From a series of articles detailing visits to Franklin County townships in the
Ottawa Republican, August 2nd, 1877
The Garden of Kansas
A Region of Fertile Soil and Undulating Prairie
Vast Fields of Phenomenal Corn
Apple and Peach Trees Freighted Down
The Grand Stock Center of Franklin County
A Few of Kansas’ Model Farms
Past, Present and Future of a Promising Community
The Thriving Village of Wellsville
Incidents of Early Pioneer Life
How the Boys Turned Out to Election
Details of Many Improved Farms
The subdivision of Franklin County to which this article relates, was once of considerably larger proportions than at present, portions of its area having been set off, at various times, into other townships. It is now a congressional township in size—six miles each way—but not within the governmental lines, nor is it exactly square, as the upper three tiers of sections “set over” to the east half a mile, owning to the delightfully irregular way in which the average survey-contractor runs his connecting lines.
In the main Franklin township is a plateau, or series of plateaus, as it is divided by several inconsiderable creeks, and possesses more rolling, clar prairie, perhaps, than any other township in the county. The writer acknowledges a limited acquaintance with the physical perfections of Kansas, but he is equally free to express the conviction that “his eyes have ne’er beheld” a fairer country, and it but lacks the one essential beautifying quality which makes for Minnesota so wide a fame—the presence of lakes—to make its landscape beauty perfect. Imagine, if you please, an extent of gently rolling prairie, on every hand stretching away into the indefinable, save where the vistas are broken by lines of trees, dotted here and there and everywhere with pleasant farm houses, mainly of the better class and each in its little grove of densest green; here a swelling hill, there a graceful sweep of valley cross-lined, and sectioned by gallant hedges of Osage, the surfaces thus outlined smiling back in teeming fields of bowing corn or the purple-headed castor plant. We read with sympathetic pulse the glowing words of eloquent poets, and long for the picturesque vales and golden-tinged lands of far away countries, when Italy nor sunny Southern France can boast a fairer country than lies within a two hours drive of Ottawa.
The First Settlers
That other eyes than ours were pleased with this fair prospect, and that, too, twenty good years ago, is evinced by the fact that in 1857, when the governmental land sale was made, nearly if not quite all the land in the region now comprising the township, was settled (or squatted on), and at that sale every quarter section was taken. It was not all, unfortunately, taken by bona fide settlers, for far too great a proportion of the squatters proved to be the agents of speculators, and soon after the close of the sale sold their certificates for patents, and removed to “pastures new.” Of the genuine settlers—those who came with intent to stay—we have the record of two in 1856—Wm. Thornbrough, who located on the farm now occupied by Mr. Barnett, and Lewis Reed, who settled on Walnut Creek also, but further east. In the opening of the year 1857, Dr. L. Pile located there, on the farm now owned by John H. Harrison. He was followed by Nathan Mowry, who opened the farm occupied by Mr. Wheatly; Mr. Phillips, who settled where John Batdorf now lives; Geo. E. Sweitzer, who claimed the present Stickle farm, and Mr. Armstrong, who made claim to the land now owned by Mr. Lister. These gentlemen all settled along the creeks—a habit the pioneers had—and began energetically to build up a well favored community, and improved their homes. Among the other good things which they did (and for which the writer desires to express his personal obligations, particularly to Mr. Thornbrough who founded the Barnett place) was the early planting of apple orchards, and so often as the trees blossom and the fruit ripens, will their memory be blessed by the son of man be he citizen or stranger.
The first frame house was erected by Dr. Pile, whose nearest neighbor on the east, lived near Marysville on Bull Creek, twelve miles distant. The Doctor was also the first Justice of the Peace in the township, which was then known as Ottawa, and included all of what is now known as Peoria. During the year 1858 settlements in the township were made very rapidly, and among others the Johnsons and others settled on and about “Shawnee” mound.
