SMITH COUNTY, KANSAS
Smith County, named in honor of Major Nathan Smith of the Second Coloardo Cavalry, who was killed at the battle of the Blue, is on the northern tier of counties, bodering on Nebraska on the north, and is the sixth east of the Colorado and Kansas dividing lines. Its soil, like that of contiguous counties in Kansas and Nebraska, is very easily worked, absorbs moisture readily and retains it remarkably. What Prof. Hayden says of the adjacent valley applies with equal force to Smith County and the entire region watered by the Solomon River: "The soil is one of the best in the world, and its fertility can never be exhausted until every hill of which it is composed is entirely worn away. Where the ground is cultivated, the most copious rains soon percolate through the soil, which in its lowest depth retains it like a sponge. Even the unbroken prairie absorbs much of the heavy rains that fall, and when droughts come the moisture comes up from below by capillary attraction." Eighty-five per cent of the land of Smith County is upland, and the remaining fifteen percent is bottom; two per cent, forest (Government survey), and ninety-eight percent, prairie. The average width of the bottom lands of the Solomon River is five miles and the general surface of the uplands undulating, with bluffs in the neighborhood of the principal streams. The timber of the county, principally cottonwood, elm, oak and cedar, forms narrow borders on the banks of the Solomon and its tributaries. In the southern and central portions of the county limestone of an excellent quality abounds; and in the northern section an inferior article of sandstone. Gypsum of good quality has been discovered, but not in large quantities. Frequent experiments have been made to find stone coal but it has not yet been developed sufficiently to pay.
The principal stream in Smith County is the Solomon River, which flows in a southeasterly direction. It has many tributaries, the Cedar, East Cedar, beaver, east Beaver, and other streams flowing south and southeast; Oak, Middle Oak, West Oak and Possum Creek flowing southeast. In addition to these, two arms of White Rock Creek flow in a southwesterly direction. Smith County is well supplied with springs, and a superior quality of well water is obtained at depths varying from fifteen to one hundred feet.
The first settlers in what is now Smith County were John Rhodes, J. K. Belk, Ambrose Oldaker, and B. F. Myers, J. H. Johnson, J. C. Morrison, who came in the fall of 1870. The following season they were followed by Thomas Lane and Anthony Robertson, who brought their families, H. H. Granholz, H. Menshoff, L. Binman, J Rider, J. Eldredge, Thomas Decker, James H. Decker, T. J. Burrow, H. F. Albright, Charles Stewart, T. J. Tompkins, W. M. George, Fred W. W. Wagoner. The first stone house erected was built in 1877, by Colonel Campbell. The first woman who settled in Smith County was Mrs. Mary Peebles, who became a resident of Lincoln Township in the fall of 1870. Ambrose Oldaker, probably the first settler in the county who made a home on Oak Creek; twelve miles north of Cawker City, removed to Washington Territory in 1880 where he now resides. The first homesteader in the county was Christopher Noggles, who took a claim on Beaver Creek in June, 1871. The first marriage in the county was T. J. Burrow and Miss R. J. Dunlap. The ceremony was performed in Smith Centre Township, October 16, 1872 by Rev. H. F. Albright. During the same year the following marriages took place in the county: George Boyd and Inez Follon; Charles Stewart and Ida Keeler; T. J. Tompkins and Flora I. Potter; John Dillon and Julia Ann Walling.
The first birth in the county was a son of Christopher Noggels in Centre Township, who was born August 25, 1871. The first grocery store was established in Houston Township in the spring of 1871 by C. P. Newell. Fred W. Wagner, of Germantown, opened a general merchandise store in April 1871. The following year he became the first Postmaster at Germantown and still retains the office. The first postoffice established in Smith County was at Cedarville in July 1871. John Johnston was first Postmaster. He was succeeded by James Johnson who continues in charge of the office.
Mrs. W. M. Skinner taught the first school in the county at Gaylord in the fall and winter of 1871. E. M. Burr who was the first attorney located in the county, taught school in Smith Centre in the fall of 1872. After teaching a few weeks his law practice claimed his full time and Miss Alice Campbell was engaged and finished the school term for him. She occupied the building still known as the old court-house.
There are twenty six post offices in Smith County, as follows: Anderson, Andrew, Beaver, Cedarville, Clifford, Cora, Clorvallis, Covington, Crystal Plains, Custer, Eagle Rapids, Gaylord, Germantown, Harlan, Judson, Lebanon, Ohio, Oriole, Smith Centre, Stone Mound, Stuart, Sweet Home, twelve-mile and Tyner. With a daily railroad mail traversing the southern edge of the county by the Central Branch Road and mails from the offices located on the railroad, the county enjoys excellent mail facilities.
COUNTY ORGANIZATION AND ELECTIONS
Smith County, containing 900 square miles was organized in 1872, with a population of 3,876. The county seat was first located at Cedarville, in the southeastern portion of the county. The first Commissioners appointed by the Governor of the State were: George Marshall and Fred W. Wagner. James H. Johnston was the first County Clerk. The first meeting of the board was held at Cedarville, March 9, 1872. At the April meeting the county was laid off into six townships, to wit: Pawnee, Higley, German, Cedar (soon changed to Harvey), Huston and Holland.
At the first county election, held June 23, 1872, for county officers and to locate the seat of Justice, the votes of four townships were thrown out for illegality. The two townships where the law was complied with polled 154 votes. The newly-elected officers were: W. S. Angell, W. D. Covington, L. R. Hibbard, Commissioners; W. R. Allen, County Clerk. They were sworn in July 12, 1872. Edmund Hall was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction; B. Higley, Register of Deeds.
