The History of Greenwood County

as an address delivered by
The Hon. Edwin Tucker
at the Centennnial Celebration
July 4, 1876

In accordance with the recommendation of the President of the United States, we are here assembled, this Fourth day of July, this One Hundredth anniversary of the Nation's Independence, that we may compare the past with the present, that we may realize in some measure how wonderful the changes that have been wrought and with what marvelous rapidity the car of material progress is moving on. When we remember how feeble the beginnings, how few in numbers, and how weak in resources were those who, one hundred years ago, consecrated their all upon the alter of human rights and human equality before the law, and then look at the republic of today with its glorious achievements, its broad area extending from the Atlantic Ocean on the east to the Pacific on the west, and from the British Possessions north, to the Gulf of Mexico south, with its teeming millions of people full of the enterprise and restless activity of this nineteenth century, with its untold agricultural, mineral, and mechanical resources, with its mighty cities, its vast railroad enterprises, in short, with all the elements and conditions which go to make up a powerful civilized nation standing in the very fore front of the great powers of the earth, when we compare the America of today with that of 1776 we are amazed at the contrast.

And when we remember the struggling ones in other lands, in whom the love of freedom was as strong as in the citizens of this republic and who, like our forefathers, offered up all they held most dear that they might purchase the priceless boon yet were doomed to disappointments, to devastation, and to tyranny, we have reason for humble gratitude to the God of the nation, that our fair land has been so richly blessed. Other nations have been prosperous and have become powerful, but it has taken ages to accomplish in them what a brief century has done for this land. But it is not my purpose at this time to do more than allude to the fact of the marvelous growth of our whole country, that we may rejoice together that we have a county, that it is a great county and that we are part of that county. My chief object is to present briefly some of the leading facts in relation to the early settlement and subsequent history of our own State and County.

Kansas was the ground on which were fought the first battles between freedom and slavery. It seemed to be a question vitally affecting the relative ascendancy of these two antagonistic principles in government, whether these broad prairies and rich valleys of the middle ground between the North and South should be possessed by friends of human rights or by the hosts of slavery. The "irrepressible conflict" was going on and both parties looked to Kansas as the place where should be settled the question whether slavery should continue to be an aggressive power in the land, occupying new territories, or whether it should be confined within the limits which it then occupied. The question was settled, and settled on the side of justice and humanity and the very fact that it required an effort to make Kansas a free state has made freedom all the dearer to her people. Men who fought in defense of their rights as citizens and to preserve the sacredness of the ballot box in '56 made good soldiers to fight for the preservations of the Union, and we find that no state in the government sent a larger proportion of her sons to help save the nation, than did Kansas.

Our state has had the border troubles of '55, '56, and '57, we had the drought of '60, our share in the war for the Union, we have had grasshoppers and some dishonest politicians, but over all these and many other obstacles we have gone on from one achievement to another until now we regard the future prosperity of the State assured and look with pride to what has been attained and with hope to that of which the future gives promise.

It seems almost a matter of regret that we have no Revolutionary history, no record of historic deeds performed in defense of liberty, and that our State had no hand in laying the foundations upon which the mighty superstructure of our government has been built; but though we had no existence when the grand work was done, in honor of which we are assembled today, yet we have the satisfaction of knowing that when the nation's life was threatened by secession our State and County sent forth their gallant sons in no stinted measure, who proved their love for the old flag on many a weary march and on many a hard fought battle field. We are proud of their deeds of valor and of the record they made; and our joy would be complete, today, were all those who went from our midst here to unite us in the glad memorial which this hour bring up, but some of them are sleeping in unknown graves on Southern soil. Willingly they gave their young lives to their country, but were denied the privilege we enjoy of beholding that country reunited, and again prosperous. All honor to the memory of those who went forth at the call of duty never to return; and many others with us today who went forth from homes in other states to join the grand army of their country's defenders and have since cast in their lots with those who came here earlier and our interest now are all one and we have a common pride in the past and present of our State and County and a common hope in their future.

Although it may by some be considered unfortunate that we are so young, we can scarcely go back a score of years instead of a century, to find the record of the first settlement within our borders, yet it is no more a crime in a community to be young, than in an individual, and if a defect it is something that time will most surely remedy.

