Harper County


Welcome to Harper County KSGenWeb










This was typed by Carol Peterson, Freeport, Kansas, of the Harper County Genealogical Society.

Please note that in 1886 in Harper County, that only ten (10) townships were established at that time, (Anthony, Blaine, Chicaskia, Harper, Lake, Odell, Ruella, Silver Creek, Spring, and Stohrville). You may find a copy of this 1886 atlas at the Anthony City Library or the Harper Historical Museum. An effort is on the way to preserve this Atlas and to publish it into a book that can be purchased. It is a terrific resource, full of maps of Harper County, showing the land owner's property, as well as a census of the land owners. If you would like more information about this project please see the Maps Site.

Extracts from the 1886 Historical Atlas

Historical Sketch of Harper County by B.F. Lee of Anthony

Part One

Harper County is centrally located on the south line of the State, and is one of the thirty-seven counties blocked out on the maps and bounded by the general statutes of the State in 1868, page 236; but by statutory act, January 1872, the legislature in creating Kingman County, detached six townships from the north line of Harper and attached them to Kingman, leaving Harper in its present form, about 26 & 3/4 by 30 miles. This includes of the Osage Diminished Reserve, a tract 24 by 30 miles, and of the Cherokee Neutral Strip a tract about 2 & 3/4 by 30 miles. The former was sold to actual settlers, 160 acres each, at $1.25 per acre, under the pre-emption laws in trust for the Osage Indians, except sections 16 and 36 which belonged to the State and were sold for school purposes at not less than $3.00 per acre. Of the latter there were 49,258 acres in this county, but there was very little of it sold until the government offered it at public sale at $1.00 per acre, on August 12, 1878. It continued on the market at private entry at that price until it was all sold, being bought principally in large tracts by speculators.

Harper County is in comparatively a low attitude of about 1,325 feet above sea level in the center of the county. It is bounded on the north by Kingman County, on the east by Sumner County, on the South by the Indian Territory, and on the west by Barber County. It is about the most desirable tract of country for pleasant and profitable homes that can be found on all the great Osage belt, having been owned, but never appreciated, by many of the Aborigines and later by the more civilized nations of France and Spain.

. Harper County, having been bounded by the legislature of 1868, with many other counties in Kansas, attracted little or no attention until 1873, when a giant scheme of swindling struck the brains of some villains on the border of Missouri and Kansas. These men met at Baxter Springs, Labette County, Kansas, early in 1873, and planned the organizing of new counties in southern Kansas. Wiggins, a grocer at Baxter Springs, agreed to furnish what funds he could rise out of his stock, while his partners, Boyd & Horner, were to "chip in" liberally of what they possessed, which consisted principally of their experience in villainy and fraud. With the proceeds of Wiggins' property, they set out for Harper County, meeting on their way George Lotus, a trapper, whom they persuaded to join them as guide. After a short survey and hunt for the center of the county, they located on Rush Creek, a small branch of Bluff Creek on what proved to be ___1/4 Section ___, Township 32 south, Range 7 west, of the sixth P.M., though it is believed they never knew the description of the land, as they gave no numbers of land in their records. They built a frame house 16 x 18 feet, dug a well and opened out on their infamous work. They set up Buffalo bones for houses and naming the residents by consulting their very fertile brains, or copying city directories, went through the mockery of enumeration in due form. They petitioned Gov. Osborn, asking for the enumeration of Harper County (petition dated July 13th, 1873) and asking the appointment of John Davis for special census taker; H.H. Weaver, H.P. Fields and Samuel Smith for special county commissioners, and Daniel Holson for special county clerk, stating in said petition that the city of Bluff City was centrally located in the county, and being the largest and most important town in the county, with good water and timber, asked that it be assigned the temporary county seat of Harper County. On the 16th day of September, 1884, W.M. Matheny and Thomas S. Jones were appointed by the presiding officers in the two houses of the legislature as commissioners to investigate the frauds and ascertain the facts in relation to the organization and bonded indebtedness of Comanche, Harper and Barber counties. These commissioners made a majority report, but Attorney General A. L. Williams made a minority report. In the first report the committee finds "as to the county of Harper that on the 13th day of July, 1873, a petition purporting to be signed by forty citizens, householders and legal electors of Harper County, sworn to be T.J. Jones, J.D. Mains and J.G. Howe, three citizens of said county, as provided by law, was made out in due form and presented to the Governor, setting forth that there were at that time 600 bona fide inhabitants in Harper County, and asking that said county be organized under the laws of the State of Kansas." The Governor accordingly appointed special county officers, appointing John Davis, so named, to take the census of the county; and his census, with 641 names with petition relating to the organization of the county, was filed in the office of the Secretary of State, August 20, 1873. The Governor then, as required by law, declared Harper County organized. The committee further state that "It is our opinion that there never have been forty bona fide inhabitants in Harper County; that gross and inexcusable frauds have been practiced by those who engaged in planning and procuring the organization of said county...... and that the names as reported by said census taker are forgeries." In their report as to the indebtedness of Harper County they state: "The present bonded indebtedness is $40,000; that $25,000 of the debt is for court house bonds, and the remaining $15,000 is for funding debt; that the court house bonds were filed in the office of the Auditor of State March 12, 1874, and the funding bonds April 4, 1874; that there is not nor has there ever been a court-house in the county, and that we do not know what has become of the bonds, but have heard that they were sold in the St. Louis market, and the money used by the individuals selling them for their own use, and not one dollar used for the purpose proposed or for the benefit of Harper County. There is no record of the time or place of voting the bonds or proof that an election had been held in the county. No county books were ever seen or persons claiming to be officers of said county." Attorney General Williams, in his minority report, says: "It is not pretended that Harper County ever had a bona fide inhabitant in it; it is doubtful if even the bond makers themselves were in the county when the bonds were made;" and as to the amount of indebtedness, he gives it as above stated by the committee. In view of these facts it is not strange that Harper County should be slow to settle and take a respectable stand among the southern counties of Kansas, as its merits demanded. It required a good degree of nerve and farseeing penetration into the future to attempt to settle it in the face of all the opposing features and counter evidences, but these qualities were the predominant make-up of the settlers of Harper County in 1877. It was left for such men as G.M. Goss, who had already blazed the way and helped to overcome mountains of opposition to other settlements in other States, to first look it over with any eye to bona fide settlement.

