Early History Of Lincoln County
Recounted by Former Resident
At the Memorial day services held at the Eckelman grove near the Hammer cemetery on Sunday, May 30, the following history depicting some of the early history of that part of Lincoln county, written by Arthur J. Stanley, former resident, but who now lives in Kansas City, was read by John McCurdy as a part of the program:
The Hammer cemetery is located in the northeast corner of the NW 1/4 of Section 3, Township 13 S, Range 7. This quarter section was railroad land, meaning within the limits of the government grant to the Kansas Pacific railroad. This quarter section was purchased by Hiram Hammer in the 1870s. He had homestead the NE 1/4 of Section 4-13-7. An emigrant lost a child and Hiram Hammer permitted its parents to bury it in the corner of his farm, there being no established cemetery here then. Then later on, about 1874, a nephew of Hiram Hammer, named Spencer Hammer, who lived with his uncle, died and it was intended to have the interment at Lincoln, but the Saline river was in flood, and not being able to get to Lincoln, Spencer Hammer, a soldier in the Civil War, was buried in the northeast corner of what is now the cemetery.
Other internments were made there in the 1870s and in 1879 the Hammer Cemetery Association (corporation) was chartered by the state for 20 years. In 1899, the residents interested in this cemetery renewed the charter for 99 years, thus making its expiration in 1998. Jehu Stanley was the first president of the corporation and remained as such until his death in 1894 and Jonathan Pitcher was the secretary. The cemetery was surveyed and platted and the plat is recorded in the office of the Register of Deeds at Lincoln.
The earliest settler in the immediate vicinity was John Blount, who was born in Virginia, April 14, 1797, at a time when George Washington was president of the United States, and who died Jan. 1, 1880, on his homestead, which was the NE 1/4 of Section 2-13-7, just south of the grove where these exercises are held. He settled there in 1869. He was the father-in-law of Joshua Kindlesparger who homesteaded soon after at the place, afterward called the Colbert Store and post office . Blount’s arrival was soon followed by Hiram Hammer, Samuel Donley, Richard Keating, his brother, Michael, his sister Nora, afterwards Mrs. Reuben Sparks, and their mother, Wm. Gourley, G.G. Lang, his brother Luther Lang, Charles Anderson, Peter A. Nelson, Jehu Stanley, Daniel L. Hawk, D.P. Webb, G.W. Joslin, grandfather of our present county clerk and many others, who came in the very early 1870s. All of the above stuck to the task and endured the prairie and met the vicissitudes incident to homesteading, notwithstanding the lack of roads, schools, churches, post offices, all of which they helped to establish in due times. Most of those named above and a few others built dugouts, with dirt roofs, and in some instances, dirt floors with fireplaces for heating and cooking.
There were very few springs and each settler dug and walled a well and it is more than remarkable that few failed to find adequate water at a moderate depth, usually from 15 to 40 feet. There were very few deep wells.
The first school in this vicinity was held in a dugout on the Peter A. Nelson homestead, which was the west 1/ 2 of SW 1/4 of Section 2-13-7 and was a subscription school taught by Elvira Lang, a daughter of G.G. and Matilda Lang. The next school was held in a store, dirt roofed building constructed by the people at the very southeast corner of the Peter A. Nelson homestead and about 150 feet from the first school. Nelson afterward used the first one for a chicken coop and the second one for a granary.
E.A. Moody, an Englishman who homesteaded the west 80 acres of the farm where Mrs. Milt Webb now lives, was one of the teachers and Ami Boyer was another who taught in that second school house. Boyer boarded or batched with Wm. Gourley, who was then a bachelor.
A little anecdote will not be amiss. Moody had “speaking days” in his school and all had to sing or recite -- that is “speak his piece.” Lee Lang had for his “piece” this:
“E.A. Moody, the son of an Earl --
His hair stands straight and his whiskers curl,” etc.
Tradition has it that E.A. Moody, who had kinky hair and beard, did not like Lee’s “piece” any too well.
