History of Atchison Co VI

History of Atchison County Kansas

by Sheffield Ingalls








One of the Thirty-three Original Counties—City of Atchison Located—
Town Company—Sale of Lots—Incorporation of Town—Early
Business Enterprises—Organization of County—Commercial
Growth—Freighting—First Officers—Free State and Pro-Slavery
Clashes—Horace Greeley Visits Atchison—Abraham Lincoln
Makes a Speech Here—Great Drouth of 1860—City Officials....

Atchison was one of the thirty-three original counties created by the first territorial legislature, which convened at Pawnee, July 2, 1855, and subsequently adjourned to Shawnee Mission, July 6, 1855, and was named for Senator David R. Atchison, United States senator from Missouri, concerning whom much has been said in previous chapters. The county was surveyed in 1855 and divided into three townships, Grasshopper township comprising all that section lying west of the old Pottawatomie road; Mount Pleasant township, all east of the old Pottawatomie road, and south of Walnut creek, from its confluence with the Missouri river to the source of the creek and a parallel line west to the old Pottawatomie road, and Shannon township, all that section
of the county north of Mount Pleasant township. Subsequently, this sub-di-
vision was further divided into eight townships, now comprising the county, to-wit: Grasshopper, Mount Pleasant, Shannon, Lancaster, Kapioma, Center, Walnut and Benton. The county is located in the extreme northeastern part of Kansas, save one, Doniphan county, by which it is bounded on the north, together with Brown county, and on the west by Jackson county, and on the south by Jefferson and Leavenworth counties. It has an area of 409 square miles, or 271,360 acres.

    The site of the city of Atchison, the first town in the county, was selected


                                  HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                         65

because of its conspicuous geographical location on the river. Senator Atch-
ison and his associates attached great importance to the fact that the river bent
boldly inland at this point. They felt that it would be of great commercial
advantage to a town to be thus located, so July 4, 1854, after a careful consid-
eration of the matter, in all of its phases, Senator Atchison and his Platte
county, Missouri, friends dedicated the new town. They felt that they had
located the natural gateway through which all the overland traffic to Utah,
Oregon and California would pass. After they had settled with George Mil-
lion, the first known white settler of the territory, and attended to other unim-
portant preliminaries Dr. J. H. Stringfellow made a claim just north of the
Million claim, and with Ira Norris, James T. Darnell, Leonidas Oldham,
James B. Martin, George Million and Samuel Dickson, agreed to form a town
company, and they received into their organization David R. Atchison, Elijah
Green, E. H. Norton, Peter T. Abell, B. F. Stringfellow, Lewis Burnes, Dan-
iel D. Bumes, James N. Burnes, Calvin F. Bumes and Stephen Johnson. A
week later these men gathered under a large cottonwood tree, near Atchison
street, on the river, and organized by electing Peter T. Abell, president; Dr. J.
H. Stringfellow, secretary, and Col. James N. Burnes, treasurer. Peter T.
Abell, president of the town company, was an able lawyer, and a Southern
man, with pronounced views on the question of slavery. But he was a man of
judgment, and a natural boomer. He was a very large man, being over six
feet tall and weighed almost 300 pounds. When he became president of the
town company he was a resident of Weston, Mo., and lived there until a year
after Atchison had been surveyed. Subsequently, Senator Atchison assigned
his interests in the town company to his nephew, James Headley, who after-
wards became one of the leading lawyers of the town. Jesse Morris also be-
came a member.
    The town company, having been regularly organized, the townsite was
divided into 100 shares. Each of i'ts members retained five shares;
the balance of thirty being held for general distribution. Abell, B. F. String-
fellow and all of the Burnes brothers were received as two parties. Henry
Kuhn, a surveyor, surveyed 480 acres, which comprised the original townsite.
Mr. Kuhn and his son returned to Atchison forty-five years later, and for a
short time ran the Atchison Champion. On September 21, the first sale of
town lots was held, amidst great excitement and general interest. It was a
gathering which had both political and business significance. Senator Atch-
ison, from Missouri, with a large number of his constituents, was there, and
Atchison made a speech, in which one reporter quotes him as having said:

66                                 HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

"People of every quarter should be welcome to the Territory, and treated
with civility as long as they showed themselves peaceable men."

    Someone in the crowd called out, "What shall we do with those who run
off with our negroes ?" "Hang 'em," cried a voice in the crowd. To this Mr.
Atchison replied, "No, I would not hang them, but I would get them out of
the Territory—get rid of them." One version of the speech was to the effect
that Senator Atchison answered his questioners by saying, "By G—d, sir,
hang every abolitionist you find in the Territory." But the best account of the
meeting was printed in a Parkville, Mo., newspaper, and was reported by an
eye witness, who said:


A View in Commercial Street, Looking East, Atchison, Kansas

"We arrived at Atchison in the forenoon. Among the company was our distinguished senator, in honor of whom the new city was named. There
was a large assemblage on the ground, with plenty of tables set for dinner,
where the crowd could be accommodated with bacon and bread, and a drink at
the branch, at fifty cents a head. The survey of the town had just been
completed the evening before. Stockholders held a meeting, to arrange par-
ticulars of sale, and afterwards, as had been previously announced, General
Atchison mounted an old wagon and made a speech. He commenced by men-
tioning the bountiful country that was beginning to be settled; to some of the
circumstances under which a territorial government was organized, and in the

