Transcribed from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.

Washington County.—The first territorial legislature in 1855, created a county named Washington, with the following described boundaries: "Commencing at the southern boundary of the territory of Kansas, 15 miles west of a due south course from the mouth of Walnut creek, on the Arkansas river, and running from thence north 100 miles, thence west to the east line of Arapahoe county, thence south along said line to the south line of Kansas, thence east along the said line to the place of beginning."

The southeast corner, as described by this act, was on the southern boundary of the state, about 6 miles west of the present line separating Sumner from Cowley county. The northeast corner was about 3 miles east of the little village of Waldeck in the present county of Marion. As originally created, this old Washington county included the present counties of Reno, Stafford, Pawnee, Edwards, Hodgeman, Kearny, Hamilton, Stanton, Grant, Haskell, Gray, Ford, Kiowa, Pratt, Kingman, Harper, Barber, Comanche, Clark, Mead, Seward, Stevens and Morton; the southern part of McPherson, Rice, Barton, Russell Ness, Lane, Scott, Wichita and Greeley; nearly all of Sumner, Sedgwick and Harvey and a little of the southwest part of Marion. Peketon county (q. v.) was created by the legislature of 1860, and embraced all of Washington county as created by the act of 1855.

In 1859 the present county of Washington was created with the following boundaries: "Beginning at the northwest corner of Marshall county, thence west along the base line or northern boundary of the territory to the intersection of the 6th principal meridian; thence south along said principal meridian to the 1st standard parallel; thence east along said parallel to the southwest corner of Marshall county; thence north with the western boundary of Marshall county to the place of beginning."

The county was named in honor of George Washington. It was not organized at the time of its creation, but was known as Washington township of Marshall county, remaining practically unorganized territory until 1860. As at present organized, the county is bounded on the north by the State of Nebraska; on the east by Marshall county; on the south by Riley and Clay, and west by Cloud and Republic. It is 30 miles square and has an area of 900 square miles.

French, in his Louisiana Historical Collections, says that as early as 1724 French traders went among the Pawnees, who hunted from the Platte as far south as the Arkansas river. In the spring of 1842 a party of emigrants passed through what is now Washington county on their way to the Columbia river. They were in charge of Dr. White, an agent of the government in Oregon territory. Fremont in his report of the expedition to the Rocky mountains the same year reports on June 22 that "a pack of cards, lying loose on the grass, marked an encampment of our Oregon emigrants; and it was at the close of the day when we made our bivouac in the midst of some well timbered ravines near the Little Blue."

Within a few years this part of the state became marked by many trails. Missionaries, traders and gold seekers all passed over the well worn highways but few stopped to make their homes. A trail known as the "parallel road" to the gold mines in 1849, passed nearly east and west through the central part of Washington county. Cutler in his History of Kansas says, "In 1845 the Mormons passed through the county on the way to their new homes in Utah. One of their favorite camping grounds was at 'Mormon Springs,' on Ash creek, 3 miles south of Washington City." For many years afterward the road the Mormons followed could be traced through the county. It was especially plain northwest of the Little Blue river near the Nebraska state line. Until the spring of 1854 traders, missionaries and Indian agents were practically the only white men in this portion of Kansas.

The first permanent white settler in what is now Washington county was James McNulty, who came to Kansas from Iowa in July, 1857, and the following February located on Mill creek about 5 miles west of the present city of Washington. He built a cabin, the first in the county, and brought his family to live there. Ralph Ostrander accompanied McNulty and his family and settled on an adjoining claim. In the spring of 1858 Gerat H. Hollenberg, George G. Pierce and D. E. Ballard came to the county, and the following year they located a town site a little north of the center of the county, but this location was abandoned in the fall and the site of Washington was chosen. Jacob and Daniel Blocker staked out claims on Mill creek, in what is now Mill Creek township, in the fall of 1858. At the time they were the only settlers west of Washington city. William Mercer located a claim on the stream that now bears his name. Rufus Darby and a man named Woodard, with their families, stopped near Ballard's crossing of the Little Blue in July of the same year, but when the survey was made, it was discovered that their claims were on school land, and the following year they moved to Mill creek. S. F. Snider, who later became the first probate judge of the county, built three cabins northeast of Washington in what is now Charleston township; Jonathan Snider and S. Stonebreaker located in the same section; and in the winter of 1858-59 George Foster took up land in the southeastern part of the county.

