Transcribed from History of Labette County, Kansas and its Representative Citizens, ed. & comp. by Hon. Nelson Case. Pub. by Biographical Publishing Co., Chicago, Ill. 1901

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Of the settlement of Mathews upon the present site of the city of Oswego, I have spoken in another part of this work. The first settlement of the town aside from the Mathews settlement dates from the fall of 1865. In the latter part of October of that year Clinton Rexford and N. P. Elsbree located, the former on the southeast quarter of section 16, and the latter upon the southwest quarter of section 15, township 33, range 21, and were the first white men to make their homes upon the present site of Oswego after the death of Mathews. Messrs. Rexford and Elsbree were directed to this site by A. T. Dickerman and Jabez Zink, who had a short time before that located upon the Labette, and who found them encamped near the mouth of that stream in search for a location and contesting with the Bakers for claims taken by them. They had not much more than gotten fairly located upon their claim until other parties came into the neighborhood. But as the location of these new settlements were outside of the limits of what became the town, and have been spoken of in treating of the settlement of the township, I will not repeat it here. Late in 1865, Rexford and Elsbree brought on a small stock of provisions and opened up the first store or trading-post in the town, and in fact the first in this part of the county. Their store building was a rough log shanty, and stood near the center of what is now block 66. In the street near the northwest corner of this block is a spring from which all the early settlers were supplied with water. The old Government road, coming from a northwesterly direction, passed between what is now blocks 61 and 66.


The first hotel in the place was started in the spring of this year by Wm. A. Hogaboom. It was a log cabin, and stood on what is now the east part of block 61. While it was not a very commodious affair, it served the purpose of furnishing entertainment to the few new settlers who commenced coming early that season. Among those who came this year were the following: Dr. John F. Newlon, C. H. Talbott, Andy Kaho, the Sloane family, Thos. J. Buntain, Hiram Hollingsworth, Thos. J. Flouronoy, J. Q. Cowell, H. C. Bridgman, Jas. Jones, H. W. Thompson, Nelson F. Carr, and C. H. Bent. Carr and Bridgman bought from Rexford and Elsbree the small stock of groceries which they had put in the fall previous, and added somewhat thereto; and during that year J. Q. Cowell put up a small addition to the Carr and Bridgman store, in which he opened up a small stock of groceries and drugs. This was the first drug store in the county.


The treaty with the Osages having been ratified and proclaimed by the President, settlers came in this year in greater numbers, and with more assurance of finding here a home than had those who had previously come. D. W. Clover had come into the vicinity the July previous, and had stopped with his sons down on the bank of the river. Directly after coming he had gone into the organization of the town company, making preparations for helping build up the town. During the winter he had gotten out logs, and in the spring of this year erected on the southeast corner of block 25 a hewed-log house in which he at once opened a hotel, naming it the Oswego House; ever since which time the principal hotel in the place has been maintained on that corner under the same name as first started.

The principal new business firms that were started this year were A. Waskey & Sons, Dr. R. W. Wright, and, H. L. Woodford. All of these came here during the summer and got their business houses open in the fall. J. F. and T. P. Waskey conducted the business for their house, opening first in the Buntain building and the next season erecting their own building, in block 33, into which they moved.

Prior to this year there had been no sawmills in the county, and all of the buildings had been built of logs - some of them rough log houses, and some hewed. Those who built this year were able to get boards, and several frame houses were erected. Thomas J. Buntain put up, a two-story frame about 20 by 40 feet, on the southwest corner of block 25; Dr. R. W. Wright put up a one-story frame on the northwest corner of block 31, in which he thereafter put his drug store; Dr. W. S. Newlon built a frame residence on the lots ever since occupied by him. Several other smaller frame houses, either for business or residence, were also built. In addition to Dr. Wright, Dr. Newlon, and the Waskey brothers, whom I have mentioned as having come this year, I may name A. L. Austin, Rev. Thomas H. Canfield, Jerry D. McCue, and Walter P. Bishop. At the close of 1867 there were in Oswego 10 frame buildings and 11 log houses, with a population of 16 families, numbering about 100 individuals. There were in all five stores, two of which were kept on the site first occupied, on the edge of the bluff, one by Carr & Bridgman and one by J. Q. Cowell. H. L. Woodford had a small feed store in the same vicinity. The other two stores were within the present business site - one by the Waskeys in the Buntain building, and the other by Dr. Wright in his own building, as above described. In addition to these there was one blacksmith shop and one hotel.

During the summer Mrs. Herbaugh taught the first school, and the first religious services were also held, a Sunday-school having been organized and maintained during the summer, and preaching services having been instituted in the fall by Rev. Thomas H. Canfield, who had been sent here by the Congregational Society, and by Rev. John Mark, a local Methodist preacher, who had settled in the township. Thos. J. Flouronoy, a Baptist minister, also preached occasionally.


