1901 History of Republic County Kansas

A history of Republic County, Kansas : embracing a full and complete account of all the leading events in its history, from its first settlement down to June 1, '01 ... Also the topography of the County ... and other valuable information never before published. by I. O. Savage.; Illustrated. Published by Jones & Chubbic, Beloit, KS : 1901. 321 p. ill., plates, ports., fold. map ; 23 cm. Transcribed by Carolyn Ward, July 2006.

History of Republic County. 71

quarried and easily worked. It is almost entirely free from grit, can be easily sawed with any kind of a saw without injury to the instrument more than if used in wood. This rock is very valuable for building purposes, makes an excellent quality of lime, and good building sand is found in almost every neighborhood. Several of the most substantial buildings in the county are built of this rock, including the opera house block in Belleville, the school house in Scandia, the basement of the court house, and many farm residences in different parts of the county. The great abundance of this rock, the trifling expense of quarrying, the facility with which it is shaped for masonry, compensate in no small degree for the lack of lumber. And sandstone is found in abundance in the southeastern portion of the county, which possesses all the characteristics of a reliable building stone; but it is not as popular as the magnesia, as it is not as easily worked.


The southern one-third of the county is underlaid with coal, said to be of the lignite variety, although the propriety of thus classifying it has been questioned. It is probably of more recent origin than the anthracite bituminous coal of the proper coal series. It is tough rather than brittle, and cannot be easily broken except in horizontal layers. The veins are from sixteen to thirty inches in thickness, and are found beneath a firm layer of sandstone, which forms a good roof in mining. These mines have been worked since 1870, and have furnished the principal fuel supply for a large scope of country; and this coal has been extensively used for making steam in grist mills, although it has been rejected by the railroads on account of the large proportion of ashes it leaves, thus clogging the grates in the locomotive. The coal is sold at the mines at an average of two dollars and fifty cents per ton. It does not kindle readily, but burns well when ignited, makes a hot fire, produces no soot, burns to pure ashes and leaves no clinkers. If exposed to the weather

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for any considerable length of time it has a tendency to slack like lime, which greatly impairs its value. Coal of a good quality was mined as early as February, 1872, on the SE 1/4 of section 7, the claim of P. L. Norlun in Grant township. A considerable quantity of this coal was hauled to Belleville by John Forney and sold for six dollars per ton — three dollars for mining and three dollars for the hauling. These prices would indicate a scarcity of fuel. This mine was worked one season only, being abandoned by reason of water flooding the mine.

Within a short distance of these coal fields is situated one of the most extensive salt marshes in the country, commonly known as the "Tuthill Marsh," and is adjacent to the old town site of Seapo. This marsh embraces an area of about 4,000 acres, and wells of brine are obtained at a depth of six feet. Sixty-five gallons of this brine produce a bushel of salt of unequaled purity, a chemical analysis, by Professor Mudge, showing less than two and a half per cent of impurities. It contains no chloride of lime, — a very bad impurity, found in all the salt manufactured in New York, Michigan and West Virginia. Professor Taylor, Massachusetts' State Assayer, also made an analysis of this salt and reported it to be of a most excellent quality. The salt water rises to near the surface, evaporates and leaves a crust of pure salt, which, at all times in dry weather, can be scraped up and taken away. One hundred bushels of this earthy salt, diluted and evaporated, will produce seventy-five bushels of clean, white salt. Borings have been made here — one to the depth of sixty feet and another two hundred and sixty feet; the latter threw up a column of brine five feet in height and three inches in thickness. It is hard to tell why capital has not been invested here to utilize this mine of wealth. Another marsh of about the same extent is found in Beaver township, near the southwest corner of the county, but no analysis of the brine has ever been made that I am aware of.

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In this respect Republic county is not highly favored, although there is good water power on White Rock creek, in White Rock township, where a large flouring mill was built in 1878 by Geo. R. Thacker, wholly a water power mill, with Turbine wheel and three run of stone, two for wheat and one for corn. A forty horse-power engine was put in by Fred Cooper in 1881, so that the mill could be kept running during low water, which sometimes occurs during the months of August and September. Also on the Republican river about a mile above Scandia, utilized for several years by C. F. Ericson's large flouring mill; also on the river at Rocky Ford, near Republic City, which has never been utilized. There is also most excellent water power on Salt creek, on the SW 1/4 of section 6, in Grant township, which could be utilized at a very small expense for dam, and water sufficient to run a mill of considerable capacity the greater part of the year.


