Kansas State Historical Society.

The Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 20) online

. (page 39 of 76)
Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 20) → online text (page 39 of 76)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

two Andrew Carricks, a father and a son. There were also two John Shannons in the census.
The last ten names seem to have been added without much care- the two McBride names
are in the same hand, the next four in another, and the last four in yet another hand. Still
the Hayden name also appears in Ellen Maguire's history so there must have been a colonist
bv that name.


his census return showing 643 names of residents of Ness county. 68
Tradition has it that most of these names were copied from a Chi-
cago directory. 69 On October 23, 1873, Governor Osborn pro-
claimed Ness county temporarily organized and appointed John
Rodgers, O. H. Perry, and Thomas Myers as temporary commis-
sioners, Charles Maguire as county clerk and designated Smallwood
as temporary county seat.

Grateful and bursting with further plans for his colony, Rodgers
wrote to Smallwood: SMALLWOOD CITY

28 Oct 73

My Dear Friend

I did not get your Telegram till today, although I got the organization papers
on arrival.

Ten thousand thanks to you & Gov. Osborne I shall try to reciprocate the
very great kindness you have shown me & my Colony.

I will in due time render you good service in Several ways. We are going
to make this the nicest Town in Kansas and next autumn when we have got
up some good buildings, we will have in September a pleasure excursion of
Gentlemen & Ladies from Chicago We will then ask you to go along & make
the opening speech, and then you will see our progress, in the city of your
own name, 70 and I will interest you in it thoroughly.

Please convey my heartfelt thanks to Gov Osborne also

Receive my Kindest & best thanks till they are substantially conveyed.

Most truly yours


68. Strangely enough this figure is backed up by the assessor's report of Ness county
in June, 1873. According to a law of that year, the county assessor was instructed to take
a census of any unorganized county attached to an organized county for judicial purposes.
Although this assessor's report could not be found in the original, it was quoted in the
agricultural report of that year on Ellis county. This report gave Ness county 642 people.
The listing of 643 people in this census of October seems a most unusual coincidence. It
would seem almost impossible for Rodgers to have influenced that report and he did not use
it as backing when he later insisted that there was a much larger population in Ness county
in the summer than in the fall later. In certain other respects also, there would seem to
have been some more astute intelligence pulling strings that Rodgers scarcely could have
had access to. But as is made plain in the later stages of his adventure, Rodgers had no
political backing or influence and when the chips were down in the end, whatever hand
that had seemed to help, was discreetly withdrawn.

69. In all the fraudulent organizations of 1873, hotel registers and directories were
supposed to have supplied names for padded censuses. Wherever some of the names
came from, the Ness county census was quite carefully made up. Although residents outside
the Rodgers colony were clearly not consulted directly, their names were all there, and the
proper number of children were included in families, but the ages and given names were
guessed. The John Farnsworth family appeared as Robert Farnsworth 38, Mary Farnsworth
26, and Jane Farnsworth six. The Nelson Peckham family appeared as David Peckham with
wife and nine children ranging in age from 30 to four years of age.

70. There is an interesting side light on the naming of the town Smallwood. In
Comanche county, which Andrew J. Mowry was organizing at almost exactly this same
time, the county seat was also called Smallwood. The secretary of state evidently thought
too many namesakes were inadvisable and wrote suggesting that Mowry change the name
of his town. Mowry's answer to Smallwood remains in the Archives division of the Kansas
State Historical Society:


"Oct. 5, 73.

"I got your letter when I came here. I did not understand you fully in regard to
changing the name of my town in Comanche Co.