The first settlement within the borders of Greenwood county was made in the spring of 1856, on the Verdigris River mainly within the limits of what is now Lane township. These settlers consisted of a colony of families from Mississippi, and were said to have come here to help make Kansas a slave state. Most of these have since moved to other states. One of the original patriarchs remains with his family, and whatever may have been his motives when he came to our county he now rejoices with us in the fact that Kansas was saved to freedom. Enoch Reeves also settled near the mouth of the Little Walnut in the fall of the same year. In the spring and summer of 1857 settlements were made in the Verdigris valley, on Fall River, and most of the intervening streams. In the spring of '57, D. Vining, Austin and Fred Norton, Anderson Hill, Wesley Pearsons, Mark Patty, Myrock Huntley, E.R. Holderman, Delashmutt, William Martindale, and E.G. Duke, took their claims or made settlement in Madison township. This township at that time was part of Madison county, being attached to Greenwood some years later. In the fall of the same year the Pritchards, Blakeleys, and Hensleys came in. In the spring of this year James and W.F. Osborn, Isaac Sharp, David Smith, and others located further down the river, mostly in Lane township, and Robert Clark, Fletcher, and a few others settled in Pleasant Grove Township. Mrs. Clark, who lived on the Verdigris east of Eureka, was there nine months without seeing a white woman.

The first settlers on Fall River reached the valley early in July 1857, and most of them were in doubt for a time whether to take claims and remain or not. They were well pleased with the country, but feared that they were so far out on the border that it would be years before other settlers would come in, and perhaps the faith and courage of one woman had as much to in determining the question whether they should stay or go back as any other influence. Those who came at this time were Josiah Kinnaman, Archibald Johnston, Peter Ricker, Adam Glaze, John Baker, Wayne Sumner, William Kinnaman, and their families. About a month later M.L. Ashmore, Prather, and others, stopped on the present site of Eureka and determined to lay out a town. At this time there was a great mania for building paper towns in Kansas so much so that it was jocosely suggested that the Legislature should be petitioned to set apart at least one-fourth of the land for agricultural purposes before it was all taken by the townsite speculators. The location of the site of the future city of Eureka was very largely determined by the discovery of a spring which has never ceased to furnish an abundant supply of pure cold water to all thirsty souls who came within reach of it from that day to this.

In the fall of 1857 a Town Company was organized, the location of the town was definitely fixed upon and a survey made. The Company organized at this time was made up partly of resident stockholders and partly of nonresidents. P.D. Ridenour of the firm Ridenour & Baker, Lawrence, Randolph, and Hunt, of Emporia, were among the original corporators. Each member of this illustrious company could see untold wealth in store for him, when the town should be properly advertised and the proceeds from the sale of corner lots should come flowing into the treasury. The first house erected upon the town site of Eureka was built in August 1857 and was a school house. This new city was to be an educational center, hence its founders deemed, that, in the eternal fitness of things, the first house should be consecrated to intellectual culture. This primitive temple of learning was neither Gothic nor Corinthian in its architectural design and finish, nor on the other hand built of logs such as the settlers made their cabins of. It must be constructed of the best possible material available, and as there were no saw mills in the country from which lumber could be obtained, short boards were riven from oak logs and nailed to upright posts set in the ground, the roof being of the same material. Some of the pleasantest associations of the pioneer life of those early settlers cluster around this rude structure. Here caucauses and political gatherings were held, here children and adults met in Sabbath School to study the Word of Life, here the people met to sing, and here questions of mighty import were discussed and decided by the Eureka Literary Association or Debating Society, here the itinerant preacher pointed his hearers to the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, and here the Kansas schoolmaster helped to prepare the children for the earnest work of life.

Let us hold in sacred memory this rude sanctuary set apart for man's higher needs. But for the destroying fire angel it might have served the community for many years as town hall, school house, and church. In the spring of 1858 the first settlements were made on the Osage lands, in the south part of the county. W.C. Waybright was one of the first to locate in that part of the county. At this time another town site was laid off, and the foundation of what was to be the future metropolis of the county were laid by driving numerous stakes on the point of prairie between Fall River and Otter Creek, about two miles west of the junction of the two streams. The name of this embryo city has escaped my memory. Towns were also staked out during this season on Bachelor, Wolfe, Slate, and Willow Creeks, and on the Verdigris at different points, and on the Upper Fall River. Settlements were made that year on all the streams in the county north of Fall River. The Otts, and others, located on Willow Creek in the autumn of 1851, and the Carrolls on Bachelor, Ladd Erickson, Christianson, and others, on Upper Fall River.

