It is hardly probable that any white man was living in the county at the time of the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. Near its eastern line, in Doniphan county, an Indian Mission had been in existence for years, at which several white persons resided. One of the overland routes to California, or as it is more familiarly known, the "California Trail," entered the county, on its eastern border, nearly midway north and south, and wound along on the divides, avoiding all streams on account of difficulty in crossing; passing on the north of Drummond's Branch, crossing the western part of the present site of Hiawatha, then following the divide between the head waters of the Wolf and Walnut, left the county near the present site of Sabetha. Hundreds of teams and thousands of persons had probably passed over this trail during the five preceding years, on their weary journey to the gold mines of the Pacific Coast. A gentleman who made the trip in 1849, afterwards related that while his party, consisting of thirty men, were camping near the head of Drummond's Branch, he, with two others, started out in search of game, and as they came upon the high prairie, in sight of the timber, at the northwest and at the south, they discovered a small herd of buffalo, and, after a short chase, succeeded in killing one in the timber nearly east of where Hiawatha now stands. From this description of the point where the buffalo were first discovered, it would seem as though it must have been on or near the present site of Hiawatha; and the wood where it was killed was probably on or near the farm now owned by Dr. Seburn. Nothing of interest can be related of the county prior to its settlement by the whites. While the Indians, doubtless, roamed over its prairies and hunted in the beautiful woods that skirt its streams, there is an utter barrenness of romantic traditions and the conclusion is inevitable that the redskins who hunted deer in Brown county were very common place Indians among whom it would have puzzled Cooper to find a hero, or Longfellow a Hiawatha to woo the lovely Minnehaha. There is a tradition that a battle of some magnitude was fought a mile or two east of our present couty seat, near a spring on the farm now owned by W.S. Hall, Esq., and the early settlers report that they found skulls scattered around there and, therefore, they named it "Skull Spring." To determine with any degree of certainty who was the first settler is nearly impossible. A dozen men may have settled at the same time in different sections of the county, unknown to each other. Many of the old settlers who are now living in the county can only tell the month they came; and scores who settled here in the early days became dissatisfied and sought other and fairer fields, while many have, doubtless, travelled that journey from which no weary traveler has ever returned. To give the names of those who are known to have been pioneers in opening this county to settlement and to leave the question of priority open, seems the only true course to pursue. Many came in from Missouri, marked claims, made some slight improvements and returned to their homes to harvest their crops, previously planted there, and to spend the winter. Others, coming from a greater distance, made permanent settlements at once. On the 11th day of May, 1854, Thurston Chase and James Gibbons marked claims on Wolf river, the former taking the farm now owned by Mr. Pittman. They remained on their land two or three weeks, seeing no white man during that time. Mr. Chase broke several acres of prairie, and, returning in August, built a small log house which afterwards burned down. On the 25th of May, C.H. Isely and Peter and Christ Luginbuhl left St. Joseph on foot to explore the section of country lying west of that city. The second day they passed the Indian Mission, near Highland, and at noon stopped to rest and take their dinner on the little stream three miles west of Highland. That evening when a few miles east of Hiawatha they were overtaken by a terrible storm and before they could reach the friendly shelter of the timber, night set in and they were obliged to remain on the prairie, unprotected from the storm during the night, which proved a very dark and rainy one. To make it still more uncomfortable, they discovered, during the night, by the vivid flashes of lightning, a small band of Indians with their ponies, near by them. When morning came, Mr. Isely proposed to continue the journey; but the others, thoroughly disgusted with their first experience in pioneer life, refused to go farther, and the party returned to St. Joseph. In June 1854, W.C. Foster settled in the eastern part of Nemaha county, passing over Brown county, under the impression that it was Indian Trust lands, A few months later, learning his mistake, he settled where he now lives. On August 3, of that year, E.R. Corneilison took a claim on Walnut Creek and on the 11th of the next