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 idea of improving their homes, establishing schools amd[sic] churches, instituting county fairs, building railways, etc., began to take possession of the people. Hardly a week passed that there was not an enthusiastic meeting in the interest of some line. Among the proposed roads were the "Tebo and Neosho," afterwards the Missouri, Kansas and Texas, the "Fort Scott, Neosho and Santa Fe." and the "Lake Superior, Fort Scott and Galveston." There was some talk of the "Hudson's Bay, Fort Scott and Honduras," but they considered that it would be too nearly a parallel line and would interfere with the business and carrying trade of the Lake Superior, Fort Scott and Galveston route, so that project was dropped.

The question of an Agricultural Society, County Fair, etc., received due attention. At a meeting held at Marmaton on the 14th of June, at which A. G. Osbun was President, and W. R. Griffith, Secretary, it was resolved to form an association to be known as "The Bourbon County Agricultural Society." J. M. Liggitt, A. Decker, and Judge Farwell were appointed

1860]N. Y. INDIAN LANDS.153

a committee to draft a constitution and report at the next meeting.

At the next meeting the Bourbon County Agricultural Society was fully organized by the election of the following officers: President, Dr. A. G. Osbun; Vice-President, Richard Stadden; Secretary, Wm. R. Griffith; Treasurer, Isaac N. Mills; Executive Committee, H. C. Moore, Aaron Decker, Ezekiel Brown, Harrison Martin and S. B. Farwell. The first annual exhibition was to be held at the residence of Mr. Griffith, near Marmaton, on the 24th and 25th of October.

The Fair was held according to programme, and was better than could have been expected under the circumstances. There had been no rain for a year, but they did the best they could. They were a little short on big pumpkins and long corn, but the show of live stock and fancy work was very good.


During the spring of 1860, Will Gallaher took the census of this part of the Territory, and returned the following statistics: Number of inhabitants in Bourbon County, 6,102; deaths during the year ending June 1, 1860, 101; mills and manufacturing establishments, 9; farmers, 1,200. Inhabitants on the Cherokee Neutral Lands, 2,025.

As was stated in the first part of this book, the number of Indian claims allowed on the New York lands was thirty-two, equal to 10,240 acres. This tract had been located in the neighborhood of Barnesville. The


residue of the tract, comprising a million acres of the best land in Kansas, was turned over to the General Land Office as public land, subject to entry and sale, about the 20th of June, 1860. The plats were at the Land Office in Fort Scott, and settlers commenced filing and pre-empting.

In reference to those thirty-two allotments, in several instances the occupying Indians were driven off at the time the Free State men in the same locality were driven out in 1856, and some of them never returned. Their lands were taken possession of by white settlers, who were afterwards permitted to acquire title from the Goverment. The Indians so driven off afterwards applied to the Court of Claims for compensation, and their claims were allowed thirty years later.


By this time a large number of settlers had gone onto the Cherokee Neutral Land, squatted on claims, built cabins and made other improvements. They were trespassers by law and by treaty stipulations, but they claimed the usual pioneers equity in Indian lands, and had the moral support, at least, of all the other settlers.

On October 27, 1860, the agent of the Cherokees, with a body of troops, commenced the work of driving all the settlers off the Neutral Land. Orders to that end were issued by the Commissioners of General Land Office in the spring, but on a representation of the facts temporarily suspended. The present move was entirely unexpected. From 75 to 100 houses were burned, and


as many families rendered destitute. These were in outlying settlements. When the agent reached Drywood he found the settlers united and determined, and concluded to give them one month's grace. There was not a Cherokee on the land, and, moreover, there was no desire on the part of the Indians that the whites should be disturbed.

Delegations were sent to Washington by the business men of Fort Scott in the interest of the settlers on the Neutral Lands in Bourbon County. Colonel Wilson, who was familiar with the Cherokee people, went to Tahlequa to ascertain the feeling of the head men in reference to a sale of the Neutral Land. But the matter was not quite ripe. In several instances the settlers on the Neutral Land married Cherokee women, thereby becoming "squawmen"—legally Cherokees—and entitled to a "headright," and thus securing their claims. Old man Hathaway, on Drywood, was one instance in this county.

As has been noted, there was a very large immigration into this county during the winter and spring of 1860, "too numerous to mention." Among the many who came to Fort Scott that spring must be noted the arrival of John S. Miller and family on the 5th of March. Mr. Miller was from Pennsylvania, of the old "Pennsylvania Dutch" stock, and was a most excellent man and citizen. He was active in business circles, and in the affairs of the city, township and county.


About the 1st of December, 1860, General Harney


and staff arrived. The command came the next day. It numbered about 180 men. The officers were Brigadier General Harney, Captain Jones, A. A. G.; Lieutenant Armstrong, Aid; Lieutenant Tidball, A. A. Q. M.; Swift and Brewer, Surgeons; Lieutenant Mullins, 1st Dragoons; Captain Barry and Lieutenants Fry, Bargar, Sullivan and Perry of the artillery.

The Jennison "circuit" detailed some pages back, had occasioned a great scare, and the troops came here for the purpose of protecting the border. The Governor of Missouri had also sent a brigade of Missouri militia to the State line under command of Gen. D. M. Frost, afterwards of the rebel army, and of "Camp Jackson" fame. One purpose of having troops at Fort Scott was to be present at the land sales which occurred on the 3d of December, 1860. Only fourteen 80-acre tracts were disposed of, at prices ranging from $1.25 to 5.50 per acre. The attendance was very large. The lands were all offered by 12 o'clock, and the people went home satisfied their claims were safe for another year.


