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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views of the
county poor farm
Prior to 1873 the poor of the county had been cared for by the trustees of the respective townships, and the bills contracted in their support paid by the county. This item of expense became a heavy burden, and a general desire for a better system was expressed. The county commissioners submitted to the electors of the county, at the spring election held April 1, 1873, a proposition to vote $10,000 to purchase and improve a poor-farm. The proposition carried by a large majority. The bonds were sold to Hobart & Longwell, at 85 cents on the dollar. The commissioners bought the northwest quarter of S. 33, T. 33, R. 21, and paid therefor $4,000. They immediately made arrangements for the erection of a house thereon, and by October of that year the house now standing on said farm was ready for occupancy.

On May 7, 1873, it having been determined to open the asylum for the poor in temporary quarters until the county house could be erected on the farm just purchased, T. B. Julian and his wife Emily C. Julian were employed as superintendent and matron of the house, at a salary of $40 a month for the former and $20 a month for the latter; they to provide a building ready-furnished, and receive and care for all the poor who would be sent them; the county to furnish provisions. Under this arrangement the asylum was opened about the 10th of May, 1873, in the two-story building then and now standing on lot 8, in block 39, in Oswego, on the north side of the block on which the court-house stands. Here it was kept until the county house was finished, in October of that year, when the home was permanently established there.


T. B. Julian, from May 8, 1873, to September 8, 1874; H. G. Newton, to October 3, 1876; W. H. Carico, to October 10, 1878; Robert A. Hogue, to March 1, 1880; James H. Haggerty, to February 15, 1884; John McCaw, to November 6, 1884; J. H. Haggerty, to March 1, 1885; J. A. Warbington, to March 1, 1889; William Dudgeon, to March I, 1891; L. H. Summers, to March 1, 1892; William Dudgeon, to 1897; L. H. Summers, to 1901; George Guntle.



Before any other township had moved to bridge its streams, or any action had been taken by the county looking to that end, Neosho township, early in 1868, took steps to bridge several of the streams leading into the Neosho. A tax of one and one-fourth. per cent., to pay for such bridges, was levied that year. The dissatisfaction that resulted from this action was because of the belief that the money was not to be honestly appropriated, but that bridges of an inferior quality would be erected, for which a large price was to be paid. Thereupon, Anthony Amend was appointed commissioner by the board of county commissioners, to make estimates and oversee the construction of these bridges.


On June 21, 1871, the board, on petition of 96 electors, submitted a proposition to vote $40,000 for bridges in the county, and an election was called for July 21st. This proposition was opposed by the Register, but favored by the Advance; the latter, however, advocating making it $75,000 instead Of $40,000. Afterward the commissioners; changed the amount to $105,000, and fixed the date of election for the latter part of August. It was proposed to expend the money as follows: $20,000 each for four bridges over the Neosho at points at or near Chetopa, 0swego, Montana, and Parsons, and the balance was to be expended in bridges at one or more points overLabette, Hackberry, Pumpkin, and Big Hill creeks. A large anti-bridge-bond meeting was held at Mound Valley, and strong grounds taken against the issuance of bonds. On canvassing the vote it was found that not a single vote had been cast for bonds excepting in four townships; these were as follows: Montana 1, Labette 5, Chetopa 156, Parsons 83, total, 245; all the rest of the vote, amounting to 1,295 votes, was against the bonds.


The first bridge in the county built by order of the county commissioners was across Labette Creek, west of Oswego. The steps leading to this commenced on July 17, 1869, when the Commissioners ordered the question of issuing $1,300 in bonds; to be submitted to the electors at the next general election. At the election held in November of that year, the proposition for issuing bonds was carried, and on December 16th following the board issued $500 of the amount so voted to Thomas Powers, and contracted with him for the construction of the bridge. On November 14, 1870, the contractor having failed to complete the bridge, the $500 (amount appropriated by the county) being insufficient, the commissioners sold said bridge to Thomas Powers and W. W. Babbitt, who proposed to make of the same a toll bridge; they agreeing to pay the county $1,000 in ten years. On February 20, 1871, Messrs. Horner, Weaver, Patrick and Condon were appointed a committee to see about the re-purchase of this bridge for the county. On March 3d they reported that the bridge was worth $2,500, and recommended the board to liquidate the outstanding obligation against it, and to assume control of the same. On April 3d by agreement, the contract with Messrs. Powers and Babbitt was canceled, the county agreeing to pay $850 and take the bridge. The bridge was soon thereafter completed. On April 12, 1878, an order of the board was made to repair this old bridge, at a cost of not to exceed $985. Subsequently this order was revoked, and on June 5th a new bridge was ordered constructed. The site of the bridge was changed from the section line to a point farther down the creek, near where it crosses the township line from Fairview township to Oswego township. In 1884 this old wooden bridge was replaced by an iron bridge, at a cost of $1,995.