This mound is a curiosity in this land of comparatively level surfaces, and is quite a feature in the landscape as it is plainly distinguishable within a radius of twenty miles. It is simply an upheaval of ground, with abrupt descents except at the north, rising about two hundred feet, and comprising perhaps eighty acres of land. From its summit the view of the surrounding country is simply glorious. By a freak of accidental happening—for had the surveyor run his line twenty rods to the west, he would have escaped it altogether—the section line runs directly through the mound, and a very important road being located in that line, two tremendous hills interpose in close proximity. Another curious feature may be found in the fact that while some of the low lands at the foot of the mound are comparatively worthless, the soil at the summit, and on the sides is wonderfully fertile. The mound is situated near the north line of the township, and in about the centre east and west.
THE SPIRIT OF ‘57
We shall take the liberty of relating a little incident which occurred in the early days of the settlement, as a means of illustrating to what degrees the brave old pioneers were infused with that spirit of patriotism which considers the right of suffrage a divine privilege. It was at the time of the vote on the Lecompton Constitution, in 1857. The settlement, to a man, was against the prevailing of the Lecompton principle, and it turned out en masse to express its mind to that effect at the polls. The voting precinct was at Morris’ place on East Toy Creek, and the creek intervened between that place and the greatest part of the settlement. There had been a series of heavy rain falls, and the creeks were very much swollen, so much so that it was impossible to ford them. When the men, in neighborhood knots gathered on the bank of the ugly looking stream, they considered long and loud the various schemes for crossing, and it was at last decided that ropes, stretched from tree to tree promised the safest means of transit. The ropes were strung across, and stripping all superfluous clothing, in they plunged, the stronger assisting the weaker. Necessarily the clothing was left where it was dropped, and in undress uniform, (some of them very much so) they proceeded to the polls and cast the ballots they had labored so hard to obtain. [Editor’s note: This episode, called “The Naked Voters,” can be found discussed in more detail in an article by John Mark Lambertson elsewhere on this site.]
The little village of Wellsville, which occupies a position as an important shipping station on the L.L.& G. road, is situated in the northeast corner of the township. It has a population of about 150 persons, and includes in its business houses two general merchandising establishments, one drug store, one hotel, a blacksmith ship, one church edifice, a grain elevator, and a number of fine residences. The village has been in existence only since 1870, when its site was purchased by Joe Rynerson, by P.P. Elder, and S.W. Shute of Chicago, who platted the town site. H.M. Brockway opened the first store. A fine Congregational church was built in 1873, of which Rev. T.C. Kinney was pastor. To this Reverend gentleman much credit is due for the completion of the edifice, as he not only solicited funds, but took hold with his hands, and labored on its frame from day to day. Mr. Kinney is now in Minnesota. The first residence was built by Mr. A.B. Brown, who also erected a blacksmith shop. The hotel was built in 1875, first as a residence and afterwards remodeled. The elevator, a substantial structure, calculated to hold 1200 bushels, was built this present year by W.S. Brockway. The Baptists also have a church organization at Wellsville.
Wellsville, as we have before remarked, is an important station to the railroad company. Its local trade reaches some ten miles into the country we have so feebly described, while for shipping purposes it is a nucleus for a greater range of surrounding territory. As an evidence of what is done in the shipping line, we append the amounts of certain shipments since Jan. 1st 1877. Hogs 20 cars, cattle 58 cars, hay 30 cars, corn 165 cars, butter and eggs 39,215 pounds. The corn was all shipped by Brockway & Co. and W.S. Brockway, and the hay by Lockwood Bros. of Edgerton.
H.M. Brockway & Co. represent the first store. They are engaged in a general merchandising business, and buy produce largely. We found them accommodating gentlemen.
W.S. Brockway also deals in a general variety of goods, buys produce, and owns and operates the steam elevator. He is also postmaster.
To Mr. G.B. Jordan, the good looking young gentleman who represents the Railroad company at this point, we are under obligations for business accommodations, and uniformly courteous treatment.
Mr. A. Barabau is proprietor of the hotel, and we can affirm that he knows how to keep it.