                                  HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                          67

course of his remarks, mentioned how Douglass came to introduce the Nebraska bill, with a repeal clause in it. He told of how Judge Douglass requested twenty-four hours in which to consider the question of introducing a bill for Nebraska, like the one he had promised to vote for, and said that if, at the expiration of that time, he could not introduce such a bill, which would not at the same time accord with his own sense of right and justice to the South, he would resign as chairman of the territorial committee, and Democratic caucus, and exert his influence to get Atchison appointed. At the expiration of the given time. Judge Douglass signified his intention to report such a bill.
    "General Atchison next spoke of those who had supported and those who
had opposed the bill in the Senate, and ended by saying that the American
people loved honesty and could appreciate the acts of a man who openly and
above-board voted according to the will of his constituents, without political
regard or favor. He expressed his profound contempt for abolitionists, and
said if he had his way he would hang everyone of them that dared to show his face, but he knew that Northern men settling in the Territory were sensi-
ble and honest, and that the right feeling men among them would be as far
from stealing a negro as a Southern man would.
    "When Senator Atchison concluded his remarks, the sale of town lots
began, and thirty-four were sold that afternoon, at an average of $63.00 each.
Most of those that were sold were some distance back from the river, and
speculators were not present, so far as it could be determined, and lots that
were sold were bought mostly by owners of the town. Prices ranged from
$35.00 to $200.00."
    At this meeting the projects of building a hotel and establishing a news-
paper were discussed, and as a result, each of the original 100 shares
was assessed $25.00, and in the following spring the National Hotel,
corner of Second and Atchison streets, was built. Dr. J. H. Stringfellow and
Robert S. Kelley received a donation of $400.00 from the town company, to
buy a printing office and in February, 1855, the Squatter Sovereign, which
subsequently did so much for the pro-slavery cause, was born.
    The town company required each settler to build a house at least sixteen
feet square upon his lot, so that when the survey was made in 1855 many
found themselves upon school lands. Among those who put up homes in
1854 and 1855 were James T. Darnell, Archibald Elliott, Thomas J. C. Dun-
can, Andrew W. Pebler, R. S. Kelley, F. B. Wilson, Henry Kline and William
Hassett. The titles to the lands owned by these residents remained unsettled
until 1857, when titles to all lands within the townsite and open to settlement



68                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

were acquired from the federal government, and subsequently the title to
school lands was secured by patents from the Territory, and in this way the
town company secured a clear title to all lands which they had heretofore con-
veyed, and re-conveyed the same to the settlers and purchasers. Dr. J. H.
Stringfellow, proprietor of North Atchison, an addition to the city of Atchi-
son, employed J. J. Pratt to survey that addition in October, 1857. It con-
sisted of the northeast quarter of the northeast quarter of section 36, township
5, range 20. Samuel Dickson, who was the proprietor of South Atchison, had
that addition platted in May, 1858, and John Roberts, who was the proprietor
of West Atchison, had his addition surveyed in February, 1858, a few months
before Samuel Dickson surveyed South Atchison. C. L. Challiss5 addition
was surveyed about the same time. Other additions to the corporate limits of
Atchison have been made, and are as follows: Branchton, Bird's addition,
Brandner's addition, Bakewell Heights, Batiste addition, Florence Park, For-
est Park, Goodhue Place, Garfield Park, Highland Park, Home Place, How-
ard Heights, LaGrande addition, Lincoln Park, Llewellyn Heights, Lutheran
Church addition, Mapleton Place, Merkles addition, Parker's addition, Park
Place, Price Villa addition. River View addition. Spring Garden, Style's ad-
dition, Bellvue Heights, and Talbott & Company's addition.
    Atchison was incorporated as a town by act of the Territorial legislature,
August 30, 1855, but it was not incorporated as a city until February 12, 1858,
after which the charter was approved by the people by special election, March
2, 1858. In the fall of 1856, Atchison had obtained a great many advantages
over other towns along the river, by a judicious system of advertising. The
Squatter Sovereign printed a circular November 22, 1856, which was scat-
tered broadcast. The circular was as follows:
    "To the public, generally, but particularly to those persons living north
 of the Kansas river, in Kansas Territory:
    "It is well known to many, and should be to all interested, that the town
of Atchison is nearer to most persons living north of the Kansas river, than
any other point on the Missouri river. The country, too, south of the Kansas
river above Lecompton, is also as near Atchison as any other Missouri river
town. The roads to Atchison in every direction are very fine, and always in
good repair for wagon and other modes of travel. The country opposite
Atchison is not excelled by an section of Missouri, it being portions of Buch-
anan and Platte counties, in a high state of cultivation, and at a considerable
distance from any important town in Missouri, making grain, fruit, provisions
and all kinds of marketing easily procured at fair prices; a matter of no small
consideration to settlers in a new country.


                                   HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                               69