In November, 1872, the count seat was removed to Smith Centre by a vote of 275 for that place, ninety-two for Cedarville and eighty-one for Gaylord. At the same election, J. T. Morrison was chosen Representative; V. Payne, M. E. Wells and Jesse Stranathan; Commissioners; W. M. Skinner; County Clerk and Register of Deeds; J. C. Harlan, Probate Judge; Nick Clemens, Sheriff; W. M. George Treasurer; Ed Hall, Superintendent of Public Instruction; N. H. Withington, Surveyor; Levi Morrill, Attorney; T. J. Burrow, District Clerk, J. M. Stephen, Coroner.
Nov. 7, 1873, the following officers were elected: J. T. Morrison, Representative; N. Clemens, Sheriff; E. R. Fowler, County Clerk, T. m. Helm, Treasurer, B. Higley, District Clerk, S. C. Thompson, Register of Deeds; N. H. Withington, Surveyor; A. J. Stevens, Coroner, Ves. Payne, G. W. Hodson, Jesse Stranathan, Commissioners.
The November election in 1874 resulted in the choice of the following officers: C. S. Aldrich, Representative, J. C. Harlan, Probate Judge, H. C. Ellis, Superintendent of Public Instruction, W. M. Skinner, County Clerk; O. F. Sheldon, District Clerk; G. W. White, Attorney; T. M. Helm, Register of Deeds.
The November election of 1875 resulted as follows: C. S. Aldrich, Representative, T. M. Helm, Treasurer, G. W. Buckley, County Clerk; J. M. Stevens, Sheriff; A. J. Smith, Register of Deeds, W. H. Nelson, Surveyor; F. D. Morse, Coroner; J. A. Rossman, M. Duckworth, J. S. Whitney, Commissioners.
In November, 1876, the following were elected: E. W. Smith, Representative, J. C. Harlan, Probate Judge, A. M. Corn, Attorney, Mrs. F. Morse, Superintendent, Public Instruction; W. P. Meadows, District Clerk.
The election of November, 1877, resulted as follows: J. M. Stevens, Sheriff, W. J. Byers, Treasuruer, E. Stevens, County Clerk, A. J. Smith, Register of Deeds, W. H. Nelson, Surveyor; W. J. Byers, Coroner; S. P. Glenn, S. T. Mitchell, C. W. Freeman, Commissioners.
November, 1878, election: F. E. Baker, Representative, H. H. Reed, Probate Judge, W. P. Meadows, District Clerk; L. U. Uhl, Attorney, J. W. Pearce, Superintendent Public Instruction; S. P. Glenn, J. H. Willett, W. H. Willett, Commissioners.
November, 1879, election: Jerry Brisbin, Sheriff; W. J. Byers, Treasurer; Ed Stevens, County Clerk, W. H. Nelson, Register of Deeds, Geo. E. Smith, surveyor; G. M. Edson, Coroner; B. W. Perdue and John Walker, Commissioners.
November 1880, election: J. A. Rossman, Representative, H. H. Reed, Probate Judge; A. M. Corn, Attorney; L. A. Fairchild, County Clerk; D. H. Fleming, Superintendent Public Instruction, John walker, John Johnston, Jacob Wolfe, Commissioners.
November 1881, election: H. A. Hester, Sheriff; John Johnston, Treasurer; J. N. Beacom, County Clerk, W. H. Nelson, Register of Deeds; Lair Deam, treasurer for short term; J. H. Sargent, Surveyor; Dr. M. F. Leary, Coroner; A. Spires, Commissioner for first district.
It may be stated in this connection that there has never been a licensed saloon within the borders of Smith County. (History of the State of Kansas, published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, pages 908-909)
Some interesting facts about Cedar. . . Several men in and around Cedar would meet about once a week for a music concert in the Band Stand. Among which were Elmer (Shorty) Frutiger, Milo (Dutch) Frutiger, Carl Engstrom and others. Also for a few years the merchants of Cedar had a large pit dug in the southwest corner o the park and a steer was barbequed for everyone, the Ladies Aid Society of the Christian Church would have a stand and sell home-make ice cream. And of course there wa a big pot of beans, so a good time was had by all.
On the Sat. before Easter all children up and through the eighth grade would gather in the Fetrow store while candy eggs were hid from the second road east to the second road west and likewise south to north. The kids were released at intervals-up through second grade, later those through fifth grade and finally throught the eighty grade.
As to the horse drawn hearse, Billy Manny, who ran the Smithy had said that he had never ridden in a car and he wanted to go up on the hill in that hearse. So whom he passed away the country was searched for two matching teams to haul the hearse.
Another misconception was one concerning the gypsies. Yes, all stores closed but one. That was my Grandfather's (W.H. Fetrow) store. When word was called ahead he would call various people around Cedar and paid them to come clerk. At that time all merchandise was on shelves or behind counters, so he had a clerk behind each counter. Then runners were placed on the floor to carry money to and from the cash register if needed. All purchases were paid for before it was given to the customer. This I know because as a young girl I was still old enough to be a runner.
When Harmon McNeil's Hardware store caught on fire the high school boys were sent down to be on the bucket brigade. All water was hand pumped and carried from the well in the center of the park.
(Submitted by Julie Schadek)
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