"I see the point now & if you are perfectly willing that the change should be made I
will readily consent to change to the name of Wilder I have the Proclamation can return


The first election in Ness county was held on November 4, 1873,
the regular election day of that year. The county had been di-
vided into precincts, perhaps townships this again in accordance
with the laws governing the organization of new counties. "They
had regular voting precincts all over the county but only on
paper." 71 Apparently residents outside the colony took part in
the election, 72 and John Farnsworth ran for sheriff. He stated that
he was at the polls at Smallwood all day and 48 votes were cast.
The same commissioners that had been initially appointed by the
governor, were elected as was Charles Maguire for county clerk.
Dr. Rodgers was elected representative and a certified abstract of
263 votes cast for representative was made on November 7, and
signed by the commissioners and the county clerk and sent to the
secretary of state in Topeka. Overlooked perhaps was the vote on
the amendment which was not reported until November II. 73 This
was an amendment to the state constitution increasing the number
of representatives in the house to 125. It was an amendment very
important to Rodgers, since the limitation of the members of the
house to 100 had resulted in his being sent home in 1873. In this
amendment there was also a provision that would in effect, make
necessary a larger population in a county before it could be rep-
resented, i. e., "the House of Representatives shall admit one mem-
ber from each county in which at least 250 legal votes were cast
at the next preceding general election." 74 Another important propo-

it and have the name changed if it would not make to much trouble in your OfBce When
you spoke of your last letter to me I did not think there was one that contained your sug-
gestion that I had not got owing to Wilders disposition & the County Seat of Ness being
what it is it may be for the Best to make the change if you do Send me another Proclama-
tion of the same date & I will return the one I have My Respect to all


"P. S. Steps are being taken to organize Clarke Co. I understand it and Hope the
Parties will succeed I will look out for the Governor interest there the same as in
Comanche A. J. M."

What could the governor's interest in Comanche have been? Comanche county turned
out to be nothing but a base for the issuance of thousands of dollars in bonds. And why
if the governor's duty was only ministerial in this matter was it so necessary to take care
of his interests at all times and thank him so devotedly for his help. Here too, it sounds
as if Mowry already had on October 5 the proclamation of organization of Comanche which
was dated October 28 and presumably not issued until after the census had been received in
Topeka. If this letter means what it seems to mean, this most flagrant of rigged county
organizations was rigged in the state capitol and the governor's interest provided for.

71. Ness County News, Ness City, May 31, 1930; Jim Litton's reminiscences.

72. James Litton stated that the other residents did not take part in the election,
but John Farnsworth in a sworn affidavit said he had been at the polls and Dr. Rodgers
in a sworn statement said Farnsworth ran for sheriff and was defeated. Hence at least one
of the other residents took part in the election.

73. Records of the office of the Kansas secretary of state. This report consisted of a
hand-written note to Smallwood stating that the vote at the election for the constitutional
amendment was 263. It was signed only by Charles Maguire, county clerk.

74. It is interesting to note that in all the new counties where organizations had just
taken place, the reported vote was over 250. What guardian angel saw to that? In many
of the older western Kansas counties a lower number of votes were reported: Pawnee 80,
Hooks 110, Ford 219.


sition that the Ness county voters approved was the issuance of
$5,000 in bonds for the building of a school house. 75

It was chiefly in this matter of voting bonds, that Rodgers failed
to live up to the pace set in 1873 by his fellow organizers in Barbour
county, Comanche county and Harper county. In Comanche bonds
to the amount of $72,000 were voted. In Harper the amount was
$40,000. In Barbour the total was $141,300. 76 The improvements
to be built in these counties ranged from courthouse, bridges and
several schools in Comanche to a courthouse and a railroad in Bar-
ber county. 77 It is to wonder that historians have thought fit to
put Ness county with her $5,000 schoolhouse in such a financially
superior class.

The county organized, the election held and the bonds voted,
Rodgers soon left Ness county. By November 18, he was in Chi-
cago and applying again to his friend Smallwood:

206 Twenty Sixth Street
Nov 18 -73

Dear Friend

I have sent you the vote on the amendment. I am anxious to hear whether
it is carried or not.

I came here to Negotiate Some School Bonds which we voted for the pur-
pose of erecting a School House in Smallwood. I will likely have to go to
New York as money is yet hard to get since the crash. If it necessary I will
refer the parties who purchase to you. Or if you would please drop me a few
lines stating what School Bonds sell for in Kansas generally. So that I may
use it if necessary as I am a stranger in New York.

I would like to know How the Amendment has resulted also. A reply at
your earliest convenience will oblige.