    "The great fresh water lake, from which the fish markets of St. Joseph
and Weston are supplied, is also within three miles of Atchison.
    "Atchison is now well supplied with all kinds of goods; groceries, flour,
corn, meal, provisions and marketing of all kinds are abundant, and at fair
prices. To show the compatibility of Atchison to supply the demands of the
country, we here enumerate some of the business houses, viz: Six large dry
goods and grocery stores, wholesale and retail; six family grocery and pro-
vision stores, wholesale and retail; one large clothing store; one extensive fur-
niture store, with mattresses and bedding of all sorts; one stove, sheet iron and
tinware establishment, where articles in that line are sold at St. Louis prices;
several large warehouses sufficient to store all the goods of emigrants and trad-
ers across the plains, and to Kansas Territory; one weekly newspaper—The
Squatter Sovereign—having the largest circulation of any newspaper in
Kansas, with press, type and materials to execute all kinds of job work; two
commodious hotels, and several boarding houses; one bakery and confection-
ery ; three blacksmith shops; two wagon makers, and several carpenter shops;
one cabinet maker; two boot and shoe maker shops, and saddle and harness
maker shops; one extensive butcher and meat market; a first rate ferry, on
which is kept a magnificent new steam ferry boat and excellent horse boat,
propelled by horses; a good flat boat, and several skiffs; saw mills, two pro-
pelled by steam and one by horse-power; two brick yards, and two lime kilns.
    "A fine supply of professional gentlemen of all branches constantly on
hand equal to the demand.
    "A good grist mill is much needed, and would make money for the owner."
    The first business house in Atchison was established by George T. Challiss, at the corner of the Levee and Commercial streets, in August, 1854. The
National Hotel was not built at that time, so Mr. Challiss established a tem-
porary camp, and his workmen were accommodated under an elm tree near the
river. The Challiss store building was torn down in 1872. George T. Chal-
liss and his brother, Luther C. Challiss, were clerking in a dry goods store at
Booneville, Mo., in the spring of 1854. George T. Challiss returned to his
old home in New Jersey on a visit, and upon his return, in August, he came
direct to Atchison. He came by boat to Weston, Mo., where he met P. T.
Abell, president of the town company, and Abell prevailed upon him to come
to Atchison in a buggy, crossing the river here on George Million's ferry.
Mr. Abell donated Mr. Challiss the lot upon which he built his store, and he
went 'to Rushville and bought enough cottonwood lumber to build it. When
he arrived in Atchison, he had $4.50 in money, but later on borrowed $150.00

70                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

from his brother, Luther C. Challiss, at Boonvllle. He'enjoyed^ a good busi-
ness from the beginning", and carried a large stock of both dry goods and
    The town of Atchison was the one big outstanding factor in Atchison
county when the territory was organized, but at the same time that Abell and
Stringfellow and others "were shaping up the town," others were busy organ-
izing the county. As the city was named for General Atchison, so likewise was
the county at the time of its creation by the first Territorial legislature that
assembled at Pawnee. The first board of county commissioners was selected
and appointed by the Territorial legislature, August 31, 1855, and was com-
posed of William J. Young, James M. Givens and James A. Headley. The
first meeting of the board was held September 17, 1855, at the home of 0. B.
Dickerson, in the city of Atchison. At this. meeting Ira Norris was appointed
clerk and recorder; Samuel Dickson, treasurer; Samuel Walters, assessor.
William McVay had received an appointment as sheriff of the county prior
to the meeting of the board, direct from the governor, to fill the office tem-
porarily until his successor was subsequently appointed and qualified. On
the 18th of September, 1855, being the second day of the session of the first
board of county commissioners, Eli C. Mason was appointed as sheriff to
succeed McVay, and Dudley McVay was appointed coroner. Voting precincts
were established in three townships preparatory to an election of a delegate
to Congress, which was to take place the first Monday in October, 1855. At
the October meeting of the board of county commissioners, block 10, in what
is now known as Old Atchison, was accepted by the board as a location upon
which to erect a court house. This property was offered to the county by
the Atchison town company for the purpose of influencing the board to make
Atchison the county seat. The conditions of the gift were that the court house
was to be built of brick and to be at least forty feet square. In the following
spring ihe town company donated fifty town lots, and the proceeds of these
lots were to be used in the construction of the court house. In June, 1857, the
court house was ordered built and it was to be two stories high, the first story
to be of rock and the second story of wood. It was 24x18 feet square; how-
ever, the plans were subsequently changed, and, because of the gift of an
additional fourteen lots by the town company, of a value of $6,000.00, a more
pretentious building was erected in 1859, with a county jail adjoining it.
Prior to the- erection of the court house, there was a spirited contest-'between
Mt. Pleasant, Monrovia, Lancaster and Sumner over the question of the

                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                             71

county seat. In an election to determine the location, Atchison received a
majority of 252 votes over all competitors for the county seat. The estimated
total population of the county at the time was 2,745.
    In the next few years Atchison grew rapidly and the dreams of Senator
Atchison and his associates bade fair to be realized on a large scale. The popu-
lation of the town was about 500, and yet there were eight hardware stores,
twelve dry goods stores, eight wholesale grocery stores, nineteen retail grocery
stores, and twenty-six law firms. The banking business was controlled by
the contracting firms of A. Majors & Company and Smoot, Russell & Com-
pany. The Atchison branch of the Kansas Valley Bank was the first in
the State to be formed under the legislative act, authorized February 19, 1857,
with a capital stock of $300,000.00. In the act, John H. Stringfellow, Joseph
Plean and Samuel Dickson were named to open subscription books. An or-
ganization was effected in the spring of 1858, and the capital stock of the
local organization was $52,000.00. The board of directors was composed of
Samuel C. Pomeroy, president; W. H. Russell, L. R. Smoot, W. B. Waddell,
F. G. Adams, Samuel Dickson and W. E. Gaylord. There was considerable
rivalry between Sumner and Doniphan at the time, and shortly after the organ-
ization of the bank, a rumor, which was supposed to have started in Sumner,
to the effect that the bank was about to suspend, caused the directors to pub-
lish a statement of its condition, showing that its assets were $36,638.00 and
its liabilities $20,118.00. S. C. Pomeroy resigned as president before the year
was out and was succeeded by William H. Russell. The bank subsequently
had its name changed by the legislature to the Bank of the State of Kansas.
    Mr. Russell, the second president of the bank, make his home in Leavenworth
and was an active pro-slavery man, being treasurer of the executive commit-
tee in 1856 to raise funds to make Kansas a slave State. This bank continued
until 1866, when it went into voluntary liquidation and its stockholders wound
up its affairs.
    One of the most important institutions in Atchison in the early days was
the Massasoit House, opened for business September 1, 1858, in charge of
Tom Murphy, a genial proprietor, who conducted it for many years. At the
same time there were three other hotels in operation in the city. Reference
has heretofore been made to the National Hotel, which was elected in 1855 by
popular subscription. It was a plain log structure on the north side of Atchi-
son street, just east of Second, overlooking the river. The Tremont House
was a two-story frame structure at the southeast corner of Second and Main,
and the Planters' House was at the southwest corner of Commercial and Sixth


