In the winter of 1875 John B. Sargent and E. R. Moffett, both of Joplin, Missouri, conceived the plan of building a railroad from Joplin to Girard, Kansas. These gentlemen were engaged in lead and zinc mining at Joplin, and were making money rapidly, and were looking for an outlet for the product of their mines and smelters. In the spring of 1876 the work was begun, and by the fall of that year the grading reached the vicinity of Pittsburg, at which time the town was laid out, as directed by Colonel E. H. Brown, who had charge of the construction of the railroad. One hundred and sixty acres were platted, and Broadway and Fourth streets were graded, each one-half a mile. Forty acres from each of four sections constituted the townsite, a section corner being the center of the town. The land belonged to the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad, but was occupied and claimed as follows: The east one-half of southeast quarter of section nineteen, and the west one-half of southwest quarter of section twenty, were claimed and occupied by George Dosser. On the latter tract he had a farm house and other improvements. The northwest quarter of section twenty-nine was claimed and occupied by Jacob Pugh, while the east half of northeast quarter of section thirty was unoccupied, but was claimed by Thomas Secley. All these tracts of land are in township thirty south, range twenty-five, east of the principal meridian. These with other lands were purchased by Messrs. Moffett and Sargent, who also made satisfactory terms with the claimants on the land.
The first house built on the original townsite stood on the northwest corner of section twenty-nine, where now stands the two-story brick block owned by John R. Lindburg and occupied by W. E. Pierce as a drug store. The building was a box house fourteen by sixteen feet, and eight feet high, and was built by Martin Brown, and occupied by himself and his wife as a farm dwelling. It was built in the summer of 1868. Mr. Brown lived here about one year, when he sold his claim to a Mr. Esam, who afterward sold to Jacob Pugh. The second house built was a substantial frame dwelling, built by George Dosser, and stood near the present site of the Waskey commission house, and was occupied by him as a farm dwelling.
The first building erected after the town was laid out stood on the corner of Fourth and Broadway. It was put up for George E. Richey, and was occupied by him as a drug store, Charles M. Gossin being his clerk. The building and lot was afterward bought by John R. Lindburg, who moved the building away and built a substantial brick, and the corner building has been occupied as a drug store ever since. The first general store was built by W. G. Seabury in the winter of 1876-7, and occupied with a small stock of goods in the spring of 1876-7, with Neal E. Wood as clerk. The first dry goods brought into the town for sale belonged to W. G. Seabury. He had a store in Girard, and when the new building was ready to be occupied and after the store closed at night he and his clerk, N. F. Wood loaded a few bolts of calico and other dry goods and notions into a spring wagon and drove to Pittsburg, and when morning came the store was opened for business. The first sale was made to Miss Hortense Ferguson. Mr. Wood, the clerk, was standing in the door, looking east, when he saw a lady on horseback approaching with a basket on her arm. The contents proved to be eggs, and were exchanged for a few yards of calico. Thus began the mercantile business of Pittsburg, which has grown to immense proportions, millions of dollars here being exchanged annually.
The postoffice was established in the fall of 1876 with George H. Richey as postmaster. He was succeeded in March, 1877, by A. J. Georgia, who continued to hold the office until April, 1884, when he resigned and A. E. Nau was appointed, who held the office four years. The postmasters since Mr. Nau's term expired have each held the office four years. They served in the following order: O. S. Covsad, Charles Patmore, W. H. Yarcho and W. J. Watson, the present incumbent. The name given to the postoffice was New Pittsburg, there being a Pittsburg postoffice in Mitchell county. The town being one name and the postoffice another caused much confusion and trouble with mails. In 1880 C. Wood Davis. president of the Pittsburg Coal Company, interested himself to secure a change of name. He succeeded in having the name of the Pittsburg postoffice in Mitchell county changed to Tipton, after which the postoffice department dropped the "New" and the name became Pittsburg.
In the summer of 1877 a frame schoolhouse of two rooms was erected at a cost of twelve hundred dollars, this being the maximum of bonds that under the law could he legally voted. The house was built by Sanders, of Girard, Kansas. The first school was taught by A. J. Georgia during the winter of 1877 and summer of 1878. The terms were for seven months.
