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2. Kinsley Mercury, January 8, 1887.

3. An account of the physical characteristics of Edwards county may be found in United
States Department of Agriculture, et aL, Physical Land Conditions Affecting Use, Conserva-
tion and Management of Land Resources Edwards County, Kansas (mimeographed, June,
1944).

(82)



FARMER DEBTORS IN PIONEER KINSLEY 83

The soils on the flood plains are known locally as "deep hard
lands." Officially, they are designated as "deep, friable, silty, to
clayey soils," and "characterized by friable, granular to crumb-like,
silty to slightly sandy surface soils which are eight to 10 inches thick
and grade into somewhat heavier but friable . . . subsoils, 20
to 30 inches thick. In general they are fertile, easily tilled, absorb
moisture at a moderate rate and have a high moisture storage
capacity." 4 Drainage is generally adequate but the occasional
saline spot or poorly drained area occurs.

The moderate slopes at the edge of the bottoms and along the
drainage way in the northwest corner of the township are marked
by a "friable or moderately friable, silty to clayey soil" which is
similar to the "deep hard lands." 5 Soil conservation experts classi-
fied all lands in the township to "the west of the Arkansas as fit for
cultivation in 1940 when they surveyed Edwards county. The area
of the township lying east of the river, however, was classified as fit
only for grazing or woodland use and that with severe restrictions.

Precipitation in the county ranges on an average from 24 inches
on the eastern edge to 22 inches on the western boundary. Some
75% of the precipitation falls during the growing season which on
the average lasts 175 days. Both rainfall and growing season are,
however, subject to wide variations from the mean. The average
annual temperature stands between 55 and 56 degrees.

Yields in Edwards county are 88% of the state average and also
fall somewhat below those of some of the neighboring counties.
Today wheat is the dominant grain crop although a significant
acreage of sorghum is grown. But in the 30 crop years between
1911 and 1940, ten wheat crops failed and only fair to poor crops
were harvested in 11 other years. Drought which was sufficient
to cause crop failure has occurred in as many as four consecutive
years.

Kinsley township fell within the boundaries of the land grant
given to the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railway in 1863. Land
in the sections designated by odd numbers therefore became the
property of that corporation to be sold in aid of the construction
of its line. The land in sections bearing even numbers was eventu-
ally allocated directly to individuals by the federal government with
the exception of sections 16 and 36, Township 24, Range 19, the
state school lands. In this article the land transferred directly to

4. Ibid., p. 5.

5. Ibid., p. 9.



84 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

individuals by the federal government will be referred to as govern-
ment land.

The tract books of the United States Land Office identify the
settlers who obtained title to government land. 6 The first such
settler filed his application to homestead the northwest quarter of
section 4, T25, R19 in June, 1873. He obtained his final certificate
15 months later under the act of 1872 which allowed Union veterans
to subtract the period of their war service from the five years of
residence which were ordinarily necessary under the homestead
act of 1862. The last settler to obtain government land in the town-
ship received his final certificate in 1903. Strictly speaking, title
did not pass irrevocably until the patent to which the final certificate
entitled a settler was issued, but for most purposes title was con-
sidered to vest in the claimant for government land as soon as he
could show a final certificate.

TABLE 1
DISPOSAL OF GOVERNMENT LAND IN KINSLEY TOWNSHIP

Unsuc- Unsuc-

Successful cessful Final Successful cessful Final

Entries Entries Certificates Entries Entries Certificates

1872 ., 3 .. 1888

1873 14 9 . . 1889 . . . . 2

1874 10 9 1 1890 2 2

1875 5 10 6 1891 1

1876 10 12 6 1892 143

1877 6 9 11 1893 .. 1 3

1878 19 9 8 1894 .. 1 1

1879 12 5 18 1895 . . . . 1

1880 337 1896 1 .. 2

1881 334 1897 .. .. 5

1882 115 1898 1

1883 452 1899 .. .. 1

1884 148 1900 .. .. 1

1885 521 1901

1886 214 1902

1887 111 1903 1



Totals 102 94 102

In all, 91 individuals obtained title to 102 parcels of government
land. Sixty-seven homesteads were granted. 7 Fifty of these were
160-acre homesteads which were obtained under the provisions of

6. Duplicate sets of land office tract books for the State of Kansas are held in the Na-
tional Archives and in the Department of the Interior, Washington, D. C. These books are
more enlightening than the county deed records since they show the names of settlers who
subsequently relinquished their claims and include the date of the final certificates as well
as that of the patents. Kinsley township fell in the land district administered from Lamed.