72                                         HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

streets on the site now occupied by the Exchange National Bank, but the Mas-
sasoit House was the leading hotel of this section and it was a substantial,
somewhat imposing frame building erected at the northwest corner of Second
and Main streets on the site now occupied by the Wherrett-Mize Wholesale
Drug House. It was three stories high with a basement and was handsomely
furnished. It did a large business and was the headquarters for the overland
staging crowds. All the lines, which ran in every direction, out of Atchison at
that time departed from the. Massasoit House. It was a favorite place for
political gatherings, and from its balconies many speeches were made by leaders
of the political parties of that day. It at one time was the hiding place for a
number of slaves who had -been secreted in the hotel by their master. Horace
Greeley, the famous editor of the New York Tribune, ate his first dinner in
Kansas at this hotel, and Abraham Lincoln was a guest on the day that John
Brown was executed at Harper's Ferry.
    Some idea of the magnitude of the merchandising that was carried on in
Atchison in 1858 may be gathered from the fact that during the summer of
that year twenty-four trains comprising 775 wagons, 1,114 men, 7,963 oxen,
142 horses, 1,286 mules conveyed 3,730,905 pounds of merchandise across
the Rocky mountains and California. One single train that was sent out that
year consisted of 105 wagons, 22^ men, 1,000 oxen, 200 mules, fifty horses and
465,500 pounds of merchandise. During the latter part of 1859 and the early
months of 1860, forty-one regular traders and freighters did business out of
Atchison. During nine months of one of those years, the trains outfitted
from Atchison were drawn by mules and cattle and comprised 1,328
wagons, 1,549 men, 401 mules and 15,263 oxen. The Pike's Peak gold mines,
which were discovered in 1858, and the prospecting in that region were the
causes of the larger part of this enormous business. Denver at that time had a
population of about 2,500, and was the center of the mining region around
Pike's Peak. In the period just mentioned, thirty-three of the trains that left
Atchison were destined for Denver. One of these trains was composed of
125 wagons, carrying 750,000 pounds of merchandise. It extended from the
levee on the river far beyond the western outskirts of the city. The outfit
was managed by fifty-two men, twenty-fwo mules and 1,542 oxen. Several
of the trains for Denver had from twenty to fifty wagons. One, sent out by
Jones & Cartwright, had fifty-eight wagons and carried over 3,000
pounds of merchandise. Among the trains that left Atchison during the
latter part of 1859 were, one for Santa Fe, N. M., another for Colorado City,
Colo., two for Green River, Wyo., and four for Salt Lake City. The big-


                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                          73
gest overland outfit Was owned by Irwin, Jackson & Company, who were
Government freighters. During one season this firm sent out 520 wagons,
650 men, 75 mules and 6,240 oxen. This firm had a good contract for sup-
plying the military posts on the plains, including Forts Kearney, Laramie,
Bridger, Douglas, and Camp Floyd, a short distance from Salt Lake City.
In addition to these larger overland staging concerns there were a number of
lesser outfits sent. out by private parties in Atchison, with one, two or three
wagons each. Most of the freight conveyed across the plains in wagons was
brought to Atchison in steamboats, which unloaded at the levee extending
along two or three blocks, beginning at about Atchison street and running
south. Very frequently loaded ox trains nearly a mile in length were seen
on Commercial street, and some of the prairie schooners would be loaded with
hardware or some other dead weight, drawn by six to eight yoke of cattle;
and more wagon trains were loaded and departed from Atchison than from any
other point on the Missouri river.
    The act of the Territorial legislature of Kansas incorporating the city
of Atchison was approved February 12, 1858, and it provided for the election
of a mayor and councilmen. The charter was voted upon and accepted by
the people at a special election held March 2, 1858, and the first mayor and
council were elected at a special election March 13, 1858. The charter pro-
vided for an annual city election at that time to be held on the first Monday
in September, and consequently the first mayor and councilmen of the city,
elected in March, held their offices only until the following September. Sam-
uel C. Pomeroy was the first mayor of the city, holding his office from March,
1858, until May, 1859. Pomeroy was one of the prominent Free State settlers
and was one of its most popular citizens. His election as mayor was the
result of the toss of a coin. A temporary truce having been effected between
the Southerners and the Free State men, it was agreed that a compromise in
local affairs would be beneficial to' the community. By the toss of a coin the
Free State men won the mayor and three councilmen, and the pro-slavery men
had four councilmen. Pomeroy was named by the Free State men as mayor.
Pomeroy subsequently became actively identified with the Massachusetts Emi-
grant Aid Association, in the distribution of aid to the stricken people of
Kansas following the great drouth of 1860, and it was largely because of
his identification with this organization that he was enabled to place aid where
it would do the most good, and he subsequently became one of the first United
States senators from Kansas. When he was a resident of Atchison he lived at
the corner of North Terrace and Santa Fe streets, but later he moved to a


