The town of Saffordville was once a vast plain with buffaloes roaming about. In the year of 1871, the grading for the Santa Fe railroad was completed and steel for it was laid in 1872. The railroad ran along the northern boundary of the town, then uninhabited. A small depot was then built, and the first agent was Mr. Pents. The second track was laid in 1897, and it ran from Emporia to Newton. The third track was completed in 1924.
The place where the town now stands was a forty acre piece of land jointly owned by three men - Court Wright, who owned half, and Blasdale and Scott, who owned one fourth each, though it was not definitely divided. Scott was a drunkard, and the last part of his life was never sober. Whenever anyone tried to buy the lots, he would never sign his name; and without his signature, the deeds were no good. After several years, Ben Scott died and, as it was supposed that he had no heirs, the lots were sold. The owners secured deeds and houses began to be built. Later it was discovered that Ben Scott had a brother who had a family: thus all the deeds were worthless. After several trials, the case was settled at Cottonwood Falls.
The first name of the town was Safford, named after Judge Safford, Supreme Judge of the District Court of Kansas, who had done a notable deed pertaining to the Homestead Act. The mail became mixed with the mail for Stafford, Kansas, so the name was changed to Kanyon at a meeting of the settlers. This time the mail was mixed with mail for Canyon City, Colorado, and the name Safford was used again. A group of railroad painters painted the name Saffordville, on the depot. The mail came addressed to Saffordville, and the name was retained. Some of the first settlers of Saffordville were Joe Stone, Joshua Moffat, Dave Jones, Raffe Jones, Eaf Jones, Jew Murphey, Dee Miller, M. D. Lyles and a man by the name of Winchild.
North of the present location of the implement store was a small, three-cornered piece of land which was deeded to the public for a park. The trustee at that time assessed this land and the county took it for taxes. A settler, Dave Allen, bought this land and later sold it to the Orient Railroad Company, to which it still belongs.
The grasshopper invasion was in the year of 1874 about the first of September. The grasshoppers came in millions and were high in the air. They were so thick that the sun was hazy at times. One of the settlers owned some turkeys that were always hungry and would eat anything. At first the grasshoppers began to alight one at a time. Whenever the turkeys would see one, they would all rush for it, and it was woe to the grasshoppers. The grasshoppers fast and the turkeys separate and then it was each one for himself. Finally, they could eat no more and were lead away in disgust. The grasshoppers didn't stay more than three or four days, but they killed everything.
There was a drought in the Fall of 1887 and no rain fell for months. All of the crops were killed, and large cracks were formed in the ground. If a small animal fell into one of these cracks, it would die if not taken out. Two or three houses burned in this drought period. The walls had dried up and not enough water could be secured to put out the fires.
The first store was built in 1872, and was located just West of where the Scribner's store now stands. Three men built this store to rent. They were Court Wright, Blasdale and Ben Scott. No one would rent the store, so the back part was partitioned off and was rented to a section hand and his family. A cyclone destroyed this store later. None of the family was injured, although the wife and little child were in the house when the cyclone struck. Thus there was never any goods sold from the first store building. The next store was established in the freight room of the depot. The store John Scribner now owns was once located south of the hotel, and was later moved to its present location. The first owners of this store were Allen and Mills. Allen later bought Mills' interest, enlarged the store, and built the present hotel. The sale was then made to N. B. Scribner who, in turn, sold to his son, John C. Scribner, who still owns it. In 1899, the Woolwine brothers established a store at the spot where Slater's store now stands. Woolwine brothers sold out to Slater and Wipkey in 1916, and Wipkey, in turn, sold out to Slater in 1927.
The first blacksmith shop was built by Tom Johnson at the site where the Slater store now stands. Johnson sold to Ingmire, and Ingmire sold to Church. Church sold out to Ben Jones and, later; Jones sold to Nevitt, who now is the present blacksmith. The present State Bank was built in 1904. Among the first houses built in Saffordville were the A. E. Bentley, the Saunders, the Riggenburg and the Phil Buicks houses. The post office was established in the depot, and, at that time, the agent, Frank Gills, was the postmaster. The second, a postmistress, was Mrs. Bails. She was succeeded by Joshua Moffat, and the fourth was B. M. Garth. He was succeeded by M. D. Lyle. Garth again became postmaster, and John Scribner, the present postmaster, succeeded him. The first rural route was established in 1905. The first mail carrier was John Husband. The present mail carrier is Arthur Selves.
As the town grew, the need for a doctor became evident. The first doctor in Saffordville was Miller. Other doctors Saffordville has had were Sax, Ravenscrof, Conway, and Grubbs. The present doctor is C. F. Hoover, who had been here since 1897. In that year, a section hand died with smallpox. Everyone in town was vaccinated and no one took the disease.
The first school house was built in 1876. It was not large enough to hold all the students, and a need for a new building was seen. Accordingly, a new one was built in 1896. The old one was sold to the Easter brothers and was moved to the Easter farm. It was used for a barn and is still there. The need for a high school was evident and one was built in 1916. Before a church was built, both church and Sunday school was held in the schoolhouse. A church was built in 1902 and is still in use. In the same year, the hall was built for different use.
The Indians used to warn the settlers who settled near the river. They said they had seen the water from bluff to bluff. The settlers did not pay any attention to the Indian's warnings and, in 1904, there came a flood and the Cottonwood River overflowed its banks, flooding everything. Saffordville is located on low ground and the water flowed into almost every house. Two weeks later, it overflowed again which was the last flood for nineteen years. Again, in 1923, there was another flood. It was the last one until 1926. In 1929, there were two floods - one in June and the other in November. In the period from 1923 to 1929, the river overflowed eight times, causing severe losses to the farmers in the lowlands.
In 1898, three men from the town volunteered for service in the Spanish-American War -- Frank Kent, Ranah Lyles and John Crook. The patriotism of Saffordville was again shown in the World War. The men enlisted were: Oscar Obley, James Lyles, Max Lyles, Addison Obley, John and Charles Scribner, Bud Obley, Arthur Selves, Frank Carter, Ralph Studebaker, Irving Meyers, Frank Garrison, Fred Lind and William Stewart.
The town now has a number of lodges. They are the Masons, Woodmen, Easter Star, Royal Neighbors, Ladies Aid, and other social organizations. The school has athletics which include football and baseball. In the summer, the chief entertainment is baseball.
Saffordville now boasts three stores, a blacksmith shop, restaurant, barber ship, bank, garage and a produce shop. Main Street was graveled in 1921. The town now has the population of about two hundred. The present station is the only one that has been in this town. It was raised upon a high platform, but was later lowered.
(Information received from Ben Jones by Victor Slater)
(This account was discovered and edited by Michael Selves in 1994)
[Editor's note: This narrative was, unfortunately, undated; however, the latest date mentioned is 1929. Since World War I is only referred to as "the World War" and no listing of veterans is made for World War II, I'm assuming that this account was made during the 1930s.]