Source: History of Neosho and Wilson Counties, Kansas, Pub. by L. Wallace Duncan, Fort Scott, Kansas, Monitor Printing Co., 1902; transcribed by Vicki Bryan

History of Neosho and Wilson Counties, Kansas


The history of no state of the union is, perhaps, more interesting than that of Kansas. The story of the pioneers in their efforts to sow the seed of civilization and to supplant nature with art, borders on romance, in interest, and whether in the chase “on the plains,” in the pursuits of industry, in the ranks as soldiers, or in the legislative halls as statesmen, its citizens, on the whole, have shown a wariness, an energy, a bravery and a shrewdness peculiarly their own and the pride and admiration of the nation. The interest awakened in Kansas during its early struggles has continued through its years of peace, war and politics and the versatility of its people has always kept something original happening in the state.In southeast Kansas the mile-posts of civilization were established during the period of state pioneering, but its general settlement and division into municipalities did not occur until about the close of the Civil War. This is particularly true of the counties of Neosho and Wilson. Some of their pioneers were identified honorably with the contest for freedom and many of them were witnesses to the stirring events of the first twenty years of our statehood. It is for the purpose of making a record of these events, to engrave, where they will not be lost or forgotten, the names of those whose courage and sacrifice laid the foundation for the prosperity and peace we now enjoy, as well as to note the steps by which the present high state of material development of the two counties has been reached, that this volume has been compiled and published.

The chief ambition of the authors and publisher of this work has been to make it an accurate and reliable history and they have spared no pains to verify every important fact herein recorded. Original sources of information have invariably been consulted, wherever it was possible to do so, in the attainment of this end and the book is as free from “hear say” as it possible to attain at this day. When the history of this locality shall be brought down a generation hence it will not be possible to gather from first hands the facts that constitute the most interesting, if not the most important, part of the history of the two counties.

The gentlemen who have compiled and written the history of their respective counties – T. F. Rager, of Neosho county, and John S. Gilmore, of Wilson county, are men peculiarly fitted, by reason of their appreciation of the value of accurate records and by reason of their personal knowledge of much that has occurred therein and by their familiarity with reliable sources of information, for their work, and in this and the special preface for Wilson county they desire to acknowledge, by personal reference to the parties,their indebtedness for the aid rendered them and for the courtesies they have received. Those who have responded to Mr. Rager’s request for help are the Commissioner of the General Land office and the Fourth Assistant Post Master General at Washington, D. C.; John F. Roe, D. M. Harris, Col. John C. Carpenter, S. E. Beach, A. S. Lapham, James M. Cavaness and Frederick P. Cone, of Chanute; Hons. J. M. Dunsmore, T. P. Leach and A. R. Sargent, of Thayer; Argus P. Rosa, of Galesburg; J. W. Wall, of Ladore township; J. C. Colaw, of Shaw; Geo. T. McCaslin, James E. Bell, W. W. Graves and Rev. Father Raymond of St. Paul; B. F. Patten, of Earlton; Judge L. Stillwell, Joseph L. Denison, Judge J. A. and Hon.Seth G. Wells, B. W. Garvin, county clerk, A. M. Sailors and W. H. Rees, of Erie; Hon. Geo. A. Clark, Secretary of State, Hon. Geo. W. Martin, Secretary of the State Historical Society of Kansas and F. M. Riddle, Assistant Adjutant General of the Kansas G. A. R., all of Topeka.

“Biography is history teaching by example" and no history of any American community would be complete that did not contain the life record of many of the men and women that constitute its citizenship.A large portion of this volume is, therefore, devoted to sketches of those who have, in some honorable way, been identified with the political, religious, social, business or professional life of this locality. It has been impossible to include all who are worthy a place in it, but so far as it was possible to secure the facts and as circumstances would justify, none have been omitted whose record is an essential part-of the history of the two counties.

In a recent article Hon. E. F. Ware, United States Commissioner of Pensions and Kansas’ distinguished lawyer and poet, says: “Next to having heroes is having historians. A hero who does not get into history is practically wasted. Heroism without history is like a banquet without a guest. A good printed history is like a bank. In it the valuables and the jewels of the state are kept. Into this bank goes the surplus greatness of the people and the state."

If this volume shall, in some degrees, merit the accurate and witty definition of “a good printed history” then will the publisher of it feel that his hopes have been justified.

