from: "History of the State of Kansas" by William G. Cutler,
1883 published by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, Illinois.
Lyon County is situated in the exact center of the State, north and south, and is almost parallel with the center of population, east and west, being a short distance to the east thereof. It has become, to a great extent, what its early settlers meant it to be, a railroad center and an emporium of trade for Central Kansas. Previous to their exhibit of foresight and determination, a number of settlers had located in the county, but foreseeing the natural advantage of locating at or near the junction of the Neosho and Cottonwood rivers, many of the enterprising pioneers settled in that vicinity. By common consent, however, the very first settler of the county was Charles H. Withington, who located in the extreme northern part of the county, on the old Santa Fe road, a short distance south of what is now Allen Postoffice, Agnes City Township. Mr. Withington was one of the earliest settlers of the State, coming to Kansas in 1846, being gunsmith to the Sac and Fox Indians. Removing to Council Grove five years later, he opened a store for the Santa Fe and Indiantrade, and following his old proclivities, when, in June, 1854, he became a resident of Lyon County--then unorganized--he planted himself again on the old Santa Fe road, opening a trading post and becoming the first storekeeper in the county. In 1851 he was appointed United States Mail Agent, with headquarters at Council Grove. He obtained and held the trade of the immigrants who passed along the Neosho Valley, many of them settling with its borders in 1855, `56. His store became known far and wide as the only "commercial establishment" in southern Kansas, outside of the regular Indian posts. Would-be settlers looking for claims, found in Mr. Withington's place of business as good a hotel as the times would afford, and in Mr. Withington himself as accommodating a landlord as his accommodations would allow. In 1857, when the bulk of the early immigration flowed to this county, and for years afterward, Mr. Withington was prominent in all affairs of moment to the county, as will be ascertained by consulting pages which follow. He died atSacramento, Cal., November 4, 1881. At the time he was stopping with his brother, R. H. In June, 1880, Mr. Withington's wife had preceded him, and his own death was no doubt hastened by his grief over her loss.
In April, 1855, Oliver Phillips settled on One Hundred and Forty-second Creek, and is, without doubt, the second permanent resident of the county. He moved to his present location on Duck Creek, in 1857. Under the Leavenworth Constitution of 1858, Mr. Phillips was elected a representative from the county, and in 1859, was sent as a delegate to the Osawatomie Convention, which organized the Republican party of Kansas. He has been Commissioner of his county, and Assessor repeatedly, and is generally respected.
The next day after Mr. Phillips' arrival, Chris. Ward also located on One Hundred and Forty-second Creek. About the same time came J. S. Pigman, who, in 1857, went into business at Columbia, which had been founded two years before by Mr. Withington and others. In May, 1855, Charles Johnson and James H. Pheanis located on the Cottonwood River. Mr. Johnson still lives on the old homestead. Mr. Pheanis has since sold his farm removed to Emporia, then returned and located on land near his former home. At about the same time David Vangundy settled on the Cottonwood, above its junction with the Neosho River, and John Rosenquist took a claim just below. Joseph Moon and Rev. Thomas J. Addis (a lonesome Free-state man) and his family, increased the number of settlers near the junction. The same year (1855) Lorenzo Dow settled on the creek which bears his name, and, with him, R. H. Abraham, Wm. Grimsley and Thomas Shockley, on Allen Creek; Joseph Hadley, Wm. H. Eikenbery and Joel Haworth, on the Cottonwood, west of the presentsite of Emporia; Dr. Gregg, Mr. Carver, James Hendricks and others, near the junction; Albert Watkins on One Hundred and Forty-second Creek; John Fowler, on the Cottonwood below Emporia, and G. D. Humphrey and L. H. Johnson on the Neosho, above the present city. Among the settlers of 1856, may be mentioned, Charles N. Link (who located in Douglas County in 1854), Sol. Pheanis (from whom the creek wasnamed), Moses Puckett, Silas Howell, D. Roth, Isaac Cox, Eli Davis, Curtis Hiatt, Andrew Hinshaw, W. J. Carney, Milton Chamness, N. Lockerman, P. W. Manning, Mr. Taylor (from whom the creek was named), and S. G. Brown.
