Southeast Franklin County

By Catherine Jane Richards and Deborah Barker


Southeast Franklin County Driving Tour

Begin at 23rd Street and Highway 59. Proceed 4.5 miles south on 59 to Hamilton Road. Turn left and continue 1 mile to intersection. Stop.

#1 Ohio City site, on the right. Ohio City, the first permanent county seat from 1857 to 1864, was originally known as Bowling Green, indicating an early settlement by pro-slave southerners. The town included a number of stores, hotels, stage barn and court offices. Court was held in a church/school building. All county officers were deputies to each other. After the county seat had moved to Ottawa in 1864, Ohio City literally moved in wagons west to Princeton where the railroad was laid in 1868. On the left was the land of William Kibbe who is credited with building the first frame building in the county in 1857.  Turn right at the intersection and proceed to curve. Stop.

#2 For many years an above-ground stone vault in the road here marked the grave of a Mrs. Cromwell and her infant who died in 1859. The burial was moved in 1912 to the Princeton Cemetery as it was discovered to be on a section line when the roads were rebuilt. County Sheriff W.P. Latimer donated the burial plot.  Continue to the right and curve onto John Brown Road. Turn right, drive to highway 59, and turn left. (The town of Princeton is covered in the southwest tour of this series.) Proceed down highway 6 miles to Richmond.

#3 Richmond. Another railroad offspring, laid out in 1870, and named for John C. Richmond, an early Ottawa settler. Several large homes are of interest. The beautifully restored home on Kalloch street was the early Gault home. The Oaults were prominent citizens of Richmond. The streets carry the names of many of John Richmond’s family members and other early notables.   Return to North Street at the north edge of Richmond, driving east, cross US 59 at Butter Road and proceed 3.8 miles to ‘T” at intersection with Ohio Terrace. Turn right or south and continue .5 mile to the entrance of the Berea Cemetery.

#4 Berea. Ohio Terrace was the main street of Berea, a settlement established in 1857 by the Associated Reformed Presbyterians, who moved to Richmond in 1884 with the coming of the railroad. The earliest gravestone in Berea Cemetery dates to 1857. Drive into cemetery (optional).  Continue on Ohio Terrace .1 mile to the old homestead on the right.

#5 Cunningham farm complex (private property). Preempted in 1857, this farm on both sides of the road has been continuously owned and operated by the Cunningham family for four generations. Note several of the old buildings.  Continue south to Allen Road, the Anderson/Franklin county line, following curves to the left and then right at ‘T.” Continue south 1 mile, stop and enter blacktop. Proceed south and west 2.5 miles to Rock School on right, turn in and STOP.

#6 Rock School. Built in 1875, Rock School, District #1,  was the first school in Anderson County. The adjacent brick school at the north was built in 1915 to meet classroom needs. Both Catholic and Protestant pupils were taught here by the Benedictine and later Ursuline sisters with the blessing of the county superintendent. Both schools were used into the 1930s.  Turn around or cross blacktop and enter road to church.

#7 St. Boniface Catholic Church complex, Scipio. This area was settled by German Catholics in 1854 who were directed to the land along Pottawatomie Creek that had been the former home of the Pottawatomie Indians. The first log church was built to the east of the present church. A cross in the cemetery marks the location of the altar of the early church which burned in 1869. A second, larger frame church was built on higher ground, but with parish growth was soon replaced. Work on St. Boniface Church began in 1881 and was completed in 1883 by members of the Carmelite Order who came in 1864 following the Civil War. The native stone and beautiful beveled arches were cut from a quarry southeast of the church. Brother Michael, a stonemason, cut much of the stone and is the first Carmelite buried in the cemetery. The two-story stone monastery adjoining the church replaced a frame structure in 1915. The frame building north of the church, first a convent and school, and the brick parish hall, were built in 1925. The Carmelite brothers who resided in the small frame house, worked the vineyards and farm that includes 600 acres. Carmelite priests continue to serve the parish.  Return to blacktop, turn right, and follow paved road curving to the north and then east to a large landmass. Stop.

#8 Wadsworth Mound. Steamboat Mound, later known as Wadsworth Mound for an early landowner, is now called Peine Mound for its present owner. The mound is referenced in early history, and dubiously as an outlook for John Brown. There are a number of these land formations in the area.  Curve south, cross Pottawatomie Bridge, curve past old stone house. CAUTION!  Cross railroad tracks and Stop. Enter US-169, proceed east, cross bridge, then turn left at Main Street sign into Greeley.

