The Old Settlers' Meet

Address by
J.W. Kenner
Printed in
The Eureka Herald
September 25, 1896 and October 2, 1896

J.W. Kenner was unexpectedly called upon to take the part of the historian, the one chosen last year declining to serve.

Old Settlers and Old Friends: It is with considerable reluctance that I have undertaken to make a contribution to the records of the Old Settlers' Association, relative to the early history of Greenwood county. This hesitation is not only because of my lack of adaptability to the task, which alone is sufficient cause, but is also owing to the fact that such history is already a thrice-told tale, even for the edification of people in the cheerfully retrospective mood which is surprised to belong to those associated together for the purpose of talking over old times and renewing old friendships, may, I fear, cause some of my hearers to experience that tired feeling, with which every old settler of Kansas has at some time been afflicted, and which some of our settlers of recent years have unjustly charged to be a malady peculiar to the old inhabitant.

Three histories of Greenwood county have already been written--the very excellent address delivered by Hon. Edwin Tucker, July 4, 1876, on the occasion of the Centennial Celebration, at Eureka, which, if not heretofore done, should at once be made a part of the historical archives of this association, and the valuable papers presented at our first and second meetings by Messrs. R.L. Barrier and E. Mahan, respectively. In these three papers most of the items of general interest in regard to the early settlements have been well and fully set forth. If, therefore, I present some matters of little importance from a historical standpoint, I do so because the facts of principal importance have been put on record by my predecessors, and in the belief that anything which may renew in the memory of the members of the association the condition, the customs, the trials and vicissitudes of the courageous people who planted the first settlements upon the splendid domain, which is now embraced within the lines of our county, will not only be of interest to us, but also to those who may perpetuate the existence of our society in the future. And, though much that I may say should prove uninteresting to some at least, I am sure that the subject is worthy of much better treatment than I am capable of giving it.

The story should be told in the Epic or the Idyl. Lines no more heroic, no more virtuous, no more patient, in the endurance of hardship and adversity, of no greater experience in the school of privation and isolation have been celebrated in poetry, in legend, and in song.

It is my purpose to speak chiefly of the first decade of our settlement, leaving the narration of the history of a later period to the society's future historian. In doing so, however, I do not gainsay the right of those who came here years after the end of this period to the title of "old settler" and indeed to that of pioneer. I have heard settlers, who came here many years after, express themselves as having had enough to repletion of corn bread and creek water, and no doubt many trials and hardships were experienced by them in the change from the former to the new home, where everything had to be made from the beginning. During the first decade, however, development was arrested by famine and delayed by the Civil War, and during all these years we remained a remote frontier settlement, compelled by force of circumstances to be content with slow progress. It may be truly said that the severe trials and imminent perils of the settlers were over the expiration of that period. It is true that we had to contend in later years with the grasshopper, and occasionally with drought and chinch bug; but these and similar troubles were common to communities without respect to age. We were also, to the end of the second decade of our settlement, without railroads, the lack of which delayed our development, and the loss and inconvenience, resulting from the lack of facilities for travel and transportation, are in marked contrast with our present comfortable condition with four first class lines of railroad transversing various parts of our county.

It is to be regretted that our organization was not formed at an earlier day, as I am sure much interesting history could have been preserved to us that is now lost. But our country is still in its infancy and our development but fairly begun, notwithstanding the great improvement in our condition. The old settler has been so busy during all these years with the present and future that the past has been neglected, until the lapse of time has cast a halo of interest about it, and there has come to be an ever-increasing charm in allowing the memory to recur to those earlier times.

Along the Verdigris River, in 1856, and Fall River and the intervening streams, with which our county is so well favored, in 1857, was first located the settler's camp, soon after to be succeeded by his cabin. It is related in former history that the first settlers on Fall River had pushed so far out on the frontier that it became a matter of serious deliberation as to whether they had gone too far. The new settlement, it was thought by some, was so remote from civilization that it would be better to retrace their steps to some point nearer the older settlements. It should be borne in mind that the first settlement was composed of men and women, many of whom had already passed the meridian of life, and they were surrounded by their families, making the loss sustained by removing beyond the pale of civilization felt more keenly than is usually the case with younger men. To Mrs. Susan Kinnaman, who will be remembered as a woman of much strength of character, is due the praise of being the most enthusiastic friend of Greenwood county in these counsels; and to her influence, more than to any other, was attributed the fact that these first settlers remained. Upon the site of that frontier camp we founded her beautiful home, where, surrounded by family and friends, she passed the remainder of her days, respected and beloved by all.