7. The word homestead will be used throughout this article to refer to land either ac-
quired by its owner under the terms of the various federal homestead acts or land in the
process of being thus acquired. In the legal sense of course a homestead is a holding which
its owner holds free from the claims of creditors under certain conditions.



FARMER DEBTORS IN PIONEER KINSLEY 85

the soldiers' and sailors' homestead act of 1872. Until 1879 only
veterans, or, in certain cases, their heirs or widows, were allowed
to homestead more than 80 acres within the boundaries of a rail-
road land grant. Twenty individuals obtained tracts under the
terms of the pre-emption act of 1841, while four homesteaders
commuted their claims and purchased them for cash under the
terms of the commutation clause of the homestead act of 1862.
Finally, 11 settlers acquired title to timber claims. 8

But all of those who aspired to ownership of government land in
Kinsley township were not successful. Of the 196 entries filed be-
tween 1872 and 1898, 94, or 35 homesteads and 59 timber claims
were given up. In other words 34% of all homesteaders and 84% of
all those claiming land under the timber culture acts failed to obtain
title.

The entry figures include some duplication. Of the 91 individuals
who obtained title to 102 parcels of land, 24 had filed papers on a
total of 25 other pieces of land which they eventually threw back
into the public domain. Of those who failed to obtain any land
whatsoever, two had sought both homestead and timber claims.
The 94 canceled entries, therefore, represented the activities of only
67 individuals who did not obtain at least some land from the fed-
eral government. Altogether, 158 individuals laid claim to govern-
ment land in Kinsley township, of whom 41% failed to obtain title
to any land. Another 15% obtained only part of the holdings which
they claimed originally.

If such percentages appear startling we should remember that
all entrymen did not desire to obtain final title. Claims were sold
despite the lack of final certificate or patent. 9 In only four of the
94 cases where the entrants threw up their claims did they abandon
them outright. Instead, formal relinquishments were filed at the
land office. Such formality could hardly have been accidental.
Somewhat different were the cases of the four settlers who filed
timber claims and relinquished them years later, only to homestead
the same tracts. Whatever other advantages this practice involved,
it undoubtedly postponed the day when a settler must pay taxes on
his holdings.

In 1873 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company

8. Aside from the U. S. Statutes at Large a comprehensive summary of the various acts
under which title was transferred from the government in this township may be found in
Thomas Donaldson, The Public Domain (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1884).

9. See, for instance, Orange Judd's matter-of-fact reference to the practice in "Who
Shall Go West," pt. 1, Prairie Farmer, October 24, 1885, p. 701; also Harold Hathaway
Dunham, Government Handout, A Study in the Administration of the Public Lands, 1875-
1891 (New York, 1941), pp. 144-164.



86 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

made its first sales of land in the administrative township of
Kinsley. 10 Between 1873 and 1898, when the Santa Fe's title to
several parcels of land was closed out by bankruptcy sale, the land
department of the company sold land in the township to 110 indi-
viduals at prices varying from $1.25 to $10 per acre. In the order
of the frequency with which they availed themselves of the terms,
purchasers bought on 11-year contract, on six-year contract, for
cash, and on two-year contract. One contract provided for com-
plete payment at the end of one year. 11

Two-year contracts involved merely the division of the principal
into three parts. One-third, plus a year's interest on the unpaid
principal, was paid down and the other installments, plus interest,
were paid at the end of the first and second years. When purchas-
ers used the six-year plan they paid one-sixth of the principal down
and interest on the remainder. The second payment was limited
to interest on the principal, and the final five payments were made
up of one-sixth of the principal and interest on the principal out-
standing. Similarly, combinations of interest and principal pay-
ments were arranged to extend over 11 years.

Interest on unpaid principal stood at seven percent over the whole
period during which the Santa Fe sold land. Obviously this interest
rate should not be compared with the rate then charged on mort-
gage loans, since the Santa Fe set both the rate of interest and the
purchase price. An attractive rate of interest could be well com-
pensated for by raising the price. Discounts of 10% were given on
at least some cash sales and at times discounts were given to the
purchaser who made improvements to the land which he was buy-
ing on credit.