#9 Greeley. Earliest town in Anderson County (site preempted in 1857) was named for New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley. A short-lived rival city was built just across the creek in 1860, first known as Pottawatomie City and then as Mt. Gilead. It claimed Civil War Major General James G. Blunt and wife as early residents. A sandstone millstone at the foot of the flagpole at the east side of the Veteran’s Building came from the early mill that made “Snowflake Flour.”  Drive north through Greeley to Cochran Street, turn right. Continue, east and turn left at “T” heading north on gravel road. Drive north to Allen Road (the county line), 1.3 mile. Turn right and continue east and north’ on winding road 3+ miles. This road follows the path of an old wagon road. At the corner of Utah Terrace, a fence row to the east marking the county line is visible in winter and spring. The ruins of several old homes are visible. One on the west marks the original homesite of Valentine Gerth, first settler of Greeley. At the intersection with Vermont Road turn left or north, proceed .5 mile past new farmhouse on left. Stop.

#10 Pottawatomie Baptist Mission site. Established in 1837, the mission, on the left, functioned until the Pottawatomies were removed to the Topeka area in 1848. Rev. Robert Simerwell served as blacksmith and lay missionary, and Rev. Jotham Meeker visited and held services there often. The mission site included a dwelling, schoolhouse, cookhouse and mission building. The large well on the fence line is the original. Cynthia Mercer, wife of the mission’s carpenter, died here in 1840 at the age of 33. Her tombstone is the earliest in the county.  Continue north another .5 miles to Butler Terrace, turn light and proceed one mile to stop sign at Virginia load. Turn left. Drive 1.3 miles to Clark Terrace. Turn of and drive to small stone house.

#11 Old Hanway House. James Hanway, born in London n 1809, came to Kansas in 1856. He was active in Republican politics, served in the territorial legislature in 1860, and was a Franklin County judge, notary public and superintendent of public instruction. His primary interest, however, was agriculture.  His importance to Franklin County was his role as historian, preserving eyewitness accounts of events transpiring in Pottawatomie Township.  He first built a log cabin which was situated in the to the left and above the pond called Buffalo Spring.  This cabin, later used by John Brown and photographed by A.W. Barker, became famous for its association with the fiery abolitionist.  The stone house here on the right was the Hanways’ next abode.  It is private property, and is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Return to Virginia Road.  Stop at intersection.  Note the large, third home of James Hanway which we will pass as we head into Lane.

#12  New Hanway House.  This largest Hanway house, on the left, was made of “coralline marble,” a granular limestone quarried to the west on a high riverbank.  The Hanway Quarry once employed 100 men and produced tombstones, building stones and railroad ballast.  The house is famous for its connection with the Pottawatomie Massacre in May of 1856.  Although it was not built then, a witness and participant in the killing, James Townsley, admitted in the parlor of this house in 1890 that the group of killers, including several of Brown’s sons, Theodore Weiner and Townsley himself, was led by John Brown who not only condoned the murders but committed one–Mr. Doyle’s–himself.  This admission documented Brown’s complicity at a time when popular opinion had sanctified Brown and absolved him of all personal blame.  The house, now called “Pottawatomie Ranch,” is privately owned.   Turn left on Virginia Road and continue on into Lane.

#13 Lane.  The present day Lane is an amalgamation of several early settlements.  It was originally known as Shermanville in 1855 when a post office was established at the Sherman brothers’ tavern at the Pottawatomie Crossing south of the creek.  In 1858, following the massacre, the town of Lane was chartered and named for the colorful early Kansas character James H. Lane.  The arrival of the railroad in 1879-80 gave rise to the town of Emerson south of the tracks where the depot was located.  To add to the confusion, the town of Avondale emerged south of Emerson and just to the east of Lane.  A struggle for name identification continued for several years as was reported in the early Ottawa/Lane newspapers, but was finally resolved by a vote, and Lane began to prosper.  The quaint stone house south of the park on Kansas Avenue was built by an early Methodist minister.  The stone house of Duncan Holliday who served as an early postmaster and first merchant of Lane stood for many years on the next corner south.  At the corner of Fourth and Main, just before crossing the railroad tracks, notice the stone house on the left.

#14  Baker House.  Built by an early blacksmith, and later owned by the pioneer Baker family who first settled in the area in 1855, this house is mentioned by Laura Ingalls Wilder in her book, The Journey Home wherein she describes camping near here on the way back to her Missouri home.  Drive to the bridge crossing Pottawatomie Creek.  Looking to the east, downsteam, the river bend marks the site of the early ford or creek crossing of the Ft. Scott and California Road, a feeder trail connecting southeast Kansas Territory to the Oregon and California Trails.

