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Kansas State Board of Agriculture
First Biennial Report

Ellis County


Map of Ellis County - 1878

The first settlement was made on Big creek, near the present site of Hays City, in June, 1867, by W. E. Webb and others. The first settlement in what is now the town of Ellis was made by employes of the Kansas pacific Railway Company. - The first church building was erected at Victoria, in 1877, by the Episcopal denomination. - The first school building was built in Big Creek township, in 1873, by school district No. 1, and the first in Ellis township, in 1872-3, by district No. 2. - The first business establishment was a general outfitting house, at Hays City, by W. A. Rose. - First marriages: Big Creek township, Peter Toudell and Elizabeth Duncan, 1868; Ellis township, W. H. Lithgow and Lina M. Smith, February 6, 1871. - First birth: John Bauer, January 29, 1868. - First post office: Hays City, John W. Hall, postmaster. - Fort Hays, near Hays City, was established by Gen. Pope, early in 1867. During the same year the Kansas Pacific Road was completed to the east line of the county. - In the same year W. J. Wells, Wm. E. Webb and Judge Knight, of St. Louis, were desirous of making an investment in land, for colonization, in the West. After examining maps in the railroad office, in St. Louis, the two latter started west; making Fort Hays, on Big Creek, their objective point. Penetrating as far as Fort Harker, they found that the stages had been withdrawn, on account of Indian hostilities; but, as they were well armed, the agent consented to run them out as far as Fort Hays. The government survey had recently been made; and they had to trace the lines from Harker to Hays, in order to know when they were on the plats of survey. They stayed a few days, and selected about three sections of land, including that where Hays City now is. Fort Hays simply consisted of a few tents. They returned East; and sometime early in June, Mr. Webb again visited Fort Hays. Two or three wagons had pushed forward from the new settlement of Ellsworth; and the adventurous pioneers had erected two houses at the crossing of Big creek, and named the locality Rome. Subsequently Rome "declined" and "fell," and Hays City flourished in its stead. While the latter point remained the terminus of the railroad, it was one of the liveliest places in the country, and was distinguished by those peculiar social features which characterize a suddenly developing frontier. The extension of the road, however, and its early completion to Denver, effectually eliminated these features, and, while apparently putting a check upon the prosperity of the town, really laid the foundation for a healthier growth, by directing attention to the promotion of immigration, and the development of the agricultural resources of the surrounding country. - The county was named in honor of Lieut. George Ellis, of the Twelfth Kansas Infantry, killed in battle at Jenkins' Ferry, Arkansas, April 30, 1864. W. E. Webb was the first representative in the Legislature, and the first meeting of the County Commissioners was held January 6, 1863. Licenses to sell liquor were fixed at fifty dollars premium each, and within two days thirty-seven licenses were granted. At a special election, held in August, 1869, J. B. Hickok, alias "Wild Bill," recently killed by a fellow gambler in the Black Hills, was elected Sheriff. At a special election, held April 20, 1870, Hays City was selected as the permanent county seat, and it was voted to erect public buildings. The first term of the District Court was held by Judge Humphrey. As to the first experiments, on a scale of any magnitude, in raising crops on what are generally known as "the plains," we quote a brief mention of them and their success from the historical sketch of Ellis county by Martin Allen, from which source most of the foregoing information is derived:

'Hays City possesses the record of having made the first attempt to cultivate the plains, although, owing, to an unusually unpropitious season, the effort was a failure. The next attempt at agriculture was made around, and mostly west of, Ellis, in the summer of 1871, by Thomas Arrowsmith, J. H. Edwards, and Louis Watson. The K. P. Railroad also commenced experiments there, growing trees as well as farm products. In the spring of 1872 a small colony from Cincinnati settled at Walker Station. Not more than a dozen homesteads and pre-emptions, outside of mere 'woodclaim,' were taken in the county at this time. Early in 1873 a colony from Syracuse, N. Y., settled at Ellis, one from Pennsylvania at Hays, and the colony of George Grant at Victoria. The first garden product shipped out of the county (so far as we know) was two bushels of green peas sent by the writer to Wallace, in June, 1874. Experiments in wheat growing, this year, were quite successful, notwithstanding the latter part of the season was unprecedented for drought, accompanied with grasshoppers in such numbers as to absolutely destroy everything green. The rich buffalo grass having previously ripened and assumed the color of ripened straw, was of course unharmed, and, although the following winter was long and cold, stock went through very well upon the grass; but, there being no corn in the greater portion of the State, hogs became well nigh extinct in our county. This was that terrible winter ever to be remembered with humiliation, when all parts of the State called so loudly and successfully to their friends in the East for aid.