The Civil war necessitated the withdrawal of the troops from the frontier posts. The Indians, learning that the soldiers were occupied elsewhere, began to quarrel among themselves. In the spring of 1864 the Cheyennes and Arapahoes appeared on the war path along the Little Blue in Marshall and Washington counties, following the Otoes to their village. They first attacked John Ferguson's house on Mill creek; plundered O. S. Canfield's home; took Rufus Darby prisoner as he was returning from Marysville, and then marched toward Washington, where another band was plundering the Hallowell cabin. From there they followed down the creek and took the household goods at G. M. Driskell's. Rich Bond and Andy Oswald were taken prisoners, but were soon released. The people living in the southern part of Washington and the northern part of Clay county fled south and gathered at Orville Huntress' cabin near the present city of Clay Center, where about 200 of them remained encamped for a month.

In August a war party of the Arapahoes and Cheyennes again appeared on the Little Blue about 6 miles above the present town of Hanover, where they murdered and scalped a family by the name of Eubanks. In the fall there were continued Indian troubles and a number of settlers gathered at Hume's log cabin at Washington for safety. In 1868 another raid was made in Cloud, Republican and Washington counties, but so far as is known, only one man was killed, the Indians confining themselves to plundering, running off stock, etc.

Washington was organized as a county on the second Monday in April, 1860, and the fourth Monday an election was held for county officers. George F. CaIdwell, Joseph Malin and William Hoffhine were elected commissioners; D. E. Ballard, clerk and register of deeds; M. G. Driskell, treasurer; William Langsdale, sheriff; James O'Neill, surveyor; Thomas M. Bowen, county attorney; John M. Hoffhine, superintendent of public schools; S. F. Snider, probate judge; William Mercer, assessor; Charles Bruce, coroner. The county was in the 5th council district and the 6th representative district. George Pierce was the first man to represent the county in the lower house of the last territorial legislature, and D. E. Ballard represented the county in the first state legislature.

The Washington Town company promised to give several lots to the county as an inducement to the voters to favor it as the seat of justice. The election to decide the permanent location of the county seat was ordered for Nov., 1860. Washington, Rogersville (on Judge Snider's farm in what is now Charleston township), and West Union (a paper town about 4 miles west of Washington on the McNulty claim), were the contesting towns. Judge Snider withdrew Rogersville on the day of the election and threw its 7 votes to Washington, which became the county seat.

At the first meeting of the commissioners, which was held in a log house built by the town company, the county was divided into two civil townships—Washington and Mill creek.

The 12th judicial district was created in 1871. A. S. Wilson was appointed judge and William Hoffhine, clerk. It is believed that the first white child born in the county was Michael Cook, whose birth occurred in 1859.

The first number of the Western Observer, the first newspaper in the county, appeared on March 11, 1869, M. J. Kelly being the owner and editor and his office was located in the old stockade court-house. (See Washington.)

The first railroad to enter the county was the St. Joseph & Western, which was built across the northeast corner in 1872. After crossing the eastern boundary it ran southwest to Hanover, then followed the course of the Little Blue northwest to Hollenberg. The Junction City & Fort Kearney was built in 1877-78. It crossed the eastern boundary about 3 miles south of the Little Blue, ran northwest to Greenleaf, then southwest to Clifton, with a branch diverging at Greenleaf to Washington. At the present time excellent transportation facilities are provided by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, which crosses the county from northeast to southwest; the St. Joseph & Western, now the St. Joseph & Grand Island; the Missouri Pacific, formerly the Junction City & Fort Kearney; the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, which crosses both the northwest and the southwest corners of the county. This gives the county 106 miles of main track railroad.

As population increased the original townships have been divided to form Barnes, Brantford, Charleston, Clifton, Coleman, Farmington, Franklin, Grant, Greenleaf, Haddam, Hanover, Highland, Independence, Kimeo, Lincoln, Linn, Little Blue, Logan, Lowe, Mill Creek, Sheridan, Sherman, Strawberry, Union and Washington.

The surface of the county is rolling, except in the western part and along some of the streams, where it is hilly. The alluvial lands along the water courses average a half mile in width and aggregate about one-eighth of the area. Timber belts along the streams consist of elm, cottonwood, ash, walnut, box-elder, maple, honey-locust and bass-wood. The Little Blue river enters the county from the north about 11 miles west of the northeast corner and flows in a southeasterly direction into Marshall county. Its main tributary is Mill creek. Limestone and sandstone are plentiful in all portions; mineral paint exists near Hollenberg; there are several veins of cement stone; salt springs exist in Mill Creek townships; deposits of salt underlie the central and western portions, and a bed of gypsum 60 feet thick, underlies the northeastern portion, at a depth of 200 feet.

The chief agricultural products are corn, Irish potatoes, millet and oats. Winter wheat, sorghum, Kafir-corn and alfalfa are also raised In 1907 there were 325,000 bearing fruit trees in the county. The population in 1910 was 20,239, and the assessed valuation of property was $39,917,625. The total value of farm products for the year was $5,603,358.

Pages 890-894 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.