Reno county Genealogy Society

Reno County Genealogical Society

Welcome to Reno County, Kansas

Preserving Our Yesteryears!

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County Information

Cities & Townships

County History


The county of Reno was first created by the State Legislature, early as March 1868 and the name Reno conferred upon it in honor or that gallant soldier, Gen. Reno, who fell in the battle of Gettysburg. The territorial limits were established as follows: "Commencing where the south line of Township 23 south, intersects the east of Range 5 west; thence south with said range line to the southwest corner of Sedgwick County; thence west to the east of Range 11 west; thence north with said range line to the south line of Township 22, thence east to the place of beginning." In 1872 the State Legislature made the following changes: Five Congressional townships were taken from the south end of Rice County, two from the southwest corner of McPherson County, four from the northwest corner of Sedgwick County, and added to Reno County, while three tiers of townships were detached on the south and added to the present county of Kingman.

The provisional organization of the county was effected January 1, 1872, by the appointment, by the Governor, of C. C. Benis, W. H. Bell, Thomas Allen as a Board of County Commissioners, and A. C. Kles, County Clerk. At a special election held January 6, 1872, at which 112 votes were cast, C. C. Hutchinson was erected as a Representative to the State Legislature. On February 3, of the same year the momentous question as to the location of the county seat was effectually settled by a unanimous vote, the result of which gave the honor to Hutchinson. Another special election was held March 12, at which the following County officials were chosen: A. C. Kies, County Clerk; Harry Hodgson, District Clerk; Charles Collins, Sheriff; W. E. Hutchinson, Superintendent of Public Instruction; S. H. Hammond, Register of Deeds; W. W. Updegraff, Probate Judge; Luther Dodge, Surveyor; C S. Martin, Coroner; L. Houk, County Attorney, and C. C. Bemis, W. H. Bell and W. J. Vansickle, County Commissioners.

At this time a sub-division of the county into municipal townships had not been made, and at an election held April 16, 1872, the following township officers were elected, and had jurisdiction over the entire county, as Reno Township: Peter Shafer, Trustee; D. B. Miller, Treasurer; S. N. Parker, Clerk; J. Rhoades and D. D. Olmstead, Justices of the Peace, and John McMurray and J. Brown, Constables. At a meeting of the county Board, October 8, 1872, Valley Township was organized and an election ordered to he held November 14, 1872, but "owing to a disastrous prairie fire and other calamities," it did not take place until January 3, 1873. At a meeting held April 12, 1873, the following named townships were laid off: Nickerson (changed to Grant, May 20, 1873), Little River, Haven, Castleton and Clay. September 1, 1873, Lincoln and Centre townships were organized. Salt Creek, Meford, Westminster, Langdon and Troy townships were organized March 24, 1974. At this time the subdivision of the county was complete, but owing to the increase in population and the size of the townships, changes have been made in the boundaries, and new townships formed, as follows: Grove Township, October 3, 1876; Grant and Reno townships, January 8, 1877; Loda and Sumner townships, July 3, 1877; Hayes Township, October 6, 1877; Albion Township, October 8, 1878; Bell Township, October 17, 1878; Enterprise Township, April 9, 1879; Rosco and Plevna, July 9, 1879; Arlington Township, January 4, 1881.

During the spring of 1872 a petition was circulated among the legal voters of the county asking that an election be ordered held, for the purpose of determining the feasibility of issuing bonds to the amount of $60,000, to be used as follows: $15,000 for a court house; $35,000 for a bridge across the Arkansas at Hutchinson, an iron bridge across the Little Arkansas, and two iron bridges across Cow Creek; and $10,000 to pay the first year's interest on the bonds and current expenses, which could not be provided for by taxation. At an election, held April 25, the three propositions were separately submitted, and the bonds were carried by majorities of eighty-eight, ninety-five and eighty-seven respectively. The contract for building the bridges was let to the King Bridge Company on the 8th day of June, who completed them in the fall of the same year.

