Wabaunsee County is one of unusual interest to the student of Kansas history, by reason of its location, Indian reservations, early settlement, and war record.
Its locality according to the belief of many of its people, would seem to fit
the description of Quivera,
It is interesting to note that there is a difference of opinion as to Coronado's line of march. Mr. W. E. Richey, the archaeologist of Harveyvile, who has his own ideas on this subject, has an interesting collection of Indian specimens and an old Spanish sword which he deposited with the Historical Society in the State House at Topeka.
Whatever tribes composed the aborigines, Quivera's or Harahey's, it is known that prior to 1846 the land embraced in Wabaunsee County was claimed by the Kansas or Kaw Indians. In 1833, Rev. Isaac McCoy, a missionary who had charge of the location of the Indian tribes, was sold to this locality to survey a portion of land for the Shawnee Indians. In 1846, by treaty with the Kaws, the Pottawatomie Indians of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Indiana, were given a portion of land thirty miles square beginning two miles west of Topeka, into Wabaunsee, Pottawatomie, and Jackson Counties. This reservation extended over one-fourth the area of Wabaunsee County and was occupied by over two thousand Indians. The Kaws had been given a reservation in the southern part of the county. All these lands had been allotted in severalty or thrown open for settlement by 1872. The Pottawatomies of the Woods and the Kaws went to the Indian Territory. The Prairie Band of Pottawatomie Indians still lives on the reservation given them in Jackson County.
In 1855, the Territorial Legislature defined a certain portion of land west of Shawnee County, and attached to that county for business and judicial purposes, which they named Richardson County. As such it had no county officers or records. It was named after Wm. Richardson, of Illinois, who introduced the first Kansas and Nebraska Bill in the House of Representatives. On account of his political sentiments the name of the county was changed in 1859 to Wabaunsee, after Chief Wabaunsee of the Pottawatomies. The name signifies "Dawn of Day." An old map of "Richardson County, Kansas Territory," published in 1855, before the survey, shows the Pottawatomie reservation in the northeast, Kaw reservation in the southwest, a proposed railroad from Kansas City to Ft. Riley, the Mormon Trail from Uniontown in Shawnee, southwest through the county, and the Santa Fe Trail crossing the corner at Wilmington.
The county was organized in March of 1859. There were two voting precincts, one at Alma and one at Wabaunsee village. There were 111 votes cast in the election of county officers which resulted as follows: County Commissioners, Henry Harvey, J. M. Hubbard, G. Zwanziger; Probate Judge, J. M. Hubbard; Clerk of the Court, J. M. Harvey; Sheriff, John Hodgson; Register of Deeds, Moses C. Welch; County Attorney, R. G. Terry; Coroner, August Brasche; Treasurer, Henry Harvey; Surveyor, G. Zwanziger; Auditor, S. F. Ross; Superintendent of Public Instruction, J. E. Platt. The county was divided into four townships only. Wabaunsee was the first county seat, but in 1866 the large German population succeeded in changing it to Alma, as being more central. It is said that they named it for the river and battle of Alma in the Crimea, September 20, 1854.
The Territorial Legislature of 1855 defined the boundary lines of Richardson County as follows: Beginning at the southwest corner of Shawnee County, nine miles south of the present southwest corner of that county, and seventy-two miles west of the Missouri line, then west twenty-four miles, then north to the middle of the channel of the Kansas River, then following the course of that river, eastward to the west line of Shawnee County, then south to the starting point. In 1860 Hon. C. B. Lines, member of the Territorial Legislature, succeeded in having a strip of land six miles wide and as long as the west line of the county, added to its confines. In 1864, the establishment of Morris County took from the southwest corner of Wabaunsee County seventy-two square miles of land. In the Legislature of 1868, Hon. Wm. Mitchell succeeded in reclaiming that land for the county. In 1869 it was again given to Morris County, but in the Legislature of 1870, a compromise was brought by which one-half was given to Morris and one-half to Wabaunsee. In 1871, when John Pinkerton was representative, the Legislature enacted a law detaching most of Zeandale Township from the county, giving it to Riley. After the bill had passed the House, and before it reached the Governor, it was illegally changed to take in a larger territory than named in the true bill. In 1872 and 1873 efforts were made to recover the illegally detached portion, finally resulting successfully when A. Sellers was Representative, but uniformity in the west boundary was never regained.
