Early History and Settlers of Barber County, Kansas

I would like to thank Kansas Genealogy Society, Inc. for their contribution of this article to the Barber County GenWeb.
Barber County, Kansas is one of the southern tier of counties bordering the state of Oklahoma located in the central part of the state. It was organized in 1873, from territory originally embraced in Washington County. The county was named for Thomas W. Barber (1. See story below), who was killed near Lawrence [Kansas] on December 6, 1855. It was intended, when the county was organized, that it should bear the name “Barber,” but in some manner the spelling was changed to “Barbour” and stood that way until 1883, when the legislature passed an act changing the name to “Barber,” it’s present form, according to original intention. Its area is 1,134 square miles.

In the winter of 1871-72 the first white settler, a man named Griffin, located a ranch on a branch of the Medicine Lodge river, about a mile from the present site of Sun City, in the northwest part of the county. This pioneer was killed in the Indian Territory the following summer, and C. H. Douglass is now the leading merchant in the town.

The following spring E. H. Mosley, and two men named Lockwood and Leonard, located on the Medicine Lodge river in the southeastern part of the county near the present town of Kiowa. Mosley brought with him goods for Indian trade and spent his time hunting buffalo and buying hides for the eastern market, while the other men broke some prairie and engaged in farming.
This displeased the Indians, who opposed white settlement in this section. On July 30, 1872 they raided the homes of Leonard and Lockwood, and in the fight that ensued Mosley was killed, but the other two men saved themselves by remaining in the house inside a stockade. The Indians left after killing most of the stock.

In October, 1872, Eli Smith joined this settlement, and a store was opened there by G. Hegwer in the spring of 1873. Derick Updegraff settled on land near the present site of Medicine Lodge in December, 1872. Solmon P. Tuttle drove in a large herd of Texas cattle and wintered them on the Medicine River, near this claim in the fall of 1872. During the year claims were taken up in the vicinity of William Walter, W. E. Hutchinson, Jake Ryan, A. L. Duncan, David Hubbard and John Beebe, while Samuel Larsh and a man named Wyncoop took up claims on Cedar creek 3 miles from the Updegraff ranch. The first graded cattle were brought into the county in the spring of 1873 by William Carl, who held them on the river about 12 miles above Medicine Lodge.

Lake City, on the upper Medicine Lodge River, was settled by Reuben Lake about the same time. During the spring and summer of 1873 a number of people came and the northern part of the county became settled. Ralph Duncan was the first white child born in the county, in the spring of 1873, and the first wedding took place in July, 1874, when Charles Tabor married a Miss Moore. S. Miller and Mary Hale were married at Sun City at an early day, but the exact date is unknown.

Indian depredations continued through the spring of 1874 and Cutler’s History of Kansas (p. 1,521) says: “It was in the summer of 1874 that the so-called Indian raid occurred - when a band of Indians, led by a number of white men, it is alleged, came into this county and murdered several citizens up the Medicine River.” For protection the citizens built stockades, one of which was erected near the center of the present city of Medicine Lodge. It was made of cedar posts set upright in the ground. Another stockade was built 12 miles up the river at Sun City, and for further protection a company of militia was formed to fight the Indians.

The first school district of the county, which included Medicine Lodge was organized in the spring of 1873, and the school building erected that year was used until 1882. Early religious services in the county were held by traveling Methodist preachers, but no regular organization was affected until 1878.

The first newspaper was the Barber County Mail, which was started on May 20, 1879, by M. J. Cochran. It was sold the next year to J. W. McNeal and E. W. Iliff, who at once changed the name and started the Cresset.

County Organization

The first record of the county commissioners is dated July 7, 1873. The board consisted of S. H. Ulmer, L. H. Bowlus and J. C. Kilpatrick. On Sept. 1 the board made a contract with C. C. Bemis for a courthouse to cost $25.000, and the clerk was directed to issue warrants for that amount, but the building was never erected. On September 2, 1873, W. E. Hutchinson was appointed immigration agent, and warrants to the amount of $1,000 were drawn in his favor. On October 6, G. W. Crane received the appointment as advertising agent and was given $5,000, or as much of that amount as was needed of that amount, to advertise the advantages of the county.

The county was divided on November 7, 1973, into three districts for the election of commissioners, and on February 11, 1874, a special election was held to determine the question of issuing bonds to the amount of $40,000 for the erection of a court-house. The result of the election was a majority of 41 votes against the issue, but under a law of March 7, 1874, the county commissioners issued the bonds.

