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.

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must be borne in mind that these counties embrace a much larger area than Republic. The following shows the area of the three counties named, and the number of bushels produced by each:

Republic, 720 square miles 4,646,835 bushels
Marshall, 900 square miles 4,899,900 bushels
Sumner, 1,188 square miles 4,671,520 bushels

From the above it will readily be seen that Republic, in proportion to area, led both the others so far that it is hardly worth while to make a comparison. Jewell county, adjoining Republic on the west with an area of 900 square miles, produced 4,081,950 bushels.

From a careful examination of the above table it will be seen that in the twenty nine year record, we have had one total failure of the corn crop, viz:, in 1874, known as the grasshopper year, this failure extending over the entire state, partial failures in 1881,1890, 1894 and 1895. But it must be borne in mind that the crop was a failure throughout the state generally in 1890 and 1894, the total product for 1890 being fifty one million bushels and in '94 a little less than sixty-seven million bushels, so we could not have been much behind the rest of the state.

From 1875 to 1880 inclusive, were seasons of unexampled prosperity in all the departments of agriculture. A partial failure of the corn crop in 1881 owing to extreme wet and unfavorable weather in planting time, succeeded by long continued dry weather later in the season, reducing the yield from 2,431,008 bushels in 1880 to 1,806,340 bushels in 1881, while the yield of small grain was very nearly up to the average. Again from 1882 to 1886 inclusive, we were blessed with abundant harvests, the greatest trouble of the farmer being to get sufficient lumber for granaries and cribs. The year 1884 was remarkably productive, the yield of corn being the largest in the history of the county up to this time, footing up 5,721,289 bushels, averaging forty-nine bushels per acre for every acre planted, and which would require for ship-

102 History of Republic County.

ment a train of cars eighty-five miles in length, placing Republic as third in rank among the corn producing counties of Kansas. In 1889 the yield was 7,039,600 or more than 400 bushels to each citizen of the county. Following the failure of 1890 was the excellent showing of 4,735,728 bushels in 1891, a fairly good crop in 1892, an enormous yield in 1896, 6,261,321 bushels, while the crop of 1897 broke all former records with the unprecedented yield of 7,739,156 bushels, or more than one-twentieth of the entire product of the state. The crop of 1899 was the third largest ever grown in the county.

Republic has always ranked high as a corn producing county, being located nearly in the center of the great corn belt of Kansas, composed of the counties of Nemaha, Marshall, Washington, Republic, Jewell and Smith, all in the northern tier. In 1897 these six counties produced 40,189,976 bushels, or more than one-fourth the entire product of the state.



As stated in a former chapter, the county was organized in September, 1868, with a population barely sufficient for that purpose; and, the county lying wholly within the homestead area, consequently having very little real estate subject to taxation, and nearly every settler sheltering himself behind the $200 exemption clause in the constitution, it is not strange that the county found itself unable to pay current expenses. The total taxable property of the county in 1869 was but little more than $100,000, and under the law only one per cent could be levied for general revenue, raising only $1,000 for current expenses, providing the tax had all been collected, which,

History of Republic County. 103

in those days, did not often happen. Then the lands known as the State or Steele lands, being the principal portion of the real estate in the county subject to taxation, paid no taxes for that year owing to some irregularity in advertising them for sale, consequently the tax collected for current county expenses was considerably less than $1,000. In 1870, the taxable property had increased to $202,39, on which the county tax was, in round numbers, $2,000. In the spring of 1871, a committee to investigate the financial affairs of the county was appointed, consisting of C. Perry, A. D. Wilson and T. J. Baird, who reported an indebtedness of $5,500, and the same constantly increasing, which from the nature of the case, was unavoidable; and the fact that the county had been organized at too early a date became apparent to every one. County scrip depreciated to sixty cents on the dollar, and books, stationery and other supplies needed by the county, had to be paid for with depreciated paper.

And so matters continued until April, 1873, when $15,000 in county bonds were issued by the county commissioners, to liquidate outstanding indebtedness, in pursuance of an act of the Legislature approved February 20, 1873. This measure afforded temporary relief only, as the amount was barely sufficient to liquidate outstanding indebtedness, leaving nothing for current expenses for the year.

