Transcribed from:
Gray's Doniphan County history: A record of the happenings of half a hundred years. By P. L. (Patrick Leopoldo) Gray. Bendena, Kan.: The Roycroft Press, 1905. 3p. l. [11]-84, 166, [2] p. front., plates, ports. 24 cm.





James R. Whitehead was the first white settler to locate in this township. He obtained permission from Indian Agent W. P. Richardson and erected his cabin near the place, which later was known as Whitehead, and still later as Bellemont. At first the place was called "Whitehead Post". The township, one of the original five, was organized September 1, 1855. Three changes were afterwards made in the boundaries. The first change was made September 16, 1856; the second, October 20, 1856, and the third June 21, 1859.


Albert Head and F. Mahan were the first justices of the peace, and H. J. Johnson was the first constable.

Early in 1851, Wathena, chief of the Kickapoos, built a wigwam on Peters creek, where he lived until about 1855.

In the spring of 1852, Benjamin Harding established a trading post near the present location of Wathena. During the same year he raised twenty acres of corn. Mr. Harding died at his old home in 1904.

At the house of M F. Moss was held the first election, in October, 1855.

Indian Agent Daniel Vanderslice directed a road, 100 feet wide, to be cut through the timber from the ferry landing on the west bank of the Missouri, opposite St. Joseph, to the Wathen trading post, a distance of three or four miles. The contract was let to Ebenezer Blackiston and Henry Smallwood. The work was done in 1854.

The first white child born on Washington township soil, was a daughter of J. R. Whitehead. This little lady made her appearance one day in the fall of 1854; but her stay was brief. She did not live to see the snow.

The first religious services were conducted by a Methodist minister in 1854, in Chief Wathena's wigwam.

One of the first fruit growers in the the township was Christian Poirier, who located near the Wathena post in 1864, and began the cultivation of grapes and berries.

What is said to have been the first marriage ceremony performed in the township, was by Justice J. T. Braidy, in the spring of 1856, when Samuel Piles and Mary Hazelwood were happily united.

During the year 1856, three or four subscription schools were taught. The early teachers are here named: Misses Creal and Alward, and Messrs. Patching and Clough.

The first regular school district, No. 1, was organized in the spring of 1858, at Wathena, by the first County Superintendent, John Bayless. Benj. Harding was a leader in the organizing of this district.

A large bed of coal has been discovered in Doniphan county, Kansas, within three miles of Bellemont. A large bed of what is known as petroleum shale has been found cropping out of the ground. which burns almost as well as pure coal. Experienced miners, who have looked at the situation, say that there can be no doubt about finding coal. Indeed, one has backed his confidence by investing several thousand dollars to secure a one-fourth interest. Work will begin on the spot soon. - St. Joseph Herald, May 8, 1866.


In the fall of 1852, a trading post was established at a point on the west bank of the Missouri river opposite St. Joseph. The post was kept by Henry Thompson. In 1856, the Roseport Town Company, consisting of a man named Rose (George Ingraham ?) and a few St. Joseph capitalists, came to this point and, buying 160 acres of land of Henry Thompson, for about $10,000, laid out the town of Roseport. The town at once began to grow and prosper, and soon became a dangerous rival to St. Joseph. The Great Western Hotel, with its seventy-five rooms, was built and it enjoyed a most liberal patronage. Early in 1857, Rose sold out his shares in the Town Company, and quietly left the town forever. In June of the same year, the Town Company was reorganized, and the town received the name of Elwood. "During this season," says the historian of the '60s, "a newspaper was started, called 'Elwood Advertiser', which sent forth its weekly issues to herald the progress of our young state. The growth of the city was almost incredible, and in 1858, we had ten stores, three good livery and sale stables, a good steam ferry, three good hotels, (one of them the Great Western, the largest hotel in the state, being 200x4O feet, and three stories high). All professional and mechanical branches were proportionately represented. During this season the Advertiser changed its name, and came out as the 'Kansas Weekly Press', and was published until June, 1859, when it again changed its name, to appear as the Free Press'. Elwood continued to grow rapidly up to this time, and in July, 1859, boasted upwards of 2,000 inhabitants. In the spring of 1859, when the river was at its highest, the banks being very sandy, began to cave and fall into the river and, in one month, the river had made such inroads into the treacherous soil, that many people were compelled to move their houses in order to save them. This, however, did not impede the growth of the town, and it continued to grow rapidly until the spring of 1860. During this spring the river again commenced sapping the foundation of our city, this time carrying away acres of the best and thickest populated portion, threatening to carry us away altogether. This frightened the inhabitants, and Elwood began to show signs of going down, and the tide of emigration sought a more permanent investment for their means. In 1861, Elwood was but a shadow of its former self. The newspaper was discontinued, and nearly all branches of trade were brought to a stand still, buildings were sold at one-half their original cost and removed, some into the country for farm houses, and many helped to build up other towns in the county."