We are forcibly reminded of the constant changes which are taking place in a new county by the fact that of all the families who came to the country as early as the summer of 1857, but very few remain at this time. In Madison township William Martindale is the only one left. In Lane we still find Fred Norton, W.F. Osborn, and Isaac Sharp; in Pleasant Grove, Mrs. Smyth and Mrs. Clark; in Janesville no one; in Eureka, Adam Glaze, Archibald Johnston, Josiah Kinnaman, and their families, Carydon Ricker and the writer of this history. In Salt Springs Township we still find the genial contenance of Allen Thompson, who was one of the very first settlers in the Verdigris valley. If there are any others still living in the county who came so early as the summer of 1857, they have escaped my notice.

I have heard many of the settlers of later years speak of finding things "mighty unhandy," as they termed it, in this new country, yet they experienced but few of the difficulties encountered by those who came at first. Their supplies of provisions, groceries, and everything needed in the household had to be brought from Kansas City, a distance of 140 miles, on wagons drawn by oxen, there being no grain in the country to feed horses on. From twelve to fourteen days were usually required to make the journey. The nearest post office for settlers in the Fall River valley was at Hampden, a small town on the east side of the Neosho, a short distance from Burlington, and the only chance to mail letters to friends in the east or to get letters from them was by the hands of those who chanced to be traveling the road to and from Kansas City or Lawrence. At that time messages from home were like angel's visits, few and far between. The first P.O. established in this county was at Pleasant Grove, this office was with mail once a week from Le Roy, and when in the latter part of the year 1858 a P.O. was granted at Eureka, and the privilege accorded to the citizens of carrying their own mail in a government bag once a week, and only twenty miles to go to reach a post office furnished with weekly mail service, they felt that civilization was rapidly advancing and that there was little more to be desired in the way of mail facilities; gradually, however, the novelty of the thing wore off and taking turns carrying the mail in the busy new country was found to be somewhat irksome, and finally when the government mail carrier came along one day with mailbag across his saddle he was hailed with little less delight than the railroad would be now.

The first political convention held in Greenwood county met at Pleasant Grove March 1st, 1858. The business of the convention was to place in nomination a candidate for delegate to represent the county in the consititutional convention to be held at Leavenworth; the Fall River settlement was entitled to three delegates in this county caucus. The morning of the day on which this august body was to assemble found the three delegates ready for an early start. The leader and spokesman of the delegation, M.L. Ashmore, on horseback in the van, the other two delegates bringing up the rear in good order on foot. After a tiresome march of twenty miles the Pleasant Grove timber was reached and the delegates from the Verdigris found to be present. After partaking of lunch the convention proceeded to place in nomination a candidate for delegate, which resulted in the choice of M.L. Ashmore, of Eureka, and although the contest was somewhat short between the two main settlements as to which possessed the suitable man for the occasion and although one party was necessarily unsuccessful, I have never heard it charged that any "ring" was formed, or that money was used to bring about the desired result. Of those who attended this first convention, I believe but one remains in the county at this time.

The first election in the county was for Delegate to Congress, and was held Oct. 5th, 1857, whole number of voted polled 27. M.L. Ashmore was elected delegate to the Leavenworth Constitutional Convention March 9th, 1858. The election at which the present constitution of the state was adopted was Oct. 4th, 1859; 40 votes were cast in the county, 24 for, and 16 against the constitution.

