Another Digital Document from


Father of Doniphan County

The Illustrated Doniphan County *1837-1915*
Supplement to The Weekly Kansas Chief
Troy, Kansas

Hypertext Translation: J. G. Masters

(Daguerrotype of A. W. Doniphan)

In selecting a name for Doniphan County, the early settlers honored themselves by naming the county after one of the most famous characters in the annals of American history. Subsequent events in the development and progress of the county have demonstrated the wisdom shown in selecting the name Doniphan, for time has proven that her citizens have been inspired by the name to live up to the highest ideals and lofty aspirations of the man in whose honor the county was named.

Away back in the long ago when the first settlers in this section of territorial Kansas were sufficiently numerous to organize a county, there was little hesitation in suggesting the name Doniphan to the proper authorities. The selection was a most appropriate one and it was a deserved tribute of honor to the distinguished and heroic gentleman who bore the name.

General A. W. Doniphan was a patriot, a warrior and an orator of the highest attainments. He was truly a gentleman of the old school. His deeds of valor in his country's cause stand out today as pre-eminent among the great military characters who have engraved their names on the pages of American history. Great national leaders of his time have said that his achievements during the Mexican war exceeded those of the great Xenophon and were unequalled in ancient or modern times.

The family from which General Doniphan was descended was powerful in the days when old Spain was practically mistress of the world. His great ancestor was a Spanish cavalier who gained marked distinction in the Moorish wars of Granada and he emigrated to Scotland while that country was under the rule of the Highland chieftains.

The original Cavalier Doniphan, of which there is any authentic record, had espoused the cause of Charles I and their[sic] loyalty to that unfortunate monarch caused the banishment to Virginia of the family. Two of Cavalier Doniphan's sons were with John Smith in Jamestown in 1607. They settled in the northern neck of Virginia, where Joseph Doniphan, the father of A. W. Doniphan, was born.

Patriotism was a commanding trait in the Doniphan character from the first generation down, and it was not surprising to see Joseph Doniphan take up arms under General George Washington in the Revolutionary war. He commanded a company of men from Fauquer [sic] County, Virginia, and at the battle of theBrandywine had a brother killed, who fell in his arms. When the American Republic had been established and the English forces thoroughly defeated, Captain Joseph Doniphan emigrated to Kentucky in 1791 and settled in Mason county, in the Blue Grass state.

Captain Joseph Doniphan married a granddaughter of the famous Englishman, Sir Sidney Smith, who came to Virginia in 1706, because he could not tolerate the degenerate and unholy actions of the ruling dynasty at home. The marriage of Captain Doniphan and Anne Smith took place during the year 1800 and the histories of the Kentucky families of those days state that the bride was a most lovable and good woman who was destined to make a fine wife and mother.

The future General A. W. Doniphan was born in the Doniphan mansion in Mason county, Kentucky, July 8, 1808, and at the age of seven he was deprived of the guidance of his father through death in 1815. Captain Joseph Doniphan had been charitable and free hearted all his life and at his death his property had to be managed by somebody familiar with his affairs, as Mrs. Doniphan was not physically strong enough to supervise the management of the estate. Thomas S. Doniphan, the father of Colonel John Doniphan, later of St. Joseph [Missouri], took control of the family and sent A. W. Doniphan to live with friends at Augusta, Kentucky.

There the lad A. W. Doniphan went to school and grew to man's estate. At the age of twenty he was graduated from the Augusta college and in 1829 he was admitted to the bar as a lawyer. The next few months were given over to visiting the scenes of his childhood and looking about for the best locality in which to practice his chosen profession. The Western country was new at the time and his adventurous spirit urged his course toward Missouri.

About the middle of the year 1830 A. W. Doniphan came west and settled in Lexington, Mo. Nobody at his old home could reason out why he selected that town in which to settle, but in later years General Doniphan confided to personal friends that he settled there because the name of the town sounded kind of homelike, as there was a Lexington in Kentucky where he was born. After practicing law with remarkable success for a young advocate, A. W. Doniphan concluded there were better opportunities for a lawyer in Liberty, so he moved to the county seat of Clay county in 1833.

General Doniphan, although then but twenty-five years old, became eminent as a criminal lawyer soon after he settled in Liberty, and he had more business than he could very well attend. There was lots of crime in that section of Missouri at the time, and it seemed that murder was the order of the day. There were a few isolated cases of horse stealing, but the pastime was not much in favor with the criminal element, because they knew that if they got caught there would be no need of legal services, as instantaneous hanging was the unwritten law for such misdeeds at that time.

