Lyon County,  Kansas



William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas

The Territorial Legislature of 1855 organized Breckinridge County, attaching it to Madison County for civil, criminal and military purposes. It was named to honor Vice-President Breckinridge. The county seat of Madison County was Columbia, situated one and a half miles southeast of Emporia, and founded during this year by the first settler in Breckinridge County, Charles H. Withington, assisted by T. S. Huffaker and Wm. D. Harris, the other two incorporators. The bogus statutes which brought Breckinridge County into being, fixed the terms of the United States District Court in 1855, on the second Thursday of October, and in the county of Madison on the third Thursday of October. During and after the year 1856 the terms of court in Breckinridge County were to commence on the third Monday of July and December. Saunders W. Johnson was Judge of the Third District, but held no court until December, 1858. These same bogus laws of 1855 made the County Commissioners to consist of the Probate Judge and two other members chosen by the Legislature. A Sheriff was also to be elected, and all were to hold their offices until the general election in 1857. The Commissioners appointed the Clerk, Treasurer, Coroner, Justices of the Peace and Constables. On the 25th of August, 1855, the Legislature elected the the following officers for Breckinridge County: Probate Judge, T. S. Huffaker; Commissioners, Harmon B. Elliott and Charles H. Withington.; Sheriff, John B. Foreman. John Ratliff was appointed Clerk. These were the first officers for what is now Lyon County. Only a few meetings were held by the Commissioners. Columbia being out of their way, and furthermore the troubles of 1856 interfered with them. In 1855 Mr. Withington was elected to the Council and Arthur I. Baker to the House. They were Free-state men and the Legislature Pro-slavery; they never obtained their seats. The next set of county officers consisted of Mr. Baker, of Agnes City, Probate Judge; C. Columbia and C. H. Withington, Commissioners: and Elisha Goddard, Sheriff, appointed by the Legislature. This occurred February 17, 1857, and at the same time Breckinridge was detached from Madison County, and Agnes City, the residence of Judge Baker, was declared. But the first regular convention for the nomination of county officers was held at Americus, September 26, 1857. The action of its members gave dissatisfaction to a number, and a rival ticket was put in the field by the convention which met at Kansas Center, October 1. The voting was done viva voce, the election being held October 6. and the Americus ticket triumphed. It was: A. I. Baker, Probate Judge; E. Goddard, Sheriff; N. S. Storrs, Treasurer; Clerk and Recorder, 0. V. Eskridge; Surveyor, - Voke; Coroner, W. B. Swisher; H. W. Fick and William Grimsley, Commissioners. Prior to this election, the people had not generally recognized the authority of the county officers; and the organization of the county into municipal townships, and the regular discharge of official business dates from this time. Dating from this year (1857), when the influx of immigration was at its height, was the agitation to annex three miles of Madison County to Breckinridge. In February, 1859, a bill was passed by the Legislature, making the change. Although the Legislature had made this addition to the original territory of Breckinridge County, which was twenty-four miles square, a mass convention of the newly-attached "three-mile strip" assembled at Columbia, the old county seat, and resolved that as the Governor ignored the change and would refuse to commission officers elected, they deemed it inexpedient then to organize. But their fears were soon dispelled, and the three-mile strip became a part of the county, politically as well as territorily. In March, 1859, four new townships were formed, and Cottonwood and Emporia extended south to the new county line. It was during 1858-59 that the bitterest fight occurred between Americus and Emporia over the location of the county seat. Emporia desired to postpone the settlement of the question, until the southern portion of the county should acquire the "three-mile strip." But the advocates of Americus brought the matter to a vote in October, 1858, and their town was declared the county seat by a majority of fourteen. But there were still doubts as to the legality of the submission so that although the Board of Supervisors made all the preliminary arrangements, in March, 1859, to build a jail and court house at Americus - and as was facetiously observed, in the "Morisco style of architecture" - "Spanish castle" style - the order was rescinded during the next month. The first meeting of the United States District Court, Judge Elmore presiding, was held in Americus, December 20, 1858. It was to have been held at Agnes City, but between the date of notice and time of assembling, the change in the county seat had occurred. The term lasted two days, the cases tried being mostly for trespassing on school lands. The petit jurors were: U. P. Oakfield, R. W. Stevenson, William J. Carney, Van R. Holmes, E. P. Bancroft, Emporia Township; Zimri Stubbs, E. Yeakley. William McClelland, Benjamin Wright, C. H. Dake, Fleming Smith, Americus; R. H. Best, Albert Watkins, John Watkins, John Wayman, Leonard Bush, Kansas Center; John Lohr, Mathias Friel, David Riddle, N. W. Douglas, Agnes City; Ell Davis, Samuel McVey. David Roth, George W. Evans and William Holsinger, Cottonwood. Grand Jurors: R. W. Cloud, William Wendell, Robert Best, Oliver Phillips, Kansas Center