The village is fortunate in the possession of one of the leading physicians of the county, Dr. Wellman, who has a very fine residence therein. The doctor has a very large practice.
Mr. A.B. Brown, who owns the blacksmith ship in the village, also operates a 40 acre farm in good shape. He has a promising field of corn, which looks good enough to go 80 bushels to the acre. He also has 18 cattle, 10 hogs and 3 horses. He has resided there four years.
Or Ferguson, as it is sometimes called, is a station on the L.L.&G. road, situated near the west line of the township. It has no especial pretentions except as a shipping point for neighboring farmers. It was at first called Ferguson, after the man from whom the company purchased the ground, but the name was afterward changed to La Loup. Ferguson built a good-sized hotel, which is now used as a store room.
Facts and Figures
|Type of Produce||No. acres cultivated|
|Old corn on hand, March||41,226|
Two Model Farmers
It was the good fortune of the REPUBLICAN representatives, in their tour of observation, to find themselves one nightfall, at the hospitable door of Mr. L.W. Hostetter, and right royally were they entertained. Mr. Hostetter is a representative farmer of the most prosperous class. His extensive property is located in the extreme southeastern corn of the township. He owns 720 acres of the best quality of rolling prairie land, through a portion of which a creek runs. Mr. Hostetter came to the township in 1870, and purchased this farm, the greater portion being raw prairie. He now has a very handsome residence, with 500 acres improved, eight acres of which are devoted to fruit. He has upwards of (illegible)40 acres in corn this year, the balance of improved land being in tame hay. Mr. H. devotes his attention especially to fattening cattle for market. He does not breed, but buys young stock and keeps them over one winter. At present he has 143 head of three year old cattle, 140 hogs—mostly Poland China—and 10 horses. He had recently sold 100 head of fat cattle, which weighed an average of 1450 pounds each, at 5¢ to 5¼¢.
C. McLain whose residence and property lies within a mile of Wellsville, is another leading farmer and a man “whom Prosperity doth love.” Mr. McLain has a neat, commodious white frame house, a large, well built barn, yards conveniently arranged for the accommodation of stock, cattle, horses and hogs, and all the modern conveniences of a model stock farm. We were permitted to inspect his watering tanks, which are self operating, and supplied from pipes leading to a wind-mill, which also supplies the house with water. This mill draws water from a well 180 feet deep. Mr. McLain owns 460 acres of rich land here, 360 of which are improved, the balance being in pasture. He raises corn principally, for stock purposes. He keeps over about 150 head of cattle, and now has on hand a large stock of Poland China hogs. Mr. McLain pursues the same plan that Hostetter operates on—he buys three and four year old cattle, and fattens them for the market.
Other Farm Enterprises
Mr. T.N. Baker, whose property lies near the south-west corner of the township, has 80 acres all of which is in cultivation. He raises corn and beans principally. He has 12 head of cattle, 4 horses and 20 head of hogs. Mr. B. also cultivates the Gettinger farm this year.
We called at the handsome residence of Mr. J.W. Baker, a resident of six years standing, who has a handsomely improved farm of 80 acres, all under cultivation. He is also cultivating 148 acres of rented ground. He raises beans and corn principally. He has 25 head of cattle, 9 horses, 60 hogs, and a three-acre orchard.
Mr. J. Barnett lives on Walnut Creek, near the south line of the township. He owns 160 acres of land, and operates, besides, 120 acres for his father. He has about 90 acres in corn, 36 in beans, and has harvested 18 of oats. He also has about 100 hogs. His orchard is one of the oldest in the county and bears some exceedingly fine fruit as we can testify. His house was used in early days, for township purposes.
Mr. E. Carpenter lives on the Wellsville road, where he has resided 14 years. He has 160 acres of fine prairie land, 140 of which are improved. His chief crops are corn and castor beans. He had 40 head of cattle, 75 hogs, and an extensive orchard, comprising some 270 cherry trees, and 300 plum trees. His house is a handsome frame.