When the Mormons broke loose in the later 30's, A. W. Doniphan was appointed brigadier general in 1838, and after giving the forces of polygamy a sound whipping he received the surrender of Joseph Smith and all his cohorts. A peculiar incident in connection with the Mormon troubles was that after the surrender the General was retained by the Prophet to attend to all the law affairs of that obnoxious sect of fanatics.

General Doniphan had considerable experience as a lawmaker also, for he was elected to the Missouri legislature in 1838 and 1840. His powerful personality and oratorical attainments commanded the respect of the members of the legislature to such a degree that his word was practically a law among them. No matter what General Doniphan wanted done or what kind of measure we wished enacted, the other members were so cowed by his manner and bearing that they invariably did his bidding.

At the breaking out of the Mexican War in 1846, General Doniphan was put in command of the First Missouri Regiment, and marched his men, first to Santa Fe, now the capital of New Mexico, thence to Chihuahua, to Monterey an d to the mouth of the Rio Grande. He fought several battles in the enemy's country, the most notable of which was at Sacramento on February 28, 1847, when, with 925 Missouri troops he attacked 4,300 Mexicans in an intrenched position at the crossing of the Sacramento River, eighteen miles from Chihuahua, and defeated them after a three hours' fight. General Doniphan's losses were insignificant, while the Mexicans lost over 300 in killed and had about the same number made prisoners. A special train and all the camp equipage of the Mexicans was also captured the forces of General Doniphan.

With his command still intact, General Doniphan returned home by the Gulf of Mexico, the Mississippi and the Missouri rivers and arrived safe during the month of July 1847, after having marched 3,200 miles by land and traveled over 3,000 miles by water, besides having fought and won a number of important battles in an enemy's country. The reception to General Doniphan and his men was a tremendous affair. His triumphs were heralded throughout the length and breadth, not only of Missouri, but all over the entire United States. The great military men of the day said that his famous march had no parallel in the history of the world, and General Benton, in his speech of welcome to the Missouri veterans at St. Louis in July, 1847, said that General Doniphan and his men exceeded the achievements of Xenophon and was unequaled in either ancient or modern times.

In 1854 General Doniphan was again elected to the Missouri legislature, and he was a member of the peace conference in 1861. Since his return from the Mexican war he had followed the practice of his profession with unlimited success, at his home in Liberty, until 1862, when he moved to St. Louis and was appointed pension agent. Late in 1868 General Doniphan moved to Richmond, Mo., where he resided until his death in 1887 in the eightieth year of his age.

The career of General Doniphan was more wonderful as a lawyer than as a military man. He defended 182 men for murder and not one of them ever went within shadow of the gallows. Governor Woodson of Missouri, in a public speech in St. Joseph, after the death of General Doniphan, said that he had heard Clay, Webster, Marshall and Menifee and other great orators of national fame, but General Doniphan was the peer of them all.

[A picture of the Doniphan County Court House in in the center of the page. Four saddle horses and a spring wagon and team are at the low stone wall. The caption says the court house was finished July 4, 1906.]

First Printing Press

The first printing press set up west of the Missouri River, in Kansas, was brought to Doniphan County February 2, 1843, by the Rev. S.M. Irvin, and put in operation at the old mission. [Sac Fox museum outside Highland.]

For some years Father Irvin and Rev. William Hamilton had realized the futility of trying to make headway in educating the Indians without elementary printed texts.

So the printing outfit was sent for to New York, and when the Indians saw it in operation, they called it an evil spirit and almost stampeded. It was only through the gentle persuasion of Father Irvin that they were induced to come close and examine the mechanism.

A number of grammars and text books in both English and the Indian language were set up and printed, the work, both literary and typographical, being done by Reverend Father Irvin and Rev. William Hamilton.

The title of one of the books printed at the mission, and now in the library of the Highland University, is as follows: "An Ioway Grammar, Illustrating the Principles of the Language Used by the Ioway, Otoe and Missouri. Prepared and Printed by Rev. William Hamilton and Rev. S. M. Irvin, Under the Direction of the Presbyterian Board of Foreign Missions, Ioway and Sac Mission, 1848. The book contains 152 pages and is interleaved.

[End of masthead pag e, i.e. page 5. My copy is missing all previous pages.]


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