March moved upon it with his family. His brother Wallace came at the same time. Thomas Brigham took a claim near Padonia at about the same time, and moved his family into the county the following spring. Henry Gragg settled in Powhattan township that fall, and Isaac Sawin and his son Marcellus settled on the farm now owned by Jacob Hayward and immediately commenced improving it. John Belk and his sons, William and King, took claims near Padonia, in November. James L. Wilson, William and Thomas Duncan, and __ Farmer settled near Robinson that summer or fall. William and James Metts took claims on Poney Creek, in November. Jacob Englehart settled on the farm now owned by B.F. Partch, near Hiawatha, and Benj. Winkles and his sons, Geo. G. and Benj. Jr., settled on Walnut Creek in the autumn of that year. Robert Rhea, who now lives southeast of Sabetha, took a claim in 1854. The winter of 1854-55 was a remarkably mild one, the ground remaining so free from frost that plowing could be done during the entire winter. In 1855, quite a number made homes in the new county. It is impossible to get a full or complete list of the names of all who settled in the county during this year. Among them were Amasa Owen, who marked the first road from Hiawatha to Walnut Creek, a year later Joseph Dean, Jesse Strange, J.K. Bunn, who was one of the first constables in the county; Henry Woodward, James W. Belts, John G. Spencer, Jesse Duval, Henry Smith, afterwards one of the county commissioners of the county, who brought with him three slaves - a negro woman named Lena, and her two children; J. Peevy, Spencer Bentley, Geo. Roberts, Clifton Gentry, E.W. Short, Loyd Ashby, Thomas Hart, W.P. and W.J. Proctor, Stephen Hughes and family - Mrs. Hughes being the first white woman in Robinson township; A.B. Anderson, Ole Nelson, James Bridgman, Wm. Nash, who died in Dec., 1855; E. Huffman, Rudolph Zimmerman, Christian Zimmerman, John Moser, John Wilhoit, Bradford Sweangen, SoI McCall, T.J. Kenyon, John Sperry, Squire Griffeth, J.A. Alford, Thomas Strange, John & Wm. Vincent, Frank J. Robbins, John Poe, Wm. Purket, John Boggs, who died in May, 1857, and John Schmidt. John S. Tyler, afterwards assessor and county commissioner, settled upon the farm where he now lives. Enoch Painter, Philip Weiss, Isaac Chase, J.J. Weltmer, Jonthan Soden, Isaac Oxier, Wm. Webb, James Smith, James Cameron, James Waterson, T.J. Drummond, John Page, Daniel Miller.
Early in 1855, the settlers on Walnut Creek formed a protective association, chose officers and enacted laws for the government of the new community. Rigid laws were enacted by this association to protect its members in their claims and it has been intimated that these laws were frequently stretched to protect them in holding two or three claims each. The sale of intoxicating liquors to the lndians was strictly prohibited. The first trial for violating this code took place at the house of Jesse Padon - a small log hut which all the settlers prior to 1862 will remember as standing on the banks of the WaInut near Schmidt's saw mill. Complaint had been made that Robert Boyd and Elisha Osborn had been selling whiskey to the Indians. The settlers, sixteen in number, had gathered with the firm determination to enforce their laws at all hazards; but, one in the whole settlement was absent and he was too ill to attend. When they were ready to proceed, E.R. Corneilison called their attention to the fact that the accused were not present, and asked that they be sent for. This was very summarily overruled and the trial went on. Witnesses were examined; the testimony was direct and to the point; and after a very brief deliberation a verdict of guilty was rendered and it was decided that the stock of liquors held by these men should be destroyed, and that they should pay a fine of twenty dollars and leave the county at once. Padon was appointed to carry out tbe sentence and the others all went along to assist in enforcing the law. The house in which Boyd & Osborn kept their liquors stood at the edge of Pilot Grove, about three miles from Padonia. When the squad arrived at the house the accused were called out and informed that they had been tried, convicted and sentenced and that the officers of the law were then and there prepared to enforce the order. They replied that they would cheerfully give up their liquors and pay the fine but begged not to be forced to leave their homes. They also promised faithfully that they would never again be guilty of a like act. After the party had duly considered the matter, and taken a "snifter" all around, they concluded that it was too bad to waste such valuable property, so the parties paid the fine of twenty dollars, promised to sell no more fire-water to the Indians, and were allowed to retain their liquors and remain at their homes. The twenty dollars was equally divided among the posse, each receiving $1.25 for his day's work and all returned to their homes.
