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settlers had come into these new counties, the town planners be-
came increasingly aware that a central location was the determining
factor when the voters came to choose the county seat. County
seats, already located, might even lose that honor, if the situation
was deemed too inconvenient. So the more politically influential
town planners had the county lines redrawn, a process much simpler
to accomplish than moving their town and much less painful than
losing the county seat.

39. The Law* of the State of Kansas, 1873, pp. 152, 153.



DR. S. G. RODGERS, GENTLEMAN FROM NESS 319

Henry Booth intimated that he got this idea from the managers
of the Chicago colony, who instructed Rodgers to go down to
Topeka and get the lines changed so as to eliminate Larned from
Pawnee county. This is hard to believe since in the whole course
of rivalry between Booth and Rodgers, Rodgers seems to have been
continually several jumps behind the more agile Booth. But how-
ever the idea originated, Booth, according to his own admission,
was one of those who implemented it. Although eliminated from
a seat in the legislature himself, he remained to look after his in-
terests and so potent was his influence that "the county lines were
changed by cutting twelve miles off the south leaving Petersburg
out and adding six miles on the north, which were taken from
Rush county, and six miles on the east, which were taken from
Stafford county." This as Booth said frankly, "brought Larned
nearer the center of the county and strengthened it as the county
seat." He failed to add that Larned was the stronger, too, because
not only Petersburg but every other town, was by this same action,
cut off and cast out of Pawnee county entirely. 40

More graphically than words, the accompanying map tells the
story of this rearrangement of county lines and the ensuing benefit
to county seats of that area. 41

On January 25, 1874, the Topeka Commonwealth reported that
two petitions had been presented to the legislature asking that the
original county lines of Pawnee county be restored. One petition
was signed by inhabitants living in Pawnee county; the other was
signed by the inhabitants of the detached part of Pawnee county. 42
The result was that the legislature again saved Booth and his county
seat by returning one township to Pawnee the one containing Gar-
field and creating Edwards county out of the orphan townships.

Whether by design or unwittingly, the legislature of 1873 did
Booth and Pawnee another good turn. A law was passed detaching
Pawnee from Ellis county for judicial purposes and authorizing dis-
trict courts to be held in Pawnee. 43 This recognition by the legisla-
ture of Pawnee as an organized county caused the supreme court
to declare in March, 1874 (12 Kan. 426), that since the legislature
had the exclusive power to provide for the organization of new coun-

40. Booth's history, loc. cit.

41. The Laws of the State of Kansas, 1873, pp. 146-156.

42. Booth could not afford to have the original county reconstituted. Although Larned
was voted the county seat at a special election on October 7, 1873, he was worried about
the county lines and on November 14 wrote to W. H. Smallwood, secretary of state, who
seems to have been the special friend of all the county organizers, "I wish you would do
all you can consistently for me and our County. We are in a condition that renders it
absolutely necessary for us to have someone to watch our interests especially our County
lines."

43. The Laws of the State of Kansas, 1873, pp. 165-167.



320



KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY



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ties, the fraudulent organization of Pawnee was cured of its defect
and rendered valid by this recognition of the county organization.
All in all the legislature of 1873 could not have done more for Henry
Booth even if it had admitted him to membership.

Properly for this story, the chronicle of Henry Booth should end
with the casting out of Petersburg and Dr. Rodgers from Pawnee
county, but as a contribution to an understanding of the political
climate of that day, the manipulations of Henry Booth are important.
Henry Booth never suffered any loss of honor or prestige on account
of his actions and maneuvers in organizing and maintaining his hold
over the political affairs of Pawnee county. He became clerk of the
house in the legislature of 1875 and 1876, later speaker of the house,
and in 1878 was appointed district land agent at Larned. His-
torians have never classed him with the other fraudulent county
organizers of his time, although he used exactly the same methods



DR. S. G. RODGERS, GENTLEMAN FROM NESS 321

with the exception that he did not perhaps load his county with
a great burden of bonds as did some of the other organizers. In
Pawnee and Edwards counties his tactics were expressed, summed
up and possibly also judged by the phrase, he "out-generaled" his
opponents. 44 And it is quite likely that his success encouraged other
opportunists to go and do likewise.