On April 17, 1878, the board directed the construction of a bridge across the Labette, on the line leading from Oswego to Chetopa, at a cost of $999. With this a wooden bridge was constructed, and ready for crossing in October of that year. This bridge stood until 1885, when it was replaced with an iron structure, at a cost of $2,000.

In 1883 an appropriation Of $1,300 was made for a bridge across the Little Labette, and in 1884 an appropriation Of $2,500 for a bridge across the main Labette, both near Parsons.

A good bridge also spans this stream in Liberty township, west of the town of Labette; and perhaps there may be bridges at other points, of which I have not spoken.


In the fall of 1871 Chetopa voted $10,000 for a bridge across the Neosho, work on which was commenced at once, and the abutments were completed early in 1872. Before the reorganization of the board of county commissioners in January, 1872, the old board made an appropriation Of $950 to aid in the construction of this Chetopa bridge. This was a frame structure, and was completed in 1872; it remained until the spring of 1878, when it was washed away by high water. During the next year there was no bridge at this point, a ferry-boat being the means of crossing. In the spring of 1879 steps were taken to build a new bridge; it was nearly done, when, in July, a wind storm blew it down; work was again commenced, and it was nearly completed when, on August 14th, it was again entirely washed out by a rise in the river; it was not until November that the bridge was completed and ready for use. This bridge was a combination of wood and iron, and cost $1,900, $999 of which was paid by the county, and the balance by Chetopa.

In 1888 this bridge gave place to the fine iron structure which now spans the Neosho at that point, and which was erected entirely by the county, at a cost of $8,500.

On June 30, 1872, Oswego city and township voted, $20,000 for the purpose of constructing two bridges across the Neosha; one was to be located north and the other southeast of town. A contract was made with the King Iron Bridge Company for the erection of these two bridges, for the sum of $19,650, to be completed by December of that year. By some means the bonds were issued and delivered before any work was done, and as usually happens under such circumstances, the work was not done. Finally, some two years thereafter, a compromise was effected with the bridge company whereby it was to put in one bridge and be released from its further obligation. In 1874, under this arrangement, the bridge now spanning the Neosho north of town was constructed, and on November 27th of that year teams passed over it for the first time. On June 7, 1886, Oswego donated this bridge to the county, and it was accepted by the county as a county bridge.

In 1885 it was arranged between the officers of Oswego city and the commissioners of Cherokee county to build a bridge across the Neosho at a point directly east of Oswego, in Cherokee county. Under this arrangement an iron bridge was constructed during the year, for which Oswego built the piers and abutments and Cherokee county put on the structure. In April, 1885, the middle pier of this bridge, which was then being erected, was washed away; in February, 1886, the bridge was completed and accepted.

Several efforts have been made to secure a bridge across the Neosho at Montana. On September 29, 1881, Dr. J. M. Mahr presented the petition of himself and 131 others, asking for an appropriation to build a bridge at that point. The commissioners did not make the appropriation, for the reason that the amount required was beyond the amount they were authorized to grant; but they made an order submitting a proposition to the electors to vote on at the November election, whether or not they would authorize the issuance of $9,000 for the construction of such a bridge. At the election 309 votes were cast in favor of the proposition and 1,513 against it.

In 1885 the Legislature passed an act authorizing the commissioners to build a bridge across the Neosho, at a point to be designated by three commissioners appointed in the act.

At the time of the passage of this law it was intended that provision was to be made for two bridges-one at Montana, and one east of Parsons and these points were designated by the commissioners. Notwithstanding the strenuous efforts that were made to procure an appropriation for a bridge, the board of county commissioners refused to act that year.

In January, 1886, under authority of the act Of 1885 above referred to, the board appropriated $7,000 for a bridge across the Neosho directly east of Parsons, and it was built that season.