Its location is in the fourth tier of counties from the east line of the State, about seventy-five miles from the Missouri River and about midway between the north and south boundaries of the State. It is bounded on the north by the Kansas River, Riley, Pottawatomie, and Shawnee Counties, on the east by Shawnee and Osage, on the south by Morris and Lyon, and its neighbors on the west are Riley, Geary and Morris. The surface of the county is very much broken, especially in the central portion, where there is a chain of bluffs. It is crossed by many streams and creeks along whose banks are fine growths of timber, including walnut, oak, cottonwood, hickory, and locust. The largest of these streams is Mill Creek, which, with its many tributaries, empties into the Kansas River near the northeast corner of the county. The bottom lands along the river are very fertile though not wide, varying from one-half mile to one and one-half miles in width. These, bottom lands make up about fifteen per cent of the area of the county. The soil is very rich varying from two to ten feet in depth. The greater part of the county is upland prairie, whose soil where not faced with limestone, can not be excelled for grazing purposes. This abundance of pasturage and the bountiful water supply make Wabaunsee County of great importance in the matter of stock-raising. The highest point of land in the county is Buffalo Mound in Maple Hill Township, south of Mill Creek. From this point can be seen a view extending over forty miles in radius. There is a story that General J. C. Fremont camped near by and raised the flag on its summit, while on his way to the Pacific in 1843. This mound and other picturesque features of Maple Hill Township make the village of Maple Hill on the Rock Island railroad, a favorite summer resort with the people of adjacent counties.
The story of the early settlement of the county is full of interest. The first white men outside the reservations were evidently pirates of the prairie. They built a log house in 1842 near where Harveyville is now. Their purpose was to rob travelers on the several roads. From a high mound near by they could observe the Santa Fe Trail which was used before the year 1800 and was well established by 1822. It was used by Mexican traders, paymasters, and gold-seekers. This nest of robbers was broken up after the killing of twenty-seven Mexican traders and the robbery of five hundred mules and treasure-box said to contain seventy-five thousand dollars in gold. Government authorities were notified, chase was given, nineteen of the robbers were shot in the fight, and five were sent to prison for life. The money was never recovered for the owner, but there is a story that a mysterious Englishman dug up the treasure-box from under the ruins of the log-house in 1895, and immediately left the place.
One of the first settlers in the county was Jacob Terras, a German, who located on Hendricks' Creek, one mile east of Alma, in 1853. Before 1854, John P. Gleich, Joseph and Peter Thoes, Frank Schmidt, R. Schrauder, and C. Schwanke had settled in different parts of the county. The first collective settlement was made in 1854 on the Kansas River in Wabaunsee Township, by a colony of about thirty-four people of mixed nationality. They made their settlement on Government land just outside the reservation. Among them were D. B. Hiatt, Peter and Bartholomew Sharer, Clark Lapham, J. Smith, Rev. Leonard, Robert Banks, J. Nesbit, and Horace W. Tabor. J. H. Nesbit was a secretary in the Free State Convention at Topeka in 1855. Horace W. Tabor, afterward Senator from Colorado, was a representative from Richardson County in 1856. He was a member of the Free State Party, and left the State for Colorado in 1859. Rev. Harvey Jones and wife were sent to this settlement as missionaries. He took up one hundred and sixty acres of Government land just outside the reservation on Emmons Creek, where he built a rude cabin. For several years this house was used for church, school, and postoffice. Harvey Jones was both preacher and postmaster. The mail arrived once a week from Tecumseh. In 1855 a German colony, composed mostly of single men, came to a place near the present site of Alma. Their plans for a town failed, and before a year passed most of them abandoned their claims and their chosen townsite was pre-empted by Gottlieb Zwanziger.
Among the Quakers who settled in Wilmington Township in 1854, was Henry Harvey, the historic character deserving of more than passing mention. He had come from Ohio to Kansas in 1840 with the Shawnee Indians as their teacher in the Shawnee Mission School in Johnson County. He returned to Ohio in 1842 and began his "History of the Shawnee Indian from 1681 to 1854, inclusive." This volume is now very rare and contains one of the few written accounts of the flood in the Kaw valley in 1844. He was a great friend of the Indian and was appointed Government agent to the Osage tribe in 1850 by President Taylor. In 1854 he settled with his two sons on Dragoon Creek, near the present site of Harveyville, which was named in his honor. His book was published in Ohio in 1855.