Jno. K. Harrison is operating a portion of his brother’s farm near the south line of the township. He raises corn and beans principally. Mr. Harrison has recently moved here from Iowa. He was here in 1857, and expresses regret that he did not remain. He has recently built a house.
Mr. E. Chambers resides on the Wellsville road, and owns a well cultivated farm of 160 acres, about 90 of which he has devoted to corn. He keeps over about 30 head of cattle, and now has 60 hogs. Has lived there seven years.
Mr. S. Wheatley, a resident for 17 years, lives in the north-east portion of the township. He cultivates 100 acres out of 160, in corn and beans. Has 13 head of cattle, 31 hogs, and 3 horses. He also has six acres devoted to apples and peaches.
We found friend J.W. Batdorf just hitching up to “go threshing,” but halted him long enough to take a look about his premises. He has 140 acres, 80 of which are improved. He pays more especial attention to corn, but also cultivates rye oats, timothy and clover. He has 20 head of cattle, 5 horses and 44 hogs—we observed one fine littler of—we observed one fine litter of twelve of the Berkshire breed.
Mr. John P. Harrison has a finely situated farm, of which he cultivates 150 acres. He cut five acres of rye this year, and has about 110 acres in corn. He has a considerable filed of castor beans also, both of which crops look exceedingly well.
A.Gregg, who lives in the N.E. corner of the township, one and one half miles from Wellsville, has 80 acres, 70 of which he cultivates. He cultivates corn and beans principally. His stock consists of 5 head of cattle, 5 brood mares, and 60 fine Poland China hogs. Has lived there six years.
We met Mr. Henry Hennis, one of the industrious and thriving farmers of Wellsville vicinity, who cultivates 60 acres out of 80, raising corn principally, and has a cosy little home two and a half miles from the village. Mr. H. has 14 head of cattle, about 15 hogs, and 3 horses. His orchard comprises three acres. Has lived in the township seven years.
Mr. A.D. Watkins was threshing out a fine field of flax, but wasn’t so busy that he forgot hospitality, and to him and his estimable wife we are obliged for an act of kindness fully appreciated by a hungry man. Mr. Watkins cultivates 50 acres out of crops of timothy, flax, beans, and corn. He has 40 hogs, and a number of horses and cattle.
A.L. Colgrove has just purchased 60 acres about four miles from Wellsville, which heproposed to improve immediately.
We made the acquaintance of Mr. A.T. Forgey, who resides in Miami county, just over the line, where he has 160 acres, 75 of which he devotes to corn and beans. He has quite a number of hogs and other stock, and an orchard containing upwards of 100 apple trees, and 200 peach trees.
Geo. W. Batdorf lives four miles south of Wellsville, and has improved 50 acres out of 80. He makes corn and beans a specialty. Has 10 head of cattle and 30 hogs. Mr. B. met with a severe loss this spring, 30 pigs dying from some unknown cause. Has lived there thirteen years.
N.A. Chambers Esq., operates 175 acres on the Bosworth place. He has harvested 24 acres of wheat, of which we have made mention heretofore. He has 10 horses, as many cattle, and 70 hogs. He came here empty-handed four years ago, and now owns a farm of 160 acres.
Mr. P.V. Sargeant has a farm of 160 acres near the south east corner of the township, which he devotes to a variety of crops. He generally keeps 40 or 50 head of cattle, and has 4 horses and 25 hogs. He lost upwards of 20 pigs this spring, by disease. He has an orchard containing 161 apple trees and 250 peach trees. He intends to build a two story 27 by 27 frame house next year.
Mr. M. Lidikay, an old patron of the REPUBLICAN, lives three and a half miles south west of Wellsville, and has 23 acres, all in cultivation. Among other crops, he has just cut 17 acres of fine clover. He has over 100 hogs, 75 of which he will market this fall. He also has about 30 head of cattle.
Mr. H.W. Tinney, one and a half miles from Wellsville limits, cultivates 60 acres out of 80, mostly in corn. He has a small field of millet. Owns 12 head of cattle, 2 horses, and 12 hogs. Has resided there seven years.