History of Neosho County, Kansas

By T. F. Rager, Erie

In “A Tour of the Prairies,” Washington Irving tells of the country some miles south of the present location of Kansas and in doing so practically describes the situation as it then was – 1832 – in this part of the Indian Territory, for at that time this was Indian territory and the situation described by him continued to exist here as long as Kansas was a territory and in fact, part of the time that it was a state, until 1864 when the tide of immigration began to encroach upon the Indian country, bringing such a pressure to bear,that a purchase of the rights of the Osages to these and other lands became necessary.

The great stretches of prairie, with wild grass as high as the head of a man on horseback, the forests upon the river banks, the wooded smaller streams, the wild turkey, the innumerable grouse, the wild horse, the herds of deer, antelope and buffalo, were all here where Neosho county now lies.

This was a part of the Osage country and so long as it was held by the Indians, it abounded in game of the kinds peculiar to this latitude, so that it was indeed a hunter’s paradise. How many hundreds of years prior to the occupancy by the Osages that state of things existed, we have no means of knowing. We know what happened after the Indians gave possession to the white man. The wild animals disappeared. The presence of the white man was not healthy for deer, antelope or buffalo. In fact even the smaller game, such as prairie chickens and wild turkeys have been known to die suddenly upon meeting the emigrant. This was part of the red man’s great store house from which he drew his supplies from time to time as his wants required. The broad prairies, the woods along the streams and even the streams themselves, teemed with game that contributed to his larder.

He loved the hunt and enjoyed the chase as keenly as did his white brother, but it would seem he differed from his white brother in this, that he did not kill simply too destroy life, while his white brother wantonly killed for the pleasure of killing.

We possess a mania for destroying wild animals. The appearance of a wild deer in almost any community in this state, would be an occasion for every man and boy to arm himself with a murderous looking gun and hasten to attempt the life of the innocent. He who succeeded in killing it would be applauded. If necessary, hounds would be put upon its trail and it hounded to death. This explains the disappearance of the game.

Our predecessors in occupancy of the country now known as Neosho county, were Osage Indians who, for a consideration, moved out and let us move in. Irving, in the work referred to, speaking of this tribe of Indians says: 

“Near by was a group of Osages, stately fellows, stern and simple in garb and aspect. They wore no ornaments; their dress consisted of blankets, leggins and moccasins; their heads were bare; their hair was cropped close except a bristling ridge on the top like the crest of a helmet, with a long scalp lock hanging behind. They had fine Roman countenances and broad deep chests.” 

“The Osages are the finest looking Indians I have seen in the west.” 

These Indians were once regarded as a powerful nation, as nations of Indians go. The Osage (properly Ouasash, pronounced Wah-sawsh) was at home nearly anywhere in the territory of Missouri and the west. They were known to the French when France owned Louisiana and hence the French traders came to have the greater influence with them as they made it a point to give them no good reason for doubting their honor in dealing with them. In fact many Frenchmen married among them.

As far back as 1796 the Osages divided. The Arkansas band under Chief Clermont removed to the Verdigris river where it formed several villages, Clermont’s band being about sixty miles up the river. In 1803 the Little Osages separated from the Great Osages. 

General Pike visited them in 1806 and his report shows that then the Great Osages numbered 843 males and 851 females. White Hair was chief. The Little Osages numbered 824 and Clermont’s band 1,500. The government sustained by them, was ostensibly vested in a number of chiefs, but all measures proposed by them were submitted to a council of warriors and decided by a majority vote. 

The first treaty was made between them and the United States in 1808, when they ceded to the United States all their right to the lands lying east of a line beginning at Fort Clark on the Missouri river, thence in a due south course to the Arkansas river and down the same to the Mississippi. 

In 1820 they were located as follows: The Great Osages of the Osage river were in one village 78 miles south of Fort Osage and numbered 1,200. The Great Osages of the Neosho had one village on the Neosho about one hundred and thirty-five miles south-west of Fort Osage, and numbered about 400. The Little Osages had three villages on the Neosho and numbered 1,000. Clermont’s band was then on the Verdigris and were estimated at 3,000.

On June 2, 1825, they relinquished their title to all the lands they claimed in Missouri and Arkansas and in addition thereto, ceded to the United States all their lands lying west of Missouri and the Territory of Arkansas, north and west of Red river, south of the Kansas river and east of a line to be drawn from the headwaters of the Kansas river southwesternly through the Rock Saline. 