The tax levy of 1873 was insufficient to meet expenses and the indebtedness steadily increased until 1876, when the maximum of $42,800 was reached. During this year $27,800 in county bonds were issued in pursuance of an act of the Legislature, approved February 28, 1876, to pay off outstanding scrip, and provide for the current expenses for the year. These were ten per cent. bonds, running fifteen years, the last of which were issued by the commissioners December 26, 1876. From that time the debt was steadily reduced, leaving a balance outstanding June 15, 1883, of $19,000, which was refunded in six per

104 History of Republic County.

cent bonds running ten years, but subject to call after five years, the last of which were paid according to the terms of the bonds, leaving the county free from debt at the close of 1893, since which time no county indebtedness has been created.

The following table presents an exhibit of the township, city and school district indebtedness on the first day of July, 1900:

        Due         Rate per ct.
Albion township C.K.&N railroad $11000 July 1, 1921 5
Belleville twp Juct'n City & F.K.R.R. 8000 June 1, 1904 7
Belleville township refunding 9000 July 1, 1915 5
Courtland township refunding 11000 Jan. 1, 1920 5
Elk Creek township refunding 7000 July 1, 1914 5
Richland township refunding 14000 July 1, 1926 5
Scandia township refunding 23000 July 1, 1920 5
Freedom township J.C.&F.K.R.R. 6000 June 1, 1904 7
Belleville city refunding 12000 Jan. 1, 1920 5
Belleville city water works 500 July 1, 1900 7
Belleville city water works 500 July 1, 1901 6
Scandia city prospecting for coal 1500 Apr. 1, 1904 6
School District No. 14 11000  
School District No. 38 200
School District No. 46 600
School District No. 45 200
School District No. 87 500
School District No. 113 200
School District No. 118 350
School District No. 121 400
School District No. 53 250

This indebtedness may safely be set down as trifling when we take into consideration the facts that the county has 140 miles of railroad, fine county buildings and school houses, all the county bridges necessary and all comparatively new and in good repair.



It is now more than thirty years since first the time-honored words of "Hear ye, hear ye, the Honorable District Court of Republic county is now in session" rever-

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berated on the air of the bleak prairies where the beautiful city of Belleville now stands. During all this time the Twelfth Judicial District has maintained a rank second to none other in the state of Kansas. In its history we cannot find a single incident where any of its officers have ever by their official acts brought dishonor on its fair name. Its sessions in this county first began in a shanty and its first officers were pioneers on the frontier of a civilization dwelling, where but recently the savage in predatory bands went hither and thither, bedecked in paint and feathers, following the instincts of their savage natures and a menace to the peaceful and lawabiding pursuits of the Anglo-Saxon race.

On Tuesday, May 7th, 1901, Sheriff Brown, as the bailiff of the court, shouted "Hear ye, hear yet" from the window of one of the best court houses in the state — all paid for. His eyes looked out on one of the fairest landscapes that would meet the eye of man in any country or any clime. Instead of the scene that greeted the first crier of this same court — the bleak prairie, the cottonwood shanty, or the lowly sod house — he saw the handiwork of man wrought out in stone and brick and metal. Here are modern houses in the town and on the farm where dwell the highest type of American civilization, itself the best on earth. Here, since the first crier called out his doleful, monotonous cry, has been wrought a change that could not have possibly been forshadowed by the most romantic and sanguinary dreamer of those who attended court at its first session in this county.

The Twelfth Judicial District of the State of Kansas was created by an act of the legislature approved February 28th, 1871, and originally comprised the counties of Marshall, Washington, Republic, Jewell, Mitchell, Cloud, Clay, Smith and Osborne.

