Early History of Comanche County, Kansas, by Frona Seyfrit Hosted by RootsWeb, the oldest & largest FREE genealogical site. Click here to visit RootsWeb.
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From The Ruth Botts History Collection,
Loaned by Mr. & Mrs. V.W. Seyfrit for copying, February 1971.

Early History and Incidents of
Comanche County, Kansas,
Brought To Date

By Frona Seyfrit, January 1963.

This prelude, as told by my parents, who with their two little daughters, came to make their home here sometime in 1887, where Dad had previously picked out and bought a relinquishment of a quarter section of land, which some fellow had started to prove up, but had grown tired of his bargain, so was glad to sell for a very small sum, else my folks couldn't have bought it, but they did have to finish proving up the claim according to government regulations. They came as far as they could by rail, Kiowa in Barber County to the east, where they were met by a cousin of Dad's, with team and big wagon to take them on to their new home. No real road, but sort of trail across the prairie. Have heard since that the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe railroad was being built across the country then, but not ready for service.

Everything, including mail had to be hauled in by team and wagon, from larger towns to little inland towns, which soon sprang up here and there. Some of which were Nauvoo, Nescatunga and Avilla, which being nearest, was our address for many years, and about the only town we ever saw. These were short lived, however, as Wilmore, Protection and Coldwater, all railroad towns, soon outgrew them, and are with us yet today, many years later. No one, however, would hardly know them as the same towns.

The name "Coldwater" was given by a man from Coldwater, Michigan, who had drifted to the newly settled county. Also Wilmore, from Thomas Wilmore who settled there. Do not know the truth of this story of the name "Protection", but it was told that a band of new settlers headed farther west, were forced to stop overnight here, as news of an Indian raid had been brought them some way. They made camp, as a quick improvised fort, by putting wagons into a circle, with women and children inside, and men standing guard outside. Teams were also sheltered by the wagons as best they could. No Indians came, so next morning, being thankful for being spared, and liking the looks of the country there abouts, decided to stay and name their first little town "Protection." Settlers were taking claim along the little stream which meant much to them. (See footnote)

Wild animals were mostly coyotes, jackrabbits and cottontails, skunks and civet cats. Now rats, squirrel, opossum and raccoon, and some bobcats are reported. Also had prairie dogs and badgers from the start. Snakes were rattlers, bull or blow snakes, blue racers and spread heads or adders. Some very poisonous. Birds were sparrows, plover, killdeer, mockingbird, dove and "meadowlark", later named State Bird of Kansas. Now have many other varieties, which came along, as did the trees.

For a time Nescatunga and Coldwater vied with each other to be the county seat, Coldwater finally winning and remaining so, down through these many years.

The home to which I came, sometime later, to join the family group, was a two room dugout, with sod covered roof, with tin stovepipe sticking out of it, a few windows for light, and one doorway to the outside, one between the two rooms. In memory I can see it yet, as we lived in it until I was quite a school girl, and 3 more children added to the family, making it a total of six children, and our two parents. One room had a plank floor, the other just dirt, which was packed down till almost like solid rock. Walls and partitions were also plain earth. Furniture mostly home-made from whatever material could be gotten hold of. Such were most of the homes, though a few built sod houses on top of the ground. Both were comfortable being warm in winter, when icy blizzards came roaring in, covering all with drifting snow. We always kept a shovel inside to dig our way out. Too, they were cool in summer, as the hot rays of the sun could not get in. There was nothing to break the wind, as could travel for miles, without seeing a tree.

But in summertime prairies were dotted with many beautiful wild flowers, and wherever ground was broken, the sunflower came, destined to later be named the "State Flower of Kansas". Soon some of the settlers began planting a few trees, some for fruit, some for shade, then finally the tree strips or shelter belts came changing the entire outlook. Guess the sand plums, some wild grapes and currants have always been here, which furnished fruit, for all, who would gather it in season, which most did, as food of all kinds was hard to get, even grocery stores did not carry many articles, mainly just the staples, as few had money to buy with anyway, except the bare necessities of life. Perhaps an apple or an orange at Christmas time as a treat. I was pretty nearly grown before I tasted a banana, as they were beginning to be sold in the markets.

My folks, and most others, had hand dug wells, water being drawn by hand in buckets tied to ends of a rope drawn through a pulley fastened to a framework above. Sometimes a mouse, snake or frog would get in, but couldn't get out. Not very sanitary, but was all we had to use. Once in awhile a little lime was thrown in to "purify" the water. Later came hand pumps, then windmills to lighten the labor, and supply water for cattle, which now were owned by nearly every family, some only a milk cow or two, while others had somehow acquired a small bunch, and settlers beginning to fence off more and more grass land, as discouraged ones, left their claims and all to seek better living quarters elsewhere.