The largest colony that came to the county was "The Beecher Bible and Rifle Society."' This was organized in 1856 in New Haven, Conn., inspired by the intense interest in the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. The colonists were assisted in their plans by citizens of their native State and by Henry Ward Beecher and his church, which furnished twenty-five rifles at $25 each. Fifty-two rifles were bought for members not supplied, and when the colony left New Haven for Kansas March 29th, 1856, every one of its seventy men were armed with a Sharples rifle, a Bible, and hymn-book. Their avowed purpose was to aid in the establishment of liberty, good government, church, school, town, and a farm for each person. The company consisted of all classes - ministers, merchants, doctors, mechanics, laborers, and two had benn[sic] in the Legislature of their native State. Five men brought their families and all came well provided with provisions. Farm implements were purchased at St. Louis and Kansas City, where also, cattle were bought. Sixty-five of the members arrived about May 1st, 1856, and established a camp at Wabaunsee, where they joined the 1854 colony. The Government had made only a partial survey, so their first work was to survey townships and divide them off into sections, after which each man chose his claim. Then the town site of Wabaunsee was chosen and named after the Indian Chief. The town company included nine of the settlers prior to the coming of the colony. Here was built the first school house with funds partly furnished by the editor of the New York Sun, and the historic stone church for which Connecticut furnished most of the building fund. Harvey Jones was the first pastor. The committee of seven who organized the church society were S. H. Fairfield, Harvey Jones, Hiram Mabie, Mr. and Mrs. C. B. Lines, and Mr. and Mrs. C. E. Pond. S. H. Fairfield was one of the volunteers to the colony in September, 1856, from Mendon, Illinois. Among these were S. R. Weed, Enoch Platt, J. E. Platt, and L. H. Platt. Many were the privations and struggles of this colony resulting from Indian depredations, drouth, flood, sickness, prairie fires, and frequent Indian alarms. Many became discouraged and left the colony.
Among those from Connecticut who remained more than three months, we find the names of C. R. Lines, Wm. Hartley, J. D. Farren, George H. Coe, F. H. Hart, Silas M. Thomas, L. H. Root, J. M. Hubbard, Wm. Mitchell, 0. Bardwell, Roland Moses, A. A. Cotteral, H. S. Hall, Benj. Street, J. J. Walter, T. C. P. Hyde, E. C. D. Lines, E. D. Street, Timothy Reed, H. M. Selden, George Wells, S. A. Baldwin, W. S. Griswold, Isaac Fenn, J. P. Root, J. F. Willard, H. D. Rice, H. Isbell, D. F. Scranton, E. J. Lines, F. W. Ingham, L. A. Parker, E. N. Peneld, R. W. Griswold, G. H. Thomas, M. C. Welch, B. C. Porter, F. Johnson, C. E. Pond, L. W. Clark, and W. G. McNary. The story of the colony will always occupy an honored place in the records of Kansas. Its men, wherever they scattered, had much to do with the history of the State. J. P. Root was the first Lieutenant-Governor of the State of Kansas - 1861. Hon. C. B. Lines was most active in affairs of the State, representing his county several terms. J. M. Hubbard, Lieutenant Co. K., 11th Kansas, returned in after years to his native State, Connecticut, and served several terms in the Legislature of that State. The colony established farms, town, school, church, and a militia company. Thus was their original purpose accomplished. It is said this colony alone furnished twenty-seven men for the Civil War. During the settlement of this colony Richardson County was represented by H. W. Tabor. Hon. C. B. Lines was the first territorial representative of Wabaunsee County. E. J. Lines, A. Allen, and E. Hobeneke were in the first State Legislature in 1861, and J. M. Hubbard was its first State Senator. In 1855, Wabaunsee had one vote for State Capital.