The first marriage in the town was that of William Weaver to Mattie Boyne, and was performed by John W. Jennings, justice of the peace, and their daughter Josephine was the first child born in the town.
Among those who came with the advent of the railroad and who aided in making the town lively were C. S. Clanton, Thomas McNealus, Newt Stewart and Neal Adams. Mr. Clanton started a barber shop, but as he was not an expert in the business, he soon sold out and entered the grocery business with a small capital, but by sticking to the business built up a large trade and then sold out and retired. McNealus had a habit of filling up on the worst class of whisky, when he became a terror to the town. On one occasion attemted to drive Mr. Clanton from his grocery, but found a pick handle was harder than his head and concluded to leave town and make his stay permanent. He is now an honored and peaceable citizen of Missouri; has been engaged in mining in the lead and zinc fields about Joplin, and has made quite a fortune. But in his prosperity he has not forgotten the early days of Pittsburg.
Since the first schoolhouse was built, seven other large brick buildings have been erected for school purposes, aggregating about seventy school rooms. By act of the legislature a State Normal Manual Training School is located here, and occupies one of these buildings. This school has been previously referred to. Here the students, male and female, in connection with other studies, are taught many mechanical trades. Cabinet making, carpentry sewing, and all kinds of needle work, including cutting and fitting garments, cooking and housekeeping in all branches, are taughtand the young man or woman who graduates in these departments, is fitted to take up, some lucrative employment, when he or she leaves school.
In the spring of 1878 Robert Lanyon came from Peoria, Illinois, and began the erection of a zinc smelter. His plan to bring the zinc ore, which is mined in large quantities in and about Joplin, Missouri, and Galena,Kansas, to the coal fields for reduction, proved an excellent one. With him came S. H. Lanyon, who was a general overseer of the work. For three years he remained one of the firm of Robert Lanyon & Company. He then severed his connection, and began the erection of zinc works of his own, associating with him his two sons, Arthur and Alvin, both of whom are now connected with the National Bank of Pittsburg.
In the spring of 1880 the Granby Mining and Smelting Company began the erection of zinc works on the west side of Broadway, north of town, and two years later William and Josiah Lanyon came from Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and built extensive zinc works.
The adding of smelting works to the mining of coal gave Pittsburg an impetus that has never ceased. Business enterprises of all kinds came in. A large frame hotel was built by L. Stephens on the ground where Biles' Brothers bakery now stands. Another hotel was built on the corner of Fifth and Broadway on the spot now occupied by the First National Bank. Both of these buildings were burned. Then came the first brick building, erected by Kalwitz and Vogle, which they soon sold, and built another. In the summer of 1883 four brick business houses were built. John R. Lindburg built on the corner of Fourth and Broadway, Brown & Brown on the next block south, I. P. Waskey built across the street the building now occupied by T. J. Evans, books and music, and A. J. Georgia built on the corner of Third and Broadway.
The town company was organized with C. M. Condon president, and B. F. Hobart secretary, who purchased the lands owned by Moffett and Sargent. John W. Jennings, who had been the agent of the old company, was succeeded by Major J. J. Rochison as manager. Other tracts of land, contiguous to the original town, were platted and put on the market and sold. New buildings went up everywhere, and the town began to assume the appearance of a city. In the fall of 1879 Pittsburg was incorporated as a city of the third class. M. M. Snow was elected mayor and J. R. Lindburg, W. McBride, F. Kalwlitz, P. A. Shields and D. S. Miller councilmen. These were the pioneers in establishing a city government. M. M. Snow was re-elected mayor in the spring of 1880, and in 1882 was succeeded by H. C. Willard. The councilmen who served with him were John R. Lindburg, A. J. Georgia, C. S. Jennis, E. E. Eakin and J. R. Braidwood.