In the fall of 1876, with canteen, picket rope and pony, he examined it thoroughly and reported. It was left for a small band of home seekers, consisting of Goss, GLenn, Snyder, Barton, and a few others from Bloomfield, Iowa, about fifteen persons, men, women and children, first to strike the soil of Harper County as a nucleus for a bona fide settlement, stopping at the point where Harper City now stands, and laying out a town there on the 6th day of April, 1877. It was left to a small number of brave men and women in 1877 and in 1878, who were willing to give up comfortable homes, with all that home means, in the older States, and identify themselves with an experiment beyond the limits of civitization, and brave the dangers that had so far intimidated all who had attempted to settle this county. The tourist, trapper or cattleman that passed this way then tooked upon it as good for nothing, except the short buffalo grass that fed their herds, and repeatedly said that the storms and drouths would drive every family out of the county in less than one year, and that this county was only intended for buffato and Indians. They told us in 1877 that we were beyond the rain belt; that it was a curse and shame to plow this land, and especially a great hazard of money and life to bring families here to starve to death. But things have changed. The desert is transformed into an Eden of roses, fruits, fields, orchards and groves. Schoolhouses, churches, villages and cities are the growth of a day; and along the valley where the trapper or trader last camped, hunted or traded, he now looks with doubtful amazement at the great iron horse speeding on impatiently, transporting his precious cargo of life and fortunes from one city to another on his shining tract of steel. Things have changed - the climate, soil, grass, the people, all have changed.

There are two main trunk railroads crossing the county from east to west. The Southern Kansas, passing west from Wellington in Sumner County, enters Harper County eight and a half miles south of the northeast corner of the county, passing Danville, Harper, Crystal Springs, Attica and Crisfield, entering Barber County ten miles north of the southeast corner, passing Hazelton to Kiowa, the present terminus, near the State line.

The St. Louis, Fort Scott & Wichita Railroad leaves Wichita in a southwestern course, crossing the first road at Argonia about two miles from the west line and in Sumner, and enters Harper County about one and a half miles south of the Southern Kansas Railroad, passing Freeport and Midlothian to Anthony, the present terminus.



