Transcribed from History of Bourbon County, Kansas : to the close of 1865 by T. F. Robley. Fort Scott, Kan.: Press of the Monitor Book & Print. Co., 1894.

1894 Robley's History of Bourbon County, Kansas




IN the year 1837, by an order of Colonel Zachary Taylor, a military Board of Commissioners, consisting of Colonel S. W. Kearney and Captain Nathan Boone, of the 1st U. S. Dragoons, was appointed to lay out a military road from Fort Coffey in the Cherokee Nation to Fort Leavenworth on the Missouri river, and to select a site for a new Post to be located somewhere nearly midway between those two points, for the accommodation of the garrison at Fort Wayne, a post then existing near the Arkansas line, about fifty miles south of the northeast corner of the Cherokee Nation, which it had been decided to abandon.

In reference to the location of the new post, the commission reported much difficulty in fixing upon a site. Several points were examined along Spring river. Their first choice seems to have been at the place of Joseph Rogers, a Cherokee Indian, living near the present site of Baxter Springs. But Rogers thought he was in the midst of a "boom," and he asked them $1,000 an acre for what land they would need of his claim. They were not authorized to pay any such


sum, and considering also that it was more desirable to locate the site on land not granted to Indians, they moved on further north.

Bearing on the question of the selection of a site, a copy is given of a letter from the War Department, as follows:

    Fort Scott, Kansas.

Replying to your inquiry of the 6th inst. as to who selected the site of the military post at Fort Scott, Kansas, I have the honor to inform you that the site was selected in 1837 by a Board of Commissioners, charged with the duty of laying out a military road from Fort Coffey to Fort Leavenworth, consisting of Col. S. W. Kearney and Captain Nathan Boone, 1st Dragoons. Their report will be found in H. R. Doc. No. 278, 25th Congress, 2d Session, which report is too lengthy to be copied.

There was some considerable difficulty in fixing the site for the Fort Wayne garrison. The first point selected was at Rogers' place on Spring river, but was abandoned on account of the exorbitant price demanded by its owner. Several other points in the immediate neighborhood, and up the Pomme de Terre or Spring River, to the State line were examined, but decided to be unhealthy. All the several points were examined by Captain Moore, and other sites in that vicinity had been previously examined by General Taylor; and it was only after these different sites had been determined as impracticable, that the position on the Marmaton, which had been previously recom-


mended by the Board in 1837, was finally decided upon as a site for the new post.

    I am, Madam, Very Respectfully,
         Your Obedient Servant,
                J. C. KELTON,
          Act'g Ass't Adj't General."

Considerable time was now consumed, presumably in the process of red tape and in construction of the military road from Fort Leavenworth south, so that it was not until the 26th day of May, 1842, when the garrison of Fort Wayne abandoned that post and took up their march for the North. They arrived at the new site which had been selected on the Marmaton river on the evening of May 30th, 1842, where they pitched their tents and called it Fort Scott.

These troops consisted of Captain B. D. Moore, in command, Lieutenant William Eustis, Assistant Surgeon Dr. J. Simpson, and 120 enlisted men of companies A and C 1st U. S. Dragoons.

This command was soon after ordered on to Fort Leavenworth, and were replaced here by a part of the 1st Infantry. The officers with the infantry command were Major Graham, Captain Swords and Assistant Surgeon Dr. Mott.

Concluding the subject of the location of Fort Scott, Adjutant General L. C. Drum of the War Department, writes as follows:

"In reply to your letter of the 27th ultimo, addressed to the Secretary of War, asking certain information regarding the early settlement of Fort Scott, I have the honor to inform you that Fort Wayne, in the


Cherokee Nation, was abandoned on the 26th day of May, 1842, and companies A and C, 1st Dragoons, (which had formed its garrison) under the command of Captain B. D. Moore, 1st Dragoons, three officers and 120 enlisted men, marched to and occupied the new site which had been selected on the Marmaton river, twenty miles west of Little Osage Postoffice, on the 30th of May, 1842, to which they gave the name of Camp Scott, changed later to Fort Scott. The only other officers present with the command on that day were Dr. J. Simpson, Assistant Surgeon, and First Lieutenant William Eustis.

    I have the honor to be Very Respectfully,
            Your Ob't Serv't,
                L. C. DRUM,
                   Adjutant General."

An army sutler came with the 1st Infantry named John A. Bugg, who, by virtue of his position, acted as postmaster.


On the 13th of September, 1843, Hiero T. Wilson came up From Fort Gibson, where he had been located, and went into partnership with Mr. Bugg in the sutler business. They did business together until 1849, when Mr. Wilson bought out Mr. Bugg and he went to California. Mr. Wilson then became the sutler and U. S. Postmaster.

Col. Wilson, as he was always called, was born in Kentucky on the 6th day of September, 1806. He went to Fort Gibson as sutler of that post soon after it was established, and remained there about nine years,


when he came to Fort Scott, as stated, in 1843. He lived here continuously from that time to the time of his death, August 6th, 1892. He was married to Elizabeth C. Hogan, on the 28th of September, 1847. They had three children, Virginia T., Elizabeth C. and Fannie W. Virginia, the eldest daughter, now Mrs. W. R. Robinson, was the first white child born in Fort Scott.