The first regular election of county officers took place in November, 1873. The vote of the Medicine Lodge district was thrown out for some reason, and the officers chosen by the remainder of the county were, M. D. Hauk, county clerk; Jacob Horn, county treasurer; D. E. Sheldon, probate judge; Reuben Lake, sheriff; S. B. Douglas, superintendent of public instruction; C. H. Douglas, clerk of the district court; M. S. Cobb, register of deeds; M. W. Sutton, county attorney.

The records of the general election of 1874 are missing. County officials have been elected as follows - County Clerks: S. J. Shepler , 1875-77; R. A. Ward, 1879; J. E. Chapin, 1881. County Treasurers: Jacob Horn, 1875; J. W. McNeal 1877; J. E. Chapin, 1879; C. T. Rigg, 1881. Sheriffs: C. L. Walker, 1875; J. Moore, 1877; J. T. Taylor, 1879; C. T Rigg, 1881. Probate Judges: W. M. Friedly, 1876-78; S. J. Shepler, 1880-82. County Superintendent of Public Instruction: C. C. Bond, 1875; M. L. Palmer, 1876; J. W. Cornelius, 1878; T. S. Lindley, 1880; A. Axline, 1882. Clerks of the District Court: W. G. Osborn, 1875; T. W. McClure, 1877; S. W. Lard, 1878; T. W. Osborne, 1879; Robert A. Talliaferro, 1880-82. Registers of Deeds: J. R. Easley, 1875; Edward Ozbun, 1877; J. R. Easley, 1878; W. A. Mount, 1879; L. W. Moore, 1881. County Attorneys: B. P Ayres, 1876-78; James T. Whitelaw, 1880; E. Sample, 1882. Surveyors: P. Hartzel, 1875; George E. Wise, 1877; T. A. Bayley, 1879; A. Bayley, 1879; A. Denton, 1880-81. Coroners: George Ebersal, 1875; J. V. Fishburn, 1877; William Fitch, 1879; J. W. Singer, 1881.

Medicine Lodge

Medicine Lodge takes it’s name from the river that skirts the town site on the west. This stream in turn was named by the Indians, who often met upon its banks in council for “making medicine.” The location of the city is an admirable one, Elm Creek lying on the east, and the Medicine River on the west, joining their waters a quarter mile south of the city, while between them rises the lofty plateau of the town site.

In October, 1872, William Walters had a temporary camp at the fork below the present city but made no effort at settlement, and moved away the following spring. In February, 1873, the party, led by John Hutchinson came to Medicine Lodge, and laid out the town site of 400 acres. The first building on the town site was the structure which now forms the dining room of the Medicine Lodge House. It was put up by D. Updegraff and used then as now, for hotel purposes Lumber was hauled from Hutchinson [Kansas], and Bemis, Hutchinson & Company proceeded to put up an office - the building which now forms the south wing of the Medicine Lodge House. This was followed by a large general store erected by Bemis, Jordon & Company, on the spot now occupied by Paynes’s Bank.

L. H. Ulmer was the next merchant to locate here, and was followed in the summer of 1873 by D. E Sheldon. Immigration was rapid during 1873, that year witnessing the arrival of C. T. Rigg, the first physician in the town, and now Sheriff of the county: W. E. Hutchinson, the first attorney, and M. Sutton, also a disciple of Blackstone. The first blacksmith shop was put up by Cicero Widner, and the first drug store opened by S. A. Winston during this season. The Indian scare of 1874 checked settlement and caused a large exodus, but the following years showed a steady growth that has made Medicine Lodge an “eminently solid” city.

A post office was established at Medicine Lodge in 1873, and the mail handled by W. E. Hutchinson. S. A. Winston was postmaster in 1873, and was followed by M. D. Houck, D. E. Van Slyke, Eli Smith, and W. D. Van Slyke, the present official. The first post office was in the Winston building, now owned by Dr. C. T. Rigg, and leased as a billiard room. It was in this room that the first term of court was held. Thence it was moved to the lot now occupied by the Medicine Valley Bank, thence to the Friedly building, the little frame north of Little’s store, and its present quarters on the west side of Main street. It was made a money order office in 1879, and the first order purchased by Charles Ellis, July 8, of that year.