A very great addition was made to the growth and improvement of the town during this year. Several firms of quite large means started in business, and a number of substantial residences were put up. Read Bros., a firm composed of John S., Merriaa and Elijah T., came early in the year, and at once commenced the construction of their store building on the west side of Commercial street, where they have ever since been in business. They built a large two-story frame building and put therein the first stock of hardware brought to town. C. M. Condon came in the spring, and put up a two-story frame, placing therein a large stock of general merchandise. Israel R. Fisher (Samuel Fisher, his brother, being then with him) located and put up a two-story frame, in which he commenced the sale of groceries, which he has continued until the present. Several other business houses of less magnitude than those I have mentioned were started this year; so that at the close of the year there were 100 frame buildings in town, a very fair proportion of which were occupied by business of one kind or another. Nearly all of the lines of business usually found in frontier towns were at that time fairly represented.

The town had been started on an Indian reservation before the treaty with the Indians, releasing their rights thereto had been approved, and even at this time the title to the same was in the General Government, and no provision had yet been made for anyone acquiring a title to his home; yet people who had come here had commenced preparations for permanent homes, and most of them had no thought of making a change. Those in business were making money, and all seemed contented and prosperous, and the year closed with Oswego having apparently as good a prospect as any of her competitors for making a prosperous and permanent growth.


The town company had originally claimed and bought the right of the original occupants to the southwest quarter of section 15 and the southeast quarter of section 16. Under the ruling of the land office the odd sections could not be entered under the joint resolution of April 10, 1869, but the even sections could. It was arranged that the southeast quarter of section 16 should be entered by D. W. Clover, who was then the oldest resident living upon the same. Immediately after making entry Mr. Clover conveyed the title to this quarter to the town company, which was thus enabled to make title to the several occupants then living and doing business thereon. As no titles could be obtained to lots on the southwest quarter of section 15, few persons settled thereon after that became known. After the contest with the railroads ended in the decision of the court against their claim, the passage of the law by Congress in 1876 provided for the entry of town-sites by the municipal authorities, when the town was incorporated, for the benefit of the occupants thereon. Some one had secured a provision to be inserted in the act authorizing town companies to enter town-sites under certain conditions. A contest sprang up between the Oswego Town Company and the mayor and councilmen of the city of Oswego, for the entry of the southwest quarter of section 15. The city was represented in this contest by its city attorney, and the town company by Colonel W. B. Glasse. The decision of the local land office was in favor of the city authorities. From this an appeal was taken to the Commisioner of the General Land Office, and then to the Secretary of the Interior, both of whom sustained the decision of the land office in favor of the city authorities. This contest was ended in March, 1880, and thereupon the city conveyed title to the occupants for the lots occupied by them respectively.


Up to July, 1866, the place we now designate Oswego had been known as Little Town "from a time when the memory of man runneth not to the contrary."

Prior to the incorporation of the town company there were no records kept of its transactions except upon slips of paper. I have gone through the records thus kept so far as they have been preserved, and from them find the following facts: J. F. Newlon, William A. Hogaboom, C. H. Talbott and D. C. Rexford seem to have been the parties instrumental in organizing the town company; at any rate they are the ones who receipted for the money paid for shares in the town company, so far as I can now ascertain from these fragments of records. The first records of any kind that I find are receipts, coming by date in the following order:


"Received of N. Sloan thirty-one dollars, being one-half payment for said share in the town. Balance to be paid when the company is organized and title perfected. If not perfected, the money refunded.

"NEOSHO COUNTY, KANSAS, July 10, 1866.

"Received of A. Kaho one-half payment for one town share, in a watch; if title not perfected, the watch returned in good order.

"NEOSHO COUNTY, KANSAS, July 11, 1866.

"Received of Daniel Matthias thirty-one dollars, being the one half the money for a town share on the Matthews place. The balance due when the company perfect their arrangements and a good and sufficient title is had, but the above money to be returned if said arrangements are not consummated.

"Received of D. W. Clover thirty-one dollars, being one-half the pay of a Share in Little Town. C. H. TALBOTT.

"LITTLE TOWN, July 12, 1866."

The first record of the minutes of any meeting being held is the following:


"The shareholders of the Town Company of Little Town met for the purpose of organization. Mr. D. W. Clover was called to the chair. On motion, Dr. J. F. Newlon was elected president pro tem., Wm. A. Hogaboom, vice-president pro tem., and H. C. Bridgman, secretary pro tem. Moved that a committee of three be appointed to draft bylaws for the company. Carried."

It will thus be seen that upon July 12, 1866, the proposed town is still designated Little Town. The first time I find the word "Oswego" written is in the following instrument:

"OSWEGO , KANSAS, July 17, 1866.