74                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

tract of land near Muscotah, and during- the twelve years he was senator he
claimed the latter place as his home. It was when he asked for a third term
as United States senator that he was exposed on the floor of the State senate
by Senator York, who arose in his place and, advancing to the secretary's desk,
placed $7,000.00 in cash thereon, which he alleged Pomeroy had given him to
influence his vote. Many have always believed that Senator Pomeroy was
greatly wronged by this act of York. Ex-Governor George W. Glick, him-
self a Democrat and a leading- citizen of Atchison in the early days, was a very-
warm friend of Pomeroy and always expressed indignation when he heard
Pomeroy abused, not only about his conduct in connection with the Emigrant
Aid Association, but also in connection with his downfall politically. It was
the contention of Governor Glick that Pomeroy's fall was the result of a con-
spiracy and not because of g-eneral bribery. However, Pomeroy never rose to
political prominence after this incident and ended his days in Washington,
D. C., where he lived for a number of years prior to his death.
    Associated with Pomeroy as the first mayor of Atchison, were the follow-
ing citizens: John F. Stein, Jr. register; E. B. Grimes, treasurer; Milton R.
Benton, marshal; A. E. Mayhew, city attorney; W. 0. Gould, city engineer;
M. R. Benton, by virtue of his office as marshal, was also street commissioner;
H. L. Davis, assessor; Dr. J. »W. Hereford, city physician. The board of
appraisers was composed of Messrs. Pettish, Roswell and Gaylord. The first
councilmen were William P. Childs, 0. F. Short, Luther C. Challiss, Corne-
lius E. Logan, S. F. Walters, James A. Headley, Charles Holbert. John F.
Stein, who was register, resigned his office in August, and R. L. Pease was
appointed to succeed him. In the following August the city was divided into
three wards, the first ward being- entitled to four councilmen, the second ward
to two, and the third ward to three. At the first meeting of the council,
which was held March 15, 1858, an ordinance was adopted providing for a
special election for the purpose of submitting a proposition to take $100,000.00
of stock in a proposed railroad from St. Joseph, Mo., to some point opposite
Atchison on the Missouri river. The election was held and the stock was
subscribed for. Mayor Pomeroy was appointed agent of the proposed road,
which was to be known as the Atchison & St. Joseph Railroad Company. A
further account of the development of railroad building from Atchison will
occur in a subsequent chapter. The council at this session also fixed the sal-
ary of the mayor, and in spite of the freedom of those days, saloons were
ordered to be closed on Sunday, and other stringent regulations were passed
in connection with the liquor traffic. The first financial statement of the
city, of date September 5, 1859, is as follows:


                                    HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                        75

General city tax, 1858 .........................................$ 5,927.70
Fines imposed by mayor's court ............................. 186.50
Dray and wagon licenses .......................................... 192.00
Dram shop licenses ................................................. 1,787.76
Beer house licenses ................................................... 101.33
Shows ......................................................................... 130.00
Billiard tables ............................................................ 225.00
Registry of dogs .......................................................... 50.00
Assessment on C street from River to Fourth... 3,381.00

Total .....................................................................$12,008.29

Amount of scrip and orders issued on general
                 fund to December 15, 1858 ................$ 6,317.17
Amount of scrip and orders issued on general
                fund to September 5, 1859 .................. 3,140.53
Scrip issued toward building jail .......................... 1,675.00
Scrip issued for grading streets, curbing, etc... 10,105.39
Total .....................................................................$21,238.09
General deficit ......................................................$ 9,229.79

    The fact that Mayor Pomeroy had strongly urged in his inaugural address
the importance of grading and improving the streets of the city "especially
Atchison, Second and Fourth streets, and the levee," possibly accounts for
the indebtedness of the city at so early a date. There was a general inclina-
tion among the citizens of Atchison to build a modem city in accordance with
the standards of the times, and therefore they were anxious to follow the
mayor's advice to put their streets and alleys in order.
    One of the most interesting and at the same time one of the most diffi-
cult tasks in tracing the settlement of a community, is to correctly catalogue
the establishment of the first settler, the first house, the first business insti-
tution, and the first of everything, and it could with safety be said that this
is not only an interesting and difficult task but it is well nigh an impossible
one. This is not to be wondered at when we take into account the rush and
confusion which always attend the settlement of a new community. How-
ever, it has now become an established fact that George M. Million was the



76                                     HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

first white settler in the Territory, with Samuel Dickson a close second. There
was some dispute about who built the first house in the town of Atchison, but
we have resolved all doubt in favor of Dickson, just as we have decided that
George T. Challiss established the first business house. The Challiss brothers,
George, Luther and William all played an important part in the very early
history of the county. They were in business and in the professions, and
they were all land owners, selecting the choicest tracts "close in" and holding
onto them, none too wisely or too well, for their tenacity in this respect
later resulted in their undoing. The leading lawyers in the county during
those days were M. J. Ireland, A. G. Otis, Isaac Hascall, James A. Headley,
A. E. Mayhew, J. T. Hereford, P. H. Larey, Joseph P. Carr and B. F. String-
fellow. Horton, Foster, Ingalls, and General Beta M. Hughes came later.
Hascall carried a card in the Squatter Sovereign, advertising his legal head-
quarters as the Border Ruffian Law Office.
    In addition to the names of merchants and professional men heretofore
given, "Andreas' History of Kansas" gives the following list: Grafton Thom-
assen, the slave owner, ran a sawmill. Thomassen's name appears in the
records of Atchison county in connection with land transfers as Grafton
Thomason; Luther C. Challiss, who occupied a store on the levee, 45 by 100
feet which he filled with dry goods and groceries, and advertised "such an
assortment as was never before offered for sale in the upper country"; Samuel
Dickson, a merchant and politician and also an auctioneer, on the north side of
C street; Lewis Burnes, M. P. Rively and Stephen Johnson carried stocks of
assorted merchandise; A. J. G. Westbrook, a grocer, and Patrick Laughlin,
who fled from Doniphan on account of the murder of Collins, the Free State
man, was a tinner; William C. Null and Albert G. Schmitt operated a ware-
house and carried a general stock of merchandise at the corner of Second and
C streets; Charles E. Woolfolk and Robert H. Cavell had a large store and
warehouse at the steamboat landing; George M. Million operated the Pioneer
Saloon; John Robertson conducted a saddlery and harness business; Messrs.
Jackson & Ireland were a contracting firm with a shop over Samuel Dickson's
store; Uncle Sam Clothing Store, at the corner of C and Third streets, was
conducted by Jacob Saqui & Company; Giles B. Buck sold stoves on C street;
O. B. Dickson was proprietor of the Atchison House; Drs. J. H. Stringfellow
and D. M. McVay were the leading physicians; and it is interesting to note
that Washburn's Great American Colossal Circus, which was the first in
Kansas, gave two exhibitions in Atchison, July 31, 1856. This aggregation
carried three clowns, a full brass and string band and an immense pavilion, and
many other novel and attractive features.