#15  Dutch Henry’s Crossing.  When the Pottawatomie Indians were removed from this area in 1848, their interpreter, John Tecumseh Jones, moved north to the Ottawa reserve, serving as leader, advisory and missionary. The farm he had developed on Pottawatomie Creek, at the crossing of the government trail from Ft. Scott, came into the possession of a German immigrant known as Henry Sherman, another employee of the tribal bureaucracy.  The ford became known as “Dutch Henry’s Crossing” where he operated a tavern and store and also dealt in livestock.  A rabid pro-slaver, Sherman’s cabin became a focus for border ruffianism on the Pottawatomie and one of the sites of the infamous massacre.  Continue north 1.1 mile on Virginia Road to Douglas Terrace (minimum maintenance dirt road) and turn right.  Stop.

#16  Pottawatomie Indian village site.  To the south is the site of the Pottawatomie village which existed here from 1837 to 1848.  Look southeast to the hillside above Lane which is the burial site of Sewanoe, a chief who died during the tribe’s stay here.  It was customary to bury leaders on high ground so that they could overlook the village.

#17  Pottawatomie Massacre.  Across the dirt road to the north is the area of Allen Wilkinson’s cabin.  On May 24, 1856, John Brown and a small group moved down Mosquito Creek calling out and killing pro-slave settlers.  Killed were Allen Wilkinson, post master of Shermanville, Mr. John Pleasant Doyle and two of his sons, William and Drury, and Dutch Henry’s brother, Dutch Bill.  This controversial event, coming shortly after a raid on Lawrence, added fuel to the fire of the Border War which burst into flames as the Civil War by 1861.   Return to Virginia Road; climb the hill.  To the north on Vermont Terrace (minimum maintenance road–impassable if wet) is the burial site of the Doyles.  Follow the curve on Virginia Road and curve north onto Vermont Road.  Just past the curve, wagon ruts are visible in the east pasture in winter and early spring.  These mark the Ft. Scott and California Trail.  Continue north 3.5 miles to Hamilton Terrace, turn left, and drive 2 miles to Texas Road.  Turn right and drive 1.5 miles.  Stop at Ruhamah Church.

#18  Ruhamah Church.  Ruhamah, meaning “great compassion” in Hebrew, was organized in 1868.  The first church was built in 1871.  This new church was built in 1976.  The support beams in the early church were cut from local timberland and now form the cross in the churchyard.  Elder Adair, son-in-law of John Brown, was one of the first ministers.  The church has never closed for lack of members.  This corner to the west marks the east boundary of the former R & B Ranch of 2,000 acres.  Turn right onto Jackson Road and drive 1.6 miles.  John Brown’s sons squatted here in Cutler Township as early as 1855.  On the left John Brown built a cabin for his brother-in-law, Orson Day.  Fred Brown’s cabin was on the right side of the road.  Proceed to the intersection with Vermont Road, turn left and continue north.  Land to the west was the J.O. Seymour farm, founded in 1857.  Seymour died in 1858, leaving his wife with eight children to raise on the frontier.  The large frame home on the left as you enter Rantoul marks the Seymour homestead.

#19  Rantoul.  Named for Robert Rantoul, a Massachusetts abolitionist, the community is among the county’s earliest.  The remains of Rantoul High School south of the ballfields first served as a zoo and is now a cattle barn.  Several early churches are still in use.  The stone home, at Cedar and First Streets, was built in 1866 by Jeremiah Wise for his daughter Martha Ellen Wise who married Quincy Seymour.  They lived here until the 1880s.  When the railroad cut across the corner lot, Seymour built the frame house across the street.  In the early 1900s the house served as a hotel for local laborers.  [Northeast of Rantoul, at the southwest corner of Kingman and Virginia Roads–both minimum maintenance–was the land claimed by William Clarke Quantrill, infamous raider of Lawrence.Leave Rantoul at the intersection of Vermont Road and First Street (also Rock Creek Road) and proceed west 3.4 miles west to Oregon Terrace.  Stop.

#20  Mount Vernon.  This site, where the Ft. Scott and California Road crossed Middle Creek, was a stage stop which at one time featured a large inn and a number of homes.  On the banks of Middle Creek, a few stones of a grist mill and an iron pump that served the stage stop remain.  The town declined after 1861.  Continue west on Rock Creek Road for 3.6 miles to the intersection of Nebraska Road.  The Harrison Township Hall sits where Latimer School, district #35, once was located.  (Townships are the smallest political units in a county, and provide volunteer fire fighting services.)

Union Chapel Methodist Church is on the northwest corner.  Continue west.  Just before the intersection with US-59, note home on left, formerly Rock Creek School, district #41.  Stop, turn right on US-59, and drive two miles to Ottawa.

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