Kansas History and Heritage Project-Wabaunsee County History

Wabaunsee County History
"Reminiscenses of the Early Settlement of Dragoon Creek, Wabaunsee County," Stephen Jackson Spear, 1914


Written by Stephen Jackson Spear, of Topeka, Kan., for the Kansas State Historical Society.

I was born August 23, 1834, in the Quincy Point school district, town of Quincy, state of Massachusetts. In March, 1854, my father brought his family west, locating temporarily two and one-half miles west of Elgin, Ill. Our family at this time consisted of Nathaniel S. Spear, my father, Lois (Thayer) Spear, my mother, and four children -- three boys and a girl -- Daniel, Warren F., Stephen J. and Delia A.

On my mother's side I have a double line of Thayer ancestry, one of which traces back to two Mayflower ancestors -- John Alden and Priscilla Mullins.

In August, 1854, we moved to Buchanan county, Iowa, where father, during the month of September, settled on a quarter section of government land. The settlers who had located in this county a few years earlier had bought up all the larger tracts of timbered land, but there was still plenty of prairie land that could be purchased from the government at one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre in specie, or with land warrants, such as were issued to soldiers of the War of 1812, and which were transferable.

Other settlers soon came into our immediate neighborhood, including a Mr. Samuel Woods and family, and a Willard Blair with his own and his father's family.

As was usual in all the newly settled farming sections of the Middle West, the "fever and ague" made its appearance, and in the fall many of the new settlers including myself were affected with it.

It was not until we were living in Iowa that we learned, through the New York Tribune, published by Horace Greeley, of the passage by Congress of the Kansas-Nebraska act opening to settlement the territory of Kansas. The long debates between the anti-slavery and proslavery members of Congress had finally resulted in passing the bill, with a provision that the settlers of the new territory should themselves decide whether it should be admitted as a "free" or "slave" state. This act was signed by President Pierce on May 30, 1854. The President appointed Andrew H. Reeder, of Pennsylvania, as the first governor of Kansas, and selected Fort Leavenworth as the temporary capital.

A tide of immigration followed the opening of the territory, and our neighbor Samuel Woods, having a horse team, started with his family for Kansas in the fall of 1855. In the spring of 1857 Mr. Willard Blair and family, and an unmarried brother, Thompson Blair, left our neighborhood for Kansas, driving through with a horse team.

I was expecting to go with them, but was not ready when they started. They located in Shawnee county, Kansas, about four miles east of old Brownsville, later called Auburn.

I kept in correspondence with Thompson Blair, and in one of his letters he minutely described the trail from Leavenworth to the settlement where he and his brother Willard were located, and I determined to join them at my first opportunity. After earning a little more than one hundred dollars above expenses, I left my home in Iowa for Kansas, on the morning of September 1, 1857. The nearest railroad station was Dyersville, distant about thirty- five miles west from Dubuque, so father hitched up his team and took me and my trunk some ten miles from home to a point where we met the stage that ran to Dyersville. At Dyersville I bought a ticket for St. Louis, going by way of Dubuque (where I crossed the Mississippi river on a ferry boat) over the Illinois Central and connecting lines in southern Illinois to the terminus of the railroad, on the east side of the Mississippi river. Here I was told by the baggage agent that my trunk would be left at the Planters' House, St. Louis, and I was taken by stage to another hotel in that city. The stage crossed the river on a ferry boat, there being no bridge at that time. I reached the hotel about seven o'clock in the evening of September 2. After breakfast the next morning I went to the river to ascertain what the opportunities were for getting to Leavenworth. I found steamboat agents who told me their boats would be ready to start at four o'clock that afternoon, and would carry me and my trunk, and board me on the passage, for $12 in gold. I paid my fare and was given a berth with two men whom I had met on the train and who were also going to Leavenworth. Engaging an expressman to bring our trunks to the steamboat we went on board to wait for the start at four o'clock. However, not having a complement of passengers and freight, the boat did not get started until four the following afternoon.

On the trip up the Missouri river our boat ran into shallow water, and the channel in places was so obstructed by sand bars, and trees washed out during a period of high water, that navigation was slow as well as difficult. The monotony of the trip was varied by frequent stops at wood yards for fuel, Cottonwood usually, and at towns to discharge and take on board passengers and freight. For the purpose of lightening the draft of the boat -- enabling it to get over some troublesome sand bars -- passengers often went ashore and under direction of a guide cut across the large bends in the river and there waited for the boat to come up with them, when they would again embark. The drinking water on this trip was taken directly from the river, and was so muddy that I became nearly sick from using it.

The passengers on board were a mixed lot. Many were very respectable people, but others were gamblers who plied their profession until long past midnight. These left the boat at St. Charles, and it was generally understood that they had "cleaned up" a nice little pile on the trip.

About noon of September 8 we reached the hamlet of Kansas City, Mo., at which point my two roommates left the boat. Resuming the journey we reached Leavenworth about 6 p. m. the same day. I stored my trunk at a warehouse, and feeling so miserable I could not eat, I hunted up a lodging house.