In 1888 the board made an appropriation Of $8,500 for the construction of a bridge across the Neosho at Montana, and with this the iron bridge now spanning the stream at that point was built.


Without going into the particulars as to each appropriation made for bridges over the various streams in the county, I may say that appropriations have been made by the board for bridging all the streams in the county at nearly every point where they are crossed by the principal thoroughfares: Hackberry, Pumpkin, Deer, Bachelor, Big Hill, The Cut Off, Chetopa, Turkey, as well as some of the smaller creeks, are spanned with substantial bridges which have been erected at the county's expense.

I think the general opinion is that the money expended for these bridges has been as wisely appropriated as; any that the board has been called upon to make, and that no one feels that too much has been done in that direction.

In building these bridges the board has usually required the township in which the bridge was located to put in the approaches, and sometimes to do even more than this; but generally the main part of the expense has been borne by the county.



Neosho 515728621515
North 581895850803
Walton 477694714677
Osage 9301,3941,5881,486
Mound Valley (including city).2751,4081,8291,840
Labette 282626773697
Liberty 720906861938
Oswego 640942660493
Fairview 464852826824
Mt. Pleasant (including Altamont city)2496571,2301,255
Canada 480675741705
Elm Grove (including Edna city) .....1,0961,4001,454
Hackberry 6371,1041,1841,220
Richland 7841,2801,0681,047
Chetopa 9601,3052,2652,019
Oswego 1,1962,3512,5742,208
Parsons 4,1996,7367,682

Total of county9,97322,73527,5862 ,387
Altamont ..........454546
Edna .....26321374
Mound Valley ....138545533


The following is the amount of taxable property in the several townships of the county as reported by the county assessor oil the first assessment ever made of the county in the year 1867:

of Taxable
of Taxable
Oswego $18,126 00 Montana $9,369 50
Chetopa 16,961 00Neosho 17,120 00
Hackberry 5 609 00Labette 3,116 00
Canada 2,549 00Big Hill 1,862 00
North 4,596 00  


So many different considerations enter into the question of the payment or non-payment of taxes that I shall not attempt to assign any reason for the fact that in several years a very large proportion of the real estate has gone to tax sale. In 1877 an act was passed authorizing a sale of all real estate on which any county or city held tax-sale certificates; proceedings were required by which a judgment was rendered determining the amount due on each tract, and directing the sale of such tract to be made by the sheriff substantially as upon execution. Under the provisions of this act, one and one-half pages of the Independent were occupied in July, 1877, by a notice describing the real estate on which judgment was to be asked. A small part of this property was redeemed before it went to sale, but the bulk of it was sold in December of that year, under these proceedings. As will be seen by the following statement, prior to 1877 very much more land went to sale for taxes than after that date. In 1873 the Advance contained 25 solid columns of description of real estate to be sold at tax sale. In 1874 the Independent contained 35 columns of such matter; in 1875, 23 columns. In 1876 the list was embraced in eight columns in the Herald. In 1877 it filled but seven and one-half columns of the Independent. In 1878 12 columns of the Independent were required; and a less amount of space has been required each year since.


The first few years no detailed annual report of the county expenses was made; there are one or two reports prior to 1871, but it seems evident that the figures there are incorrect. Reports exist subsequent to 1870, but as to some of them it is probable that they do not cover exactly a year, and it is also quite evident that some mistakes have been made by the party who copied them or by the printer; but it is believed the following table shows substantially the amount expended by the county each fiscal year. For a number of years the fiscal year ended with July, but more recently it has closed with October:

1871$21,125 74 1886$48,296 44
187223,621 81 188786,261 62
187336,380 92 188844,697 14
187431,459 45 188941,019 93
187527,439 71 189034,150 48
187623,814 89 189131,244 44
187723,895 28 189234,834 10
187831,789 84 189333,943 82
187940,976 25 189442,559 05
188032,797 62 189541,201 78
188127,224 96 189644,617 05
188238,589 13 189742,363 88
188340,958 43 189641,158 55
188447,760 60 189940,976 25
186540,657 53 190049,585 92


From almost the first settlement of the county, there have been a few colored people living in it, a number of whom have been successful and have made good homes. Dairy Nero settled upon the southeast quarter of 46 section 15, adjoining Oswego, in 1866, and entered it at the Government land office; he made it his home until 1889, when he sold it for a good price.

