From the Lincoln Sentinel-Republican, 8 September 1955
Rocky Hill Community Contains Ghost Town of Abram
And Figures in Early History of Lincoln County
Many of the details of early events would be forgotten if it were not for the work of men and women who spend themselves in collecting and organizing such details. R.W. Greene has devoted much time in collecting facts about the Rocky Hill community which figured prominently in some of the more exciting chapters of early Lincoln county history.
Two Lincoln county ghost towns lie within the confines of the Rocky Hill community. They were Abram and the town of Rocky Hill. Mr. Greene has brought them to life for us and has peopled them with the pioneers who lived in them.
Facts and names are authentic.
Mr. Greene’s account of the history of Rocky Hill follows:
In 1854, M.D. Greene, a New Yorker and cousin to my father, settled in Geary county, Kan. A few years later he and a friend started west with an ox team, but the second day out Greene thought this mode of travel too slow so he came west on foot and explored as far west as what is now Lincoln county. After his return to Junction City he worked for the government at Fort Riley until 1866, when he and a brother, Morgan Greene, came west again and settled in what is now Lincoln county, Section 12, Elkhorn township. M.D. Greene established a post office on Red Rock Creek, five miles east of Lincoln, named on account of red sandstone along the creek banks, called Red Rock Post Office. We have letters carrying this stamp of cancellation. On January 19, 1871, M.D. Greene bought and was deeded by the Union Pacific Railroad Company a quarter section of railroad land about three miles southeast of the present site of Lincoln center, Kan., recorded as Northwest Quarter 9-12-7, and laid it off into town lots. This town was to be known as Abram. A study of the known townsite of Abram shows that it was surveyed by O.P. Hamilton of Salina, Kan.; it consisted of 36 blocks, one block in center of plot between block 14 and 15 was laid off as Public Square, and in different parts of the townsite one quarter block was set aside for each of the different churches, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist and Catholic; the Main Avenue was to be known as Washington Ave. Streets were numbered and ran north and south. Adjacent land plotted later.
The story of Abram would not be complete without a picture of a boundless prairie with a line of trees a mile to the south which marks the Saline river. Mighty oak, elm and sturdy cottonwood trees to the east one-half mile showed the course of Beaver creek, while to the north and west a rolling prairie reached to a point where earth and sky seemed to meet. The location of Abram was on a ridge sloping in all directions, with the court house on the highest point. My father, the late O.N. Greene, supervised the work on every building erected on the townsite. Myron Greene, the founder of the town, built the first building, a structure 25 by 60 feet, one and one-half stories high; the first floor of which was used for general store and post office, while the upper story was used for community gatherings. Other buildings erected on the townsite were Dr. Gilpin’s office and residence; a newspaper office building, built for the Lincoln County Gazette; Z. Jackson, editor, printed only one issue of the paper; Peter Eldredge’s shoe shop; Hezekiah Graham’s Hotel; Ellen Osborne’s boarding house; Harlow Walker’s blacksmith shop; Buckner’s Saloon and some half dozen or more residences. An open well with the old oaken bucket furnished the town with water.
The county of Lincoln was organized Oct. 4, 1870; before the county had its birth it had been a part of Saline and Ottawa counties. On this October day James Harvey, then governor of Kansas, issued a proclamation placing Lincoln county in the last of organized counties of the State of Kansas; and by this proclamation the governor established the location of the county seat temporarily in Marion township, about a mile and a half west of where Lincoln Center now stands. At the November election in 1870 Abram became the county seat of Lincoln county, and the next year Judge Canfield held court in the county seat. At this term of court, Lee Gilmore acted as clerk of the district court, Myron Greene as county attorney; James Wild, John S. Strange and Case Deitz, county commissioners, and A.S. Potter as county clerk. During the summer of 1871 an attempt was made to change the location of the county seat to the present location of Lincoln Center. A petition was filed with the county commissioners who refused to call an election.