The climate of northern Kansas does not differ materially from that of the western slope of the Alleghany mountains and of states farther east, lying along and immediately below the fortieth parallel of north latitude. Like all of these states, it has its extremes of heat and cold, but in a somewhat modified form, being modified as it is by latitude, altitude and proximity to the Rocky Mountain range. It is not far enough south to be enervating, nor far enough north for the rigorous and benumbing influences of a northern climate. In short, it is a happy compromise between the two. It is true that the climate of a prairie country is more variable than that of a timbered country, and the sweeping winds of winter on the high prairies are sometimes quite searching, but the severity of the winter winds is more than compensated by the salubrity and the generally agreeable character of the breezes of summer. In the most sultry July and August

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weather our nights are cool, usually inviting pleasant repose. Besides, the climate is remarkably healthy, being far more free from bilious diseases than localities in the same latitude farther east, and consumption is seldom or never contracted in this country. Our summers are longer than the average summers of other states in the same latitude and our winters shorter.


This subject has nearly ceased to be one of anxious inquiry by the emigrant seeking a home on what Olney's Geography taught him was a barren and sandy desert. The crop statistics, given elsewhere in this book, must set at rest all doubts as to the sufficiency of the rainfall here for all the needs of agriculture. Below we give the observations of the rainfall at Belleville for the years 1872 and 1873, reported for the Smithsonian Institute by A. A. Carr, who was furnished with standard instruments by that institution for ascertaining the rainfall, temperature, etc. Mr. Carr was also a special reporter for the State Board of Agriculture from Belleville for the years named:

Belleville, Republic county, Latitude, 39 degrees 50 minutes. Longitude, 97 de
grees 40 minutes. Altitude, 1,540 feet above sea level.

  Jan. Feb. Mar. Apr. May. June July. Aug. Sept. Oct. Nov. Dec. Total

1872 0.00 0.50 0.90 2.30 3.59 1.58 6.62 2.03 3.30 1.47 0.00 0.00 22.29
1873 0.49   0.10 5.04 8.91 6.60 0.92 1.90 3.05 0.84 0.30 1.10 28.76

Crops of all kinds for the two years named were abundant, although the rainfall was far below the average, as compared with the twenty-eight years succeeding the above report, which proves conclusively that crops do not so much depend on the amount of rain as on its distribution, a small rainfall, evenly distributed during the growing season, being far more desirable than a large amount unfavorably distributed.

The rainfall for 1874 was above the normal during the spring months, being 16 57-100 inches, including snow fall to the depth of twelve inches during the month of

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February, and no spring opened with brighter prospects since Republic county has been settled. The drouth set in June 15th and continued seventy-nine days, the temperature being high for the entire period, reaching 110 degrees on July 25th, which with the grasshoppers made it one of the worst seasons ever experienced in Kansas, although the crops of small grain were exceptionally good that year. On the night of September 1st the heavens opened and rain fell in abundance from that time on, there being sixteen rainy days in the month of September, with a rainfall of almost eight inches for the month, badly damaging hay and grain in stacks, a loss which the farmers were illy prepared to stand. The rainfall for the entire year was considerably above the average but unevenly distributed.

