It was during the last week in June in the year 1885 - now just 40 years ago - that I left my parental home in Illinois and turned my face to the great West in search of a quarter section or so of good land which could be either pre-empted or purchased very cheap from the party who had settled on it. I had been told that there were many good chances to secure just such land in southwestern Kansas.
Some relatives of mine had come to Comanche-co., and they urged me to make my way as soon as possible to this county. It was pointed out that this was not only a fine farming country but also well adapted to stock raising, there being no end to the supply of buffalo grass. I was told the country was well watered and that it cost very little to raise cattle here then. I was assured that in a few years I could be the owner of several sections of good land and a fine herd of cattle. That all sounded good to me and I could scarcely wait for the time to come when I was to start for Kansas.
I came by rail as far as Kingman. From there I had a fine ride over Cannonball Green's famous stage line, which made regular trips from Kingman to Coldwater. I shall never forget that ride. The stage was a very well built and conveniently arranged affair. The horses used were apparently about the best that could be bought. Four horses were used and good time was made.
I soon noticed that "Colonel" Green prided himself in his fine horses and his stage equipment, also in the fact that the trip from Kingman to Coldwater, a distance of 95 miles, was made in ten hours. On the trip several changes of horses were made. That gave the stage driver fresh teams for each 15 miles or so. I shall not soon forget the jollity which prevailed among the passengers (about six in number) on that stage the day I came out. All but one of them were, like myself, young fellows from the East, who were looking for a place in southwestern Kansas to locate and build up a home. That ride was a new experience for all of us, and how we did enjoy it.
The country looked fine then. I recall how I was particularly impressed with the wide expanse of prairie land. There were few settlers then. Pratt was then called Pratt Center, and an old town, called Saratoga, was located a short distance east of Pratt. None of the towns west of Kingman and Harper and south of Larned and Kinsley had a railroad then. Greensburg had only recently been started. Coldwater was reached by stage lines from Kinsley and Medicine Lodge, as well as from Kingman.
How well do I remember when, on the day I arrived in Coldwater, we (the stage coach and its occupants and driver) were greeted by quite a crowd of people as we came into town. It was almost as though we were the vanguard of a big circus of of a victorious army returning home. Everybody seemed glad to see us, and as we drove up in front of the post office we seemed to attract attention.
The town seemed to be fairly teeming with prosperity. Dozens of new buildings were going up, and people were coming in on every stage line and by wagons every day. Not only was there a busy appearance about the town, but many farms were being settled. Everywhere was an air of hustle and a grim determination to "make a go of it" if possible in this county, which was as yet somewhat new and untried.
The Western Star, July 10, 1925.
More About the Early Stage Lines
I have told my readers something of my introduction to Comanche-co. 40 years ago over one of the stage lines which then connected the county with the nearest railroad lines, which were then from 65 to 95 miles away. Before passing that particular period in the county's history, I want to state that in my opinion the stage coaches, which were but the forerunners of the railroads were no small factors in the development of the new country. They were the avenues over which passed much of the teeming, ambitious, hopeful and determined people who composed the early settlers of this county.
What old settler in Comanche-co. did not at some time take a ride on one or more of the flying stage coaches which made regular trips between Coldwater and Kinsley, Larned, Kingman, Medicine Lodge, and later with Ashland, Protection and Avilla? Then for a time Coldwater and Comanche City (by way of Avilla), Protection and Kinsley, Ashland and Dodge City and Avilla and Kiowa were connected by stage lines. In some cases trips would be made each way every other day, but between the larger towns daily stage lines were maintained.
I wonder if there are not a good many old settlers still living who remember the owners and drivers of those stage lines - such men as "Cannonball" Green, Riley Lake, "Keno", M. L. Baxter, Sam Presson and the firm of Rosenbaum, Lehr and Frazier. They were the fellows who did much to "blaze the way" for the splendid civilization of today in this country. They knew every foot of country over which they traveled, and they were acquainted with hardships which tried men's souls.