Ezra Hubbard had settled on the quarter section adjoining the townsite to the south along the Saline river, and John Haley settled on the adjoining quarter section to the south. History tells us these two men did not get along too well. One day they quarreled over a cottonwood log and Haley was killed in the fight. Hubbard was taken into custody by authorities but was murdered that night in spite of the guards. This trouble seemed to climax the county seat fight which had been brewing since the election of November 1870. On Feb. 19, 1872, the voters voted 232 to 176 to move the townsite to its present location and call the town Lincoln center. The buildings were all either moved away or torn down. Harlow Walker’s blacksmith shop was moved to Rocky Hill where Herman Schmidt did blacksmith work for many years. Buckner’s Saloon, the first in the county, was moved to Lincoln and soon afterwards burned.
This ghost town of many years ago would be unnoticed if it were not for the stone which marks the site of the county capital and the remains of a few foundations of buildings.
When the town of Abram was abandoned the courthouse which was built of native stone was sold to John Ryan who built the house on Beaver creek which is now owned and occupied by Mrs. Art Liggett.
Hezekiah Graham’s hotel, known as the Bee Hive, was moved to Lincoln and housed John Kyle’s tin shop for many years. It stood where the telephone office now stands.
Ellen Osborne’s boarding house was moved to the lots north of where the building now stands which is occupied by the Lincoln Body and Fender Works. It was used as a blacksmith shop for many years and recently was torn down and the lot is now occupied as a used car lot.
E.B. Bishop’s residence, a two-room frame building, was moved to Lincoln on lots east of the court yard, and is now a part of the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Arnold Feldkamp. It is the oldest structure in Lincoln.
Myron Greene’s store was sold to Alonzo Allison and moved to the farm now owned by Clarence Rosebrook two miles east of where Abram stood.
On the Northwest quarter of Section 9, Township 12, Range 7 West of the Sixth Principal Meridian, in Lincoln County, Kan., stands a triangular native “Iron Rock” about one foot thick and six feet above the base. Inserted in the west side of this stone about the center is a marble plate, a product of the lime stone ridge to the north of Lincoln, Kan. The marble slab about one foot square carries the following inscription: “Abram Townsite. Located here April 11, 1871. Vacated Feb. 24, 1872. First County Seat.. Lincoln County. Erected 1936.”
This monument was erected where many years ago stood a court house, the first to be built in the Saline valley west of Salina, Kan. Here a courageous people founded a city and dreamed of a metropolis. This “Ghost Town” of long ago would be hard to locate were it not for this sentinel and a few remains of foundations of buildings erected by pioneers who have long since passed on to their reward in a better world.
The temporary residences of many of the early settlers were either “Dugouts” or “Log Cabins.” While they were not as modern as the dwellings of Lincoln county folk of today they were comfortable and carried a pleasant and mutual family relationship that is unknown in many homes of today. These pioneers had not electric stoves or gas ranges; their food was cooked on an old range which burned sunflowers, cow chips or wood. They knew nothing of vitamins, calories or balanced diet; their food was coarse, nourishing and palatable.
The pioneers who came here to make homes for themselves and their families, especially the ones who stayed, are the ones who made the neighborhood what it has become in after years with its fine homes, school and community. They got cold in winter, suffered with the heat in summer and became hungry when food supplies ran low, all without complaint. Implanted in their hearts and souls was the determination to make this a community where their posterity could live in peace, prosperity and happiness. Many of those pioneers lived to see their dreams come true.
These early settlers of 80 years or more ago who stayed were rugged individualists, and through their unselfish devotion and common interest in the development of this new world they builded well for future generations.
Some who came to central Kansas as pioneers saw the county as a country infested with badgers, coyotes, grasshoppers, rattlesnakes, hot winds and famine. They soon returned to their original abodes. Others came here to make homes for themselves and their families. They are the ones who stayed and made the neighborhood what is was in after years.