One of those events which seldom happened to disturb the equanimity of the early settlers of Breckinridge County, was the killing of Mrs. Carver, the daughter of David Vangundy, who lived near Neosho Rapids. The settlement in that vicinity was largely composed of the Pro-slavery element, and in September, 1856, a Free-state mob from Topeka, robbing as they went, came to Mr. Carver's house and demanded admission. Being refused, they fired into the building, two of the shots taking effect in the body of Mrs. Carver, who was in bed at the time. The unfortunate young lady, a bride of only a year, died soon after. The mob then continued on their course along the Cottonwood, and before they left this region, visited Columbia, and Mr. Withington's store, at Allen. For the particulars of this raid the reader is referred to the sketch of NeoshoRapids.
In 1857 occurred a great influx of settlers; consequently, as in all new but growing communities, the problem of sufficient mail communication became the uppermost one for immediate solution. During 1855-56 the mail for the Cottonwood and Neosho Valley settlers had been thrown from the Santa Fe stages, and placed in Mr. Withington's hands for distribution. Joseph Hadley then mounted a horse and acted as carrier, the settlers whom he thus accommodated raising the money to pay him for his services. By the summer of 1857 the department still "accommodated" the people of Breckinridge County by giving them an occasional mail from Jefferson City to Council Grove, the post-office for Emporia being at Columbia, three miles below. Besides the irregularity of the mails, there were other reasons why the citizens of the new town of Emporia did not appreciate this arrangement. As was then observed: "We do not feel inclined to trust our letters to the tender mercies of the Pro-slavery residents of Council Grove, and prefer to carry our mail matter by private hands, rather than risk the present uncertainty." But a great cry of distress went up from all the people, whatever their political bendings. The key-note of the cry was "We must have mail communication withTopeka." The cry was answered.
Most of the mail was finally ordered sent to Lawrence--box 500--which was brought down to Emporia in "private hands" and deposited in the hotel, where the settlers helped themselves--"with no one to molest or make afraid." The Emporia News proposed that a regular semi-weekly mail be established between Emporia and Lawrence--a pony express. The application was refused by the General Government. But in the fall of 1857 John Fowler resigned as Postmaster at Columbia, and the office was removed to Emporia. H. W. Fick became the Postmaster here, and the mail facilities of the county were soon brought into better shape. In August "Dow's weekly hack" commenced to run between Emporia and Topeka, and Walker's hack was put on the road about the same time between Emporia and Lawrence. But even in January, 1858, it is recorded that there were "about three bushels of mail directed to Emporia lying in the Osawatomie office, seventy-five miles away, the route from that point being by way of the Sac Agency, Le Roy and Ottumwa." The mailwas supposed to be a weekly mail, carried on horseback. Decently regular mail routes were established the next year from Council Grove to Fort Scott, via Emporia; from Butler, Mo., to Council Grove, and fromLawrence to Emporia. In August, 1860, tri-weekly coaches were put on the route between Emporia and Lawrence. By March, 1861, Emporia was receiving tri-weekly mails from Lawrence, semi-weekly from Council Grove and weekly from Topeka, Fort Scott, Cottonwood Falls, Tonawanda and Butler, Mo. The growth of the postal service in Emporia and the county is traced elsewhere--the early attempts at establishments being what applies to the topic now being treated.
