Transcribed from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar.

Osage County, created by the first territorial legislature in 1855 under the name of Weller county (q. v.), is the third county west of the Missouri line and centrally located between the Nebraska and Oklahoma state lines. It was not organized until 1859, when the name was changed to Osage. The next year a strip 9 miles wide from the southern part of Shawnee county was added to it, which gave it its present area of 720 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Shawnee county, on the east by Douglas and Franklin, on the south by Coffey and on the west by Logan and Wabaunsee.

The northern part of Osage county was formerly a part of the Shawnee reserve and the rest belonged to the Sac and Fox Indians. The main line of the Santa Fe trail crosses the county from east to west passing through the present city of Burlingame. The Leavenworth branch of this same road crossed the northern part. The only white men living in the county prior to 1854 were Gen. Whistler, an ex-army officer and Indian trader, and John Goodell, both of whom had married Indian wives and were living where the Santa Fe trail crossed 110 Mile creek, and a man by the name of Case, who kept a trading post at the Indian agency at Quenemo. On May 30, 1854, John Frele settled with his family near Burlingame, where he bought out a Shawnee Indian. His son, born shortly afterward, was the first white child born in the county outside of the agency. In August I. B. Titus, James and John Aiken, Alphonso Prentis and others settled on Switzler creek; John Skidmore, William Aiken, John Ward, Hollam Rice, Samuel Devany and Harry Harvey settled on Dragoon creek. About the same time the two McGee brothers, Fry P. and Mabillon, bought out the two early settlers at 110 Mile creek and established an inn. Moran McGee and C. N. Linkenauger took claims near the mouth of SwitzIer creek. In the fall agents of the American Settlement company (q. v.) selected a site for settlement not far from the present town of Burlingame. Among the colonists who came under the auspices of this company were George Bratton, Absalom W. Hoover, Joseph McDonald, James Bothel, William Cable, William Howard, Samuel Allison, J. R. Steward, Marcus J. Rose and Thomas Black. Only fourteen remained through the winter, the others, having no shelter or tools with which to build, returned east after staking their claims. In 1855 the population was increased by a large immigration, the greater number settling near Council City and the others locating along the creeks in various parts of the county.

The election troubles, common all over Kansas in 1855, were experienced in Osage county when the Missourians took the polls and elected their candidate, Mabillon McGee, to the legislature. Gov. Reeder ordered another election held, and a man by the name of Rice received every vote in his district. A certificate of election was issued to Rice by the governor, but the legislature refused him a seat and admitted McGee in his stead.

The first store in the county was opened at Council City in 1855 by Samuel Allison. The first postoffice was established about the same time with Loton Smith as postmaster and was kept at Allison's store. The first fourth of July celebration was held the same year. The first marriage of record took place in 1860 between John Riffenback and Hannah Thompson. The first school was supported by subscription and was taught in a tent in the spring of 1855 by Miss Louisa Todd. The year 1856 was a severe one for the settlers. Nearly every one was sick with malarial fever. Sufficient and suitable food was impossible to obtain and this, together with a lack of medical aid and proper care, resulted in many deaths, among which was that of Loton Smith.

Most of the claims were taken before the government surveys were made and each settler staked out as nearly as possible 240 acres. This gave rise to considerable trouble as only 160 acres were allowed by the government. When the surveys were completed farms were cut into all sorts of shapes and the ownership of the various pieces was a matter hard to determine. To add to the trouble many of the residents were unable to buy the lands they occupied when they were put up for sale by the government in 1859. They were obliged to borrow money, on which they were unable to pay interest, and finally lost their holdings. The drouth of 1860 reduced the settlers to starvation, and when they finally did raise crops there was no market for them. In 1859 and again in 1861 the county was swept by severe storms which destroyed considerable property, injured a number of people and caused a great deal of suffering. In common with the whole of the state Osage county suffered from the devastations of the grasshoppers in 1866 and in 1874.

The county seat contest, common to nearly all new counties, took on a serious aspect in Osage. Prior to the organization of the county the voting was done at Burlingame, no objections being raised. The first meeting of the county commissioners on April 27, 1859, was held at Superior. This board was appointed by the governor and was composed of V. R. Morrill, M. Rambo and A. T. Dutton. S. M. Perrin was clerk. An election on June 7 resulted as follows: J. L. Rooks, judge; D. B. Burdick, sheriff; J. Perrill, surveyor. At the first regular election in November the following officers were chosen: J. R. Carrier, superintendent of schools; M. Rambo, judge; C. C. Crumb, sheriff; A. N. Hulburd, register of deeds; W. O. Fisher, attorney; John Rambo, clerk; A. T. Dutton, treasurer; J. P. Perrill, surveyor, and A. Leonard, coroner. The legislature of 1860 appointed a commission composed of O. H. Sheldon, Philip C. Schuyler and James M. Winchell to select a location for the county seat. They selected a spot about midway between Superior and Burlingame, which they called Prescott. At the county seat election, held in April, Prescott was rejected and Superior continued as the county seat. The first term of the district court was held there in Oct., 1861, with R. M. Ruggles presiding judge. A county seat election was held in 1861, and another in 1862, and both resulted in the choice of Burlingame, where the county records remained for many years. When the Indians moved away and the whole of the county was opened to settlement Burlingame was not central enough, and another county seat election was called in Oct., 1870, which resulted in a victory for Lyndon. The Burlingame people immediately got out an injunction to prevent the removal of the county records, which was the beginning of a series of litigation and a strife which ended in 1875 in both sides resorting to the use of arms. The people of Lyndon, who had for five years been trying to get the county records, finally decided to resort to force and a small body of armed men with a team were sent to Burhingame to remove the records. On learning of their approach the men of Burlingame barricaded the court-house and prepared to defend it against the Lyndonites. Scouts were stationed along the road to guard it. The Lyndon men sent out scouts one or two at a time to reconnoiter, all of whom were captured and landed in jail. A force of about 400 from the southern part of the county was then raised at Lyndon and marched to Burlingame, determined to secure the records or burn the town. Scouts sent on ahead brought back the intelligence that the courthouse was filled with armed men ready to defend the records. For a time it appeared as though there would be a battle, as both sides were worked up to a fury. However, wiser counsel on both sides prevailed, and Burlingame gave up the records, believing that to be the only way to save the town from destruction. A short time after this the supreme court, in which the case was at that time pending, sustained the lower court in favor of Lyndon and the county seat has remained at that place ever since.