Before 1857 there had been a steady emigration of German families into the county, large numbers of whom settled in Alma Township. In that and other townships we find the name of Henry Krupp, Fred Palenske, Henry and J. Terras, E. Hoheneck and G. Zwanziger, who built the first mill, which he afterwards sold to Lorenzo Pauly. Mr. Zwanziger sold part of his claim to the Alma Town Company, and surveyed it off into streets, blocks and lots. In Washington Township were located A. Brasche, Mr. Maxbrink, Adolph Patting and Henry Grimm, the hero of the Platte Bridge Indian Massacre. Ed Krapp, A. Hankammer, and John Spiecker settled in Farmer Township. Henry Schmidt, Wm. Drebing, B. Cline and J. Metzger settled in Mill Creek Township.
Wabaunsee County was especially favored, settled as it was principally by New Englanders of good education and high ideals, and by perhaps the most desirable of foreign emigration - Germans - whose descendants are to-day among the most influential, industrious, and prosperous people of the county.
In the struggle for existence in the early days, the pioneers did not forget the education of their children. Prior to 1859 four school-houses were built, principally by private subscription. D. B. Hiatt was the first man to teach in the county, and Miss M. H. Cotton (Mrs. J. T. Glenn) was the first women teacher. The first school-house was built in Wabaunsee. Public school districts were organized in 1859 in three localities. The county was favored in having men of fine education at the head of its schools. The first county superintendent was J. E. Platt, afterward professor in the Agricultural College for twenty years. Supt. Robert Tunnell was afterward principal of Fairmount College at Wichita. Upon Supt. W. W. Ramey devolved the work of grading the county schools. Matthew Thompson, editor, was county superintendent for ten years. He rendered another valuable service to his county when he wrote his Wabaunsee County history, considered one of the best county histories in the Historical Library at Topeka. Florence Dickinson was county superintendent in 1890. George L. Clothier was county superintendent in 1892. The present county superintendent is Fred I. Hinshaw of Alma. In 1863 there were fifteen school districts, in one of which there was held no school because of Indian raids. District No. 10, used the stone fort built in 1864 on the farm of August Wolgast. Many of the school-houses were built of logs. There are now eighty-nine organized school districts, sixty of which have libraries. There are Catholic schools at Alma and Paxico, a German Baptist school at Altavista, and a Lutheran school at Alma. The county has 4,204 persons of school age.
Soon after the arrival of the Beecher colony they formed a militia company called the Prairie Guards, which took part in the Wakarusa war in the summer of 1856. Its captain was Wm. Mitchell. At the beginning of the Civil War, the population was only 1,050, of whom about 250 were voters, and being composed largely of New Englanders were anti-slavery in belief. Out of about 200 men subject to military duty, 112 men enlisted, a record to be proud of. About one-half of them were in the famous 11th Kansas, over thirty were in the 8th Infantry, some were in different companies of cavalry, six were in the 2nd Infantry, in whose service Captain E. D. C. Lines lost his life. After the campaign against General Price in 1864, the 11th Kansas was ordered to the frontier for a campaign against the Indians in Wyoming. In the Platte Bridge Massacre, July, 1865, Sebastian Nehring of Alma was slain and his body horribly mutilated. Henry Glimm, late of Volland, received arrow wounds from which he suffered all his life. Adolph Hankammer was also wounded. It was the sad mission of Stephen H. Fairfield, now of Alma, to assist in burying the dead. In this bloody battle twenty-five men were killed and their bodies dismembered, two were wounded. The Civil War record of the county is so well known and valued that it is needless to give further detail.
The following enlisted in the Union Army and went into active service in the different regiments:
Second Infantry, Company B. - E. C. D. Lines, A. M. Reed, A. Hankimmer, H. L. Isbell, M. C. Welch, I. C. Isbell.
Eighth Infantry, Company E. - Capt. John Greelish, Wm. Richardson, R. M. Kendall, Wm. Blankenslip, Ephraim Smith, J. P. Kendall, J. B. Bancks, G. W. Barnes, L. P. Cawkins, Charles Cooney, J. H. Dunmire, Daniel Spear, John Wells, S. Brickford, Charles Burns, J. H. Cummings, Henry Grimm, A. W. Harris, Z. Johnson, J. W. Johnson, Henry Lutz, Amos Reese, A. J. Smith, S. J. Speer, John Saylor, F. M. Weaver.
The following enlisted in the cavalry service:
Second Cavalry, Company A. - W. C. Studibaker; Company B. James Dickson; Company F. - Charles Ross, W. B. Dotty, G. W. Eddy, G. F. Hartwell, A. S. Waters, S. B. Easter, Eli Watson; Company K. - C. E. Bisby, Columbus Foster, A. H. Kelsey.