The first settler in the county was M. Devoure and family, on Bluff Creek, in the southeast corner of the county, early in 1876. About the same time, John Lamar and Henry E. Jesseph settled on the Chicaskia, near where the railroads now cross the county line on the east. These were the men that G.M. Goss found in the county when he visited it in the fall of 1876, looking out a location for a colony; but before the colony arrived, in the spring following, there were a number of claims marked and some permanent settlements. Among them might be named E. McEnany, Martin Lewis, F.B. and S.S. Singer, in the southeast; and G.W. Francis and Silas Burt, in the northeast corner, on the Chicaskia, in the winter of 1876 and 1877.



The county was organized in 1878 by the appointment of the following officers, in August: E. McEnany, Sheriff; H.E. Jesseph, Clerk; R.B. Dawson, Probate Judge; R.W. Kirkpatrick, Attorney; H.C. Fisler, Register of Deeds; L.J. Rinehart, Treasurer; B.F. Lee, Surveyor; R.H. Lockwood, Superintendent of Public Instructions; T.H. Stevens, of Anthony, J.B. GLenn, of Harper, and F.B. Singer, of the southeastern part of the county, as County Commissioners. But Glenn declined to serve; so there were but two Commissioners till till the regular election, in November, 1878.

A majority of the officers favoring Anthony as the most central place offering any accommodations for officers, they convened there August the 26th, 1878, as the first legal officers of the county. A writ of quo warranto was at once brought, by common consent of all parties and by request of the Governor, to test the validity of the Governor's appointments; the result of which was, the appointments were sustained by the Supreme Court.

At the first meeting of the Commissioners the following was ordered spread upon the records:

"To All Whom it May Concern --- Know ye, that we, the County Commissioners of the county of Harper, state of Kansas, did on the first day of our first session as Commissioners of said county, at Anthony assembled, this the 26th day of August, 1878, procured conveyance and make diligent search for the alleged town of Bluff City, supposed to be the county seat of said county. And be it further known, that we failed to find any town or village, or anything pertaining to a town or village, nor did we believe that there was any such place in said county.

Therefore, We do hereby designate the town of Anthony, in the County of Harper aforesaid, as the temporary county seat of said County. /S/ T. H. Stevens, Chairman; F.B. Singer, Commissioner."

At the first meeting of the Commissioners, they divided the county into three Commissioners' districts and laid the county into eight voting precincts, with the following places for voting: Chicaskia, at J. W. Cleahouse's; Harper, at Harper; Lake, at Cooper's ranch; Silver Creek, at B.H. Freeman's; Anthony, at Anthony; Ruella, at Dr. Perry's; Stohrville, at S.G. Reid's; Spring, at L. Cooper's.

The first county-seat election took place in November, 1879. The county then had between 800 and 900 legal voters, while the returns showed up 2,960 votes --- which did look a little suspicious; and some said there were unscrupulous frauds practiced in some precincts. Instead of canvassing the votes, they left the ballots in the poll boxes until they could get proper legal advice, but afterward, when opening the boxes, found them empty.

The people of Anthony and Harper both made a move at about the same time, applying for an alternative writ of mandamus to compel a canvass of the vote, the Anthony folks claiming that there were at least three townships in the south end of the county that had cast strictly a legal vote, which it is believed now were the only townships exempt from fraud. They were Ruella, Stohrville and Silver Creek. The Harper party moved to all clauses charging fraud. This motion was overruled by Justice Brewer, of the Supreme Court, on the ground that 2,960 votes were too many for 800 electors to cast. But in a short time, R.B. Shepard, deputy county attorney, secured an order for a count from the old tally sheets, and the result was found to be in favor of Anthony.

The first school-house built in the county was at Anthony, at a cost of $1,300. The first school district organized was the Anthony District, No. 1, organized February 2, 1879. The first newspaper printed in the county was the Anthony "Journal," established in August, 1878; edited by J.S. Soul. The first bank in the county was the Harper County Bank of Anthony, established in July, 1879, by P. Anderson & Son. The first mill in the county was the Globe Flouring Mill of Anthony, built in 1881, by Messrs. Bulger, Holdridge & Connelly, at a cost of $2,500.

Some of the principal stock growers owning the land they graze, are as follows:

L.C. Bidwell, of Anthony, owns about 12,000 acres of land on the south line of the county, all under barbed wire fence, on which he is keeping about 1,000 head of cattle and horses.