With them, things usually went quite smoothly during the spring and summer, but when fall and winter came it was not quite so smooth sailing. Rain, snow storms and bad roads were their principal causes of delays and hardships. In those days there were no bridges or regularly laid out roads along section or half section, the lands were controlled by the Comanche Cattle Pool. Hence when it was desired to start a trail between two towns as straight a line as possible would be selected, of course avoiding hills and canyons as much as possible.
I remember that when the trail between Coldwater and Greensburg was no fences except the big fence around lines as there are today. There were laid out W. B. Newman, an old timer of this county, hitched his team to a mowing machine and cut a swath most of the way, and that served as a guide for travelers until a well-worn trail was marked out. I recall also that not very long after the trail had been thus marked a big prairie fire spread all over the county and of course that wiped out the trail except where the wagon tracks were still visible.
With the coming of the railroad through Comanche-co. during July and August of 1887, the need for stage lines began to grow less, and within a few years thereafter all of the old stage lines had been abandoned. Cannonball Green took his horses and stages to Oklahoma and started two or three stage lines in that new country.
And thus it is that the borders of civilization were pushed on and widened. Before the days of stage coaches, wagons, many of them drawn by oxen, were used. Even after the railroads had come and the stage coaches had gone there were still many of the settlers who knew no other means of travel than in wagons. Very few buggies were in use among the pioneers in this county.
What a change has come about during these last 40 years. What a transition from the modes of travel and of transporting merchandise as practiced by the pioneers of southwestern Kansas and the modern methods. The automobile, the truck and the tractor have wrought wonders in many ways. They are a part of our advancing civilization, and must be reckoned with in our modern life. (To be continued)
First Impressions of Coldwater
In this article I want to tell briefly of some of my first impressions of the city of Coldwater, 40 years ago. As stated in a pervious article, the town was just one year old when I first saw it, on July 2, 1885. Already a number of store buildings had been built and others were in process of construction. A good many residences had also been completed and it appeared that houses were being built at the rate of a dozen new ones every week.
The carpenters were as busy as bees and very few idle men were to be seen. The buildings, of course, were all constructed of wood, the lumber having been hauled either from Kinsley or Larned, about 65 miles away, they being the nearest railroad stations at that time. Up to the time the railroad came (the fall of '87) a good many men with teams were kept busily employed hauling lumber and all kinds of building material, as well as all kinds of merchandise, household goods, etc., from those points to Coldwater.
It was not long after the town was started until there was a well traveled road between the new town of Coldwater and the railroad towns. If there are any of those early freighters who are yet alive, they could doubtless relate some interesting experiences of their trips across the prairies. Occasionally they got caught in big prairie fires or in some severe rain, wind or snow storm, the same as did the stage line drivers. In those days the trip after a load of freight required about three days. Now, a modern truck can make the trip in less than seven hours.
As I first viewed Coldwater, now 40 years ago. I did not see any school or church buildings. The people had not yet gotten around to those improvements. Improvised buildings were used for both church and school purposes. However, it was not long until steps were taken toward securing suitable buildings for the holding of regular services by the U. P. and M. E. congregations, which were then the leading church organizations in the town.
The U. P. church building was located on the corner west of where the Aiken Lumber Co. office now stands. That building was finally purchased by the Presbyterians and moved to the present location. The Methodists built their church on the corner just north of where the Community Building now stands.
The first school house was a two room brick building, which is still standing and which is located about one block south of the Santa Fe depot. The large 8 room school building, which also still stands but which will soon give way to a new and modern building, was built during the year 1889. During the summer of 1886 the city of Coldwater built a large "city hall" and donated the building to the county to be used as a court house. That building was destroyed by fire on the night of Halloween in 1921.
When I first walked the streets of Coldwater, there were very few sidewalks - just a few in the business section of town. But as the town is well drained we scarcely felt the need of sidewalks in the residence portions of town.