On the 10th of September, 1855, Joanna Duncan, daughter of William Duncan, was born. She was probably the first white child born in the county. On the 20th of September John Bunn, son of J.K. Bunn was born. In October of the same year a son was born to John Morse, under circumstances so peculiar that they deserve a record in these sketches. The preceding March he had moved his family from St. Joseph to a claim on Wolf. Too poor to own a team, he had hired on to bring himself, wife and four little ones to the first home he could ever call his own. In a grove on Wolf Creek, east of Robinson, he set up housekeeping - his total earthly store consisting of one quilt, a skillet, a barrel and a gun. He soon built a rude cabin out of rail-cuts and small poles, making it 10 feet square and covering it with "shakes" rifted from the sturdy oaks. Morse is represented as an inoffensive, kind-hearted man, but far more inclined to rove and hunt than to settle down to the hard toil necessary to make a home in the wilds. While he was away on one of his hunting excursions, his wife was confined. Conscious that the time was fast approaching, in which another immortal soul would be ushered into existence, she sent the children to the woods to gather wild grapes, and hastily arranging her crude and scanty couch, was delivered of a healthy, living child. With no friendly hand to render her the slightest assistance, she cared for herself, and when the children returned from the woods site presented them with a little brother and went on with her usual household duties.
In 1856, the troubled, excited state of political affairs prevented any large immigration to the Territory. The border counties were controlled by organized bands of border ruffians, who would suffer no outspoken free-state man to remain in the Territory; to such the very decisive alternative was given - leave or die. The infamous Richardson with his band of cutthroats made occasional raids on the eastern border of the county, keeping the settlers in a constant state of terror. Many an old settler remembers well the long and weary nights spent in the corn fields and woods when he dared not remain under his roof. All had dogs, and the barking of these faithful guardians at night was a signal for the settler to take unceremoniously to the brush, trusting that the scoundrels who were hunting his life would have manliness to leave unharmed his wife and dear ones. Fortunately for the good name of Brown county, there were no serious outbreaks within its borders. The honest, sober, industrious citizens of both sides did all in their power to preserve the peace and prevent any violation of the law and the kindliest feelings existed between neighbors who were directly opposed to each other politically.
It has not been possible to get a full list of the settlers of 1856, but among them were E.H. Niles, Sam'l and Frank Myers, Wm. Leper, Chas. Smith, __ Wheeler, Newton Barnes and his brother, Stephen Pilot, Caleb Magill, Jonathan Scott, W.S. Hill, Simeon Wilkinson, Isaac Perkins, Lewis C. Dunn, John Schmidt, D. McFarland, Wm. Gardner, David Peebles, Wm. McBride, John McGuire, M.C. Willis, C. Goff and __ Goff, Wm. and James Ross, Dr. Nesbit, John H. Maxwell.
In the summer and fall of 1856 several of the afterwards prominent town sites were located. Carson was laid out by D. McFarland and others. Padonia, Plymouth and Lexington were selected by Gen. J.H. Lane, and his associates. Lane had about forty men with him all well armed with Sharps rifles and revolvers. They a1so had a small piece of artillery, which they buried on Poney Creek when they left the Territory at a later day. Repeated but unsuccessful efforts were made a few years afterwards to find this cannon and from later developments it seems probable that it was secretly removed by members of the company who had assisted in burying it. At Plymouth rude breastworks were thrown up for protection in case of attack and at Lexington a small fort of hewn logs was erected. Rumors of advancing forces of border ruffians were in frequent circulation and the settlers as well as Lane and his command were in a constant state of excitement.
Claytonville was laid off in the falI of 1856 by Geo. E. Clayton and others.
John Schmidt that year built a saw mill on the Walnut, near Padonia, and a substantial dam was erected; but all vestige of mill and dam has long since disappeared. The first school ever taught in the county was in 1856. The school house was a small log cabin, which then stood on farm of John Krey, and the teacher was Samuel C. Shields. Esq., now an honored citizen of Highland. This cabin was built in 1855 and was also used as a church. Religious services were held in it soon after it was built. In 1855, Rev. Mr. Allspaugh, of the M.E. Church, held religious services in the grove near John Belk's house. The settlers came in ox wagons and but three women were present in the congregation. These were without question the first religious services ever held by white men in the county.
