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




THE County of Bourbon was organized, together with thirty-two other counties by the act of the Bogus Legislature contained in Chapter 30, of the Bogus Statutes. This Act or Chapter of that code was acted on and passed by the Legislature at the session held at Shawnee Mission, early in August, 1855, to take effect from and after the date of passage, although the statutes were not compiled or completed and published until, probably, October 25th of that year.

In Section 4 of said Chapter 30, the boundary lines of Bourbon County were fixed and described as follows:

"Beginning at the southeast corner of Linn county; thence south thirty miles; thence west twenty-four miles; thence north thirty miles; thence east twenty-four miles to the place of beginning."

These descriptions are very nearly correct, except that the first sectional line is not quite parallel with the Missouri State line, and the border sections along that line are fractional, and there is a jog in the range line on the west side of the county.

The Legislature, at the request of William Barbee


and S. A. Williams, who were both originally from old Kentucky, named this county "Bourbon"—especial brand not given. They thought, like the old boys used to say: "Some is better than others, but it's all good." So they gave it a good send off by giving it a good name.

McGee county was named for old Milt McGee who was then a member of the Legislature, "from Westport, Missouri." Everybody knew old Milt way up to the 60's.

Anderson county was named for one of our first Representatives, Joseph C. Anderson.

Wilson county was named for Col. H. T. Wilson, of Fort Scott.

Bourbon County retained its original territory until by act of the Legislature, approved February 13, 1867, entitled, "An Act to define the boundaries of Bourbon, Crawford and Cherokee counties," the boundaries of Bourbon County were defined and described as follows:

"SEC. 1. That the boundary of Bourbon County shall commence at the southeast corner of the county of Linn; thence run south, on the east line of the State of Kansas to the southeast corner of section (24) twenty-four, township (27) twenty-seven, range (25) twenty-five; thence west to the southwest corner of section (23) twenty-three, township (27) twenty-seven, range (21) twenty-one; thence north to the southwest corner of Linn county; thence east to the place of beginning."

By this act the county was cut down to about twenty-five miles square.


In the Government survey of this State the base line, or beginning line, for townships of six miles each was made the north line of the State, and townships were numbered from number one on down southward; and the range lines, also six miles apart, were numbered east and west from the sixth principal meridian, or guide meridian, which is near the city of Wichita.

Bourbon County contains 407,680 acres of land. The contour of the face of the country is high, rolling prairie, with a general slope from west to east, the general direction of all the larger streams being from west to east, in common with the entire State. The west line of the State has an altitude of between 2,000 and 3,000 feet. At the sixth principal meridian the altitude is about 1,000 feet. At the east line of Bourbon County it is 650 feet.

The county is very well watered. The more considerable streams being the Osage river on the north and through the northern tier of townships, Mill creek and Marmaton river through the central portion, and Pawnee and Drywood creeks in the southern part. There is the usual amount of bottom land along these streams, which are, of course, very rich, but these lands are not especially desirable over those of the high prairie for farming purposes, for the reason that they are colder and harder to get into to work during a wet spring and do not stand a dry time later in the season much better than the high prairie, besides the high lands are, as far as the soil is concerned, rich enough except on some quarter sections scattered throughout the county on which the stone is too near the surface. The soil of


the prairie lands is, generally speaking, of a limestone formation and richer of itself than a sandstone formation. Under the black soil is about eighteen inches of a dark brown sub-soil, then a stratum of three to eight feet of yellow clay, then two to four feet of shale or slate stone. Under that in a good portion of the county is a layer of hard bituminous coal from eight to twenty inches. This is especially true of the east half of the county. Under all this is a solid stratum of pure limestone from four to six feet in thickness, then comes a stratum of from sixteen to thirty feet of soapstone. Under that, on a limestone bedrock, water is generally obtained. These strata vary, however—and in fact the entire geological formation changes in certain sections of the country. About the central part of the county there are sections which are pure sandstone formation, which contains an almost inexhaustible supply of the very best quality of sandstone flagging. Limestone for the manufacture of lime, and for building stone is easily obtained in any part of the county. In Fort Scott, and the neighborhood, is found extensive quarries of cement rock, which produces the best grade of hydraulic cement.