J.R. Mead, a hunter and trapper of the early days, was in all probability the first white man to give an account of this neighborhood; he tells in some of his writings of a hunter trip along a trail up the Saline river west of Salina in 1859. He narrates that their first camp was about 30 miles from Salina, along a creek where many beaver dams were erected. He named this “Beaver Creek” he says; the stream still is known as Beaver creek. He also told of a Hunters’ paradise in this neighborhood where most any wild game could be found -- wild fowl in abundance, antelopes, elk or buffalo could sighted at any time in any direction. Mr. Mead visited in our home many times before he died in 1912, and I drove with him and my father over the country surrounding the Rocky Hill neighborhood and heard the early tales of this neck of the woods by men who saw this part of Lincoln county when the Red men were in command. To me this was a great privilege, and I am sorry I did not write down more of their descriptions of the country and their narratives of the habits of the Indian as well as adventures of early settlers.
The next account of white man coming to this neighborhood was a group of men who in 1864 camped along the Saline river in Section 10 just before Rocky Hill river bridge; there were six of them originally, but on a second trip only four. They built a log house and a dugout stable for their horses. These men were John and Thomas Moffitt, brothers; J.W. Houston and J.T. Tylor [sic]. These four men started out on a hunt on Aug. 6, 1864, and reached a point just south of where George Medcraft’s house now stands, when they were surprised by Indians. The turned around and tried to get back to Beaver creek but could not make it as the Red men were posted there already; they took refuge in a clump of rock about a quarter of a mile west of the creek where they were all killed by the Indians. Houston and Tylor are still buried just east of where they fell, but the Moffitt brothers’ bodies were taken to Weatherfield, Ill., for burial. A monument was erected by the site of the massacre several years ago through the efforts of the late Grover Lyne. It is not just plain as to how to searching party found the bodies of these four men but from the information I gather from other articles they were recovered the third day after the massacre and buried where they fell. The bodies of the Moffitt brothers were moved later.
The searching party found where they had turned their teams around as if in great haste and made a run for protection; evidently many Indians were killed.
There is evidence, says Elizabeth Barr in her souvenir history, that Mrs. Houston and her two children were left in the camp when the hunters started out and that the Red men came to the house after the battle and she and an old man who had been left at the home fought them off. Later they found their way to the settlement and the next day a searching part of 12 men recovered the bodies.
When Abram vanished as a town the little town of Rocky Hill sprung up in the southwest corner of Section 10 on the north side of the Saline river only a few rods upstream from where the Moffitt boys had camped. The Rocky Hill mill was under construction at this time; Ezra Hubbard was the promoter and builder at the time of his death. The building was completed by Charles Bennett in 1872; this was the first mill in the county and probably the first on the Saline river. Later a mill was built at Shady Bend by the Hardesty brothers, and in 1878 Rees’s built the Lincoln mills, later known as Lincoln Roller Mills, and Merriman and Mansteller built the Sylvan Grove mill in 1875 according to the best information available. These mills have all discontinued operation, the Shady Bend mill the last to shut down.
The Hubbard mill at Rocky Hill was largely constructed of native lumber sawed by Hubbard at the mill site. Upon the death of Hubbard, Charles Bennett operated the mill for a short time. He sold the mill to a man by the name of Hense, who in partnership with his boys in after months sold it to Hugh Graham Sr., who operated it until his death in 1891. Soon after his death it was torn down.
The Rocky Hill mill was a grist mill and people came for many miles to have their grain ground into flour and meal, giving a percent of their grain as toll to pay for the grinding.
The first post office in the community, as had been stated, was Red Rock. Upon the founding of Abram it was moved to that location, and when Abram ceased to be, Rocky Hill became the trading center and post office for this community. Mail came three times a week overland from Salina by stage coach. Royal Callins drove the stage coach for a number of years, until the coming of the railroad in 1886.
It would be impossible to give a complete list of those who settled in and around Abram and Rocky Hill as pioneers.
