Allison, Nathaniel Thompson. History of Cherokee County, Kansas, and Representative Citizens. Chicago, IL: Biographical Publishing Co., 1904. Online index created by Carolyn Ward, instructor at USD 508, Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas, and State Coordinator for The KSGenWeb Project.

1904 History of Cherokee County Kansas


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Or the measures which were put in force for the purpose of organizing it, began in the summer of 1866, shortly after the Cherokee Indians had transferred the Cherokee Neutral Lands to the United States, as noted in a former chapter. This was before the exact boundary of the county had been determined. The people were pressing so intently into this country, that something had to be done toward effecting an organization. In 1862 the Legislature had passed an act providing for the organization of new counties, where the conditions were up to the requirements; but, on account of the trouble between the settlers of Cherokee County and James F. Joy, pertaining to land titles, the organization of the county had been delayed.

August 3, 1866, Samuel J. Crawford, Governor of the State, appointed and commissioned A. V. Peters, Reese Cadwalader and J. W. Wallace, special county commissioners for Cherokee County, and Julius C. Petit, special county clerk. Julius C. Petit was sworn in by J. S. Emmons, county clerk of Bourbon County, September 6, 1866, and he that day appointed Daniel C. Finn as his deputy, who was the same day sworn in by Julius C. Petit. A. V. Peters, Reese Cadwalader and J. W. Wallace were sworn in by D. C. Finn, deputy county clerk, September 8, 1866.

The appointment of the special county commissioners by the governor of the State was for the purpose of calling an election. At the time of these appointments Governor Crawford fixed the county seat at the town of Pleasant View, the site of which is nine miles east and four and a half miles north of the present Court House at Columbus.

The first appointment that the special county commissioners made was that of C. A. Keithley, whom they appointed justice of the peace for Pleasant View township. This was on September 13, 1866. The county commissioners met at the county seat and elected J. W. Wallace president of the board. The date of the election is not given. On the day of the meeting they ordered the county clerk to "draw on the Secretary of State, for law books." It seems from the old record from which I get these facts, that Julius C. Petit, the county clerk, did not attend to the duties, as the papers are all signed by D. C. Finn, the deputy.

On September 15, 1866, the county commissioners called a general election, for State and county officers, the county officers being the following: Three county commissioners, sheriff, treasurer, assessor, Probate judge, county attorney, coroner, superintendent of public instruction, county clerk, district clerk, register of deeds and county surveyor. The election was called to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, 1866.

On September 22, 1866, the county commis sioner appointed D. C. Finn, Probate judge, and he was sworn in on that day, and the records do not show that he continued as deputy county clerk, which it seems he might have held, had he desired it, as will appear hereafter.

The election was held that year on November 6th, and the following county officers were elected: Representative, D. C. Finn; county commissioners,--J. W. Wallace, U. G. Ragsdell and B. F. Norton; Probate judge, D. C. Finn; sheriff, H. B. Brown; district clerk, F. M. Logan; treasurer, D. Callahan; assessor, W. H. Norton; county clerk, William Little; register of deeds, F. M. Logan; county superintendent, Sidney S. Smith; county attorney, J. A. Smith; coroner, J. Miller; county surveyor, C. W. Jewell. It will be seen from this list of officers elected, that D. C. Finn was elected both as Probate judge and as Representative of the county, in the State Legislature. It will also be seen that F. M. Logan was elected both as district clerk and as register of deeds. At that time the elections law did not require that the tickets should be printed at public expense; any one could write or print his ticket. Candidates were voted for without much reference to their nominations; often they were not nominated at all; whoever received the highest number of votes for any office, whether nominated for that office or not, was duly elected to the same; and at that time, when the population of the county was sparse, and the duties of the offices light, one person was allowed to hold two offices, if elected to both. The whole number of votes cast at the election that year (1866) was 321.

Of the county officers elected at the general election in 1866, as far as I know, D. C. Finn, William Little and J. A. Smith are the only ones living. Finn and Little live in Columbus, while Smith lives at Girard, Crawford County, Kansas. The whereabouts of the others cannot be learned; it is certain that none of them are living in this county, if living at all.

Among the records of the proceedings of the county commissioners, at their July session, 1867, may be found the allowed account of William Matheney, "for assisting the county attorney in the prosecution of Jefferson Davis, $25." William Matheney is remembered by many of the old settlers. He was perhaps the first lawyer that settled at Baxter Springs, and he represented the county in the State Senate early in its history. The record also shows that the fee-bill covering the services of the grand jury, "at the last session of the court," was allowed,--$77.60. J. A. Smith was then the county attorney; and at that session of the commissioners he was allowed $75 for prosecuting Jefferson Davis. Who Davis was, and the crime for which he was prosecuted, will appear when we come to the chapter covering matters of that kind.

At the September (1867) session of the county commissioners, as shown of record, the commissioners made the following order:

That the office of D. C Finn, as Judge of the Probate Court, (be) declared vacant, upon the part of D. C. Finn, (he) failing to renew his bond, and also failing to hold court as the law directs him to do, and failing to keep his records at the county seat open to the inspection of the public, as the law requires him to do.

At the same session the commissioners appointed John D. Coulter as Probate judge, "in and for Cherokee County, to fill the vacancy of D. C. Finn."

For the year 1867 the following tax levy was made upon the property of Cherokee County: State tax, $659.56; school tax, $164.89; county tax, $3,287.50; total, $4,012.25.


At a special election of 1867 the question of locating the county seat, permanently, was submitted to the people, there having arisen a good deal of dissatisfaction against its remaining at Pleasant View. Columbus and Baxter Springs were the contestants for the honor. Columbus was then known as Cherokee Center. The total number of votes cast, according to a printed statement of the matter, was 139, of which Baxter Springs received all but three. But for some reason the records were not moved at once to that place; in fact, the records were not moved to Baxter Springs until April 14, 1868, and at that in obedience to a peremptory order of the Supreme Court, under a writ of mandamus. It is said that Baxter Springs, as a matter of fact, was not then in the State of Kansas; that the survey which was afterward made, by which the south line of the State was moved two and one quarter miles south, through a treaty with the Indians, was not made until after two or three terms of the District Court of Cherokee County had been held in the Indian Territory.

The changing of the county seat from Pleasant View to Baxter Springs did not suit the people of the county any better. On the other hand, the dissatisfaction was really greater, many thinking that the vote, moving the county seat, was fraudulent. Those who favored Columbus believed that, if a fair election could be held, they would be able to secure a change. So much was said of the matter that the commissioners were at last petitioned to call another election. It seems, from the record, that two elections were held in the month of May, 1868, the first on the 12th, the second on the 26th. At the first election the vote stood as follows: Baxter Springs, 600; Geographical Center, 639; Cherokee Center, 1; The Center, 95, or a total of 1335. No one point having received a majority of the votes cast the matter remained undecided. At the election on the 26th of May, two weeks after the other election, 1885 votes were cast. Of these Baxter Springs received 965; Geographical Center, 920. By this election Baxter Springs retained the county seat.

It would seem that by this time the county seat controversy ought to be settled; but it was not. The dissatisfaction was not in the least abated. On the contrary, it had increased. The location of the county seat six miles from the east line of the county and two miles from the south line could not be made to appear a proper measure, when the geographical center of the county offered a more convenient site and was soon to become easily accessible from all parts of the county by railroad. The people, therefore, stirred up the matter and would not allow it to quiet down. Every effort was made to bring the question before the people again, and this time to secure a final determination of it. A special election was called for February 17, 1869. The vote was cast at that time, and on the 20th day, as shown of record, the county commissioners met and counted the returns, their session being held at Baxter Springs, then the county seat. The following table, showing the returns, is taken from the record:

     Precincts.          For          For          For
                        Baxter     Columbus      Peters-
                       Springs                    ville
Pleasant View ......      5           109         ....
Baxter Springs .....   1045            31         ....
Lyon ...............   ....            25         ....
Lowell .............     60            93         ....
Shawnee ............   ....           130         ....
Sherman City .......   ....           108         ....
Crawford ...........   ....            57         ....
Petersville ........      1            22            1
Ratcliff ...........   ....            73         ....
Neutral City .......      7            43         ....
Neosho .............   ....            42         ....
Salamanca ..........   ....            66         ....
Lola ...............   ....           352         ....
                       ----          ----         ----
       Total .......   1118          1151            1

There is a bit of unwritten history connected with this election, which may be of interest here to relate, as it c lears up what would always be a mystery. Outside of Baxter Springs only 73 votes had been cast for that place, and these by four precincts; but Columbus received a good vote from every precinct in the county. Evidently, Baxter Springs had done a big lot of "stuffing" at the polls. It cast 1045 votes, while it is safe to say that the town did not have more than that number of inhabitants, men, women and children. When all the votes had been counted, except those cast by Lola precinct, it was found that Baxter Springs was 319 ahead of Columbus. Capt. Sidney S. Smith, an ardent supporter of Columbus, seeing that Baxter Springs had made its showdown, began to feel in his pockets for the returns from Lola precinct, which he claimed to have brought in. To his utter astonishment. the package was missing. He was greatly confused, but finally said that he must have left the package in his saddlebags, at the hotel; that he would go to the hotel and make a search for it. He was gone two or three hours, and came back without the package, seemingly very dejected over the loss of the returns, which, if not found, would leave the matter as before the election, Baxter Springs still holding the county seat. Finally he gathered up the tail of his overcoat, as if accidentally, and it was found that the package had slipped down into the lining of the coat. He cut it out, produced the returns to the commissioners, and when they were counted, Columbus was 33 ahead of Baxter Springs, as the above table shows.

As showing that each faction in the county seat contest had grounds for suspecting the other of fraud, it may be noted that, in the election of 1876, a presidential year, when it is presumed that every precinct brought out every available voter, the total number of votes cast by Baxter Springs was 218, and that the total vote cast by Lola precinct was 130. This was seven years after the county seat contest, when the population of the precinct must have been double what it was at the election of 1869.

When the result of the county seat contest was shown, and the showing had given it to Columbus, neither faction dared charge the other with fraud: for it was too plainly evident that both had practiced it. If Baxter Springs had held out some precinct, as the friends of Columbus had done, the formal place would no doubt be the county seat to-day. It made its showing too early; for this gave the friends of Columbus an opportunity to see how many votes Lola precinct must bring in, in order to carry the election. Such methods would now be called fraudulent; they were perhaps less so then. The country was new, and there were fewer persons to be affected, and smaller interests were at stake.

Capt. Sidney S. Smith's name is always associated with the thrilling events connected with what may not be improperly called the "County Seat War" of Cherokee County. He was an ardent supporter of the change, and he left no effort untried for carrying the matter his way. He had unconquerable will power, and to this was added a genius for employing expedients rarely equalled and probably never surpassed. Immediately after the votes were all in and counted, and while the people of Baxter Springs were dazed at the result, Captain Smith quietly counseled with his friends there with him, and they decided to move the records at once, without even waiting for a certificate from the county clerk, and certainly not for the order of the county commissioners. The record does not show any order; it is silent on the matter of moving the county seat to Columbus. A little after nightfall, and without much ado, the records were quickly loaded into a two-horse wagon, which was driven out of town before it was known to anybody, excepting the friends of the movement. It is said that the man in charge of the wagon, after he had driven about two miles from town, transferred the records to another wagon, the driver of which knew what he had to do. The first man returned with his wagon to Baxter Springs, in ord er to throw off their guard any persons who might have seen him drive away; and it is also said that the second man, instead of taking a direct course toward Columbus, sought a circuitous route and entered the town from an opposite direction. All these precautions were taken, it being believed that the men who had worked so faithfully for Baxter Springs would not quietly give up. It was believed that when they recovered from the stunning effects of the defeat they would employ forceful measures for holding the records.

The friends of Columbus, anticipating that the county seat contest would be settled in favor of that place, had prepared a room in an old frame house which then stood on the east end of the south side of the public square, where the Steward Building now stands. They were kept there about two years; and were then moved into a new building which was completed in the spring of 1871, on the northeast corner of the public square, and which cost the county about $1,500. It remained there until 1889, when the new Court House was finished, at a cost of about $70,000, and the records moved into it. The old, wooden house, weather-worn and dilapidated, was then quietly moved away, being bought by William H. Chew and moved out on his farm, to be used as a barn. The contrast between the old, wooden building, dingy, dreary and dilapidated, as it awaited the day of its going, and the imposing, brick-and-stone structure which rose to take its place, fitly illustrated the rapid progress made in the development of the resources of the county, and the subsequent increase in the comforts and conveniences to the people. In these respects Cherokee County has been, and is yet, an astonishment, not only to the outside world, but even to its own inhabitants, as well as to those who have temporarily sojourned among its busy people.

For many years after the moving of the county seat from Baxter Springs to Columbus, a spirit of antagonism prevailed between the people of the two places. It was deeply serious, and it sometimes led to expressions of bitterness and "cordial dislike." Even yet there are those who probably do not cultivate a marked degree of charity and forgiveness, when recalling the exciting incident which so separated the people in those days; but within recent years, time having somewhat mollified their wounded feelings, while removing some who took an active, aggressive part in the factional contest, the people have sought the ways of peace and brotherly consideration, to the extent that the lines of separation have been mostly erased. The generation now coming on will practically know nothing of the old troubles, only as they read of them in the annals of the county.

There was one condition which helped Baxter Springs to bear much of the supposed misfortune of losing the county seat: It was by far the busiest town in the county, besides being the oldest and the largest in population. It was what yas[sic] called a "wide-open" town, and there was a free-and-easy way among its people, such as is characteristic of all frontier places. It was the gathering place of many cattlemen and the cowboys whom they employed; and the tradespeople who were there to supply the wants of these classes were too busy to take time for considering little matters like county seat controversies. It was the emporium of the Southwest country; and within its mart could be found every class and kind of merchandise that the wants of the settlers and sojourners required, and these in quantities suited to the demand. Hither came hundreds of drovers with their herds. These were the days before the coming of the railroad, when the country had not yet fully awakened to the call of intenser industrial pursuits; but there were trade and traffic, and there were the coming and the going of many in quest of opportunities for bargain and sale. These conditions continued for many years; and even as late as 1875, after the discovery of rich mines of lead and zinc, at Joplin, Misso uri, had begun to attract attention to that place, Baxter Springs remained the leading business point south of Fort Scott and west of Carthage, Missouri; and here hundreds of thousands of dollars changed hands between the Texas and Indian Territory cattlemen and the buyers for the markets of the North; and as such it contained among its inhabitants nearly every class of people found in the United States, not a few of whom dwelt lightly within its borders, and were ever ready, like the shifting sands of the desert, to move on under the impulse of a lightly stirring breeze.