In the fall of 1856, a company of U.S. troops were sent into the northwestern part of the county for the pretended purpose of protecting the settlers at the elections. As there was not the slightest reason to anticipate any trouble there, and as serious troubles did exist in the border counties, and free-state men were not allowed to vote, it seems certain that the troops were designedly sent here where they could not possibly be of any service, to be out of the way of the obliging Missourians who proposed to do the voting for Kansas. A few miles in advance of the troops was John Brown, his two sons, Redpath and one or two others on their way east by Nebraska City and Iowa. During the day a suspicious looking stranger joined their party and travelled with them a few miles. When they crossed Poney Creek, John Brown, who was suffering from malarial fever, concluded to stop with Morgan Willet, whom he well knew to be as true as steel, and the rest of the party travelled on. After travelling a mile or two, the stranger made some excuse and left the party. Brown's sons were at once suspicious and as soon as night set in went back and got their father and hurried on their journey. About midnight Willett's house was surrounded by troops who demanded that John Brown be given up to them; but the bird had flown and was then safe in Nebraska. Fortunately, too, for some of those soldiers, for the gallant old hero was prepared to sell his life dearly, for he had forty shots, all ready. In the western part of the county, running north and south, was road much travelled by free-state men and known to all as Jim Lane's road. When it was impossible for a northern man to travel undisturbed through Missouri, hundreds and thousands came into the Territory and left it over this road. Brown knew this road well and often travelled it. He established on it an "under ground railroad" with frequent stations, kept by true and trusted men, who loved liberty better than life and who sympathized most heartily with the poor slaves. The line extended from Lawrence and Topeka to Nebraska City, and thence eastward. Mr. Smith, who lived east of Grenada, kept a station in this county. These stopping places were from 10 to 20 miles apart, depending, of course, upon finding men who could be trusted. Geo. Graham, afterwards senator from this district and State Treasurer, was agent at Albany and did noble service in the good cause. In 1859 they became suspicious of some agents in Nebraska, and to guard against possible failure, sent guides from Albany through to Iowa. W.B. Slosson, now a resident of Sabetha, and John L. Graham, a gallant soldier who afterwards fell while leading his company at the battle of Chicamauga, made several trips in charge of these fugitives. Hundreds of poor fugitives passed over this line were kindly fed and cared for until they had safely passed beyond the reach of the slaveholder's lash. In 1859 John Brown conducted his last train over this road. He had 13 slaves - NO NOT SLAVES THEN, thank God - fugitives with him, and when south of Holton and between that place and Topeka, he was surrounded by a band of border ruffians. Brave old John Ritchie came up from Topeka with 30 men, released him from his danger and escorted him through to Albany. Several of his comrades on that trip were with him afterwards at Harper's Ferry and suffered with their noble leader. In November, 1857, Brown was detained on Poney Creek by a severe storm and for several days was kindly cared for by Jonathan Scott and family. There is no doubt the staunch free-state element of Brown county had much to do in moulding the sentiments of our State.