And what of Dr. Rodgers? Apparently a sincere, well-meaning
man, obsessed with the dream of founding a model colony in the
west for workingmen, he had been frustrated and beaten at every
turn. He had not attracted enough colonists to retain his leadership
after the more numerous Massachusetts colony had coalesced with
the few settlers from Chicago. Although he retained his equity in
the Buffalo House and it was on its way to become one of the most
important dining stops along the Santa Fe railroad, it had capable
managers. While we can only conjecture, Rodgers' actions suggest
that he still retained his faith in the country and his project; that
he believed that having learned the tactics of the day in organizing
counties and being given a clear field, where old animosities would
not interfere, he could apply his hard-won knowledge and still
build a successful colony. Dr. Rodgers sought a new field for his
operations.

Now other less scrupulous men, desirous of organizing counties
in 1873, also sought places well off the beaten path, where they
might, unobserved, complete their plans, vote their bonds and de-
part to cash them, leaving the payment to the future citizens of the
luckless county. Some of these conspirators scarcely bothered to
go into the county which they were prepared to victimize. 45 While
Dr. Rodgers' organization in Ness county has always been classed
along with these others in 1873, there were several important dif-
ferences. 46 For one thing, he insisted on having a population and
went to great trouble to recruit it from among workingmen of

44. Walker's history, Edwards County Leader, March 14, 1878.

45. Harper and Comanche counties were particularly notorious for their illegal or-
ganizations in 1873. A special session of the state legislature in September, 1874, alarmed
by the great number of bonds that had been issued in these counties, appointed an investi-
gating committee of which A. L. Williams, the attorney general, was one. His report
(House Journal, 1875, p. 72) states: "It is not pretended that Harper county ever had an
inhabitant; it is doubtful even if the bond-makers of that county were ever in the county."
Of Comanche, he said: "I visited the county myself, and declare, as the results of actual
observation, that there are no inhabitants in the county, and that there never was a bona
fide inhabitant there."

46. It is believed that much of the ill repute of Dr. Rodgers and his Ness county
organization is due to the scandals connected with the other counties that were organized
at the same time. Since practically every county that was organized in the decade of
1870-1880 was attended by fraud in some particular or degree, the study of any one
specific county is really a study in the variations and contrast among these several counties.
Ness county has always been bracketed with Harper and Comanche, but the details of the
organizations differ greatly, as can be shown.

23-5464



322 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

Chicago and take it to Ness county. He was even rather particular
about who was to belong to the colony, enlisting workmen of various
crafts so the colony would have within itself the skills necessary
to actually build a model community. It is believed that he still
held to the co-operative organization, 47 envisioning the group work-
ing together to build the public buildings the community would
need. If Dr. Rodgers had larceny in his heart, and that alone, he
certainly went to a lot of trouble that was totally unnecessary.

While we have no direct information that Rodgers ever visited
Ness county to locate a site for his proposed colony, it seems likely
that he did. 48 For by June, 1873, the plans were laid. In that
month William Lenihan, one of the colonists, who remained in the
West afterwards and has been one of our principal sources of in-
formation concerning the colony, 49 met Rodgers at Rush street
bridge in Chicago where boys were scattering literature, and be-
came interested. Later he went to Rodgers' office where he pur-
chased a town lot in the town-to-be for $30, paying $10 down and
being trusted for the rest. 50 The depression of 1873 was already so
severe in Chicago, that Lenihan was able to draw only a few dollars
a week from his bank account. Acquaintances in Chicago thought
he was crazy to consider going way out west to a place no one knew
anything about.

The Maguires and John Shannon 51 became members of the colony
later. They stated:

That in the month of September 1873 and for some time thereto, they
were residents of the city of Chicago . . . that their attention was at-
tracted by divers advertisements appearing in the public prints 52 of that city

47. There is but little information on this point. The colony was so short-lived that there
remains few details of its community structure. However, there were evidences that the
colonists were to function in some respects as a group and had certain expectations as mem-
bers of the group that would imply some co-operative organization. None of the colonists
was ever questioned on this point as far as is known because Dr. Rodgers' interest in co-
operative colonies has been but recently discovered, too late to question any of the colonists
who remained in the west.