                                    HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                                 77

    Fully fifty new buildings were erected during- the spring and summer
of 1856.
    During this period in the history of the county. Free State people began
to come into their own. They grew bolder, following the compromise with
the pro-slavery citizens, over the question of the distribution of city officers
and because of other concessions that were made by the pro-slavery citizens for
the general good of the community. It was not strange, therefore, that some
of the less tactful and politic Free State leaders should over-reach themselves
at such a time. While the "Reign of Terrorism" under the Stringfellow
regime was on, the Free State men in Atchison county considered discretion
the better part of valor. They were very quiet, with few exceptions, of whom.
Pardee Butler was a conspicuous example, but they were nevertheless quite
numerous in the county, and particularly was this the case in and around Mon-
rovia, Eden and Ocena; in fact, there was an organization of Free State men
in the county as early as 1857, and several quiet meetings were held that year;
and at Monrovia a society was formed, of which Franklin G. Adams was the
chief officer and spokesman.
    Early in May, 1857, Senator Pomeroy and the Free State men bought
the Squatter Sovereign from Dr. Stringfellow, and Mr. Adams and Robert
McBratney became its editors. Mr. Adams was just as ardent a Free State
man as Dr. Stringfellow was the other way, so the policy of the paper was
completely reversed. Judge Adams was a lawyer and partner of John J.
Ingalls for a while. He represented Atchison county in the constitutional
convention that met in Mineola March 23, 1858 and which subsequently ad-
journed to Leavenworth. Caleb May, G. M. Fuller, C. A. Wbodworth and
H. E. Baker were the other delegates from Atchison county. Judge Adams
was later one of the useful men of Kansas, and at the time of his death he
was secretary of the State Historical Society, which position he filled with
credit and honor for many years. On August 22, 1858, following the local
compromise with the pro-slavery leaders, Judge Adams concluded the time
was ripe to invite James H. Lane, the great Free State leader, to Atchison, to
make a speech. He consequently served notice in his paper that Lane would
be in Atchison October 19. As soon as it was generally known that Lane had
been invited to speak in Atchison a number of the more rabid pro-slavery men
concluded that the speaking would not take place. On the other hand, Judge
Adams was just as determined that Lane would have a public meeting in
Atchison. For the purpose of insuring order on that occasion Adams in-
vited a number of strong and reliable Free State friends from Leavenworth


78                               HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

to come up to Atchison and see that fair play was done. The invitation to
the Leaven-worth Free Soilers was accepted with alacrity and they arrived on
the morning of the day Lane was billed to make hi's speech and brought with
them their side arms as a matter of precaution. They made the office of
Adams, Swift & Company their headquarters while here. Shortly after the
arrival of the Leavenworth contingent and while sitting in his office Judge
Adams noticed a crowd gathering on Commercial street, near Fifth. Sus-
pecting that the crowd had gathered for no good purpose, Judge Adams
and six of his friends started for the scene of what appeared to him to be
a disturbance. On their way they met Caleb A. Woodworth, Sr., hatless
and apparently in trouble. As Judge Adams stopped to make inquiries of Mr.
Woodworth regarding his trouble somebody from the rear. assaulted him
with a heavy blow on the cheek. Instead of following the Biblical injunc-
tion he did not turn his other cheek, but swung quickly in his tracks and lev-
elled a pistol at his assailant, who was accompanied by a crowd of his friends,
all armed and with blood in their eyes. As Judge Adams was about to pull
the trigger of his gun a friend of Judge Adams shouted, "Don't shoot yet!"
following which admonition all of the crowd displayed cocked revolvers and
aimed them in the direction of Judge Adams and his crowd. Observing that
the Free Soilers meant business, the pro-slavery men discreetly withdrew
without further trouble, and the Free Soil men returned to the office of Judge
Adams. It was then determined that the meeting should be an out-of-door
one, and as they passed out into the street, again the pro-slavery advocates
mixed freely with the Free Soilers. A. J. W. Westbrook, of the "Home
Guards," mounted on a prancing horse, rode among the crowd, flourishing
a cocked gun, apparently seeking to kill Judge Adams at the first favorable
opportunity. It has been doubted that Westbrook meant business, but his
conduct had the effect of stirring up his followers who avowed that Jim
Lane should not speak in Atchison that night. His threatening attitude ap-
parently had the desired effect, for the Free Soil men decided that it was not
necessary for the existence of their cause that Jim Lane should speak and
therefore postponed the speaking. Judge Adams was not altogether pleased
but he was finally prevailed upon to return home without attempting further
trouble. Later in the day a party of Free Soil men met General Lane on the
outskirts of the city, returning from Doniphan where he had been speaking,
and prevailed upon him not to come to Atchison. This was not the first
attempt of Lane to visit Atchison county. He was entertained at dinner in
1855 at the home of Dr. J. H. Stringfellow, whose house occupied the site