Plowing was done by a walking plow drawn by a ream of horses or mules, which also were hitched to wagons, as the only means of navigation, so whenever possible people, old and young, walked to neighbors, school and Sunday School or Church, Literary, Spelling schools, or Christmas entertainment all held in the Schoolhouse.

Santa always brought everyone a treat or gift, though mostly homemade, often some needed articles of clothing. Always the Christmas Story was read from the Bible, recitations given and songs by old and young alike. At first farmers tried raising a little corn, but usually the hot winds or cinchbugs or drouth would take it before maturity, so wheat was tried very sparingly at first. At first all was harvested with a binder, usually in partnership with a neighbor, shocked then usually stacked until a threshing machine could get to it as not more than one or two, for entire country. Then came headers as more and more acres of sod were plowed and sowed to wheat and finally combines, doing the harvesting and threshing at the same time. I also remember the old Horse Power threshers Dad used to drive the horses that furnished the power. Men always exchanged work, as there was no money to pay hired help.

Women did most of the gardening: gathering the wild fruits, pumpkins and squash, melons and piemelons were raised the latter cooked into a butter similar to apple butter. Also planted popcorn and peanuts, as a treat for the children, but which all enjoyed together.

For many years there was the dread of as Indian raid. One was reported once, and most women and children were hustled to an improvised fort, with the men prepared to defend it. However, no Indians came either then or later. I guess that's how our county got the name, from Comanche Indians, which once hunted buffalo here, both of which moved on as settlers began to move in. Food was scarce. Rabbits of both kinds, Jack and Cottontail, also doves were used extensively for meat, also quail and prairie chickens, but they were not very plentiful. Wild ducks and geese would fly over, but as food and water were scarce they went on to better quarters.

Cowchips was for many years the main fuel, except wood was gathered from along streams or anywhere it could be had and saved for winter use. No coal was to be had for many years. The clothing problem helped out by Army, Camp Supply, Oklahoma, gave discarded used wool clothing, which was remade into garments then scraps into quilts and rugs. Even the wool socks were remade to fit children's feet and legs, and how they did scratch, I know from experience, not hearsay.

Men gathered and sold dry buffalo bones, also salt from the Great Salt Plains, anything to bring in a few pennies for necessities of life, while women held down the claims, did the choring, and tended the children, and helped each other whenever help was needed. But now all has changed. Can this be the same country where all these things once took place not quite one lifetime ago? Those days of real hardship are now days of convenience of all sorts for both work and play. There were no graded roads, no cars, trucks or tractors, no telephones, mail routes, gas electricity, radio or television, no hospitals, but folks lived neighborly, helping each other, making their own entertainment or amusement, using home nursing and remedies.

Now I won't say that I'd want to live it all over, but am glad, though but a child growing from birth to womanhood, I can still remember much of the hardship as well as joys of those first Pioneer Days in Comanche County. Airplanes are quire common and oil wells are beginning to be seen here and there. Doesn't seem possible, but really wonder what the next few years will bring. I only hope it will bring as many happy memories of old times and friends as we had in those days of yore. May its blessings, prosperity and the Loyal spirit of Friendship always remain in and increase as the years come and go.

Written by Frona Seyfrit, January 1963

Footnote: The Naming of Protection, Kansas

"About a year later a post office was started on the Kiowa and called Protection. Among the prominent members of the old Protection Town Company were E. P. Hickok, W. P. Gibson, J. W. Johnson and one or two others, all republicans, good and true. When it came to selecting a name for the new post office, there was some difference of opinion, and it was finally agreed to leave the naming to the postmaster general, who was a republican also. In the political platforms of those days there was much said in regard to "protection," as compared with "free trade," when speaking of the development of American industries and the employment of labor, and it was but the natural thing for the postmaster general to think of the word "Protection" for the new post office on the Kiowa in Comanche-co., Kansas. That, as I understand it, was how the city of Protection got its name." -- Hiram O. Holderby, The Western Star, April 8, 1921.

This history by Frona Seyfrit was loaned by Mr. & Mrs. V.W. Seyfrit to Ruth Botts in February 1971 for addition to the Ruth Botts History Collection.

Thanks to Patricia Snyder for typing the above history for this web site!

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