The contract for building the court house was let to W. E. Hutchinson, July 27, 1872. Work was begun on the building and continued until the fall of the same year, when, owing to a change in the original plans, including the addition of an iron jail in the basement, it was claimed that the amount voted, was not sufficient to complete the building. A second bond election was ordered, held December 21st, at which the following propositions were submitted to the voters: Shall bonds to the amount of $7,000 be issued for the completion the court house; $2,000 for a bridge across the Ninnescah; and $9,000 for general expense. The intelligent voters decided that they should, the proportion being carried by majorities of seventy, fifty- three and forty-nine respectively, in a total vote of 252; a falling off more than 100 from the preceding general election. The court house, as completed, is large two-story brick and stone building 40x60 feet, and stands to-day as a monument of Western enterprise and progress. In the basement is located the jail, which Is constructed in a solid and substantial manner.

November 18, 1873, bonds to the amount of $10,000 were voted for the purpose of establishing an asylum for the county poor. Owing to the grasshopper visitation in 1874 it was deemed advisable to use the amount above mentioned in aiding those who had lose all from the ravages made by the afore said 'hopper.

The first division of the county into commissioners' Districts was made August 13, 1874, and included the following: District No. 1 - Grant, Little River, Clay, Valley and Reno townships; District No. 2 - Castleton, Lincoln and Haven; District No. 3 - Balance of the county.

The first term of the District Court for Reno County was opened August 14, 1872, in temporary court house erected by the county, Judge W. R. Brown presiding. There were also present L. Houk, County Attorney; H. Hodgson, District Clerk; Chas. Collins, Sheriff: Jno. McMurray, Under Sheriff. The first case taken up was that of Chas. Meyers, indicted for running a gambling house. Only two or three important cases were tried during the period.

Under the faithful administration of the different sets of county officials, who have up to the present time been careful and efficient in their several capacities, the county of Reno is to be congratulated for the excellent condition of affairs in its official organization. The present county official roster is as follows: Clerk, W. R. Marshall; Treasurer, Wilson Mandless: Register of Deeds, Jno. Payne; Probate Judge, S. B. Zimmerman; Clerk of District Court, E. S. Handy; Attorney, R. A. Campbell; Coroner, A. W. McKinney; Surveyor, J. M. Harsha; Superintendent, E. L. Jewell; Sheriff, J. M. Hedrick; Commissioners, E. W. Elliot, A. M. Switzer, Elmer and Everett.

To retain clear and lucid impressions of the early settlement of Reno County, it will be for the reader to first bear in mind, changes have been made in its original boundaries. In 1872, that tier of townships embraced in Range 4 on the east, and Township 22 on the north, were added to the county. It was in this north tier of townships the first settlement of Reno County occurred, and it is necessary to make this distinction in order to give the first settlers of Rice County credit as being the first in Reno. In the autumn of 1870, Lewis M. Thomas, after prospecting through the valleys of the Solomon and Smoky Hill rivers, turned his course southward, and following along the valley of Turkey Creek in McPherson County, to a short distance above its confluence with the Little River. He then turned to the northwest, crossed the river at the Stone Corral, a stopping place on the Santa Fe trail, and visited a small settlement near Atlanta, in Rice County. Not being satisfied with the advantages at that point, he returned to McPherson County, and being attracted by the cottonwood groves that at that time covered the sand hills, and the abundant Herbage which covered the hill slopes, came to the conclusion to locate on Section 8, Township 22 south, Range 5 west. November, 1870, dates his arrival as the first settler of Reno County, under it's present boundaries. In December of the same year, Mr. Thomas, visiting Lawrence, purchased stock and supplies, and returned to his home, where he continued to reside up to a late period. On his return he was accompanied by John Hunt, an Englishman, who located and settled in the valley of the Little Arkansas, but afterward, owing to his having occupied a railroad section of land, left the county. Antedating Mr. Hunt's settlement a few days was that of J. H. B. Rosan, who, in looking up the cattle business, decided to make a permanent location on Section 4, Township 22 Range 6. This was in the fore part of December, 1870. Mr. Rosan, who was accompanied by James C. Burnett, "Ranched" at Thomas' until February 1, when they crossed the sand hills and settled at a place known for many years afterward as Rosan's Ranch. In March, Rosan, he brother, Charles W. Rosan, and Charles Street, drove in a large heard of Texas cattle.