On May 21, 1879, the order incorporating Medicine Lodge as a city of the third class was signed, and the first city election was set for June 7, 1879. This election resulted in the choice of W. W. Cook, mayor; H. M. Davis, police judge; W. W. Standiford, J. N. Iliff, George Mitts, J. Storey, and D. M. Carmichael, councilmen. S. J. Shepler served a short time as city clerk, and followed by J. W. Upperman. A. W. Little was mayor in 1880, J. E. Chapin in1881, and S. J. Shepler in 1882. Police Judges were elected as follows: H. M. Davis, 1880-81; G. S. Turney, 1882; S. J. Shepler was city clerk in 1880, A. V. Shepler in 1881, and J. W. Upperman in 1882. The present council is made up W. W. Cook, D. Van Slyke, E. Youmans, E. W. Payne, T. A. McNeal. C. T. Rigg is marshal, E. Sample, city attorney, and J. C. Orner, city treasurer. The city now has a population of 600.

School District number 1, which takes in Medicine Lodge, was organized in the spring of 1873, and Miss Lucinda Burlingame engaged as teacher. She was followed by Mr. J. Whitelaw, Mrs. Julia A. Whitelaw, H. M. Davis, John Swank, Mrs. M. G. McClure, J. M. Neal, E. M. Byerley, and A. Axline, the present principal, who was engaged in the fall of 1880, and still holds the position. Mr. Axline is assisted by Mrs. Julia A. Whitelaw, and Mrs. M. G. McClure.

The earliest religious services in the town were held by traveling Methodist preachers. No regular organization, was however, affected until 1878, when Rev. Mr. Mattern was appointed pastor. The society then numbered thirteen, but felt so much confidence in the future, that the erection of a church building was at once decided upon. This structure was completed in 1879, at a cost of $1,200. A parsonage was erected in 1881, at a cost of $300. Rev. Mr. Music was appointed pastor in 1880, but remained only a short time, and his un-expired term was filled by Rev. Mr. Roliuson. W. C. Reed was pastor in 1881, and James F. Hill in 1882. The society now numbers forty-seven. The Union Sabbath school is conducted by this church and the Presbyterians. It is in a flourishing condition under J. T. Taylor.

The Christian Church was organized in October, 1887, and A. H. Mulky chosen pastor. His labors closed in 1882, and since that time there has been no regular preaching. The society, which at the time of organization, numbered thirteen, now has forty-five members enrolled. Early services were held in the schoolhouse, whence they were moved to the residence of D. E. Sheldon, which had been converted to school purposes. A church building was completed in 1880, at a cost of $1,400, and has been occupied for the past two years. A Sabbath school organized in 1880 has an average attendance of forty, and is in charge of T. A. McLeary.

There is a society of this denomination at Sharon Post Office, ten miles east of Medicine Lodge. It is supplied by Rev. Charles Collins, and has a membership of forty, and flourishing Sabbath school under James Huffaker.

Presbyterian Church - As early as 1879, services were held at this point by Rev. A. Axline, but it was not until his settlement here in 1880 that a society was formed. It has never had a change of pastors, and retains it original membership of twenty-two. Services have been held in the schoolhouse, and later in the Methodist Episcopal Church. A Presbyterian Church edifice is now building, and will be completed in1883.

The United Brethren have a number of members in the county, but very few in Medicine Lodge. Rev. W. M. Friedly performed all services up to November 7, 1882, when he left for Winfield, Cowley Co., and his place was filled by Rev. D. J. Cole.

Societies, The Press, Etc.

Pioneer Lodge, No. 179, I. O. O. F., was organized on February 24, 1881, with seven members and the following officers: John Nelson, N.G.; John Higgins, V.G.; E. M. Byerley, S.; D. Morris, Treasurer. The lodge now numbers forty-one members, and has the following official roll: John Higgins, N.G.; E. M. Byerley, V.G.; W.T. Rouse, secretary; Ambrose Allen, Treasurer.

Delta Lodge, No. 77, A., F. & A.M., was organized under dispensation, in March 1881 and chartered in March, 1882. At the time the charter was granted the lodge had twenty-two members and the following officers: S. J. Shepler, W.M.; C. G. Turney, S.W.; I.W. Stout, J.W.; J. E. Chapin, secretary; Burd Lacey, treasurer. From March, 1882, to the December election of that year, D. Van Slyke filled the office of treasurer. The present officers of the lodge are: S. J. Shepler, W.M.; C. G. Turney, J.W.; George Geppert, J.W.; H. Yant, secretary; Burd Lacey, treasurer.

Fidelity Lodge, No. 80, A. O. U. W., was chartered October 14, 1881. It had then seventeen members and the following officers: J. E. Chapin, P.M.W.; John. L. Nelson, M.W.; E. Morris, foreman; J. W. Singer, O.; J. C. Orner, recorder. W. T. Rouse, fin.; Eli Smith, receiver. The lodge now has a membership of twenty-four and the following official roll: J. W. Singer, P.M.W.; S.M. Roberts, M.W.; R. G. Eckert, foreman; N. W. Young, O.; L. W. Moore, recorder; L. D. Hess, fin.; Eli Smith, receiver. The press history of this town, as well as the county, is comprised in that of three papers, the Mail, Cresset and Index.

