Harper County


Welcome to Harper County KSGenWeb









1886 Historical Atlas

Historical Sketch of Harper County by W.O. Graham, of Harper

Part 2

While it is supposed that Coronado over 300 years ago crossed this county with his Argonautic expedition, and that Daniel Boone some 200 years later, passed through on foot to visit the Salt Plains of the Indian Territory, and while it is known that various parties, cattlemen, hunters, Indian fighters, etc., have invaded and made short stops in the county, but few early dates can be accurately fixed. In 1871 a party of surveyors located the south line of the State, and in 1872 the three mile strip on the south side of the county known as the Cherokee strip was surveyed and sectionized. The Texas cattle dead line was moved as far west as the east side of this county in 1872, and Johnny Blair opened a trading post in a log house at the junction of the Kiowa and Chisholm trails. August, 1873, stands out prominently as the date of the illegal organization of the county, before there was a single actual settler within its borders. In 1874 and 1875 several parties visited the county buffalo hunting, and Dec. 25 of the latter year John Lamar located in Chicaskia Township, the second settler in the county, on the southeast quarter of Section 35, Township 31, Range 5 West, and completed a dugout the following month, where he lived a whole year and witnessed the arrival of only one of two more settlers.

1877 may be considered as the starting point in the settlement of the county. In March, that year, Messrs. B.F. Kemp, Hon. G.W. Francis and Silas Burt settled in Chicaskia Township. At Hutchinson, Kansas, April 1, the Harper City Town Company was organized and consisted of the following persons: J.B. Glenn, R. Barton, A.T. Barton, M.H. Glenn, G.M. Goss, Clark Goss, Thos. Elder, B.L. Fletcher, M.K. Kittleman and T.D. Miller, and on the 14th of April they arrived and laid out the town. The following ladies accompanied the men and shared the hardships of camp life until houses of sod and lumber could be built: Mesdames Belle Goss, R. Barton, A.T. Barton and Joe Haney and Miss Mary Gorman. Miss Gorman was the first young lady settler in the county. On the 16th work was first commenced on a house in Harper by J.B. Glenn, but Ross Barton completed the first frame house in both town and county, April 19. In May C.C. Phelps opened the first blacksmith shop in the county, in Harper. July 1 Mrs. J.B. Glenn was commissioned postmistress at Harper. The first child born in the county was Linus Blubaugh, son of B.F. Blubaugh, of Chicaskia Township, born July 17. In July the last wild buffalo was killed in the county by a Mr. Lewis. In October Rev. A. Axline, a Presbyterian minister, preached the first sermon in the county in the dining room of the Glenn House, and on the 21st organized the first church --- the Presbyterian church of Harper. This organization contained several persons who joined simply to start a church, and who soon dropped out. In the same month the first Sunday-school was started in Harper with J.H. Gray, superintendent.

April 6, 1878, the town of Anthony was laid out. On the 27th work was commenced on the first house, and in May, Cornell & Wright opened the first store there. June 1, Harry Barndollar opened the first school in the county at Harper, in the up-stairs of the Tracy sisters' building on the present site of the Buckeye block. Forty pupils were enrolled in this subscription school. July 8 Miss Sallie Bidwell opened the second school in the county, at Anthony. August 22, the Anthony Journal, the first paper printed in Harper County, was founded, edited by J.S. Soule. It was a five-column folio with patent outside. The outfit was entirety new, and the paper was very neat in appearance. Sept. 22 took place the first marriage in the county --- Dr. J.W. Madara to Miss Mary Glenn, both of Harper, Rev. J.P. Fulton officiating. In the early part of October Rev. J.P. Fulton organized a Presbyterian church at Anthony. Oct. 24 the Harper County Times was founded at Harper by W.O. Graham. It was a six-column folio with patent inside. Two or three of the first issues were printed in Reed & Keppel's carpenter shop, which contained only an earthen floor. Nov. 5 the first county election was held. Number of votes purporting to have been cast 419--- for Governor, St. John, Republican, 251; Goodin, Democrat, 77; Mitchell, Greenback, 37. Dec. 22 the first law suit was tried in Harper, the object in dispute being four tons of hay, to which neither party seemed to have much right. On the 23rd Miss Eva Francis, now Mrs. J.0. Graham, opened the first school in Chicaskia Township. The 28th Dr. H.C. Fulton opened a select school in Harper in a little frame building on the present site of the school-house.