During the next month, a surveyor was procured from Salina, and their land was surveyed - the first in Rice or Reno counties. George H. Watson located in the valley of Cow Creek in March, 1871. While these settlements were being made in the northern part of what is now known as Grant and Little River townships, a party of sixteen persons entered the county from the east and encamped near the mouth of Cow Creek, early in March, 1871. The party was composed of John N. Shahan, William and Robert Bell, William Cadwell, Mr. Haverlin, John Butcher, P. Welch, William Kacy, F. Foley, Isaac Ijams and wife, James Freese, William Shoop and wife, Westley Ijams, Hannah and Mary Freese. Many of this party located claims along the river, as far north as present city of Hutchinson, March I4, 1871. Ante-dating their arrival was that of A. S. Demock, who located February 9, 1871, in what was then known as the "Sedg- Strip," in the eastern part of the (present) Reno County. He was followed by Luther A. Dodge, February 13, 1871, who was the first settler in what is now Clay Township. During the spring, John Swanson, a brother of Lewis Thomas, and several Swedes located in that part of the county. In the summer of the same year, Charles Collins, D. B. Miller, A. Smith, L. S. Shields and his two sons, Samuel and George, Peter Shafer, George Mills, E. Shafer, B. F. Evarts, George Laferty, Dr. A. S. Crane, William Lockart, and John Curley located in different parts of the county lying north of the Arkansas River. About this time claims were taken in the upper Cow Creek valley by A. K. Burrell, Mrs. Mead and sons, and Messrs. Parker and Decker.

Up to the spring of 1872, the settlement of Reno County was confined to the north eastern portion, north of the Arkansas River. Over three-fourths of the county south of the Arkansas, not a settler could be found, with the exception of I. M. Gray, J. B. Risting, and perhaps a few others, who located in the southeast, in Haven Township, in June, 1871. The non-settlement of this portion of the county, at an early date, was due to the difficulty in crossing the river. This was, however, amended by the construction of a bridge, of which mention is made elsewhere, across the river at Hutchinson, in the fall of 1872. The first settlers in that part of the county, south and west of the river, by townships, according to the original boundaries, may be classified as follows: Lincoln Township, by A. B. Cory, W. R. Marshall, J. H. and J. A. Grayson, A. M. Switzer, W. W. Pierce, J. Jeffreys, A. Hutchinson, S. Ryan, and W. White, in April, I872; in Castleton Township, William McDemett, A. W. Smith and John R. Smith, H. T. Wheeler, William Hayes, William Wallace, and J. Medbery, in the spring of 1872; in Centre Township, in December, 1872, by Bollin, W. L. Teeter, and in March, 1873, Edward Jones and Richard Cravalsy; they were followed in September and October by Samuel and Zenas Dilley, H. O. Hasa, Hugh Ghormly, Thomas Crotts, R. King, with their families. Westminster Township was first settled by John Martin, in the spring of 1873. He was followed by Messrs. Fryrear, Howell, and Harriman. Troy Township was first settled by Samuel Slack and Thomas Scorsby, in April, 1873; Loda Township, in August, 1873, by J. F. Stevens, M. A. Long, and J. T. Stevens; Salt Creek Townships, by T. B. Hand, in October, 1872; Grove and Langdon townships in February and May, 1874, by Jacob Armstrong and Jesse Sinclair, respectively. The first settler in Medford Township was R. D. Kelsey in the fall of 1873. Sumner Township, in the southeast corner of the county was first settled by John L. Gill, in March, 1872. Whole pages might be devoted to mentioning names and dates of early settlement in the county, but for further information the reader is referred to the biographical department of this work.

William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas
First published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL.