Transcribed from A History of Meade County, Kansas by Frank S. Sullivan. ; [c1916] ; Crane & Company. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, September 2006.

1916 A History of Meade County, Kansas



During the county-seat fight it was generally understood that if the county seat were located at Meade Center the city would dedicate a block in the center of the town, designated on the official plat as "Block A," to the county, and would erect for the county a court house.

But, "the best-laid schemes of mice and men gang aft a-gley." Meade Center was designated as the county seat, but the proposed dedication of "Block A" to the county was never made, and neither was the court house ever built for the county.

The building originally used as a court house was a frame building on the south side of the alley of the block in which now stands the Southern Hotel, facing east. This building was rented by the county, and while some of the county officers maintained offices uptown, this was officially the court house, although court was held in the second story of a building located back of the present site of Pick's store, and facing north.

On March 3rd, 1888, the city of Meade obtained from Charles E. Cones a deed for Lots 13 and 14, in Block 3, original survey, and soon thereafter commenced the construction of the present court house, although it was built for, and known for years as, the city hall. It has been used as a court house practically ever since its completion.

In the summer of 1895 negotiations were had between the County Commissioners and the City Coun-



cil of Meade, looking toward the purchase of this building by the county. The proposition was voted on at the general election in November, and carried by a vote of 288 to 39. The nominal consideration was five thousand dollars, which was paid in a round-about way. The Meade County Bank, which had failed and was then in the hands of George B. Cones, Trustee, was a depository of something like four thousand dollars of the county's funds. The city of Meade owed this bank; the city had not the money to pay the bank, and the bank lacked the necessary assets to make restoration to the county, and so the county took over the city hall, paying to the city of Meade the sum of $950.56 and to the trustee of The Meade County Rank the sum of $82.77, and thus released the bank from further obligation to the county. The city was released from further obligation to the bank, the two debts were wiped out, and the county acquired the present court house.

In April, 1911, the county purchased of George B. Cones two lots adjoining the court-house site, for a consideration of $355.55, and in December, 1915, the county purchased of Lucy R. Allen eight lots adjoining these, for a consideration of $1,600, so that the county now owns an entire half-block, a tract of ground suitable in area and location for a court house such as Meade County ought to have.

The present court house, while having served its purpose well in the past, is by no means adequate to the needs of the present, and it would be false economy to retain it much longer. Not a single office is sufficiently commodious to permit a proper transaction of


the business pertaining to that office, every vault is packed and crowded with records until it is a difficult proposition, oftentimes, to find the record of a particular thing required; the Commissioners have nowhere to meet save in the County Clerk's office, which office is of inadequate proportions for that purpose; there is but one jury-room, and that is so small as to be unsanitary; no record is absolutely safe, and a fire would do incalculable and irreparable damage.

A commodious, modern, fire-proof building could be constructed at a cost to each taxpayer of four dollars on every thousand dollars valuation of his property, and such a building would not only save money to every taxpayer in the way of lessened expense of upkeep and insurance, but the danger of damage or destruction of records would be eliminated, and such a building would add to the value of every tract and parcel of real property in the county.

Not only as a matter of pride, not only as a matter of convenience, not only as a matter of "safety first," but as a matter of dollars and cents, Meade County should have a new court house, and one that will meet the requirements of the future as well as the needs of the present.



One of the natural curiosities of Meade County is the salt well, about two miles south of Meade, the history of which commences at about the time of the first settlement.

The Jones & Plummer trail was the route of practically all travel between Fort Dodge and Fort Elliott. This trail passed east of the present site of Meade about a mile, extended south for several miles, and then turned westward. It was the practice of travelers, and more especially of freighters, to camp on Spring Creek the second night out of Fort Dodge. To reach this favorite camping-ground they would branch off of the main trail a mile or so south of the present city of Meade, and angle across the prairie in a southwesterly direction to the waters of Spring Creek, and a well-defined trail across this prairie had been established. On March 16th, 1879, a Mexican freighter passed along this accustomed route, and camped on Spring Creek. All was as usual at that time. On the 19th of March an American freighter, probably returning from Fort Elliott, discovered an immense "cave-in" on this branch trail to Spring Creek. One side of the road, or trail, was left intact, the other had disappeared. He proceeded to Dodge City and reported his strange discovery. Great interest was awakened, and many persons from Dodge and elsewhere came to view this remarkable work of Nature. Among the first to visit it was C. E. Haywood, and it is to him and to J. R.