References have been made by former historians to the fact that the very earliest settlement made in the original Greenwood county was made by people from the far South. There were also some settlers from Missouri in the eastern part of the county at an early period of this settlement, and is probable that there was a warm sympathy, on the part of some in that community, with the effort being made to make Kansas a slave state. Though there is nothing to indicate that any of these people cane here for other than the legitimate purpose of making homes, yet in the prevailing state of contention, and indeed actual conflict which was going on along the eastern border of the territory, it is but natural that a feeling of animosity should arise between the more ardent of these and the most earnest free state people; and in this eastern settlement, perhaps, was the nearest approach to the actual participation in the border warfare then in progress that took place in our county. One case of actual armed hostility has been related to me by a settler of that period. It happened that three free state men came into those southern neighborhood for the purpose of settlement. In the prevailing state of opinion there, men of such views were not welcome. The report was set afloat by some unprincipled person that these strangers were horse thieves. Not it has always been a characteristic of new settlements in the west that this variety of enterprise is not popular and there has been, in later days, some very unpleasant object lessons, illustrative of popular opinion in territory not very far removed from our country both on the east and west. The people of the Verdigris Valley, without regard to political opinions, were in that day no exception to the rule. The report being a malicious one and without foundation, spread rapidly, as such reports are sure to do, and as rapidly a sentiment formed in favor of the emigration of these obnoxious newcomers. They were requested to leave, but being armed with innocence and honesty of intent, as well as otherwise, they declined to do so, and an attempt was made to expel them by armed force. Being besieged in their cabin, they decided to send one of their number, Robert Clark, to the settlements farther east for assistance, and he successfully eluded the vigilance of the besiegers and made his way through the lines. But before he returned, it was in some way disclosed that the horse thief report was merely a ruse to arouse public opinion against them, and the siege was promptly raised, public sentiment at once condemning the outrage. The names of these three settlers were Robert Clark, assassinated at his home after served his country as a soldier through the war, the motive, without a doubt, being the outgrowth of some early political animosity; David Nichols, afterwards prominent in the early history of the county, and its first sheriff under the regular organization in 1862; and John Slough, a martyr to his country's cause, having lost his life in the army.

At the breaking out of war the disloyal element in the community left the county. Any southern sympathizers who remained were entirely passive, and their opinions went unchallenged by the great majority, nearly all our people being intensely loyal to the union.

Of the very earliest actual settlement mad on Fall River, in what is now South Salem Township, we have with us one representative, in the person of Charles Christianson. This settlement was made, in the summer of 1857, by three young men: Charles Christianson, Nels Ladd, and a companion named Janson. Their claims embraced 160 acres of the present home of O.E. Ladd, and the farms of H.W. Barrier and John Henley. After making some improvements, they were compelled by the scarcity of provisions, to return to the settlements farther east for the winter. Nels Ladd went to Wisconsin and, on returning in the springs, was accompanied by a number of other home seekers, among them were O.E. Ladd and the late Amond Errickson. Upon arriving they found their cabins occupied, their claims having all been jumped in their absence. The recovery of them caused these young men much trouble and anxiety. They were finally restored to them, however, by all parties making concessions.

The growth of the settlements, from their incipiency to 1860, was steady and the outlook for the upbuilding of a permanent community seemed hopeful. Of course the progress in opening the land to cultivation and making improvements was necessarily very slow. The breaking of sod was a much more laborious operation than now. The growth of the grass on rich bottoms, being luxuriant and entirely unaffected by pasturing, formed a very tough sod and the only practicable method of breaking it was, then considered, by a good long string of oxen to each plow.

The difficulties of making the first improvements, and those of several years following, as we now look back upon them, seem hardly to belong to the nineteenth century. No lumber was to be had, for many years, nearer than the Neosho, and that the native lumber that our mechanics of today do not, as a rule, care to work. An attempt was made, by an Englishman whose name cannot now be recalled, to establish a saw mill, about 1859, on Walnut Creek, near the present Kerr Ranch. And, although the effort was finally abandoned, here was probably manufactured the first sawed lumber ever made in the county. It was necessary to have some lumber to be used in the construction of the mill and the builder undertook to make it. Logs were propped up to a sufficient height and the boards sawed out by hand, two men operating the saw, one standing on the log, the other beneath it. Mr. Christianson, who was one of the men employed on this work, remembers it, especially, while handling the lower end of the saw, standing beneath the log, as being the hardest and most unpleasant work he has ever been called upon to perform. He spoke in high terms of his employer. who was always considerate of the weakened condition of his men, caused by the poor fare and the hardships of camp life. Had this enterprise been completed it would have been a great help to the early settlers, and would probably done a thriving business had the development of the county continued as it then promised.