Your Friend truly


Here again Rodgers looks the awkward amateur among his
fellow county organizers. W. H. Homer, chief organizer of Har-
per county sold his $40,000 worth of bonds in St. Louis for $30,000

75. Ellen Maguire said that $15,000 was voted for the construction of a courthouse,
schoolhouse and a bridge across the Walnut, but no such bonds are mentioned anywhere
else. The Hays Sentinel, May 11, 1878, in speaking of Ness county bonds, reported the
sum as $5,000. There is every reason to believe that this newspaper was well informed
on this matter since D. C. Nellis, the editor in 1878, as a notary in 1873, notarized various
documents having to do with the Ness county organization and also in 1874, as Ellis county
attorney pressed the criminal case against Dr. Rodgers.

76. Laws of the State of Kansas, Special Session, 1874, p. 5. These were the amounts
of bonded indebtedness reported by the state auditor to the special session of the legislature
called in September, 1874. This session was called for the purpose of voting relief to the
people of the state whose crops had been destroyed by grasshoppers. But by that time the
bond scandal was so great that the special session voted for an investigation.

77. House Journal, 1875, pp. 70, 71.

78. Kansas State Historical Society, Archives division, Topeka.


without any need of help or recommendation from the secretary
of state. 79 The Comanche county bonds seem to have been passed
out generously to anyone who might happen to think he could sell
a few bonds. 80 However, the Comanche county group, captained
by A. J. Mowry, lured by the ease and size of their profits, began
issuing school bonds and thereby came to grief. Mowry took $2,000
worth to Topeka and sold them for $1,750 to the permanent state
school fund. W. H. Smallwood, secretary of state, and the state
superintendent of education both approved this purchase and it
was planned to load the school fund with more had the attorney
general not stopped it. 81

On the other hand, Rodgers had no connections through which
he could sell his comparatively modest Ness county bonds. Per-
haps he tried in New York but even there as far as can be ascer-
tained he could not sell the bonds. While there is no record of any
statement by Rodgers that he did not sell the bonds, they were
certainly never registered at the state auditor's office nor were they
ever presented for payment to Ness county. 82 In all other counties
with so-called "bogus organizations," the bonds had to be paid by
later settlers of the county and the courts upheld the purchasers in
their right to collection. It is impossible to believe that the bonds
of Ness county were sold and then not presented for payment.

But this is getting ahead of our story. While Rodgers was away
trying to sell the bonds, the colony was getting along as best it
could. As the winter deepened in Ness county and Rodgers did
not come back to provide the work and assistance expected, the
colonists began to believe that he had deserted them. They were city
people, carpenters, masons, and blacksmith and probably people
of no great resources. They had arrived too late in the fall and had
had no chance to sow and reap a crop. The loneliness and empti-
ness of western Kansas must have been frightening to these city
dwellers. Under these conditions it is remarkable that so many
were able to take care of themselves. Some went buffalo hunting,
others found employment in Hays or elsewhere. When the army,
keeping its customary eye on the frontier settlements, made a trip
to Smallwood on December 20, only the Maguire and Shannon

79. T. A. McNeil, When Kansas Was Young (New York, 1922), p. 47.

80. House Journal, 1875, p. 78. Minority report by Atty. Gen. A. L. Williams. Alex.
Mills, treasurer of Comanche county, told Williams that he did not know exactly how
many bonds were outstanding. Some men had taken bonds to sell but returned them unsold.

81. T. A. McNeU, op. cit., pp. 63, 64.

82. Hays Sentinel, May 11, 1878. Also a letter to R. J. McFarland of Ness, September
12, 1878, from Governor Anthony: "There is no evidence in the auditor's records of the
existence of any bonded indebtedness in your county." Governor's correspondence, Archives
division, Kansas State Historical Society.


families were found, "shirtless, shoeless and nearly destitute of
clothing, their appearance cadaverous and very emaciated appar-
ently from hunger." 83 When this was reported to Col. James Oakes
at Fort Hays, it was decided by a board of officers called for the
purpose, to issue rations to these people for 12 days. When the 12
days were past and Rodgers had not returned, the troops came
with wagons and removed the Maguire and Shannon families to
Hays. These families comprised six men, six women and nine
children and were not the whole colony by any means. 84 A number
of the other families were still in Ness county on January 12 when
John Farnsworth took his census. William Lenihan, who spent
the winter in the county, said that the settlers lived mostly on game
which was plentiful enough but tiresome. There was never much
at the colony store but flour, coffee, and sugar and that only in the

