This company became the possessors of the Kickapoo Reservation under a treaty made with this tribe of Indians, dated June 28th, 1862, and ratified by President Lincoln May 28th, 1863, the Indians reserving only thirty sections near the southwest corner of Brown county, and a few small and scattered tracts were taken by members of the tribe. The company acquired title to 127,832 acres, of which much the larger part was in Brown county. For this large tract of lands the Indians received $1.25 per acre. In 1866 the railroad company advertised these lands for sale, scattering maps and descriptive circulars over the whole country. The first sale of land made by the railroad company in Brown county, was effected on the 13th of April, 1867. David J. Parks was the purchaser and the tract is described as lots 6 and 7 of Sec. 22, Town 3, Range 17. During the year 1867, 13,207 acres were sold, and as the company required all time purchasers to improve one-tenth of their land each year for three years, the Reserve was soon dotted over with farms. Only 18,000 acres of this large tract remains unsold, and more than 1,200 individuals are numbered among the original purchasers. A considerable amount of it has since changed hands and some tracts several times. The land department of the company, during the whole time from its organization until to-day, has been under the direction and complete control of Maj. W.F. Downs, and has been managed with great care and skill. While the interests of the railroad company have been carefully watched and guarded everything has been done that could be consistently to favor the settlers. The utmost leniency has been shown those who were delinquent in their payments, and all have been encouraged in their efforts to make homes. With few, very few exceptions, the purchasers deserved these favors, for few new counties are ever blessed with a more sterling, honest and industrious class of settlers than those who improved the Kickapoo Reserve; and no portion of Brown county can show finer farms or better improvements.
In the north-eastern portion of the county there is still an Indian Reservation belonging to the Iowas, and embracing some 12,000 acres of the choicest lands in the county. The settlement of these lands would add largely to the wealth and population of the county.
No sketch of the county would be complete that omitted to mention the ravages of this pest, and a very serious question in the minds of thoughtful men, is, whether the visits of the locust are going to be frequent enough in the future to be a serious drawback on farming. It would seem a safe rule to judge the future by the past. Up to 1866 there had been no grasshoppers seen in the county, nor had any resident of the county the slightest reason to apprehend any damage from them. The county had then been settled twelve years, and our people were in blissful ignorance of the existence of this plague. ln the latter part of August of that year, reports were brought in by settlers on the frontier that they had appeared there in immense numbers and were very destructive. Day by day reports came that they were drawing nearer, and about the 8th of September they reached the western line of the county, moving from three to twelve miles per day. On the 10th of Sept. the immense army, which no man could number, reached Hiawatha, devouring every green thing from the face of the earth. The corn fields were literally stripped, leaving the bare stalk with the ears hanging to it, and the latter often badly eaten. The corn was too far advanced, however, for them to injure it very seriously, and the only real loss from them that fall was in the destruction of forage. They deposited immense quantities of eggs which hatched out in the latter part of April and early in May. This young crop were, of course, obliged to feed upon whatever was within their reach until they were large enough to travel, and whenever they hatched in large numbers near fields of small grain there was no possibility of raising it. The beaten paths and roads and the newly broken prairie seemed to be favorite locations for depositing their eggs. Many fields of small grain were entirely destroyed that spring, while many others escaped unharmed. The corn was not so much injured though in some localities the early corn was destroyed. About the 20th of June they left and were not again seen during the season. But a small portion of the county was under cultivation then and the total loss was small compared with that of 1874. In the fall of 1868 they again appeared, but far less numerous and causing far less loss. Their appearance at this time caused very little excitement and but slight importance was attached to it; a few eggs were deposited and the following spring a few gardens were injured, but not much attention was paid to it. In the early part of August, 1874, they again appeared. At this time the country west was much better settled, and the railroads, penetrating to the Rocky Mountains, brought the news of the approaching hosts while they were hundreds of miles away and weeks before they reached here. The season had been a very dry one, with frequent, hot south winds, so common an attendant of drouths, and so exceedingly disagreeable. The corn at best would have been nearly a failure, but what little there was of grain or foliage speedily disappeared. Trees were stripped of their leaves. Apple and peach orchards