Macksville, an incorporated city of the third class in Stafford County, is located in Farmington township on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R., 12 miles west of St. John, the county seat. It has 2 banks, a weekly newspaper (the Enterprise), all the leading lines of merchandising, telegraph and express offices, and an international money order postoffice with two rural routes. The population according to the census of 1910 was 626. It was settled in 1878.
Stafford, an incorporated city of the third class in Stafford county, is the largest town in the county. It is located at the junction of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and the Missouri Pacific railroads, 9 miles southeast of St. John, the county seat. It has new and substantial buildings, the wide streets are clean and shady. It is lighted by electricity, has waterworks, public library, 2 banks, a flour mill, grain elevators, a steam plow works, disc harrow works, sled works, 2 weekly newspapers (the Courier and the Republican), hotels, department stores, professional men, telegraph and express offices and an international money order postoffice with two rural routes. Stafford was founded in 1878. It had grown to be quite a village in 1882 when it was completely destroyed by a cyclone. The sod buildings were replaced within a year by frame, stone and brick structures, and the town has continued to prosper. It was a candidate for the county seat, which was premanently located at St. John in 1882. Stafford was incorporated in 1885 with a population of about 700. The population in 1910 was 1,927.
Stafford County, in the southwestern section of the state is the third county north of the Oklahoma line, and its western border is about 175 miles east of Colorado. It is bounded on the north by Barton county; on the east by Rice and Reno; on the south by Pratt, and on the west by Edwards and Pawnee. The legislature of 1870 defined the boundaries of Stafford county and named it in honor of Capt. Lewis Stafford, of the First Kansas Infantry. In 1875, in an effort to obliterate it, the legislature gave a portion to each of three surrounding counties, Pawnee, Barton and Pratt. However, a strip 6 miles wide and 12 miles long remained and was still called Stafford. In 1879 the supreme court decided that the act of the legislature dividing the county was unconstitutional and the original boundaries were restored.
In the meantime the settlers had been coming in and improving the land. The first ones came in 1874, among them were John Birbeck, Mr. and Mrs. W. R. Hoole, whose son, born the next year was the first white child born in the county, Martin Fitzpatrick, James O'Connor, Elisha, Edward and F. Williamson, Abraham Lash, H. Campbell, J. C. Stone, R. M. Blair, Jesse Vickers, E. B. Crawford, Edwin Hadlock and W. Z. Nutting. Some dozen families located the same year in the eastern portion of the county, forming what was known as the Missouri settlement and a few families located near the site of St. John. In the spring of 1875 a colony of Mormons, comprising 40 families, located where St. John now stands and founded Zion Valley. A postoffice was established there and the prophet of the community, William Bickerton, was postmaster. In 1876 a few people moved into the northeastern portion of the county, locating in the vicinity of "Salt Marsh." A company was organized to manufacture salt, but the enterprise did not pay and was abandoned. The first school house was erected that year and Miss Ella Miller was the first teacher. During the next two years a great many new settlers located in the county and by 1879 the population was sufficient for organization.
In response to a memorial Gov. St. John appointed a census taker. A public meeting was held in Zion Valley church on May 31 to choose men to be recommended to the governor for temporary officers and to decide upon a place for temporary county seat. The governor acted upon the choice made at this meeting and in his proclamation issued in July designated St. John as the temporary county seat and appointed the following officers: County clerk, Frank G. Fox; commissioners, M. B. Walker, Frederick Baumgardner and J. C. Townsley. The first election was held in August and resulted in the choice of the following officers: County clerk, S. M. Nolder; treasurer, J. B. Smith; probate judge, George W. Hovey; register of deeds, Berlin Zenor; sheriff, J. W. Miles; clerk of the district court, George W. Bausman; attorney, f. M. Morgan; coroner, W. S. Tyrrell; surveyor, H. L. Fitch; superintendent of public instruction, N. L. D. Smith; commissioners, G. M. Detwiler, Frederick Baumgardner and J. C. Townsley; representative, C. M. Johnson. The candidates for county seat were St. John, Stafford, Newburg, Livingston and Center. Out of a total vote of 822 St. John received 411, lacking one of having a majority. It was continued as the temporary county seat and a special election was held on April 5, 1882, to decide the matter. A cyclone struck Stafford at 4 p.m. that day, destroying the ballot box, so that there was no returns from that township and another election was ordered to be held on April 14. The candidates were St. John, Stafford, and Bedford. No place received a majority. Another vote was taken on April 18 with Bedford eliminated. St. John received a majority and became the permanent county seat.