Sales in the township by the Santa Fe were spread over 22 years,
but by far the largest number were grouped in the three-year period
between 1876 and 1878, and in the two years, 1884 and 1885. Sales
in 1873 were limited to three. One of these transferred sections 33,
T24, R19, and 5, R24, T18, to the Arkansas Valley Town Company.
Section 33 is the site of the town of Kinsley. A second sale trans-
ferred a quarter section to Edward Kinsley, an employee of the
Santa Fe in Boston. The consideration was a nominal one of $1.00.
The last sale in 1873 gave possession of the northeast quarter of
section 7, T25, R19, to two local men.

10. The most useful published account of the early operations of this company is still
Glenn D. Bradley, The Story of the Santa Fe (Boston, 1920). Administration of the land
grant is discussed in Chapter 5.

11. The analysis of the land sales of the Santa Fe which follows is based on data taken
from the tract book of the Santa Fe and from the 15 volumes of the sales record held in
the tax division of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, Topeka.



FARMER DEBTORS IN PIONEER KINSLEY 87

Not until 1876 did the turnover of railroad land in the township
become rapid. In that year 29 sales were made. An additional 27
followed during the next two years. Over the next five years only
ten sales were made, but in 1884 and 1885 the total number of sales
recorded was 33.

TABLE 2
SANTA FE LAND SALES: KINSLEY TOWNSHIP

Total Successful Total Successful

Sales Buyers Sales Buyers

1873 3 - 2 1882 3 3

1874 6 2 1883 4 4

1875 1 1 1884 11 9

1876 29 10 1885 22 17

1877 14 3 1886 3 3

1878 13 4 1892 2

1879 2 2 1894 1

1880 1 .. 1895 1 1
1881

Totals 116 61

Actually only 110 individuals purchased land and only 58 individuals or
their assignees were successful in obtaining deeds. The totals in TABLE 2
stand at 116 and 61 because three buyers returned a second time to purchase
land, two others similarly returned but failed to complete one of the transac-
tions and one individual failed on two separate purchases. In the early years
of its land business the Santa Fe issued a separate contract for each quarter
section or less which was sold. TABLE 2, however, has been worked out in
terms of the individual purchasers rather than in terms of contracts. All land
contracts issued to the same buyer and bearing the same date have been
treated as part of one sale.

Of the 56 sales transacted in 1876, 1877 and 1878, 39, or 70%,
were eventually canceled. Some of the blame for the cancellations
may be placed specifically upon the weather. 12 In 1879 and 1880
drought severely damaged the crops in west central Kansas and
thereby the hopeful plans of many settlers. The officials of the
Santa Fe were not unaware of the settlers' problems. A corres-
pondent of the Kinsley Graphic reported in August, 1879, that the
railway company had offered to furnish seed wheat to all farmers in
Hodgeman, Pawnee, Ness, Edwards and Ford counties who had
experienced crop failure. 13 The company offered to bear the trans-

12. In his study of the turnover of farm population in selected townships throughout
Kansas, Professor Malin has discounted the influence of physical phenomena in either raising
or lowering the number of settlers that left pioneer communities. Rather he emphasized group
behavior, writing, "under any given set of general conditions, the farm operators in all parts
of the state reacted in much the same manner, the variations of local physical environment
exercising only a secondary or minor influence." "The Turnover of Farm Population in
Kansas," The Kansas Historical Quarterly, v. 4 (1935), November, pp. 339-372. One can ac-
cept this qualification and still argue that years of drought played a significant role in pro-
ducing cancellations since, according to Professor Malin, the inflow of population into pio-
neer areas fell off at such times. The outgoing settlers therefore, who would have assigned
or sold their contracts to newcomers, allowed them to lapse on their departure instead.

13. Taylor Jackson in Kinsley Graphic, August 9, 1879.



88 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

portation charges on the seed but the terms were to be "cash on de-
livery." The writer claimed that few settlers could meet these
terms, since the stores of cash which they had brought into the
region with them were exhausted.