could frequently be seen loaded with rich fruit but without a leaf to protect it from the hot sun. In many cases the fruit was much injured, and it was a common sight to see peach trees hanging full of pits, the meat of the fruit having been neatly nibbled off. In some cases, the bark was eaten from trees. Nothing escaped, for they seemed quite indifferent as to the quality of their food. Tomato plants, onions, and even tobacco plants were utterly destroyed. Again they laid their eggs in immense numbers, the ground being literally perforated by them. Heavy freight trains on the railroads were frequently delayed for hours by their gathering on the track in large numbers, the wheels crushing them and forming an oily, soapy substance. The next spring but little apprehension of much damage was felt, and the farmers put put in an unusual amount of small grain. When the warm days of spring came the little pests hatched out in numbers far exceeding anything before experienced. The season was unusually favorable for small grain, and on the 1st of May there was as fine a prospect of an abundant harvest as was ever known. Ten days later the myriads of little locusts, fast developing, were rapidly sweeping it away, and on the 1st of June but few fields of grain were left in the county. The eastern part of the county suffered much more than the western half, owing to there having been fewer eggs deposited in the latter section. The corn was much injured; nearly all the first planting was utterly destroyed. Many re-planted at once without waiting until they had passed away, and again lost it all. In one case, a farmer planted two hundred acres four times. Those were indeed dark days for the farmers. All hope for raising anything for the season was well-nigh gone. The middle of June came, and still the locusts tarried. The farmers with wonderful courage and patience had ploughed up their small grain fields where the crop had been destroyed, and were busily engaged in planting corn. From the 12th to the 20th of June an immense amount of corn was planted. In an ordinary season this would have been too late to make any crop, but the season proved most favorable. Rains were frequent and not too heavy. About the 20th of June the grasshopper's commenced leaving, and by the 25th not one could be found. If ever men showed true pluck under discouraging circumstances, the farmers did during the spring of 1375.[sic] Braver men never lived - truer men never bit bread. The season continued favorable and an immense crop of corn and vegetables was raised.
Early in 1860 an effort was made to build a railroad from St. Joseph, west, through the northern tier of counties in Kansas, and four miles of track was laid connecting Ellwood and Wathena; but the war stopped all work on it, and nothing further was done for several years. In 1866 an attempt was again made to revive the work, and the Legislature of that year donated 125,000 acres of land to the Northern Kansas R. R. Co., an organization that had been formed for the purpose of receiving and making available, this donation from the state.
The incorporators of this company met for the purpose of organization at Hiawatha, May 12th, 1866, and elected Thos. Osborn, Geo. Graham, Sam'l Lappin, J.E. Smith, Sam'I Speer, W.B. Barnett, J.D. Brumbaugh, E.C. Manning, D.E. Ballard, F.H. Drenning and E.N. Morrill, directors. Sam'l Lappin was chosen President, F.H. Drenning Secretary, W.B. Barnett Treasurer and D.E. Ballard Land Agent. On the 15th of May a proposition was submitted to the people to issue $125,000 of the bonds of the county to this company to aid in building a railroad through the county, and it was defeated by a small majority. On the 16th of June a vote was again taken upon a proposition to issue $100,000 of the bonds of the county for the same purpose, some of the objectional features of the previous proposition being changed, and it carried by a majority of 102 votes. Soon after, the Northern Kansas R.R. Co. consolidated with the St. Jo. & D.C.R.R. Co. , the new organization assuming the latter name. In 1869 the road was graded as far as Hiawatha, and in January, 1870, the first rail was laid in the county. About the 20th of February regular trains commenced running to Robinson, H.M. Robinson taking charge of the station at that place. On the 7th of March the trains ran to Barnum's field, adjoining the town site of Hiawatha. A temporary platform was built there, and for two or three weeks the trains left that point. The present depot was soon after erected, and as soon as the track could be laid trains were run to it, the first train reaching the present Hiawatha depot early in April. H.M. Robinson was placed in charge of the station, and has continued to discharge the duties ever since to the full satisfaction of all. From him the following statements of the business of the road for the months of August, 1870 and 1876, were obtained:
|Freight Received, August, 1870||666,463 Ibs|
|" Forwarded " "||436,299 "|
|Freight Received, August, 1876||2,153,973 lbs|
|" Forwarded " "||2,774,373 "|
|Receipts for August, 1870||$1745.35|
|" " " "||6434.71|
With the completion of the road to Hiawatha the town commenced a rapid growth, which, notwithstanding the hard times, has continued to a great degree ever since. The work on the road was pushed rapidly during the summer of 1870, and in August the cars were running to Sabetha, in Nemaha county.