During the year 1858 and 1859 quite large accessions were made to settlements on all the streams, and the people began to feel that their anticipations in regard to settlement and development of the county were to be fully and speedily realized; the harvest of 1859 was a bountiful one and although people were not making money in the ordinary sense of the term, yet they were making homes for themselves, were helping to organize and build up society; they were out of debt, hence independent of financial crises, they were obliging toward each other, each ready to lend a helping hand to his neighbor, to assist in raising a log cabin, or to defend him in his right against any who might take advantage of the fact that they were without the pale of the law and attempt to infringe upon the rights of others. Their very dependence upon each other made them the most accommodating and kind of any people with whom it had been my fortune ever to mingle. Sickness and death drew out the sympathy and helpfulness of all within reach of the afflicted ones. Cut off in a measure from the outside world, they were a world unto themselves. And although they were subject to hardships and privations, to the sickness consequent upon a change of climate and were deprived of the luxuries, conveniences and privileges to which they had been accustomed in their eastern homes, yet on the whole those pioneers were cheerful and happy in the consciousness that they were helping to lay the foundation of a new state consecrated to freedom.

But the trial time came which put to the severest test the faith, the courage, and the endurance of the early settlers. The year 1860 found them almost entirely dependent for subsistence upon the crops they had planted, having spent the money they brought with them in opening their farms and in supporting their families. Some with large families felt that they could not go through the winter and spring which followed the drouth of 1860, and consequently abandoned their homesteads and sought temporary refuge in the older communities east. It is difficult to see how many of those who remained could have lived until the next year's crop brought relief, but for the timely aid so generously contributed by the people in the eastern states. Indeed the task of bringing supplies from Atchison, a distance of 160 miles, with teams which had become weakened from the loss of their accustomed grain, and this during one of the stormiest winters Kansas has ever experienced, the local committees compelled to sell enough of the last load brought in, to pay the expenses of teamsters who should bring the next, was really as great as they could perform.

The first settlers in Greenwood county were absolutely and entirely without law. There was not a single court, magistrate, or officer within the limits of the county. Yet whenever an exigency arose requiring that any citizen should be protected in his rights, the people were ever ready for the emergency. A few incidents will illlustrate this. A man named Burnside had settled on Wolfe Creek (now called Homer Creek), and made some improvements, and being of a speculative turn had sold his claim to a Mr. Simons, posession to be given whenever Mr. S. came on with his family. In due time Mr. Simons and family came on to the place, but in settling the details of the trade there was some misunderstanding about the matter, and thinking that they might settle by a trial of physical strength that which they had been unable to settle peaceably, they did that which first inhabitants should never do. They had a fight over their difficulties. But the one who cam out of this contest second best was not yet fully convinced that his opponent was right, and having but one or two neighbors, and they prejudiced as he thought, he came to Eureka to secure the services of disinterested parties to decide the matter in dispute. Accordingly a wagon load of men went to the scene of the conflict, and after patiently hearing the evidence of both sides chose three of the number present to determine the matter at issue, which was done without delay. And the decision there rendered was strictly carried out to the very letter as though it had been the finding of the court of justice. Thus was settled in less than a day, and without any expense, a dispute which in our present highly civilized state would doubtless occupy the time of the courts several days, and cost several hundred dollars.

Another incident will show the strong sense of justice which obtained among the pioneers. Mr. A, had given the deed in confidence to his father-in-law, to be held by him a short time, until a certain difficulty which Mr. A. had was settled, and then it was returned to the rightful owner. But said father-in-law caused the deed to be recorded and refused to re-convey it to his son-in-law. The settlers living in the vicinity assembled and by means of a rope persuaded Mr. H., the father-in-law, to return the property, which was a valuable quarter section of land in Madison township.

The settlers also organized claim protective associations, adopting rules and regulations to govern them. This was a matter of necessity, to prevent the strong from imposing on the weak. Their rules provided for the protection of absentees, stipulated the length of time that might elapse after a claim was taken before work must be done on it; also the length of time that a man might be necessarily absent from his claim and other regulations which were rigidly enforced as are the requirements of the Land Office at the present time.