Geo. W. Reed, Esq., owns 80 acres of which 40 are in crops—corn principally. Has 9 head of cattle, and 23 hogs. In his orchard he has 150 peach trees, and about 50 apple trees. Has lived in the township ten years.
N. Averill, on Shawnee Mound, has as fine a farm as one could wish. He has 70 acres out of 160, improved, and pays attention to corn mostly. He owns 50 head of cattle, 3 horses, and a fine lot of 18 Berkshire hogs. He also has a good young orchard of 450 apple and 300 peach trees, and has beside 350 grapevines.
The REPUBLICAN plenipotentiaries and envoys extraordinary passed one night of their delightful trip with that whole-souled gentleman, whom everybody knows and respects—John Dysert. To him and his good lady we are under exceeding great obligations. We took a drive over John’s 117 acre farm, and saw crops as good as any we have seen in the country. John has his entire farm improved and in prime shape. He has 70 hogs, [illegible] head of cattle, and a fine orchard of some 100 apple trees. He will rent his farm next year, and spend his time in adding to his orchard and in setting out small fruits.
Mr. Peter Peterson, whose farm of 160 acres lies partly on the west slope of Shawnee Mound, has 35 acres improved and in cultivation. He owns 13 head of cattle, 23 hogs, and has a fine young orchard started.
Mr. W.A. Clark owns 100 acres of land in the vicinity of Wellsville, and has 35 under cultivation, of which 50 are in beans and 20 in corn. He owns 25 head of stock.
P.C. Croco Esq., has 117 acres of land, 83 under cultivation. His principal crops are corn and beans, but he has 10 acres of flax of good quality. He owns 12 head of cattle, 10 hogs, and a good team. Mr. C. is a young man, and moved into the township last spring.
J.R. Harrison has a well cultivated farm of 160 acres, 120 of which are in corn and beans. He has upwards of 100 hogs.
Mr. L. Carter cultivates 85 acres out of a 250 acre farm, and has harvested an 8 acre field of wheat. His corn and beans compare favorably with any similar crop we have seen.
E.T. Hunt Esq., has recently sold his farm, and has not yet purchased another. Mr. H. is an industrious man and a good citizen, and we trust that he will remain in the county.
Mr. Wm. Stickle owns a good farm in the south eastern portion of the township, of 160 acres all in cultivation. He raised 700 bushels of small grain this year.
S. Dodd has worked about 50 acres of cultivated ground without assistance, and can show crops of which any farmer might well be proud.
We made the acquaintance of Mr. M.F. Reed, and found him a very agreeable gentleman. He has about 5 acres in crop.
Mr. O. Ketcham has an 80 acre farm, half of which is in cultivation, in a variety of crops. He has 700 fruit trees, 15 head of cattle, and 15 hogs.
Mr. David Ash, another intelligent farmer in the township has 153 acres of land, 70 of which are in cultivation—60 to corn, the balance in beans. He has 12 head of cattle and 7 horses.
James Bell has 80 acres of his farm improved, 45 in corn. He owns two horses, 10 head of cattle, and 38 hogs. He also has 200 apple trees.
Mr. R.N. Pierson cultivates about 40 acres, all in corn. He has about 40 acres under fence, and owns 6 horses, 8 head of cattle, and a number of hogs. He has 150 apple trees and about 50 peach trees.
T.T. Cadwalader cultivates 75 or 80 acres, 65 being in corn, 16 in beans and 4 in flax, all of which crops are in first class order.
Thos. B. Reighley has about 100 acres in blooming cultivation, and knows how to farm we should judge.
S.W. Case lives in a nice white frame house in the vicinity of LaLoup, and has his farm well in hand. He is evidently a capable farmer, as well as an industrious one.
Mr. A. Long has 100 acres in cultivation, and 27 under fence. He has 65 acres of as good corn as we saw in the trip.
There are numberless other enterprising, hardworking and prosperous farmers in the township, but in our hasty trip, we did not find them all at home. We have mentioned only those with whose circumstances we became acquainted.