The citizens of Brown county, from its early settlement, have taken an active interest in schools, and the result is shown in the numerous comfortable and tasty school houses that are found in every part of the county. Schools were taught in the county, as early as 1856 and 1857, but the first regular organized district was the "Carson District," organized by Supt. J. A. Stanley, March 11th, 1859. On the 21st of April the first school board was elected:
|Noah Hanson, Director,||I.B. Hoover, Clerk|
|A.M. Kendall, Treasurer.|
The next organized district was the one adjoining, in the Myers neighborhood. The Annual Report of the county Superintendent for 1859 shows that there were in Brown county at that time, 204 children of school age. That two schools had been taught, and that 95 children had attended these schools. The total amount of money raised that year for building school houses was $980. There were four organized districts in the county and two school houses. Now, there are sixty seven school districts wholly within the county, and seven joint districts made up partly of territory within the county. These districts all have houses, and, with the exception of eight or ten, the buildings are highly creditable to the citizens. The total valuation of these buildings including furniture, $87,000. All of the districts have maintained schools the past year, none less than three months while many have had nine months; the average in the whole county being more than six months. The total number of children of school age in the county in 1875 was 3332, and the sum of $29,246 was raised for school purposes that year.
A brief summary of the different church organizations is all that can be given. In 1857 clergymen of different denominations held regular services throughout the county. As there were no church buildings or school houses these meetings were held during the winter, in private houses, and in the pleasant weather of summer in groves. The Methodist, Congregationalist and Baptist organizations were first represented. For the first five years the Methodists had but little strength and gained very slowly. In June, 1861, they had a membership of but fifteen. Revs. Allspaugh, Lawrence, Green and Buffington were the first workers in the new field. In 1861-62 Rev. Mr. Buffington preached on a circuit embracing Sabetha, Padonia, Poney Creek, Hamlin, Capioma and Grenada. On the 12th of April, 1862, a conference was held at Hamlin. At this session E.N. Knapp and John Belk were elected stewards. There were at this time nineteen members in full communion and fifty-eight on probation. The growth of the church was from this time quite rapid. In 1866 they erected their first church building, the substantial stone now standing in Hiawatha. The corner stone was laid with imposing ceremony on the 5th of July of that year. The membership now numbers between three and four hundred, and they have another substantial church edifice at Robinson.
The Congregationalists first organized at house of E.H. Niles, on Walnut creek, Sept. 26th, 1858, Revs. J.H. Byrd and R.D. Parker conducting the services, and eight persons were received into the new church. June 30th, 1859 Rev. G.G. Rice commenced his ministerial labors with this church and continued with them several years. Church organizations are now maintained at Hiawatha, Fairview and Hamlin. This denomination has substantial church buildings at Hiawatha and Hamlin, and a membership in the county of one hundred and twenty.
The Baptists first commenced their work in this county in 1858, the Rev. Mr. Frink being the first regular minister of that denomination. The year before Rev. Mr. Towne had preached several times at house of E.H. Niles, but he left the country immediately after the Iowa Trust Land sales. Rev. Mr. Frink was an able and earnest man, but his labors in the state were short as he died in 1860. In 1859 Elder Hodge, of Michigan, father of Mrs. E.A. Spooner, preached very acceptably on Walnut creek. The first church organization in the county of this denomination was entered into at house of Luther Sperry, near Hiawatha, in 1860. Elder Tibbets, of New York, was moderator of the presbytery that organized this church. It was called the First Baptist church of Hiawatha, and Rev. Mr. Alward preached the sermon on the occasion. This denomination has been represented by able, earnest men and has increased rapidly in the county. It now has in the county, one church building, five organized churches, seven ministers and a membership of nearly four hundred.
The first Plresbyterian church in the county was organized by Rev. F.E. Sheldon, at Hiawatha, on the 10th of July, 1870. In July, 1872, Rev. S.T. Davis took charge of the work, and under his earnest and efficient labors the church increased rapidly in numbers. They now have a neat and tasty brick church thirty by forty feet and a membership of nearly fifty. A few months since Rev. Mr. Davis left for a wider field of labor to the irreparable loss of this church.