                             HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                               79

where the home of Ex-Governor W. J. Bailey now stands. The fact that
Lane was a guest of Dr. Stringfellow will appear strange to those who knew
nothing of the Stringfellow family. While they were belligerent pro-slavery
advocates, they were always high class men with decent instincts and there-
fore it would not be unusual for them to open their home to so violent an
opponent of theirs as Lane was. The eastern papers, in giving an account
of Lane's entertainment at the Stringfellow home, stated that the dinner was
a very elaborate one, including oysters, plum pudding, terrapin and cham-
pagne. Mrs. Stringfellow told E. W. Howe in 1894 that Lane came to the
house about n o'clock in the morning attended by a body-guard of four
men and inquired for Dr. Stringfellow. The Doctor was away at the time,
but was expected about noon. The men said that they would wait, where-
upon Mrs. Stringfellow knew that she would probably have them for dinner.
Her girl was just getting ready to go somewhere on an errand and was
asked to remain at the house. Dr. Stringfellow came in about noon and
when the two men met in the yard Stringfellow asked Lane if he was not
afraid to call at his house. "I am not afraid," Lane replied, "to call on a
gentleman anywhere." This gallantry captured Mrs. Stringfellow's admira-
tion and she invited Lane and his body-guard to dinner, which, contrary to
the report in the eastern papers, was a very simple one. Mrs. Stringfellow,
in her interview with Mr. Howe, said that it was as follows: Coffee, hot
biscuits and butter, cold pie, preserves and milk; no terrapin, no oysters, no
champagne, no plum pudding. Lane called at the house on a matter of busi-
iness and Mrs. Stringfellow said that Lane and his body-guard were very
kindly genteel men. Two or three weeks later, when Mrs. Stringfellow
was alone in the house, she saw a wagon pass in the road with three or four
men lying down in it. Presently another wagon, similarly loaded, attracted
her attention. Then came four men and a woman on horseback and sev-
eral men on foot. The people came from down town, or from southwest of
town. The circumstances were peculiar, and Mrs. Stringfellow climbed on
top of a table and watched the men through the upper sash of a window. They
stopped in a little glade northeast of the house, when the woman dismounted
from the horse, took off the skirt and turned out to be Jim Lane. He stood
beside the horse and talked possibly half an hour. Mrs. Stringfellow is cer-
tain the speaker was Lane, because she had seen him only a few weeks be-
fore, and he rode the white horse he had ridden when he stopped at her
house, and the same four men composed the body-guard. Lane had threat-
ened to make a speech in the town but had been warned not to, as he had been


80                                HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

warned two years earlier. He made his speech in spite of the warning, but
his audience was composed of his friends only. A half. hour after Lane dis-
appeared over the hill toward the farm then owned by John Taylor, some
distance south of the Orphans' Home, forty mounted southerners appeared
looking for him. Mrs. Stringfellow knew John Scott, the leader, and told him
of the incident. The men laughed and then gave three rousing cheers for Jim
Lane, who had outwitted them.

    While there was a tremendous traffic across the plains from Atchison
in 1857, 1858 and 1859, and for a number of years later the "town was alive
with business," it is only fair to record that the town itself was not a thing
of beauty and a joy forever, in spite of the efforts of Mayor Pomeroy and
the city fathers who put the city in debt to the extent of $9,000, September
5, 1859, for public improvements.
    Frank A. Root in his admirable book, "The Overland Stage to Cali-
fornia," published in 1901, has this to say in part upon his 'arrival here in
November, 1858:
    "It was in November, 1858, that I first set foot on the levee in Atchison.
I stepped from the steamer, 'Omaha, which boat was discharging its cargo
of freight at the foot of Commercial street. At that time the place was a

                                  HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                       81

very small town. I took up my residence in Atchison the following spring
having this time come up the river on a steamboat from Weston where I had
been employed as a compositor in the office of the Platte Argus. On land-
ing at Atchison I had a solitary dime in my pocket, and, after using that to
pay for my lunch, I. started out in search of a job. A sign over the office
which read: 'Freedom's Champion, John A. Martin, Editor and Publisher,'
attracted my attention. It hung above the door of the only newspaper office
in the city at that time, but preparations were then being made by Gideon 0.
Chase, of Waverly, N. Y., to start the Atchison Union, which was to be a
Democratic paper. I secured a place in the Champion office, beginning work
the following morning. As I walked about the town I remember of hav-
ing seen but four brick buildings on Commercial street. A part of the second
story of one of them, about half a square west of the river, was occupied by
the Champion. The Massasoit House was the leading hotel. The Planters,
a two-story frame house, was a good hotel in those early days, but it
was too far out to be convenient, located as it was, on the corner of Com-
mercial and Sixth streets. West of Sixth there were but few scattering
dwellings and perhaps a dozen business houses and shops. The road along
Commercial street, west of Sixth, was crooked, for it had not been graded
and the streets were full of stumps and remnants of a thick growth of under-
brush that had previously been cut. A narrow, rickety bridge was spanning
White Clay creek where that stream crosses Commercial street at Seventh
street. Between Sixth and Seventh streets, north of Commercial street there
was a frog pond occupying most of the block, where the boys pulled dog-
grass in highwater, and where both boys and girls skated in winter. The
Exchange hotel on Atchison street, between Second and the Levee, built of
logs—subsequently changed to the National—was the principal hotel of Atch-
ison, and for more than a quarter of a century stood as an old familiar land-
mark, built in early territorial days.
    "Atchison .was the first Kansas town visited by Horace Greeley. It was
Sunday morning. May 15, 1859, a few days before beginning his overland
journey across the continent by stage. He came through Missouri by the
Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, thence down the Missouri river from St.
Joseph on the Platte Valley, a steamer then running to Kansas City in
connection with trains on the Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad. It was in
the old Massasoit House that Greeley wrote on Kansas soil, his first letter to
the Tribune. During the latter part of the afternoon he was driven over the