At this time Leavenworth was an important outfitting point for travelers. A road running from there to the south and west joined the Santa Fe trail in what is now the southeast corner of Wabaunsee county, and was a feeder to that great highway. The old trail at this date was broad and lined with sunflowers, many attaining a large growth.

On the morning of September 9, I could eat no breakfast, but with the written directions of the route to Mr. Blair's in my pocket for constant reference I started out to walk the distance to his claim. My way lay over the Delaware Indian reservation. After walking some seven or eight miles the stage en route to Lawrence overtook me, and I paid $3 in coin to ride the twenty-five miles to that phxce. From Lawrence westward there were but few settlers living near the trail, and many of them had to haul their drinking water in barrels from long distances. I therefore found considerable difficulty in getting good drinking water, and to add to my discomfort the wind was blowing very hard from the direction in which I was walking. When I arrived at Mr. Blair's house, about sunset the 11th, I was too sick and tired to eat, and soon after my arrival I was taken down with the fever and ague.

The Blair brothers, in common with so many of the early settlers, had no water supply at home, but were compelled to get it from a spring situated more than a mile from their house. As soon as I was able I went with Thompson Blair on one of his trips to this spring for water. The spring was in a ravine and could not be approached very closely by a wagon, and as there was nothing at hand to hitch the horses to, I held them while Blair filled the kegs and carried them to the wagon. While he was at the spring a number of Indians, mounted on ponies, rode up and stopped. They were singing loudly, though not musically, either to me or the team I was holding, and I had a difficult task to keep the animals quiet until the kegs were filled and brought to the wagon. These Indians were accompanied by their squaws, papooses and dogs, and they went into camp near the spring. At this period there were many Indians in the territory.

A short time before I arrived at Mr. Blair's home, a Mr. Wysong, who had settled on Dragoon creek but was then returning to Ohio, stopped at the Blairs' and in conversation told Mr. Blair that there were good claims on Dragoon creek on which could be found coal for fuel. He mentioned Mr. Samuel Woods as one of the settlers on this creek.

During my stay at Mr. Blair's my health improved, and on the 21st of September I started for Dragoon creek. After walking about four miles I passed through Brownsville, following the Leavenworth branch of the Santa Fe trail, which passed through this place and united with the old Santa Fe trail from Westport at a point where the town of Wilmington was later located. I followed the trail until it was crossed by the road from the Dragoon creek settlement to Council City (later called Burlingame). Into this road I turned, and following up Dragoon creek for about two and one-half miles I reached the home of Samuel Woods somewhere near sunset.

No rain had fallen in this locality since the first of July, and the prairie grass in consequence had not made much of a growth after that date. As there had been no frost, the haying that fall was late. When I reached Mr. Woods' he did not have his hay stacked. He possessed but one pitchfork, and as his neighbors were also engaged in haying and using theirs, and he thought it was too far to go to Kansas City to buy another, he improvised one for me from a hickory sapling. Such hay as he had cut and cured we got stacked by the 22d of October.

When Kansas territory was opened for settlement the settlers had the privilege of taking the land, after the survey had been made, under the pre-emption act. This act gave each head of a family or person over twenty-one years of age the right to settle on and improve a tract of land not greater than one hundred and sixty acres, which land was to be paid for at the rate of one dollar and twenty-five cents an acre on or before such time as the President by proclamation should bring the land into market. The land was first surveyed into tracts six miles square called townships the survey beginning at a point where the sixth principal meridian crossed the fortieth parallel, the northern boundary of Kansas.

In 1855 the townships had not yet been surveyed into tracts of a section each, and that work was not completed until after the first settlers had already located in the territory.

Previous to the date of my reaching the Dragoon creek settlement September 21, 1857 there were twelve families living there. This number included J. Q. Cowee, whose claim was on Wakarusa creek but near enough for him to be called a neighbor.

George M. Harvey, a son of Henry Harvey, was the first settler in the Dragoon creek neighborhood. He made his claim in June, but a short time after the signing of the Kansas-Nebraska bill. At that time he was a widower, with three children two sons and a daughter. These children lived with friends in Arkansas after the death of their mother. About the first of September, 1857, Harvey married as his second wife Miss Abigail Hadley, who lived near Emporia.

Samuel B. Harvey, George Harvey"s brother, made his claim in August, 1854. I have a letter from him, written February 10, 1903, in which he describes early events on Dragoon creek:

"As the timber and best farming land was near the creek the first settlers chose it. This land was surveyed into sections in the winter of 1855-'56. There were deep snows that winter, and severely cold weather, and George Harvey told me that the surveyors camped in the timber near the present Harveyville picnic ground. During this time they ran short of rations, owing to the inclement weather, and were forced to eat pumpkin, roasted in the ashes of their camp fires, to help out their bill of fare until the weather moderated sufficiently to enable supplies to be forwarded to them. After the survey was made, George Harvey's claim was in the southeast quarter of section twenty-eight, and Samuel B. Harvey's claim in the northwest quarter of section thirty-four, both in township 14 south, range 13 east."