The storm which destroyed the ballot box at Stafford wrecked every building and scattered household goods and merchants' stocks to the four winds. It was followed the same season by a storm in Richland, which killed and wounded a large number of people, besides leaving many families homeless. Considerable property and growing crops were destoryed in Hayes and Cooper townships, but no lives were lost.
The first newspaper in the county was the Stafford Citizen, established by T. L. Kerr in 1877. At their first meeting the commissioners divided the county into 7 townships, Hayes, Seward, Lincoln, St. John, Clear Creek, York and Stafford. Cooper township was organized a few months later. Since that time 11 more have been organized, Albano, Byron, Cleveland, Douglas, Fairview, Farmington, Ohio, Putnam, Richland, Rose Valley and Union. The postoffices are Dillwyn, Hudson, Macksville, Neola, st. John, Seward, Stafford and Zenith. A cut-off branch of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad from the main line at Hutchinson enters on the eastern border and crosses west through Stafford and St. John into Edwards county. A branch of the Missouri Pacific northwest from Winfield enters in the southeast and crosses west and northwest into Pawnee County.
The general surface is rolling prairie, well adapted to cultivation. Bottom lands average one mile in width and comprise 15 percent of the area. The native timber is limited to a few cottonwoods along Rattlesnake creek, which is the prinicipal stream. It enters in the southwest flows northeast across the center of the county and leaves at the northeast corner. There is plenty of building stone, clay for bricks and gypsum and a salt marsh is in the northeast.
In 1882 the number of acres of land under cultivation was 142,992. The area under cultivation in 1910 was 370,734. The value of the products in that year was $3,303,412. Wheat, the leading crop, brought $1,879,970; corn, $626,769; Kafir corn, $91,500; hay, $157,636; animals sold for slaughter, $265,071; poultry and eggs, $76,440; dairy products, $81,160. A great many more sheep were raised in the early days than at present. In 1910 the live stock numbered 42,566 head with a valuation of 42,382,742. There were 35,000 head of live stock in 1882, 30,000 of which were sheep. The number of bearing fruit trees in 1882 was 7,191; the number in 1910 was 120,000. The acreage of artificial forest in 1882 was 1,244, the value of farm implements in use was $23,496. The assessed valuation in 1910 was $26,622,334. The population in 1880 was 4,746; in 1890, 8,520; in 1900, 9,820; and in 1910, 12,510 showing a steady increase by decades, although there were years during the '80s and '90s when the population decreased. The average wealth per capita is several hundred dollars above the average for the state.
Seward, a little town in Stafford county is located in the township of the same name, on the Missouri Pacific R. R. 13 miles north of Stafford, the county seat. It has a hotel, a creamery, a bank, retail stores, telegraph and express offices and a money order postoffice with one rural route. The population in 1910 was 300.
St. John, the judicial seat of Stafford county is located on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. in the central part of the county. It has a county high school, 2 national banks, 2 flour mills, a grain elevator, 2 newspapers (the County Capital and the News), a large number of retrail establishments, a telephone exchange, a hotel, telegraph and express offices, and an international money order postoffice with six rural routes. It is an incorporated city of the third class, with a population in 1910 of 1,785, which is more than twice the population in 1900.
The town which originally occupied this site was called Zion Valley, and was founded by the Mormons. Just before the county was organized, a town company purchased the land and platted it for a town which they called St. John, in honor of the man who was then governor in hope that it would influence him to name it as the temporary county seat. The first building was erected by Henry Rohr, in 1879. The first store was opened by John Fish. In 1880 the Zion Valley postoffice was changed to St. John and C. B. Weeks was the first postmaster. The first child born in the new town was St. John Cox, son of Frank Cox, in Sept., 1880. A savings bank was established in 1879, and a weekly newspaper, the Advance, was started in 1880 by T. C. Austin.