Some months later the Graphic recorded that 15 or 20 men had
been sent west to work on the railroad on the previous morning and
added that the railroad was pledged to furnish work for settlers
who desired it. 14 In July, 1880, after repeated references to exodus
from the county, the Edwards County Leader reported that, "The
Railroad Company will furnish every farmer in the county with 25
bushels of wheat money or no money and take their note at 7%
interest. This is a good stand off, and we hope the boys wont be
slow to take advantage of it." 15

Few who defaulted on their agreements in the late 1870's had a
great financial stake in the land. On only seven of the 20 contract
sales made in 1876 and eventually canceled, was any principal paid.
Of the 18 sales made during the next two years and eventually
canceled, however, a portion of the principal was paid on all but
one. 16 But on only one of the 24 contracts of these years on which
principal was paid did the Santa Fe receive more than one install-
ment of the purchase price. During this period the company did
not cancel contracts immediately upon default. In most cases con-
tracts were canceled two or three years after the payments had
been allowed to lapse.

With the return of more favorable seasons in 1881, central Kansas
began to appear more attractive to prospective land buyers. By
1883 the Arkansas valley was beginning to experience a real estate
boom. As a result, the Santa Fe was able to dispose of all but a
few parcels of its land in Kinsley township during 1884 and 1885.
Seventeen of the 26 cash sales made in the township were transacted
in these two years, and the percentage of failure among purchasers
stood at 21% in comparison to 69% in the earlier period of heavy
sales.

In all, 58, or 53%, of the 110 original purchasers of railroad land
in Kinsley township, saw land deeded either to themselves or to
their assignees. Of the 58, 15, or 26%, assigned their contracts to 18
assignees. The total number of individuals who received deeds
from the Santa Fe, therefore, was 61.

The manner in which contracts were recorded and deeds issued

14. Kinsley Graphic, October 18, 1879.

15. Edwards County Leader, Kinsley, August 26, 1880.

16. Three contracts whose terms are in doubt fell in this period.



FARMER DEBTORS IN PIONEER KINSLEY 89

makes it difficult to sort out all of the buyers who obtained holdings
in several townships. But at least seven of the original 58 were
speculators, if we define such individuals as those who held their
land for a rise in price with no intention of farming it themselves.
Of these, Edward Kinsley obtained 160 acres; R. E. Edwards, mer-
chant and banker of Kinsley, purchased 340 acres within the town-
ship and at least 100 acres outside its boundaries; Peter Chesrown
of Ashland county, Ohio, bought 480 acres within the township;
and Graham and Ellwood of Dekalb, 111., held a section and a half.
Two purchases formed part of much larger transfers outside the
boundaries of the township. In this class fell a quarter section
obtained by Alexander and Fred Forsha of Topeka in 1885, as part
of a purchase which included ten and a quarter sections in adjacent
townships, and 1,100 acres in "Kinsley township, which Ott and
Tewkesbury of Topeka purchased as part of a transfer of 5,200
acres. It is possible that other purchases should be classed as
speculative. Of the 21 purchasers who bought more than 160 acres
of railroad land, only five can be identified subsequently from the
census rolls as rural residents in Kinsley township, whereas a ma-
jority of those buying 160 acres or less appear in the returns of the
census taker. 17

In numbers, the small purchaser outweighed those who obtained
relatively large units. Of the 58 original successful buyers, 40
bought a quarter section or less. The purchases of 15 fell between
160 and 640 acres. Three purchasers obtained more than a section.
Three in the first class, however, and one in each of the other two
size groups, purchased additional land outside Kinsley township.
These five purchases ranged in total size from 400 to 6,000 acres.

In terms of acreage, the story is somewhat different. In round
figures, the 40 purchasers of a quarter section or less bought 4,580
acres, while the remaining 18 buyers purchased 8,420 acres.

Although it has its limitations, a grouping by place of residence
at the time of purchase gives some clue to the background of those
who purchased railroad land. Of the 110 individuals whose names
appear in the sales record of the railway, 42 gave their address as
Kinsley, and 13 others resided elsewhere in Kansas. Thirty-two pur-
chasers came from Illinois, six came from Iowa, five from Wisconsin
and four from Pennsylvania. Missouri and Massachusetts both
contributed two buyers while Minnesota, Connecticut, Delaware
and New Mexico were all represented by one purchaser.

17. The manuscript census rolls of 1870 (federal), 1875 (state), 1880 (federal), 1885,
1895 and 1905 are held by the Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.