In Col. Wilson's residence in Fort Scott of nearly fifty years, he filled a prominent place in the political, social and commercial history of this part of the country. He saw the insignificant military station, and the wild and almost unknown surrounding country, with few bona fide white inhabitants nearer than a hundred miles, pass through all the panoramic changes from extreme frontier life to that of high civilization. For many years his only associates were the few army officers of the garrison; their days were passed with few incidents or recreations, and at night they went to sleep to the monotone howls of the prairie wolf.

After the Territory was organized Col. Wilson occupied many political positions, and although he was not what may be called active in politics, he was always consulted, and had great influence in the councils of his party. He was originally a Whig, and had great admiration for Clay and Webster, but after their day he associated himself with the Democratic party, and during the war was a strong Union Democrat. During the 60's he was very active in promoting the organization of the various railway companies forming to build roads into Southern Kansas, and active in his efforts to secure their construction to Fort Scott, which town


was always his pet and especial hobby. He was also actively engaged in large mercantile affairs until 1868, when he quit business. His life work was done. He passed the remaining days of his ripe old age in the peaceful calm of the home he had established so many years ago.


Sergeant John Hamilton of the Ordnance Department of the army, came with the first troops, served his term of enlistment and remained a resident of the town and country until after the war. He superintended the construction of a good portion of the military barracks, stables, etc., erected at Fort Scott in 1843 and 1844.

The military road from Fort Leavenworth was completed about 1843. The pike, or grade, like a railroad grade, was constructed across all river and creek bottoms, and can still be seen across the Marias des Cygnes bottoms south of the Trading Post, and also across the Marmaton bottom at the Osbun farm northeast of Fort Scott.


In the year 1843 preparations were made for the construction of quarters for the officers and men, and the necessary buildings for the quartermasters and commissary stores, ordnance supplies, etc. A saw mill was erected about a mile up Mill Creek to be run by water power. This mill gave the creek its name. A brick yard was made near the mill. Then a detail of men from the


infantry was kept busy making brick, and sawing lumber from the walnut, oak an ash logs cut from the surrounding timber on Mill Creek and Marmaton, which was very fine. Large trees, from one to four feet in diameter were plentiful. A square called the Parade Ground, now called the Plaza, was laid off, containing about two acres of ground. It was evidently intended that the points of this square should be due north and south, and east and west, but they miscalculated by a few degrees.

Around the northest side of the Plaza the buildings for the officer's quarters were erected. These consisted of four large double houses, 2 1/2 stories high, with frame-timbers of oak twelve inches square, walnut siding and oak floors. The doors, door frames, lintels, windows, mantel-pieces, etc., were of two-inch walnut. The four blocks built for the officer's quarters are still standing, as good as ever. They were built in the uniform style of architecture which prevailed at all military posts at that time., and are very superior in construction. The most striking feature of these buildings is the broad porches extending along the entire front and also the rear of each, between the second and third floors, reached by broad flights of stairs at either end. The main roof projects and continues down over them from the attic story, and is supported by seven large doric columns fourteen feet in hight.[sic] These columns were made of solid walnut logs turned down into perfect shape and then bored through the center lengthwise to prevent checking or cracking when the columns seasoned.


On the other sides of the Plaza, were the buildings for quarters for the men, hospital, guard house, stables, etc., and in the center of the Plaza was an octagonal brick building for powder magazine. A well 90 or 100 feet deep was blasted down on the Plaza, which furnished a fair supply of water.

After all this work was completed the soldiers had but little to do, except an occasional scout, the guarding of supply trains, and their daily drill which took place sure, without fail, on all occasions and under all circumstances. The rest of the time until taps, they could play seven up, or perhaps straight poker. You may not quite understand what that extinct species of the game was. Well, they didn't draw. That was the Mississippi steamboat game you have heard so much about. It has been humed and will never, never be exhumed. But it was part of western life at that time, in the army, in the cabin on the prairie and in the "cabin" on the river.


Those Government buildings erected fifty years ago stand to-day, and will stand indefinitely, as the relics and emblems of a past era. The mind can hardly conceive the vast changes which have taken place in this country during the half-century since they were erected. At this line of latitude the western limit of the United States was the Arkansas river instead of the Pacific ocean. The boundary line of the Nation was almost exactly 150 miles west of


Fort Scott. California, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas had not then been acquired. The country towards the setting sun west of the Missouri State line was called, in a general way, the "Indian Country." It was wild, desolate, silent, unknown. The people, even those living the nearest to it believed it to be a worthless barren plain, incapable of supporting a white population and fitted only for the home of Indians and wild animals. These had possession then, and it was presumed they would never be disturbed. An occasional pioneer might "low it was gitten too much crowded" in his neighborhood, and move on a little further up the creek, but the idea of a general settlement of the country had not been considered. They concluded that the limit was about reached, and that the country was fringed with a frontier that would remain longer years than they took the trouble to think about.

But war was soon to send the volunteer soldiers trailing across it, enlightening them by actual contact, and through them the people, as to the great possibilities of this region as a habitable country. The boundary lines were to be adjusted and this country, instead of being on the very outer rim, was to become the geographical center of the Nation.