Pausing in the midst of this monotony of dates, let us look at some of the early incidents of interest occurring during these years. No one can now realize the hardships and deprivations endured by these early pioneers. No Indians were reported in the county since the time of the fraudulent organization until after it had been settled several years, but gaunt hunger, stalked abroad and frequently confronted the most industrious and enterprising. At one time, when there were but eight families west of the Chicaskia, the supply of provisions gave out. Wellington was the nearest trading point, but the Chicaskia River and Slate Creek were past fording. As the situation grew desperate, Wm.Thomas and another gentleman, obtaining a trusty yoke of oxen, started for Wellington. Arriving at the Chicaskia they unhitched the cattle, tied one end of a lariat rope to the cattle's yoke, and the other to the end of the wagon tongue, swam and drove the cattle to a sand-bar, putted the wagon over, and in the same way crossed from the sand-bar to the other side. They also had to swim Slate Creek. A fifty pound sack of flour and the same amount of corn meal was all that could be obtained in Wellington, but they made the best of it. The early settlers were generally freighters, and in their trips from fifty to eighty miles to Wichita many hardships were endured, as they were on the road, rain or shine, winter and summer. Many a time the emaciated, weather-beaten team, over-loaded, stopped in the midst of some of the sandy streams unable to pull through, and the driver carried out half a load of lumber or flour through ice water, waist deep, in cold weather.

We now owe our wealth to the production of wheat, corn and stock, but many an early settler will tell you that had it not been for the buffalo bones found scattered all over the country, for which Wichita offered a ready market, many a family would have gone hungry or been compelled to have deserted their claim. It is impossible to form any accurate estimate of the amount of money realized by the people of this county from this one source, but it certainty was not less than $15,000 or $20,000, and that, too, at the rate of from $6 to $10 a load, often hauled over 100 miles to market, for when bones became scarce in this county they went out in Barber County, and into the territory to gather them. "Old Reliable" Thompson, who settled two miles east of Harper, lived in a dugout in the side of a hill, and finding it difficult in crossing the track-less prairie to find his home raised a flag pole, which answered by day, and when returning at night his wife hung a lantern on it to guide him. But with all the hardships and doubts respecting the future many of the early settlers in Harper pronounce the first winter there the happiest of their lives, far from railroad, and with mail but once or twice a month, and nothing to do during the winter, they visited and held little social gatherings from which no one was excluded. The establishing of a saloon, however, at once divided the people into two factions, and socially the "golden age" of Harper ended. Of the original town company, Ross and A.T. Barton and M.H. Glenn alone remain. Early in the history of the town the Gosses sold out and moved to Anthony. M.K. Kittleman is now the almost world-renowned foot racer --- the champion runner of America (See following article). J.B. Glenn is in business in Kansas City, and the others are seeking fortunes in various places. Before leaving the early days it may be of interest to know that wood instead of coal was burned, although there was not one-tenth as much lumber in the county when it was first settled as there is now. The wood was hauled from the Cedar Hills of Barber County and from the Territory. Many a load was hauled sixty, eighty and even 100 miles, and then sold for less than $5, but generally it was obtained at a distance of thirty or forty miles. The first issue of the Harper County Times contained but two and a quarter columns of home advertisements. The only business houses represented, or in the town of Harper at that time, were Merrick & Lamunyon, general store; F. Blackiston, groceries and hardware, and the Glenn House, which also contained a drug store and the post office. The professional men were Sam S. Sisson, S.W. Mitchell, J. B. Brodnix and I. P. Campbell, attorneys, and H. Martin and C.S. Lloyd, physicians.