"This entitles the holder, T. J. Buntain, to one full share in the Town Company of Oswego, Neosho county, Kansas, on his complying with the rules and regulations of the Town Company of said town of Oswego.
"J. F. NEWLON, President.
"H. C. BRIDGMAN, Secretary of Town Co."

There is no record now to be found of the exact time when it was done, nor of the action taken in changing from Little Town to Oswego, but it is apparent from the instruments copied above that some time between the 12th and 17th of July the change of name was made. I am informed that at a meeting of the town company D. W. Clover suggested the name of Oswego for the proposed town, and some other member of the company, probably J. Q. Cowell, suggested Vernon. A ballot was taken, and a majority of the stockholders voted in favor of choosing the name "Oswego;" and from that time on Oswego was the designation of the settlement formerly known as Little Town.

On August 3, 1867, J. Q. Cowell, C. C. Clover, J. F. Newlon, D. W. Clover, T. J. Flouronoy, T. J. Buntain and D. M. Clover signed articles of incorporation, which were acknowledged before D. W. Clover, justice of the peace, and the charter thus prepared and signed, was, on August 10, 1867, filed in the office of the Secretary of State, and the company had a corporate existence from that date. The company's book contains no record of the meeting, but on a scrap of paper I find the minutes of a meeting held September 24th, and while the figures representing the year are not very distinct, I take it to be 1867. This being soon after the incorporation, it was evidently the first meeting of the incorporators after receiving the charter. The minutes show that "on motion to organize and elect directors," the following were elected: J. F. Newlon, T. J. Flouronoy, D. W. Clover, D. M. Clover, and N. F. Carr. On the same day J. F. NewIon was elected president, D. W. Clover vice-president, Nelson F. Carr secretary, and D. M. Clover, treasurer. On November 26, 1867, R. W. Wright was elected secretary in place of Mr. Carr, resigned. On February 10, 1868, a new board of directors having been elected, D. W. Clover was elected president, R. W. Wright, secretary, and A. L. Austin, treasurer. On January 9, 1869, J. F. Waskey was elected president, and M. Reed secretary of the company, and they remained the officers of the company during its further corporate existence.


To the town company thus organized and operated, Oswego owed a very large degree of her growth and prosperity. While the town company could secure no title to its site until the fall of 1869, it promised from the first liberal donations to all enterprises which it was believed would be for the public good. Each church organization was given lots of its own selection to an extent of 100 feet front; a half block was donated for a school-site; a building was erected and donated to the county for a court-house; a county jail was erected; donations were made to the first newspaper; and, until the close of 1869, anyone building a house of a certain dimension had donated to him the lot on which it stood.


The first stone building to be erected in the place was the school-house, in 1869. During this year the Congregational church was commenced, and finished about the close of the year. The first stone business house was erected on the southwest corner of block 32,in the summer of 1869, by W. M. Johnson. The walls were laid that year, but it was not completed until 1870. In 1874 H. S. Coley, W. H. Robey and Nelson Case purchased lots 1 and 2, block 38, and laid a foundation thereon with a view of erecting a brick building. These parties sold the lots, however, to Samuel Carpenter, who erected the brick building now standing thereon; this was the first brick building in the place. One room of it was occupied June 1, 1875, by the firm of Montgomery & Carpenter as a store, and the other room was occupied by Hobart & Condon as a bank. In 1879 the Masons put up their temple on the west side of block 32. The opera house was built in 1879, on the north side of Fourth avenue. In 1880, after the fire on the west side of Commercial street, arrangements were made for the erection of brick buildings in their place, and, during that season the entire east side of block 33, with the exception of the northeast corner building, was covered with a row of uniform brick buildings. The following year Mr. Symmes completed the row by the erection of the one at the north end. The city building, at the southeast corner of block 38, was commenced in 1883 and finished early in 1884. In 1887 L. Sawyer & Co. erected a fine two-story stone building on the east side of block 38. The First National Bank building was erected in 1885; this was the first three-story brick in town. In 1890 Mr. Knight put up a very fine three-story building at the southeast corner of block 25, in place of the old frame Oswego house. Oswego was thus furnished with one of the best hotels in this part of the State.


It was believed by our citizens that the Neosho cut-off, commencing just below the dam and running south near the foot of the bluff and striking the river again at a point as nearly as possible south from the place of beginning, would furnish an immense waterpower. The river at this place taking such a large bend to the east, the fall in several miles of its flow could, it was thought, be concentrated into a comparatively short space by turning the channel down this cut-off. In 1871 a survey was made, and a report published that 19 feet of fall could thus be secured. But no steps were ever taken to make available this apparently wasting power, farther than to organize a company and make plans on paper. In January, 1874, W. T. Cunningham and others obtained a charter for the Oswego Canal and Manufacturing Company.