The first store was opened by A. N. Campbell, in 1856.

The first blacksmith on the ground was Henry Poor, who came about the year 1856.

In 1856, Wm. H. High built a steam saw mill which he operated for a year or two. The second saw mill was built three years later by W. L. Lewis.

J. E. Dryden was the first carpenter, in 1857. He built the Great Western hotel.

The post office was established in 1857, with James P. Brace behind Uncle Sam's counter. During the same year Daniel Webster Wilder, author of the "Annals of Kansas", opened a real estate office.

The town has been the birthplace of two newspapers. The Advertiser, established in 1857, by Fairman & Newman, and the Free Press started in the winter of 1858-9, by Tracy Brothers. The writer of this has a sample of the job printing done in the Free Press office in 1859. It is a tax receipt, "neatly executed with promptness and dispatch."

Albert L. Lee was the first attorney. He came in 1857.

The first company of the first regiment sent into the army by Kansas, was organized here.

Dr. S. D. Smith of New York, was the pioneer physician. He arrived in the town about 1857.

Abel Montgomery, in 1858, was the first to offer to the hungry public, home- made sausages and steaks.

In 1858, Noyes & Smith opened a drug store, and the people were no longer without Vinegar Bitters and Radway's Ready Relief.

In 1860, the town was incorporated as a "city of the first class".

The first mile of railroad on Kansas soil was built out of Elwood in the dry year of 1860.

From the spring of 1860 to the fall of 1861, the town was the starting point of the famous Pony Express, an account of which will be found elsewhere in this volume.

In 1863, Geo. D. Bennett and, we believe, one or two other Jayhawkers, were "hung by the neck until dead" at this place.

One of the greatest enterprises ever located in the state of Kansas, is the Harroun elevator at Elwood - It is one of the largest in the west, and can handle more grain than all the elevators of St. Joseph combined. It has a capacity of half a millon bushels of grain and will be able to average 150 cars a day. The actual time to unload a car, or 600 bushels, is less than two minutes. The weighing capacity of six pair of Howe scales is 45 tons each, or 270 tons. The elevator building proper is of immense proportions, being 140 feet wide, 154 feet long and 156 feet high. The bins are from 4 to 10 feet square by 8 feet deep. When one is standing on top of the immense structure, a magnifiecent view is afforded, his head being above the hills on either side of the great Missouri valley. The great panorama of ten to fifteen miles, including the cities of St. Joseph, Elwood, Wathena, Amazonia, Atchison and the Missouri valley and river stretched out to view, affords a sight hardly comparable. The engine and machinery were started November 25, 1899. A special train of two coaches brought over a large number of officials of the road and elevator companies, also a number of St. Joseph men, and a formal reception was held by Alic Harroun, the junior member of the firm. This building was partially destroyed by a cyclone in the spring of 1905, and one man was killed.


Wathena perpetuates the name of a well known chief of the Kickapoo Indians who owned the land in that vicinity up to the time of the treaty in 1854. The town stands on the site of the village over which Chief Wathena held sway, the flouring mills now occupying a place very near the site of the chiefs wigwam, which his squaw erected for him about the year 1852. In 1856, the town was laid out by Milton Bryan, P. Morse and W. Ritenbaugh, who bought the land of a man named Cox, paying him $750 in gold. The original townsite included 160 acres. Had the men, who located Roseport, or Elwood, located at Wathena, their town would now be as large as St. Joseph, and would have been the metropolis of the state.


Peter Cadue, a Frenchman, was perhaps the first white man to make his home in Wathena's country. The time of his arrival is not now known, but it is certain that he was there as early as 1840. Like all the early French settlers, he was welcomed by the Indians, and made himself useful in many ways, beginning by taking an Indian maiden for his wife, and continuing by filling the office of interpreter. He won little less fame than his chief, for, while Wathena's name is immortalized in the town, the waters of Peter's creek are continually babbling Cadue's name and deeds. About the year 1847, he left Wathena's country, retiring to the place now known as Petersburg.

The first white man's dwelling was erected by Milton Bryan, in 1854. In the same year a postoffice was established and was known as Bryan's postoffice".

