1901 History of Republic County Kansas


History of Republic County. 161

and during his residence here, had a good team of horses stolen from him by the Indians. He moved to Jamestown, Cloud county, where he died several years ago.

Mrs. Anna Pherson is the oldest continuous resident of the township, making settlement in the latter part of July, 1869. R. Rimol, at present county commissioner, came Aug. 15th of the same year, and is still a resident of the township. The first school was taught by Mary Dutton in a log cabin on the SW 1/4 of section 35 in the spring of 1871.

The second school was taught in the fall of the same year by Julia McCathron, daughter of J. G. McCathron, a pioneer settler in Peter Hammer's dugout, on the SE 1/4 of section 11. Both of these were three months subscription schools and were taught prior to the organization of any school district in the township. The enrollment was about ten pupils in each school and very moderate wages were paid.

The first marriage was Reuben Everhart and Jerusha McCathron, May 30th, 1871, The first child born was Nels Rimol, October 13th, 1870.

The township was organized April 3d, 1871, at which time the following officers were appointed: John Hull, trustee; G. B. Burk, clerk; Noble Rogers, treasurer; Sivert Lehm, road overseer.

The township has a railroad mileage as follows: Missouri Pacific, 6.01 miles, assessed in 1901 at $26,382; Santa Fe, 1.12 miles; assessed in 1901 at $5,040. Total mileage, 7.13 miles: total value, $31,432.

I gladly give space to the following highly interesting sketch of Norway township, from the pen of Mr. E. Stanton, a pioneer settler, my only misgiving being that, perhaps, my readers may come to the conclusion that it would have been better had Mr. Stanton written the entire book:

"Of incidents that transpired in the territory of Norway before the homestead settlement, but little is known.

162 History of Republic County.

It is said that there were some Mormon emigrants up the Republican river on their way to Salt Lake in 1849. In about 1852 the government laid out, and it is said, bridged the creeks on a wagon road from Fort Riley to Fort Kearney. I doubt the bridging. I remember in the spring of 1873, on returning from Scandia, on crossing Mud Creek, some three miles south of Scandia, my trusty oxen Buck and Bright, broke the chain and left the writer sitting in the wagon in the middle of the creek, just as the shades of night and a dismal rain was falling fast; if there was a bridge either up or down the creek, the writer did not observe it from where he sat.

In 1806 Captain Pike no doubt passed through Norway township, but we are not claiming that he made any treaties with the Pawnees nor pulled down any Spanish flags, nor will we do so without evidence that such is the case. Our friends in different localities up and down the river, do not seem to be particular; it is all right however, and I am glad there is a disposition in the county to let no good thing get away for the want of a claimant, for the story is a very pretty and true one—as far as Captain Pike's part of it goes.

As to who was the first settler, opinions differ, nor does it matter; they were "roving blades," taking choice claims with the intention to sell out at the first chance and move on and repeat the operation, making a living by hunting and trapping for the hide of the buffalo and beaver. The first permanent settler was Mr. Rasmus Rimol, now a county commissioner, he taking possession of the homestead on which he now resides, in February, 1869. He was soon followed by the rest of the Norwegian colony; the township took its name from the excellent people at the instance of J. G. McCathron, who was the first postmaster and first justice of the peace. The land in the valley and tributary creeks, was mostly taken during 1869-70. The prairie east of the valley was settled mostly in 1871, by a colony from eastern

History of Republic County. 163

Indiana, an intelligent, law-abiding community and a credit to the locality from whence they came. The prairie land west of the river was mainly taken in 1872,; there was no colony about it, about every state and every country of Europe being represented at one time or another. The people seemed to lack the stability of colonists named before, some claims having changed hands ten or twelve times, but five of the original homesteaders now remaining.