'1875 proved to be a favorable year for agriculture, and a farmers' celebration was held at Hays City with some aid from neighboring counties in the way of articles on exhibition. Hon. Geo. T. Anthony, Hon. John H. Edwards and Chaplain Collins were the speakers. More than one article on exhibition received favorable notice at Philadelphia the following year. I. N. Easterday, and others in the east part of the county, had surprising yields of wheat, barley and rye. W. L. Fuller, John Wahl, J. M. Cook and J. C. Wildt, of Walker, each had a patch of wheat that yielded about twenty-five bushels to the acre, from which they fllled a car, this being the first agricultural product shipped from the county by the car load. 1876, Centennial year, was not so favorable to agriculture - June having been without rain - yet faith was so strongly established that claim-taking and improvements commenced in earnest. About one hundred and fifty claims were taken by Russians this year, and fully as many by others.'

Ellis county was organized in 1867.

Population in 1870, 1,336; in 1875, 940; decrease in five years, 396; population in 1878, 2,437; increase in eight years, 1,101. Rural population, 1,828; city or town population, 609; per cent. of rural to city or town population, 75.

* POPULATION of 1878, by Townships and Cities.
Big Creek 1,864 Ellis 573    

Face of the Country. - Bottom lands, 15 per cent.; upland, 85 per cent.; forest (Government survey), 1 per cent.; prairie 99 per cent. Average width of bottoms, one mile; general surface of the country - southeastern portion, level; central portion, undulating; and the western portion, bluffy.

Timber. - The timber belts on the streams are quite insignificant. Varieties: ash, elm (white and red), box elder, cottonwood and hackberry. There has been a commencement made in forest cultivation in Big Creek and Ellis townships, but the experiments are yet in their infancy, and precise results can not be stated. The young cottonwoods, black walnuts and box elders seem to be doing well.

Principal Streams. - The Smoky Hill river running through the southern tier of townships; the Saline through the northern tier of townships, and Big creek, a tributary of the Smoky, nearly through the centre; all running east, and diverging slightly to the south. Victoria creek is a tributary of Big creek. There are some springs in the northern part of the county, but they are not numerous; well water is obtained in most localities at a depth of from 20 to 60 feet.

Coal. - A thin vein, said to have been discovered in the southeastern corner of the county, but the quality is very poor, and it has scarcely been used at all.

Building Stone, etc. - Magnesian limestone is found in great abundance in various parts of the county. It is easily worked, and is well adapted for building.

Railroad Connections. - The Kansas Pacific Railway runs from east to west through the county, about midway the centre and northern line. Principal stations, Hays City and Ellis.

Agricultural Statistics. - Acres in the county, 576,000; taxable acres, 53,614; under cultivation, 10,754; cultivated to taxable acres, 20.06 per cent.; increase of cultivated acres during the year, 7,122.50.

A GREAT YIELD. - Statement of John Fogle, Hays City:

Winter Wheat. - Red May variety: raised on Section 4. Township 13, Range 18 west. Fifteen acres were planted September 25, and harvested June 20, producing 32 bushels to the acre. The soil was second bottom, and the crop was the first, being sown on the sod after the first breaking. The cost of the crop was $10 per acre, including delivery to market.

A GOOD YIELD. - Statement of J. B. Milner, Hays City:

Winter Wheat. - This crop was raised on Section 1, Township 14 south, Range 18 west, and several varieties of seed were sown, such as Rough and Ready, Clawson, Gold Medal and others. Eighty acres were planted September 10, and harvested in June, the yield averaging 25 bushels to the acre; the Rough and Ready yielding 22 bushels, and the Clawson and Gold Medal yielding 28 bushels each per acre. The ground was second bottom, and the crop was sown on the sod after the first breaking. The whole cost of producing was $10 per acre, including its delivery to market.

A LARGE YIELD. - Statement of John C. Henry, of Ellis:

Winter Wheat. - Variety, Red May: raised on Section 7, Township 13, Range 20. One hundred and twenty acres, planted from October 1 to 15, and harvested the last of June. The soil was upland, a sandy loam. The yield was 30 bushels per acre, weighing 64 pounds to the bushel. About forty acres was old ground, the remainder was sod, broken in May and June, and planted in corn; I stirred it in September and seeded in October. The cost of producing the crop and delivering it on the cars was $8 per acre.