Fifth Cavalry, Company A. - Hamilton Davis; Company L. - B. C. Benedict.
Sixth Cavalry, Company F. - Joseph Weisse, E. W. Wetzold.
Eighth Cavalry, Company E. - Haynie Tomson.
Eleventh Cavalry, Company E. - Benj. Cripps, Ira Hodgson, A. D. McCoy, George Hodgson, I. H. Isbell, G. H. Hill, A. H. Brown, J. N. Smith, George Ross, Riley Frizzle, Albert Kees, Wm. Mahan, W. F. Isbell, W. H. Lapham, L. J. Mossman, Samuel Sage, C. G. Town, Samuel Woods; Company G. - J. F. Chapman; Company I. - H. C. Thompson; Company K. Capt. J. M. Allen, Lieut. J. M. Hubbard, J. H. Pinkerton, J. B. Allen, Moritz Krauz, D. Schwanke, P. C. Pinkerton, W. A. Yimbocker, Henry Grimm, S. H. Fairfield, Albert Dieball, C. D. Ensign, Isaac Fenn, Edward Hoffman, Jacob Isler, Hiram Keyes, A. T. McCormick, J. M. McCormick, John McNair, Sebast. Nehring, G. Siegrist, R. M. Widney, Wm. Wiley, R. P. Blain, R. J. Earl; Company L. - Lieut. J. VanAntwerp, J. T. Green, C. B. Cotton, E. A. Kelsey, Wm. Smith, John Smith; Company M. - John N. Doty.
A comparison between the enlistments of 1861 and 1898 is interesting. In 1861, 112 men volunteered out of a population of 1,050. In the Spanish-American War, 1898, 29 men enlisted out of a population of 12,172. Undoubtedly many enlisted in the regular army at Fort Riley. The enlistment in the volunteer regiments was as follows:
Twenty-First Regiment, Co. G. - Hugo Brandt, Second Lieutenant (resigned); Charles Dilley, Sergeant; Ralph Lane, Corporal; Julius C. Behnke, Corporal; Frank Davis, Albert Eisenhart, Gustavo Kratzer, Edward Mann, Albert F. Miller, Chris. Mungerson, Elmer Motz, Charles G. Davis, Frank Davis. All these were from Alma. In the same company were Kelley Crozier, Artificer, and Henry Adam from Volland; Wm. R. Bradley, Alta Vista; Arthur Griffith, Bradford; Benton H. Jackson, of Keene; Royal S. Wood, Wabaunsee; Wm. E. Walker, Maple Hill; Bert G. Loveland, Keene.
Co. M. - Earl E. Dilley, Alma; Clarence E. Younker and Clyde F. Younker, of McFarland.
Co. I. - George Heubner, Corporal, Alma.
Attached to Staff, Twenty-First Regiment - Winstead Deans, Alma; Bert G. Loveland, Keene.
Twenty-Second Regiment, Co. I. - Richard S. Goodwin, Corporal, and Barndt Nelson, both of Maple Hill.
Twenty-Third Regiment, Co. H. - Wm. Buck, Paxico, in service in Cuba from August, 1898, to March, 1899.
Twenty-one of the men were in Co. G, Twenty-First Regiment, recruited at Osage City, May 13th, 1898. They were stationed most of the time at Camp George H. Thomas, near Lysle, Ga. Much sickness prevailed in this camp where Henry Allen, of Volland, gave up his life in Leiter Hospital, August 25th, 189 8. The regiment was moved to Camp Hamilton, Ky., August 26th, where it stayed until ordered to Ft. Leavenworth, September 27th. It was mustered out December 10th, 1898.
The men of the Twenty-Second Regiment were most of the time at Camp Algr, Va., when they were ordered on a march of fifty miles to Thoroughfare, Va., arriving August 9th; then by rail to Camp Meade, Middletown, Pa., August 29th; ordered to Ft. Leavenworth, September 9th, mustered out November 3rd, 1898. It was a source of greatest disappointment to the men of these regiments that they were not given a chance in active field service.
