Dr. C. H. Strong is one of the oldest citizens, both in point of years and length of residence, of Crawford county, and the county is proud to do honor to such a pioneer and energetic and public-spirited citizen, who at the age of seventy-four still does manual labor every day, is a hearty and well-preserved citizen, and secure in the possession of hosts of friends and, better still, an honored name and a past filled with usefulness and good to himself and his fellow-men. As the history of any community, or state, or nation, consists mainly of the deeds of its principal men, for this reason a history of Crawford county would have several serious gaps and omissions should it not record the part Dr. Strong has taken in its early development and progress. In particular does the county seat of Girard owe to him what a child does to its father, and he is indeed held in this venerable relationship by the citizens of that town.
The life history of Dr. Strong began on a farm one mile east of Girard, Erie county, Pennsylvania, February 28, 1830, so that he is approaching the seventy-fifth turn on life's race course. That his elemental vigor is yet unimpaired by time, it is only necessary to recall to the citizens how, in the fall of 1903, he won the premium offered by the Girard Press to the exhibitor of the largest pumpkin grown on any individual's patch, and the large plat of ground which he devotes to gardening and light farming, doing most of the work himself, is evidence of his energy and activity.
He received his education in the public schools, and at the age of sixteen attended the academy at Springfield, Pennsylvania. Two years later he entered the college at Girard, from which he was graduated in two years. He taught school in Erie and Crawford counties for eight years, then taught three years in Madison and Painesville, Ohio, from there went to Attica, Indiana, and thence to Belvidere, Illinois. He was in St. Joseph, Missouri, for a short time, and then returned to Illinois and taught at New Berlin and Loami, in Sangamon county. He taught the academy at Loami for two years, and in 1849 turned his attention to medicine. He studied under Professor J. W. Bishop, dean of the faculty in the Cleveland Eclectic Medical College, and later took the course of lectures and graduated in 1858. He was engaged in practice in Sangamon county, Illinois, for about eight years, and some years after coming to Kansas, in 1879, took the examination at Girard, and practiced with success in that city.
Dr. Strong's health failed while he was in Illinois, and he came out to Kansas in December, 1865, believing that he could hardly live three months. In his own words, "the gentle zephyrs and dry and healthy atmosphere of Kansas, the change of water and diet, venison and prairie chicken, were a great help, and in a month's time I began to gain strength and an appetite, and have not had a week's sickness since." In 1866 he taught a subscription school at Cato, Crawford county (but then known only as the Cherokee Neutral Lands), and in fact throughout much of his career in this county he has devoted himself to the advancement of education. In October, 1867, he was nominated for the offices of county superintendent of public instruction and clerk of the district court, and was elected in the following November. After the election he was appointed deputy to the probate judge, Levi Hatch, the county clerk, Henry Germain, and the register of deeds, H. T. Coffman, which officers had been elected at the same time, and he thus held two offices by election and three by appointment.
In the fall of 1868 Dr. Strong was re-elected to the office of county superintendent of public instruction, and in this capacity he accomplished a most praiseworthy achievement for the future welfare of the county, and made a record that is perhaps unsurpassed in the history of the state's education. Before he entered his office as superintendent there was not a schoolhouse nor an organized district in the entire county, and the youth of the community had only the primitive subscription school as a means of acquiring learning. In two years, with the cooperation of the people, Dr. Strong organized one hundred and three school districts in Crawford county, and thus established public education on a firm and permanent basis. Mr. McVicar, the state superintendent, reported that no other county could show a larger number of districts organized in a similar period of time.
About this time there were but three postoffices in the county, Cato, Crawfordsville and Monmouth, the mail being carried from Fort Scott to Monmouth in a pony cart. Crawfordsville was then the seat of justice and administration, but there was various discontents with the location, and in this connection Mr. Strong became the founder of the town which afterward became the county seat and the principal commercial center of the county. The interesting episode of the beginning of Girard is best told in his own words:
"While at Crawfordsville I applied to the town company for a lot, by purchase or otherwise, on which to put my drug store, which was then at Cato, but was put off. Knowing the voice of the people of the county as to the county seat, I mounted Bob on the 28th of February, 1868, my birthday, and shouldered my old carbine, telling John T. Foss and J. T. Bridgens I was going on a hunt for deer and the county seat. I got the deer and dressed him near the southwest corner where the court house now stands. I have his horns now. While he was struggling after being shot I hunted a sprig about four feet long, pulled up some grass, tied it to the top, and wrote the name 'Girard,' for my home in Pennsylvania. There was but one log house to be seen, there being no trees or anything else but grass and the raw prairie. I took a quarter of venison and returned to Crawfordsville. W. W. Jones was postmaster, and Henry Schoen and H. Brown were in the postoffice. I said to them that I didn't wish a lot, as I had named and started a town of my own. I qualified with Mr. McIntosh before H. Martin, justice of the peace, and applied to the secretary of the state for a charter for Girard city, and got it. I organized a town company, and we gave each person applying for the same a bond for a deed for a fifty by two hundred feet lot, and now you all see the result. I am proud of Girard and its people, and I bespeak for it prosperity and growth in the future."
From this interesting narrative the present generation may also gain many a picture of conditions of living and the physical aspect of the country as it was in the pioneer days of the sixties. On September 10, 1868, Dr. Strong received his commission as the first postmaster of Girard, and on September 15, when he opened the first mail, there were three letters and six papers for Girard. Such was the incipiency of the town, and its later growth and rise to importance are in palpable evidence to all the inhabitants of Crawford county.
At the present time Dr. Strong owns houses and real estate in Girard, in addition to the ten-acre tract just west of the city, where he lives, and also owns a farm of one hundred and eighty acres two miles west. He enjoys a prosperous and contented old age, and is happy in his daily work and in the esteem of friends and family. During the Civil war he saw service as second assistant surgeon of the One Hundred and Thirtieth Illinois Infantry.
Dr. Strong was married at Loami, Illinois, March 1, 1861, to Miss Frances Fowler. There were two children. The older, a daughter, died in infancy. The son, George W., lives in Frontenac, Kansas, and his nine bright children are a great source of joy to their fond grandparents.Pages 422-426 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 Carolyn Ward, in November, 2003.
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