48. George Strong, a Ness county settler in July, 1873, near whose home the Rodgers
colony located its town, met the first contingent when it arrived in Hays. Hence there must
have been some communication between him and Rodgers previously.

49. William Lenihan, a young man of 21 years, was from a farm near Cooperstown,
N. Y., and had been a carpenter in Chicago only a few months. He remained in Ness
county a number of years, then moved to Lane county and died in Scott county in 1942.
Fern Cook interviewed Lenihan in 1935 and he stated at that time that he still had his
receipt for his town lot. Other garbled, inaccurate interviews with Lenihan on the subject
of the Rodgers' colony were reported in The Neics Chronicle, Scott City, September 21, 28,
and October 5, 12, 19, 1939. Also in the Hutchinson Herald, May 28, 1940. Lenihan was
reluctant to talk about the organization because he did not share the common belief in
Rodgers' rascality and that was what the interviewers asked about.

50. As far as can be ascertained this was the only charge for becoming a member of the
Rodgers colony.

51. The Maguires were a family group from Ireland composed of the mother with a
number of her children, grown, several with families. John Shannon also was a family man
from Ireland.

52. The Chicago Tribune of May, June, July and August, 1873, and the Chicago Journal
of June, July and August, 1873, were searched in the hope of finding Rodgers' advertisement
but there was none that could be definitely attributed to him.



DR. S. G. RODGERS, GENTLEMAN FROM NESS 323

and in other ways, to a certain scheme of colonizing a portion of the State of
Kansas which was known under the name of the Rodgers' Colony. 53

Rodgers enlisted some 20 or more members for his Ness county
colony 54 some were young single men and some were men with
families, about two-thirds of them of Irish extraction. 55 By the
middle of August the plans neared completion and Rodgers asked
the U. S. army headquarters in Chicago to arrange for an army
escort from Hays to Ness county upon the arrival of the colonists in
Kansas. 56 However, the first group of about 15 families did not
leave Chicago until September. They occupied one whole car of
the train, thus getting a cheaper ticket rate for the group. It is not
known whether Dr. Rodgers accompanied this group or not. On
September 20, 1873, he wrote the Kansas secretary of state from an
undisclosed location:
HON. W. H. SMALLWOOD

Dear Sir I tried to see you before you left here. Will you please have
James Lee appointed Justice for Ness Co. at your earliest convenience.

Will [you] also send me to (Hayes City) in care of postmaster, the exact
form necessary to the organization of our county. I mean the form of appli-
cation. Please send it on by first mail if possible, and in due time I will
thoroughly reciprocate.

Most truly

S. G. RODGERS M. D. 57

Here we have the first intimation that there might have been
some understanding between Smallwood and Rodgers. While this
is the only letter remaining of the correspondence of the secretary
of state that shows Rodgers to have suggested appointments, un-
doubtedly he suggested others. 58

53. This statement is from an affidavit made to the officers at Fort Hays when later
these people were destitute and asking for help. Records of the War Dept., U. S. Army
Commands, National Archives.

54. Ellen Maguire, daughter of Charles Maguire, a colonist, compiled and read a
brief history of Ness county before a Ness County Teachers' Association at Cleveland school
house, Saturday, January 20, 1894, which gives some detnils on the Bodgers' colony. This
history remains in the collection of the Ness County Historical Society. Ellen Maguire
stated that there were 20 families in the colony. Lenihan seems to have implied that there
were more.

55. Fern Cook's interview of Lenihan.

56. According to the Fort Hays letter book, now in the National Archives, the com-
mander at Fort Hays wrote to the Chicago headquarters in August:

"Referring to your letter of the 20th relative to sending a corporal and five or six men
for a limited time to the colony of Mr. Rodgers, in order to give confidence to his immigrants,
be pleased to say that the wishes of the general will be complied with as soon as Mr.
Rodgers expresses a wish to that effect. Up to this time, we have no information that any
colony under his charge has been established on Walnut Creek."

