From a series of articles detailing visits to Franklin County townships in the
Ottawa Republican, July 19, 1877
Early Settlers and Settlements!
Modern Farms & Farmers
Beautiful Region of Uplands and Bottoms!
What Has Been Done in Twenty Years!
“God made the country, and man the town;” but it was nevertheless the policy of the All-Supreme that man should also make the country. Grand as a landscape in its natural state may be, the developing handiwork of man is essentially necessary to being out its fullest beauties.
Twenty years ago Franklin county presented a landscape picture grandly beautiful, to the sense which revels in nature’s beauties alone—today it smiles back upon the beholder with a grandeur complete and full; more satisfying to man, and more glorifying the Creator than when in its virgin purity. The particular subdivision of the county to which this article is especially devoted—Peoria township—is a fine illustration of the successful working of this completing process. Presenting as it does so great a diversity of the component parts of a country—prairie and timber, uplands and bottom,–the whole in a high condition of development, we have chosen it as a very proper subject for the first of a series of articles intended to be descriptive of our gallant young county.
Peoria township, although not within the exact governmental lines, is of congressional township proportions, being six miles square. It lies in the eastern tier and one township south of the north line of the county. It is traversed by numberless streams, among which may be mentioned the Marais des Cygnes river, Toy, Hickory, Walnut and Turkey creeks, all centering toward the geographical center of the township, the creeks finding their outlets into the river within the circumference of a few miles. Each of these creeks flows through a considerable valley rich with the alluvions of ages, and here are found the wonderful “bottom lands” which produce such prodigious crops. These streams are skirted by growths of timber, more or less extensive, the bottoms bearing the larger trees while the benches and bordering table-lands are covered with masses of “second growth” and shrubs. But the reader must not understand that the entire township is as ragged and broken as in this region of creeks—on the contrary fully three-fifths of its area is composed of the fairest prairie table lands, pitching in gentle declines to all directions, and possessing a generous abundance of the quick soil which has rendered Kansas so famous.
Prior to the year 1857 the land now within the limits of the townlines was the property of the Peoria, Weaws, Kaskaskas and Peankishaw tribes of Indians, but at that date it had been mostly “squatted” on, in anticipation of the inevitable time when it should be placed in market. Among the squatters who went there in the years 1854, ’55 and ’56, we have obtained the names of Alex Rice, Dr. Cusick, Wm. Adkins, Carl Adkins, James Adkins, Madison Osborne, S.R. Smiley and J. McLain.
In April 1857 the land was thrown into market, and almost all immediately bought up at prices ranging from $1.25 to $2.50 per acre. Peaceable possession had been held ever since—the tidal wave of border-ruffianism had spent its force, and aside from the minor troubles incident to early frontier life the settlement grew and remained in quietude.
Many were the rollicking incidents of these early times related to the writer, but the limited space of a newspaper article precludes the possibility of recounting them here. These hardy pioneers, who went to “meeting” with revolvers displayed in their belts, and who plowed short furrows that they might not get too far away from their rifles, had nevertheless an appreciation of the good things and funny phases of life, and enjoyed them to the utmost.
County Seat Troubles
The omnipresent storekeeper made his appearance in the settlement, in the person of Alfred Johnson, in 1857, and about him gathered what was the nucleus of the once promising little town of Peoria. The site is a beautiful one—on a promontory of table-land, where the prairie juts in to the bottoms of Hickory creek and to the bottoms of Hickory creek and the Marais des Cygnes—and convenient to a large region of country. And by the way, Johnson was the first postmaster, and the first assessor—being appointed to the latter position by the County Board. At this time the county seat was at Minneola (now Centropolis). In the winter of 1859 a law was enacted by the territorial Legislature granting the privilege of an election for the purpose of changing the location of the seat. A local strife between Peoria and Mount Vernon for the privilege of entering the lists against Minneola and Ohio City, was decided after a canvass by Johnson, representing Peoria, and John Sanders, representing Mount Vernon, in favor of Peoria, and at the general election also Peoria came out ahead. The people of Minneola immediately got out an injunction restraining Peoria from removing the books. A suit followed in the Court of Chambers, before Judge Williams, which was decided in favor of Peoria. But her honors were short lived—one short day was she the capital of the little commonwealth—Minneola appealed to the District Court and won her fleeting glory back again. The determined Peoriaites, however, were resolved to fight the thing to the bitter end, and invoked the interference and opinion of the Supreme bench. While the matter was pending there Kansas was admitted as a State. Two days after that occurrence, and before the Governor had been officially notified, the territorial Legislature passed an act re-submitting the county seat matter to the suffrages of the people. This complicated matters, and Peoria consulted eminent counsel on the subject. In the opinion of the eminent counsel, the said act of the Legislature was unlawful, having been passed after Kansas was a State, and in the Supreme Court, and that no attention be paid to the new election. Their advice was followed, and the decision was in their favor. But yet then the Supreme Court also decided that inasmuch as the territorial Legislature had not been officially notified of the admission of the State its subsequent enactments prior to such notification, were lawful., Minneola had duly voted at the new (??) and won of course.
