Butler  County,  Kansas

Butler County’s Eighty Years  ~  1855-1935

by Jessie Perry Stratford

A History of Butler County Biographical Sketches and Portraits with Foreword by Rolla A. Clymer

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$30,000 were voted in August, 1926. The first city water well was completed by Sears & Son in 1927. In 1930, due to drought and well No. 1 failing, a second water well was drilled by Joe Rieserer. In 1933 a third water well was dug on the Marshall land, a mile east of town. This well now supplies part of the water used by the city. The 1934 drought caused a serious water shortage and in September, a fair well was dug on the Max Stern land. Cash C. Kiser, is water superintendent.

Among new structures in Leon since 1916 is the A. W. Ray store, built in 1922. The News plant was built in 1929, entirely by the editor and publisher, W. A. Sears. The old Carlile store and the Farmers State Bank building have been remodeled to house the E. L. Hogue grocery, dry goods and meats departments. L. F. McCormick’s general merchandise store is now in the building formerly occupied by the E. L. Hogue store. A new brick lumber yard office was built in 1924 by M. W. Marshall and son, Jean. In 1930 the Farmers State Bank failed. State Bank of Leon still carries on its official duties as of olden days when the late H. H. Marshall was president of the institution. Among new homes in the city and township are those of J. B Seed, E. J. Boland, J. A. Marshall, Ted Losh, W. H. Long, E. L. Hogue, A. L. Hammer, M. W. Marshall, H. S. Dedrick, L. D. Rigg, Clay Shriver, Will Dixon, C. C. Doughty, M. V. Garver, and a house under construction for W. W. Marshall.

The Methodist Church of which Rev. Samuel Paulding is pastor, has the largest membership, with an average of 200 attending Sunday School. The Methodists have edited three edition of The News. The Christian Church is second, with an average Sunday School attendance of 100. Rev. Ray H. Baker, present pastor, has served since 1930. The Baptist Church has no pastor at present. Under leadership of Rev. Robert Means, now of Kingman, (1927-1931), this church grew from a small group to nearly 100.

Little Walnut Township has had its disasters. Fire destroyed the Quito schoolhouse and valuable books December 15, 1930, and a modern building was dedicated April 17, 1931. In July, 1924, the most disastrous fire since 1916, occurred when the Leon hotel, Wakefield café and Haw pool hall burned. The second great fire happened December 28, 1925, at the White Eagle warehouse near the Frisco depot, when a truck backfired while being cranked in the warehouse room. Vaporized gas ignited and flames spread rapidly to two 10,000 barrel storage tanks. The Frisco Section house, directly to the east was also destroyed.

The third big fire was caused by combustion of paint while Edwin Cabeen, John Rigg and Jesse Guy were painting the grade school building in 1927. The building was destroyed and Jesse Guy lost his life as a result of severe burns. Property damage was $25,000.

An old landmark in this township was the iron Sloan bridge over Little Walnut River, a mile east of town. The structure collapsed June, 1924, under a county tractor load. The bridge was replaced by a larger steel and cement bridge. Another landmark was the Tong grist mill.

Old No. 96 highway, north of Leon, has been changed to the location immediately south. The new No. 96 highway, diagonally crossing the township, provides seven miles of good roads. Other roads are graveled. There are twenty miles of this highway in Little Walnut Township.

Postmasters who have served since 1916 are Perry D. Pettit, Dr. R. J. Cabeen, John A. Marshall, Clarence Leidy, Earl M. Boland and Arley M. Kistler, present incumbent. During Mr. Marshall’s term the office was raised from fourth to third class. Perhaps no history would be complete without listing those old-timers who helped to make Little Walnut history, and who are no longer here. Among these are B. F. Rickey, Mrs. M. M. McCullough, Mrs. Mary A. Thompson, Cap Farrar, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Pipes, and Mr. and Mrs. William Winn, T. Chamberlain, Tom Chenoweth, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Ray, A. B. Holt, Sidney Blakeman, Mrs. A. Leidy, J. S. Kiser, A. L. Nunes, Mr. and Mrs. F. Cloyd, Mr. and Mrs. L. C. Pickrell, J. A. Burchnell, Mrs. E. Denny, Mrs. Louiza Holt, C. W. Lynn, Dr. and Mrs. J. B. Carlile, W. C. Hogue, J. J. Dedrick, Tom Lindsey, Mrs. George Tong, Mr. and Mrs. M. A. Palmer, Thomas Dixon, Frank Ton, Mrs. E. Bogle, Emmet Bassett, J. T. Lill, James Knox, Mrs. Effie Palmer.

