HISTORY OF EARLY LYON COUNTY, KANSAS
(Breckinridge and Madison counties)
Written by Lucina JONES, Regent Emporia Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, May 1933
The committee in charge, on this research, is most grateful for the help they have received from many people in and about Emporia, who have assisted them. The work of locating about half of the claims of the first settlers was done by Mr. Robert L. JONES. I wish we had time to note items of interest in and about these records; the one connected with John GUNKLE, is a fair example. The deed for 160 acres (SW 1/4, Section 28, Township 18, Range 12) was first assigned to John GUNKLE August 10, 1860 by an Indian named Mar-sa-li-no Ta-che-co, who had received his land from the government as a reward for service (as an officer) in an Indian uprising. Mr. John GUNKLE was the grandfather of Eva and Charlotte GUNKEL of Emporia.
Indians were very much at home in and about this locality; the HIATT family have many bits of tales which add to the coloring of those days in the late fifties. John HINSHAW tells us that a spot in HAMMOND Park is the site of an Indian summer camping ground. An Indian burial ground was located north of the Cottonwood just south of the Park MORSE home on East Logan Avenue. (Center of NW 1/4 Section 24, Township 19, Range 11)
Elsie RICH-WELLS of this committee remembers the tree along the river east of SODEN's Grove where her father said the bodies of dead Indians were hung for burial ceremonies. Sites of a several cemeteries have been marked as they all date very early. Mrs. GODSEY has located on a map accompanying her article "Raid on the Upper Neosho" in Vol. 16 of the Historical Collections, the burial spot of a man named LOWRY, whom she said was the first white man to be buried in Breckinridge County, Mrs. Archie HUNTER finds a gravestone in Forest Hill cemetery located in NW corner SW 1/4 Section 11, Township 19, Range 12, with the inscription, "David A., son of W.F. and S.J. HANCOCK, died April 3, 1856 1 mo. 23 days old." This cemetery is on land pre-empted by a Mr. ROE who deeded the plat to the public. It is now owned and taken care of by the township.
The burial ground on Sixth Avenue, just to the east of Badger Creek (sometimes called Forest Hill Cemetery), was first called "STEVENSON Burial Plot" and was a private burial ground. Laura FRENCH's article in the Emporia Gazette under date of Feb. 10, 1933, concerning the burial ground one-half mile east of Rocky Ford Bridge is of real interest. The COTTINGHAM plot is near this GUNKLE location. Mr. John COTTINGHAM, buried here was the first settler on the Cottonwood River. The Line Cemetery predates 1860. It is a 20 acre plot (W 1/3 NW 1/4 Section 31, Township 21, Range 11). Elmendaro Cemetery was near the town of Elmendaro on Eagle Creek.
The first school house built in the county, according to STOTLER's "Annals of Emporia and Lyon County", page 17, was in KIRKENDALL settlement. A Mr. GARDNER of New York, who later married on of Mr. KIRKENDALL's daughters, was the first teacher. This was in the year of 1857. Mrs. Uri HODSON says it was in the south west corner of Section 24, located just south of LOCKERMAN Bridge, and that she attended school there in 1860. The building was built of logs as was the one on the second location just across the road from the Zion Church in Section 26. The third location was one-half mile south and one-half mile east, now of School No. 14. It was called Valley Star. The first organized district in the county was in Emporia town. The school building was a stone building on Constitution Street, but prior to this the first school was opened October 14, 1858, in a small building on the northwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Commercial Street, the site of the Emporia State Bank. This little building was built April 18, 1857; one small room with an attic above, being the first building erected on the Emporia town site. Mr. STOTLER says it was a free subscription school and most of the money was furnished by the young men of the town; Miss Mary Jane WATSON was the teacher. The second term of the Americus school began Oct. 18, 1858; (I do not have the date of the school opening, which would predate the opening of the first Emporia school.)
Americus was the site of the first jail, a structure built of hewn logs.
The Emporia Times of April 23, 1933, carries an article which says, "at one time Lyon County claimed the record of having the biggest tree in Kansas. It was the Cottonwood and in 1879 it measured nearly thirty feet in circumference; it stood just south of the Sixth Avenue Highway on ground which was once the Neosho River bank; the site being now almost due east of the present bridge."
The first marriage in the county was at the DeLACY cabin in 1855 (probably in the summer). Morgan DeLACY married Mary MAYDS; James HENDRICKS, Justice of the Peace, officiated. (VANGUNDY's letter, Kansas Historical Collections Vo. 17, page 594.)
The first marriage in Emporia was that of James PHEANIS and Sabra WAY, in 1858. (Pioneer's, page 17). The first home wedding was that of J. V. RANDOLPH and Alma M. WATSON on Mechanic Street in the 800 block, the real show place in the town at that time. Mr. WATSON's flower garden was the pioneer in gardens. Roots of his famous Wisteria vine still lives on the porches of the RANDOLPH, KEELER and VICKRY home.
