Source: History of the State of Kansas by Willam G. Cutler, Chapter 3
transcribed by Peggy Thompson
Clay Centre, one of the most attractive towns in northern central Kansas, is situated as its name implies
at about the center of Clay County, on the east bank of the Republican River. It has a charming location, occupying
the second bottom of the valley, and extending into the elevated prairie land to the northeast. From any part of
the city a picturesque view can be had, but from the elevated portion, in the vicinity of the public school building
the view is more extensive, becoming beautiful and even imposing. The broad valley extending far to the southeast
and the northwest, with its low, rounded, bordering hills, with others beautifully rolling rising behind them,
and the serpentine course of the broad river, traced by its trimming of forest trees and the silver sheen appearing
here and there, produce a charming picture. The city itself is attractive. Its citizens have been awake to their
interests, comforts and aesthetic wants. They early commenced the planting of trees, which are now both useful
and ornamental. The great majority of Western towns have sadly neglected this. The residence portion of the town
is remarkable for the neatness of its dwellings, and the air of comfort and convenience that surrounds them. The
cottages and elegant residences have that genial air of home about them which reminds one of much older towns.
The business portion of the place is rapidly improving, the small frame building of the village giving place to
the large, substantial stone or brick block of the city. This indicates the general prosperity of her business
men, which has earned for Clay Centre the name of being one of the best and most promising commercial points in
the great Republican valley.
The first settlement on the town site was made by the Dexter brothers, John and Alonzo F., in May 1862, and the second by Orville Huntress. The town was laid out by the Clay Centre Town Company, which consisted principally of the Dexter family. John and Alonzo F. Dexter, who are considered the fathers of the town, secured A. C. Pierce, of Junction City, to survey the new town. R. Franken made a second survey and plat of the town, which was filed in the Recorder's office, and has remained unchanged-the official map of Clay Centre.
In June, 1862, Dexter brothers obtained the services of two men from Fancy Creek and erected two log houses. This was done that they might hold their claims on the town site. John returned to Illinois, and his brother, A. F., to California. The latter did not come back until August, 1864. John returned to Clay Centre in the spring of 1863. In 1864, he bought a house on Pete's Creek, and removed to a location just south of the Dispatch livery stable. But the second house on the town site was erected by William S. Hutchinson. About the middle of August, 1864, two hundred settlers from Clay and the counties west collected around Mr. Huntress' cabin, owing to the great Indian raid on the Little Blue and Platte rivers, in Nebraska. They remained here in camp for over a month.
In 1862, the post-office was established at Mr. Huntress' cabin, where it remained until 1869, when it was removed to the town site, and Charles Huntress appointed postmaster.
The town grew very slowly at first, scarcely averaging one house a year, until 1866, when it became the county-seat. Its growth was very slow from this time until 1870. In 1873, when the Junction City & Fort Kearney Railroad reached Clay Centre, it seemed to take a new start, a revival of business commenced which has not since abated, but steadily increased. Its population has increased, since then, from about 200 to 3,400. The arrival of the Kansas Central in 1880 added but little to its growth.
The first birth on the town site was Allie, daughter of Aaron Dexter. This interesting event occurred the 13th of May, 1865. It was during this year that the first schoolhouse was built.
Clay Centre was incorporated, as a city of the third class, the 11th of June, 1875, at which time the inhabitants numbered 350. The first election took place June 26, and the first council meeting was held July 1, 1875.
In April, 1880, the population having reached 2,250, a petition was presented to the Governor, for a change in the city government, and in July Gov. J. P. St. John issued a proclamation declaring Clay Centre a city of the second class.
The first council was composed of W. L. Johnson, G. Kuhule, M. R. Mudge, A. F. Dexter and J. S. Bowen. Present council: C. E. Gifford, S. S. McIntire, P. P. Kehoe, I. A. Flood, O. F. Lutt and W. W. Beatty.
Mayors. - 1875-6, A. Wilson; 1877, M. H. Ristine, resigned, and was succeeded by J. H. Pinkerton, who served until 1880; 1881, C. R. Barnes; 1882, C. R. Barnes.
Clerks. - 1875-6, E. P. Huston; 1877, C. C. Coleman; 1878-9-80, Newton Allen; 1881, B. F. Flenniken; 1882, H. E. Lacev.
Police Judges. - 1875-6-7, J. W. Miller; 1877-8-9, William P. Ensey; 1880-1-2, J. W. Miller.
Treasurers. - 1875-6 M. R. Mudge; 1877, J. Higinbotham, Sr., resigned, and J. W. Miller appointed; 1878, J. W. Miller; 1879-80-1-2, George Wigg.
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