The following twelve families already located on Dragoon creek by the fall of 1857 made a total of sixty-three persons living there:

James L. Thompson and family, from Tennessee; five persons. Isaiah Harris and family, from Clarksville, Ohio; nine persons. James K. Johnson and family, from Ohio; four persons. Allen Hodgson and family, from Illinois; six persons. Jehu Hodgson and family, from Illinois; four persons. George M. Harvey and family, from Ohio; five persons. Henry Harvey and family, from Ohio; six persons (including his son Samuel B. Harvey and three grandchildren.) Samuel Woods and family, from Galesburg, Ill., and Buchanan county, Iowa; six persons. John McCoy and family, from Kentucky and Omaha, Neb.; five persons. Andrew Johnson and family, from Philadelphia, Pa., and Peoria, Ill.; four persons. George Brain and family, from England and Peoria, Ill.; three persons. J. Q. Cowee and wife, from Courtland county, New York; two persons. Edward B. Murrell and Moses B. Crea, unmarried men from Ohio, members of Isaiah Harris's family, two persons. William Probasco, unmarried, from Illinois, was living in Allen Hodgson's family. William Madden, unmarried, from Ohio, was living in George M. Harvey's family.

Moses B. Crea and William Madden had claims with cabins on them, having purchased their land from earlier settlers who had sold out and gone west.

Mrs. James L. Thompson (Thomson) died August 6, 1857, and was buried on Mr. Thompson's claim.

Charles R. Hodgson, son of Jehu and Mary A. Hodgson, was the first child born in the settlement, July 26, 1857.

There was a financial panic in the eastern states during 1857 that was felt keenly by the settlers in this territory during the fall. Most of the newcomers had paid out nearly all their money at the Missouri river towns for provisions, stock, tools, clothing and other necessaries, and when their lands were brought into market they didn't have the specie to pay for them. However, there were kind-hearted men, brokers, at the land-office town of Lecompton, who would loan the settlers money to preempt land, charging them only from forty-eight to sixty per cent interest a year and taking a mortgage on the land for security.

On September 23, 1857, the second day after my arrival on Dragoon creek, Mr. Woods showed me some unclaimed land, from which I selected the southwest quarter of section twenty-one. That fall and winter I made some improvements on my claim, including the building of a cabin. Upon my inquiry Mr. Woods had told me that he was not aware of the existence of coal in the settlement.

The cabins of the first settlers were built of round logs, and the roofs were covered with rough shingles called "shakes," which were split from walnut logs. Some of the cabins had floors made of puncheons; these were rough l)oards split from logs. Later the cabins and houses of the settlers were made of hewed logs, and the shingles, after being split into suitable sizes, were shaved so that they could be laid close enough to keep out most of the snow in winter.

In 1857 a small sawmill was located at Council City, and considerable timber cut by the Dragoon creek settlers was hauled there and sawed into lumber, thus providing for more comfortable homes. John McCoy had the distinction of erecting the first house built from native lumber, sawn shingles and siding being used in its construction. The early houses were built with outside stone chimneys, and the cooking was done at the fireplaces, cook- stoves being a later luxury.

When not working for myself that fall I worked for Mr. McCoy. There being no well on his place, all the water used on the farm had to be carried from George Harvey's spring, so he decided to start digging for water. The man who did the work for McCoy encountered stone very near the surface and had to blast nearly the entire eighty feet the well was sunk. No water being found when this depth was reached, the well was walled up and left. Later water came in and filled it to within forty feet of the top.

There were plenty of evidences that the buffalo had roamed this section before the settlers had arrived. Patches of ground were found here and there, trodden so solid that no vegetation would grow, save the prickly pear, until the ground was fertilized. These spots were called "buffalo wallows."

In October, 1857, Jehu and Allen Hodgson and Samuel Woods took a team of horses and two yoke of oxen and went about eighty miles to the southwest in search of buffaloes to procure meat for the winter's use. Buffalo meat and jerked venison were staples in every home. They were gone about three weeks, but came back well supplied. For several succeeding years parties of hunters left this community each fall to go out for buffaloes, but each tim.e they had to go farther to find them.

On Thanksgiving day, 1857, Andrew Harris killed two wild turkeys at one shot while hunting in the timber along the creek. There were many prairie chickens and some deer, the Indians killing more of them than the whites.

In 1857 the nearest post office to the Dragoon creek settlement was Council City, distant eight to twelve miles. We had a semimonthly service, the mail being carried over the Santa Fe trail from Westport, Mo., to Santa Fe, N. M., in two large coaches, each drawn by six spans of mules. In the spring of 1858 a post office was established at Wilmington, which was at the junction of the Leavenworth road with the Santa Fe trail. O. H. Sheldon was the first postmaster. Simon Dow was appointed in 1859, and H. D. Shepard in 1860. Mr. Shepard kept a store in which the post office was located, and he continued as postmaster until 1867. He also represented Wabaunsee county in the legislature for several years. Our nearest post office on the line of the trail to the westward was at Council Grove, about twenty-eight miles.

In breaking the prairie sod most of the team work was done by oxen, from two to six yoke being used, according to the size of the plow. The oxen during the summertime were not fed at night, but were unyoked, a bell strapped around the neck of the lead ox, and then turned loose to graze until the next morning. It not infrequently happened that the oxen would stray sometimes several miles from home. A riding pony was usually kept lariated near the house to be used in such times of emergency, and it was no uncommon thing to find the animals lying down in the tall grass or patches of brush, calmly chewing the cud of contentment, perfectly quiet, not moving enough to shake the hell about their necks. For general purposes oxen were indispensable to the pioneers; they were much easier kept than horses, and for doing errands, going to the post office or trading at the towns they were much in evidence.