Among earlier settlers of this vicinity are: Mrs. Arrena Lynn, Mrs. Sarah Dixon, Mrs. Mary Lynn, Mrs. Marian Burchnell, Mrs. Tom Lindsey, Mrs. J. T. Lill, Mr. and

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Mrs. George Kenoyer, Mr. and Mrs. N. S. Matthew, W. L. Gordon, Mrs. Mary Hogue, Mrs. A. B. Holt, Mrs. Caroline Martin, Mrs. Rachel Butts, Mrs. Annie Brown, Mrs. Sara Losh, Mrs. A. Beadles, George Tong, Mrs. T. C. Chenoweth, Mrs. J. S. Kiser, Mrs. F. E. King, M. W., W. S., and J. A. Marshall.

Members of the Rural High School board are: Dr. R. J. Cabeen, Mrs. Ethelyn Dedrick and Charles Dixon. Members of the grade school board are: J. B. Seed, M. W. Marshall and E. L. Hogue.


(By Estel Marie Pickrell)

From a mere wide place in the road, to one of the busiest oil towns in Butler County, was the history of Keighley. Within two months after the first oil strike in 1925, the town grew from a trading post of thirty persons, to a community of 500.

In the small trading post lived, John Cosner who still lives there; C. W. Milsap, Jim Dungey, now of Winfield, Bond Thompson and a few others. Mr. Cosner owned the hardware store; Mr. Millsap, the grain elevator; Jim Dungey was the Frisco agent, postmaster and storekeeper; Bond Thompson was a general workman.

The drilling in of the Tobler oil well, about half a mile north of Keighley, in August 1925 called for offsets. The No. 1 Harris, No. 1 Blunt and No. 1 Dungey were completed before the year ended. All were producres. The Dungey was good for 500 barrels. Other good wells drilled were the Laughlin, Jobe, Truesdale, Kruse, Barnhill and Richardson.

By January 1926, Keighley had a population of 500. Main Street was crowded. On the west side were the grocery stores, cafes, hardwares, barber shops, and garages of the old town; on the east side was built well-stocked lumber yards, oil well supply houses, modern barber shops, cafes. O. E. Bedell of Wichita built a 40-room hotel! Shortly after the boom started, J. W. Cosner sold his hardware to Govenius Brothers of Augusta and J. W. Dungey sold his store to M. Brown of Eureka. Ed Barnhill sold his store and retired. Ben Fletcher of Leon opened a barber shop. Mrs. D. Milliken of Beaumont, opened a restaurant. J. L. Waller of Madison installed an exclusive men’s furnishings store; S. Schooley, of Beaumont, started a general store. Oil wells were drilled in every direction out of Keighley. Farmers began to take life easer. Oil activities brought the big gasoline plant to the west of Keighley.

On July 23, 1926, a fire destroyed the yards of the Rock Island Lumber Company, the Keighley Hotel, and the John Gussman Rooming House. The hotel loss amounted to about $7,000, the lumber company’s loss was $10,000 and the rooming house loss was $3,000. These buildings were not replaced. By 1928, the boom was subsiding. In September 1929, the gas plant was razed; residents drifted to new fields. Soon, only the oil well pumpers remained.

In 1927, Keighley District completed at $15,000 school building which is one of the finest brick structures of its kind in Butler County. Mr. and Mrs. Orville Wilson were the first instructors. School board members are Clayton Moen, W> H. Shaffer and J. W. Cosner.

In 1934, the once crowded roads are merely highways. A steady, slow pumping of oil still can be heard in the distance, but the sound is blended with the lowing of cattle and the hum of farm machinery, as folk resume activities that once more are their pride and joy. The Franks grocery store and the garage constitute Keighley’s chief business district.