In the spring of 1882 the directors of the Granby Mining and Smelting Company, of Granby, Missouri, held their annual meeting in the city of St. Louis, an account of which appeared in the St. Louis newspapers. At this meeting they resolved to build zinc smelters. The item as it appeared in the newspapers attracted the attention of the mayor and councilmen, who sent an invitation by telegraph to the managers to come to Pittsburg before locating. The result was the building of the Granby Smelting Works. About this time S. H. Lanyon began the erection of a new plant; then William and Josiah Lanyon built their works, which were followed by two other plants, the St. Louis and the Wear. Then Pittsburg was known as the coal and smelting city.
In the fall of 1890 Robert Nesch and John Moore came from Atchison and embarked in the brick business, manufacturing building and paving brick, which, proving of an excellent quality, a contract was entered into with the city, by which they were to pave Broadway for a distance of three-fourths of a mile. During this time Mr. Moore retired, leaving Mr. Nesch in full control of the brick plant, which has grown to large proportions. The excellent quality of the clays found in and around Pittsburg attracted the attention of manufacturers. Now two other clay-working establishments are engaged in manufacturing. One turns out brick to be used exclusively in building tall smoke-stacks for manufacturing plants; the other makes drain and sewer tile, hollow blocks for building and other products.
In the year 1888 Lewis Hull and T. G. Dillon started a small packing plant, which has increased from year to year until now it is a large industry.
So Pittsburg has in a few years grown from a plat of bare prairie to a city of fifteen thousand inhabitants, with all the modern conveniences. Five railroads carry her commerce. Four wells, reaching to a depth of from twelve hundred to fifteen hundred feet, furnish an abundance of pure water. The trolley cars of the Pittsburg Railroad Company, extending to Frontenac on the northeast and Chicopee on the southwest, making a continuous line of ten miles, furnish the transportation to the people; while the railroad shops of the Kansas City Southern Railway, with the many other manufacturing establishments, furnish employment to her people.
In her push for business the wants of the traveling public have not been overlooked. The Hotel Stetwell was erected in the year 1890, and is one of the finest hotels in the west. It is kept by O. K. Dean, who caters bountifully to the wants of his guests. Other hotels are the Crescent, on the corner of Third and Locust, Commercial, Third and Broadway, Phoenix, Fifth and Locust, and other smaller ones scattered over the city.
Churches.No sooner had the town begun to grow, than the several churches sought to secure a location. The Methodist Episcopal was the first to build a house of worship. The building was erected in 1880, of brick, and stands on the corner of Fifth and Pine streets. It is now owned and used by the United Presbyterians, Rev. J. H. Gibson, pastor. After selling their building the trustees of the Methodist Episcopal church, in 1891, proceeded to build a larger one, on the corner of Eighth and Locust streets, where they now worship. Next after the Methodists came the Christian denomination. They built and still occupy a commodious church building across Pine street from the United Presbyterian church. The Baptists built a small brick church on Walnut near Fifth steet, which they sold to the German Methodists, and have since built a fine church building at the corner of Seventh and Walnut. The Presbyterians occupy their church building at the corner of Eighth and Pine, while the Memorial Baptists worship on East Tenth street. The United Brethren and Congregationalists are in the south part of the city, while the Swedish Lutherans and German Lutherans worship in their respective churches in the eastern part of the city. The Episcopal is on West Euclid avenue.
The Bell and Home Telephone Companies run their wires to all parts of the city, while the gas and electric light companies furnish the people with light.
In 1881 H. C. Bruner built the first mill. It stands on East Fourth street, and is a modern flouring mill.
Nearly all the secret societies are well represented: Two lodges of Masons, two Odd Fellows lodges, one each of Ancient Order of United Workmen, Knights of Pythias, Red Men, Woodmen of the World and Modern Woodmen, Sons of Herman, Elks, Eagles, and many fraternal beneficiary societies claim the attention of Pittsburg citizens. Two hospitals, the City and Mount Carmel, minister to the wants of the sick, in connection with two score or more of physicians.
The Standard Mercantile is probably the largest store in Kansas, occupying a three-room department on the first floor, with basement and second floor, while more than one hundred other establishments are selling drugs, hardware, dry goods, clothing, shoes, queensware, musical instruments and every other kind of merchandise.
