The History of the Early Settlement of Norton County, Kansas

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Kansas was organized as a territory May 30, 1854, and as a state January 29, 1861, formed from territory ceded the United States by France, by the treaty of April 30, 1803, and by Texas in 1850.  It was named for a tribe of Indians of that name, of the Dakota family, an off-shoot of the Osages.  The word is defined as "smoky water," also as "good potato."

The territory that now comprises Norton county was given the name of Oro by the territorial legislature in 1859, and retained that name until 1867.

The boundaries of Norton county were defined by an act of the legislature passed in 1867, and was named in memory of Orloff Norton, captain of Co. L, Fifteenth Kansas cavalry, killed by the Guerilla's [sic] at Cane Hill, Arkansas, October 29, 1865; The name was suggested by the late Preston B. Plumb, who at that time was speaker of the Kansas house of representatives.

Norton county is thirty miles square and contains 900 square miles.  The north fork of the Solomon runs through the south part of the county, the Sappa through the north part, the Prairie Dog through the central portion.  The Prairie Dog was named by John C. Fremont in 1843, during his exploration of the Rocky mountains by way of the Kansas river and waters of the Republican.  In his entry in his journal, under date of June 23, he says:

At noon on the 23d we descended into the valley of a principal fork of the Republican, a beautiful stream forty feet wide and four feet deep, with a dense border of wood consisting principally of varieties of ash.  It was musical with the notes of many birds, which from the vast expanse of silent prairie around, seemed all to have collected here.  We continued during the afternoon our route along the river, which was populous with prairie dogs, (the bottom being entirely occupied with their villages) and late in the evening camped on its banks. The prevailing timber is a blue-foliaged ash (fraxinus, near F. Americana) and as? leaved maple.  With these were fraxinus Americana, cottonwood and long-leaved willow.  We gave to this stream the name of Prairie Dog river.

The first settlement in Norton county was made in 1871.

The first homestead was taken by George Cole - the land now owned and occupied by Samuel Sorrick.  After the organization of the county he was elected register of deeds.  He is a brother of Ame Cole, the famous buffalo hunter.  He lived here several years.  He now resides at Phillipsburg.  His residence in Norton county dates from September 12, 1871.

In November of 1871 James Hall, Charles Brazee and Fred Hyde settled here.  Hyde settled on land now owned by Isaac Whitaker.  Brazee's health failed in 1875; he went east for treatment and shortly afterward died.  Fred Hyde left this county in 1875.  He now runs a saloon at Beatrice, Neb.  During most of the time he resided in this county he was employed as cook for the hunting outfit of Ame Cole.

James Hall settled at that time on the farm he now owns. He was the first sheriff of Norton county.  He left this county in the fall of 1873 and remained away for some years.  He is the only man who settled here in 1871 that resides in the county at this time.

David C. Coleman settled on land adjoining Hall, afterward known as the Brinton land.  He was the first county clerk of Norton county, but got mixed up in some of the crookedness relative to the issue of bonds in district No. 1 and left in the fall of 1873 and has never returned.  He now resides in Florida.  Among the hunters and trappers who were camped here in 1871 and afterward became residents, I feel it appropriate to name Sol


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