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


Harvey, Ed Foutch, Gus and Lew Schmucker, Will Gault, Henry and Lew Betts and John Fullinwider.

A feature of El Dorado life in 1884 that would astonish the citizens of 1934, was the “Town Herd.” Nearly every family kept one or two milk cows, and every summer some one provided a pasture for these cows, gathered them up in the morning, drove them out to the pasture, and in the evening returned them to their proper barns and cow lots. It was his connection with such an enterprise that gained for Al Fullinwider his nickname of Jersey.


The beauty of the prairies in May –The military funeral and burial of Gen. A. W. Ellett – Jimmie Dodwell and his Civil War stories – Cass Friedberg and his “Vell, it ain’t all pie” – Nettie Ellet’s birthday party in Ellet’s Opera House – J. K. Cubbison and Dr. Will Reeves, the Ward McAllisters of El Dorado society for a brief span – The one and only Grant Pauley – The fancy skating of Judge Leland and Ed Stevenson, both experts – The make believe “Nobility,” with high sounding titles, sponsored by Morris Ables, Jack MacRitchie, and H. K. Herbert – Erect and stately bearing of Dr. J. A. McKenzie – Curtis L. Harris, always serious and dignified – The universal popularity of Ed Thompson – The hotly contested baseball games between El Dorado and Towanda teams – the great trotting races between that fine horse, Joe Young, and Herb Balch’s great trotter, Black Tom – N. B. Coggeshall, of Chelsea, mounted on a big black stallion, leading long Populist Parade down Central Avenue – Edgar Robison pedaling down Central Avenue on the first “Safety” bicycle that was brought to El Dorado – the long trains of Texas cattle coming in the spring bound for the Flint Hills pastures – Minos West rushing about the street, always in a hurry – Those inseparable chums, Mollie McGinnis, Grace Robbins, Ellina Murdock – Nate Brown stepping off a morning Santa Fe passenger train, just as a rumor was becoming current that he had been killed in Oklahoma – The bright glow in the night skies from prairie fires in the early spring – Hunting plover on the burned-off prairies – Thomas Benton Murdock and Harry Gardner, always immaculately dressed – the bicycle craze, when all of El Dorado was awheel – The Towanda tornado – The Oklahoma bound covered wagons in 1888 and 1889 – The beautiful sketch of bottom land east of town – The great political speech made by Senator Ingalls in Ellet’s Opera House, also one made there by Gov. Geo. T. Anthony – The old stone courthouse – the old stone school house – the well shaded streets – the forever youthful T. A. Kramer – the fleet footed Frank King – The beauty of the Walnut valley – That real sport, Bob Cooper – That fake quarrel upon the stage in a home talent minstrel show between two of the actors, and city marshal, George Bowie, rushing upon the stage to restore peace, all a part of the show – Dr. M. L. Fullinwider, for so many years superintendent of the Methodist Sunday School – The popular Charlie Rigsby, also Bert and Charlie Jackson – Henry Bogardus, a real expert on the French harp – The hay market on Central Avenue, just east of Main street – Saturday evening band concerts – Fred and Stanley Shaffer, graduates of Yale, gentlemen farmers out on Satchell Creek – the jovial Andy Forgy, (father of Earl Forgy, Mrs. Newt Purcell and Mrs. Icy Villars) – Lew Bronson, the first El Dorado boy to throw a curved ball – An important day, Missouri Pacific pay day – Marsh Murdock of Wichita, coming over to fish for bass in the Walnut – The grace of Will Ellet on the tennis court – The “Military Ball” in Ellet’s Opera House, sponsored by Company H of the National guard – Those well remembered characters, Lew Bassett, Howard Greer, “Pogey” Bogardus – Those well remembered early day ministers, Rev. J. C. Hall, and Rev. W. W. Curtis, scholars and fine gentlemen – those popular railroad agents for so many years, Harry Miller of the Santa Fe and John McGinnis of the Missouri Pacific – remembered as a fine gentleman, Judge C. A. Leland.


In June of 1900 an organization of El Dorado young men, known as the Royal Family, had a banquet one evening, and such a gala affair it was that the memory of it is still vivid with W. F. Benson, B. R. Leydig, and Charles Pattison, who were three of the thirty guests attending the sumptuous occasion and the only ones who live to tell the tale. Mr. Pattison resides at Winfield.