72826



90 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

Those who were successful in completing contracts issued prior
to 1879, took, on the average, 49 months to meet their obligations
to the railway company. Successful contractors from 1882 onward
paid out in 44 months on the average. The difference is not one
from which significant conclusions can be drawn. The fact that
funds were available more cheaply on mortgage security during the
second period may have encouraged contractors to pay out more
quickly.

There was no great overlapping among those who purchased rail-
road land and those who obtained land from the government.
Fifty-eight of the original purchasers of railroad land and 18 as-
signees can be described as successful in their dealings with the
Santa Fe. Five of the original 58 succeeded in obtaining both gov-
ernment and railroad land. One of the 18 assignees obtained title
to government land. Five of the remaining 85 individuals who
received patents on government land attempted railroad land con-
tracts but failed to complete them.

Seventy-nine percent of those who purchased railroad land elected
to buy their land on credit. Twenty-one percent paid cash. 18 Nine
of the 23 who made up the group of cash purchasers obtained units
of 320 acres or more. Two of these, the Forshas and Ott and
Tewkesbury, received 11,000 acres in total at a cost of $1.75 and
$1.25 per acre. The prices paid by the seven other large purchasers
ranged between $4.00 and $10.00 per acre.

Of the 87 individuals who sought to take the contract route to
ownership, 52, or 60%, failed either to obtain a deed or to assign
their contracts to someone who did so. In contrast, 34 out of 100
settlers who attempted to homestead land in the township, failed in
their efforts. The record on timber claims, however, was worse
than that made by the contractors with the Santa Fe. If we con-
sider totals, 41% of all individuals who sought land under the home-
stead, pre-emption, and timber culture acts, were completely unsuc-
cessful. In comparison, when cash sales of railroad land are con-
sidered along with contracts, 47% of the purchasers or their assignees
failed to obtain a deed. The percentages are surprisingly close.

If such percentages seem to indicate that price had little effect
on the success or failure of those seeking title to land in Kinsley
township, the conclusion is modified by a comparison between the
prices actually obtained by the Santa Fe in cash sales and on suc-
cessful contracts and the prices specified in canceled contracts of
the same years. In 1876, 1877, 1878 and 1885 a considerable num-

18. Actually 25 cash purchases were made but two buyers returned to obtain addi-
tional land.



FARMER DEBTORS IN PIONEER KINSLEY 91

her of both successful and abortive sales were transacted. In each
of these years, the average price in cash sales and successful con-
tracts fell below the average on the canceled contracts of the same
year by amounts ranging from $1.25 to $2.60 per acre. The average
price paid by successful purchasers on both cash sales and contracts
in the four years was $4.90 per acre; the average price which un-
successful purchasers agreed to pay was $6.70 per acre.

With this summary of the way in which the land in Kinsley
township entered private ownership, let us examine its role as mort-
gage security in a pioneer western township. 19

Of the 91 settlers who were successful in obtaining title to gov-
ernment land, 41, or 45%, did not mortgage their holdings. The
remaining 50, or 55%, did mortgage 53 tracts of land which they had
acquired from the government. Thirty-eight homesteads, eight
pre-empted parcels, five timber claims and two commuted home-
steads were thus encumbered. In other words, 58% of the home-
steads in the township were eventually mortgaged by the home-
steader who obtained title, while 50% of the commuted homesteads,
40% of the pre-emptions and 41% of the timber claims were similarly
burdened.

The dates on which the settlers mortgaged their land are of some
significance since they give a clue to the reasons underlying the de-
cisions to encumber land. It is interesting also to discover whether
the pattern of mortgaging differed radically on land which had been
obtained under the terms of the homestead act and on land which
had been obtained under other provisions of the land code.

Of the 53 parcels of government land which were eventually
mortgaged by their owners, 51% was mortgaged within six months
after the settler had received his final certificate. Another 9% was
mortgaged during the second six months of ownership. A further
15% was mortgaged in the second year and only 2% after five

19. All mortgage statistics used hereafter are derived from an analysis of the mortgage
registers of Edwards county, held in the office of the register of deeds at Kinsley. Those
interested in the technique of mortgage studies should read: Arthur F. Bentley, "The Con-
dition of the Western Farmer as Illustrated by the Economic History of a Nebraska Town-
ship," Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science, Baltimore, llth
series (1893), pt. VII, VIII; Robert Diller, Farm Ownership, Tenancy, and Land Use in a



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