82                                       HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY

city in a carriage, John A. Martin being one of the party. The city was a
favorite place of Albert D. Richardson, the noted correspondent of five
eastern newspapers.
    "It was at Atchison that Abraham Lincoln, on his first visit to Kansas,
spoke to a crowded house on ^The Issues of the Day/ December 2, 1859,
the date that old John Brown was executed in Virginia. Lincoln spoke in
the Methodist church, which then stood on the hill at the comer of Fifth and
Parallel streets. The little church was a frame building, dedicated in May,
1859, and overlooked a considerable portion of the city. The house after-
wards became quite historic, for during the early part of the Civil war, the
patriotic Rev. Milton Mahin, a stanch Union man, from Indiana, in a
patriotic speech, soon after the Civil war broke out, had the nerve, and was
the first minister of the Gospel in Atchison, to raise the Stars and Stripes
over his house of worship." D. W. Wilder, in his "Annals of Kansas," one
of the most wonderful books of its kind ever published, says that Abraham
Lincoln arrived in Elwood, which is just across from St. Joseph, December
i, 1859, and made his speech there that evening. He was met at St. Joseph
by M. W. Delahay and D. W. Wilder. The speech that Lincoln delivered
at Elwood and at Atchison was the same speech that he subsequently delivered
at the Cooper Institute, New Ydrk City, and was considered as one of the
ablest and clearest ever delivered by an American statesman.
    Atchison county was making forward strides at a rapid pace and the fu-
ture held out every promise of. prosperity, but in 1859 "a great famine fell upon
the land." It did more to depopulate Kansas than all the troubles of preced-
ing years. The settlers in the Territory were able to fight border ruffians
with more courage than they could endure starvation, and during all of their
earlier troubles they confidently looked forward to the time when all of their
political difficulties would be settled and prosperity, peace and contentment
would be their share in life. During the years of 1855, 1856 and 1857 the cit-
izens of the Territory were unable to take advantage of the then favorable
seasons to do more than raise just sufficient for their immediate needs. Dur-
in the next year immigration to Kansas was large and the new settlers had
but little time, in addition to building their homes, to raise barely enough
for home consumption, so in 1859 Kansas had only enough grain on hand to
last until the following harvest. The drought commenced in June, and from
the nineteenth of that month until November, 1860, not a shower of rain fell
of any consequence. By fall the ground was parched and the hot winds that
blew from the south destroyed vegetation and the wells and springs went


                            HISTORY OF ATCHISON COUNTY                              83

dry. There were a few localities on bottom lands along- the Missouri river
where sufficient crops were raised to supply the immediate population, but
over 60,000 people in Kansas faced starvation in the fall of 1860. Thirty
thousand settlers left the Territory for their old homes, from which they
came, abandoning their claims and all hope of success in Kansas. An end-
less procession crossed the border from day to day. About 70,000
inhabitants remained, of whom it was estimated 40,000 were able
to go through the winter. As soon as the news of this situation reached the
East, movements were inaugurated for the relief of the sufferers in Kansas.
S. C. Pomeroy was appointed general agent of northern Kansas. He did
much to raise liberal contributions, in New York, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois
and Ohio, and the contributions were all sent to Atchison, from which place
they were distributed to the different counties of the State. The total re-
ceipts of provisions for distribution up to March 15, 1861, were 8,090,951
pounds, and the total distribution at Atchison, exclusive of branch depots,
was 6,736,424 pounds. In spite of all of this assistance over 30,000
settlers in Kansas that year suffered privation and almost starvation.
    It was during this frightful travail that Kansas as a State was born.
On January 21, 1861, Jefferson Da vis and a number of other southern sen-
ators left the United States Senate and on that day the bill for the admission
of Kansas under the Wyandotte constitution, which had been laid before the
House of Representatives in February, 1860, was called up by W. H. Seward,
and passed the Senate by a vote of thirty-six yeas to sixteen nays. One week
later the bill came up in the House on motion of Galusha A. Grow, of Penn-
sylvania, who introduced the first bill for the admission of Kansas into the
Union, and while the motion was out of the regular order, it was passed by
a vote of 119 yeas to forty-two nays. On January 29 the bill was signed
by President Buchanan, and free Kansas joined the Union.
    The following are the names of the city officials of Atchison March i,
1916: Dr. C. C. Finney, mayor; Victor L. King, city clerk; Walter E. Brown,
city attorney; C. A. Wright, city treasurer; Frank S. Altman, city engineer;
D: S. Beatty, police judge; William H. Coleman, chief of police; John Comp-
ton, fire marshal; Jerome Van Dyke, street commissioner; Owen P. Grady,
meat inspector and license collector; Fred Stutz, sanitary sergeant; Frank J.
Roth, building commissioner; John Compton, purchasing agent; Dr. T. E.
Horner, city physician. Councilmen: Louis Weinman, president; first ward,
Louis Weinman, F. F. Bracke; second ward, Joseph Schott, C. A. Brown;
third ward, H. M. Ernst, John R. Schmitt; fourth ward, W. C. Linville, Fred
Snyder; fifth ward. Fay Kested, Walter North.


back to Contents                                   go to Chapter VII  Towns, past and present

                                                                                            (To be continued)