Water Works.One of the difficult problems that confronted the earlier inhabitants of Pittsburg, was a supply of good water for domestic and public purposes. Wells and cisterns were first resorted to, but the water obtained by digging wells was generally bitter and unwholesome. While cisterns were often dry from lack of rainfall; so that a fire occurred all that could be done was to carry out the goods and let the building burn. The furnishing of water thus became a grave problem. Where was the water to come from, necessary to put out fires, and furnish pure water for domestic purposes? This was the question discussed in the stores, on the street, and in the family circle, until it developed into a call for a meeting to be held at the school house to discuss the water question. About fifty men attended that meeting, and there were several plans proposed. One was to purchase a large tract of land along Cow creek, northwest of town, build a dam across the creek, and levies on the sides, where needed to hold the water, and with pumps, water mains and settling basins, prepare and bring the water to the city. But as this plan would involve an outlay of about fifty thousand dollars, it was not considered feasible, and was abandoned. Other plans were suggested, among which was the boring of deep wells, with the hope that an abundance of good water might be obtained. This meeting was finally adjourned to meet in one week. Accordingly, on the next Monday night, another one was held and was largely attended. At this meeting reports were heard from the various committees appointed at the first meeting. After hearing the reports it was decided to adopt the deep well plan, and a committee consisting of O. T. Boaz, A. J. Georgia, S. H. Lanyon, D. Miller and H. C. Willard was appointed to present the matter to the city council, and report results in two weeks, at the next meeting. The council heard the arguments in favor of the city boring a well, but refused to take any action. The next move was to form a stock company. A charter was secured, the shares fixed at ten dollars each and subscriptions taken. Mr. O. T. Boaz was sent to Kansas City, to contract with Mr. Swan to bore or drill the well, and in April Mr. Swan was on the ground, with his drilling machine, and the work began. A lot had been purchased on Pine street, just back of where the Stilwell Hotel now stands. For days, weeks and months the work went on. At first only one thousand dollars was subscribed, but when that sum was exhausted the stockholders would double up their subscriptions, and, more money being in sight, the work would go ahead.
Finally, in December the well had reached a depth of one thousand two hundred and three feet, and in abundance of water, of excellent quality, secured, at an expense of five thousand dollars. By a vote of the stockholders the well was offered as a donation to the city, provided she would proceed to put in water works. But the offer was promptly rejected, under the plea that the city would get in debt. In the following spring A. H. McCormick, of Parsons, Kansas, who was engaged in building water works, came to Pittsburg and offered to buy the well, provided a test should show on unfailing supply of good water. A test of ninety-six hours' continual hard pumping showed no diminution, and the bargain was closed for the sum of three thousand dollars. He secured a franchise from the city and proceeded to build the works. Since then the property has changed hands twice, and is now owned by L. M. Emerson of Titusville, Pennsylvania. Three additional wells have been bored, averaging about fifteen hundred feet each, and an inexhaustible supply of water obtained. The water is practically pure, the analysis showing ninety-eight and one-half per cent of pure water, the one and a half per cent being solid matter consisting of chloride of sodium or common salt, sulphate of lime, sulphate of magnesia and a trace of iron, all wholesome products. The water when first pumped is heavily charged with carbonate gas, which soon evaporates on coming to the open air. This fact of the water being impregnated with carbonate gas is the only evidence of natural gas at Pittsburg. The company has recently built a large reservoir, into which the water is pumped and exposed to the open air. Thus the question of an abundance of pure water for all purposes was successfully solved by a few of the enterprising citizens.
Courts.In the winter of 1899 the legislature of Kansas created a common pleas court, to be held at Pittsburg and Galena, in Cherokee county, to accommodate the large number of litigants living at and near these places. The court was established by the election of W. E. Sap, of Galena, judge. Some cases were tried, and some parties sent to the penitentiary, but the constitutionality of the law creating the court having been attacked, the law was held to be unconstitutional, and the cases remanded back for retrial.
At the following session of the legislature an enabling act was passed to permit an election being held to divide the terms of the district court, so that alternate terms might be held at Girard and Pittsburg. The election resulted in favor of the change. Pittsburg then built a courthouse, and gave the use of it free to Crawford county.
Pages 34-46 from A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by Anthony Roberts and other students at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, in September, 2002.
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