The first Christian church in the county was organized by Rev. T.K. Hansberry, in 1868. and was known as the Hamlin and Padonia church, and for three years Mr. Hansberry had charge of it. Now, there are two large churches at these places under the charge of Revs. J.F. Berry and Jas. McGuire. At Hamlin a large church building has just been erected and the society is in a flourishing condition. In the county there are five organized churches of this denomination with a membership of over four hundred.
Rev. John Beck, of the Reformed church, organized its first society in the county on the 28th of June, 1873, at Grand Prairie. It now has flourishing churches at Hiawatha, Grand Prairie and Fairview, numbering in all about seventy-five members, under the charge of Rev. E. Richards.
Rev. J.H. Ballou (Universalist,) organized a church, Aug., 1867, at Hiawatha, of twenty-one members, and Revs. Ballou, Whitney, Hebbard and Bartlett were its ministers; for two years no regular services have been held.
The Cumberland Presbyterians also had an organization for several years, but of late no meetings have been held.
The Catholics have a church building at Marak's, built in 1869, and a flourishing organization. They have also an organization in the western part of the county.
The Episcopal church has been represented in the county since 1866 by Rev. Geo. Turner, who has been actively engaged in advanching the interests of that sect.
All of the churches have been actively engaged in the Sabbath School work. During the summer of 1875 thirty-five sabbath schools were sustained in the county. The reports from Powhattan, Walnut and Hiawatha townships show 1500 persons enrolled in the sabbath schools of those townships. The other five townships have failed to report, but it is safe to say that three thousand persons are connected with the sabbath schools of the county. This embraces at least one-third of the population of the county.
The first newspaper in the county, as has been before stated, was published in spring of 1861 by Dr. P.G. Parker. It had a hard struggle for existence and when the office was destroyed by fire the following winter no effort was made to revive it. On the 20th of Aug. 1864, H.P. Stebbins commenced the publication of the Union Sentinel From a file of this paper, in the possession of Capt. I.J. Lacock, we learn that the First Annual Exhibition of the Brown County Agricultural Society was held Oct. 13th and 14th, 1864, and was considered a decided success. That fall an enterprise was inaugurated to build a wind flouring mill upon an entirely new principle, and during the two succeeding years a large circular building was erected on the north-east portion of the town site. The mill was completed at a cost of nearly $12,000, but was not successful, and at this time no vestige of the building remains. Mr. Stebbins continued the publication of his paper under many difficulties until the 16th of August, 1866, when he transferred it to Ira J. Lacock and J. W. Oberholtzer who at once made a decided improvement in it. The following notice which we find in its issue of Oct. 3d, 1867 gives a good idea of the business houses of Hiawatha at that time, and shows a striking contrast when compared with the business houses of today:
The undersigned hereby agree to close their stores and places of business on
Friday, Oct. 4th, 1867, it being the second day of the Fair, &c., &c.,
Graves & Stretch, W.B. Barnett, Schilling & Meisenheimer, R.S. Fairchild.
On the 7th of Nov. 1867. Messrs. Lacock & Oberholtzer sold their interest in the Sentinel to David Downer, and retired from the business quite satisfied that publishing a newspaper in a new county required a large amount of labor for a very small compensation. Mr. Downer continued the publication of the Sentinel until Oct. 1st, 1870, when it quietly breathed its last, no notice whatever having been given that it would be discontinued. The probable cause of this sudden death of the Sentinel may be found in the fact, that, on the 30th of April, 1870, A.N. Ruley had commenced the publication of the Hiawatha Dispatch, which still lives to carry its weekly message to its many readers. June, 1874, Davis & Watson commenced the publication of the Brown County Advocate, and on the 23d of July, 1874, Mr. Watson retired and S.L. Roberts succeeded him. About the 20th of Feb., 1875, Mr. Davis retired and D.L. Burger became interested in its publication. In Oct., 1875, the name was changed to the Kansas Herald. A.T. McCreary became a member of the firm, remaining till April, 1876, when he retired and Burger & Roberts assumed control again. The Herald is well established.
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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