From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.
The first thing to be thought of, when a new town is started is to clear the land of most of the timber, and underbrush, then survey and plat the lots, streets and alleys. That was a rather hard job for the men, who comprised the Town Company, that squatted upon the land that is now the City of Leavenworth, in 1854, as it is recorded that what is now the City Proper was densely wooded.
Leavenworth is a squatter city, and had some very exciting times in its early history. The land upon which it is built was only a hunting ground for the Delaware Indians. There were no white families living in the whole northwest section of the Territory of Kansas, except those at Fort Leavenworth. The United States government had already made a geographical survey of the Territory of Kansas, and certain land was allotted to the different tribes of Indians that were at that time in the Territory; but all of the land was not given to them. Many people, all along the Western half of Missouri were watching with covetous eyes, and hoping for the time, when these lands would be made available for settlement by white men. Their opportunity came, after the signing of the so called Douglass Kansas-Nebraska Bill by President Pierce, May 30, 1854. The news was sent immediately afterward to Weston, Mo., by David A. Atchison, then a United States senator from Missouri, whose home was on a plantation near Plattsburg. This is the message Senator Atchison sent his friends, at Weston: "Go over and take possession of the good land, it is yours."
The business men of Weston were anxious to establish town sites in the Territory, so they sent a number of men into the new country. One of these groups formed the town company that laid out the City of Leavenworth. The original town company was composed of thirty-two men from Weston and Fort Leavenworth. Because of the nearness of the Fort, many of the military officers and men played important parts in the early development of this city.
Gen. George W. Gist surveyed and laid out the town site, and he was also the first president of the town company. H. Miles Moore, and eminent lawyer of Weston, Mo., was secretary of the company. After the company was formed and the original constitution and by-laws had been adopted by all the members, it was decided that they should be drafted for a protection, and a guide to government of the new town, so Judge L. D. Bird, Oliver Diefendorf and H. Miles Moore were appointed to prepared them. Of course, a name had to be selected for the new town. Judge Bird and Mr. Diefendorf favored Douglass in honor of the author of the bill that opened the territory for settlement. Mr. Moore, a man of vision was strongly in favor of naming it Leavenworth, because of the advantages that name held. Everyone knew about Fort Leavenworth and its beautiful location on the Missouri river. To name the new town Leavenworth would, in Mr. Moore's opinion draw more settlers from a distance, those with capital; yes, those people who were afraid of the Indians and this wild and wooly west would come and open up new businesses if they thought they would be protected by the military establishment at the fort. A vote was taken and was unamiously in favor of Leavenworth.
Maj. E. A. Ogden, quartermaster stationed at Fort Leavenworth and also one of the town trustees, suggested that all the streets running east and west from Three Mile creek north to Metropolitan avenue be named in memory and to perpetrate the names of the Indian tribes, who were then living in the territory. They are Choctaw, Cherokee, Delaware, Shawnee, Seneca, Miami, Osage, Pottawatomie, Ottawa, Kickapoo, Kiowa, Dakota, Pawnee and Cheyenne. Many of the other streets were named for the early settlers of this community.
The writer has often wondered how the creeks, running through Leavenworth City and Leavenworth county got their names. You know it is always interesting to know, how anything came by that particular names which they are generally called. Our highways are now marked by specially designed names and numbered markers, but, of course, this was an unsettled territory, except for Indians, and they used trails which they marked in a way they knew.
When the fort was established by General Henry Leavenworth in 1827 it was necessary to survey and cut out roads to get to different points and int time the military geographic maps had all these creeks drawn on it. It was in establishing a route to Fort Scott, that they were named. The distance the fording places on each creek, from the flag staff at the post was the reason for the naming by number of so many of them. Fort Leavenworth was the receiving point for all government supplies and the distributing points for all parts north, south and west. Everything was conveyed from here to their various places by government trains, which in that day were covered wagons drawn by oxen, horses or mules. The distance from the flag staff to the passable crossings of these streams was measured by a rhodometer. These distances were noted on a map, of the main traveled road to Fort Scott and marked by the number of miles they were from the flag staff at Fort Leavenworth. A copy of this way was filed in the quartermaster general's office in Washington, D. C.
Three Mile creek has played an important part in the history of the city and it seems that it would be more fitting to beautify it, and allow it to remain a memorial to those times. In another story the writer hopes to tell of the things that florished along Three Mile creek in the early days.