According to the county records in the court house the first land in this neighborhood to be deeded was the south half of 8-12-7 in Elkhorn township. It was deeded to Martin Hendrickson and his brother William, who landed in this community on Oct. 10, 1866. This land was deeded to them on the first day of October 1868, and this land is still held by heirs of the original owners.
Land in Section 4 homesteaded by Rev. John Medcraft, and in Section 8, taken by Martin Hendrickson, William Hendrickson and O.N. Greene, and land in Section 11 settled on by Mr. Soldner and Ed Blake, is still owned by members of the respective families.
Soon after this a man by the name of Sylvester Smith settled on land described as Section 10, Township 12, Range 7, in Elkhorn township. He had been a captain in the army of the war of 1812. He did not stay long and Mrs. Ellen Haley pre-empted the land and got a deed to it on Jan. 19, 1871.
Some other early settlers were C.C. Page, Steven Jackson, Theodore Allison, Harry Trask, Herman Schmidt, Christopher Crody, Gerhart Hardesty, John A. Cook, R.W. Ryan, David Gilpin, David Pontius, D.W. Henderson, W.H. Henderson, Elias Rees, W.S. Rees, L.J. and N.B. Rees, L.D. Farnsworth, O.N. Greene, A.I. Davis, D.B. Day, Ezra Hubbard, John Haley, John Cook, Gerhardt Mullincamp, John Pinkerton, A.G. Hardesty, A.E. Doolittle, Michael Soldner, Hermon Kingsley, Alonzo Allison, Sam Berry, John Cline, W.M. Hedrick, John Kroenlein, Tom Cline, Monroe Schofield, James Stewart, Jacob Shaffer [Shafer], Zimiri Winchel, Baily B. Newlin, Tim Kine [Kyne], E.B. Reed, Z.T. Hemminger, L.W. Fitzwater, Freeling Tufts, Norman Park, John Strange, Thomas Malone, Andrew Olson, Fred Erhardt, T.A. Matthews, Sol Bishop, George Foster, Ed Harris, J.A. Stogsdell, John Rearwin, Robert Parker, Michael Britegam, Hiram Deeds, E.B. Bishop, Frank Priest, R.S. Wilmarth, Frank Westfall, E.D. Churchill, J.B. Goff, James Dobson and John Downs.
Fred Erhardt tells of a man by the name of Hyatt who operated a sawmill below Rocky Hill in 1867, and sawed lumber which was transported to what is now Kanopolis, Kan., where the government builded Fort Harker. One of these buildings, a stone structure, still stands and the American Legion of that city uses it for display of relics and antiques. This building was built in 1868 and from all appearances the frame work and floor could possibly have been made from lumber sawed at Rocky Hill long, long ago.
After Abram was wiped off the map, Rocky Hill became the neighborhood trading center. M.M. Stearns operated a drug store; Herman Schmidt a blacksmith shop; and Merriman, a general merchandise store.
D.B. Day, Uncle Dan to most of us, settled on the southeast corner of the Northeast quarter of Section 9, Township 12, Range 7, in the fall of 1871; here he built a log house 16 by 24 feet where he, Frank Priest and Dan Chittenden held bachelor quarters for some time. Chittenden tired of pioneer life and went back to Connecticut; Priest settled in Beaver township and later sold his farm and bought the land formerly owned by John Haley. Theodore M. Metz now owns and lives on the Priest homestead. Mrs. Ethel Day Rasmussen owns the homestead settled by her father, D.B. Day.
After the death of Hubbard and Haley their estates were probated; Pat English was administrator of the Haley estate. Harmon Kinsley, Sam Berry and M.D. Greene were the appraisers. Records show the expense of Haley’s funeral to be 50 dollars. After the death of Hubbard, his son-in-law, W.W. Chamberlain, sent the following telegram, dated Salina, Kan., Feb. 5, 1872, to Mr. Jacob Roberts, Middletown Conn. “Father dead. Funeral yesterday. Will write particulars.”