The first military company was organized in 1855 for the purpose of marching to the defense of Lawrence. It was called the "Old Free State Guards," and was officered as follows: Henry Todd, captain; William Toothman, first lieutenant; G. I. Drew, second lieutenant; and L. D. Joy, orderly sergeant. The next year border troubles began in Osage county, which did not end until after the Civil war. Another military company was organized by the free-soilers in June, 1856. A portion of Buford's company, which had been sent from the southern states to drive the anti-slavery men out of Kansas, camped on 110 Mile creek, where they remained all summer, making raids, robbing and committing various outrages. Travel on the Santa Fe trail was seriously impeded and it was impossible to get provisions into the free-state settlements unless the wagons were protected by an armed force. On July 4 nearly every man in the settlement went to Topeka to prevent the border ruffians from making an attack on the free-state legislature, which was to convene that day, but on its being dispersed by Col. Sumner, they returned home.

Most of the new immigration was free-state and by the time the Civil war broke out Osage county was overwhelmingly opposed to slavery. During that conflict Osage county furnished more than its share of soldiers for the Union army. The first enlistment was in May, 1861, when 25 men entered the Second Kansas infantry. A large number of Osage county men served in the Eleventh Kansas, and many joined the regiments of other states. During the Price raid every able-bodied man in Osage went to the defense of the border. They composed the Santa Fe road battalion and were commanded by Col. M. M. Murdock. The loss of life among Osage county men during that campaign was heavy.

In 1865 two bonding propositions far railroads were carried in Osage county—one for the Lawrence & Emporia, and the other far the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. The farmer was never built, but the latter was completed through the county in 1869, when $150,000 in bands were issued. The next year the Lawrence & Carbondale road was built. Various different roads were projected in the succeeding years but no more were built until 1879, when the Manhattan, Alma & Burlingame road was completed. At the present time there are 140 miles of railroad in the county.

Many of the early towns projected in the '50s have disappeared from the map, among them being: Council Grove, once the principal town of the county; Arvilla, on Switzler creek; Fremont, Prairie City, an the Santa Fe trail; Young America, on 110 Mile creek; Eureka, just east of Switzler creek; Havana, 4 miles west of Burlingame; Versailles, Washington, Indian City and Georgetown. The following are the towns and villages in the county at the present time: Lyndon, Barclay, Burlingame, Dragoon, Ellen, Maxson, Melvern, Michigan Valley, Olivet, Carbondale, Osage City, Overbrook, Peterton, Quenema, Ridgeway, Rosemont, Scranton, Union, Vassar. The county is divided into 16 townships, viz.: Agency, Arvonia, Barclay, Burlingame, Dragoon, Elk, Fairfax, Grant, Junction, Lincoln, Melvern, Olivet, Ridgeway, Scranton, Superior and Valley Brook.

The surface of Osage county is undulating prairie. Bottom lands average about three-fourths of a mile in width along the streams. The native timber belts along the rivers and creeks average less than one-half mile in width, and contain black walnut, cottonwood, elm, hickory, hackberry, pecan, oak, ash, wild cherry and sycamore. Coal of excellent variety, underlies a large portion of the county and has for years been mined at Osage City, Scranton, Carbondale, Burlingame and other points. Magnesian limestone is found in the east, blue and gray limestone in the west, and a superior quality of sandstone in the north. Some of the flagging stone quarried at Osage City has been used in paving Topeka and Emporia. A gray marble capable of taking a high polish has been found in the southern townships. Yellow ocher, used in mineral paint, is found at Osage City. Potter's clay is plentiful near Burlingame. There are salt springs in the south along Salt creek and a mineral spring near Carbondale is said to possess medicinal qualities.

The leading crops are: Corn, which is worth over $1,000,000 annually; oats, which brings $150,000 to $200,000 each year; Kafir corn, worth $100,000; tame grass, worth $200,000; prairie grass, which brought $230,000 in 1910; and wheat, worth $50,000. The total annual output of the farms was worth $3,500,000 in 1910, of which live stock contributed over $1,000,000.

The population, according to the census of 1910, is 19,905. The total assessed valuation of property in the same year was $31,677,000.

Pages 396-400 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.