The Royal Family was a recreational club of young men which had its inspira-

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tion from John MacRitchie, a genial Scotsman who had come from his native land with a sufficient income to let him live comfortably in El Dorado. Mr. MacRitchie was a student of the royal traditions and folklore of Scotland, and he thought it would be fun to start a make-believe kingdom of dukes and nobles in democratic El Dorado. So enlisting the support of Mr. Leydig, Mr. Benson, Mr. Pattison and others, he formed a group of young men who met together regularly and assumed on these occasions the stance and title of Scottish aristocrats. Mr. Leydig was Lord Barrister, Mr. MacRitchie was Lord Duncan, S. H. Brandon was Lord Breadalbane, and so forth. Among the others who took part in the Royal Family were James Hardie, Andy Forgy, H. K. Herbert, Madison Johnson, Morris Albes, Edgar B. Brumback and Cas Friedburg.

The Royal Family’s banquet of June 21, 1900, was the biggest, the best and the last the group ever had. It celebrated the recognition of James Hardie, a leading citizen of the town, as Baron Munchausen of the Royal Family. For Mr. Hardie had written and sent to the local newspapers a series of letters quite as fanciful as anything that ever came from the Baron himself.

These letters were prompted as a joke upon Mr. Ables, a prominent merchant of the El Dorado of that day. Mr. Ables made a trip to New York City to buy merchandise for his store, and while he was away the local newspapers received frequent letters, describing his experiences and signed with his named. The first letter described how he had met with, on the train, and then bicycling champion of the world. Cycling was the leading sport at the time and El Dorado of course had a Bicycle Club, the members of which were rendered quite agog to know that one of their fellow citizens had actually met and conversed with the cycle champion of the world.

Mr. Ables’ greatest exploit was, however – according to his letters in the papers – his rescue of a woman balloonist, from a runaway balloon. According to this story, Mr. Ables was attending a balloon ascension near New York City. Something went wrong with the rigging of the balloon and it started to drift away toward the sea. Mr. Ables, so this letter said, valiantly climbed the guy ropes on the balloon, pulled the plug to release the gas and thus saved the fair balloonist from some horrible fate.

But when Mr. Ables returned home to be greeted as a hero, the truth soon was out. Those letters in the paper had been written by James Hardie and sent to the papers as a joke, and everybody had “fallen for them.”

Mr. Ables proved he could take a joke. He was a host of the Royal Family’s banquet that June evening in 1900, at Andy Forgy’s Hotel, and gave them royal entertainment. Just about every kind of food and drink was served and the party lasted ‘till 2 o’clock the following morning. The favors were miniature balloons.

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El Dorado, picturesque, lively and distinctive, is located in the heart of an oil and gas and livestock and farming region that ranks as one of the richest in the Central West. The city is served by the Santa Fe railroad system, north and south and northeast, and the Missouri Pacific, east and west and northwest, and traversed by Highways 55 and 77.

During the period between 1915 and 1921, El Dorado made a spectacularly rapid progress. A population of 3,266 in 1910 had increased to 11,267 in 1920, with Oil Hill, a community of 3,000 just beyond the city limits.

From Edgar Golden, secretary of the Chamber of Commerce and from various other sources, these data for 1934 concerning El Dorado are secured:

Population: 10,311; native born, 98 per cent

Area: One and one-half miles square

Altitude: 1300 feet

Climate: Rainfall, 34.78 inches annually; temperature mean annual 51.2 degrees

Assessed Valuation of Tangible Property: $5,836,884 with 15.2 mill tax levy for 1935.

City’s bonded indebtedness: 4442,124,52, with retirement by general taxation of serial bonds.

Financial: Four banks, with approximate total deposits of (October 1934) $3,000,000; resources of $3,500,000.

Post office receipts: For the year ending October 1, 1934: $48,918.41

Telephones in service: 4,700.

Churches: Fifteen, with a property valuation of $410,000

Building and construction: value of building permits for nine months to October 1, 1934; $12,012.

Trade: Retail territory serves 20,000 people in a trading area of 15-mile radius.

Newspapers: One daily; one weekly

Hotels: Five with total of 192 rooms; newest hotel built in 1923.

Railroads: Two, Missouri Pacific and Santa Fe

Hospitals: One, with 50 beds

Education: Total of teachers in public schools: 93. Total of teachers in Catholic parochial schools: Five. The average daily attendance in the public schools has increased from 2,070 in 1920, to 3,031 in the fall of 1934. This is inclusive of kindergarten and Junior College. Plant value of public school property $630,000.

Library: Carnegie, with 10,200 volumes.