In 1879 the Methodist church at Anthony was organized with twenty members, the first week in January, and on the 10th of the same month the church at Harper was organized with twenty five members. Rev. J.W. Payne, of Reno County, effected the organizations. March 18 the first school meeting in Harper was held, at which T.J. Lamunyon was elected director; I.P. Campbell, Clerk; and Dr. H. Martin, treasurer. March 18, fifty-five persons located in and about Harper, among whom were the Hakes, Nobles, Kearns, Carpenters and others. On April 22 the first teachers' examination in the county was held at Anthony. Miss Alice Carpenter and Miss Flora Noble (now Mrs. Jas. McKeever) were the only applicants. The former's certificate was marked ten, or perfect in everything, which has probably not been the case with any certificate issued since. May 15 a company of U.S. Rifles were mistaken by the settlers in the western portion of the county for Indians, and a scare ensued in which several women ran four miles, one with a young child in her arms before the mistake was discovered. June 7 the Harper County Bar Association organized --- ten members. August 3 a Congregational church was organized at Anthony by Rev. W.A. Hobbs. Nov. 5, at an election for permanent county seat, Harper claimed a majority of 269 for County seat, but the county commissioners refused to canvass the vote.

In 1880 Harper was organized as a city of the third class, Sept. 7. Sept. 10 the first train of cars entered the city, on the Southern Kansas Railroad. On the 25th of September the first city election was held, at which the following officers were elected:

Mayor - Sam S. Sisson. Police Judge - Geo. W. Appley. Councilmen - R.B. Elliott, Dr. H. Martin, R.J. Jones, L.G. Hake, S.D. Noble.

Woods, Parsons & Co. opened the first bank in the city, now Ellis & Bourne's bank, Oct. 29, 1880; Thompson & Walton established what is now the First national, July 1, 1882; the Harper Exchange Bank, now the Harper National Bank, opened Jan. 1, 1884. All the banks occupy substantial two-story brick buildings.

The Harper County Driving Park and Agricultural Association was organized in the spring of 1884, and has expended upwards of $10,000 in improving their grounds, which are now well fenced, have one of the finest tracts in the State, and several thousand dollars worth of substantial buildings, stalls, etc. The association has given two very successful fairs and one racing exhibition, which were equally popular and successful. Few, if any other towns in the State of the size of Harper can boast of more commodious fair grounds.

Rothwell's Opera House is another pride of the city. It is a three story brick of artistic design, 5Ox9O feet, finished and furnished after the most approved houses of the kind. It will seat about 700.

The court-house building, which is not yet plastered, is the finest public building in the county; was erected by the city of Harper at a cost of over $9,000. The purpose for which it will be used has not yet been decided.

The Times was the first paper. It was founded Oct. 24, 1878, and published until September 1885, when the office was purchased by the Wendelltown Company and moved to Edwards County.

The Harper Sentinel was established Aug. 17, 1882, by W.A. Richards, since which time O.O. Leabhart, J.C. McKee, T.K. Zingle and C.H. Miller have been the managers and publishers. The office now contains a fine Cambell newspaper press, several good jobbers, large paper cutter, and a good assortment of type, making it a very complete newspaper and job office. The paper is both daily and weekly. The daily was the first in the county, starting Feb. 23, 1884.

The Harper Graphic was established July 24, 1883, by C.S. Finch, the present editor. From a weekly paper without a job outfit the enterprise has grown until to-day it is a first-class newspaper, job and book bindery office, with everything run by steam. The Office contains a new Babcock power press, four jobbers, several paper and card cutters, perforating, numbering machine, etc. The daily was started Feb. 18, 1885. The paper is now both daily and weekly.

Harper Public Library.---Several entertainments were given during 1881, '82 and '83, the proceeds of which went toward establishing a library; but it was not until Aug. 9, 1883, that it was opened to the public. About $60 worth of periodicals were subscribed for and some fifty volumes purchased. The reading room was a failure, being poorly patronized, and costing the first six months some $200. It was then abandoned and the books were placed in a storeroom, free of rent. In October, 1884, the library was moved into its present quarters, and has steadily increased until now it contains upwards of 800 volumes, embracing many valuable works and bound volumes of the newspapers in the county up to Nov. 1, 1884. Harper & Bros., of New York City, donated $200 worth of valuable books. Numerous other donations have been made both by individuals and associations.