Another "establishment" of early times, which is of the supremest importance to the pioneer, is the saw mill. The first ones built in this county were in the spring and summer of 1857. Parham & Phelps operated one near Emporia. On the opposite side of the Neosho River, one-half a mile north of Parham's mill, was the mill of Dr. Armour, while eight miles west, on the Cottonwood River, was Joel Hayworth's establishment and six miles below, at the junction, G. D. Humphrey operated one. Mr. Humphrey built and operated the pioneer mill--the firm being afterwards Humphrey & Goodwill. In December, 1858, W. T. Soden purchased fromMr. Link a mill site, with water privilege, about four miles west of Emporia. In 1859 the "American Steam Saw Mill" was in operation on the south side of Cottonwood River, one mile west of its junction with the Neosho, M. M. Baker, proprietor. In the summer of 1860 the county supported seven saw mills, the one at Emporia operated by Britton & Isbell; Dr. Armour owning one a mile north; Joel Haworth on the Cottonwood, seven miles west; M. M. Baker (the American) seven miles east; G. D. Humphrey on the Neosho, at Forest Hill; Mr. Bests, at Waterloo, and Mr. Bywater, at Americus. With the war came the suspension of many of these mills, which suffered with all other industries.
As previously intimated, the sagacious early settlers of Breckinridge County saw at once their natural advantages of position--especially those who located near the junction of the Neosho and Cottonwood rivers. They perceived what a splendid inlet and outlet for railroads the valley of these rivers made, and knew that somewhere near their meeting the future metropolis of the county, and perhaps of central Kansas, must be located. The citizens of Emporia therefore early began the agitation of railroads, which were to run up and down these natural courses.
The first public meeting ever held in Emporia was a Fourth of July celebration, and the third one a public gathering to discuss railroad matters--date, July 21, 1857. The settlers began to arrive early in the day, and had assembled in sufficient numbers by 11 o'clock, A. M., to select a committee on resolutions, consisting of John O. Wattles, of Moneka; W. A. Ela of Hampden; P. B. Plumb, W. B. Swisher, Abells; A. S. Frazer, and Z. Stubbs, of Breckinridge County. The meeting then adjourned until 2 o'clock, P. M., as C. K. Holliday, president of the Topeka & St. Joe Railroad, and Prof. W. Oakley, of the same corporation, were expected to be present and address the gathering. They came and spoke, Col. Holliday delivering an enthusiastic address of nearly an hour's duration, demonstrating the grand importance of securing connection with that road andthus with the chain of iron bands running along the shores of the lakes to the East. A glowing set of resolutions were adopted, delineating the splendid position of Emporia as a natural railroad center and commercial mart for central Kansas. The following "whereas" fairly illustrates the sense of the meeting:
Emporia, by its central position in Kansas, offers all the advantages for a point of general radiation, as well as a point of termination for the roads entering the Territory from the east, north and south, and to unite and extend onward toward the setting sun, as that proposed from the Kansas River to the Gulf of Mexico will undoubtedly pass down the Neosho Valley, and that from Jefferson City (via Versailles, Clinton and Butler to the line, thence through Moneka, Hyatt and Central Southern Kansas) will also terminate here, or, passing through, terminate in Santa Fe; and that now being constructed from Hannibal to St. Joe, and from thence to Topeka, will, in all probability, be continued to this point, thus opening the heart of Kansas--which is the heart of the country--to the wealth and commerce of the world.