In that treaty there was reserved to the Great and Little Osage Indians, so long as they chose to occupy the same, a tract of land described as follows: 

“Beginning at a point due east of White Hair’s village, twenty-five miles west of the western boundary line of the State of Missouri, fronting on a north and south line, so as to leave ten miles north and forty miles south of the point of said beginning and extending west, with the width of fifty miles to the western boundary of the lands hereby ceded and relinquished by said tribes or nations.”

Out of that reservation was afterwards made Neosho county and as will be found upon a perusal of the story of the land troubles herein detailed, it was fortunate for the settlers that the county was, at a certain time, a part of the above mentioned reservation. 

Of course, after this treaty, the Osages left Missouri and all became inhabitants of the reservation, living on the Neosho, Verdigris and other streams. 

Here they had their habitations until after the war of the Rebellion. As a people they adhered to the Union cause, although several were noted Confederates. One Regiment of the United States Indian Brigade was composed of Osages. Part of the time during the war their villages were raided by the guerrillas, their horses, cattle and other stock taken away and barns destroyed. 

The Civil war closed, the fame of the beautiful and fertile valley of the Neosho had reached those who wanted homes and the irresistible onward march of the sons and daughters of the white man swept over the prairies to press the Indian further west where he might take his chances upon the grounds where he was wont to hunt the bison and finally, like him, to fade away and be but a memory. 

Therefore a treaty was made at Canville Trading Post, near where Shaw now stands, on the 19th day of September, 1865. By that treaty the Osages ceded to the United States part of the reservation above mentioned, described as follows: 

“Beginning at the south-east corner of their present reservation and running thence north with the eastern boundary thereof, fifty miles to the north east corner; thence West with the northern line thirty miles; thence south fifty miles to the southern boundary to said reservation; thence east with said boundary to the place of beginning; Provided, that the western boundary of said land herein ceded shall not extend further west than a line commencing at a point on the southern boundary of said Osage country one mile east of the place where the Verdigris river crosses the southern boundary of the State of Kansas.” 

So it will be seen that the Osage Ceded Lands consisted of a body of land thirty miles wide by fifty miles long taken off the east end of the Osage reservation. The remaining portion of the reservation was designated “The Osage Diminished Reserve.” 

By the terms of that treaty the United States agreed to pay the Osages the sum of $300,000.00, which sum was to be placed to the credit of the Osage nation in the treasury of the United States; interest thereon, at the rate of Five per cent to be paid to the Indians semi-annually in money or such articles or merchandise as the Secretary of the Interior might direct. 

After the ratification of the treaty by the senate, the Indians performed their part of the contract by giving up possession of the land and moving upon the diminished reserve. 

It would seem that the government was not so prompt in performing its part of the contract, for in 1877 they employed Chas. Ewing, as attorney, to obtain settlement with the United States and it seems that not until June 16,1880, was a law passed settling their differences. Then there was placed to the credit of the Osages the sum of $1,028,785.15, while Mr. Ewing received as his fee, $71,901.68.

Little now remains to show that those people, the “first inhabitants,” ever dwelt here. Traces of their public roads, the “trails” may now and then be found reaching away across the prairie, down the hill side, through the woods, down the banks of the stream, upon the opposite side, then away, a narrow streak. 

But a few years ago upon every mound and hill top could be seen tumuli or monuments of stone containing the dead or part of the dead of some tribe. These monuments could be distinguished for miles. But few, if any, yet remain. 

The Canville treaty was proclaimed by President Andrew Johnson, Jan. 1st, 1867, and all seemed clear for the man in search of a home to find it here by making settlement, and purchasing from the government. It is probable that but a few would have had the courage to undertake the securing of a home here, if the long, weary waiting, the suffering and the sacrifices necessary and incident to the struggle, could have been seen. 

Missions, for the religious and secular education of the Osages were early established among them. The Presbyterians established a Mission in 1822 “on the west bank of Grand (Neosho) river about seven hundred miles above the junction of the Arkansas and the Mississippi.” That was not in this territory. But in 1824 they founded a station on the west bank of the Neosho river, which from description must have been north of where Shaw is located. Rev. Benson Pixley had charge of it. Another mission named “Boudinot” was founded by Nathaniel B. Dodge in 1831. This station was located on the east bank of the Neosho river near the junction of Four Mile Creek and the river. The story of these Missions is told interestingly in the “Herald” published by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, 1825-37, kindly furnished me by Geo. W. Martin, Secretary Kansas Historical Society, as follows:

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