This territory has been cut down from time to time until at present it embraces three counties only, namely, Washington, Republic and Cloud. On the 19th day of

106 History of Republic County.

March, 1871, Hon. A. S. Wilson was appointed judge of the new district by Gov. James M. Harvey. Judge Wilson was born in Macon county, Illinois, in 1847, and grew up to manhood in that state. After graduating from the Illinois State Wesleyan University at Bloomington, he studied law with Stuart, Phelps & Brown, and at the age of twenty-two was admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state of Illinois. Near the close of 1869 he came to Kansas and located at Washington, the county seat of Washington county, where he resided for nearly twenty years. At the election in November, 1870, he was elected to represent Washington county in the state legislature, being the youngest member of that body. As before stated, he was appointed judge March 19, 1871, and served by appointment until the general election in 1872, when he was elected without opposition, receiving 9,014 votes out of 9,017 cast; was re-elected in 1876 and again in 1880. In October, 1884, he resigned and returned to the practice of law.

Judge Wilson was a giant physically, intellectually and judicially; a man who had a host of warm friends and a very few bitter enemies, and won for himself a statewide reputation as a jurist. Probably a less number of his decisions have been reversed than those of any other district judge serving an equal length of time in Kansas. He moved from Kansas to Sioux City, Iowa, where for many years he had a large and lucrative practice. On the 27th of October, 1884, Governor Glick appointed Hon. J. G. Lowe, of Washington, as judge, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Judge Wilson. Judge Lowe served ten days, when he resigned, as he could ill afford to relinquish his extensive practice to serve so short a time as judge. After his resignation the governor appointed A. A. Carnahan, of Concordia, who served as judge until Judge Edward Hutchinson, who had been elected in November, 1884, entered upon his regular term, and held court in Cloud, Marshall, Washington and Republic

History of Republic County. 107

counties; the term for Republic county being held in January, 1885, when the celebrated case of The State of Kansas vs. Sanford Sparks Voorhees was tried. The state was represented by P. M. Noble, county attorney, and Ex-Attorney General, W. W. Guthrie, was vigorously prosecuted; the late A. E. Taylor being counsel for the prisoner.

Voorhees, as some of our readers will doubtless remember, was charged with wrecking a passenger train on the B. & M. R. R. in Rose Creek township, near Hubbell, by which several persons were badly injured, and after a trial lasting six days at an expense to the county of more than 50 per day, he was convicted and Judge Carnahan, in giving him his sentence, said: "You are a young man and this may be your first offense, and in consideration of your youth and apparent inexperience, I shall be very lenient with you and shall sentence you to only fifty years at hard labor in the state penitentiary."

Voorhees received the sentence very graciously and thanked the court for leniency. The verdict and sentence however, were not heartily approved by the public, as there was a strong presumption in the minds of the people, which still exists, that Voorhees was nearly one hundred miles away when the wreck occurred. After serving eight years at hard labor he was pardoned in March, 1893, by Governor Lewelling.

It is but fair to say, however, that Judge Carnahan presided with dignity and ability and maintained the high rank the court had attained during the incumbency of Judge Wilson. At the election in November, 1884, Edward Hutchinson, of Marysville, was elected Judge and served four years, an able, conscientious and impartial Judge, presiding with dignity and to the general satisfaction of litigants and members of the bar.

In November, 1888, Hon. F. W. Sturgis was elected, re-elected in 1892 and again in 1896, serving three full terms with distinguished ability.

Prior to his election as judge he was county attorney

108 History of Republic County.

of Cloud county and represented that county in the legislature of 1883, taking an active and leading part in the legislation of that session.

In November, 1900, Hugh Alexander, of Concordia, was elected, carrying every county in the district by decisive majorities.

The first term of the district court for Republic county was held at BellevilIe March 27, 1871, in a little, low room over the drug store of Dr. J. C. Griffith, on the site where the Masonic Temple now stands.

There were five cases docketed, none of which came to trial at that term. As stated elsewhere, L. R. Dobyns, of Rose Creek township, had been elected clerk of the court in the fall of 1870, which being prior to the formation of the district, his election was declared void, but he was appointed by the judge and discharged the duties of clerk at the first term of court. The remainder of his term was filled by deputies, I. O. Savage serving until June, 1872, and Chauncey Perry filling out the remainder of the term.