The earliest transportation over the Santa Fe trail was by pack mule. Later, as trade increased, mules and oxen were used, usually six spans of mules or six yoke of oxen hitched to the heavy freight wagons, later called prairie schooners. About fourteen wagons constituted the average wagon train, the whole being under the care of a "train boss."

In 1825 the trail was surveyed by the government, and creeks and streams that crossed the trail were noted by the number of miles they were distant from Independence, Mo. The stream at Fry McGee's place was numbered "110 Creek"; the one at Charles Withington's was called "142 Creek." The troops and supplies for the United States army in the Mexican war, 1845-48, were transported over this trail.

In 1858 and 1859, during the period of the Pike's Peak gold excitement, large numbers of gold hunters passed over the trail for the new diggings. Some of these were driving good teams and wagons, some were on horseback, others had small push carts, and some even wheelbarrows, loaded with all their earthly possessions tied in a small roll. During one day in 1859 three hundred and twenty-five vehicles by actual count crossed at the ford on Elm creek, near the old mail station. At the height of the gold excitement it was no unusual thing for five hundred vehicles to cross at that ford in a single day. Often the wagons bore the inscription "Pike's Peak or Bust" painted on the wagon covers, and it is a matter of history that many of these pilgrims returned "busted" some having never reached the gold fields. Others, however, were successful, and became founders of Colorado towns.

A few years since the Kansas Daughters of the American Revolution, assisted by the State Historical Society, marked the line of the trail across the state, setting one or more substantial granite markers in every county through which the trail passed. To accomplish this the legislature made an appropriation of $1000, while the school children of the state raised by penny contributions the balance needed to do the marking. One of the markers was placed in the town of Burlingame, near where the post office was located in 1857; one at Havana, about four and a half miles distant; one was set at the junction of the Leavenworth road and Santa Fe trail, at Wilmington; and another was placed near the old mail station at the ford on Elm creek, in Lyon county.

The winter of 1857-58 was very mild. But little snow fell, and the young stock lived on the prairie grass. In the spring of 1858 enough moisture fell to soak the ground, and the grass, sod corn and gardens had plenty of moisture. In August that year heavy rains fell, causing creeks in the vicinity of the Dragoon settlement to overflow their banks. An election to vote on the Lecompton constitution was held August 2, 1858. Should this election result in the constitution receiving a majority of votes it meant that Kansas would be a slave state, consequently all the voters of the Dragoon district made ready to go to the polling place at Wilmington, some four miles south of the creek, to cast their votes against the proposition. When our party arrived at Dragoon creek it was found bank full from the recent rains. There were no bridges across the stream in those days, so a temporary structure was managed by cutting a large elm tree that leaned out over the stream, reaching nearly half way across. Albert, the fourteen-year-old son of George Harvey, took an axe, and climbing on the fallen tree trimmed it so as to get as far out over the creek as possible. He then plunged in and swam to the other bank, carrying his axe with him; on that bank he cut another tree, which fell across the first one, thus affording a bridge over which George and Samuel Harvey, Samuel Woods and myself crossed. Before we reached Soldier creek, which was fordable only on horseback, we overtook Jehu Hodgson, who lived on the south side of the Dragoon. He was riding horse- back. After crossing Soldier creek he dismounted and led his horse back into the stream, making it swim to the opposite side, when it was caught and ridden back by one of our party. We repeated the performance until we were all across. At the election Wilmington precinct gave a solid vote against the proslavery constitution. The total vote in the territory for the constitution was 1788; against the constitution, 11,300; making a majority against of 9512.

William Madden returned to Ohio the winter of 1857-58. But in the spring he again joined the settlement, accompanied by his brothers Jehu and John and Aaron Harvey. Jehu Madden had been on Dragoon creek the previous year, having preempted a claim and sold it to Caleb J. Harvey, who at that time was a school teacher at the Quaker Shawnee Mission. Jehu and John Madden and Aaron Harvey were unmarried men and kept bachelor's hall in William Madden's cabin. The Madden boys brought a young horse team with them.

My father and mother, and two brothers Daniel and Warren came from Buchanan county, Iowa, bringing with them two yoke of oxen and three horses. They arrived April 15, 1858. By this time I had built on my claim a cabin fourteen by eighteen feet, with an upper floor.

In May, 1858, John Kester and family of about eight persons arrived from Ohio. Henry Easter and family of six persons came from Illinois. They brought three yoke of oxen. They were accompanied by Dr. Calkins, who, that summer, taught the first school in the settlement, using Henry Harvey's house for the school room. The doctor did not bring his own family until later.

Matt Wysong, previously mentioned as stopping at the home of Willard Blair in 1857, came back to the settlement in 1858, bringing his family of three with him. He did not preempt land, however, and soon returned to Ohio.

Samuel Armstrong, an unmarried man from Pennsylvania, came during the spring of 1858, and took a claim.