The floor of that school house was rough boards, and the seats or desks were split logs with the split side up, and tree limbs for legs stuck into auger holes bored into the rounded sides for legs.
John, Annie and Spence Donley, Al and Mack Hemminger, Lloyd and Lee Lang, Ellsworth Lang, Johnnie, Dolph, Nora, Sadie and Dick Stanley, Sara, Jacob, Wm., Tom, Roe Ann and Maggie Kindlesparger, Tabetha and Charles Jarrett, grandchildren of Aunt Basheba Blount, the wife of John Blount, who was the widow Jarrett when John Blount married her and the mother of Joe Blount, well known stockman in his day, Charity Funnemore and Henry Pitcher, all attended that school. The Jarretts lived on the place where Marsh Webb now lives. It is believe that Joe Blount, who was born in 1857 in Indiana and was 12 years old when his parents first came to this neighborhood, was also a pupil in this school, as he was about 20 years old at that date (1877). Joe Blount died at Peru, Kan., in 1949, having attained the age of 92.
In 1878, homesteads were being entered and many had children and an urgent demand for better schools presented itself. John Lyden, on the organization of the county, was appointed provisional county superintendent. He was murdered on his ranch on the west Elkhorn, afterwards known as the Hazel place I believe. Washington Smith followed Lyden, and then came the tenure of the premier of all county superintendents, A.T. Biggs. I regarded Biggs as superior to all his predecessors or successors, and in saying that, I do not in any way degrade or belittle any of them. To A.T. Biggs fell the duty of laying out and organizing practically every school district in the county and lay the foundation of its school system. These things he did so well that in my opinion, the results obtained in the schools went more toward establishing sound, sturdy, self-reliant characters in the boys and girls of that day, than is done now in the consolidated schools with all their folderol.
Out of this first improved school A.T. Biggs organized School District No. 8, the Donley school, No. 18, the Topsy school, No. 69, the Pleasant Dale school, No. 47, the Twin Mound school, No 39, the Freedom school. Topsy and Twin Mound are the only schoolhouses standing, neither used for school. Topsy is used and owned by Franklin township.
Consider this situation. Ellsworth from 18 to 25 miles distant, and Brookville a little closer, but a range of rugged hills intervened between our neighborhood and Brookville.
These places were the marketing points for grain and livestock, sold off the farms. The road to either point was a mere trail and followed the easier grades and most direct route. Section lines, though established, had no relation to road location. There were many little streams like Brush Creek, Owl Creek, Spring Creek, the Elkhorn, and, near Ellsworth, Oak Creek, not one of which had a bridge of any kind. If the stream was dry, as most of them were, it was a case of crossing at the point where the banks presented the easiest grade to both get down into the creek and up out of it. If there was water in the creek it was a case of throwing a rock to get a more solid floor for crossing, and cutting down the banks to fit the crossing.
The early settlers lived largely from the garden, field, domestic stock, and the range. The antelope and buffalo had almost entirely disappeared by 1879, but the grass, called buffalo grass, was so succulent that domestic cattle fattened on it at all seasons, and only necessary to feed them. It was when covered by snow better pasture and more nourishing to cattle than the famed blue stem of the Flint Hills in south central Kansas. It has now largely disappeared as it will not stand heavy pasturing.
It has now been 50 years since I gave any real concentrated thought to the study of botany, but my recollection is that each tuft of buffalo grass has a stem or runner extending to the next tuft and if this stem is broken, the tuft will not bear seeds and cattle tramping over the grass break the stems, and bunch or blue stem grass comes on and grows out the buffalo grass, so little of it is left. There is quite a patch of it in Ed Wiley’s pasture on the east bluff which is about on the line between Section 29 in Madison township and Section 36 in Franklin township.
The means of transportation was limited to going on foot, riding horseback, or in a common wagon, which was drawn by horses, mules or oxen. There was not a single spring wagon or buggy in the entire neighborhood. James Blout, who was the owner of the half section where this grove is, also owned the first spring wagon in the neighborhood, and he always loaned it freely.