The Secretary of the Territory and Acting Governor Daniel Woodson, appointed a part of the first officers of Bourbon County, after its organization, on the 31st day of August, 1855, as follows: Samuel A. Williams, Probate Judge, H. T. Wilson and Charles B. Wingfield County Commissioners, and B. F. Hill, Sheriff. And


on the 22d of September, Governor Wilson Shannon appointed J. J. Farley clerk of the Board of County Commissioners, or County Clerk, as we call it now, and John F. Cottrell, Constable, and Thomas Watkins Justice of the Peace for Bourbon County.

On the 9th of November commissions were issued to Wiley Patterson, Cowan Mitchell, Henry Miller and D. Guthrie, as Justices of the Peace. J. J. Farley, County Clerk, was appointed Register of Deeds.

Fort Scott was about this time designated as the County Seat.

In November, 1855, the Board of County Commissioners met and divided the county into townships, as follows: Little Osage, Timberhill, Russell, Scott and Drywood. The townships as they now exist are, Osage, Freedom, Timberhill and Franklin on the north, Scott, Marmaton, Mill Creek and Marion through the center, and Drywood, Pawnee and Walnut on the south.

About the close of the year 1855, B. F. Thompson and Branham Hill were appointed Justices of the Peace, Alexander Howard and William Moffatt, constables, and H. R. Kelso, coroner, in and for Bourbon County.


The county of McGee, organized at the same time as Bourbon, included what is now Crawford and Cherokee counties, and was all Cherokee Neutral Land. A six mile strip off the south side of Bourbon county, between townships 26 and 27, and between ranges 21 and 25, was also in the Cherokee Neutral Land. This strip is more exactly described as follows:


The south 1/3 of Township 26, of Ranges 22, 23, 24, 25. The east part of south 1/3 Township 26 of Range 21. The north of Township 27 of Ranges 22, 23, 24, 25. The east part of of Township 27 Range 21.

As will be seen hereinafter, a good part of these lands were squatted on by settlers in direct violation of treaty stipulations with the Cherokee Indians. In many cases, however, the squatters were innocent of any intention to trespass.


Fort Scott was incorporated as a town by Chapter 40 of the Bogus Statutes, which chapter was acted on and passed by the Legislature on the 30th of August, 1855.

Section 1 of that chapter provides that the land set forth and defined in the plat of said town shall be incorporated into a town by the name of Fort Scott.

Section 4 provides that "the first Board of Trustees of the town of Fort Scott shall consist of H. T. Wilson, A. Hornbeck, Thomas Dodge, R. G. Roberts, F. Demint and Thomas B. Arnett."

Section 8 provides that the trustees shall have power to collect taxes, regulate dramshops, to restrain and prevent the meeting of slaves, etc.

But little is now known about some of the trustees. A. Hornbeck was a merchant. He came in from Missouri, and went back there after two or three years' residence here. Dodge was an Indian trader, and had been all his life. Thomas B. Arnett opened and kept the first hotel ever in Bourbon county. It was in the


house on the west corner of the Plaza, known afterwards as the Fort Scott, or Free State Hotel. He fell dead one Sunday, sometime afterwards, while attending religious services in the Government Hospital building, probably because, as town trustee, he had not been strict enough in "regulating dramshops."


On the 1st of October, 1855, an election was held under provisions of the Legislature, for Delegate to Congress. J. W. Whitfield was again the Pro-slavery candidate, and received 242 votes in this county.

There was no Free State candidate, and the Free State men took no part in this election.

A convention had been called at Topeka on the 19th day of September, to take measures to form a State Constitution. An election was held for Delegates to the Topeka Constitutional Convention, on the 9th of October. A. H. Reeder was also voted for by the Free State men for Delegate to Congress. The town of Fort Scott cast 27 votes. There appears to be no record of a county vote.