Elder Cyrus R. RICE of Hartford, at an old settler's meeting in October, 1912, said, "Sometime in June 1856, I organized the first church in the county, under some trees a little below the mouth of the Cottonwood, and I appointed Dr. GREGG, class leader, but this church was short lived and soon forgotten."
The Curtis HIATT and the Joseph MOON families, devout members of the Friend's Church, held services in their homes immediately following the arrival of the HIATT family in 1856.
While in Emporia, the first religious services were held in the hotel, called the Emporia House, as the southwest corner of Sixth Avenue and Commercial Street, by the Rev. MAYES, of the Methodist Church, says Mr. STOTLER. This has been contradicted, however, some saying Solomon BROWN preached the first service held in Emporia House. Mr. BROWN was a minister of the Christian Church; their church located originally at 527 Exchange Street, was the pioneer church building on the town site.
Mrs. John REES says the pioneer Sunday School was organized in her father's home on Dry Creek and the first Thanksgiving service was also held there.
Mr. Edward EVANS gave the first ground to the community on Lower Dry Creek for a cemetery. A log cabin was built on the plot in 1861 or 1862 and all forms of community gatherings were held there. Martha PRIEST of Eagle Creek was the first school teacher. In later years, a church was built just south and it was called Salem Church. The cemetery is now known as Evergreen Cemetery. Mr. & Mrs. EVANS are buried on the spot where the log cabin community house once stood.
The first furrow of ground plowed in the county was on the WITHINGTON claim. Mr. VANGUNDY said that Thomas J. ADDIS and John ROSENQUIST brought in two plows at the same time and it was on their arrival that the plowing was done. Mrs. GODSEY says that Mr. ROSENQUIST (her father) was the man who plowed the first furrow.
Several claimed the distinction of owning the first well; among them was Solomon G. BROWN, Lemuel JOHNSON, and Edward EVANS. However, Mr. William HAMMOND says the first well on the Emporia townsite was dug by himself and his cousin, George BAKER, on the east side of Merchant Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue, and that Paul BECK drank the first cup of water from this well.
H. G. HUMPHREY's saw mill was the first mill erected. Two early mills close to the Emporia town site were Dr. ARMOR's across the Neosho and PARHAM & PHELPS, in the ravine just north of the Normal building. Those marked on the map were PATTY's, HAWORTH's, SODEN's, HUMPHREY's I and II, FOWLER, ARMOR's flour mill and ARMOR's saw mill, PARHAM & PHELPS' saw mill, ROBERTS & JONES flour mill, and the Hartford water mills.
Leonard E. BUSH, who came to Kansas in 1856, taking a claim north west of Admire, bought the first spool of barbed wire sold in Emporia and fenced his farm. He said, "the farmers laughed when advised to take up stretches of unfenced land adjoining their own farms and said 'Why pay money for the worthless stuff; it will never be settled'".
Post offices marked on the map (now extinct) are Magda, Elco, Verdigris, Ewing (commonly called the Red Barn), Eagle Creek (also site of the stage barn ran by Freeman SOULE), Columbia, Allen (at WITHINGTON's), Agnes City, Orleans, Foster Springs, Waushara, Ivy, Badger Creek, also Plumb (the site of the Trail).
The Emporia City Waterworks, first located on the Cottonwood River, were formerly opened in June 1880, and said to be the first in the state.
An item of interest told me by Mr. Tom EVANS is that during that early period, it was the belief that plaster would not hold on walls over-head because of the high winds, so most of the early houses were ceiled instead of being plastered.
The first issue of the Kanza News was printed June 6, 1857, and Mr. Ed ROWLAND tells me that his uncle bought their printing business, later. The ROWLAND Printing business is the oldest business on the streets, probably by fourteen years.
Mr. E. E. ANDERSON, the tailor continuing the tailoring business of G.P. JONES and Company, which began in 1874, probably rates the next oldest.
The first banker in Emporia was J.R. SWALLOW.
P. B. PLUMB and L.D. BAILEY were the pioneer lawyers.
Ed BORTON established the first hardware store in August 1858 and it is said that Mrs. BORTON owned the first bath-tub in town. It was a copper tub sent to her by her father from Cincinnati, Ohio,
In June 1863, $80,000 worth of cattle were sold in Emporia and vicinity, all of which shows that these early pioneers of Kansas made much of the fertile and virgin soil of Kansas in a really very short period, and we heartily agree with the statement made by Miss Abigale MORSE in an article on "The Early Schools of Lyon County", "Early settlers, the Lord called us to Lyon County to make it a worthy part of a great nation; we have about finished our work; we built better than we knew."
May we, residents of this County of Lyon, not fail in carrying on, the work so wondrously built.
Signed: Lucina JONES Regent,
Emporia Chapter, Daughters of the
American Revolution, May 1933
Sources of information:
History of Lyon County, by Laura FRENCH
Annals of Lyon County and Emporia, by STOTLER
Wilders Annals of Kansas
Clippings from newspapers found in Emporia
Daughters of the American Revolution's scrap book
Early residents of Lyon County
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