Rice County History
1912 Gazetteer of Rice County
The following listing is from the books, "Kansas: A Cyclopedia of History," Vols. I & II, by Frank Wilson Blackmar.
RICE COUNTY, in the central part of the state, is in the second tier of
counties west of the 6th principal meridian, and in the fourth tier north
of the Oklahoma line. It is bounded on the north by Ellsworth county;
on the east by McPherson; on the south by Reno, and on the west by
Stafford and Barton. It is crossed a little to the west of the center by
the 1st guide meridian west. It was named in honor of Brig. Gen.
Samuel A. Rice, of the United States volunteers, who was killed at
Jenkins' Ferry, Ark., April 30, 1864.
Although Rice county was created and its boundary lines fixed by
the legislature of 1867, it was not until 1870 that it was settled The
first homesteader was John A. Carlson, who came in February of that
year. He was followed by Andrew J. Johnson, C. S. Lindell, August
Johnson, John Enrick Johnson, John P. Johnson, O. W. Peterson, John
Ouincy Adams of Mass., and Leonard Russell. In Aug., 1870, R. M.
Hutchinson, A. J. Howard and J. E. Perdue, of the firm of Hutchinson
& Co., stopped upon the Little Arkansas with 4,000 head of cattle.
Howard and Perdue returned the next January and located claims.
A great many settlers came in 1871. A colony from Ohio located at
Union City, 3 miles from the present city of Lyons. Buffalo was still
plentiful in the vicinity, and was a great help to the homesteaders as a
source of food and cash income. The first frame houses were built in
this year, the lumber being hauled from Salina, a distance of 60 miles.
The county horticultural society was organized with Rev. J. B.
Schlicter, president. The first murder among the settlers was committed on Aug. 27, 1871, when Edward Swanson shot and killed P. B.
Shannon. The first natural death occurred the next day, and was that
of John Chitty. The first birth was that of twins, George and Angie
McKinnis, in September of that year. The Santa Fe trail ran through
Rice county and there are a number of records of disasters to travelers
prior to the coming of the settlers.
The county was organized on Aug. 18, 1871, the temporary county
seat being fixed at Atlanta (Lyons). The officers appointed were:
Commissioners, Daniel M. Bell, Theodore A. Davis and Evan C. Jones;
clerk, Edward H. Dunham. The first election was held in September,
when the following officers were chosen: County commissioners, Moses
Burch, William Lowery and S. H. Thompson; county clerk, T. W.
Nicholas; treasurer, T. C. Magoffin; coroner, J. W. Holmes; register of
deeds, G. W. Poole; surveyor, T. S. Jackson; probate judge, Levi Jay;
county attorney, H. Decker; clerk of the district court, William H.
Van Osmun. Atlanta received 64 votes for county seat and Union City
48 votes. In the general election of Nov., 1871, Henry Fones was elected
coroner; W. P. Brown, county attorney; Evan C. Jones, county surveyor and superintendent of public instruction; and J. M. Leidigh commissioner in place of S. H. Thompson. In March, 1872, the south tier
of Congressional townships was detached and added to Reno county,
in order that Peace (now Sterling) would thus be too far from the
center ever to become the county seat. In 1876 an election for relocation
of the county seat was held. Peace received 336 votes against 457 for
Lyons, which up to this time had been called Atlanta. Rice county
was at first in the 8th judicial district and attached to Ellsworth for
judicial purposes. It was later changed to the 9th district.
The first newspaper was the Rice County Herald, started at Atlanta
in 1872 by a Mr. Frazier. The first marriage was performed on Jan.
1 of that year, the contracting parties being James A. Moore and Ada
Cartwright. The first train passed through the southwest corner of
the county on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. in July, 1872.
The Salina, Atlanta & Raymond railway company was organized in
1872, but later became defunct without building any track. The first
business establishment was Salady's grocery store at Atlanta in 1871.
The first postoffice was at the same place, Earl Joslin, postmaster.
Soon after its organization the county was divided into three commissioner's districts, and these districts were later divided into townships as follows: 1st district. Farmer, Eureka, Lincoln, Pioneer, Raymond, Center and Valley; 2nd district, Sterling, Atlanta and Victoria;
3d district, Union and Washington. Five more have been organized
since — Gait, Harrison, Mitchell, Rockville and Wilson. The towns in
the county having postoffices are Lyons, Alden, Bushton, Chase, Crawford, Frederick, Gait, Geneseo, Little River, Mitchell, Pollard, Raymond, Saxman, Silicia, Sterling and Wherry.
In 1871 there were 130 persons of school age in the county. The next
year there were 293, and there were 9 organized districts. The total
expenditures for school purposes in that year was $118. The county
normal institute was established in 1877. In 1882 the number of
persons of school age had increased to 3,488. In 1907 the number of
persons of school age was 4,456, and the organized districts numbered 94.