The grasshopper visitation came on Sunday, July 26th, a few, however, having made their appearance in some localities the day previous. About eleven o'clock great clouds of them began to make their appearance from the northeast, and although the day was cloudless the sun was almost obscured by myriads of moving pests. No pen picture I can make can convey to the understanding of a person who did not see them; the immense and enormous amount of grasshoppers that visited Republic county that year. Imagine, if you please, a blinding snow storm where a foot of snow falls in a few hours and that for every snow flake, there were at least three grasshoppers, then you can begin to form some faint conception of their numbers. They were the most hungry crowd that ever visited Kansas. Every green thing that suited their tastes vanished in an incredible short time, onions, red peppers and tobacco, being especially relished by them, sorghum cane being about the only thing they spared. Many stories were told of their voracious appetites, but I do not vouch for the truth of all of them. One man informed me "that he had to hitch his team to the wagon and run it all day to keep them from eating the wagon

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tires." Another says "he saw fifteen or twenty of them pull up a corn stock and fly off with it, eating as they went along." Another, that "after they had stripped off all the leaves, they would pull up the stalks, sit back on their hindermost, and swallow them whole." Another, "that they were so thick in his field that there was not room for one-half of them on the stalks, consequently a general row arose, and they commenced pulling up the corn stalks and beating each other to death, by which means he saved some of his corn." And still another, "that they ate the handle and commenced to eat the tines of his pitchfork." And lastly, "that after devouring every green thing on the place, they formed in line on the ridge board of his house and very complacently picked their teeth with shingle nails they had drawn from the roof." The above stories are probably slightly exaggerated.



One of the severest storms ever known in this part of Kansas, although it could not properly be denominated a cyclone, swept over Republic county on the night of Sunday, April 13th, 1873. After a heavy wind all day, and as night approached, big, black clouds could be seen in the western sky, and the vivid lightning and distant thunder warned our people of its near approach. The rain fell as if the flood gates of heaven had been opened, reminding one very forcibly of a little shower that occurred in ancient times. About ten o'clock it turned into hail, which lasted but a few minutes, when a blinding snow storm set in, continuing until Tuesday noon. The wind possessed such terrible force as to move the largest buildings from their foundations, and to dash the smaller buildings to pieces. The art gallery of F. M. Hopkins, in Belleville, was utterly

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demolished. The wind was so searching as to drive the snow through the cracks and crevices of the houses. Great loss was experienced among the farmers in the destruction of their stock, occasioned by the severity of the storm.

One of the saddest events which has ever happened in this county, and which draped the whole community in mourning, occurred while the gale was at its height. Two families lost their most loved members, eight in number. The house of Mr. Crane, one of our most estimable citizens, who was absent from home, was burned on Saturday, and his family — a wife and four children — took shelter in the residence of Mr. Bennett. On Monday night the hurricane took off the roof of the house, a stone one, and blew in the gable end, crushing the floor, causing it to fall into the cellar, where the family had taken shelter from the fury of the elements. Mrs. Bennett was severely injured. When morning dawned Mr. Bennett proceeded to the house of the nearest neighbor to obtain help. He was unable to procure it, and made his way to the next house, where he succeeded in getting assistance. Upon his return a most terrible sight greeted his eyes. There, in the chilling embrace of death, lay his wife and three children, together with Mrs. Crane and two of her children. A boy and girl of Mrs. Crane's were still alive, and Mr. Bennett carried them to the residence of the nearest neighbor, at which place the boy died for want of timely assistance. The little girl recovered. What the feelings of Mr. Bennett, as a husband, father and friend were, can but be imagined.

Mr. Crane's house was on the NW 1/4 of section 15, later known as the George Henek farm, now owned by Gus Kauffman, in Jefferson township, and Mr. Bennett's, where this sad catastrophe occurred, was on the NE 1/4 of section 11, in the same township.

Since the first settlement of the county it has been visited by only a few of what may, with propriety, be termed genuine tornadoes, none of which have proved

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very destructive to life, only one person having been killed and one or two slightly injured, but the property losses have been quite severe. The first occurred May 30, 1879, the day of the Irving disaster, in Marshall county, and the cyclone at Deiphos, in Ottawa county. The storm struck Belleville from the northwest, carried away a few chimneys, unroofed a few buildings, moved a few others from their foundations, including the "Duck elevator" * on the west side of the public square. At this place it was simply a high wind and showed none of the essential characteristics of a cyclone. From Belleville it moved nearly due east and it was not till it reached Tom Harkness' place that it commenced to cut its curious capers, taking his fanning mill, rending it into hundreds of pieces, and scattering them over a wide extent of territory. Portions of this mill were found one-half mile north, other pieces more than a mile south, and still other portions one and one-half miles east of where it was standing when the storm took possession of it.

