Pages 91-94, transcribed by Carolyn Ward from History of Allen and Woodson Counties, Kansas: embellished with portraits of well known people of these counties, with biographies of our representative citizens, cuts of public buildings and a map of each county / Edited and Compiled by L. Wallace Duncan and Chas. F. Scott. Iola Registers, Printers and Binders, Iola, Kan.: 1901; 894 p., [36] leaves of plates: ill., ports.; includes index.


Iola High School & Allen County Court House Humboldt High School & Stony Lonesome


This is a thriving business town, situated in the southwest part of the county. The location is a desirable one, on the level valley land, on both the east and west banks of the Neosho river. The business portion of the town is on the east bank of the river, and about one-half mile from its bank. Coal Creek forms part of the southern limits. The two railroads are the Southern Kansas Division of the A. T. & S. F. on the east side, and the Missouri Kansas & Texas on the west side of the river.

The population of Humboldt is about 1400, and the town at present is about at a standstill, though there are prospects of increased progress in the near future. There are here some of the best business houses in the county, and the town enjoys a large and prosperous trade. The Neosho river furnishes an abundant water power, which has long been utilized for manufacturing purposes. The citizens are of a substantial class and progressive.

In the fall of 1856 B. M. Blanton, a Methodist missionary, in making a trip through southern Kansas, became impressed with the idea that this was an excellent point for the foundation of a town. He returned to Lawrence and told his brother, N. B. Blanton, and J. A. Coffey of this selection, advising them to locate a townsite. In March 1857, J. A. Coffey selected the site and with the aid of a pocket compass made a temporary survey. He found an abandoned log cabin there; it had been built the spring before by some claimant who abandoned the country. In the fall of 1856 Charles Baland, who was sick, abandoned the claim near there, and moved into the cabin, where he spent the winter, and in the spring, intending to leave the country, he presented the cabin and his claim to the land to Mrs. E. H. Young, but finally decided to remain, and located another claim where his farm now is. Coffey finding a claim on the land paid $20 for it, to secure peaceable possession. He then returned to Lawrence, where he and Blanton met a German colony, which was induced to help them form the town.

The German colony was organized in Hartford, Connecticut, during the winter of 1856-7, and consisted of E. M. Serenbets, Jacob Schleicher, William Lassman, John Frixel, Franz Trontz-Landerwasser, A. Senner. H. Zwanziger and N. Kemmerer. All of these with the exception of the last named, who did not come until a year later, arrived at Lawrence in March 1837. There they were met by Blanton and Coffey, who induced them to locate on their townsite. The Humboldt town company was organized, and the town so named in honor of Baron Von Humboldt. Among the members were J. A. Coffey, N. B. Blanton, F. M. Serenbets, J. H. and W. H.


Signor, Dr. Hartmall and A. D. Searle. The German portion of the colony arrived May 10th 1857, and were soon followed by Coffey, Blanton and others.

The first house built was of logs, built for J. A. Coffey, at a cost of $25. It was located on Bridge street, on the east side of the river. The next house was built southwest of Coffey's in the summer of 1857, and was known as "Bachelor's Hall." It was occupied during the summer by Dr. G. A. Miller, R. M. Works, J. W. Sperring, J. H. and H. W. Signor, B. H. Whitlow and W. W. Pollock. During the same summer, a man by the name of Clark, built a two-story log hotel. In June J. A. Coffey opened a store in a cabin in the timber near the river. This store was soon after sold to W. C. O'Brien.

During the summer of 1857, Orlin Thurston, a young attorney, was persuaded to locate at Humboldt, and put up a steam saw-mill. He soon began sawing lumber, and then building began on the prairie portion of the townsite, where the business center now is.

Before this most of the building was in the timber along the river. In the spring of 1858, Charles Fussman opened a tinshop, in a log cabin in the timber.

The first frame building erected was on the corner of Eighth and Bridge streets, which was a residence and store of J. A. Coffey. It was afterward part of a cigar manufactory of W. H. Holtschneider, destroyed during the fire of 1883.

In the spring of 1858, a steam saw and grist mill was opened by W. C. O'Brien. The mill was hauled from Jefferson City, Mo., and required the use of nine yoke of oxen and one span of horses. It took fifty-four days to make the trip both ways. The mill was in operation by May 1st, and had one run of burrs. It was the first grist mill in the county.

During 1858 the town grew quite rapidly. Prominent among the settlers of that year was John R. Goodin, who afterwards distinguished himself as a district judge, and as a member of Congress.

The first physician to locate in Humboldt, was George A. Miller, in 1857. His office was first in a tent, and his sign "physician and surgeon," was nailed to a jack oak tree.

The postoffice was established in 1858, and A. Irwil appointed postmaster. A postal route had been established from Lawrence the same year. Before that time the mail was brought from Fort Scott by private carriers. Among them were S. J. Stewart and a young man named Dotson. The mail was weekly until 1865, when it was changed to tri-weekly, and not long after to daily.

The first brick was made at Humbolt in 1859, on the place later owned by Capt. O. S. Coffin, adjoining the town on the south.