In the spring of 1864 steps were taken to organize the Neosho Valley Railroad, to run from Fort Riley to Emporia, via Council Grove. It soon became evident, however, that the A., T. & S. F. road, of which it was to be a branch, would make the line quite an insignificant adjunct to the main route. In April, 1864, the Neosho Valley Association was formed, composed of citizens from Woodson, Coffey, Lyon and Riley counties--Judge Bent, president. Its object was to obtain control of the land grant which had been voted the A., T. & S. F.--every alternate section, for ten sections in width on each side of the road--and make the Neosho Valley & Fort Gibson road a branch of the U. P. Senator Lane introduced the bill extending the Neosho Valley line to Fort Riley; also making Emporia the terminus of the Lawrence & Wakarusa road. An amendatory act was passed in June, covering these points and making the Valley road a branch of the Union Pacific. Thus originated the M. K. & T. road, now the Missouri Pacific. Although $125,000 bonds were voted by the county in September, 1865, to aid in the construction of the Lawrence & Emporia line, the bonds were not issued and no work was done. In May, 1867, the Topeka & Emporia Company was formed, and in June, 1869, $200,000 bonds were voted to the A., T. & S. F., and the road was completed to Emporia in July, 1870. Two years previous to this "happy consummation" --in June, 1867--the county voted the M. K. & T. R. R. Co. (the old Neosho Valley) $200,000 in bonds, and that line was built through the county in 1869-70. The two roads intersect each other at Emporia, the Missouri Pacific entering the county from Americus Township. Its principal stations are Americus, Neosho Rapids and Hartford. The A., T. & S. F. passes from Reading Township, in a southwesterly direction, to Emporia, where it bends directly to the west, the principal stationsbeing Reading and Plymouth. The Kansas City, Emporia & Southern, and the Kansas City & Emporia lines may be said to lie in the near future. The charter of the Kansas City & Emporia road dates from January, 1881. In September, 1882, Jackson Township voted $20,000 in bonds to aid in its construction. Its course is surveyed for nearly an air line between the two points. Some grading has already been done in Osage County.
By the spring of 1860 the population of the county had reached 3,500, but during this year a series of misfortunes occurred, which checked its progress for years. That long and discouraging drought commenced in the fall of 1859, and for all practical purposes no rain fell until October 26, 1860. The county had scarcely any development in agriculture, and the settlers had the scantiest of stocks on hand to meet such an unforseen crisis. Many of them became completely disheartened and returned to the East. During the winter and spring those who had remained were relieved from actual suffering; but the long-to-be-remembered drought of 1860 had a demoralizing effect not only upon the county then, but upon its future prospects. The heavy taxes of this fall and the war coming in the spring of 1861 with all its train of "set-backs," crushed BreckinridgeCounty, for the time, almost to the ground. And the effects of the war were necessarily felt by sections which responded the most generously to the call for troops. The first company which left this county was the "Emporia Guards," in May, 1861. They were commanded by Capt. W. F. Cloud, and joined their regiment at Lawrence. They did good service, fighting bravely at Wilson's Creek. A. J. Mitchell raised an artillery company also. In the fall of 1862 P. B. Plumb raised a company of 150 men for service in the Eleventh Regiment. In 1864 the LyonCounty Militia assisted in the campaign against Price. The mention of these organizations does not include the enlistments of those who joined other commands by ones, twos, threes and dozens. Lyon County acquitted herself heroically, and had the brave man, whose name she assumed, lived until the end of the Rebellion, he would have applauded her war record.
Many men from Lyon County also served against the bushwhackers and the Indians of the West. The most noted raid ever accomplished by the former in this vicinity, and which resulted in the shocking death of an old and respected resident of the county, occurred July 3, 1862, and is of such an unusually bold a nature than an account is extracted from the Emporia News:
"It will be remembered that some few weeks ago we gave the particulars of the killing of an old man named Anderson by Judge A. I. Baker. Baker had branded Anderson and his two sons, Bill and Jim, as belonging to a band of horse thieves; and for this and perhaps one or two other reasons, which it is not necessary to make public, Anderson sought his life, and was shot by Baker in self-defense. At the same time, a Mexican, one of the band of horse thieves and desperadoes to which the Andersons belonged, was hung by a mob. Bill Anderson was arraigned on the charge preferred by Baker and bailed out. He swore vengeance on Baker and others and left the country. It was supposed at the time--and the awful tragedy which we are about to relate proves the supposition to have been true--that they had gone to Missouri to join Quantrell.
