at first. Not only was force used to prevent freight trains from running and to "kill" the engines on all trains that attempted to pull out, but some went so far as to interfere with passenger travel. The track just north of Bachelor creek bridge was loosened, and the north-bound passenger train was ditched. Had the train been going south instead of north it would have been plunged into the creek and the result would necessarily have been fatal to many persons. Attempts were also made to burn some of the bridges. The citizens of Parsons organized for the purpose of assisting the company in running its trains, but the striking force was so strong that they were not able to accomplish their object. On the evening of April 2d seven car-loads of the State militia came into Parsons over the Neosho division, and about the same time several more car-loads over the Sedalia division, and soon thereafter several more car-loads over the Gulf road. The arrival of the soldiers was a complete surprise to the strikers, as they had not learned that the militia had been called out. The soldiers at once took control of the entire railroad property and prevented anyone from entering the premises, placed those who had been employed by the company in charge, and at once trains commenced to move. The strike was over. The soldiers remained several days, until everything was quiet and the citizens' organization felt itself strong enough to preserve the peace. The leaders among the strikers were arrested on a criminal charge, and a number of them were tried and convicted. They were punished by fine and imprisonment in the county jail. The great body of those who participated in the strike permanently lost their places in the railroad employ, and many of them were practically financially ruined.
Transcribed from History of Labette County, Kansas and its Representative Citizens, ed. & comp. by Hon. Nelson Case. Pub. by Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill. 1901
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