Prior to the year 1860, meetings of the town company were held at Lawrence, and some of the members never moved to Humboldt. On June 20th, however, the company reorganized and was incorporated under the name of the Humboldt Town Association, which was composed of N. B. Blanton, J. A. Coffey, J. H. Signor, George A. Miller and W. C. O'Brien.


The townsite was entered on Nov. 16, 1860, by J. G. Rickard, in trust for the Town Association.

In 1861 the United States land office was removed to Humboldt from Fort Scott. N. B. Blanton had been elected a member of the first state legislature, and all his work had been in the interest of Humboldt. He voted for both Lane and Pomeroy for U. S. senators, securing from them the promise that the land office should be removed to his town. J. C. Burnett was register of the land office, and Charles Adams, son-in-law of Lane, was receiver. Senator Lane gave them orders to select a new location. Humboldt finally secured it, but the Town Association had to give 200 lots in order to obtain it. The removal was effected and the office opened for business September 23, 1861, in a building on Bridge street, the old red frame structure which was then used as a court house as well.

From the foundation of the town to the summer of 1860 its growth was quite rapid. There was then a population of perhaps 300, and there were about fifty buildings. The drouth of that year had such an effect upon the country that for the remainder of the year and early in 1861, the town progressed very slowly. During all its earlier history, Humboldt was more prosperous than most of the Kansas towns, having such a large trade with the Indian tribes on the south and west.

In 1861, the war broke out, and most of the able bodied men having enlisted in the army, but little building was done. Then in September of that year, the town was robbed, and about one month later was burned by rebel raiders. Only a few buildings were left, and until the close of the war, but few new buildings were erected.

The first building of any consequence that was erected after the raid, was the "red store," on the corner of Bridge and Eighth streets, now occupied by E. W. Trego with a hardware stock. The lower storey was built by Col. W. Doudna, and the upper one by the Masonic fraternity. This was followed by a few more buildings.

In 1866, the town began to progress quite rapidly, and a number of fine structures were erected. Among them were the school house, Catholic church, the brick block on Eighth street, and a number of other good buildings. During the next three years, the growth of the town was quite rapid.

In 1865, a treaty was effected with the Osage Indians which permitted actual settlers to enter 160 acres each, at $1.25 per acre. This land was sold in 1868, and the landoffice being at Humboldt, brought an immense trade to the town, which made it for some time one of the most thriving business places in the state.

On April 2nd, 1870, the M. K. & T. R. R. was completed to the townsite. To secure this road, the citizens voted $75,000 in bonds. The citizens also bought, for $13,000 160 acres of land on the west side of the river, of which they gave to the railroad company ten acres for depot grounds and right of way, and the remainder was divided into lots, of which the railroad company received one-half.

In October 1870, the L. L. & G. R. R. (now the Southern Kansas divi-


sion of the A. T. & S. F.) was finished to Humboldt, and the event was celebrated the following month. The years 1870 and 1871, were marked by the rapid growth of the town. Large numbers of buildings were erected, some of them being constructed of brick and stone. Property greatly increased in value until it was almost impossible to buy lots. An iron bridge was built across the Neosho river by the Humboldt Bridge Company, which was composed of some of the leading men of the town, and various other improvements were made.

In 1872 the improvements of the town were not so rapid, and the inflated prices of property began to decrease. In 1873 the great financial crash seriously effected the business of Humboldt, and this was followed by the general devastation of crops by grass hoppers the following year, which resulted very disastrously to the town, some of the merchants failing in business, while many of the citizens moved away. Then followed a dull period, but before it commenced the town had arrived at nearly its present proportions. For the last twenty years, while it is true that at no time has there been any great progress, Humboldt has always held its ground as a prosperous business town.

Since the burning of Humboldt by the rebels in 1861, noted in the history of the county, there have been very few fires. The last serious one occurred on the night of January 11, 1883. About 8 o'clock a fire was discovered in the brick building owned by Dayton, Barber & Co., on Bridge Street. The lower floor was occupied by the grocery store of Charles Lehman, and the upper story by law offices, and the Independent Press printing office. On the same floor H. D. Smith and family and Mrs. Lydia Sniff resided. All had gone to church and left the lamp burning in the printing office, and it is supposed it exploded. The building was soon in flames, and to prevent the fire from spreading further, the cigar factory on the east side was torn down. On the west was Curdy's double store, over which were law, insurance, and real estate offices, as well as dental rooms. This building was soon covered with men who, by hard work saved the building. The greater part of the goods, furniture and fixtures, were carried from all these rooms, except Smith's private rooms and printing office, the contents of which were all destroyed. The damage to the goods, as well as to Curdy's building, was great, but most of the property, except Smith's, was insured for nearly enough to cover the losses.

The ravages of the fire were soon repaired, and the town did not suffer any permanent setback on account of it. The years that followed have been for the most part, quiet and uneventful, marked by but slight changes either in the business or the population of the city. The discovery of gas has resulted in the establishment of a flourishing industry, the Humboldt Brick Company, and the discovery of oil, although as yet not in marketable quantities, leads to the hope that further prospecting may yet develop a large supply which will be of great commercial advantage to the town. For the present Humboldt remains, as it has always been, a good country town, enjoying a much better than usual trade on account of the excellent country around it, and affording a delightful place of residence.

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