Organization of the county. The Territorial Legislature of 1861 passed an act attaching the north part of Madison county to Breckenridge and the south part to Greenwood county. The State Legislature of 1862 made provisions by special act for the organization of Greenwood county, naming M.E. Stratton, W.F. Osborn, and R.H. Gasaway as commissioners to carry into effect the provisions of the act. Janesville was named as the temporary county seat. Several ineffectual attempts had been made previously to organize. In the spring of 1860 a board of commissioners appointed by the Territorial Legislature, met at Eureka, which had been designated as the county seat, for the purpose of effecting an organization, but this as well as one or two other attempts failed, partly on account of local questions and partly because they were not yet ready for a moved of the kind. The commissioners above referred to divided the county into five townships, viz: Madison, Lane, Pleasant Grove, Janesville, and Eureka, and appointed the following officers: Wm M. Hill, County Clerk. J.M. Todd, Probate Judge, James Steel, Sheriff, H.C. Van Horn, Assessor, Wm. Martindale, Treasurer, and E. Tucker, Register of Deeds. They also ordered an election in the several townships for township officers which resulted in the choice of Wm. Stevens and John Hudson, as Justices of the Peace, and John Criswell, trustee in Janesville township, Harvy Norton and Wm. Maloney, Justices, and W.F. Osborn, trustee in Lane township, and J.L. Rose, Justice and Wesley Pearsons, trustee, in Madison, Pleasant Grove, and Eureka not holding any election. The Board, at their next meetimg, appointed Charles Cameron, Register of Deeds, and David Nichols, Sheriff, in place of James Steele and E. Tucker, who refused to serve.

The first representative elected from Greenwood County was James Kenner, present Probate Judge, who served two terms consecutively. Some present today will doubtless remember the convention at which Judge Kenner received his first nomination, it being held in a grove on the farm of Mr. Ott, in the gravelly bed of Slate Creek, the stream not having any water in it at the time. Wm. Martindale followed Mr. Kenner as Representative, he also serving two terms; it was during his first term that the western boundary of Greenwood County was changed so as to include what are now Salem and Spring Creek townships, the territory embraced in those townhips originally a part of Butler county.

At the first regular election for county officers, held in November, 1862, the following ticket was chosen: Probate Judge: Jotham Keys, County Clerk: Harvey Norton, Sheriff: W.H. Maloney, Assessor: Harrison Mains, Register of Deeds: Patrick Somers, Treasurer: Wm. E. Smith, Superintendent of Public Instruction: E. Tucker, Clerk of the District Court: Wm. Martindale, Commissioners, H.J. Willis, Randall Brown, and Thomas Ashpole.

The new board met at Janesville, January 5, 1863, but were unable to secure a room there in which to hold their sessions, and consequently adjourned to the house of Harvey Norton, in Lane township, and from this time until 1867 the sessions of the County Board were held at the residence of the County Clerk, whoever that might be, each of the other county officers keeping his office at his own home. The Board of Commissioners in 1867 required the county officers to keep their offices at Eureka, which had been made the county seat by a vote of the people on the 17th of November, 1866. Fall River Township was organized in July 1864, and embraced all the territory between the north line of the Osage lands and the south line of the county. From this territory three other townships have since been organized, viz: Salt Springs, Otter Creek, and Twin Groves. Salem township was organized in September 1866.

The expenses of the county during the years which immediately followed its organization were hardly so great as they have since become. For instance, the Probate Judge was allowed $20 from March 1863 to April 1864. During the same time the County Superintendent received $9, the next year $16. In 1864 the Assessor's compensation was $42; this was for valuing the property of the entire county. The County Clerk's salary for 1865 was $56. The expenses of the District Court for Greenwood county during the same year were $168.45. The total amount of tax collected in that part of Greenwood county which formerly belonged to Madison county for the year 1861, was $165.84. Now a single tax payer in that neighborhood pays about $600.

The total amount collected on the tax roll of 1864 was $1089.24 for all purposes. The total footing on the tax roll of 1875, of the levies for all purposes, is $70,347.49, an increase in eleven years of 7000 or seventy hundred percent. This presents a fearful ratio of increase in taxation, one is forced to the conclusion that the added years have not taught us any practical lessons in the economy of public administration.