The resources of the county are varied, but it is particularly adapted to stock-raising as nearly seventy-five per cent of its area is most suitable for pasturage, with an abundant water supply. Hay is a product of great importance, vast quantities being used or shipped out. Corn is its best field crop and it claims to lead in yield of sweet potatoes. There are more than seventy thousand fruit trees, over half of which are apple. It stands high in the State in the number and value of its cattle. Naturally the principal industry of the county is stock-raising. Its many successful stock-breeders aim to reach the highest perfection in pure-bred stock. Eighteen of its stockmen belong to the Kansas Improved Stock Breeders' Association.
Wabaunsee County has a great treasure in her hills, unsurpassed for building as well as lime and cement making purposes. Limestone is found all over the county in ledges from one to six feet. This industry furnishes employment to many hundreds of men, the out-put being shipped in all directions for many purposes from railway ballast and bridge building to pretentious city structures. There seems to be an unlimited supply of this stone, the largest quarries being located at Eskridge and Alma. Salt works are located at Alma, which at one time shipped from thirty to fifty barrels a day, but seem to have been abandoned.
From the report of F. D. Coburn, Secretary of Agriculture, we learn that in 1896 the value of the field crops was $1,731,074. The "Helpful Hen" scored next, in value of poultry and eggs sold $118,347. The "Sister of the Beef Steer" produced $47,746 worth of butter, $33,259 worth of milk sold, and $4,387 worth of cheese. The value of honey crop was $2,400. The wool clip was worth $300. The wood marketed amounted to $1,801. Wabaunsee ranks fifty-six in the State with a population of 12,014 in 1906. Its assessed valuation is $3,213,464.
Wabaunsee County is in the Thirty-fifth Judicial District, in the Twenty-first Senatorial District, in the Forty-ninth Legislative District and the Fourth Congressional District. J. N. Dolley, of Maple Hill, is the State Senator, and Wyatt Roush is its Representative. The county has thirteen townships, embracing 804 square miles, or 514,560 acres. The population of the largest towns in 1906 is given thus: Alma, county seat, 814; Eskridge, 806; Alta Vista, 411; McFarland, 311; Harveyville, 262; Maple Hill, 246; Paxico, 244.
The present county officers are C. C. Stotler, Clerk, Alma; L. J. McCrumb, Treasurer, Alma; Frank Schmidt, Sheriff, Alma; Oscar Schmitz, County Attorney, Alma; L. L. Teas, Clerk District Court, Alma; J. A. Bisley, Register of Deeds, Alma; Joseph Little, Probate Judge, Alma; F. I. Hinshaw, County Superintendent, Alma; L. B. Burt, Surveyor, Wabaunsee; Geo. A. King, Coroner, Paxico. Commissioners: First District, B. Buchli, Alma; Second District, W. K. Beach, Maple Hill; Third District, J. J. Mails, Wabaunsee.
The county seat was located at Alma in 1866, after a spirited contest with Wabaunsee, the first county seat, and other towns. There had been no permanent buildings erected in Wabaunsee for county purposes. When the Alma site was chosen there was not a single house upon it. In 1867 a small frame building was erected to receive the county records. The sum paid to Gottlieb Zwanziger for the site was only $200. He surveyed it off in streets, blocks, and lots. The town was incorporated as a village in 1868. The members of the first village council were: Chairman S. R. Weed, August Meryor, Henry Schmidt, John Winkler, and Herman Dirker. S. R. Weed was also Probate Judge and N. H. Whittemore was attorney for the council.
The first newspaper was The Wabaunsee County Herald, published by A. Sellers and G. W. Bertram in April, 1869. The following papers are now published in the county: Alma Enterprise, Republican, Frank I. Sage and 0. W. Little, editors and publishers; Alma Signal, Republican, H. C. Sticher, editor and publisher; Eskridge Star, Republican, Dow Busenbark, editor and publisher; Wabaunsee County Tribune, Republican, W. H. Melrose, editor; Alta Vista Journal, neutral, James A. Shilling; Harveyville Moniitor,[sic] independent, Jos. Frishman, editor, Printing Company, publisher.
The first Catholic service in Alma was conducted by Father Remelee. The first Lutheran service was held by Rev. Senne. Th[sic] oldest church in the county was built in 1862 at Wabaunsee by the Congregationalists.
The first railroad reached the county in 1880, built by the Santa Fe, called The Manhattan, Alma & Burlingame. From McFarland north it is now operated by the Rock Island, which built its road through the county in 1886. There are 75.52 miles of main track.