The Convention met at Topeka on the 23d day of October. A Free State Constitution was framed, and an election for its adoption held on the 15th day of December. Again there is no record from Bourbon County. The fact of the matter is, there were but few Free State men in this county at that time. There were not enough of them to form anything like an organization, or even a circulating chain of intelligence among them-


selves. Each one was isolated from his kind, and lived like a rabbit in a burrough. He kept his eyes and ears open, but he kept his mouth shut. There were less than 300 legal votes in the entire county, and not more than thirty of these were Free State men. The first immigration into this county was largely from the Southern States. The territory lay adjacent to a slave State, and it was natural that it should assimilate with the peculiar institution of the South. Further north, where the parties were more nearly equal in number, the Free State men went to the polls; they protested, however vainly, against the fraudulent elections; they took concerted action for self-defense. Here they could do neither. As yet they were in too great a minority. They could only sit down and wait; wait to see how far and to what extent the Northern people would go to meet the open defiance of the maddened and blinded partisans of ultra pro-slaveryism; wait for immigration to reach down this far and give them help. It seemed now to them like a losing contest. The migratory hordes of the Pro-slavery party had, under the faint pretense of "election," taken possession of the Territory, driven out the first Governor—an able, fair and just man—and published to the world their statute of "laws," which hung over the Territory for five years like the web of a mammoth spider.


Wilson Shannon of Ohio, was appointed to succeed Governor Reeder. He arrived and Shawnee Mission and


assumed the duties of his office on the 7th of September, 1855, a few days after the adjournment of the Bogus Legislature.

Governor Shannon had nothing to do with the election of March 30th, 1855, and was, of course, in no way responsible for the action of either faction; and, although surrounded exclusively by Pro-slavery men, bravely endeavored, during his short administration, to do his duty as he saw it.


The situation of Bourbon County during the years 1855, 1856 and 1857 was peculiar. It was different from that of any other county or portion of the Territory. The county was away down in the southeast, isolated, and as yet out of the line and track of immigration, and as yet out of the way of the partisan troubles which held full sway in the country further north. There were some men—their number could be counted on your fingers—drifted in during these years, who hung around here more or less, who were of the very worst class; border ruffians themselves, and leaders above all others of that ultra, uncompromising Pro-slavery element whose politics was simply extermination—extermination of Free State sentiment—extermination of Free State men, if that were necessary. These were men like Dr. Hamilton, Captain G. A. Hamilton, Alvin Hamilton, W. B. Brockett, G. W. Jones, G. W. Clark. E. Greenwood, Sheriff Ben Hill and others. But few of these made any pretense to citizenship, but


made Fort Scott one of their many stopping places or headquarters. Their followers—their "men"—were of that class they, themselves, called "poor white trash." They were never able to own a slave and never expected to be. They were that grade of men who saw everything through the diseased perceptions of an incomplete nature and a smothered intelligence. The men from the South who came here as bona fide settlers to make homes for themselves and families were of a different grade. They were Pro-slavery, and desired as a political question, that Kansas should come into the Union as a slave State. They were thoroughly imbued with the principles of Squatter Sovereignty, but had no more idea or design of a criminal crusade in order to accomplish their political ends than did Stephen A. Douglas himself. They staid here law abiding men during this first war; they staid here good Union men during the Union war, and lived and died among us under the flag of Clay and Benton, either the one or the other of whom had been their household god since the days of their youth.

As for the Northern men, a few of whom were now finding their way into this county, they, also, were in some sense different from their brethren further north. They came without "aid" or other influence, except the desire to build up a home. They came very generally from Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. They were Free State men and finally voted for a Free State Constitution. But they were not anti-slavery in the sense of being Abolitionists. They did not want slavery; they did not want free negroes; they simply


did not want any "nigger" at all. Many of them were Democrats; many were Republicans; but they had no desire to interfere with the "peculiar institution" of the South further than to keep it out of Kansas. They came here to make Kansas a State and to make it free.

It is not within the scope and design of this work to detail the historical incidents and the public acts of historical men or notorious characters outside of Bourbon County, except insofar as they concern or affect, directly or indirectly our own local history. So far, an attempt has been made to keep in touch with the prominent men of those times, the animus of political parties and the social bias of the contending forces.

It may be possible that the accurate and complete history of our State can only be thus prepared, block by block, and the checquered and mosaic tablet be handed down to the future as the "History of Kansas."