The early years of the war were troublous times for the county. During the autumn of 1861 Humboldt was twice sacked and burned. During the winter that followed large numbers of Indians were driven from their homes in the Cherokee, Creek, and Seminole nations, by rebel bands of Indians and white men, and these sought refuge on Fall River. They were in constant fear of being followed, and this tended to add to the feeling of insecurity on the part of the settlers. During the fall of 1861 a rude fort was constructed at Eureka, called Fort Montgomery, in honor of Colonel James Montgomery, the gallant free state leader of the eastern border and colonel of the Tenth Kansas Infantry. This fortification was built by a company of home guards, under the command of Captain L. Bemis and Lieutenant H.G. Granson, and was occupied by the company until the company was disbanded. The same fort was used the last year of the war by a detachment of the Fifteenth Kansas Calvalry. Our county was intensely loyal, and although occupying an exposed situation, yet the people generally were in favor of a vigorous prosecution of the war, Mr. Lincoln at his second election receiving all the votes polled but sixteen, Eureka township casting her entire vote for Lincoln electors.

After the war immigrants and land speculators began to flock into the county in large numbers, and thousands of acres of land which had been subject to private entry for six years, was now sought for with eagerness. In the Spring of 1867 the Eureka Town Site Company was organized and the present townsite surveyed and platted. Judge Kenner started the first store in the place in April, 1866, the Eureka House was built and occupied as a hotel in the spring of 1868 and the Eureka Herald issued its first number July 4 of the same year, and from this time the town made quite a rapid growth until 1871, since then its growth has been slow, yet many substantial buildings have been erected. The Court House was completed in 1873, at a cost of $50,000 and the Public School building, costing $29,000, was finished the same year. Within the past few years, small villages have sprung up at Twin Falls and Charleston, on Fall River, and at Madison on the Verdigris. An effort was made to build a town at Greenwood City, in Pleasant Grove township, also in Janesville township at a place called Lincoln City, and in Lane township the Wilton Town Company organized for the same purpose, but I believe in each case the project was abandoned.

The county was for many years without mills, the people going to different points on the Neosho for their lumber and to get their grinding done. They also did most of their trading at the same places. About the year 1862 a water mill was built at Twin Falls. About four years later two steam mills were started on the Verdigris, one at Pleasant Grove and one in the Hawkins neighborhood. Near the same time Sword's Mill was in running order at Salt Springs, and in 1867 a steam saw mill was brought to Eureka. Mills have since been put up at Madison and other points.

Although we are yet without a railroad we have reason to be thankful for the degree of prosperity which had attended us as a county in the past, and there is much to encourage our hope in the future. Our people have shown a laudable interest in the cause of education. School houses which would do credit to much older communities are found in almost every district, and we see signs of material improvement on hand. Although our growth and the development of our resourses is not at present rapid, yet there are undeniable evidence of a steady, permanent advance in all the interests which tend to make a prosperous community. Our population has increased from 360 in 1860 to 6483 in 1875, and our taxable property from $69,522 in 1864 to more than $2,000,000 in 1876; the number of cattle from 564 in 1860 to 22,000 this year; and in other things the ratio of increase had been equally great. But what of the future? Let us remember that we are laying foundations upon which others are to build the future superstructure of society. How important then that those foundation be laid in the eternal principles of truth and right! The political, moral, educational, and religious character of the future of our county depends very much upon the tone and direction which we give to affairs now. And let us not forget that our duties and responsibilities are not confined to this community alone; we are citizens of America, and citizenship in a republic brings with it far weightier responsibilities than devolve upon the individual under any other form of government.

Republicanism had been on trial in this country before the world for one hundred years, and has successfully passed through one of the most trying ordeals to which any principle of government could be subjected.

But let us not indulge the dream that because many of the questions which in the past have shaken to the very foundation the structure built by our fathers are now forever settled, therefore we have nothing to do but to take our political ease. New questions difficult of solution are constantly coming before the people, and must be settled by the people. There is no escape from political duty if we prize and would preserve the liberties purchased for us by the heros of '76.

And as we enter upon the new century of the nation's life let us do it with a firm resolve that we will recognize and commend official honesty and capability wherever found, that we will assist in the punishment of the dishonest no matter how exalted positions they may occupy, that we will shirk no political responsibility however disagreeable to bear, that we will give our support and our ballot only to those who have been tried and not found wanting. And relying upon the guidance and protection of Him who presides over the destinies of nations and who has so signally led us in the past, may we not look forward with bright anticipations to a glorious career of prosperity and peace for our country in the years to come?

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since 19 February 1997.

Copyright ©1997  Debbie Wafford / SLC, Utah

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