57. Correspondence of the secretary of state, Archives division, Kansas State Historical
Society.

58. The correspondence files of Secretary of State Smallwood now remaining in the
Archives division of the Kansas State Historical Society are plainly incomplete. The letter
book containing the replies of the secretary to his correspondents has disappeared. When
the conduct of this office was investigated in 1875, the committee stated, "Your committee
desires to say they believe there had been no intentional wrong done the State on the part
of Mr. Smallwood but that the administration of this office has been permitted to become
inefficient, through usages not positively prohibited by law which have become in some
instances scandalous. The office should be completely reorganized by statute." House
Journal, 1875, p. 917.



324 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

When the group of colonists arrived in Hays City, their departure
for Ness county was delayed because there were insufficient wagons
and teams in the colony to transport them and their belongings.
Then the commander at Ft. Hays provided them with some wagons
as well as with the promised escort of soldiers and they started over-
land for their destination, many of them walking. The weather was
warm and pleasant and they enjoyed the journey, stopping the first
night on the Smoky, the second in what is now the McCracken
vicinity, the third night at John Farnsworth's (near what is now
Bazine) and finally arriving at the forks of the Walnut on the
fourth day out. 59 Here they proceeded to immediately establish
the town of Smallwood and begin the construction of their sod
houses. One street was laid out with houses alongside, the sod
for them being dug with a spade. The houses had fireplaces and
Dutch ovens beautifully laid by the Maguires, from a red stone
peculiar to the Smoky river region. 60 The town was splendidly lo-
cated on Section 16, Township 19, Range 23, near the creek with
an abundant supply of wood and water. There was a large build-
ing, the store, where elections and other meetings were held. There
was also a blacksmith shop.

There remains no record evidence that the colony was to be
operated in a co-operative manner although there is direct testimony
that the townsite was to be jointly owned and that in the beginning
at least, work, tools and, provisions were to come from a common
pool. A near-by settler, 61 not of the colony, wrote many years after-
wards:

We are told that during the colonization in Chicago, Rodgers and Small-
wood 62 charged each family quite a sum of money to become members of
this colony, and that they were promised to be located where land was cheap
and plentiful and would be given an equal share in the townsite, which would
become the county seat; that in two or three years it would become a city of
ten thousand or more; they would all become wealthy and they would live
a luxurious life on the income from the sale of their land and city property.

The Maguires later, when destitute and making a good case of
their necessity for relief, made the following statement:

That Rodgers at the time of their subscribing themselves as members and at
various other times did make the following assurances and promises to each

59. Ellen Maguire's history.

60. Reminiscences of Claude Miller, who as a boy played among the ruins of Smallwood.

61. James Litton lived along the Walnut not far from Smallwood. He left Ness County
in the early 1880's and moved to Oregon. Some 50 years later he wrote his Ness county
reminiscences which were printed May 31, 1930, in The Ness County News.

62. Litton names a C. A. Smallwood as Rodgers' right hand man, describes him as a
tall man and says he heard of him later in, Sprague, Wash. Lenihan also seems to remember
such a person. But since no such name appears in any of the records pertaining to the
colony, it is believed that there may have been some confusion of names in this instance.



DR. S. G. RODGERS, GENTLEMAN FROM NESS 325

of them, viz: that during the first year of their occupancy of the lands which
he would provide he would furnish them with plow, teams and seed for getting
the same into cultivation; that money for other necessary articles would be
provided by him; ( that groceries and provisions for their sustenance and that
of their families he would furnish as needed; that any of the colonists who
so desired after their arrival on the lands would be hired by him (Rodgers)
at the rate of Thirty ( $30.00 ) Dollars per month for the first month and after-
wards he would pay any such hired laborers at the rate and wages paid in the
nearest town or village in the vicinity of the colony . . . that he would
see that themselves, their household goods and baggage were safely transported
to said lands . . .^