Schools.---The public school at present is conducted by a principal, with eight assistants, but both more room and more teachers are needed, and another good building.

Churches.---The Presbyterians organized early in the town's history, and are arranging to build a handsome church on the corner of 12th street and Central avenue south. The building, as planned, will cost about $15,000. Rev. J.P. Fulton was for nearly seven years pastor of the church. In the spring of 1885 Rev. J.M. Wright, of Bloomfield, Iowa, became the pastor. The church is now in a very flourishing condition, with sixty-nine members, and a parsonage has been completed costing $2,500.

The Methodist church was organized Jan. 10, 1879, but was for some time without a pastor. Rev. J.W. Anderson was the first pastor; he arrived the middle of March, 1879. Following him, Rev. W.F. Walch arrived March 19, 1880, but did not remain the entire year, Rev. J.L. Rose filling out the last quarter and the following year, when Rev. J.W. Anderson returned for another year. In March, 1883, Rev. L.J. Van Landingham became pastor and continued until his resignation in the autumn of 1885. This church has the largest membership of any in the county, and has a neat frame building, already too small, on Central avenue, which will soon give place to something handsome and substantial. The membership is now about eighty.

The Baptist Church was organized in October, but no pastor was called until the fall of 1884, when Rev. A.B. Charpie became the minister. Under his pastorate the church has rapidly increased in membership, and a large and beautiful church building is now approaching completion, which will cost about $6,000. The present membership is fifty-nine.

The Christian Church was organized in May, 1884, by Rev. Lucas, and almost immediately Rev. J.Q. Garner became pastor of the church and remained until about the first of June, 1885, when Rev. W.H. Kearn succeeded him and is the present pastor. The membership is about seventy-five and their church building a commodious and neat frame on East Main Street.

The Roman Catholics have a frame church building on East Main Street, but at present no organized church society or regular services.

Societies.---Harper Lodge, No. 191, I.O.O.F., was instituted in Harper Aug. 12, 1882, and now has a membership of about 100. The order several years ago purchased a tract of land convenient to the city for burial purposes, and have improved the same, making a very attractive and convenient city cemetery. The lodge is in fine working order, and an Odd Fellows' hall is being talked of. The Encampment was instituted in June, 1885, and now has a membership of about forty. The Dow Rebecca Degree Lodge was instituted in March, 1883, and has a membership of fifty.

Masonic- Lodge No 206 was instituted Feb. 15, 1882, and has fifty members.

Harper Lodge, No. 81, Ancient Order of United Workmen, was instituted in August, 1883, and has a membership of twenty-five.

The Woman's Christian Temperance Union was instituted about July, 1885.

The Baptist Foreign Missionary Society was instituted in the winter of 1884-85.

The Woman's Suffrage Association was instituted in September, 1885.

The Baptist, Christian, Methodist and Presbyterian churches each have a ladies' society for aiding in church work, and each a well-organized Sunday school.

Aside from the above permanent societies there are generally a number of others --- reading circles, euchre clubs, dancing clubs, etc.

A building association was organized in the spring of 1885, which is doing a good business.

The Harper City Milling Company have one of the best mills in the country and are doing an extensive business. Capacity, 200 barrels per day.

Harper to-day has a population of fully 4,000 people, and contains the following branches of business: Nine livery and feed stables, six hotels, five restaurants, five lumber yards, five flour, feed and coal dealers, five dry goods stores, ten grocery stores, ten drug stores, two clothing stores, two boot and shoe stores, four hardware and implement stores, three furniture stores, five millinery stores, two merchant tailors, one music store, three bakeries, eight carpenter shops, four shoemaker shops, three banks, eight lawyers, eleven physicians, two printing offices.

Back to Part 1


KSGenWeb      Harper 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