Latham, with an official population of 270 persons and an assessed valuation of $109,007, for real estate, personal, railroad, telephone, oil and pipe line properties, is on the Enid branch of the Frisco railroad and an improved hard surfaced highway. Most of the land surrounding the town is bluestem pasture where thousands of head of cattle are fattened during the late spring and summer months, for marketing in the fall.

A. R. Miller is mayor of Latham and W. H. Baker, C. F. Hildebrand, R. C. Masters, J. A. Mann and H. A. Stewart are councilmen. William E. Ferguson who has been the postmaster the past eighteen years, is city treasurer. Oscar I. Ferguson is justice of the peace. H. A. Stewart is city clerk. W. H. Baker owns and

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operates the telephone system. Mrs. Ava H. Tillotson has the drug store and R. C. Masters has the longest-established mercantile business in the town. S. A. Schooley has a grocery store, feed store, and cream station and L. H. Spencer and W. E. Byers have grocery stores. C. F. Hildebrand and Ralph Deinlein have cream stations.

School board members are A. R. Miller, B. C. Breeden and J. R. Yarnell.

L. E. Ellis has the lumber yard; H. A. Stewart and David Corbin have a hardware store; J. J. Barnhill has a furniture repair shop and C. M. Crabtree, M. B. Peebler and Bruce Hoard have filling stations. Charles Veach and Albert Knight have garages. B. E. Ellis owns and manages the feed store. R. E. Williams has a shoe repair shop. Frank L. Buskirk and W. H. Hicks are rural mail carriers.

Rev. John Reeves is pastor of the Christian Church and Rev. M. A. Porter is pastor of the federated Methodist and the Baptist churches.

Otis Underwood is the barber; O. S. Oxford and Alvah Hildebrand have dairies and Freddie Sensenbaugh owns and manages the livery stable.


Oil Hill, just northwest of El Dorado, is headquarters here for the Empire – out of it is operated the entire Kansas Division of the Empire Oil and Refining Company and the Butler county division of the Empire Pipe Line Company. It’s El Dorado field long has been famous. Nineteen years old, it still produces over 8.000 barrels of oil a day.

Through good times and bad, Oil Hill has carried on. At present, (1934) every one of the 137 company-owned houses, comprising the main settlement, is occupied; also many employees live in El Dorado and drive to their work. In addition to the company houses and offices there are some 23 privately owned homes, giving an entire population of 640 at the present time. Oil Hill as a unit is hard to define. Many people on adjacent leases do their buying and receive their mail there. It supports a store, a post office, garage, two filling stations and a drug store. It is unique in that it has never had a police department or felt the need of one.

Dougherty Men’s Fraternity, comprising all company employees, is a factor in any Cities Service town. Oil Hill branch has been outstanding for the good it has accomplished in slack times. Every Christmas during the boom it put on a resplendent tree with treats for the youngsters. Now, at holiday season, baskets loaded with “real” Christmas food plus toys for the children find their way to places where Christmas might otherwise be slim.

When the Allen Memorial Hospital was built the fraternity gladly did its share in the work. It sponsors a troop of 25 Boy Scouts, six of the company men being on the Scout Committee.

In April it mapped a community playground adjacent to the company swimming pool for croquet, tennis, kitten ball and horseshoes.

The Doherty Auxiliary comprising wives or daughters of company men sponsor two troops of Girl Scouts with 60 registered in them. They furnished a room in the Allen Memorial Hospital nurses’ home and at holiday time remember those in need. They meet twice each month combining business and bridge successfully.

The Empire Golf club, with its course cunningly laid out around oil derricks and over an artificial lake, boasts of the versatility of its members – they shoot from 70 to 100 plus. It meets surrounding clubs in tournament play as well as supporting an inter-club tournament each year, with substantial awards for the would-be Bobby Joneses.

The Cities Service Colts is the entry of the company in the Ban Johnson league. Ralph Kennedy, farm boss for the Empire’s north Wilson lease, isn’t too busy with five boys of his own to coach the Colts.