Of Indian trouble there was but little, the robbing of Mr. Olof Pehrson of a team of horses, being all that I ever heard of. Mr. Pehrson was breaking prairie, he took his gun out with him, but had laid it down at the end of the furrow, an Indian, who no doubt had been watching him, leaped from out of the grass and weeds and shot at Mr. Pehrson, who at once ran toward the end of the field to where his gun was, the Indian meanwhile making off with the horses. There may be those inclined to criticise the action of Mr. Pehrson in laying his gun aside; to such I say, next summer when the thermometer marks about 105 in the shade, attempt to navigate a breaking plow among the roots and sods, flies being bad, and carry a gun in such a position as to use it should an Indian appear, meanwhile keeping a lookout for the plow, I think you would soon come to look upon the gun as a glittering superfluity and leave it by the coat and water jug, as Mr. Pehrson did.

The first settlers, as a rule, were poor people and some of us were very poor, our dwellings and outbuildings were miserable makeshifts of poverty, what little money we had was soon gone, our bread was of corn, our fruit was from the pumpkin vine, our rags fluttered in the breeze as if to signal to the Hosts of Heaven our destitution, and our dugouts became the abode of myriads of flees, which drove the honest settler to distraction by day and by night.

On Sunday, April 13th, 1873, began "The Great Storm," which lasted for three days and will be remem-

164 History of Republic County.

bered by the old settlers during life. Saturday, the 12th, was a very warm day, with a strong wind blowing from the south, people were busy plowing and planting, but on Sunday morning all was changed, a fierce gale was blowing, the snow as fine as flour, seemed to penetrate every crevice. The air was so thick that it was impossible to see more than a few rods. On Monday the storm was, if possible, worse, the cold became bitterly intense, the air was thick as deep fog, the wind seemed to come now in great, bounding billows, seeming to make the very earth tremble, then in a screaming hurricane as if bent on tearing everything from the earth. it was dangerous to go out of doors, indeed, many in Kansas and Nebraska perished, and the loss of stock was large. I remember the writer felt constrained amid the mighty uproar to return thanks to the Lord for a poverty that had forbidden him to build even a shanty above the ground, but had compelled him like a coyote, to dig a hole in the earth for the protection of his family and himself. Tuesday morning the conditions were the same; the settlers became alarmed, it seemed as if the world had made a revolution endwise and we had come to the place formerly occupied by the north pole, but in the afternoon the clouds broke away and we were able to dig out, and give our stock water, some of which had not received that attention since the Saturday before.

In 1872 the corn was fair. In 1873 considerable wheat was raised and hauled to the railroad, sixty miles. The corn also was good in 1873. In 1874 the wheat was pretty fair, that was the grasshopper year that you may have heard of, it was a very dry year and the corn on the prairie would not have amounted to much anyhow. It was a great blow to the farmers to lose their hogs; they had seen that it would never do to haul corn so far to market, and had made every possible sacrifice to get a start of hogs, but now there was nothing to feed them but a little wheat, so, after the hogs ate up the wheat they had

History of Republic County. 165

to be killed for such meat as they would make or starve to death. The winter of 1874 was the aid winter, when the kind hearted people of the east sent almost all kinds of things to Kansas. To see a person full rigged in eastern city toggery, was an amusing sight, why, I don't know, but there seemed to be a kind of unfitness about it. I remember that Mr. McCathron, the distributor for Norway, gave the writer a gray blanket; of which his wife made him a coat, never was garment more acceptable, for without it he would have been coatless that winter.

In the spring of 1875 many left the country; much land that had been broken was not tended that year, however there were many who had come to look upon a condition of abject poverty as the proper condition of man by this time and they went to work with such seed of wheat and corn as they were able to obtain, and we had fair crops that year and also in 1876. About this time there occurred an event that, from a frivolous beginning, created quite an excitement along the river. There appeared in a Missouri paper a flaming article, afterwards copied and illustrated by the New York Police Gazette, regarding a sea serpent which appeared in the river at Scandia. The article was about as follows: "On Sunday morning, as Mr. George Lembke, the toll collector of the bridge, approached the river, he saw a huge monster in the stream and uttered a Swedish cry of astonishment which brought the whole population running to the bank. The appearance of these persons seemed to astonish and enrage the creature, and rearing itself upon its hind legs, it reached its long neck over the bank, and was almost in the act of seizing an inhabitant; just at this moment Mr. Birchfield, who had rushed promptly to the scene with his fire extinguisher strapped upon his back, aimed the nozzle of his machine at the open mouth of the animal and discharged such a stream of chemicals down the creature's throat as to cause it to fall back into the water and depart rapidly down the river. Raising its huge, cut-water fin, it parted the waves, throw-

166 History of Republic County.

ing the water with great violence against either bank and soon disappeared around the bend."

Now what concerned us was its departing down the river. The Republican river had its rise in the wild and unknown regions of the west and we did not know what kind of creatures had their being there. One settler, who farmed on the east side but lived on the west, refused to cross the river to tend his corn and let it go to weeds. Another man, a Buffalo hunter and Indian killer, patrolled the river bank for days in the hope of adding fresh laurels to an already undying fame.

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The cause of the sea serpent scare was very simple. It seems that Mr. Lembke had set a hook in the river for the enticement of such wandering catfish as might be passing, to which some person had fastened an enormous bull snake, they being very plenty and of great size in those days.

Mr. Birchfield, who was a very pleasant gentleman, al-

History of Republic County. 167

though a little odd, had procured a fire extinguisher, which he was fond of showing to his friends at the store, which stood on the corner where Morey's bank now is. A drummer, who saw Mr. Lembke pull the snake from the river and to whom was shown the fire extinguisher, being of romantic disposition and vivid imagination, wrote the thrilling tale which had created so much uneasiness.

In 1878 the Central Branch railroad was surveyed up through the township and completed the next year.

In July, 1878, we had a railroad county bond election for the aid of the Kansas Pacific to build a branch to Belleville. And now that I have mentioned something political, I wish to refer to our earlier politics, as time has healed all wounds and the cry that was wont to arouse us, "Belleville Ring," is no longer heard. In those days there was not much party politics, the county being overwhelmingly republican; there were a few democrats and they were much in evidence like a woodpecker on a knot—making considerable noise without much visible result. It seems that from the earliest settlement there had been a bitter rivalry between Belleville and Scandia for the possession of the county seat. I do not think the writer had been in the township twenty-four hours before he was fully instructed by the older settlers as to the innate villainy and hopeless rascality of the "Belleville Ring;" they had stolen the county seat from Scandia, a wrong which was going to be speedily rectified. We, of Norway, were all for Scandia; it was our town and place of trade, and as the years rolled on and there were reports of fresh villainies, we were worked up to fever heat. Every year, just before election, the Scandia lawyers would come around and tell us what candidate or measure to vote for, and they were willingly obeyed. I remember all our old arguments: "no water could be had in Belleville, or if one did get any, it was almost poisonous for an honest man or beast," although the 'Ring" seemed to thrive on it; no railroad could ever get there over those hills, and it was al-

168 History of Republic County.

together a pestiferous place." As for Scandia, there was water there in plenty, it was easy of access to a railroad, its lawyers were the most learned of the profession, with an eloquence equalled only perhaps by Clay and Webster, her merchants the princes of trade, and her editors—with what bitter sarcasm they assailed the "Belleville Ring," especially Jim Humphrey and the Telescope." We seconded every move that Scandia made, and although most of her schemes miscarried and some of them had an effect opposite from what was intended, we never faltered in our allegiance, and great was the reward thereof. Selah! I remember that at the bond election of which I have written, we had visitors from Belleville, four I think, I do not now remember who, except Mr. Allen, commonly called "Dad." We were glad to see them, for in Norway our politics do not interfere with our friendships; they stayed some time and on preparing to go, Mr. Allen called the writer aside and asked a good many questions as to how far it was to the graders' camp, how many, if any, were legal voters here, how many votes we had polled up to the present moment, etc. When through, I asked him why all these questions. He replied that it had been reported in Bellville that we were going to run in a couple of hundred railroad graders who were working just over the line in Cloud county, to vote against the bonds. After they had gone, I was asked what we were talking about, and I repeated the conversation. There was considerable indignation. One old gentleman said that because they were a set of black rascals themselves, they thought everybody else was, and blamed me for not kicking up a racket, or else informing him of what they said before they got away. To this day, I am not clear in my mind as to whether I did right or wrong in permitting the escape of the Bellevillians.