Corrigan & Hale own 6,480 acres in the southwestern part of the county, under fence, on which they keep generally about 500 head of cattle.

Walter E. Tredwell, who began in this county seven years ago by pre-empting a 1/4 section of land three mites north of Anthony, now owns in one body, under fence, 6,000 acres, on which he is keeping fine breeds of horses, cattle and hogs; is farming about 500 acres; has now 500 head of thoroughbred Shorthorns, Hereford and Galloway cattle.

Hammer Bros. & Forbes own about 6,000 acres, fenced and well watered, five miles southeast of Anthony, fully stocked with cattle, horses, hogs and sheep, and are farming about 500 acres.

G.M.Goss, the pioneer of the Harper County settlement - the man who moved from Harper to Anthony in a wheelbarrow, lived in a tent on his claim the first winter, not then the owner of an acre of land or a dollar in money - is now the largest farmer in the country, having about 1,400 acres of very rich land about eight miles southwest of Anthony; is farming 1,000 acres, all under the best enclosure and subdivision fences in the county; having five neatly finished tenant houses, each surrounded with all the comforts of an independent home, besides his own mansion on an elevation that overlooks, not only his own farm, but a scope of over fifty square miles of the finest settlements in the county, being in full view of both railroads, and from his observatory he can watch the trains as they run into five different towns.

There are seventy-six school districts organized in the county, most of them having large and comfortable houses for school and church purposes, with a school population of about 5,000 between the ages of five and twenty-one.

There are sixteen post offices and eight towns, three of them incorporated as cities.

Anthony, the county seat, is a beautiful little city of about 3,000 inhabitants. It was selected and laid out on a section of preemption land, April 6, 1878, just one year after Harper was located. Both have made rapid and wonderful growth, and are now about equal in population.

The town site was selected with great care and judgment, and in order to secure the present most magnificent location, the company had to move a trifle over two mites south of the center, and on the same north and south line, and nine miles south of Harper. Anthony stands on a beautiful plateau of very rich land, slightly dipping to Spring Creek, one mile west, and Willow Creek, one mile east, and a very gradual decline to Bluff Creek, three miles south. It was located and proved up by a company of twenty-four members, mostly Kansas men, men of experience, money and pluck, many of them giving their entire time and energies, and no small amount of money to build a town worthy of such a county.

They built a barrack 20 by 36 feet to shelter the families and their goods as they came in. They dug three public wells, laid out roads, and made crossings on the streams, put up guide boards to help the stranger find their new town. They put up a flag pole in the center of the town, but many times instead of a flag they run up a burning lantern of nights to guide the lost and weary ones who had strayed on the trackless expanse that surrounded them for many miles. They made liberal donations of lots for churches, schools and many public enterprises, one block for a brick yard, one block for a sugar factory, one for a steam mill, on which now stands a roller process flouring mill, and one choice block on which the company built in 1881 the present substantial, commodious brick court-house, 44 by 44 feet, and deeded it to the county so long as it chose to use it for that purpose, and gave lots to all who would build on them. They started a union Sunday-school and a prayer meeting, and had preaching in B.F. Lee's house, the first residence built on the town site. They encouraged all honorable industries, but set their faces as steel against intemperance, vice and crime.

One incident perhaps worthy of note here, and one seldom if ever repeated in the history of new towns. The twenty-four members of the Town Company agreed to place in a hat the numbers of twenty-four quarter sections including four eighty-acre tracts, nearest the town site, and each one take for his preemption the number he drew out. And strange as it may seem it was no less true that each one seemed to get his choice, and all satisfied, a thing that could not have been done by looking over the land. No town ever had just such a beginning, and but few ever had such steady growth and prosperity. But no town ever had more noble, free-hearted, self-supporting men and women, true as steel, yet generous and indulgent.

During the present year there has been erected sixteen handsome two and three story brick and brown stone business houses, at a cost of not less than $75,000, and at least $15,000 of frame business houses, and over $100,000 worth of residences, over 200 in number, which gives a total of $190,000, besides the contemplated new bank building for the Harper County National, and $8,000 for the Baptist church, and $18,000 for the new school-house, the last two now rapidly approaching completion, will virtually place the improvements of the city for the year 1885 at not less than $220,000. It has large and commodious public halls where meet most of the secret organizations found in older cities, among which the Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and Ancient Order of United Workmen being among the benevolent associations.