The year 1860 is known as the "dry year." The long drouth really commenced in the latter part of 1859. The year 1859 up to August or September was very seasonable. Crops were all made and the yield was immense. It was most fortunate they were so, for the crops of 1859 saved the people in the next year. Corn turned out from sixty to ninety bushels to the acre. Even sod corn made an immense yield.


The Fort Scott Democrat of November 10, 1859, is the authority for the statement that "Mr. Buckner, living between Marmaton and Mill Creek, this season raised six hundred bushels of corn on seven acres of sod." Wheat and oats were good. Prairie grass grew to a height of from three to four feet.

The immigrants coming in that spring and summer, seeing the rich overflow of a bounteous harvest, and the summertide of glorious verdure, hearing on every side the gurgling springs and brooks as they trilled in limpid silver down the ravines, thought that this was in truth the Elysian fields, the abode of the blest, and they felt like sending up their voices in grand diapason of the vox humana. If such was the natural condition, they thought, if vegetation existed in such luxuriance, if every "draw" contained a spring and every ravine was a creek, it certainly surpassed any country of which they had ever dreamed.

But the scene was to change.

About the 1st day of September, 1859, it quit raining. The 1st of January, 1860, came, but still no rain or "falling weather." The winter crept along, not very cold but very dry. Spring came, and still no rain. The farmer plowed as usual for crops, which were planted at the usual time, but no rain yet. Corn and other crops sprouted and came up, but no showers gladdened the tender shoots. The wind blew incessantly from the southwest. Occasionally a cloud would come over about the size of a ten-acre lot, and it would sprinkle a little. Sometimes a bank of clouds would loom up in the northwest in the evening, shake their


heads and disappear. On the 16th of June a thunder shower came up, and it lightened and thundered and blowed and raged, and it rained—a little; so little that it was only an aggravation.

Corn made a brave effort to grow. It was pitiful to look at. It held up its withered blades as if imploring the brazen heavens to let down rain. The poor, little spindling stalks grew up about three feet high, tasseled out, and then died. During the first part of July the thermometer ranged from 98 to 104 degrees in the shade. In the sun at midday is was 132°. By the middle of July the heat was simply awful. It is a matter of record that on the 13th, and for weeks after that, the thermometer often went up to 112, 113 and 114 degrees in the shade. There was a wind—almost a gale sometimes—but it came up, seemingly, with a spiral twist—hot, scorching, withering, like a blast from a seething furnace. People sought their houses and closed the doors and windows to keep it out. The foliage on the trees withered up and blew off. The prairie grass, which had grown up about three inches high, turned brown and was dry enough to burn. It is said that eggs would roast in the sand at midday—were actually so roasted. There is no doubt of it. The thermometer was 146 degrees in the sun. Thus the terrible drouth continued day after day, week after week, month after month.

Springs, wells, water everywhere, gave out. The farmer sought the lowest "draw" on his place and dug down for water, sometimes with partial success. The creeks and larger streams were perfectly dry except in


the large "holes," which, ordinarily from ten to fifteen feet in depth, were reduced to muddy, stagnant puddles. There would often be a stretch of a mile or more between these pools in which the bottom of the river was dry and dusty, and the dry leaves, lately fallen from the trees, would rustle and swirl in the little whirlwinds as they swept up and down the river bed.

In the latter part of September or first part of October the drouth was partially broken. It rained a little. The rains were not general or heavy, but it rained enough to freshen up the stagnant pools, and form many small ones. Stock water was not so scarce, and once more the cow and yoke of steers could have enough to drink.

The drouth had lasted for more than a year. Dates of its beginning and ending vary with localities, but it may be said, in general, that there were from twelve to fourteen calendar months during which time the total rainfall did not exceed one inch.

Of course all crops were practically a failure. In fields around the base of the mounds, which in ordinary years are wet and springy, and in some places in the low bottom lands some corn was raised, in some instances as much as five bushels to the acre, of little wormy-ended nubbins. Sorghum sugar cane did better than any other crop. In fact, it made a fair yield where planted, and all that fall the creak of the cane mills could be heard in neighborhoods where they had been fortunate enough to have planted cane.

In the year before, a good crop of cane had been raised on a small patch of ground on the farm of Dr.


A. G. Osbun. In harvesting the cane that fall the seed had rattled out over the ground and in the spring it came up quite a thick "volunteer" crop. It grew that season about four or five feet high, being so thick on the ground, and was cut and put up like hay, and fed to the horses and other stock that winter.

Unfortunately but few farmers in this county had sorghum seed, and but little was planted. In Linn County this crop was quite general and very good. The farmers there made any amount of molasses, but some had nothing to "put it on." Children were often seen eating sorghum molasses off a chip instead of their much loved crust of corn bread.

This general failure of crops of course caused much suffering, especially as winter approached and the store of old corn in the country became more nearly exhausted. Many were compelled to leave the country temporarily, to seek subsistence. In such cases where the family had a claim it was the tacit understanding that their claims should be protected until their return the next year.

Efforts were begun that fall in the direction of securing aid. Delegations were sent East to represent the facts and solicit help. Considerable aid was received in this county, but not as much as in that part of the country contiguous to the Missouri river, up which all freights had to come at that day. From here it was a round trip of two hundred miles to Wyandotte.

There were a few intermittent rains and snows during that fall and winter, but the flood gates were not opened and the streams flushed until early in April, 1861.