The first public celebration of Independence Day in the settlement was on July 4, 1858. All the neighbors met in a grove on George M. Harvey's place and had an interesting and enjoyable time.

William Probasco, a brother of Mrs. Allen Hodgson, was killed by lightning on the afternoon of July 25, 1858, during a shower and electrical storm; he was lying on a feather bed at the time. Other members of the family received electric shocks but were uninjured. There was no cemetery there at this time, so Jehu Hodgson gave a tract of a little more than one and one-quarter acres for a public burying ground, and Mr. Probasco was the first person buried in this, the present Harveyville cemetery.

Highwaymen and horse thieves were a form of annoyance that the early settlers had to contend with. In the spring of 1858 William Curtis, who lived near Wilmington, sent his two sons to Kansas City with an ox team to purchase supplies. On their return trip they were met at a lonely point on the trail by a highwayman, who robbed them of what money they had. William Madden, who was also on his way home from Kansas City, met the robber and talked with him. Madden had scarcely reached home when he learned of the robbery, so getting four young men to accompany him, they procured horses and set out after the highwayman, whom they found and brought back to Council City. He was given a trial by a vigilance committee, the money of which he had robbed the boys was taken away from him, and he was sentenced to receive thirty-nine lashes on the naked back; six members of the vigilance committee being selected to jointly perform the castigation. After the infliction of the penalty the culprit was given his supper, escorted out of town, and told never to come back.

The summer of 1858 George Brain, who owned but one horse, lariated him one night near his cabin. The next morning the horse was gone. Brain procured the assistance of some neighbors, and by following the trail and inquiring they found the horse and thief at Lawrence, and both were brought back. It being late in the evening when they reached Mr. Brain's clain;, the thief was tied and put in the cabin. That night a masked committee called at the cabin, tied Mr. and Mrs. Brain, and took the horse thief away with them. As reports differed about the disposition of the horse thief at the hands of the vigilance committee, I can give no further particulars.

There was no published time card for the first "railroad" through our settlement, and no regularity was observed in the running of the trains. The road was in operation during the years 1857, 1858 and 1859, and all cars ran at night. The stations were few and far apart, the one on Dragoon creek being in the loft of Henry Harvey's house. Enoch Platt's house in Wabaunsee was the next station. This railroad was better known as the "Underground Railroad," and runaway slaves were the only passengers carried.

Not much wheat was sown during the early years in the territory, as the price of seed wheat was so high. There were heavy rains during the spring and summer, of 1859. Corn did well that year and grass made a vigorous growth. In the falls of 1858 and 1859 the grass was so high that as a guard against fire the settlers plowed and burned fire-breaks around their houses and fences. Even these precautions did not always save property, and prairie fires were very destructive.

The first "stock" hogs in the settlement were purchased in Missouri. These hogs were not thoroughbreds, but were of a variety known as "Razorbacks," possibly so called on account of the extremely thin or flat frame of the breed. These hogs in their native state roamed the woods at will, and it was with difficulty that they could be kept within any inclosure. They ate large quantities of corn but could not be fattened.

In the spring of 1859 three Indians were seen early one morning, by one of the settlers, taking Samuel Devaney's horse and pony along the Indian trail that ran in a northwesterly direction across Samuel Armstrong's claim, The nearest neighbors were hastily notified, and Samuel Devaney, Samuel Wood, Samuel B. Harvey and Jeptha Beebe started in pursuit as soon as horses, arms, and ammunition could be procured. They trailed the Indians to a steep ravine on the east branch of Mill creek, not far from John Copp's claim. The Indians were armed with bows and arrows only. In the fight one of the Indians was so severely wounded that his companions mounted their ponies and fled, leaving him and the stolen property in the hands of the settlers. A member of the pursuing party went to the home of Mr. Copp and related to him the circumstances, whereupon he had the unfortunate Indian carried to his home, placed near a hay stack, and made as comfortable as possible. The men then returned home with the recovered property and told the neighbors what they had done. Later Mr. Copp, supposing that the wounded Indian was a member of the Pottawatomie tribe living on the reservation north of Mill creek, notified the tribe and they sent a squad to take him away. As soon as the Pottawatomies saw the wounded Indian they said he was a "Pawnee our enemy," and they proceeded to scalp and torture him, finally killing him. When Mr. Copp learned what they had done he insisted that they bury him, which they reluctantly did.

In 1859 many Indians passed through the settlement en route to their hunting grounds. Many of these bands camped near the settlement, and in evenings, in company with boy friends, I frequently visited their tepees.

Most of the settlers who came in 1859 left in 1860 on account of the drouth. Gilmer Young and William Blankenship, however, remained, and both later became Kansas soldiers.

Early births in our settlement were Samuel M., son of Isaiah and Nancy J. Harris, born August 11, 1858; Frank L., son of Jehu and Mary A. Hodgson; Mary E., daughter of Samuel and Dency E. Woods: Lincoln, son of Allen and Joanna Hodgson.

Early marriages as I remember them were Edward B. Murrell and Mary J. Harris, married by Allen Hodgson, justice of the peace, January 26, 1860; Burgess Vanness and Eliza Spencer; Ephraim (?) Jellison and Eliza Bailey.