City statistics: 45 miles street, with 25.8 miles paved; gas mains, 35.34 miles; sewers, 21.25 miles; capacity of waterworks (municipal), 1,250,000 gallons, and plant valued at $675,000; fire department employees nine men and has the following equipment; three engines, two hose and chemical wagons; one hook and ladder truck, in one station house. Value of fire department with property, $42,000. Police department has nine men with one station and two pieces of motor equipment.

Form of government: Commissioner-Manager. Commissioners are authorized to employ a city manager, who is responsible only to the commission. E. W. Grant is mayor; W. F. Benson and Dr. A. H. Gish are other commissioners. Fernard E. Schide is city manager and city engineer. Appointed officers, all of whom report to the manager, are: George Hayman, city waterworks superintendent; L. N. McAdoo, street commissioner; C. Whiteside, city clerk; Charles Parton, police chief; Donald Rayburn, fire chief; F. A. Loman, city health officer; F. J. Leasure, city attorney, W. F. McGinnis Jr., police judge; May Seglem, city nurse.

Water Supply: the source of the city’s water supply is municipally-owned; Lake El Dorado, covering an area of 315 acres, storing more than a billion gallons of water, and with a watershed of 33 square miles. The lake was completed in 1928 at a cost of $439,471. Water flows from the lake to the basins by gravity. The average daily consumption per inhabitant is 85 gallons and the average pressure in the mains in the business district is 50 pounds per square inch. There are 17 miles of mains, varying from 4 to 14 inches in diameter, and 153 fire hydrants in service.

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Industrials: The principal industry, aside from agriculture and cattle grazing, is producing and refining of petroleum.

Utilities: The city is efficiently served by the Kansas Gas and Electric Company and Western Distributing Company, both offering nominal rates for general consumption of electricity and gas, with special rates for industrial purposes. City and rural telephone service is supplied by the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company. Western Union Telegraph Company and Railway Express Agency serve the city.

El Dorado is headquarters for Kansas Gas and Electric Company’s El Dorado District, which includes, in addition to El Dorado, Burns, Potwin, Whitewater, Benton, Towanda, Leon, Rosalia, Atlanta, Cambridge, Latham, Elbing, Oil Hill and Midian, and the oil field. Industrial power is served to the various industries from one end of the district to the other, the northernmost load being the Florence Oil field. Electricity is brought to this district through a two-circuit tower line from the big power plant at Neosho, and through three individual lines from the plant at Wichita to the big substation four miles west of El Dorado. In point of consumption of electricity, the El Dorado district stands second, being exceeded only by the Wichita district. Pittsburg, Arkansas City, Independence, and Newton follow in the order named. H. C. Cox has been district manager of the company since January 1, 1922.

Natural gas is supplied by the Western Distributing Company. From 1906, when the first natural gas project was started, gas pipelines have been steadily reaching out, tapping new fields and carrying this natural gas to new markets, until today compressing stations are pumping gas through a veritable net work of pipelines and mains, covering the entire Mid-Continent field, and serving approximately 150,000 persons. Today, El Dorado can depend on gas from three different courses and three pipelines, which can be used separately or as one. The longest line extends into the Texas Panhandle.

The exchange of the Southwestern Bell Telephone Company adequately serves El Dorado. The system was purchased during the oil boom from the Butler County Telephone Company. The plant here is known as the “common battery” type. From the central office, a total of 4,700 business and residence telephones are served. More than forty men and women are employed locally by the company. An average of 1,500 local calls are handled daily. More than a dozen long distance circuits connect with Tulsa and Kansas City. Eight circuits extend to Wichita, where rapid connections may be made with all parts of the United States and to most parts of North American and Europe.

Amusements and Recreation – The largest auditorium seats 1200 persons; two theaters with a total seating capacity of 900. The Country Club maintains an 18-hole golf course; the American legion, an 18-hole course, and the Empire, a 9-hole course at Oil Hill. Private enterprise has Forest Park. Riverside Park, adjacent to the scenic Walnut River, is attractive. El Dorado Lake, constructed during the city managership of W. F. Benson, has all the attractions of a park and its shade, landscape, fishing, stone ovens and tables attract numerous visitors from over Butler County and from other states. In addition to three city parks there are the community tennis court, an athletic field, baseball grounds and playgrounds, on school premises. Concerts are given weekly in Gordy Park, during the summer season, by a municipal band of which T. R. Hart is director. The three parks comprise 12 acres valued at $80,000.