Colgan that the author is principally indebted for the early history of this well.

Many stories are extant concerning the depth of the salt well. One story is that Capt. Wirth let down six hundred feet of rope without finding bottom, and while this appears to be authenticated, yet it does not follow that the well was more than six hundred feet deep, because the water was so impregnated with salt that a human body would float round like a dry log, so it is not surprising that the rope, although attached to a weight, did not sink.

In May, 1879, J. R. Colgan took careful measurements of the depth, and found that from the top of the bank to the water was nineteen feet, and the water, at the deepest place, measured twenty-three feet. At that time the cavity was almost exactly circular, and was, according to the judgment of Mr. Colgan, about seventy-five feet in diameter; the side walls were perpendicular. At the present time the hole is almost perfectly circular, and measures two hundred feet in diameter. The increase in the diameter has been caused by subsequent caving of the banks, and by the wash of the rains of many years. The side walls, while not now perpendicular, are so precipitous that descent is impossible except in one or two places. The ground, for one hundred feet back from the hole, shows evidence of a tendency to cave; the caving and washing have filled the cavity until now the water is but a few feet deep at the deepest part, and no doubt subsequent cavings will fill it to a point above the water-line.

Many persons claim to have heard a great rumbling and roar, caused by the cave-in of this well. But when


we consider that the only settlers in Meade County at that time resided many miles from this place, too far distant to hear any disturbance there may have been, if any, which is doubtful, we should politely listen to such narrations and give then such credence as other fairy tales are entitled to.

In September, 1879, George B. Allen secured one gallon of water from this well, which he evaporated by boiling and obtained one quart of salt.

In the spring of 1880 William Sturgis commercialized the salt well in the manufacture of "Meade County Solar Salt." The water was pumped from the well by windmill into a vat, where it was evaporated by boiling; but this method did not prove a success, either through lack of knowledge or lack of proper equipment, as the salt obtained had a dirty, rusty appearance. This plan of evaporation was early abandoned and the water allowed to evaporate by the sun's rays, and by this method an exceptionally good quality of clean salt was secured, which was placed in 50-lb. sacks and sold, at the plant, for $1 per cwt. Twenty-two vats, each measuring twelve by sixteen feet, were used, and the quantity of salt procured was from two thousand to two thousand five hundred pounds daily. At this time one gallon of water produced one pint of salt. After a year or two Mr. Sturgis sold his plant to one John Ristrem (spelling not vouched for) who continued to operate it for a year or two, and then suspended operations for the reason that the quantity of salt derived from a given volume of water gradually decreased until "salt-making" became unprofitable. Also, there were no means of transportation except by


freight wagons, and the output was always limited to the local demand.

The second year the salt-works were operated what was considered a strange phenomenon was observed. It had been customary for people to bathe in the well, the impossibility of sinking, the ability to float around without effort, making this recreation especially delightful. At this time one who had gone into the water for the first time made haste to come out, and announced that "the water was scalding." Investigation proved that while the water at the surface was of the ordinary temperature, at a depth of about two feet it was noticeably warmer, and at a depth of five or six feet was almost "scalding." The experience of bathers ever after was, that the water increased in temperature with the depth, and this fact gave origin to the theory of hot springs under the bed of the well and that the hot water escaped upward through some orifice. This theory, however, has been proven fallacious if this were true the difference in temperature would be as great, perhaps greater, in winter than in summer. But tests have proved that the temperature of the surface-water and of water at the bottom of the well is practically the same in winter. The true explanation is that the salt, and other minerals in solution, readily absorb the sun's heat, and the heat thus absorbed is retained by the lower particles, while the particles near the surface give off their heat at night. Hence the water near the surface would at no time contain more heat than had been absorbed from the sun on the given day, while the lower waters, giving off the heat less readily, would retain a portion of every

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