Albert Head opened the first hotel. He bad a bar in the hotel, and old timers used to say that he kept a good article.

August Mouirguis was proprietor of the first small store in the vicinity. It was in operation some two years before the founding of the town, or in 1854. The first store in the town was opened by Thompson Kemper, in 1856.

A man named Florian Leiber came with his bellows and anvil in 1854, and a new kind of echo was awakened in the picturesque hills surrounding the little city. The shop was a curiosity to the Indians, who stood around near the forge grunting out their surprises and stepping upon hot fragments of iron that lay here and there on the ground. Strange that Mr. Leiber could keep track of his tools with so many curious and kleptomaniacal visitors around him daily.

A few 1854 settlers in and around Wathena: Benj. Harding, Osborne Hulan, Alfred Larzelere, Milton Bryan, Henderson Smallwood, John W. Smith, Samuel Montgomery, John Fee, J. J. Keaton, T. W. Watterson, Cary B. Whitehead, Anderson Cox, Joseph Siceluff, Tapley Ralph. We think all of these have passed away.

Dr. Smith came about 1855 with his little black grip, and a year later came Dr. Crossfield to assist him in the battle with ague, which was then the most persistent of the white man's ills.

About 1857, Sidney Theriet, a disciple of Blackstone, opened an office in the rising city.

The first school house, a frame building, was built about 1857.

The first Baptist church was organized in 1868, by Rev. Wm. Price and Rev. Alward. In 1871, their first church, costing about $5,000, was erected.

The first Methodist church was organized in the same year by Rev. T. K. Munhall. Rev. D. H. May was appointed pastor. One of the early pastors of this church was Rev. O. B. Gardner, who "pulled down the rebel flag".

Rev. Ephriam Alward, a Baptist, taught the first Sunday school in 1858. Meetings were held in the school house.

In 1860, the St. Joseph & Denver railroad was laid to this point, and a few trains were run to and from Elwood. A big flouring mill was built the same year, at a cost of $10,000.

The Wathena water mill was built on Peter's creek by S. Cox, in 1862. This mill was burned in March, 1881.

In 1864, Ferguson & Co. erected another grist mill.

The first postoffice money order issued from the Wathena postoffice in October, 1866, was issued by Aug. Miller, P.M., to W. P. Craig.

The town has had seven newspapers. The Reporter, established in 1867, by E. H. Snow and G. W. Larzelere; The Advance, established 1878, by E. A. Davis; The Mirror, started after the demise of the Advance, by G. W. Larzelere; The Gazette, established in July, 1889, by C. C. Bartruff; The Star, established in 1800, by Pool Grinstead; The Republican, started in 1900, by Pool Grinstead; The Times, established in 1901, by Pool Grinstead. Mr. Grinstead seems to have the backbone of the traditional editor that cannot be downed.

The German Methodist Episcopal church society was organized in October, 1867, by Rev. H. M. Meniger. In 1878, they purchased the church building of the Campbellites for $1,100. In 1872, a parsonage, costing $1,500, was erected.

In 1868, the town had 1,400 inhabitants. Prior to this time five additions had been made to the original townsite, as follows: North Wathena, Constantinople, Wilson's addition, Seaman's addition, and Smallwood's addition.

Wathena Lodge, No. 65, A.F. & A.M., was organized January 27, 1868. The first officers were: S. Hatch, W.M.; W. H. Smallwood, S.W.; Obe Craig, J.W.; A. E. Campbell, secretary, and Milton Bryan, treasurer.

The Catholic congregation was brought together in 1869, by the pioneer Benedictine, Father Thomas Bartl, and a brick church, costing nearly $6,000, was erected. At that time the congregation consisted of about one hundred members. In 1880, a Sisters' school was erected and placed in charge of the Benedictine Sisters.

Phoenix Lodge, No, 41, I.O.O.F., was organized February 26, 1869, with the following officers: J. T. Wheeler, N.G.; W. H. Wilson, R.S.; J. C. Gordon, V.G.; J. Robertson, P.S.; P. M. Sturgis, treasurer.

In 1870, a fine brick school house was erected at a cost of about $10,000.

In 1873, the town was incorporated. Obe Craig was the first mayor, and James Mitchell the first clerk.

The Second Colored Baptist church was organized in September, 1873, by Revs. D. Lee, Lawrence; John Bourn, Ft. Scott; Williams and Clarkson, Elwood, and S. Jackson of Wathena. A church building was put up that year, the members of the church doing most of the work.