Three railroads pass through the county. The Atchison, Topeka &
Santa Fe enters in the east and crosses west through Lyons into Barton county. A branch road diverges at Little River, in the eastern part
and runs northwest into Ellsworth county. Another line of the same
road from Hutchinson, Reno county, to Ellinwood in Barton, crosses the
southwest corner through Sterhng. A line of the St. Louis & San
Francisco enters in the southeast and crosses northwest through Lyons
into Ellsworth county. A line of the Missouri Pacific railroad enters
on the southern boundary and crosses north through Sterling and Lyons
into Ellsworth county. Another line of this road crosses the extreme
northern portion east and west. There are 151 miles of track in the
The surface in the western portion is nearly level, in the central and
eastern parts somewhat rolling. Extending many miles along the Little Arkansas are sand hills which have been thrown up by the winds
throughout a long period of time. Limestone is found in the northeast
and the southeast; sandstone in the northeast and near Raymond in
the southwest; red ochre is in the northeast; there are beds of gypsum
in Washington township in the southeast; immense beds of salt underlie the county, and the finished product is manufactured at Lyons and
Sterling. "Bottom" lands average from one to two miles in width and
comprise about 15 per cent, of the area. Timber belts along the streams
average from 50 feet to one-third of a mile wide and contain cottonwood, elm, hackberry and oak.
The principal stream is the Arkansas river which flows across the
southwest corner. Cow creek, which drains the western and central
parts, is an important tributary. The Little Arkansas has its source
in the northeastern part of this county and flows south and southeast
into McPherson county.
Rice is one of the best agricultural counties in the state, the annual
farm production running between four and five millions of dollars in
value. In 1910 the corn raised in this county was worth $1,500,000;
wheat, $500,000; live stock sold for slaughter, $1,250,000; poultry and
eggs, $124,000, and dairy products, $114,000. The crops for the year
before were better in many respects, the corn alone bringing nearly
$3,000,000, and the wheat and oats together netting considerable over
The population in 1910 was 15,106, and the assessed valuation of
property in that year was $34,000,000, which makes the wealth per
capita about $2,240, or about $700 above the average per capita wealth
of the state.
Alden, one of the thriving towns of Rice county, is located in Valley
township, on the main line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R.,
about 10 miles southwest of Lyons, the county seat. It has telegraph
and express offices, a money order postoffice with one rural delivery
route, a bank, telephone connection with the surrounding towns, a good
graded public school, and is a trading and shipping point of considerable
importance. The population in 1910 was 275.
Allegan, a little hamlet of Rice county, is located on Cow creek,
about 10 miles northwest of Lyons, the county seat, from which place
mail is supplied by rural free delivery. Chase is the nearest railroad
Bushton, a town in Farmer township, Rice county, is a station on the
Missouri Pacific R. R. 15 miles northwest of Lyons, the county seat.
It has a bank, a money order postoffice with two rural routes, a weekly
newspaper — the News — a flour mill, a grain elevator, telegraph and express offices, telephone connections, a good public school, and is the center of a large retail trade. Bushton was incorporated in 1907 and in
1910 reported a population of 222.
Chase, one of the principal towns of Rice county, is a station on the
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. 8 miles west of Lyons, the county
seat. It has a bank, a money order postoffice with one rural route,
express and telegraph offices, telephone connections, a weekly newspaper
(the Register), a hotel, some good mercantile establishments, churches
of the leading denominations, and a graded public school. Chase was
incorporated in 1902, and in 1910 reported a population of 263.
Crawford, a money order postoffice of Rice county, is situated in
Gait township, near the northeast corner of the county, 16 miles from
Lyons, the county seat. It is a station on the Missouri Pacific R. R.,
and in 1910 reported a population of 35.
Frederick, one of the smaller towns of Rice county, is located in
Eureka township, at the junction of the Missouri Pacific and the St.
Louis & San Francisco railroads, 12 miles northwest of Lyons, the
county seat. It is a shipping and trading point for a wealthy agricultural district; has banking facilities, telegraph and telephone offices, a
number of churches, good schools, and a money order postoffice with
one rural route. The town was incorporated as a city of the third class
in 1909. The population according to the government census of 1910
Gait, a country postoffice in Rice county, is a station on the Atchison,
Topeka & Santa Fe R. R., 11 miles northeast of Lyons, the county seat.
It is also a trading point, having one general store. The population
according to the census of 1910 was 15.
Genesee, the fourth largest town in Rice county, is located at the
junction of three lines of railroad. One line of the Missouri Pacific
passes through it running east and west, another line of the same road
runs north and south, and a branch of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe
passes this point. Geneseo is 14 miles north of Lyons, the county seat.
Its railroad facilities make it an important shipping point for grain, live
stock and other farm products, as well as an important transfer point
for travelers. It has 3 hotels, a weekly newspaper (the Journal), a
creamery, 2 banks, telegraphic communications, an express office and an
international money order postoffice with three rural routes. The population according to the census of 1910 was 566.