Really it was not until after these conditions had given way to the growing requirements of better social tendencies and to the fixing of more permanent pursuits, that the inhabitants of Baxter Springs fully realized what it had lost in the election of 1869.


In the following list I have endeavored to get the facts, as far as can be had from the records, in the keeping of which, there are reasons to believe, many errors could have easily gotten in. It is designed to give the names of the persons who were elected to the county offices, including those elected to the State Senate and the House of Representatives; to note resignations, refusals to serve, and appointments for filling vacancies. Deputies and assistants will not be noted.


On August 3, 1866, Cherokee County then not having been organized, Governor Crawford appointed A. V. Peters, Reese Cadwalader and J. W. Wallace special county commissioners, and Julius C. Petit special county clerk, for the purpose of organizing the county. The special county commissioners, on the 22nd of September of that year, appointed D. C. Finn Probate judge. An election was called for November 6th, and at that time the following county officers were elected: Representative, D. C. Finn; county commisisoners,[sic]--J. W. Wallace, U. G. Ragsdell and B. F. Norton; county clerk, William Little; Probate judge, D. C. Finn; district clerk, F. M. Logan; sheriff, H. B. Brown; register of deeds, F. M. Logan; surveyor, C. W. Jewell; county attorney, James A. Smith; treasurer, D. Callahan.


Representative, N. D. Ingraham; county commissioners,--W. C. Pender, P. G. Noel and S. S. Smith; county clerk, William Little; treasurer, J. J. Goodner; register of deeds, C. A. Keithley; county superintendent, William Givens; Probate judge, W. M. Matheney; district clerk, Lane Williams; sheriff, William G. Seright; coroner, John Dyer; surveyor, J. H. Lucas; county assessor, Clinton McMickle.


Representative, C. C. McDowell; state senator, M. Voss; county attorney, John N. Ritter; county superintendent, D. R. Martin (appointed February 6th); Probate judge, Amos Sanford; county commissioners,--M. Robertson, and R. W. Bogges; district clerk, W. B. Shockley. D. R. Martin was elected county superintendent.


Representative, J. B. Hodgins; sheriff, J. S. Vincent; register of deeds, John Little; county clerk J. G Dunlavey; treasurer, S. S. Smith; coroner, R M. Elliott; surveyor, Joseph Wallace; county commissioners,--Milton Douglass, S. W. Vanatta and M. Robeson. The number of votes cast that year was 1176. C. A. Keithley, who had been elected register of deeds in 1867, failed to qualify; and did not hold the office; but the commissioners did not make any appointment until February 2, 1869, when they appointed John H. Dyer, to serve until his successor was elected and qualified. For some reason not shown in the record, the Governor appointed J. F. McDowell, Probate judge November 2, 1869.


Representative, George W. Wood; State Senator, H. D. Moore; register of deeds, John H. Little; district clerk, Bruce Miller; Probate judge, J. F. McDowell; county superintendent, T. S. Stockslager; county attorney, John N. Ritter; county commissioners,--W. H. Clark, a nd J. W. Spencer. Whole number of votes cast, 1757.


Representative, George W. Wood; county commissioners,--J. R. Royce, Milton Douglass and H. H. Angell; sheriff, J. H. Ludlow; coroner, J. B. Thurman; treasurer, J. S. Vincent; J. O. Norris; register of deeds, E. A. Scammon; county surveyor, Joseph Wallace.


Representatives,--Cyrus Harvey and A. F. Childs; State Senator, W. M. Matheney; district clerk, A. W. McGill; county superintendent, J. A. Murray; Probate judge, C. D. Nichols; coroner, W. P. Eddy; county attorney, W. H. Whiteman. Votes cast, 2194.


Representatives,--Lawrence Conklin and L. P. Stowell; sheriff, Alfred Palmer; treasurer, Slemons Lisle; county clerk, Edward McPherson; register of deeds, T. V. Lane; county surveyor, W. W. Murry; coroner, J. A. Smith; county commissioner, John McLaughlin.


Representatives,--H. H. Angell and W. E. Cowen; State Senator, E. C. Wells; district clerk, C. O. Stockslager; county attorney, John N. Ritter; Probate judge, C. D. Nichols: county superintendent, H. W. Sandusky.

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