The water supply was ample, wells, both public and private, being plentiful. Who among the old timers do not recall taking many a drink of cool, refreshing water at the three or four public wells then in town? Of course some of the men folks took drinks at places where there was no well. For a number of years, or previous to the time the municipal water plant was installed, dozens of windmills could be seen in all parts of town, pumping the water from depths varying from 60 to 90 feet. The supply of water has always been inexhaustible, and the quality is not excelled in any town in the state.
The Western Star, July 31, 1925.
Locating the County Seat
In this letter I want to speak of a subject which no doubt has been almost forgotten by some of the old settlers of the county, and about which the younger generation is entirely ignorant.
I refer to the county seat fight, and when I do that I know that I will at once refresh the memories of all old-timers who still survive. In Comanche-co., as in practically every county in the state, there was a struggle between rival towns for the honor of being named as the permanent county seat. In a good many counties there were bitter fights, the results of which were apparent for many years afterwards, as the jealousies and hatred created during the county seat contests did not very soon die out. The result in Comanche-co. was not so far-reaching as was usually the case, neither was there as much bitterness shown as in some other counties.
Without entering into the details of the county seat election in this county, much of which has already been told in the columns of the Star, let me speak of a few of the outstanding features of the settlement of the county seat question in this county.
The county was organized in the year 1884 and Coldwater was named as the temporary county seat. It might be interesting to state that at the general election held in November, 1884, there were just four voting places in what is now Comanche-co. They were: Coldwater, Nescatunga, Lane's ranch and the Watson & Fullerton ranch. At Coldwater 227 votes were cast, 71 at Nescatunga, 39 at Watson & Fullerton's ranch, and 12 at Lane's ranch, a total of 349 votes. At the time the votes were sent to Medicine Lodge to be counted and recorded.
It was not until the following spring, or on April 21, 1885, that the election for voting on the location of the permanent county seat, also for the purpose of choosing county officials, was held. By the time the population of the county had increased considerably, as was shown by the fact that at that election a total of 1593 votes were cast. There were then eight voting precincts in the county, as follows: Coldwater, Protection, Comanche, Avilla, Nescatunga, Rumsey, Irwin and Glick.
That was quite a spirited election, combining as it did the voting on candidates for county offices and the county seat question. But as a rule it was a friendly and fairly conducted election. About every legally qualified voter in the county, and no doubt some who were not legally qualified to do so, voted. There was some speech making and electioneering, but in the main it was simply a matter of locality with the voters. The people who lived in and near each town supported that town almost solidly. When the votes were counted out it was found that Coldwater was 739 votes ahead of the nearest competitor, Nescatunga. The five leading towns voted for the vote cast for each were as follows: Coldwater 980; Nescatunga 250; Avilla 217; Protection 126; and Red Bluff 11. That election settled the question of the county seat of Comanche-co.
At the time the county seat election was held the county was considerably larger than at present. It then extended about twelve miles farther north than at present, and included three townships in what is now Kiowa-co., but while that 12 mile strip was a part of Comanche-co., it compromised only two townships - Comanche and Glick. Comanche-tp. was the west township and was 12 miles square. Glick-tp. lay east of Comanche and was 12 miles wide and 18 miles long.
At the general election held in Comanche-co. in November, 1885, a total of 1546 votes were cast. At that election there were 10 voting places, as follows: Coldwater, Nescatunga, Powell, Reeder, Ursula, Watson, Evansville, Sanders, Protection and Avilla.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site! She noted: "The last article said 'to be continued', but I could not find any more. Have no idea who Old Timer is, maybe he died. "
This RootsWeb website is being created by HTML Guy Jerry Ferrin with the able assistance of many Contributors. Your comments, suggestions and contributions of historical information and photographs to this site are welcome. Please sign the Guest Book. This page was last updated 30 April 2005.