In 1879 the village of Elgo was platted by Gus. Nelson, the proprietor. T. A. Nelson was the pioneer merchant. Elgo and Norway are identical; Norway being the com-

History of Republic County. 169
mon, and Elgo the scientific name.

In 1880 the township was divided into two voting precincts. Norway proper, east, and Norway west side, west of the river, this division continued until after the building of the bridge. And now I approach a subject which has been the crowning event so far in the history of the township—the building of the Norway bridge, and how we got it, which, I presume, is a secret to some to this day, when all will be made clear. As soon as the railroad was in operation, many in the township thought they could see a fair prospect for a thriving town at Norway; there was a good productive country all around it, and if there was a bridge across the river there was no reason why it should not make an important trading point. So in 1883 we had a township bond election for building a bridge, which was defeated. About this time Captain Wm. Walker built the elevator, and he thought we ought to have a bridge, and with him, to think is to act. He went to Topeka at his own expense, and there wrote the present Republic county bridge law, and ably assisted by our then representative, Wm. Glasgow, pressed it through the legislature. And to that action can be credited the splendid bridge system of the county. Directly after the bill became a law, Captain Walker telegraphed his son at Norway to have the necessary petition circulated and filed with the county clerk. In a few hours the petition was signed by nearly every voter in the township and on its way to Belleville. We then began to besiege the county commissioners, singly and in delegations; we got fair words in plenty, but no bridge. As we were about to abandon all hope, one day in the spring of '86 I met an old friend who had been in the county clerk's office for years, Mr. Perry, who, I suppose from habit, kept the run of county affairs. He asked how we were prospering with our bridge project. I felt wearied by the question and made some answer, I do not recollect what. His reply, as near as I can remember, was as follows: "You can get your bridge if you go about it in the

170 History of Republic County.

right way, for at present the law certainly means the Norway bridge. If I lived in Norway township I would be in favor of engaging competent counsel that the matter might be properly presented to the board."

Meeting some of the friends of the bridge in Norway, I repeated the conversation I had with Mr. Perry, and it was concluded that we would make another effort and the friends of the bridge were accordingly notified.

From first to last we had many bridge meetings; probably a hundred, and they had got to be an old thing; people had lost heart and supposed we would never get a bridge, at least not until all the rest of the county had been supplied. At the meeting only seven appeared, but they were good ones. From hints we heard we had become distrustful of our guides and mentors—the Scandia lawyers. Besides we considered it very probable that their feeling was that a bridge at Scandia was the only one they desired, as above all things they were loyal to Scandia and to no other place, hence it was unanimously agreed that if possible we would secure the assistance of N. T. VanNatta to present our case.

Our method of choosing a delegation to wait upon Mr. VanNatta was very simple—we just concluded we would all go. So in a few days we proceeded to Belleville and were fortunate in finding him in his office. On stating our case Mr. NanVatta[sic] produced a copy of the session laws containing the law, and after reading it attentively remarked, that from the present situation of the river bridges, the law certainly meant the Norway bridge, and sent one of our number to the County Clerks's office for certain information, which Mr. Studley very kindly and promptly gave. Mr. Van Natta undertook our case, and on a certain day when the County Commissioners were in session, we were to return to Belleville, and meanwhile to say nothing about the matter; but everything got out, as it usually does in such cases.

We heard that we were to be opposed, it seems, by a


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From A history of Republic County, Kansas : embracing a full and complete account of all the leading events in its history, from its first settlement down to June 1, '01 ... Also the topography of the County ... and other valuable information never before published. by I. O. Savage.; Illustrated. Published by Jones & Chubbic, Beloit, KS : 1901. 321 p. ill., plates, ports., fold. map ; 23 cm. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, July 2006.


Tom & Carolyn Ward
Columbus, KS

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