Passing on to the east, it moved Prairie Home school house from its foundations, but without doing much damage to the building. Still further east, it struck Ernest Cole's house, sweeping it away, leaving nothing but the floor and cooking stove, without injuring Mrs. Cole and the little one, who were in the house at the time. A family by the name of Matthews, emigrants, were just going into camp, near Mr. Cole's house, when the storm struck the wagon, rolling it over and over on the prairie, instantly killing a son of Mr. Matthews, a boy about fourteen years of age.

The funeral of the Matthews boy was held at the residence of Al. Brown in Fairview township, Rev. A. N. See officiating.

* The "Duck elevator" was a one-story wooden building standing on the present site of the opera house block, used by Vantrump & Hallowell as a poultry house in which fowls of all kinds were kept, while awaiting shipment. It was so named by J. E. Hallowell a member of the firm.
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Still further east, it moved the Farmington school house from its foundation, carried it about thirty feet to the east and damaged it considerably. Still further on, it picked up Richard Rowe's wagon, which was standing near his house, carried it away and completely destroyed it, without disturbing anything else on his place. This storm moved in a due east course for miles, was accompanied by sharp lightning, heavy thunder and an unusually heavy fall of rain, and, in places, hail.

The second tornado visited Elk Creek township, May 25, 1880, striking the school house in district No. 5 about 6 o'clock in the afternoon, completely demolishing it. The funnel-shaped cloud, minutely described by several witnesses, when first seen, was moving in a northeasterly course, but, after destroying the school house, moved due east, striking Mrs. Streeter's house, damaging it but slightly. After leaving Mrs. Streeter's it again moved to the northeast, doing no further damage.

Its track was narrow, at no place exceeding a rod in width, and could be distinctly traced by the appearance of the grass, which presented the appearance of having been scorched. It lifted and carried away the sods from land newly broken, was accompanied by a light fall of rain, but no thunder or lightning. The school house had been built but two years, and was a substantial structure.

June 24th, 1894, will long be remembered by the citizens of Republic county as a day in which high winds, with cyclonic variations, ran riot in a greater portion of the county, the most damage being done between 5 p. m. and sundown. The general direction of the storm was from the southwest to the northeast, paying very little attention to the rules governing cyclones, but cavorted around in an indiscriminate manner and many places doing its work in a very effective way.

The Republic County Mutual Fire Insurance Company suffered more severely from this storm than from any other either before or since. I shall never forget the week

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following when in company with F. M. Johnson, then President of the company, we as a committee to adjust losses, traveled from the southwest corner of the county to the northeast, working from seven a. m. to nine p. m., driving more than two hundred miles, adjusting twenty-five losses, the weather being as hot as it ever gets in Kansas. I believe I am safe in saying that this was the hardest week's work ever done by any two officers of the company since its organization. A genuine twister on a small scale visited Belleville on the afternoon of June 6th, 1899, but fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured. The fore part of the day was damp and chilly with some rainfall and the afternoon continued cold with heavy rain, but at no time did that peculiar hot sultry condition of the atmosphere exist that usually precedes a cyclone, hence no one was expecting a diversion of that nature. About four o'clock while it was raining about as hard as it ever does in Kansas, a wind cloud came from the southeast passing over the M. E. church, descending rapidly as it traveled northwest. When it reached T. N. Short's blacksmith shop it was low enough to scrape off a few shingles without otherwise damaging the building. About eighty feet north of the shop stood a substantial one-story brick building 22x50 feet owned by J. A. Mosher and occupied by L. D. Speenburg as a meat market, and there is where the little twister gave an object lesson in the power and peculiarities of that apparently useless and dangerous combination of nature's elements known as a cyclone. The building seems to have been crushed as one would crush an egg shell in the hand, the greater portion of the debris lying in the cellar. Ordinarily, the debris is considerably scattered, but not so in this case, and the fact that it did no damage elsewhere indicates that after smashing the Mosher building it suddenly rose above the other buildings in the immediate vicinity and got out of town as rapidly as it came in. The fact that buildings north and south in the immediate vicinity, were

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