But most of the houses had, in fact, been built at that time, that were here prior to the close of the war. The material was of home manufacture. The hewed log, the puncheon for the floor, and the clapboard for the roof, being prepared by the settler. The principal tools used were the ax, the broadax, the adz and the frow.

Notwithstanding these difficulties the settlement of the county progressed so favorably that, in 1860, the territory then embraced within its limits, had a population of 1060. The loss in population, in consequence of the famine of that year and the opening of the war in the succeeding spring, was large. It has been estimated that is amounted to a decrease of fifty per cent. It took a good quality of nerve to remain here after the failure of 1860. Many who did stay could not have survived without the aid so generously bestowed by older states. As it was, the difficulty of transporting the provisions from the terminus of the railroad, at Atchison, was such that the supplies thus obtained really cost, in the wages of today, a large price. The remark that is often jestingly made, by settlers of that period, that they were compelled to remain because they could not command the means to get away. Yet, the same degree of courage and persistence, which enabled them to live throughout that trying year, would have taken them to places of comparative plenty several times over.

With the breaking out of the war the settlements were constantly exposed to dangers by reason of their exposed condition, being on the extreme frontier on the south, and practically so on the west. There were scattering settlements in Butler County, and an Indian trading post further west on the Arkansas River, near the present site of Wichita. A good idea of the condition of the country in the vicinity of the "Peerless Princess of the Plains," at that time, has been furnished to me by Mrs. Ella Goshnett, daughter of Edmund H. Moseley, who was perhaps the first settler, with a family, within the present limits of Wichita. He was one of the most noted hunters of the Territory, and in later years combined Indian trading with hunting the buffalo and the wolf. He resided for one year, before his settlement in Greenwood county, which occurred in August, 1860, between the Little and Big Arkansas rivers, within the present limits of Wichita. Members of the family could stand in the doorway of the dwelling and look upon countless herds of buffalo. Their nearest neighbors, a negro family, lived eighteen miles this side, and outside the immediate members of the family, they saw but one white woman during the entire year of their residence there.

During Captain Moseley's absence from home, on one occasion, a large band of Indians camped outside their cabin. It seems that the trading post near them was of such a character that one could get "anything he wanted," a peculiarity which still haunts the locality. Large numbers of Indians obtained whiskey and became intoxicated. The noble red man is, if possible, a greater fool when drunk than his white brother. The melee was something frightful to behold. They would barter anything they could get their hands on for liquor. The squaws were in a state of mortal terror, and made frantic efforts to conceal such goods as the possessed from the maddened savages. To add to the terror of Mrs. Moseley and family, two drunken and bloody braves, who had been badly worsted in the free-fight, demanded to be secreted from their enemies in her house. The pluck of an attack of the family, eighteen-year old boy, being the only men folks about the house, saved their home. The chief of the tribe, with what sober companions he could muster, labored earnestly to subdue the mob, and finally resorted to drastic measures. The drunken braves were brought, one by one, into police court, so to speak, and trial in the same court of the city, in later days, has never been more summary than were these proceedings, and the sentence never more promptly carried into execution. The offenders were unmercifully whipped on the bare back. So promptly did this treatment take effect that, probably, no modern Wichita disciple of Keely (if any there be), ever obtained relief in half the time that it took one of these inebriated savages to become properly sober than under the radical treatment of this good chief. Some got sober enough to break loose and make their escape before more than half the regulation dose was administered, and when one was so fortunate, he put distance between himself and the "Institute" in the quickest time on record in the city of that day. But such occurrences as these convinced the Moseleys that they had selected a home too far out on the frontier, and they became settlers of Greenwood county and lived for several years on what is now the Cy Brookover farm, on Bachelor Creek. Mr. Moseley was quite active in public affairs, and was elected county surveyor in 1863. During the sixties one of the curiosities of the county was a herd of young buffaloes which he kept on his farms a year or two, and later took them east for exhibition.