From the Reporter of June, 1872, we glean the following sketch of the early history of Wathena:

"Little did the hearty pioneer who passed over the present site of Wathena, twenty years ago, enroute for California, imagine that here in so short a time would be a densely populated country, diversified by towns, villages and highly improved farms, orchards and vineyards. As we take a retrospective view, dating back from the year 1855, and compare the appearance of the country then with what it is now, we are amazed at the change time has wrought. Then a vagrant band of Kickapoo Indians, of whom old Wathena was chief, resided in bark lodges near the present site of Snively & Hedge's mill, and roamed over the prairies between this place and Kennekuk, forty miles distant. Wathena kept a "toll bridge", which spanned Peter's creek near the place where the upper bridge now (1872) stands, and his children, of whom he possessed enough to form half a dozen families, would on the approach of a traveler, rush out in battalions and regiments, yelling "two bits! two bits!" until they received the amount, or a curse or two for their racket, when they would disperse and await the arrival of another customer. A short time previous to that year, the only white man in the vicinity was Benj. Harding, who resided about half a mile above St. Joseph street, and the quarter section of land that he entered now comprises a portion of Wathena. Mr. Harding removed here in 1850, previous to the opening of the territory of Kansas to immigrants, and is the oldest settler in this section of the state. The eye had an unobstructed view of miles of the country, and not a sign of habitation was visible; no evidence of civilization; nothing but a vast expanse of verdant growing grass, gracefully swaying to and fro in the gentle winds, reminding one of theundulating waves of the ocean."

In 1854, Milton E. Bryan built the first house in Wathena proper. H. S. Creal soon after erected a small house on a claim near the townsite. Soon after this Henderson Smallwood, O. Hulan, A. Larzelere and many others "took claims" or "squatted" on a quarter section each.

The affairs of the Wathena State Bank had been in an unsatisfactory condition for some months prior to January, 1901. State Bank Examiner Breidentlial, who had been corresponding with the cashier, J. F. Harpster, finally notified Harpster that he would be at Wathena on the 15th of January, and asked him to call a meeting of the directors of the bank for that evening. When Breidenthal arrived, he discovered that no meeting had been called and that Harpster had gone to supper. Harpster was sent for, and although he sent word that be would be down, he did not put in an appearance. Another messenger to his residence a short time after failed to locate him. It was then that Breidenthal went into an examination of the books with the bookkeeper, continuing until midnight. The result of the examination was to close the bank next morning and to declare it insolvent, at noon. Harpster did not put in an appearance until nine o'clock Wednesday morning, the 16th, and when asked to account for $2,000 worth of securities held by a St. Joseph bank, he said he would telephone and find out about the papers. This he pretended to do, and said they would be over on the evening train. Breidentbal telephoned later and discovered that Harpster had not telephoned to the St. Joseph bank. When Harpster was informed of this, he said he would telephone again, and leaving the bank he proceeded to the undertaking rooms of Bauer & Elmer. He passed into the rear room of the establishment, and shortly afterward Bauer heard a shot. Rushing into the rear room Bauer saw Harpster fall. He had shot himself in the right temple with a 32-calibre revolver, and the ball had gone entirely through his his head, coming out above the left ear. He lived but a few moments after the shot.

Miss Carrie Dieter's "The Great Rock Island Waltz" was composed by her and dedicated to the Rock Island railroad in March, 1895. She was a native of Wathena.

Wathena is one of the most enterprising towns in Northeastern Kansas. There never has been a time when the town took a backward step. In dull years, when no progress was made, it maintained its own, and that, too, regardless of the fact that it is located almost in the shadow of a great city. It is the home of Doniphan County's Chautauqua, which this year held its Seventh Annual Assembly. In the following chapters, and especially in the "Nutshell" History, will be found some recent notes concerning this model town, that gives promise of becoming, some day, a suburb of St. Joseph. From the advertising columns of the town's newspapers we copy the names of the present business men, and present them here. Chas. H. Bauer, jr., undertaker; Wathena Fruit Company; J. A. Stewart & Brother, general merchandise; Gordon-Brown Fruit Co.; N. B. Forbes, fruit; Farmers' State Bank; Jacob Miller, drugs; Wathena Fruit Growers' Association; Ernest Fuger, drugs; J. H. Grable, M.D.; Dr. Matthews; P. E. Milbourne, barber; Clarence Davis, Wathena "Pantatorium"; Blum & Whitney, livery; Groh & Estes, general merchandise; W. J. Shalz, general merchandise; and the Fruit Growers' State Bank.