After the rejection of the Lecompton constitution, as previously mentioned, the legislature of 1859 provided for the framing of another constitu- tion and formation of a state government. All formalities having been gone through with, and elections held, the delegates met in constitutional convention at Wyandotte on July 5. On July 29 the constitution framed by them was signed, and on October 4, following, was submitted to the voters of the territory. It was adopted by a vote of 10,421 for the constitution, 5530 votes against it, giving a majority for the constitution of 4891.

The members of Congress from the southern states had been desirous of admitting Kansas as a slave state, and they were supported by President Buchanan, who in a message to Congress on February 2, 1858, said: "Kansas is therefore at this moment as much a slave state as Georgia or South Carolina. Thus it was not until after long debates that Kansas was finally admitted into the Union under the Wyandotte constitution, January 29, 1861.

There were no schoolhouses or church buildings in the Dragoon creek settlement until 1862, but the church missionary society occasionally sent representatives there to preach. The appointments were four weeks or more apart, and the services were held in the homes of settlers. Sunday-schools were held when there was no preaching. In the fall and winter evenings weekly spelling schools, or "spellings bees," were held at different homes in the settlement. As the homes of the settlers were too far from each other for those attending spelling schools to walk, and the settlers had no buggies or automobiles, the principal mode of conveyance was the farm wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen.

During the fall and winter of 1859 scarcely any rain or snow fell, and during the spring of 1860 barely enough fell to sprout and l)ring up the crops. No rain fell during the summer, but the hot winds blew and the grasshoppers came in swarms from the southwest and devoured what little vegetation there was. The settlers discovered that by cutting and drying their cornstalks no ears of corn had started the grasshoppers would not trouble them. This sort of forage, when cured and stacked in the cribs, did not equal in bulk the amount of corn in the ear raised on the same land the previous year 1859. The drouth was so severe that the streams stopped running, and most of the pools in the creek beds went dry. The prairie grass was short and eaten close to the ground by the milk cows and young stock. An occasional shower fell in the vicinity of the Marias des Cygnes, twenty-five or thirty miles southeast from the settlement, but the country thereabouts was Sac and Fox Indian land, and no cattle could range there. However, neighbors having cattle united, and going there with scythes, cut and stacked hay. Later members from the different families took the stock over to winter in the timber where the hay had beeh stacked, and making a camp there remained through the winter to look after the stock.

Money at this time was very scarce; but few of the settlers had any, and it was only the timely help of friends and the eastern public generally which served to tide us over this hard season. At Atchison the State Aid Society had headquarters, with Samuel C. Pomeroy as chairman. There was no railroad then, and Atchison was distant more than eighty miles from our settlement, but those owning oxen, even though their animals were poor in flesh, used them for hauling supplies. The principal bread in most of the families was made from corn meal, while dried buffalo meat constituted almost the sole source of the meat supply.

About Christmas, 1860, a snow of more than two feet in depth fell, which did not melt until the early spring of 1861. That spring and summer sufficient rain fell to soak the ground, and good crops were raised. No wheat was sown that fall, however, as seed could not be procured. The prairie grass made a vigorous growth in 1861, and fire-breaks were again burned around cultivated tracts to save the hay, fences and other property from destruction through prairie fires. Notwithstanding these precautions much damage was done. While the crops of 1861 were good there was no cash market for any produce nearer than the Missouri river points, and corn hauled there by teams of two or more yoke of oxen, would only fetch fifteen cents per bushel.

Miss Eliza Spencer taught a private school on Dragoon creek during the summer of 1861, holding sessions in a log cabin. Sometime later she married Burgess Vanness.

A few families were added to the settlement that year, among whom were John Garinger and family of fourteen persons, including his niece and nephew, Susan and William Andree. Dr. Calkins, who came from Illinois with Henry Easter's family in 1858, and brought his family of six persons in 1860. Paul Bryan, an unmarried man, came that year.

Morris Walton came from Ohio in 1857 and located on the Wakarusa. In 1862 he bought Samuel B. Harvey's claim on Dragoon creek, and with his family of eight persons settled there. Robert J. Marrs and family of six persons came from Missouri in 1862. George Wood, a colored man, with family, came in 1862 or '63.

(the chapter on Wabaunsee County in the Civil War from this writing may be found in the "Military" section of this website.)

Besides the soldiers in the volunteer service the following men were members of a militia company raised in the Dragoon creek settlement in October, 1864, to help drive Price and his army from the eastern border of the state. They formed part of Company A, Santa Fe battalion, of which M. M. Murdock was colonel. Jehu Hodgson was captain of the company during October, 1864, but was in the one-hundred-day service, consequently the command, October 8-28, fell to Levi Smith, first lieutenant. Robert J. Marrs was second lieutenant, Jesse E. Evans, fourth sergeant; other members of the company were J. Q. Cowee, Isaiah Harris, Allen Hodgson, Samuel C. Harvey, John Garinger, Joseph Johnson, Samuel Woods, George Wood and Eli Walton. Walton had been mustered out after three years' service in the First Kansas battery, and reaching home the night before the militia company started east he volunteered to go with them.