A FEW INCIDENTS
We will make room for a few incidents in the early days of the town of Peoria sufficient to illustrate the methods of business which then obtained. The first election was held in the fall of 1857, at which Marcus J. Parrott ran on the Free State ticket for Congressional
Delegate, being opposed by Ex.-Gov. Ransom. Most of the settlers—at least three-fourths were Missourians, and rabid Democrats, of whom Doc. Cusick was the acknowledged leader. The balloting was done under the Missouri law, the ballots being open, and read off by the voter. Certain Free State men had charge of the polls, and it may be that their presence incited a terrorism, for of all the votes cast on that occasion but one was democratic.
Another incident, illustrative of how each individual was, to a certain extent, a law unto himself, may be worth mentioning. During the year 1857, one Fisher, at the instigation of interested parties, jumped the claim of a Mr. Wright, who was a determined kind of a man, and as the quickest way of settling the contest, shot Fisher dead. The interested parties alluded to, feeling themselves incompetent to accomplish Wright’s arrest with any degree of safety, proceeded to LeCompton and laid the matter before the Secretary, the Governor being absent, and demanded a posse. The Secretary replied that Franklin county had a sheriff—the Governor had recently appointed him—and suggested that it was that particular official’s business to attend to the capture of criminals. An examination of the records was then made to discover who the newly appointed Sheriff might be, and the interested party aforesaid was more than satisfied to drop the whole business when it was found that Wright was that Sheriff.
The first Republican (or Free State) county convention, was held at Peoria, at which meeting, P.P. Elder was nominated for Prosecuting Attorney, and Judge Curtis for Delegate to Congress—or rather delegates to the State Convention were instructed to that effect.
The Country As It Is
The growth of the township from 1857 to the present time has been continuously prosperous. The little log huts of the pioneers have given place to comfortable, commodious, and even elegant residences; the irregular strips of tilled ground, have grown into broad fields which yearly yield products which astonish the world. And in place of the few heads of mangy and scrubby work cattle of early times, the grazing lands are covered with thousands of animals of strains equal to the best herds in the west. In driving through the country one cannot but notice that the old, abandoned huts of long ago are located in cozy nooks in the timber, or in locations where hills would break off the winds, while the modern dwellings are boldly placed on the open prairies, where groves can be cultivated at pleasure, and where the view will be interrupted as little as possible. Everywhere thrift and prosperity is apparent. Well tilled fields and well kept crops meet the eye on every hand. Many farm enterprises are quite extensive and we wold that we had space to allude to them all—but we must confine ourself to what we saw in the limited time permitted us to examine them.
The following transcript from the last assessment roll will give a vivid idea of the amazing progress made in the township—despite all the drawbacks of drought, chinch-bugs, and grass-hoppers—since its settlement:
|Old Corn on Hand, bu||50,420|
WHAT FARMERS ARE DOING
Mr. V.M. Crawford, who resides on the Paola road, has a farm of 80 acres, well in cultivation. He is paying especial attention to fruit, and has 500 apple trees, 200 peach trees, and about 600 bearing grape vines. He also has between 50 and 60 head of stock.
We found Mr. Edmund Lister on a fine farm of 480 acres, situated on Walnut Creek, near the north line of the township. Mr. Lister pays particular attention to stock raising, and has about 150 head of cattle, and 25 or 30 horses. He has resided in Peoria eighteen years, and has a handsome house, with good barn and outbuildings. His corn crib contains 4000 bushels of old corn.
Mr. G.S. Crane, a neighbor to Mr. Lister, has a farm of 80 acres, which he devotes especially to castor beans, finding most money therein. He has resided in Peoria nineteen years. His fields were as clean as properly applied labor could make them. Mr. Crane intends, we believe, to erect a new house this fall.
In the person of Mr. J.J. Craig we met a personage of historical note in the annals of the township—he and G.P. Skeels (now of Missouri) were the Registers of Settlers Claims, for the township, in 1857. Mr. C. has a fine farm of 100 acres, 85 of which are in corn and castor beans. He also resides near Walnut Creek.
Mr. Jos. Black, another old resident, has a farm on Hickory Creek, partly of prairie, and partly timber land. He has 25 acres of corn and crops look remarkably fine. Mr. Black has one of the coziest homes we saw in the township.
Jno. L. Lamb, whose magnificent farm is on Turkey Creek, is one of the thriftiest men of the county. He farms about 100 acres out of 400, and deals extensively in stock, generally keeping over about 80 head. Mr. Lamb has a very handsome residence.
Jas. R. Sallast has a farm of about 160 acres, 75 of which is under prime cultivation. He pays especial attention to corn and beans. He has settled in the township recently, but has his farm in good shape. He is also making extensive repairs on his house.
H.Howard, who lives near the confluence of Turkey creek and the Marais des Cygnes river, has an extensive property, consisting of cultivated fields, valuable timber lands, and a large saw mill. He H. has 150 acres in corn and millet, this year. Eight sturdy workmen seat themselves at his table.