The early location of the county officials is indefinite, particularly between 1864, when El Dorado first because the countyseat, and 1870, when its present location was fixed and a small building erected. On April 30, 1859, the board of county supervisors (now commissioners) met at the home of G. T. Donaldson, near Chelsea, which thus became the original seat of Butler County government. At this meeting, it formally was ordered that the annual meeting should take place at the Chelsea Hall, in Chelsea and also decided that “for the present the county officers should hold their offices at their residences” except the clerk of the probate who was required to maintain his office at the residence of J. C. Lambdin, “until further notice.” This situation continued until May 21, 1864, when an election was held and El Dorado declared the countyseat. For several years prior by reason of the constant juggling of the county boundary lines, El Dorado had been located, first in Hunter,

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1857, to 1860; then Irving (1860 to 1864) of which it was the temporary countyseat.


The county commissioners recognized the validity of the election selecting El Dorado, but declined to move the offices because no suitable building was obtainable on the townsite. It was during this period that D. M. Bronson, county attorney under appointment of Saw Wood, urged J. D. (Jerry Conner) to remodel the old frame building which had been the town’s first postoffice but now untenanted, into a court house. Various conferences were held, finally resulting in Connor’s refusal and the impetuous Bronson’s temporary quitting of the community, taking his office “somewhere south of Augusta.” By 1867, however, D. M. Bronson had returned and was again leading the agitation for a courthouse. In the meantime the commissioners were without a regular meeting place, but according to a chronicle of the period, “generally the Dunleavy Building was used and most of the officers had their offices in their houses, or after a fashion, under their hats.” In July, 1870, a strong effort was made to secure the issue of $25,000 in bonds, the proceeds to be used for county buildings. This proposal was voted down, 239 to 550. Nothing daunted, the settlers went to work on another method and on July 19, 1870, the land now occupied by the court house (a block between Central, Gordy, Star, and Pine streets) was deeded to the county, in consideration of a dollar by Henry and C. C. Martin. The contract for the building of the court house was then let to I. N. Branson (not Bronson) for $3,750 and work started immediately. In April, 1871, the building was completed and occupied. The commissioners during this period were Martin Vaught, Chelsea; M. A. Palmer, Little Walnut; and S. C. Fulton, Towanda. In July, 1875, funds ($8,000--) were appropriated for the first wing of the old building, plus a jail on the southwest corner of the block costing $15,000. The court house addition was completed in March, 1876,. In March, 1895, another wing was erected at a cost of $4,840. A print in a history of Butler County, owned by Mrs. J. B. Adams, shows a two-story brick building, with a dozen windows (upper and lower floors) at the front, an arched doorway in the center, opening upon the sidewalk, with the usual coterie (presumably loafers) standing in the door and along the side of the building and a sleepy team, attached to a spring wagon, hitched in front.

In July 1908, plans were adopted for the present imposing structure which now stands in the center of the old Martin block. The contract was let for $60,000 on August 5, 1908 and work started in September. The building was accepted on September 10, 1909. The cornerstone was laid December 3, 1908 with Masonic service. The commissioners who let the contract, in 1908, were Milton T. Minor, First District; Peder Paulson, Second District; and Sol Anderson. Third District. The commissioners who accepted it were Milton T. Minor, First District; William P. Bradley, Second District; and William J. Houston, Third District.


El Dorado’s postoffice as originally located, was a mile and one half south of the present town. The mails, however, were handled on the present town site at the residence of Henry Martin, presumably a deputy or assistant, in that Daniel Stine, who lived in Augusta, was the officially listed postmaster. The actual postoffice though seems to have been a little frame house on the Conner farm – this between 1858 and 1862. About 1862, a postoffice was opened in a small building across the Walnut River, opposite the present city, with D. L. McCable in charge. It continued there four or five years or until perhaps the time El Dorado was surveyed and platted into lots. Henry Martin was the first officially listed postmaster and in succession came Dr. H. D. Kellogg, Mrs. M. J. Long, N. F. Frazier, Sr., Alvah Shelden, T. P. Fulton, J. C. Rodgers, Ben F. Meeks, A. J. Palmer, W. H. Ellet, Mary Alice Murdock, T. P. Mannion, W. R. Childs, acting postmaster; Albert B. Ewing, and Wilbur Morris, present postmaster (1934), who was appointed during the Coolidge administration. Boyd H. Marston is assistant postmaster.

N. F. Frazier Sr. conducted the office in connection with the Betts and Frazier store and upon the appointment of Alvah Shelden, and during his tenure, it was moved around the corner to a location which now would be one of the floors under the old Ellet Opera House. It remained in this block at different locations, for the


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