The first business transacted at this term was the admission of A. F. Heely to practice in the courts of this state, he having presented a certificate of admission in the state of Missouri. Mr. Heely was elected county attorney in November, 1870. N. H. Billings, of Billings county, Kansas, who, after undergoing a very rigid and severe examination by the following committee appointed by the court, viz., A. A. Carnahan, A. F. Heely, and N. T. VanNatta, was duly admitted to practice in the courts of the Twelfth Judicial District. Mr. Billings was an attorney of fair attainments, good legal mind, and afterwards represented Billings county (now Norton) in the state legislature. He was a pioneer in the homestead country, taking up his residence in Norton county in 1872, and was one of the first to discover the fine location of Jewell City and to aid in its selection as a county seat.

The records of the court at this time were kept on

History of Republic County. 109

legal cap paper, and the office furniture consisted of two stools, one spittoon and a cracker-box. At this term the Judge ordered the clerk to procure, for the use of the court, the following books to wit: an appearance docket, a trial docket, a journal, an execution docket, and a recognizance docket, and a seal; after which court adjourned until September, when several important cases were tried, and the following named attorneys admitted to practice: Hon. W. H. Pilkenton, Geo. B. Austin, Aaron E. Taylor and H. G. Dow.

This second term was held in a small building then standing on the north side of the public square on the present site of Young's barber shop. The building is now owned and occupied by Joshua Harlan as a residence.

The following persons served as jurors for this term, being the first jury empaneled in the district court in this county: A. O. Kindy, John L. Daniels, A. J. Hill, James H. Bradd, L. C. Hanson, John R. Bowersox, Ezra Powell, J. P. Williams, John Engle, E. E. Monroe, J. A. Mosher and John Harris.

The first grand jury summoned in Republic county was drawn September 23d, 1887, and consisted of the following persons: James Kackley, Beaver; William Lawrence, Beaver; W. A. Brock, Belleville; A. R. Park, Belleville; S. T. Rider, Belleville; Wesley Klabzuba, Fairview; Anton Blocklinger, Fairview; W. A. Clark, Courtland; John Mattison, Farmington; C. H. Cleveland, Elk Creek; S. M. Stewart, Lincoln; J. B. Rickard, Rose Creek; Clark Emery, Richiand; Silas Young, Elk Creek.

The first trial for homicide in the county was at the spring term of 1872. The State of Kansas vs. Stephen Gidley, for the killing of John Walsh, on Salt Creek, near the residence of J. E. VanNatta, in January, 1872. A. F. Heeley, J. D. Brumbaugh and W. H. Pilkenton appearing for the state, and Borton & Linville for the defendant. This case attracted the attention of the entire community,

110 History of Republic County.

and was ably handled, especially by Judge Linville, who succeeded in getting a verdict of not guilty.

J. A. Linvile was one of the most successful attorneys that ever stood before a jury in Republic county, and after saving several clients from the penitentiary, was not, with all his tact and legal ability, able to save himself; he having served two terms since he left Republic county one in Indiana and one in Kansas.

The business of the court, we presume, was conducted in those early days very much the same as at present with an occasional case which "drew," among which we may name the case of Lemuel Sears vs. Lucinda Pitman and Dr. Hoxie. This case was first tried before Henry Ebbling, a justice of the peace, of Teutonic descent, in Union township, and in whose court the proceedings could not always be characterized as monotonous. This case, owing to its importance, the prominence of the parties to the suit, and the interest manifested by the denizens of the great valley of Dry Creek, was moved to Belleville, where a law library and supreme court decisions were of easy access, the large and commodious court room in the new court house secured, and ample facilities afforded the newspaper reporters to report the proceedings from day to day. The counsel for Sears was the late Judge L. W. Borton, at that time a central figure in important trials in the courts of the twelfth district, assisted by A. F. Heely and John Wilson, Jr., and one John Hughes, then running a saloon on the present site of The National Bank of Belleville. The last named party being quite an important factor in the trial of the case, his resort being very popular with the court, the counsel, the jury and a majority of the witnesses.

The defense was represented by N. T. VanNatta, who, against such fearful odds, battled bravely for his fair client, Lucinda, and the distinguished, long-haired, wild and woolly, doughty doctor. Objections as to the admissibility of testimony were frequently made on both sides, by

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