On the night of April 5, 1873, a severe hail storm came from the southwest, and broke nearly every pane of glass on the south and west sides in very nearly all the houses in town. The following day was Sunday and the town had a forlorn appearance. Not enough glass could be found in town to replace those broken, and for several days bed quilts and other garments furnished a conspicuous protection from the weather.

September 29, 1881, a wind storm in the nature of a cyclone passed over Oswego, scattering the lumber of Sharp's lumber yard, blowing down the porch at Mr. Tuttle's house, north of the Congregational church, and doing some other damage.

The town was visited by a tornado on July 7, 1895, which blew down the iron stand-pipe belonging to the water works.


The following fires occurred according to their respective dates: Jennings packing establishment, on July 2, 1879; the south end of the frame row on the west side of Commercial street, March 8, 1880; Grant's livery barn, with thirteen horses, February 18, 1882; "Frisco" depot, December 11, 1882; Miller's mill, February 21, 1884; the row of buildings opposite the Oswego House, February 10, 1886; Shotliff's wagon factory, April 27, 1885; Hall's flouring mill, January 14, 1886; Judge Barnes' dwelling house took fire and burned July 4, 1874; the Champion fire extinguisher, which had recently been purchased, had been taken that day to the celebration at Montana, and the fire company were much annoyed on reaching home and learning that in their absence this fire had taken place.


November 28, 1870, a vacancy existing on account of J. D. Coulter, the postmaster, absconding, and there being several applicants for the position, an election was held to determine who should be appointed. A. W. Pickering, who had been Coulter's deputy, and who had charge of the office, was chosen over E. O. Kimball, J. W. Minturn, J. A. Miller, R. J. Elliott, and C. M. Gilkey. These were not in the days when the spirit of civil-service reform predominated, and the election cut no figure in the matter of the appointment.


In the fall of 1870 Nelson Case, B. W. Perkins, H. C. Hall and some other parties organized for the purpose of securing lectures, and aiding in literary enterprises, and on October 6th, of that year, obtained a charter for the Oswego Library and Lecture Association. Under its auspices Henry Clay Dean delivered his lecture on "The Old Senate." This was about the extent of the work of this association.

On July 19, 1870, a musical association was formed, with E. W. Davis as president. They at once arranged to give a concert on September 9th. This concert proved to be a great success, and on October 24th and 26th they rendered the cantata of Queen Esther. February 27th, 1871, a brass band was organized under the leadership of William Wells. In January, 1872, Mr. Wells organized a ladies' cornet band, which soon became quite proficient, and was in favor at public entertainments. In January, 1873, Prof. Perkins held a musical institute. In May, 1874, a new musical institute was formed, of which J. A. Gates was president. On October 15, 1877, a musical institute commenced, under the direction of Prof. Teats, of New York. F. B. McGill, H. S. Coley, E. W. Ross, F. Beal and L. C. Howard worked hard for its success and it proved a great benefit in developing-the musical talent of the town.


April 27, 1872, the mechanics and workmen of Oswego formed an association for their mental as well as financial improvement, J. A. Miller was elected president and George C. Sarvis secretary. F. B. McGill, David Branson and James T. Rierson were appointed a committee on lectures and educational matters. A reading-room was opened, and supplied with reading matter by the members bringing books and periodicals, so that each had the advantages of what all controlled. It was not a very long-lived institution; its history, like that of so many undertakings, shows that it is easy to start almost any kind of an enterprise for the public welfare, but that if it is to be made permanent and to be a lasting benefit, some one must be willing to sacrifice himself for the good of others; such a person is not always to be found.


About the last of January, 1874, a society was formed by those who had been inclined to dissipation, to assist in at least a partial reformation. They agreed not to drink, either not at all for a certain length of time, or to abstain from drinking under certain circumstances. It was said to have had quite a perceptible influence on its members, and, at least for a time, to have seriously affected the receipts of the saloons. William Wells was president and L. C. Howard secretary of the organization. A charter was obtained January 28, 1874.


In 1873 a number of Oswego citizens who were somewhat inclined to literary and scientific studies organized a society for the purpose of study and the discussion of subjects in which they were interested and which might be deemed beneficial and of practical importance. Meetings were usually held weekly, at the residence of some of the members of the society. Some one was appointed to prepare a paper to be read at a subsequent meeting and the paper thus presented formed a basis for discussion. This society was kept up for several years, and proved to be of very great interest and benefit. Among those who were prominently connected with the work were C. O. Perkins, Dr. W. S. Newlon, Mary A. Higby, Ferd. Beyle, F. B. McGill, together with many others who were less conspicuous in its workings.