Township; J. 0. Hyde, William Perry, G. M. Walker, Leigh McClung, Emporia; Dempsey Elliot, George Rees, John Conner, William McCullouch, Americus; James Jackson, Messrs. Morgan and Moon, Cottonwood; George Lea, William C. Anderson, G. B. Griffith, Agnes City. The second term of court was also held in Americus, closing March 21,1859. William 0. Luineker - was acquitted on a charge of larceny, and the indictments for trespasses on school lands, and for selling liquor without a license, were held by Judge Elmore to be fatally defective, being accordingly quashed. But although a court house was not erected In Americus. It continued to be regarded as the county seat, up to the time of the general election of 1860, held November 6. Emporia received 884 votes for the honor. Americus, 141; Fremont, 73; Breckinridge Center, 14; Forest Hill 1. This election put an end to the contest. Among the early-day towns which figured considerably In 1858, 1859 and 1860, may be mentioned Fremont, Waterloo and Forest Hill. As is above noticed, they were competitors for the county seat. Fremont was laid out in 1857, eight miles north of Emporia, and at one time had attained to almost the dignity of a village. William B. Swisher was President of the Town Company. The town soon contained about a dozen houses, a good general store and several shops. Fremont is now farming land and no trace is left of Emporia's former competitor. Waterloo was laid out in 1858 by W. H. Mickel, fifteen miles northeast of Emporia. Mr. Mickel kept a hotel for several years, and the town grew to contain four or five other buildings. Travelers passing over the old State road between Lawrence and Topeka, patronized Brother Mickel to some extent, but the place never grew in an alarming degree. Forest Hill, another competitor for the country seat, gave up the ghost in 1860, although even then it contained only a few buildings. The "town" was situated on the high land on the east side of the Neosho, nearly opposite the junction being laid out in 1858. The next important event in the general history of Breckinridge County, was the cutting of Madison County in two; attaching the northern twelve miles to this country, and the southern portion to Greenwood. This was done at the last session of the Territorial Legislature in 1861. There was considerable opposition, as the measure completely annihilated Madison County, but the legality of the act was soon sustained by the State Supreme Court, to which an appeal had been taken. This made the county thirty-nine miles long. I n February, 1862, the bill changing the name from Breckinridge to Lyon County received the Governor's signature. It was named in honor of the hero of Wilson's Creek, who had met his untimely death during the previous August. The other changes in the limits of Lyon County, which have fashioned it to its present shape and dimensions are thus detailed in the history prepared by Jacob Stotler, editor of the News, from which, and from whom, much of the material here presented is taken: "In the legislative session of 1863 a law was passed detaching from Lyon County two miles in width of territory on the west side, from the south line of our county as far north as the north line of Chase County. In 1864 an act was passed detaching two miles in width of territory, on the west side of our county, from the line between Ranges 17 and 18 to the north line of the county, and attaching the same to Morris County, thus straightening the west line of the county and leaving it twenty-two miles wide. It contains 858 square miles, or 549,978 acres of land." Its boundaries are now as follows: "Commencing on the west line of Osage County, at the corners to Sections 14, 15, 22, and 23, of Township 15, south of Range 13 east; thence west on section lines and the south line of Wabaunsee County to the east line of Range 9 east; thence south, along said range line to the north line of Township 22 south; thence east on said township line to section line between second and third tier of sections in Range 13 east; thence north on section lines and the west lines of Coffee and Osage Counties to place of beginning." The State officers who have represented Lyon County, will be found in their appropriate place in the general State history. The present county officers, November, 1882, are as follows: Probate Judge, L. B. Kellogg; County Attorney, J. W. Feighan; County Clerk, William F. Ewing; Clerk of the District Court, J. G. Traylor; Superintendent of Schools, J. E. Klock; Treasurer, Joseph Ernst; Sheriff, Thomas L. Ryan; Coroner, J. D. Davison; Register of Deeds, William F. Chalfant; Surveyor, Robert Milliken; Superintendent of the Poor, E. Brown. In March, 1866, the people voted on the question whether they should, or should not, erect a suitable building in Emporia, for the accommodation of the country officers. The result of the election, 327 to 164, showed that some of the old feelings of rivalry still lingered in the breasts of Americus, Waterloo, and Agnes City. The building, a plain two story stone structures, was completed during the winter of 1867-68, at a cost of $19,795. In 1875, at the general election, the people of the country declared most emphatically that they did not want any addition to the court house building. The County Poor Farm is situated one mile southwest of Emporia. It comprises eighty acres of land, and a substantial two story brick building, used as a Poor House. The entire property is valued at $6000. The farm is in the trustworthy charge of E. Brown, and the inmates are given all possible comforts.


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