Soon after the railroad ran into Anthony, in 1885, it was made a city of the second class, showing the requisite number of 2,500 inhabitants. It can justly boast of the finest and most comfortable hotels in the West. The public schools are all that any one could wish or expect in any country. The new school building will cost about $20,000 and is one of the best in the State. There are here four church edifices well furnished and organized. Three National banks with a capital of from $50,000 to $100,000 each. Anthony has three weekly and two daily papers, well supported and prosperous.

Danville, a thriving business town, five miles from the east line of the county on the Southern Kansas Railroad, was laid out in 1880 and named after Dan Cole, one of the first settlers in that inexhaustibly fertile valley of the Chicaskia, enjoying the trade of one of the wealthiest settlements in the county.

Attica, twelve miles west of Harper, the junction of the Kiowa and Medicine Lodge branches of the Southern Kansas Railroad, was laid out and platted in June, 1884, but on the fourth of July there were not yet any national celebrations, all was silent and the ancient turf remained as it had been for ages past, not the sound of a saw or hammer yet disturbed the quiet of an unbroken prairie. See it to-day a prodigy, the wonder not only of strangers but of those that laid it out, a young city of 1,000 or 1,300 busy, happy people. The business done here is simply immense; it has often occurred that houses could not be erected fast enough to contain the business. The lumber and coal trade alone is $250,000. The whole commerce trade for the first year will approximate $1,000,000. It is very healthy, having an abundance of soft, clear water, in that part of the county.

The land where Attica now stands was formerly owned by Richard Botkin, Miss L.C. Walker and Mrs. M.E. Atherly. The railroad was completed to this point in October, 1884, and now has an area of twenty acres in side tracks. The town was laid out by the Arkansas Valley Town Co., and the first lot was sold to J.E. Hamilton, who erected the first building and opened the first store in the town; the first dwelling was built by Sam. T. Tedford; the first hotel was built by M.E. Atherly and E.C. Wallace, and named the Attica Hotel; it is now known as the "Laclede." There are now two first-class hotels, the Laclede and National.

The first school held in the town was in the building built by Sam. T.Tedford, and was taught by I.L. Beeson, the first settler in Ruella Township. The present brick structure was built during the summer of 1885, at a cost of $5,500. The school now enrolls 180 pupils. Attica has two newspapers, the "Advocate" being the first to issue; the "Record" was started during the fall of 1885. There are two banks, A. C. Jobes started the first, and Slayback, Rankin & Co., the second. The first religious services were held at the "Attica"Hotel , by Rev. J.D. Botkin. The Methodist Episcopal society built a church in

1885, at a cost of $2,000. Attica was organized as a city of the third class in February, 1885, with J.T. Botkin as mayor. He was also elected at the April election.

Attica post office was established in 1880, with V.J. Beeson as postmaster, and was located at the residence of I.L. Beeson, on section 28, Township 32, Range 8. G.W. Markham was the next postmaster and the office moved to his residence, where it remained until the town was located, when it was moved to that point. A prominent feature, and one deserving special mention, is the Mineral Springs of Attica, located on the farm of Richard Botkin, just west of the town. These springs have great medicinal properties and will add greatly to the popularity of Attica.

Mid Lothian and Freeport.---These towns may be co-existent, starting as they did in February, 1885, only sixty rods apart, on the St. Louis, Fort Scott & Wichita Railroad, Freeport being laid out by some of the railroad officials, and Mid Lothian by the farmers, who claim that the railroad company had to put the depot on their location; however, the farmers joined together and got the Mid Lothian post office, which was established at the residence of B.H. Freeman, four mites southeast of the location of the town. Mr. Freeman was appointed first postmaster, and still holds the office. The two towns now have a population of nearly 500, and have about forty business houses.

Crisfield.---This town is about two miles east of the west line of the county, and is too young to have much of a history, but it had a good beginning and bids fair to make a flourishing town; though only a few months old it can boast of more comforts than many old towns in the East, having a good public school building, church, one newspaper, one grist mill and a full line of business of all kinds.

On to Part 2

KSGenWebHarper County KSGenWeb


Maintained by Harper County Genealogical Society as part of the KSGenWeb Project.
Material on this page is the property of the Society and all rights are reserved.
Should you find a link that does not work properly  please notify the