The first steamboat passing up the river was the "Excel," Captain Baker, in 1854. The log of the Steamer "Guss Linn" going from Kansas City to Fort Riley in 1859, reported as follows: "May 16th, 1859. Reached Wabaunsee, containing one store and fifteen houses."
The telephone franchise was granted in 1898, to J. H. McMahan, beginning with twelve telephones.
The Rural Mail Delivery reached the county in 1901 in Maple Hill township.
We note the change in population in forty-six years:
1860 ................1,023 1902 ...............12,134 1870 ................3,362 1903 ...............12,391 1880 ................8,759 1904 ...............12,160 1890 ...............10,780 1905 ...............11,910 1900 ...............12,299 1906 ...............12,014 1901 ...............12,406
The slight variation of population between 1901 and 1906, must be ascribed to the fact that the small tracts of land were bought up for pasture by stockmen, rather than any other reason. It takes more than an occasional dry spell or an infrequent flood to drive out the average Wabaunsee man. When Enoch Platt joined the Beecher Colony in 1856 and looked about for a claim, he consulted William Mitchell, who pointed to the bottom lands of the Kaw. Platt refused the proffered location and chose land higher up with the prophesy that the river would one day overflow. S. H. Fairfield says that few of the settlers of 1856 took land on the river, preferring the uplands. They were no doubt influenced by the warning of the Indians, whose losses in the flood of 1844 were still fresh in their minds. In after years, having witnessed no alarming overflow, they gained confidence in the old Kaw and took up the fertile land along its banks.
The warnings and the prophesy had long since been forgotten when people awoke on the 28th of May, 1903, to a realization that a flood was upon them. Some remembered the warning in time, others held the fort in their homes until rescued by their neighbors, some of whom were fortunate enough to have boats. No loss of life was reported, but the loss of homes, land, stock, crops, orchards, implements, and household treasures was immense and could not be adequately reckoned in figures. Along the Kaw the utter desolation of the scene was beyond description. The river was from two to ten miles wide and its bridges gone or badly damaged. All the creeks and streams in the county were swollen and many of their bridges washed away. The river extended over two miles south of the Wamego bridge, some places twenty feet deep. New channels were formed which would rob one man to his neighbor's advantage. One man was given a lake while another was left on an island. Great trees and even groves of trees were swept away and cellars were gouged out under houses that possessed none before. Orchards were ruined and all crops on the bottom lands were carried away. Many dwellings, barns, and outbuildings and the school-houses in District 52, floated down the river. Receding waters left sandbanks piled against the houses and floors were covered with sand, sometimes as high as the door-knobs.
In looking over the files of newspapers of the county for that week, two stories impressed one aside from the record of destruction during the flood-time. One was an account of the removal of Mrs. Robert Earl, from her home at Zeandale, on the bottom, to a place of safety. Mrs. Earl was one of the settlers in 1856, when Zeandale Township belonged to Richardson County, and her death occurred after the flood, June 8th. Another story was that of the marooning of three passenger trains, containing near 400 people, at McFarland; the efforts to provide food enough for such a crowd; the benefit ball given in Arnold's Hall, the tickets for which were printed thus: "Wash-out Ball, by the Victim's Amusement Co., McFarland Island, June 1, 1903."
All this is too recent to be classed as history, but no story of the county would be complete without some tribute to the indomitable spirit and enterprise of its people, who refuse to be overcome by fire, drouth or flood. Whatever the calamity they were quick to recover their losses. If it was fire, new and better buildings were built; if drouth, patience endured until the next season. As soon as possible after the flood, corn was planted for the second time, and farmers and real estate men were claiming that the soil would be benefited in the end by the overflow.
Thus they rise above all difficulties. It must be the Spirit of '56.
One of the most important industries in Wabaunsee County is cattle-pasturing and stock-raising. Both are engaged in to a great extent and bring considerable money into the county. This county being the "Switzerland of Kansas," is particularly adapted to pasturage. The four creeks and their tributaries furnish water in abundance at all times, while the native grass on the hills is of such a high quality that cattle pasturage usually brings fifty cents more per head than any other localities.
