Adjoining the factory of the Viking Refrigerator Company at the northeast corner of Oakland avenue and Fourth street, there stood many years a small, square cottage, that was conspicuous only for its flaming bright red color. This little house had a history. In 1857 it was landed at the levee in the shape of a readymade house from a steamboat, only requiring a few nails to be driven in to make it a model western mansion. The house was imported by Dr. Joseph P. Root, Sr., from the east, and was used as a dwelling for himself and family. It was first erected in the center of a big cornfield, now the southeast corner of Fourth street and Nebraska avenue, and was occupied by Doctor Root until 1870. When the Doctor was appointed minister to Chili the house was moved to its later location.
THE "PILL BOX" AND DR. ROOT.
It was the first house erected in old Wyandotte by a white man who had not married into an Indian family, and for years social and political meetings were held in it. It was known as the "Pill Box", on account of its size, and further because it contained many pills that were dispensed among the early inhabitants by Doctor Root. Its cellar was a way station on the celebrated underground railway, which many a fugitive traveled, and almost daily it harbored one or more of those poor unfortunates.
It was the custom of Doctor Root to call in all of his old friends on Christmas and give a fine dinner. At that time it was considered a luxury to be able to serve cove oysters as the first course. Thus it was that this little house became famous in the territory for the splendid hospitality dispensed therein. The stories of the social and political gatherings that were held in it would make an interesting volume desscriptive of the social life of that charming period, and of the circle of men and women of old Wyandotte, of whom there are but a few with us now to recall the days of the "Pill Box." And it is to these men and women of old Wyandotte that this chapter is devoted.
Dr. Joseph Pomeroy Root, who was one of the early physicians of Wyandotte, then a part of Leavenworth county, was born at Greenwich, Massachusetts, April 23, 1826, and died at Kansas City, Kansas, July 20, 1885. He was a member of the Connecticut-Kansas colony, better known as the Beecher Bible and Rifle Company, which settled at Wabaunsee. He organized Free State forces and in every way identified himself with the early history of the territory. As chairman of the Free State executive committee, he located the road from Topeka to Nebraska City, thereby securing a safer route of travel for Free State immigrants. He was sent east as agent to obtain arms and other assistance and was very successful. On his return he located at Wyandotte and was there elected a member of the council. He was lieutenant governor of the state in 1861; served in the Second Kansas as surgeon, and was medical director of the Army of the Frontier. At the close of the war he returned to Wyandotte and resumed the practice of his profession, but was appointed minister to Chili in 1870. At the close of his term of office he returned again to Wyandotte, and continued there until his death, July 20, 1885.
Mr. Gray was one of the pioneers of Quindaro and a man of great force in the early days of Kansas. He was born in Evans, Erie county, New York, December 5, 1830, and was a son of Isaiah and May (Morgan) Gray. He worked on the farm in summer and went to school in winter until 1847, when he embarked as a sailor before the mast on Lake Erie. At the age of nineteen he returned to school, and by teaching and other labor maintained himself at Westfield Academy, New York, and Girard Academy, Pennsylvania. In 1853 and 1854 he read law, graduating at Albany, and started into practice at Buffalo. In March, 1857, he came to Kansas, settling at Quindaro; engaged in farming, from 1858 until 1873; served as a director of the State Agricultural Society from 1866 until 1870; in 1872 was elected first secretary of the present State Board of Agriculture, in which position he remained until his death, January 23, 1880, earning a wide reputation by the style of published reports which he originated and the success of the display Kansas made at the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia in 1876.
At York, New York, Mr. Gray married Miss Sarah C. Bryce, May 1, 1855. On April 19, 1862, he was mustered into the army as a regimental quartermaster with the Fourth Kansas and shortly after was transferred to the Tenth, and later to the Fifth. He was detailed by General Grant, June 30, 1863, for service at Vicksburg, remaining until March 24, 1864, when he resigned on account of ill health. He held various positions in the Free State party and was elected to the first state legislature, December 6, 1859. The state erected a monument to his memory in the Topeka cemetery.