In the exposed condition of the settlement, the erection of Fort Montgomery, in 1861, was a timely precaution, and the company commanded by Captain Bemis did good service in preventing depredations from marauding parties which infested our frontiers. Scouts of this company kept a sharp lookout to the south and west of us, and the very existence of this company of home defenders was very likely a means of protection had they done nothing. In truth, however, the little band did active duty during the summer of 1861, albeit they fought no battles. A detail from this company did efficient service in the aid of the Indians who were driven from their territory to the south of us that year, by going into their country and aiding in their escape from their enemies. These Indians were friends to the Union cause, and for a time camped in large numbers along Fall River. They were later taken in charge and subsisted by the government, and under its authority were removed farther east. The first lieutenant of this company was our venerable friend, H.G. Branson. It is related of Lieutenant Branson that, on one occasion, when a detachment of the company under the command of a militia officer from an adjoining county, and in cooperation with this company, it became the duty of the little command to capture a wagon train which was headed toward the enemy's country. At the critical time, when the advance was commenced, this commanding officer showed a striking preference for the rear, and as this sort of maneuver did not suit Lieutenant Branson's idea of leadership, he showed himself equal to the occasion by promptly assuming command, leading the men forward, and making the capture. No resistance was offered, and the train was escorted to Eureka and, later, turned over to Col. Plumb (our lamented senator), who was then connected with the state militia. When in the late summer of 1861 the invasion of Kansas seemed imminent, among the militia companies found at the front and ready for duty was the one commanded by Captain Bemis. After its return it was much depleted in numbers by enlistment in the army of nearly all fit for regular military duty, and as the defeat of the enemy and its recedence from the immediate vicinity of our state made the position of the settlement less perilous, the company after a time was disbanded. There was much apprehension felt, however, throughout the entire war, and for some time after its close, on account of the exposed condition of the settlements. Our people were frequently greatly disturbed by reports of threatened invasion by the Indians, and on more than one occasion the isolated settlers moved in to the settlement on the strength of an Indian scare; but we were happily spared the afflictions of an Indian raid.

The prices of staple products during this entire period were discussed very largely from the purchaser's standpoint. With the exception of cattle, very little marketable stuff could be raised, owing to our isolated condition, and the farms were so new that only enough grain for the settlers and their stock was usually produced prior to the three consecutive good crop years of 1865, 1866, and 1867. Farming proved quite unprofitable in 1864, and only little corn was raised. During the winter following corn commanded a price as high as $2.40 per bushel, and was in some cases transported by the purchaser a distance of fifteen or twenty miles. Some of our old settlers claim never to have any liking for cornbread since 1860, but from these prices, in 1864-1865, we must still have had some people here who liked it quite well. Stock was the main dependence of the settlers, but the herds were still small and no great number were ready for sale until late in the first decade of the country's settlement. Mostof them had gone into business with a small beginning, and had accumulated no surplus. They were therefore in the uncomfortable position of people in need of constant supplies, but with nothing to exchange for them. This caused a change in the ordinary method of supply, and too much praise cannot be bestowed upon our Pioneer Mothers for the way in which they came to the rescue in this trying time. A remarkable spirit of self-reliance was developed. The cotton crop became one of our staples. The price on the market, however, was of no consequence, as the demand was entirely for home consumption. If any was disposed of by the grower, it was usually given away to some newer or less provident settler. In the incipiency of the manufacturing enterprises of the settlers the seed was picked out by hand--the entire evening employment of each member of a pioneer family, in the autumn months, was in many instances that of picking out cotton seeds. This work was of such an irksome character that the genius of the settler was soon called into play to obviate it. A machine consisting of two wooden rollers set in a frame, on the principle of our modern clothes wringer, was invented, and the ginning process became play. It was then corded into rolls by hand--spun into thread on the old spinning wheel, and woven into cloth on the hand loom, of which there were several operated in different parts of the county. Woolen clothing was also manufactured and turned out as an entirely home product, from the growing of the wool to the completion of the garment. Our population was very largely clothed, as well as fed, by home product during the years covered by the cruel war.

The welfare of the rising generation was a subject of much concern to the parents during this period. Greenwood county was from its first settlement interested in the cause of education, being settled largely by an enlightened class of people who fully realized its benefits. But conditions were quite unfavorable, the settlements being so sparse and the settlers so poor. The professional teacher was not looking for such a field, but it has frequently happened in the past that in the opening of new settlements, a leading citizen, one of pronounced character and liberal education, is forced by public opinion to take charge of the neighborhood schools, and it was therefore not strange that we find on record that Edwin tucker, since so long and favorably known as the friend and generous patron of education, as early as December, 1858, opened a day school in Eureka. This school was taught in the first house erected on the site of Eureka and described in former papers. Mr. Tucker was prevailed upon to repeat this kindly service in the fall of 1859. In the spring of 1860, Miss Clutter taught school in the same house, and among her pupils were one of the wives and several children of Dave Balue, a well known Indian chief, who camped near the town during the summer.