Kate Cook, Hubbard’s daughter, was administrator of Hubbard’s estate. O.N. Greene, D.B. Day and Myron Greene were the appraisers; a few of the articles appraised were as follows: Musket, gunny sacks, ox yoke, chains, buffalo robe, dried beef, coffee mill, two rain barrels, crowbar, wash board and tubs. This was the first estate to be probated in Lincoln county.
In 1872 Michael Soldner who lived about two miles east of Rocky Hill was killed in a runway. Funeral directors at that time were unheard of and my father and Uncle Dan Day made the coffin and Mrs. R.S. Wilmarth and Mrs. E.B. Bishop came to our home and helped line the coffin. Rev. John Medcraft had charge of the services.
At the time of settling of this country there were no pasture fences and those who had stock either picketed them or herded them. Bluestem grass grew as high as a man’s head, especially in the lowlands, and buffalo grass grew more on the upland. Buffalo grass withstands a lot of punishment and survived drouth, tramping and abuse. The first wire fence to come to the neighborhood was in the late ‘70s. T.J. Snell, fencing land in Section 15, Elkhorn township, with barbed wire. Alfred Medcraft once told me of helping with it when he was a boy.
Many deaths came to the early settlers and there being no burying ground, graves were made in some convenient place and many of them are today unmarked and forgotten. Herman Schmidt, a Rocky Hill blacksmith, and wife, lost a child when they lived about a mile north of where Clarence Rosebrook now lives, and interment was made a short distance from the homestead and a limestone marker placed at the grave. Crudely carved on this stone was the name of the child Mary, also the name of the parents. The stone still stands in the field unnoticed by all except those who till the land in the field were burial was made many years ago.
In 1873 the Lincoln Cemetery Association was organized and a tract of land was purchased of David Pontius and a board of directors elected who looked after the management until the city of Lincoln took charge in 1910. After the association was set up the tract of land was surveyed and laid off in blocks and lots. More land was added to the original plot in later years. A few burials were made prior to the plotting of the cemetery, which had to be moved. Other bodies were transferred by relatives to the Lincoln cemetery.
Probably the first school held in the county was at the home of Martin Hendrickson in the winter of 1869. It was held in the dugout and was known as a subscription school, parents paying 3 dollars a month for each child -- school year three months. Marion Irey was teacher; she had nine pupils and received 63 dollars for the school season. The following were in school: John Riley Hendrickson, David Hendrickson, George Strange, Sarah Hall, C.C. Hendrickson, Harrison Strange, Jessie Gilpin. C.C. Hendrickson once said: “School in 1869 was conducted along simple lines, we did not need many books; we had no need for fancy learning or fine clothes; our dinner pail was filled with corn bread and buffalo meat.”
District No.3, known as Rocky Hill, was organized in 1871, and bonds were voted to build a school. ...
School, however, was held in the upper story of M.D. Green’s store the first year with J.H. Barnum as teacher. Upon the completion of the school building one-fourth mile east of the D.B. Day homestead, Jennie Pier was hired as teacher. Following her was Laura Page (Mrs. J.J. Peate), Minnie Crowe (Mrs. A.W. Elgin), Anna C. Waite, Mrs. N. Randall, Frank Lennen, Sarah A. Cole, Sally Goff, W.G. Medcraft, Mollie Medcraft, John Parks, G.N. Anderson, Arthur Artman and Arthur J. Stanley. Stanley and Parks are the only ones of the early day teachers now living. Many others followed after the turn of the century.
During the early years of the school there was no well on the ground and water had to be carried from Uncle Dan Day’s well a quarter of a mile west. In 1910 the school was moved a half mile to the west where it served the community until 1950 when the district consolidated with District No. 6.
Church services were held in the upstairs of Myron Greene’s store, all denominations taking part as long as Abram stood and after that the school house was used for such services, usually conducted by the Rev. Henry C. Bradbury or Rev. John Medcraft.