Value of Garden Produce, Poultry and Eggs Sold during the Year. - Garden produce, $25; poultry and eggs, $141.

Old Corn on Hand. - None reported.

Dairy Products. - Cheese manufactured in 1875, - lbs.; in 1878, 20 lbs.; increase, 20 lbs. Butter manufactured in 1875, 2,050 lbs.; in 1878, 1,502 lbs.; decrease, 548 lbs.

STATEMENT showing the Acreage of Field Crops named from 1872 to 1878, inclusive.

CROPS. 1872. 1873. 1874. 1875. 1876. 1877. 1878.
Winter Wheat     56.00 93.00 312.00 1,321.00 4,037.00
Rye       187.00 95.00 98.00 485.00
Spring Wheat     20.00 55.25 165.00 146.00 264.00
Corn     392.00 442.00 457.00 1,358.00 3,226.00
Barley     30.00 63.50 35.00   79.00
Oats     281.00 209.00 128.00 48.00 244.00
Buckwheat     10.00       11.50
Irish Potatoes     140.00 10.25 31.13 20.00 138.00
Sweet Potatoes       1.00 4.00 0.50 0.50
Sorghum       15.50 4.50 24.00 11.00
Castor Beans         7.00    
Flax       2.00      
Tobacco           1.00 9.00
Broom Corn       2.25 0.50 6.00  
Millet and Hungarian     90.00 268.00 459.83 608.00 1,299.00
Timothy Meadow       13.00 15.00   20.00
Clover Meadow       8.00 39.50   20.00
Prairie Meadow     650.00 3.00 3.00    
Timothy Pasture           1.00  
Clover Pasture       18.00      
Blue-Grass Pasture       1.00      
Prairie Pasture             910.00

Total     1,669.00 1,391.75 1,756.46 3,631.50 10,754.00

Increase in four years, 544+ per cent.
Average increase per annual, 136+ per cent.

RANK of Ellis County in the Crops named below, as to Acreage, and in Cultivated Acreage for the years mentioned in the foregoing table.

CROPS. 1872. 1873. 1874. 1875. 1876. 1877. 1878.

Wheat     63 67 69 63 62
Corn     64 68 70 68 66
Total Acreage in all crops     63 67 70 68 66

STATEMENT showing the Acres, Product and Value of Principal Crops for 1878, together with the Increase and Decrease as compared with 1877.

FROM 1877.
IN 1878.
FROM 1877.
IN 1878.
FROM 1877.

Winter Wheat - bu. 4,037.00 2,716.00 in. 88,814.00 62,394.00 in. $54,176.54 $31,719.54 in.
Rye - bu. 485.00 387.00 in. 11,640.00 9,386.00 in. 3,492.00 2,770.72 in.
Spring Wheat - bu. 264.00 118.00 in. 3,960.00 1,332.00 in. 1,821.60 280.80 de.
Corn - bu. 3,226.00 1,868.00 in. 106,458.00 65,718.00 in. 34,066.56 23,881.56 in.
Barley - bu. 79.00 79.00 in. 2,765.00 2,765.00 in. 1,106.00 1,106.00 in.
Oats - bu. 244.00 196.00 in. 7,320.00 5,640.00 in. 2,854.80 2,552.40 in.
Buckwheat - bu. 11.50 11.50 in. 207.00 207.00 in. 165.60 165.60 in.
Irish Potatoes - bu. 138.00 118.00 in. 11,040.00 10,040.00 in. 4,968.00 4,168.00 in.
Sweet Potatoes - bu. 0.50   50.00 12.50 in. 62.50 15.62 in.
Sorghum - gall. 11.00 13.00 de. 1,265.00 1,495.00 de. 632.50 747.50 de.
Castor Beans - bu.            
Cotton - lbs.            
Flax - bu.            
Hemp - lbs.           592.00 in.
Tobacco - lbs. 9.00 8.00 in. 6,660.00 5,920.00 in. 666.00 180.00 de.
Broom Corn - lbs.   6.00 de.   4,800.00 de.   10,748.25 in.
Millet and Hungarian - tons 1,299.00 691.00 in. 3,897.00 2,529.00 in. 16,562.25 135.00 in.
Timothy Meadow - tons 20.00 20.00 in. 30.00 30.00 in. 135.00 157.50 in.
Clover Meadow - tons 20.00 20.00 in. 35.00 35.00 in. 157.50  
Prairie Meadow - tons            
Timothy Pasture - acres   1.00 de.        
Clover Pasture - acres            
Blue-Grass Pasture - acres            
Prarie Pasture - acres 910.00 910.00 in.        