"On Thursday evening, the 3rd of July, at 8 or 9 o'clock, Bill Anderson, Jim Anderson, Lee Griffin (another of the gang which had left), accompanied by two others, one of them supposed to be Quantrell himself, arrived at the residence of Judge Baker, on the Santa Fe road, when one of their company proceeded to his house and reported himself as a lone traveler, and told Baker he wished to procure some whisky. Baker went to his store, a short distance from his residence, to get the whisky, and when in the act of going into the cellar the other four members of the gang rushed in and discharged several pistols at him, two of them taking effect in his body. Baker reeled upon the steps, drew his revolver and fired into the crowd, hitting Jim Anderson in the thigh, but not seriously wounding him. Baker fell into the cellar in an expiring condition. A young man named Segur, a brother-in-law of Baker's, was present and was shot and thrown into the cellar with him. The cut-throats supposed this latter gentleman to be Elisha Goddard, of Americus, against whom they had a grudge for taking a prominent part in the hanging of their comrade, the Mexican, and against whom they had sworn vengeance. They then closed the door and piled boxes and barrels upon it, and set them afire. Baker, who was in the agonies of a horrible death, reached over his hand and bade Segur farewell, saying, "I am going." Young Segur although mortally wounded, recollected a back window in the cellar, and through this he mustered strength to escape from the horrible fate of burning to death. He lived about twenty-four hours after his escape. Judge Baker's head, arms and legs were literally burned to ashes. A portion of the body was saved from burning by some object which had fallen upon it during the conflagration. The devils then set fire to the remainder of his property, consisting of a large stone dwelling, several outhouses, a carriage, etc. They also stole two fine horses.
"After they had completed their hellish work at this point, the murderers started towards Missouri, on the Santa Fe road, committing depredations and stealing horses at every point which they passed. After leaving Baker's, the first settler is a man called Dutch Henry, and whom they robbed of clothing and money.
"They then went to the residence of C. H. Withington, of Allen, and, after placing all the men about the premises under arrest, they demolished a saloon, knocking the proprietor down with a pistol and setting fire to his house. Owing to the lumber being green, the building did not burn. Jim Anderson seemed determined upon killing our friend Withington, but his life was spared through the intercession of Quantrell and Bill Anderson, the former of whom Mr. W. recognized, having been somewhat acquainted with him a few years ago in Missouri. Here they stole three horses belonging to the Kansas City & Santa Fe Mail Company, and a rifle belonging to Mr. Withington. They stayed at Allen until nearly daylight. When they started they took the prisoners with them, and on releasing them Quantrell is reported to have said something in this wise: "Gentlemen, we now have possession of Kansas, and if I had time I would issue a proclamation. But I will only say this much: Let it be remembered that Quantrell disturbs no man who minds his own business."
"At Elm Creek they fired into the house of a Mr. Jacoby, who had taken some part in getting them arrested. It was their intention to have killed this gentleman, but a Santa Fe train, which was encamped near Jacoby's residence, saved his life. At the next station they stole two more horses, belonging to the Kansas City & Council Grove Stage Company. From this place they proceeded on down the road, avoiding Burlingame, and threatening Hollam Rice--who, as those who have traveled the road between here and Lawrence, will recollect, kept a kind of a stopping place at Dragoon Creek, near Burlingame, and who lately left for Iowa, because of his supposed complicity with this band of horse-thieves--they would lay that town in ashes. At 110 creek they compelled Mr. Harris to get breakfast for them in double-quick time, threatening to blow his brains out if he did not do so. They left there a little after daylight, and were probably in Missouri by noon of that day."
In the fall of 1860, previous to the war, came the grasshopper raid; in June, 1866, after the war, came the freshets, damaging thousands of dollars' worth of property. These six years, from 1860 to 1866, may be designated Lyon County's unfortunate period, but soon after that she took a fresh and more vigorous start. Railroads were built, crops were moderately good, and by 1870 her population had increased to 8,014. The earthquake of April 24, 1867, cannot be called either a retarding or a fostering influence. It shook up the county, generally, for about fifteen seconds, and created such a panic in the Normal School, at Emporia, that several of the scholars were bruised while attempting to make too hasty an exit down stairs. So endeth the first earthquake.