Two of the twelve men named above were detailed by Colonel Murdock to remain in the settlement and get wood and other supplies for the families of those going to the front.

The settlers along Dragoon creek received their mail at the post office of Wilmington until the fall of 1869, when a new mail route was established from Burlingame, running up Dragoon creek, to Alma, the county seat of Wabaunsee county, a distance of about thirty-eight miles. A post office was located on the northeast quarter of section 28, township 14 south, range 13 east. The Post-office Department at Washington, D. C, requested the settlers to designate a name for the post office and nominate a postmanter. At a called meeting of the settlers the name New Lexington was selected for the post office and John Shaw named for postmaster as he was then living on the quarter section designated as the site for the post office. The nominations were sent to the Post-office Department for approval, and .John Shaw was commissioned postmaster, but a new name was requested for the post office. The reason the name New Lexington was selected was that John McCoy had settled on the quarter section now designated for the post office in the spring of 1857, and as he had previously preempted a hundred- and-sixty-acre tract of land he was debarred from preempting a second tract as a farm. One of the provisions of the preemption act was that a company of five or more persons could preempt two quarter sections, or three hundred and twenty acres of land, for a town site. Mr. McCoy had therefore organized a town company and selected the northeast quarter of section 28 and the southeast quarter of section 21, preempting it in behalf of the town company and naming it New Lexington. He had the town site surveyed and platted, but no improvements were ever made and no lots were ever sold. The site was never put to any use other than for farm purposes. It was a town site only in name, and in 1871 the streets and alleys were vacated by an act of the legislature.

After the Post-office Department rejected the name of New Lexington for the post office, a public meeting of the settlers was again called to meet at the schoolhouse for the purpose of selecting a new name. At this meeting Isaiah Harris proposed the name of Harveyville, in honor of Henry Harvey and his sons, George M. and Samuel B., who were the first settlers. This motion voiced the sentiments of those present and was unanimously adopted, and the name Harveyville was forwarded to the Post-office Department and accepted as the name of the post office. In the spring of 1870 John Shaw resigned as postmaster, whereupon the post office was moved about a mile west to Caleb J. Harvey's home, and he was commissioned postmaster. He held the office until 1880, when a railroad from Burlingame to Manhattan, running through the Harveyville settlement, was built. As the railroad crossed the farm of the Walton brothers, they laid out a town, and the railroad company built a depot there. Caleb J. Harvey having resigned as postmaster, the post office was moved to the new town site, and Alpheus Glasscock appointed postmaster. He served until his death in 1881, when Alonzo Walton was commissioned.

On the mail route first established between Burlingame and Alma the mail was carried horseback. J. H. Stubbs had the contract, and during the period between November, 1870, and July, 1871, Stephen J. Spear carried the mail, making weekly round trips between the two towns. On July 1, 1871, Volney Love received the contract, and a two-horse team was found necessary to handle the increasing mail and to accommodate passenger traffic. Love secured permission to reverse the route, making it from Alma to Burlingame, leaving Alma on Fridays and returning from Burlingame on Saturdays. This weekly service continued until August, 1880, when, the Manhattan, Alma & Burlingame railroad being built, a daily service was established. Mr. Love also had the contract for carrying the mail from Alma to Council Grove, and in 1873 Mr. Spear carried over this route.

In August, 1868, George Wood and family were living in a log cabin on James L. Thomson's farm, section 24, towhship 14, range 12. Wood was a colored man and was working at Burlingame, some thirteen miles from his home. He used a pony to ride back and forth, usually going to Burlingame Monday morning and returning home Saturday night.

Late one Saturday afternoon, August 15, several men, driving wagons, arrived in the neighborhood, claiming to be Kentuckians in search of government land. Deciding to go into camp, they placed one of their wagons almost directly in front of the slip bars to the Thomson pasture used by Wood, and tied the horses to the wagon. About 11 o'clock that night Wood returned from Burlingame, rode up to the entrance of the pasture, let down the bars, and while leading his pony inside was fired on by the men under the wagon. As soon as they saw him fall, they notified Mr. Thomson that they had wounded a colored man. Wood was immediately taken to his home and family, where he died the next afternoon. William Harvey and the writer were with him at the time of his death. Before he died he told how he was shot, stating that the men under the wagon never spoke to him but shot him without warning. Two of the men were arrested on a charge of murder, their preliminary trial being held before James M. Johnson, justice of the peace, Morris Walton being prosecuting witness. County attorney Whittemore conducted the prosecution, while James M. Rodgers was attorney for the defendants. At the trial the defendants claimed that they believed the man was trying to steal their horses. They were held under a three thousand dollar bond for their appearance at the next term of district court to face a charge of murder. Being unable to furnish bond they were taken to Topeka and placed in the Shawnee county jail. Some time later they were released on a writ of habeas corpus and left the state.

By an act of the legislature of 1855 the boundaries of Richardson county were established. In 1859 the legislature changed the name to Wabaunsee, and under the provisions of the same act the first county officers were elected. The superintendent of public instruction organized and established the boundaries and numbered the school districts, the Dragoon creek district being numbered twelve. In 1862 the newly elected district officers procured a site for a schoolhouse on the south side of the northeast quarter of section 28, and Joseph Johnson built the first school building, which was of frame. Miss Susan Andree was the first teacher after the district was organized, and Mrs. E. C. D. Cowee was also one of the early teachers in the district.