Total 10,754.00 7,122.50 in.     $120,866.85 $76,803.89 in.

Farm Animals. - Number of horses, in 1877, 498; in 1878, 557; increase, 59. Mules and asses, in 1877, 37; in 1878, 71; increase, 34. Milch cows, in 1877, 164; in 1878, 423; increase, 259. Other cattle, in 1877, 3,083; in 1878, 5,462; increase, 2,379. Sheep, in 1877, 3,771; in 1878, 3,315; decrease, 456. Swine, in 1877, 65; in 1878, 720; increase, 655.

Sheep Killed by Dogs. - Number of sheep killed by dogs, none reported.

Wool. - Clip of 1877, 9,893 pounds.

Value of Animals Slaughtered. - Value of animals slaughtered and sold for slaughter during the year, $19,657.31.**

Horticulture. - Number of acres nurseries, 3.50. Number of trees in bearing: apple, 14; peach 1,055; plum, 1; cherry, 8. Number of trees not in bearing: apple, 2,199; pear, 833; peach, 1,404; plum, 582; cherry, 910.

Herd Law. - The herd law has been in force in the county since May 25, 1872. Public sentiment is generally in its favor. It is not believed to have any influence upon fencing or hedge growing, and it stimulates the growth of small grains more than stock raising. The argument in its favor is, that it gives the settlers an opportunity to farm without the expense of fencing.

Fences. - Stone, 510 rods; cost, $892.50. Rail, no report. Board, 1,193 rods; cost, $1,765.64. Wire, 2,720 rods; cost, $2,221.60. Hedge 1,660 rods; cost, $1,162. Total rods of fence, 6,083; total cost, $6,041.74.

Apiaculture. - Number of stands of bees, 2

Value of Agricultural Implements. - Amount invested in agricultural implements, $17,209

Manufactures. - Hays City, water power flouring mill, capital $7,030. Ellis township, sorghum mill, capital, $75. Big Creek township: sorghum mills, 2; capital, $115

Valuation and Indebtedness. - Assessed valuation of personal property, $162,015.31; railroad property, $281,800.31; total assessed valuation of all property, $722,269.62; true valuation of all property, $1,203,782.70. Total indebtedness of county, township, city and school districts, $33,342.71; per cent. of indebtedness to assessed valuation, .05-.

Newspaper History. - The Railway Advance, Republican, a tri-weekly paper, was established by Joseph Clarke & Co., at Hays City, in 1867, and suspended in 1868.

In 1873, the Hays City Times was published by Allen & Jones, and edited by Maud Hartley. Its history was brief

In February, 1874 the Hays City Sentinel was founded by W. H. Johnson. and in August following it passed into the hands of Reed & Motz, and in November was transferred to W. P. Montgomery & Son, by whom it is still published. The Sentinel is a Republican paper.

In April, 1876, the Ellis County Star was established at Hays City, by J. H. Downing, its present proprietor and editor. It is Republican in politics.

The Ellis County Standard was first issued at Ellis, in August, 1877, by W. P. Tomlinson, and is still in existence. It is a Republican paper.

Schools. - Number of organized districts, 10; school population, 1,195; average salary of teachers, per month, males, $47.50; females, $34.50. School houses built during 1878, 6; log, 1; frame, 3; stone, 2. Total number of school houses, 7; log, 1; frame, 4; stone, 2. Value of all school property, $9,429. School district No. 1, has ornamented its grounds, putting out 100 cottonwood trees. None of the other districts have planted any trees.

Churches. - Baptist: membership, 25. Congregational: organizations, 2; membership, 39. Episcopal: membership, 4. Lutheran, organizations, 2; membership, 500; church edifices, 1; value of church property, $1,000. Methodist Episcopal: organizations, 4; membership, 60, Presbyterian: organizations, 2; membership, 50; value of church property, $4,500. Roman Catholic: organizations, 5; membership, 1,000.

* Saline, Victoria and Walker townships have been organized since census was taken.
** Estimated.