The Maguires, in all appearances the most whole-hearted sup-
porters of Rodgers in the beginning, were his most bitter detractors
when things went wrong. If the organization of Ness county was
a conspiracy with intent to defraud, then the Maguires were in it
up to their necks. But when their hopes were blasted, they laid
all their troubles onto Rodgers. In their statement to the army
officers at Hays they accused Rodgers not only for failing to keep
his many promises but stated that he had acted "dishonestly in that
he failed to pay over to the Railroad company, a certain sum of
money which was paid into his hands by a colonist," 85 for the pur-
pose of paying freight on certain baggage still held by the railroad
company. This seems to be a duplicate accusation as Rodgers had
already been accused of being responsible for transporting their
baggage to Ness county for the sum of money paid to him when
they joined his colony. If the colonist had already paid, why was
he paying a second time? When the army investigated the matter,
baggage was found held for non-payment of freight. This incon-
clusive accusation is the only definite charge of dishonesty made
against Rodgers. Another rather unreasonable Maguire grievance
was that lumber had not been furnished them and they had "been
compelled to dig dug-outs to protect themselves from the inclem-
ency of the winter/' 86 There was at that time no single stone,

83. Records of the War Dept., U. S. Army Commands, National Archives.

84. Ellen Maguire's history. Ellen Maguire tells this story as if the whole colony had
to be taken to Hays by the troops. According to the army record it was only the Maguire
and Shannon families. The statement made by the heads of families was signed by Bernard
Maguire, Charles Maguire, Henry Maguire, Henry Maguire, Jr., and John Shannon.

85. Here again Ellen Maguire intimates that the baggage of all the colonists was held
by the railroad.

86. Maguire-Shannon affidavit, loc. cit.


brick or frame house in Ness county or in any adjoining county.
Everybody lived in sod houses or dug-outs, as did the Rodgers

Other forces in Hays besides the army, were interested in Rodgers
and his colony for reasons not so altruistic as that of the army. The
composition and motives of these antagonistic forces are not clear.
Perhaps the "crowd" at Hays had intended some day to organize
Ness county as they had organized Ford county. If so, such intent
would explain certain previous actions in regard to Ness, that have
remained inscrutable to the historian. In 1873 when the boun-
daries of other counties were changed, why was the western line
of Ness county also pushed over one whole row of townships? 87
Who could have arranged that assessor's census report of 642 in-
habitants in Ness county in June, 1873, but some one in the county
clerk's office in Hays? While there were probably more Ness resi-
dents in June than in October, all sources indicate that the popula-
tion could scarcely have been 642. What these two preparatory
moves presaged, we can only guess. But that Rodgers' organiza-
tion of Ness county was deeply offensive to someone, we now know.

On November 13, when Rodgers had scarcely left the colony, an
attorney, A. D. Gilkeson, of Hays City, wrote to W. H. Smallwood,
"Will you be kind enough to inform me what parties were appointed
by the Governor to act as County Commissioners and County Clerk
of Ness County (newly organized) and also who took the census of
said county upon which Proclamation of Organization was made." 88
The next inquirer was N. Daniels, agent for the land department of
the Kansas Pacific railway, who wrote on November 17, 1873, to
the "Hon. Sec. of State," "Please send me a certified copy of the
papers from Ness County sent by Doctor Rogers for the organization
of Ness County with your fees and I will properly remit the
amount." 89

On December 9, 1873, N. Daniels swore to a complaint against
Dr. Rodgers. The case was filed before George R. Jones, a justice
of the peace in and for Big Creek township in Ellis county and in

87. In March, 1873, when the county lines were rearranged, Ford county received not
only a row of townships on the west from unalloted territory but also a row of townships
on the north taken from unorganized Hodgeman. Since Hodgeman was deprived of town-
ships on the south, it seemed only reasonable that the county should in lieu, acquire the
townships of Range 26 on the west. But why Ness county should also have been gifted
with that same range of townships on the west, has never been understood. Laws of the
State of Kansas, 1873, p. 148.