In 1877 a two-acre tract on the southwest corner of the northwest quarter of section 27 was purchased of Samuel Woods, and a stone school liuilding eighteen by thirty-two feet in size was built.

The first school building was used on Sundays for Sunday-school and preaching. In February, 1878, the Friends bought the old schoolhouse in district number 12, and moved it to the northwest quarter of section 21, using it as a meetinghouse until they erected a new building about the year 1881.

In 1891 a site was bought in the Garinger addition to Harveyville, by the members of the Methodist Episcopal church, and a church building erected thereon. Rev. J. H. Zabriska preached in this locality from March, 1888, to March, 1893, and besides had the distinction of being one of the carpenters employed in the construction of the new church building.

Among the families coming into the Dragoon creek settlement after the spring of 1865 may be mentioned Jeremiah Fields and wife Betsey, with their two married sons and son-in-law: Joseph Fields and family of six persons; John L. Fields and family of five persons; James M. Johnson and family of four persons; they all came from Ohio in September, 1865.

Caleb J. Harvey, formerly of Ohio, but later a teacher at the Quaker Shawnee Indian mission, came in December, 1865.

Squire Cantrill, unmarried, came from Ohio in 1867; he later married a Miss Burroughs. Upon her death he married her sister.

John B. Carter and family of three sons and two daughters came from Ohio in the fall of 1867.

Enoch Carter, two sons and one daughter came from Ohio in 1868.

John Shaw and family; Seth C. Foster and family; George Horton and wife; Asa Gookins and William Horton, unmarried men, all came from Indiana in 1868.

Ephraim Elliott and family, Reuben Elliott and family, and Eli Trueblood and family, all came from Indiana in 1869.

Albert Lewis and family came from Ohio in 1869.

John Smale and family, and Andrew Pringle and family, came from Canada in 1868 or 1869.

John N. Barlow, wife and one son came from Ohio in February, 1869. Some marriages during this period were: Henry Thompson and Emlen Harris, married in June, 1866; Dill Avery and Susan M. Harris, married December 25, 1866; Joseph Johnson and Margaret Deering, married in 1867; Eli Walton and Caroline Suiter, married in February, 1869; William Shaw and Mary Carter, married in 1869; William Carter and Margaret Shaw, married in 1869; David Carter and Margaret Harris, married in March, 1870; Marion Meredith and Susan Carter, married in 1870; Samuel B. Easter and Huldah McCormick, married in October, 1871; John Crumb and Emeline Woods, married in 1871.

Henry Harvey, sr., went to Ohio in 1860, and died there between 1862 and 1865.

John McCoy went to Leavenworth and died there.

George M. Harvey and family and Samuel B. Harvey, in 1867, went to a farm on the Cottonwood river, about three miles southwest of Emporia. George Harvey died there in the fall of 1869, and his widow, Abigail Harvey, died a few years later.

Nathaniel S. Spear moved to Burlington, Coffey county, Kansas, and died there March 22, 1876.

James L. Thomson died in the spring of 1882, and is buried on his farm in a family burial lot.

Samuel B. Harvey died at Emporia March 13, 1904.

Edward B. Murrell and family moved to Neodesha, Kan., where he died in September, 1905.

Of the sixty-three persons living in the vicinity of the Dragoon creek or Harvey settlement prior to September 21, 1857, there were living in May, 1914, the following: Mrs. Isaiah Harris, Harveyville; Joseph Johnson, on a farm near his original preemption, Harveyville; Mrs. Mary A. [Hodgson] Thomas, Emporia; Mr. and Mrs. J. Q. Cowee, on the farm they preempted; Emma [Brain] Chase, El Dorado; Samuel C. Harvey, Emporia, grandson of Henry Harvey; Mrs. Mary J. [Harris] Murrell, Neodesha; Mrs. Martha N. [Harris] Glasscock, San Bernardino, Calif.; Mrs. Margaret A. [Harris] Carter, Harveyville; James Harris, Topeka, sons and daughters of Isaiah Harris; Mrs. Mary E. [Hodgson] Perkins, Topeka, and Ira Hodgson, Doxey, Okla., daughter and son of Allen Hodgson; John and Charles Hodgson, Plaza, Wash., sons of Jehu Hodgson; Matt Thomson, Henderson, Ark., son of James L. Thomson; Mrs. Emeline [Woods] Crumb, near Harveyville, and Geo. A. Woods in California, daughter and son of Samuel Woods. Stephen J. Spear, Topeka, Kan.

Some of the early settlers have moved away, and it has not been possible to secure data regarding all of them.

This sketch has only attempted to chronicle events to about the year 1869, and with a few exceptions, brief personal mention of a few of the earlier settlers, leaves off with that date. Within the compass of one article it was neither practicable nor possible to record many interesting items historical and personal which could have been written.



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This website created July 10, 2011 by Sheryl McClure.
2011 Kansas History and Heritage Project