Charles Robinson, the most distinguished citizen of the territory in 1857, afterwards governor of the commonwealth and for many years foremost in Kansas, was a resident of Wyandotte county and a citizen of Quindaro. He was born at Hardwick, Worchester county, Massachusetts, July 21, 1818; became a physician and at one time had for a partner Dr. John G. Holland ("Timothy Titcomb"). In 1849, soon after the gold discoveries in California, he set out for the newly discovered El Dorado, being surgeon of one of the early pioneer parties of California emigrants. On his arrival in California, after a short time spent in prospecting and mining, he settled, as near as the times and the surroundings would permit, at Sacramento, and there opened an eating house. Trouble soon broke out between the squatters and a set of later speculators who coveted their claims. The former held their claims under the United States pre-emption laws then in force, and elsewhere in the country universally observed; the speculators claimed title to the entire site of the embryo city by virtue of purchase from Captain Sutter, who held a Mexican-Spanish title to 99,000 square miles of California land, the boundaries or location of which had never been surveyed or defined. The contest for possession, after vain endeavors on the part of the squatters to await the decision of the courts, culminated in in open war for possession on the one side and ejectment on the other, Doctor Robinson became the adviser and acknowledged leader of the squatters in their contest for their rights.
The "squatter riots," as they were termed, resulted in several serious encounters, in which many were wounded and a few lost their lives. The most serious conflict resulted in the death of the mayor of Sacramento, on the one side, and the dangerous wounding of Doctor Robinson, on the other. Robinson, while still suffering from his wounds, was indicted for murder, assault with intent to kill and conspiracy; held a prisoner, pending his trial, for ten weeks aboard a prison ship; was tried before the district court at Sacremento[sic] and acquitted. During his imprisonment he was nominated and elected to the California legislature from the Sacramento district. He took a leading part in the legislative proceedings of the succeeding session, and was one of the prominent supporters of John C. Fremont, who was elected as United States senator during the session. On his return to Sacramento, he published a daily Free Soil paper a short time. On July 1, 1851, he left California and set sail for "the states," reaching his home in Fitchburg in the fall of 1851, and there resuming the practice of medicine, which be continued until 1854 with great success. About the time of the organization of the Emigrant Aid Society Dr. Robinson published a series of letters concerning the Kansas country through which he had passed in 1849, which awakened a widespread interest in the unknown land, and drew the attention of the managers of the organization to the writer as an indispensable agent for the practical execution of the proposed work of selecting homes for Free State emigrants, and otherwise carrying out the openly-avowed object of the society, to make Kansas a Free State under the conditions which the Kansas-Nebraska bill had prescribed. He thus became one of the first heralds of Free State emigration to Kansas, and designated to the society as the best objective point for a Free state settlement in the territory the land that lay along the bottoms of the Kansas river near Lawrence. There the first party pitched their tents, and there Doctor Robinson made his own home September 6, 1854, at which time he arrived with his family. With Samuel C. Pomeroy, he was the conductor of the second party of New England emigrants - it being the first made up of families who came for bona fide settlement. He chose his home on Mount Oread. He was the first governor chosen under the Topeka Constitution, and the first commander-in-chief of the Free State militia. Governor Robinson held the organization with a skill and wisdom peculiarly his own, as a final place of refuge for the Free State men of Kansas, until, with growing strength, they could transform it into a valid form of government under the forms of law. The Wyandotte constitution, under the forced recognition of congress, having been adopted, he was, under its provisions, chosen the first governor of the Free State of Kansas, and in that position organized under the laws the military forces upon a war basis for the final struggle, in which Kansas troops won fresh laurels and imperishable renown. For the cause of freedom in Kansas he suffered imprisonment, destruction of property, defamation of character, and all the minor annoyances which hatred of merit, political ambition, or internecine party strife could engender.
Benjamin Franklin Mudge, distinguished as a geologist, was first a resident of Wyandotte county on his coming to Kansas. He was born in Orriton, Maine, August 11, 1817. In 1818 his parents removed to Lynn, Massachusetts, and in the common schools of that city Benjamin received his early education. From the age of fourteen until he was twenty he followed the trade of shoe-making; taught school to procure the means of acquiring a collegiate education and was graduated from the Wesleyan University at Middletown, Connecticut, first in the scientific and afterward in the classical course, in 1840. Afterward he returned to Lynn and began the study of law, being admitted to the bar two years later and immediately entering upon the practice of his profession. He remained a resident of Lynn until 1859, becoming during those years thoroughly identified with all the reform movements in that city. He was especially active and earnest in the anti-slavery and temperance movements, and was elected mayor of the city on the latter issue in 1852. In 1859, having spent eighteen years of his active business life in Lynn, he accepted the office of chemist for the Breckenridge Coal & Oil Company in Kentucky. On the breaking out of the War of the Rebellion he removed to Kansas and settled at Quindaro, where he remained until he received an appointment as state geologist for Kansas in 1863, from which time until his death, sixteen years later, his whole time and strength were given to scientific researches and investigations in the west, principally in Kansas and Nebraska.
Among those citizens who contributed to the upbuilding of this community was Byron Judd, the first land agent, a banker for many years, and a faithful public official. He was born in August, 1824. The town of Otis, Berkshire county, Massachusetts, suggests a lineage looking back towards the Mayflower and the earliest records of the old Bay state, and that town is the locality of Senator Judd's nativity. His father was a farmer, and the boy divided his attention between industrial training at home and scholastic labors in the admirable institutions proper to Massachusetts. At the age of twenty he attended the academy at Southwick for one term, and afterwards the State Normal School at Westfield, working on the farm during the summer and teaching school every winter, so that his body and mind were alike developed by practical work. By his friends in Otis, in spite of the too true aphorism that "a prophet is not without honor, save in his own country," he was made selectman, township assessor, and a member of the school committee for several years, until, in 1855, he removed to Des Moines, Iowa. There he was deputy recorder for one year. In 1857 he came to Kansas, landing in Wyandotte in the beginning of November. The city was then a part of the county of Leavenworth and a place of much business, well suited for the operations of men of the caliber of Mr. Judd. Land agency and banking were the specialties of the comer, and he was soon as busily engaged as could be desired, but had sufficient leisure, as will always happen with the most successful men of business, to attend to many public appointments. He served in many responsible offices with honor to himself and with advantage to the community, as president of the city council and as mayor of the city of Wyandotte. For five years in succession he was chosen justice of the peace, and for a similar term he was a trustee of Wyandotte township, besides being the Wyandotte county treasurer for four years. Successive marks of honor and trust, reposed in him by his fellow-citizens, indicated Mr. Judd as an eligible man for an appointment as United States commissioner for the district of Kansas, a position filled with conspicuous advantage. In 1871, when the old First National Bank was organized in the city of Wyandotte, Mr. Judd was elected president, and in that capacity, or as cashier, he was connected with the institution for several years. In the year 1872, the people of Wyandotte county elected their successful fellow citizen, Mr. Judd, to represent them in the state senate, and so favorably were they impressed with his services during the first term, that, before its expiration, he was re-elected, in 1874, for a second term of two years. He was a Democrat of the Thomas Jefferson school, quite content to allow to others the freedom of opinion that he claimed for himself, having no sympathy with the "border ruffian" stripe of political experience, and he was consequently able to run ahead of his own ticket in every contest, a recommendation of great value to any party in any state in the Union. He was not a church member, but a regular attendant at the Congregational church, having been reared within its discipline. He was not connected with any secret organization, and, indeed, had too little time at his disposal to add anything to his multifarious duties. In the year 1865, when he had arrived at the mature age of forty-one, Mr. Judd was married to Mrs. Mary Louise Bartlett, the widow of Don A. Bartlett. She was a daughter of Judge Jesse Cooper, who had come out from Irasburg, Vermont, to become a resident of Wyandotte. His public labors won honor from all classes and every party; his name was without reproach. Mr. and Mrs. Judd both lived to a ripe old age, and with much pride and satisfaction, witnessed the growth and development of the community from an Indian village to a large city. Mrs. Judd died in 190S and Mr. Judd's death occurred the next year. A daughter, Mrs. Sara Judd Greenman, the public librarian in Kansas City, Kansas, survives them; another daughter, Miss Emily, died in 1890.
Among those frequent callers at Doctor Root's little "Pill Box" were the Specks, father and son, and their wives, whose names, when mentioned, awaken pleasant memories of those charming days to the survivors of that period. Dr. Joseph Speck, the father, was born near the close of the eighteenth century and was well along in years when, in 1857, the family came out to Kansas from Carlisle, Pennsylvania. The son, Dr. Frederick Speck, who was born in 1818, was then nearly forty.
Both were medical practitioners in Wyandotte before the Civil war, and at the call for volunteers both shouldered their muskets and marched off to fight in a Kansas volunteer regiment. The father, who had been graduated from the medical schools at Carlisle and Baltimore, was well fitted for service as a regimental surgeon, while the son also had qualified himself for the duties of an army physician and surgeon. Dr. Joseph Speck died in Kansas City, Kansas, in 1875, after he had practiced more than forty years.
Dr, Frederick Speck continued in the practice of medicine and surgery in Wyandotte and the honor of being the pioneer physician of the place fell on him. The Doctor had spent his early life in his native town and received his literary education at Dickinson College. His first knowledge of medicine was acquired under his father, and in early manhood he completed a course at the Franklin Medical College of Philadelphia, graduating in 1847. He began practicing in Fremont, Schuylkill county, Pennsylvania, but, after spending five years there and a similar length of time in Selin's Grove, Snyder county, Pennsylvania, he came west and took up his location in Kansas City, Kansas, where he remained in the active practice of his profession. For more than forty-five years he was a practitioner of the "healing art," and during thirty-three years of that period he was located at Kansas City, being the pioneer physician of that place, until he died, and during the long term of years spent there he became well known, both professionally and socially. He was married on June 8, 1848, to Miss Adelaide M. Dennis, who accompanied him to the west and died in Kansas City, March 8, 1882, leaving, besides her husband, four children to mourn her death. They are Annie M., who became Mrs. Dudley E. Cornell; Mary C.; Joseph B. and Richard D. On December 31, 1885, the Doctor was married to Mrs. Frances L. Battles, a daughter of Hon. Marsh Giddings, late governor of New Mexico, and the widow of Agustus S. Battles, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Doctor Speck and his wife were members of the Episcopal church, and he was a prominent Odd Fellow, being honored with the position of grand master and grand chief patriarch of the state, and grand representative to the Grand Lodge of the United States, which met at Baltimore in 1873 and at Atlanta in 1874. He was one of the oldest Odd Fellows in the state, as well as a member of the Masonic fraternity and of the Knights of Pythias. Doctor Speck was a devoted member of the Republican party, and served two terms as mayor of the city and several terms as a member of the city council; held the position of pension examiner for a period of ten years, and was then a member of the board; was also a member of the board that built the Kansas School for the Blind, and served as a physician of that institution as long as he lived. He was a member of the Kansas State Medical Society and the American Medical Association. Professionally, as in every other respect, Doctor Speck stood very high and possessed the universal respect and esteem of his medical brethern in this section. He had an extensive acquaintance and a large circle of friends, and was a man who would command respect in whatever locality he might settle.
On a wall in the Carnegie library building in Kansas City, Kansas, is a portrait in oil of a pioneer Kansas woman, whose sweet influence, exerted in the territorial days when the makers of the Kansas constitution were assembled in Wyandotte, brought high recognition to womanhood and obtained for the women of this day many of those rights they enjoy. It is a portrait of Mrs. Clarinda I. Howard Nichols, one of the ablest and most gifted women with tongue and pen that ever championed the rights of her sex. Mrs. Nichols was born in Trowshead, Windham county, Vermont, January 25, 1810. Early in life she received an education that, with her brilliancy of intellect and her womanly sympathies, made her one of the first women in the nation. No woman in so many varied fields of action more steadily and faithfully labored than Mrs. Nichols, as editor, speaker and teacher in Vermont, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Kansas and California. In 1859 she attended the Wyandotte constitutional convention and sat throughout the session - the only woman present - watching every step of the proceedings, and laboring with the members to so frame the constitution as to make all men and women equal before the law. The women of Kansas owe largely to her influence the rights they enjoy today. From Vermont to California she sowed the seed of liberty and equality, and nowhere did they take deeper root than in Kansas.
The Wyandotte County Women's Columbian Club was organized for the purpose of gathering together some exhibits from this county for display in the Kansas building at the Columbian exposition. It was finally decided to have a portrait painted of a pioneer Kansas woman, and Mrs. Nichols was selected as most deserving of the honor. At the close of the exposition the portrait was returned to the Columbian Club, and it was afterwards presented to the public library.
Mrs. Nichols died in Pomo, Mendicino county, California, January 11, 1885, just lacking fourteen days of celebrating her seventy-fifth birthday. In grateful remembrance of her the portrait has been given by the Wyandotte County Women's Club, March, 1893.
James McGrew, who was a citizen of Wyandotte fifty-four years, was born at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, January 28, 1832. His family emigrated to Ohio, thence respectively to Indiana, Illinois and Wapello county, Iowa, finally locating in Keokuk county in 1844. In 1857 he came to Kansas, arriving in September and settling in Wyandotte county. He engaged in merchandising, conducting a wholesale and retail grocery business in Kansas City, Kansas, from 1860 to 1870; also built and operated the first packing house at the mouth of the Kaw. The building still stands on Fourth street near Freeman avenue. Mr. McGrew served as mayor of the city for two terms; was a member of the house of representatives, 1861-2; and of the senate, 1863-4; and was lieutenant governor of the state one term - January, 1865 to January, 1867 - after which he retired from politics, devoting himself to his business interests. Governor McGrew was twice married - first to Mary Doggett, at Lancaster, Iowa, in 1848, who died in 1863; and second to Lida Slaven, of Alliance, Ohio, in April, 1870. He had five children, and his beautiful residence, built in the early days, was on Quindaro boulevard, Kansas City, Kansas. His death occurred in February, 1911.
Otis B. Gunn, a member of the first state senate from Wyandotte county, was born October 27, 1828, at Montague, Massachusetts, the son of Otis and Lucy Fisk Gunn. He had a thorough New England common school education, and began work as a rodman on the construction of the Hoosac Tunnel Railroad; was engineer in charge of the railroad between Rochester and Niagara Falls; taught school for two years near Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and in 1853 was division engineer in the construction of the Toledo, Wabash & Western, following railroad construction westward until he located in Kansas in 1857, settling at Wyandotte. In 1859 he was elected to the first state senate, which met in 1861; in 1861 he was appointed major of the Fourth Kansas regiment, later the Tenth Kansas Infantry, but in May, 1862, resigned to resume railroad work, being connected at various times thereafter with the Kansas City & Cameron, the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western, the Central Branch Union Pacific and the Missouri, Kansas & Texas. Of this last-named road he built six hundred miles. He also built the bridge across the Missouri river at Atchison, and in 1876 superintended the construction of the present union depot in Kansas City, finally earning the name of a great engineer. In 1896 he wrote a financial article entitled "Bullion versus Coin," which the Republican national committee circulated broadcast over the country. He died in Kansas City February 18, 1901, and was buried in Oak Grove, Lawrence. His widow resides in Kansas City, Missouri.
Alson C. Davis, a member of the Free State legislature of 1857-8, settled in Wyandotte county, then a part of Leavenworth county, coming there from New York about 1857. He lost his seat in the territorial council through the contest of Crozier, Root and Wright for the seats of Halderman, Davis and Martin, but sat in the extra session of 1857 from its convening, December 7th, until December 11th. In 1858 he was appointed United States district attorney for Kansas territory, holding the office until 1861. He was among the active members of the railroad convention of 1860. In October, 1861, he obtained permission from Major General Fremont to raise a regiment to be known as the Twelfth Kansas Volunteer Cavalry; December 26th four companies of Nugent's regiment of Missouri Home Guards were attached to the organization and the name changed to the Ninth Kansas Volunteers. On January 9, 1862, Davis was made colonel of this regiment, but resigned in February. He died in 1881, in New York.
Isaac B. Sharp who was distinguished as a lawyer, was born in Ohio, in January, 1836. He was a graduate of Oberlin University and of the Ohio State Union Law College, at Cleveland. He came from Fremont, Ohio, in January, 1859, located at Wyandotte, where he began the practice of his profession with Charles W. Glick; in 1860 was appointed assistant district attorney, holding the office until 1862, when he was elected probate judge and re-elected in 1864. He served as mayor of the city two years and in 1866 was elected to the senate. Upon the expiration of his term as senator he was again elected probate judge of Wyandotte county, and re-elected for the third term. In 1860 Judge Sharp married Marie A. Bennett, a native of Baltimore, Maryland. He died of a cerebral affection June 22, 1884, having been in poor health for some time.
George Washington Veale was born in Daviess county, Indiana, May 20, 1833. He was educated in the country schools, supplemented by two years at Wabash College, when he began a business career. In the spring of 1857 he came to Kansas, locating first at Quindaro and in a short time coming to Topeka, where he started a dry goods business. He was part owner of the "Otis Webb," a Kansas river boat that plied for a short time between Leavenworth and Topeka during the year 1858. Colonel Veale was one of the signers of the call for the railroad convention of 1860, and an incorporator of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad. He raised a company for the Fourth Kansas Cavalry in 1861, and in 1862 was made major of the Sixth Kansas, serving until 1864; during the Price invasion he was colonel of the Second Kansas Militia. In 1866 he was appointed commissioner for the sale of state lands, which position he held some years, and was a member of the state senate in 1867-8 and of the house of representatives in 1871, 1873, 1883, 1887, 1889 and 1895, serving as speaker pro tem of the house in 1873. Colonel Veale was married, January 20, 1857, to Nanny Johnson, of Evansville, Indiana. He was president of the State Historical Society in 1898, and has resided in Topeka many years.
Home Page for Kansas
Search all of Blue Skyways
The KSGenWeb Project