88. Secretary of state's correspondence, Archives division, Kansas State Historical
Society. Gilkeson was later an attorney in the case for perjury against Rodgers. He was
elected representative to the state legislature in 1876.

89. On this letter, found in the correspondence files of the secretary of state, is written
"Sent Nov. 26 See Letter Book." It is this letter book, strayed or stolen, that prevents
a complete appraisal of Smallwood's part in these various organization intrigues.


the appearance docket of the justice of the peace we have the fol-

N. Daniels personally appeared before me, who being duly sworn deposes
and says:

That on the day of A. D. 187 at the county of and state

of Kansas, Samuel G. Rodgers did then and there unlawfully and feloniously
commit the crime of perjury, the same being contrary to law made and pro-
vided against the peace and dignity of the state of Kansas and deponent prays
that process may be issued against the said S. G. Rodgers and that he be dealt
with according to law.


A warrant was issued on that same day for the arrest of Dr.

The files in the case are missing, likewise files in the district court
are missing. Since neither the complaint nor the information can
be found, the exact charge of "perjury" made by Daniels cannot be
obtained. It will be remembered that the only papers Dr. Rodgers
signed in the process of organizing Ness county, was the memorial
stating that the signatures attached were those of householders
of Ness county and that he believed there were 600 inhabitants.
This memorial was also signed by Henry Maguire and Edward
Maroney, both of whom were on December 9 residing in Ness
county and easily available to plaintiff, N. Daniels or anyone else,
who wished to establish that the county had been fraudulently
organized. The census taker, who had undoubtedly padded the
census, was also in Ness county. Too, there was Charles Maguire,
the county clerk, who had certified to 263 votes that had not been
cast in the election.

It is plain, however, that it was not so much the fraudulent or-
ganization that bothered N. Daniels and the other interested Hays
men as it was Rodgers. So they made ready for him if and when
he should return.

On January 7, John Farnsworth, who Rodgers claimed was a de-
feated candidate for sheriff, made an affidavit in Hays before the
notary, D. C. Nellis, testifying in part:

That he has been a resident of Ness county for ten months past; that on
December 22d and 23d, 1873, he took a census of all the inhabitants of Ness
county and that the number . . . did not exceed one hundred forty,
including men, women and children; that he was at Smallwood City, the
temporary county seat, on the evening of the day of the election,
and saw the record of votes cast, and the poll books showed 48 votes cast; that
he was well acquainted with all the legal voters of the county of Ness, and that

90. City clerk's records, Hays.


on the 4th day of November, 1873, there were but 14 legal voters in the
county who had resided in said county for thirty days or more. 91

On January 10, 1874, J. W. Hickel of the Rodgers' colony also
made affidavit, stating,

That he is a resident of Ness county and has resided there for four months
last past; that he is well acquainted with all the inhabitants of said Ness
county and knows the number does not exceed 200; that he knows all the
legal voters who were in the county at the election of November 4, 1873,
and that the number does not exceed fifteen. 92

A week later, John Farnsworth took another census in two days
finishing on January 13, listing the heads of families by name and
finding 79 inhabitants. 93 This census was also furnished to the
interested men at Hays, whose representative, John McGaffigan,
was preparing to confront the legislature and Dr. Rodgers with
all these documents in case he should come back to sit in the legis-
lature when it convened in January, 1874.

Rodgers did come back to sit in the legislature. Perhaps he did
not know of the measures taken against him. And even had he
known, he probably could not imagine that they would matter.
Had not practically every county in western Kansas been organized
in the same way he had organized Ness and had not the organizers
earned thereby a reputation of shrewd maneuver? He had but fol-
lowed others' footsteps with the co-operation of the secretary of
state and the governor and just like his fellows, he could expect to
be taken into the house even if there were objections. He had not
been able to sell the bonds, but that was no offense to anyone except

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 20) → online text (page 39 of 76)