The Barber County Mail was started May 20, 1878 by M. J. Cochran. Its first appearance was an eight column folio, one side, “patent,” but soon changed to a six column folio, “all home print.” It was sold March 10, 1879 to J. W. McNeal and E. W. Iliff who at once started the Cresset. The Cresset (from cresset, a brilliant light) made it first appearance on March 20, 1879, as a six column folio. May 20 1879 Iliff sold out to T. A. McNeal, and July 10, the form was changed to a five-column “patent” quarto. This was changed to a six-column June 25, 1880, and a seven-column in April, 1883. April 8, 1882, J. W. McNeal sold out to T. A. McNeal, who the same day formed a partnership with L. M. Axline. The paper now has a circulation of 768; appears Thursdays, and is, as it has always been, Republican in politics.

The Barber County Index appeared June 10, 1880, a seven-column folio, edited edited and owned by M. L. Sherpy. The office consisted of a small of type by the Cresset, and possessed neither press, imposing stone, or ink table. Notwithstanding these obstacles the paper lived and grew, becoming an eight-column folio in November, 1881, and a six-column quarto in March, 1882. In July, 1882, it was purchased by E. W. Payne, who changed it to a seven-column quarto in February, 1883. It now has a circulation of 720, is issued on Thursdays, and is a shining light in the Democratic press of this region.

The Merchants’ and Drovers’ Bank was the first bank in the city, and was started in October, 1880, by H. M. Hickman. Business was transacted until January 10,1882, when unfortunate outside business caused the closing of the bank.
Medicine Valley Bank - Two days after the closing of the Merchants’ and Drovers’, this bank sprang into existence. It is run by a joint stock company, officered by E. W. Payne, president; George Geppert, cashier; W. W. Cook, vice president. The capital stock of the bank was $50,000, up to November, 1882, when it was increased to $100,000. A fine bank building was completed in March, 1883, at a cost of, all told, of $7,500.

Standiford, Youmans & Co. - This bank is a private one, and makes no statement of resources. It was organized in 1881, and has done a good business since that time.

1. See biography of Thomas W. Barber in this issue.
Kansas, A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc., Vol. 1, ed. Frank W. Blackmar ( Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, 1912), 148-150

Andreas, A. T., History of the State of Kansas: Counties, Towns and Villages. (Chicago, 1883) 1521-1524.

Editors Note: The information included in this article is edited for maximum genealogical content. Emphasis was placed on names of individuals and the activities they engaged in. Most statistical references to population, agricultural production, costs of projects, etc. were omitted.


Thomas W. Barber

Thomas W. Barber one of the free-state martyrs in Kansas, was a native of Pennsylvania and a son of Thomas and Mary (Oliver) Barber. In the early ‘30s he located at Richmond, Indiana, where he was engaged for some time in operating a woolen mill. Soon after the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska bill, he removed to Kansas and settled on a claim some 7 miles southwest of Lawrence. Being a sober, honest, and industrious citizen, he made friends among his neighbors. Early in December, 1855, when the pro-slavery forces were threatening Lawrence, Mr. Barber decided to go to the assistance of the town. He had no family except a wife, who seems to have had a premonition of impending danger and begged him to remain at home, but he laughed at her fears and set out on horseback for Lawrence. On the morning of December 6, in company with his brother Robert and Thomas M. Pierson, he started for his home, unarmed, promising to return as soon as he had arranged matters at home so as to permit his absence. When about 4 miles from Lawrence, on the California road, they saw a party of 14 horsemen approaching, two of whom rode on in advance of the others for the purpose of holding a parley with Barber and his companions. These two men were George W. Clark, agent of the Pottawatomie Indians, and a merchant of Weston, Missouri by `the name of Burns. They tried to induce the Barbers and Pierson to join them, and meeting with a positive refusal, one of them drew his revolver and fired twice, mortally wounding Thomas W. Barber. He concealed the fact that he was shot until they had ridden about a hundred yards, when he informed his brother, who at first thought such a thing impossible, but a few minutes later the wounded man was seen to reel in his saddle. His associates eased him to the ground, where a little later he breathed his last.

Kansas, A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc., Vol. 1, ed. Frank W. Blackmar ( Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, 1912), 148 - 15

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