A.L. Jones has one hundred and twenty acres of land along the Marais des Cygnes, but being engaged in the mill business he has rented his farm this season.
H.N. Johnson is cultivating about 80 acres of corn and castor beans, and the appearance of his crops proves him to be a thorough farmer.
Squire J.B. Ritchie, who lives in the vicinity of the village of Peoria, we find to be one of the painstaking farmers we have met. His fields show intelligible and thorough cultivation. We did not see better crops anywhere in the township. Mr. R. is a believer in a diversity of crops and will make his theory win this year. He has a richly endowed farm, and a beautiful home site, with an extensive view. An extensive orchard caught our eye, and a dozen stands of bees—we shall visit friend Ritchie again.
Mr. J.A. Evans’ property lies on the south side of Hickory Creek, and is composed partly of rich bottomland, and partly of table land. He has 280 acres, 120 of which are under cultivation. He has a very good white frame house, and is comfortably prepared to meet the duties of life. He has 110 acres in corn, and stock enough to eat up the product.
Of course we couldn’t visit Peoria and fail to meet our good friend Lyman Jucket. He lives in the river bottom, and raises wonderful crops, has 30 acres of corn which is beaten by but one field in the county—that of Sumstine’s. He is going to feed it to 40 or 50 hogs. Friend Jucket is also quite a machinist—he has a sorghum mill capable of making 100 gallons per day; a dragsaw machine, shingle machine and a buzz saw machine. He also does a land office business in the way of threshing cane seeds.
Among the leading farmers of the town, and indeed of the county, is Mr. Chas. Bosworth, whose property is in the extreme northeastern corner of the township. He has upwards of 600 acres, in this county, 300 of which are in cultivation. He has just harvested 100 acres of prime winter wheat, and has 200 acres of corn, as many more in beans, and about 2,000 bushels of old corn on hand. Mr. B. also deals in stock, to a considerable extent. He has about 60 head of cattle on hand and about 200 sheep and as many hogs.
Messrs. Bateman & Johnson, who operate the store at Peoria village, are also representative farmers of the county. They are farming about 850acres, 500 of which are under cultivation, mostly in corn and castor beans. They also handle stock and horses extensively. In fruit they have 1000 bearing trees. Mr. Johnson also conducts a farm of 300 acres for his father. These gentlemen are thorough business men, and competent farmers. They are good fellows withal, and we are indebted to them for many favors.
Mr. R.H. Butler, whose farm is on Hickory creek, is paying especial attention to the growing of peaches and small fruits. He has about 400 bearing peach trees, 40 fine young cherry trees, and a large collection of currents, gooseberries, and grapevines.
Among the well conducted timber farms, we would mention that of Mr. G.R. McClure, who is located on Walnut creek. He has 35 acres of corn, beans and hemp.
Mr. M.W. Wilson has a very pretty farm of 90 acres, partly within Peoria township, and partly in Ottawa. He has lived there five years, and has evidently improved his time—a better conducted farm establishment we have not seen.
Judge J. Sumstine, one of Franklin county’s prominent men and a prosperous farmer, has a cosy home in the village of Peoria. The Judge has a 30 acre field of corn which is undoubtedly ahead of any crop in the town. It shows what proper attention will bring forth on good soil. Jake is not an extensive farmer, but he’s a good one. To him we are indebted for valuable assistance in preparing this article. He is among the early settlers, and from the first took a leading position in the affairs of that end of the county.
Madison Osborne is another old resident, and a large farmer. He has in cultivation 100 acres, principally in corn, and one of the finest orchards in the county, containing something over 1,000 trees, in full bearing. Mr. Osborne came to Peoria in 1858.
J.Jurd, a recent settler, is located not far from Turkey creek. He follows the trade of a painter, but finds time to cultivate 25 acres in a workmanlike manner.
A. McCollough, of Turkey creek, has 160 acres, of which 45 are acres devoted to corn. He also has 70 acres of fine grazing lands enclosed, and at the present time owns 14 head of cattle, 8 horses and about 40 hogs. He has been a resident eight years.
Another Turkey creek farm—that owned by Mr. J. Haigler—is well worth mentioning. Mr. H. cultivates about 80 acres, and his crops will compare creditably with those in any portion of the country.
D.T.C. McCormick, also of Turkey creek, cultivates 70 acres out of 160, and raises wheat principally. He has 300 fine fruit trees.
Lyman Frakes has 40 acres in corn, and as many more in beans, each of which crops are exceedingly well taken care of. Mr. Frakes was here in early times—before any other white man—as trader, but has not been a resident continuously.
There are numberless other fine farm establishments in the township, conducted intelligibly and profitably, but we have only space to mention a few. Mr. Sam’l Mears cultivates 105 acres. John Adams 25 acres. J.T. Pearce has 18 acres of forward castor beans, and about as much more in other crops; Jacob Fisher has a good farm of 160 acres, and raises corn to a considerable extent—he has 1,000 bushels of old corn on hand.
We think, from the above showing, that Peoria will compare favorably with any township in the county—we are quite sure that no more intelligent, industrious or prosperous farmers, are to be found any where than there.