Little River, the third largest town in Rice county, and an incorporated city of the third class, is located in Union township, on the
Little Arkansas river and at the junction of two lines of the Atchison,
Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. It is 13 miles northeast of Lyons, the, county
seat, with which it is connected by rail. It is the business center for
Union township, has 2 banks, a grain elevator, a weekly newspaper,
known, as the Monitor, telegraph and express offices, and an international money order postoffice with two rural routes. The population, according to the census of 1910, was 661. The town was founded in 1880. The first store was built by Walker & Russ of McPherson.
The first newspaper was published soon after the founding of the town
and was called the Little River News. Valuable stone quarries exist
in the vicinity.
Lyons (formerly Atlanta), the county seat of Rice county, is located
in the central part of the county at the crossing of three lines of railroad — the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, the Missouri Pacific and the
St. Louis & San Francisco. It is situated about midway between the
Arkansas river and the Little Arkansas, at an elevation of 1,696 feet.
It has an electric light plant, 3 banks, 2 good hotels, 1 daily and 2
weekly newspapers, 2 flour mills, a large salt works, gas engine works,
machine shops and cement building block works. It is beautifully
laid out with the court-house square in the center. Around this are
handsome, modern retail establishments. The city is equipped with
telegraph and express offices and has an international money order
postoffice with six rural routes. It is divided into four wards and
according to the census of 1910 had a population of 2,071.
The original town of Atlanta was founded in 1870. It was absorbed
by Lyons, which was laid out adjoining it in 1876, and the same year
was made the county seat. The first postoffice was established at this
palace in 1871 and was called Brookdale. It was also the first one in
the county and Earl Joslin was postmaster. The town was incorporated
in 1880 with T. W. Nichols as the first mayor. In the same year the
Marion & McPherson branch of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe was
extended to Lyons. Two years later it was a thriving town of 900
Mitchell, a village of Rice county, is a station on the Atchison,
Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. 8 miles northeast of Lyons, the county seat.
It is a trading and shipping point, is supplied with telegraph and express
offices, and has a money order postoffice. The population according to
the census of 1910 was 100.
Noble, a hamlet in Rice county, is a station on the Missouri Pacific R.
R. 7 miles north of Lyons, the county seat, from which postoffice its mail
is distributed by rural routes.
Pollard, a hamlet in Rice county, is a station on the St. Louis & San
Francisco R. R. in Victoria township, 7 miles north of Lyons, the
county seat. It is a grain shipping point and has an elevator. It has
an express office and a postoffice. The population, according to the
census of 1910, was 21.
Raymond, one of the old towns of Rice county, is located on the Arkansas river and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R., 12 miles
southwest of Lyons, the county seat. It is a shipping point for grain,
live stock and other farm produce, and also a trading point for a large
agricultural area. It has a bank, all lines of retail establishments, telegraph and express offices, and a money order postoffice with one rural
route. The population, according to the census of 1910, was 250. The
town was named for Emmaus Raymond, an official of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R.
Saxman, one of the thriving villages of Rice county, is a station on
the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R., 9 miles southeast of Lyons, the
county seat. It is a trading and shipping point, has a mill, an elevator,
a bank, and a number of well stocked retail stores. It is supplied with
telegraph and express offices, and has a money order postoffice. The
population according to the census of 1910 was 150.
Silica, a rural postoffice in Rice county, is located in Pioneer township
on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. near the west line of the
county. 14 miles from Lyons, the county seat. The population according
to the census of 1910 was 20.
Sterling, the largest town in Rice county, is located in the southern
portion of the county on the Arkansas river and the Missouri Pacific
and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroads, 10 miles south of Lyons,
the county seat. It is beautifully laid out with broad streets and has
an abundance of delightful shade trees. It is the seat of Cooper College, and has a number of profitable factories which work on the various
raw materials yielded by the surrounding country. Among these are
two broom factories, a salt works, machine shops, washing machine factory, flour mill, marble works, feed mill and a seed cleaner factory. The
city has an efficient sewer system, waterworks, fire department, electric
light plant, library, an opera house, 3 banks, and numerous churches and
lodges. There arc two weekly newspapers (the Bulletin and the Journal), telegraph and express offices, an international money order postoffice with six rural routes. The population, according lo the census
of 1910, was 2,133.
The old town of Peace, Sterling's predecessor, was established in
1871, and was incorporated in 1876 by an official order of Judge Samuel
Peters, of Marion, as the "City of Sterling." He ordered an election for
city officers to be held on May 10, when the officers chosen were as follows: Mayor, J. S. Chapin; councilmen, W. H. Lape, E. B. Cowgill,
A. G. Landis, W. H. Page and Patten Nimrod; police judge, W. M.
Lamb. The name of the town was changed in honor of Sterling Rosan,
one of the early settlers.
Wherry, a hamlet of Rice county, is located in Washington township
on the St. Louis & San Francisco R. R. 13 miles southeast of Lyons,
the county seat. It has express and telegraph offices, a money order
postoffice, and some retail trade.
Rice Co. KHHP
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