On April 4, 1870, the noon stage brought the news of the ratification of the fifteenth amendment, whereupon the colored men then in Oswego were informed of their rights, marched to the polls, the election being then in progress, where they deposited their ballots. Spencer Jones, who was the porter of the Oswego-House, was the first colored man in the county, and of course one of the first in the State to exercise the right of suffrage.

In the fall of 1879 the "exodus" began, and hundreds of colored people, principally from Texas; and Tennessee, and also many from other parts of the South, arrived in the county. Chetopa, Oswego and Parsons were almost overrun by them. Their coming was unexpected, and no provision for their care and comfort had been made. Buildings for shelter could not be procured. They were mostly without means, destitute of everything like comfortable clothing, and in a condition to appeal strongly to the sympathies of charitable people. Rough board sheds were erected and made as comfortable as could be, in which large numbers were housed for that winter. During the next year or two others came in, until the number of colored people formed quite a large percentage of the population of the cities named. Quite a number also were scattered over the county, more especially in the river bottom.

A very great improvement has been made in their condition both intellectually and financially, and there are now among the colored people many well-to-do families, who are intelligent, industrious, and moral. Some of course have remained shiftless, trifling, and worthless. From all appearances they are a permanent part of the population.


Almost from the first settlement of the county lovers of baseball have been organized, and have done what they could toward making the game popular and successful. As early as 1871 clubs were organized at Oswego and Chetopa, and within the next two or three years organizations were had at several other places in the county, and frequent local contests took place. The craze seems to have reached its highest point in 1885, when there was a great strife by the Oswego club to be the champions not only of the county but of Southeastern Kansas, and under the leadership of F. C. Wheeler great proficiency was attained. The interest in the game has been kept up to a considerable extent, but since the departure of Mr. Wheeler it has never created the excitement it reached at that time.

In the fall, of 1885 a ladies' broom brigade was formed, and attained a considerable degree of skill at drilling under the command of Colonel True.

The roller-skating craze had perhaps for a season the greatest run of anything in the line of athletics that has been witnessed in the county. The height of its prosperity was witnessed about 1884. Commodious and wellfurnished rinks were erected at Parsons and Oswego, and perhaps at other places in the county, and their owners supposed that they had a permanent and well-paying business established; but the interest died out as suddenly as it arose, and nothing farther was heard of it.


The county has been extremely fortunate since its organization in haing[sic] officers who performed their duties satisfactorily and who were true to the trust reposed in them. There have been three or four instances in which the county has been required to commence legal proceedings in order to collect from its officers money which they held in their official capacity. When H. C. Bridgman went out of office as treasurer, his accounts were found to be short. A suit against him and his bondsmen was instituted, pending which a settlement was had, in which it was agreed that he was indebted to the county in the sum of $8,750. This was settled by him and his bondsmen as follows: The county commissioners took from them the quarter-section of land on which they located the poorfarm, at the agreed price of $4,000. They gave their note for $3,000 and paid $1,750 in cash. By this means the county was saved from any financial loss.

When S. B. Abbott, the sheriff, completed the tax sale under the proceedings of 1877, he reported that he had received $1,698.02, and that his charges for fees and services were $2,008.48. These charges were largely in excess of what the law authorized. Suit was brought by the commissioners to recover from him fees which he illegally held. The matter was finally settled by his paying $802.62.

Under a change of law regulating the fees of county officers, a question arose between the county and one or two of its officers as to what fees they were entitled to, and, not agreeing on the construction of the law, the matter was settled in court. This was prior to 1892. Since then questions affecting fees and salaries of county officers have arisen and some of them are still in court, undetermined. A committee that was appointed to examine the several county offices a few years ago reported some delinquencies, which have never been turned into the county treasury.


In the evening of September 24, 1879, President Rutherford B. Hayes and wife, General W. T. Sherman, George St. John and wife, and other dignitaries arrived at Parsons on their way to Neosho Falls, where they were to attend the district fair. People from all parts of Labette county went to Parsons, where a reception was tendered the Presidential party. An address of welcome was made by T. C. Cory, which was responded to by President Hayes and General, Sherman. In the evening the whole assemblage was presented to the party.