MORTON SEAT TO ELKHART
Elkhart - The Morton County seat war, fought intermittently the past 36 years, apparently has eneded.
Victory, according to the Kansas Supreme Court, goes to Elkhart. The loser: Richfield.
The high court ruled Wednesday the county seat should be moved from Richfield, population 114, to Elkhart population 1,828.
Morton County voters had balloted 1,050 to 449 in favor of the move but the county commissioners ruled it took 60 per cent of the legal voters living in the county to approve the change.
The Elkhart - Richfield battlers agreed that the population of Morton County is 3,317 with 1,873 persons qualified to vote at the time of the special election last Jan. 24.
After county commissioners had voted 2 to 1 that the election had failed, County Atty. K. G. Duckworth asked the state supreme court for its ruling.
Only Majority Needed
The Court held the constitution requires only a majority of the electors; state statute says also the vote must be three - fifth of the legal electors.
"Summarizing," said the court, "we conclude the 1,060 yes votes cast by legal electors to relocate the county seat of Morton County and remove it to Elkhart from Richfield was in excess of a simple majority of the legal electors and was also in excess of a three-fifths majority of the legal election.
"This compels the issuance of the peremptory writ sought by the plaintiff and a direction to the defendant; the Morton County commissioners, to remove the county seat from Richfield, Kan., to Elkhart, Kan."
An attorney for the commissioners had argued that 60 percent of those voting in an election sometimes could represent less than a majority of the county's voters as required by the constitution.
Concerning this arguement, the court noted the applicable statute uses the words "votes of legal electors cast," and added:
"To follow this suggestion based on such speculative circumstances would require us to ignore the word "cast" and this, of course, we cannot do."
The courthouse at Richfield has become virtually unusable in recent years and many of the county officials have been operating in Elkhart. At the January election, voters turned down a bond issue for a new courthouse at Richfield.
The next item of Morton County business: another bond election to build a new courthouse... At Elkhart. (Hutchinson News, May 25, 1961, page 1)
Richfield, the county seat of Morton county, is located north of the center, near the north folk of the Cimarron river, about 50 miles south of Syracuse, the nearest shipping point. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. company is projecting a line through Morton county. There are a number of stores, a weekly newspaper (the Monitor), and a bank. This bank was established in September 1911, the first to be opened in the county. Richfield has a money order postoffice, and the population in 1910 was 53. It is an incorporated city of the third class and was established in November 1885, by the Aurora Town company. The first building was erected by Jacob Ridleman, who opened a general store and by January 1, 1886, there were 40 inhabitants. In the spring of that year Sunset, an earlier town, was moved to Richfield. In less than a year there were 600 inhabitants. In 1887 the first city election was held and resulted in the choice of the following officers: Mayor, v. N. Sayer; police judge, Calvin Coon; councilmen, Charles Theis, F. F. Stevens, W. E. Pierce, D. D. Sayer and I. N. Bunting. It is said that at one time during the boom Richfield had 2,000 inhabitants. The population had begun to decrease before 1890, there being but 164 people in the town at that time. In 1900 the population was 61. A number of residents of the town own automobiles and there is an automobile livery daily to Syracuse. (Kansas A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. edited by Frank W. Blackmar, A. M., Ph. D., Volume II, 1912)