There was, to my knowledge, only one stone boat. It was built much like a flat bottomed scow, with one end square and the other raised in a slant, which would be the front end and there was an iron ring secured in the center of the front end, to which could be attached a log chain. A yoke of oxen could pull that scow along nicely, and the bottom of it became quite slick as it slipped over the grass which was everywhere. My father had a stone boat, and used it to haul stone about the place. There was three yoke of oxen. G.W. Joslin had a yoke that brought him and his family to the county from Iowa, as I recall, but the obituary of his oldest son, Grant Joslin, said the family came from Indiana. I do not know which is correct.
Roswell P. Jackson had a yoke and Jehu Stanley had a yoke. Joslin called his Buck and Bright, Jackson called his Duke and Buck. Both these yokes were ordinary domestic cattle. Stanley’s were long horn Texas steers that had been driven with a herd over the Chisholm Trail from Texas, as their brands showed. They were called Tom and Jerry. I worked them a few times in the field. I was not large enough to yoke them, but me and my older brother Dick both together could do it.
The means of lighting homes was primitive. The coal oil lamp had not been in use very long prior to 1870, but it had reached wide use. Distance to market and inadequate means of storing supplies often left a family out of coal oil and borrowing back and forth was prevalent. This was true of flour, salt, coffee and other foods. To bridge the gap between exhausted oil supply and the next time of going to town, there was an improved lamp called the grease lamp. It was made by pouring an ordinary pie pan almost full of melted lard, and then twisting a strip of cotton into a sort of wick 12 to 15 inches long and then coiling that wick into the grease in the pan, leaving one end of the wick stuck up a half inch or so about the edge of the pan. Light this end of the wick and from time to time “pull up the wick” and such a light would furnish fair illumination for some time. Housewives had to put up with the oily soot that such a light caused.
As time went on, the more opulent farmer had a lantern to use about the stable when doing chores in early morning and late at night. The simple matter of matches might be mentioned. The grocer commonly gave to his customers a block of what was then called sulphur matches. The name was very apt for the following reasons: They were made in a solid block about two inches square and the other dimension was the length of a match. On one end of each match was free and could easily be separated from the others. On the other end they were all held together with the stuff called brimestone. To use a match one pulled it loose from the block and then rubbed, or struck, the brimestone end on some rough surface like rust from a stone or the like. Adepts at “striking” matches could ignite them by pulling them rapidly across the seat of their pants. It was when the friction ignited the brimestone and it fizzed for a moment or two, and then burst into flame, that a yellowish green color appeared and the sulphur gave off a gas that was quite offensive, especially to one with weak lungs. I expect from this came the common name of “sulphur match.” It was 10 or 15 years later that the “parlor match” came on the market, and the practice of free matches ceased.
Next followed the self-owned light plants like the Delco and then the R.E.A. Some difference in both service and convenience. There were a few who had flints from which a spark could be struck, but seldom used.
In the matter of domestic water I recall but one well “sweep” and that was on the Holt farm just where the trail to Ellsworth left the Elkhorn and took off over the rolling hills and prairie to the southwest. Wells were generally equipped with burbs, a well wheel and rope with a bucket at each end. The common hand pump followed this method, then the windmill and now the electric motor is next in order.
All was virgin prairie. This was broken usually in the spring. By August or September the grass roots would be rotted sufficiently so that the sod could be “backset” as it was called, that is, turned over and when well harrowed presented a fine field or rich soil for wheat, which most always, in wheat years, produced 40 bushels or more to the acre.