Oil Hill seethes with activity. In November, 1933, a vocational or job-training program to familiarize oil production employees with the theory behind many of their duties and to acquaint them with various oil field practices and improvements was started. This program is being sponsored by the company in its Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico holdings. In the beginning a training course was held for the men designated as chairmen of the meetings. Since then, at a meeting every other week, the leaders of the lease classes have met to discuss phases of their work and these in turn have then been carried to the field groups. Each department

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has taken up the work peculiar to it, the drilling and fishing crews have specialized on acidization, cementing, babbiting, belts, the machine shop on blue print reading and new types of oil field equipment, the field men have discussed oil emulsions, construction of gun barrels, action of siphons, tank batteries, corrosion, water treatment and similar subjects.

A new course for operators of company cars, trucks and tractors is now under way.

Attendance and interest in these discussion groups have been voluntary. It is estimated 85 per cent of the field men have attended the meetings while between 40 and 45 in the drilling and fishing and 50 in the construction departments are turning out.

The Oil Hill school is in the superior classification. There are 275 enrolled with a faculty of 11 teachers. Three buses are necessary to transport children from the surrounding territory. Incidentally the safety record of these buses is exceptional – two years without accident with a yearly haul of 20,880 miles and 3,240 railroad crossings. S. A. Horton, Frank Sidorfsky and James P. Murry are members of the school board.

More than 85 Oil Hill pupils are now attending the El Dorado High School and Junior College. The superintendent of El Dorado schools, J. F. Hughes, highly compliments them on the foundation knowledge they received at the Hill.

The school is outstanding in scholarship in the whole county, leading competitors in the recent scholarship tests. Then, just to maintain an all around program, it also has come out a three-time winner in the yearly basketball tournament.

Then there is the Oil Hill Community church with Rev. C. H. Hamm as minister. The Home Missionary Society of 27 members has as its branches, the Queen Esther, Home Guards and Mother’s Jewels groups of young people. All through the depression the thank offerings donated by the society have been larger than in better times. The Sunday School has an enrollment of 250 ranging from adult classes to the primary department. A force of 23 teachers reports at it each Sunday.

The Women’s Aid is famous for its doughnut sales and yearly bazaar. Seven divisions of the Needlework Guild, with a membership of 100 keep up the work of that worthy organization.


Potwin, thirteen miles northwest of El Dorado, has an official population of 427 and an assessed valuation of $259,819 in real estate, personal, railroad, telephone, oil and pipe line properties. Every house on the town site is occupied.

Worth W. Kemper is Potwin’s mayor. The city council includes Homer Jacobs, Herman Heilman, E. R. Hosman, Elmer Laird and A. M. Schrepfer. L. M. Conwell is city clerk and Miss Elsie Miller is city treasurer. Rev. J. H. Higdon, Dr. D. C. Stahlman and J. H. Gibson comprise the school board. Luke B. Hedrick is superintendent of schools.

Rev. E. N. Cunningham is minister of the Methodist Church.

George Whitmore is Potwin’s dry goods merchant. Roy Whitmore is the hardware merchant. W. J. Petty and son, M. A. Harper and son and George Whitmore are grocers. O. V. Mulnix has the drug store. Ray Johnson is owner-manager of the Johnson filling, service and bulk station. Ernest Wiebe and Dean, Davis & Fowler have filling and service stations and garages. R. B. Rand has a garage and blacksmith shop. Dewey Adamson and N. B. Corney are barber shop proprietors. Ernest Sherar and M. Machamer have cafes. E. R. Hosman and Ernest G. Whomans have produce houses.

L. M. Conwell is manager of the Houston-Doughty Lumber office. Miss Elsie Miller is office manager of the Potwin Mutual Telephone Company. Fred Martin is lineman. Edward Roberts is manager of the Kansas Gas & Electric Company.


Rosalia is an attractive town in Rosalia Township, twelve miles east of El Dorado. The school house and the building constructed for a hotel during the oil boom, are the largest buildings. School board members are H. B. Mossman, L. K. Seglem and L. J. Clark. Arthur H. Pendergrass is postmaster. The S. E. Anderson, F. W. Marquardt and Lew Piper grocery stores; the Hammer Brothers and Oblander

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garage, the Floyd L. Griffith coal and feed store, the William Cannon restaurant and the L. J. Clark barber shop are in the business district.