Few persons who have not experienced the hardships and deprivations of a settlement in a new country can at all realize what they are. The settlers of 1854 were from forty to fifty miles from any point where they could obtain supplies. The city of St. Joseph was their nearest trading point and to that city they went for their mails also. They had but scanty supplies to start with; for without exception they were poor - rich men are seldom found among pioneers. With but little means to replenish their scanty stock when exhausted, they struggled on enduring hardships and privations utterly unknown to you now. The nearest neighbor often miles away; no physician within a day's ride, they were forced to care for themselves as best they could. One little incident illustrates most strikingly the inconvenience of being so remote from larger settlements. A gentleman and his son, felling trees, one frosty morning in the winter of 1855-56, to fence their farm, had the misfortune to break their axes. Before their could resume their work they were compelled to go to St. Joseph, fifty miles away, with an ox team to get new axes. In 1856 a trading point was built up at Iowa Point and for two or three years, supplies for the whole county were purchased there. All old settlers will remember, very kindly, W.D. Beeler, and R.M. and C.M. Williams, who sold thousands of dollars worth of goods to be brought into this county. The spring of 1857 opened with far brighter prospects for the new Territory. Peace was, in a great measure, restored. The free-state element had steadily increased, notwithstanding the determined effort to establish slavery on its soil. The troubles of the preceding two years had advertised Kansas all over the country, and a large immigration was the natural result. At this time there were few houses in the county that could by any stretch of the imagination be called comfortable. There were hardly more than a hundred families in the county, and these occupied small cabins built, almost without exception, near the timber that skirts the streams. Few of these buildings had more than one room. The new comers received a hearty welcome and were most hospitably treated, but the accommodations were but scanty at the best. Early in that spring quite a colony came from Maine, among them W.G. Sargent, Noah Hanson, George Ross, Sumner Shaw, __ Deering, J.G. Leavitt, I.P. Winslow and the writer. On Walnut Creek many of the new settlers found homes with E.H. Niles while they were erecting houses for themselves. His house consisted of two small log cabins about twelve by fourteen feet standing about ten feet apart and connected by a roof. In one of these cabins there was a low attic. Mr. Niles' family consisted of himself, wife and six children, and yet for weeks he had thirteen boarders, making in all twenty one persons, who found lodging in that small house. Few of those who enjoyed the hospitality of Mr. and Mrs. Niles will ever forget the many little acts of kindness so acceptable to the stranger in a strange land. Both have since crossed the dark valley.
Another family, noted for its hospitality to those who were seeking homes, was that of John Doe, a noble, generous hearted Kentuckian, who lived near the mouth of Mulberry Creek. His house was built of logs and was about sixteen feet square and contained one room. Yet with a family of seven, during all the spring and summer of 1857 they provided for quite a number of boarders. Padonia House was another famous boarding place. To provide sleeping room bunks had been built against one side of the cabin one above another. One could find representatives of all kinds of society among the new settlers. Men who had occupied leading positions in society in the east and who had met with pecuniary reverses, sought homes in the new territory where they could commence anew surrounded by those equally unfortunate. Lawyers, who had great ideas of their ability to make successful farmers and who in their imaginations had counted their cattle upon a thousand hills, were often found among them. On the other hand could be found the "poor white" of the south with hardly energy enough to hold the plow. It was a strange mix of all classes and kinds. Almost every state in the Union was represented. Some of those held views that would hardly be acceptable in their native states. For instance, the most bitter anti-slavery man was from South Carolina. The pro-slavery men hunted him down, threatening his life and offering a reward for his head. No language at his command was too bitter for him to use. A favorite expression of his with which he usually closed his tirades was, "D__n them, they'll sup the cup of sorrow with the spoon of repentance before they die!" With thousands and thousands of them this was literally verified before the war closed. The curse, returned and rested upon their heads with a vengeance. Our South Carolinian still lives, as loyal as ever to the cause of freedom and rejoices most heartily over the downfall of his enemies. Early in 1857 religious meetings were held, the Methodists having regular service near Robinson. They also organized a church at the house of Wm. Belk on the farm now owned by Peter Pfeiffer. Rev. Mr. Towne, a Baptist clergyman and prominent land speculator, held services at house of E.H. Niles, that spring, which were well attended, but after the Iowa Trust sale the places that had known him knew him no more.
The Iowa Indian Trust lands, lying in Brown county and embracing several thousand acres of her choicest lands, were advertised to be sold to the highest bidder on the 4th of June, by the Secretary of the Interior. In many cases lands brought more than they could be sold for now. One of the most astonishing features of this excitement was the utter absence of crime, unless gambling could be called a crime, and that was not considered so by these men. There were no thefts - no mam was murdered for his money and yet men travelled all over the county, unarmed, with their pockets filled with gold.