The first harvesting machine in our neighborhood was owned by Charles Bolte. He died in 1886, I believe, and George Bolte, who now lives in Lincoln, and John Bolte, who lived in the south part of Madison township and died within the past two years, were two of his sons. It was drawn by two horses and was a reel, sickle and platform, on which the wheat was laid by the reel, and then at regular intervals a mechanical arm came over and raked the wheat off at the back end and onto the ground in bunches, each equal to a fair sized sheaf. Two men followed and picked up and bound each bundle in a sheaf, using the wheat as a band. The machine was called a “self rake.” This was followed by the harvester where the wheat was caught by a canvas and carried up and over to two men who stood on a platform on the side of the machine and each man in turn selected enough wheat for a sheaf and bound it with wheat straw and threw it on the ground. This was really work. This machine was known as the “March Harvester” and was soon followed by a wire binder which gave place to the twine binder and the header, and now the combine does it all. Threshing was first done by horse power, then by steam power and both laborious tasks.
Nearly all had a few head of domestic cattle, for milking purposes and raised a few steers for market. Charley Jones, John Donley and Joe Blount in the 1880s were the principal ones who full fed cattle for market.
It was the thought at first that hedge or osage orange fending would be the thing. Barbed wire came along in the 1870s and superseded the hedge. Earlier, since the range was free and plentiful, some herded their stock and occasionally combined together for that purpose, others picketed their stock, which was done in this manner. From 50 to 75 feet of rope was used per head. One end was fastened to the animals’ horns or neck, the other to a stake driven in the ground and this was called picketing. Picketed stock had to be taken at least once during the day to the well or creek for water.
Postal service was after this fashion: A stage line ran from Salina to Cedron. The driver for years was a Mr. Crawford, father of the Crawford Bros., and grandfather of Max Crawford, a prominent Lincoln citizen now. There were post offices here and there on this stage line which went one way one day and back the next. Monroe, whose postmaster was Mr. Cullum, as I recall, to Rocky Hill and Lincoln and thence north went to Cedron. Most of the people around here got their mail at Rocky Hill at first, which then consisted of the mill run by a Mr. Graham, powered by water. It was a dispute about ownership of logs intended for the dam for this mill that resulted in a Mr. Hubbard killing John Healy and in turn that same day being killed by a mob at Abram, the then county seat of Lincoln county in 1872. Hubbard was in the jail, a small frame building which was afterwards moved to Lincoln and used by John Kyle as a tin shop for many years, located very close to the present City Hall.
In addition to the mill at Rocky Hill there was a store by some one, I do not recall, a blacksmith shop by Hi Williams, and a few residences, including the Jim Dobson family, one of whom is Mrs. Tont Lyon of Lincoln.
After a time my father, Jehu Stanley, either by himself or one of his children, for 11 months went on a certain day each week to Monroe, 6 1/2 miles distant, and got the mail for all our neighbors who came to our house at their convenience and got their mail. This resulted in a branch Star route being established, running from Monroe to our house, Topsy post office, and from there on to Lone Walnut on Spring Creek in Valley township where either the father or mother of Howard Lyne was postmaster, as my father was at Topsy. A little later on J.W. McReynolds got a post office established as Tower Springs and I believe he was postmaster there.
The mail came once a week and for a long time a Mr. Pickett, who was half blood Indian, carried the mail on a flea bitten gray horse. He carried a sun dial by which on sunny days he could tell time. The mail was carried in a heavy leather bag similar to saddle bags.
John Lyden was provisional county superintendent at the organization of the county and a resident of what was afterward Franklin township. J.W. McReynolds was county treasurer for two terms about 1894 to 1898 (this is a guess as to time). Jehu Stanley was county commissioner from about 1888 to 1890. One of the sons of John Meier was county commissioner for several years recently. I was a member of the legislature 56 years ago for one term and county superintendent from 1905 to 1911. John Joslin, a son of the late Grant Joslin, has been such a successful county clerk that his name is almost synonymous with the office.
This cemetery serves Franklin township, the greater part of the west half of Madison township and at least one fifth of Elkhorn township. There is a cemetery in the southeast corner of Section 3-13-7, established in recent years and maintained by the German Lutheran church.
There were no Indian raids in Lincoln county after May 30, 1869, and John Blount was the only settler here then and the Indians only went as far as Bullfoot, up which they traveled on their departure, having come down the Spillman.