H. B. Mossman, L. J. Clark and L. K. Seglem are members of the school board.


Towanda of the oil boom days, had 1800 inhabitants. The Towanda of 1934 has a population of 363 and an assessed valuation of real estate, personal, railroad, telephone, oil and pipe line properties amounting to $118,221.

Few oil rigs stand where hundreds stood fifteen years ago. Pastures are again green-carpeted and cattle graze peacefully. A permanent reminder of hectic oil boom days, is the brick building erected at a cost of $7,500 by Fred Robison, to serve as a hotel. The purpose of Mr. Robison’s public spirited gesture, made at the peak of the boom, was defeated when the boom collapsed before the building was occupied. Towanda township bought the building and uses it as a community hall.

Towanda’s fine school building erected in 1911, has been remodeled and modernized. It has one of the best gymnasiums in this county.

In 1925, the late Mike Orban, Jr. gave, in memory of his father-in-law, Rev. Isaac Mooney, the handsome $75,000 Christian Church building that stands one block north of Main Street. The new gymnasium, on the same block, was a gift of Mrs. Theora Davis of Towanda. The old Methodist church building has been replaced by an attractive brick building at the corner of Main Street and Fourth Avenue. This structure was built with funds raised within the church and is maintained by the church membership. R. C. McCoy is pastor of the Christian Church with Mrs. McCoy as county pastor. M. J. Paulin is pastor of the Methodist congregation.

William G. Turner has been mayor of Towanda twelve years. The able council comprises Harry Wilson, Frank Bruns, Sidney Walwroth, Dr. W. B. McClure and Evart Stearns. Don Hill is city treasurer. Joel E. Davis is city clerk.

Mrs. LaVera Wheeler is postmaster; Ross Wheeler is assistant.

F. W. Buckner and T. C. Walworth & Son have dry goods and grocery stores and C. R. Reed has a grocery store. R. R. Lehnherr is manager of the Kansas Gas & Electric Company office. Mrs. Mildred Bates is his assistant. H. C. Logan and Sidney Walworth have the creameries. John Shriver is proprietor of the hardware store.

C. E. Gregory manages the Comley Lumber Company. Mrs. Muriel Shane is manager of the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company office. V. T. Hutchison has a furniture store and shoe shop. Fred Johnson and A. W. Myers own cafes. O. O. Wilcox, J. J. Shriver & C. B. Hummel, A. Pyle and E. Stearns have filling stations. F. C. Burns and J. S. Sutcliff own and manage drug stores. E. Stearns has a garage and O. O. Wilcox a garage and blacksmith shop. George Pickrell and H. C. Sims have barber shops.

Joel E. Davis is owner-manager of the automobile painting, body and fender, repairing and cabinet shop. B. F. Carter manages the Guarantee Mutual Life Insurance Office. Towanda Insurance Agency representing Home – Hartford – National & St. Paul Fire. Insurance Companies with J. Earl Tanner, D. H. Fisher and Mrs. Sybil Stearns representatives. J. L. Hudson is Missouri Pacific agent.

E. M. B. Club is the oldest study club. The Ladies Aid Society and Ladies Guild have large membership lists. The Towanda Club, Order of the Eastern Star, Masonic Lodge, Boy Scouts, Business Men’s Association, and Parent-Teachers Association are among other organizations.

School board members are: H. W. Wilson, H. R. Hull, and J. G. Dustin.


Whitewater has an official population of 577 and a total assessed valuation of real estate, personal, railroad, telephone, oil and pipe line properties amounting to $409,071.

D. M. Clawson is mayor and the city council comprises Herman Eberhardt, H. F. Bruhn, L. E. Dow, E. F. Lowther and E. D. Davis. Harry Mellor is city treasurer and Paul Ross city clerk.

Mrs. James A. Thompson, who founded the city library, is librarian. H. N. Jessen is postmaster.

Whitewater Chamber of Commerce is active. During the past year a new ele-


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