While this statement is undoubtedly a magnification of the hopes
and plans of Rodgers, given by the Maguires in a moment of stress
and disillusionment, still it probably contains an inkling of what
Rodgers might have planned to accomplish by co-operative effort.
The doctor himself apparently had little financial resource. 64 Wil-
liam Lenihan stated positively that his membership in the colony
cost but $30 with a town lot thrown in. He stated further that the
trip on the railroad was cheap because they came in a group in one
car. It seems unlikely that any colonist paid either to Rodgers or
any community fund, an amount sufficient to provide the services
that the Maguires seem to have expected. Certainly Dr. Rodgers
could not have promised all these things to Lenihan without, in the
end, disillusioning that young man too. And yet Lenihan, a quiet,
reliable man, insisted all his life that Dr. Rodgers treated him fine
and that any short cuts Dr. Rodgers took in the details of organizing
Ness county were but the necessary expediences that often con-
fronted Western pioneers. 65 Perhaps Dr. Rodgers actually believed
that if the county could be organized and the bonds voted, the
colony could employ itself for a time at building the schoolhouse.
The make-work idea was not unknown even in those days. The
Maguires had taken a most active and important part in the building
of the houses for the community and, as masons, they could expect
to be employed in any public building that might be done.

Upon his arrival in Hays City, Dr. Rodgers received the organi-
zation application which he had requested from the secretary of
state. It was all written up in the form of a memorial to the gov-
ernor and read in part,

Respectfully pray your excellency to appoint a bona fide census taker to
make census of Ness County as required by law. We have reason to believe
there are 600 inhabitants. If the enumeration made by said census taker shall
be satisfactory to your excellency, then we, your petitioners would further

63. Maguire-Shannon affidavit, Records of the War Dept., National Archives.

64. His Buffalo House in Petersburg was loaded with liens.

65. The News Chronicle, Scott City, September 21, 1939.



326 KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY

pray for the immediate organization of the county of Ness as provided by law.
To this end we pray for the appointment of three temporary county commis-
sioners as provided by law, and we would recommend for county seat
Smallwood. 66

To this memorial 40 signatures were appended, the number re- t
quired by law. Since these names include probably all the Rodgers
colonists, which are to be found nowhere else, they are listed here.
Samuel G. Rodgers W. S. Grieve George Hayes

John M. Rodgers Jeremiah Hickel Patrick O'Donel (mark)

Henry Maguire Patrick O'Donnel Patrick McCleary

(by mark) Robert Donlop John McBride

Bernard R. Maguire O. H. Perry Alexander McBride

Henry Maguire George Morris Patrick Hays

Charles Maguire William Sultzer James Hayden

William Meyers Andrew Carrick John Kilfoil

Henry Myers (mark) Michael (or Nicholas) Carman

John Shannon John Shannon Anson Carman

Andrew Carrick (mark) S. Casselman

Andrew Carrick E. Maroney Erastus Casselman

Charles Myers James Lee Buck Carman 67

D. N. Hadden John Lee

W. H. Gage John O'Toole

Since there were a number of other families in the county, the
total of householders in the county was certainly more than 40.
But here we find Rodgers modeling closely on the pattern he had
observed in Pawnee county where the whole matter was kept within
the one tight little group. So it is possible that this list of house-
holders was stretched a bit.

The petition was taken to Hays and there before D. C. Nellis,
notary,

Samuel G. Rodgers, Henry Maguire, and Edward Maroney being duly sworn,
depose and say that they are householders of the county of Ness of the state
of Kansas and that the signatures subscribed to the above and foregoing peti-
tion are the genuine signatures of bona fide householders of the unorganized
county of Ness; and that they verily believe there are six hundred inhabitants
in said county.

In due time, John Maroney was appointed census taker, taking
oath on October 14 to "faithfully discharge the duties of census
taker for the unorganized county of Ness." On October 22, he made

66. Records of the office of the secretary of state, Topeka. The memorial seems to
have been written up in the secretary of state's office since the paper bears the same
stationer's mark as the sheet on which the governor's proclamation was later written.

67. It will be noted that Andrew Carrick's name appears three times and John Shannon
twice. In the first instance it was the last name at the bottom of the sheet and the first
at the top of the next page. Checked with the later census there seems to have been



Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 20) → online text (page 38 of 76)