The cattle are brought here from Texas about May 1st, for the season. The main points for unloading cattle are Alma, Harveyville, Eskridge, Halifax, Volland, and Altavista. There are from thirty to forty thousand head of cattle pastured in the county yearly at $3.00 to $3.50 and as high as $4.00 per head. Most of these animals are steers and it is not an uncommon thing for one animal to gain several hundred pounds during the season.
Native grade cattle are raised extensively in Wabaunsee County, which sold off the grass last fall for 6 cents per pound. Coburn's report shows the number of milch cows in the county in 1906 to be 9,523 with a value of $257,121, and the number of other cattle to be 35,074 with a value of $701,480. These figures compared with those of the previous year show that while the aggregate number of cattle is less, the aggregate price is nearly $200,000 more than in 1905. This increase in the value per head may be due to the natural rise in price, but it is probable that it is at least partly due to the increase in the number of pure-bred stock.
Pure-bred cattle have been raised in this county for the last thirty years, but lately the number of herds have been greatly increased. It is estimated that there are some forty different farmers engaged in the raising of pure-bred cattle. These are pretty well scattered over the county, but there are more of them about Eskridge than any other locality.
The hog and poultry business is also engaged in very extensively. Nearly every farmer keeps from two to five hundred hens. There are several breeders who make a specialty of pure-bred poultry.
In the last few years a great deal of attention is being paid to raising pure-bred hogs. Most of the breeders have a good home market for their animals, as the people of Wabaunsee County are finding that it pays better to raise improved stock than grade stock for the market. The raising of good animals is a matter of education and this county is pretty well advanced along this line.
The progressive State of Kansas, with her acres of waving yellow wheat, the large acreage of corn, to say nothing of the vast expanse of fine pastures, has many things of which she may well be proud. Prominent among these is the live-stock industry in which she stands well up in the list as compared with other States. She may justly feel proud of the large live-stock market which she has been so big a factor in building. This market, located on the Eastern border, is also proud of the State which has been the largest contributor thereto.
Located at this market is a commission firm whose growth has been commensurate with the growth of that market, and also the State of Kansas, and stands today as one of the largest firms doing business at the Kansas City Stock Yards The J. P. Peters Commission Company - whose advertisement appears elsewhere in this issue, and to whom we would suggest writing if you have any stock on hand or wish to purchase. At the head of this firm is our old-time friend, Jim Peters, for many years a citizen of Wabaunsee County, who is ably assisted by a large and efficient corps of salesmen and buyers. His pens are the choicest in the Yards, being in the immediate vicinity of five different scales; direct chutes and viaducts to his pens from the loading tracks, and well-divided and sufficient pen-room, all of which are large factors in the proper handling of live stock to secure good fills, quick sales, and immediate weigh-ups. These various important features add many dollars to the bank accounts of the patrons of this company.
The Kansas Breeders' Directory for 1907, issued by the Kansas Improved Stock Breeders' Association, shows the following list of fine-stock breeders in Wabaunsee County, who are members of the State Association:
Herman Arndt, Templin, Poland-Chinas.
T. P. Babst & Sons, Dover, Shorthorns.
J. M. Beach, Maple Hill, Route No. 1, Holsteins.
R. M. Buck, Eskridge, Shorthorns, Poland-Chinas, Poultry.
Scott R. Buck, Eskridge, Shorthorns.
A. M. Jordan, Alma, Poland-Chinas, Poultry.
C. S. Kelley, Paxico, Poland-Chinas.
E. L. Knapp, Maple Hill, Shorthorns.
C. G. Nash, Eskridge, Berkshires, Poultry.
Andrew Pringle, Eskridge, Shorthorns, Poland-Chinas.
A. and P. Schmitz, Alma, Poland-Chinas.
H. W. Steinmeyer, Volland, Duroc-Jerseys.
E. W. Thoes, Alma, Duroc-Jerseys.
Wm. J. Todd, Maple Hill, Feeder.
Seb. Wertsberger, Volland, Herefords.
K. C. Berry, Eskridge, Percherons, Shorthorns, Berkshires.
W. G. Martin, Eskridge, Shorthorns, Berkshires.
Transcribed from Business directory and history of Wabaunsee County pub. by The Kansas directory company of Topeka, Kansas, 1907. 104 p. illus. (incl. ports.) 21 cm. Advertising matter interspersed.
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