While this was going on on the Trust lands, sturdy men who wanted homes for themselves and their families were quietly taking up the Government lands and at the close of the year nearly all the choice lands of the county had been selected. After tbe sale of the Trust lands on the 4th of June, the most of those, who had held these lands left them, the rude shanties were quickly removed and that section of the county was owned largely by wealthy speculators. It would be useless to attempt to enumerate the settlers of 1857. The immigration of that year was probably the largest of any year, though it was by no means permanent. Hundreds left as soon as they had perfected title to their lands without making any real improvements. Two settlers of that year, however, deserve a passing notice - Hon. S.A. Kingman, lected[sic] a member of Supreme Court from this county and who is now the honored Chief Justice of the State; and Hon. W.W. Guthrie, who was afterwards elected Attorney General of the State. These men labored earnestly to advance the material interests of the county and for them the people of the county will ever have a warm place in their hearts. That spring many town sites were laid off and many men got immensely rich prospectively selling town lots. Hiawatha, Hamlin, Powhattan, Robinson, Skeenona, Denohu and others were located by men who felt confident that thriving little villages at least could be built up in a short time. At Hamlin, on the farm now owned by A.M. Aldrich, a steam saw mill was erected by Ross & Morrill. This mill burned to the ground on the 3d of April, 1858, rebuilt 2 miles south at junction Walnut & Mulberry creeks. During that summer regular religious services were held in the woods on E.H. Niles farm and a Sabbath school was organized with David Peebles as Supt. This was without doubt the first Sabbath school in the county. A school house was built at Robinson and the following year David Guard, a hoosier school master, taught in it.
On the 4th of July, 1857, the day was duly celebrated for the first time in the county by a public gathering in the woods on the farm of John Poe on Mulberry Creek. W.C. Poster presided, Dan'l McFarland delivered the oration and N. Hanson read the toasts. W.G. Sargent and others made speeches. Some two or three hundred people were in attendance. The settlers in the summer of 1857 felt sorely the need of some mail facilities and on Walnut Creek they made a contract with Philip Weiss to make a weekly trip to lowa Point, the nearest post office, 25 miles away, and bring their mail matter. A Iist of names was furnished him and a request made upon the post master at Iowa Point to deliver letters to him. This was probably the first mail route in the county and was purely a private enterprise. For this service, Mr. Weiss received from the settlers $2 for each trip. He combined with it a passenger, freight and express line, doing all with one pair of horses and a lumber wagon. At this time few of the settlers owned horses - nearly all of the farm work, and travelling, even, being done with oxen. Under an act of 1855, a mail route had been established from St. Joseph via Highland to Marysville, Kansas, but service was not put on this route until 1858. August 8, 1857, the first post office was established in the county and George E. Clayton was appointed postmaster. A list of all the post offices that have ever been established in the county, with date and name of postmaster is herewith given.
|Claytonville, Aug. 8, 1857,||George E. Clayton.|
|Mount Roy, Sept. 2, 1857,||Shelton Duff.|
|Padonia, October 20, 1857,||Orville Root.|
|Hamlin, December 5, 1857,||Edward H. Niles.|
|Carson, December 9, 1857,||Marcellus L. Sawin.|
|Poney Creek, June 21, 1858,|
[Discontinued September 19, 1861.]
|Robinson, June 30, 1858,||Sam'l W. Wade.|
|Hiawatha, July 1, 1858,||Hartwin R. Dutton.|
|Tyler's, March 23, 1864,||John S. Tyler.|
|Ununda, " " "|
[Discontinued March 20, 1871.]
|Fairview, March 23, 1869,||Orlando Foutain.|
|Buncomb, May 2, 1870,|
[Name changed to St. Francis Nov. 22, 1871,
and discontinued Nov. 11, 1872.]
|Wm. B. Dickinson.|
|Grand Prairie, July 27, 1870,||Josiah C. Thomas.|
|Marak, August 3, 1870,||Franz Marak.|
|Morrill, December 14, 1870,||Sol. R. Myers.|
|Mannville, January 9, 1871,||Thomas Mann.|
|Discord, June 22, 1874,||Benj. M. Hale.|
Transcribed from History and Statistics of Brown County, Kansas, comp. by E. N. Morrill, Hiawatha, Kan., Kansas herald book, news, and job office, July 4, 1876.
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