In the winters of 1862-3 and 1863-4, Mr. Tucker again taught the Eureka school. It had been in session but a short time in the fall of 1862, when the historic clapboard house was consumed by fire. Though the loss of the house and its rude furnishings, as well as the books of many of the pupils, was severely felt, the vacation on that account was brief. The log house within Fort Montgomery was at that time vacant, and was soon fitted up with seats and the school reopened. The furniture, though simple, was not really very impressive, as it must be remembered that the lumber from which the benches and the writing table across one end of the room were made, had been hauled by a team a distance of at least fifty miles. So precious was the article that a squared log was made to do duty as a stationary seat across one end of the room. Of those who attended this school very few are present today. I have been able to think of about eight, including the teacher, who still live in the county. Most of them are widely scattered, and several well-beloved ones passed away in the morning of life.

The teacher next succeeding Mr. Tucker was Hannah M. Kenner, who taught in the log dwelling which stood near the present residence of F.S. Jackson. She was probably the first representative of a Normal school who ever taught in our county, being a student of the Illinois State Normal. She taught successfully several years afterward in East St. Louis, and died some ten years later, her brief life being one of usefulness and devotion to duty.

In the winter of 1867-8 Arthur W. Gleason was the schoolmaster, and the school was again located in Fort Montgomery. In the meantime school district No. 4, embracing Eureka, had been organized, and as early as 1865 the erection of a stone school house had been commenced, and near the present residence of J.J. Durkee. Our people were elated at the prospect of having a good school house and more frequent schools. The enterprise, however, was a large one for that day, and was beset with difficulties from the beginning, and it was not until the spring of 1868 that it was fit for occupancy. It was never finished, but merely enclosed. It was an improvement on the old one, however, and was more suitably finished. A Mr. Dobyns taught the first school in it and was followed later by L.N. Fancher, Miss Elizabeth Tucker, Miss May Claycomb, Edwin Walters, and H.A. Dales. It soon proved inadequate for the needs of the town, and also soon began to suffer from faulty construction; and as it had the disadvantage of sitting in the street, it was, after a few years, torn down.

About 1859 a school was taught in the eastern part of the county by a man named Jones, and his school house was located in the woods on a farm at present owned by W.W. Shaw. It was there that our president, Mr. James M. Smyth, made his debut as a pupil. There is little doubt that this was the pioneer school of the eastern Verdigris settlements. No trace is left, however, of the primitive school house, and the teacher, too, has wholly disappeared, having moved away at an early day.

"Past is all his fame, the very spot Where many a time he triumphed, is forgot.

End of Speech

After singing, Elder C.R. Rice, of Hartford, Kansas, gave an excellent reminiscential address. Mr. Rice, being a pioneer, was abundantly able to do this. He was in Greenwood county at a very early day in its history, almost as early as the earliest, and doing valiant service for the Master. His duty brought him into intimate association with the few people then here, and a warm feeling of esteem and affection grew up in every heart for him, for he shared with them their joys, their sorrows, and their privations. His address was, because of this fact, and for other reasons as well, especially pleasing to the oldest old settlers, a number of them being present.

The group met in the evening in the opera house, where they enjoyed music and singing, as well as short talks by J.B. Clogston (who came from Missouri into Kansas, passing beneath the rebel flat), Frank Osborn (who cam from Missouri in 1857), James Mills, C.L. Worley, and others.

Mr. Osborn told a little story on President Smyth, one that pleased the audience and caused Jim to blush a little. Jim is probably the youngest old settler in Greenwood county. He was quite a small boy, about five years old, when he came with his parents to Kansas back in the fifties. The family brought a few hogs with them, drove them through from Missouri, and Jim helped to drive them. One hog was broken to the saddle, and the hog Jim would ride while resting his tired legs. Frank said Jim entered Kansas on hogback.

During the evening meeting the following officers were chosen for the ensuing year: President, J.M. Smyth; Secretary, W.W. Morris; Recording Secretary, Z. Harlan; Treasurer, Dr. C.A. Wakefield; Historian, A.P. Loveland.

The following is a list of the vice-presidents:
First ward J.J. Durkee
Second ward J.B. Clogston
Third ward E. Mahan
Eureka township Judge Kenner
Bachelor Robert Wiggins
Fall River N.D. Durham
Lane W.F. Osborn
Madison Charles Burris
Pleasant Grove Robert Hart
Janesville C.L. Worley
Quincy E.N. Turney
Otter Creek V.S. Rader
Salem James Spain
South Salem W.O. Claycomb
Spring Creek William Klein
Salt Springs W.Q. Wickersham
Shell Rock R. Wolcott
Twin Grove C.H. Shoemaker

The death of Halvor Hoover, of South Salem Township, and early settler, was announced. He was born in Norway September 17, 1818, and came to Wisconsin in 1847. He served three years in the war and came to Kansas in 1868, settling in South Salem, where he died September 16, 1896.

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