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The Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) online

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cated at convenient points in the city. The architecture of these
buildings is tasty and attractive. They are large, roomy and sup-
plied with modern furniture and conveniences throughout. Last
year the city paid her teachers $50,000 in salaries ranging from
$500 to $2,000. Most of the teachers employed are ladies who
command from $500 to $1200 salaries. The superintendent informs
us that he gives the ladies preference in all places they are compe-
tent to fill.

The schools are now the pride of the city, and are doing much to
attract a population of intelligence and refinement.

Churches go hand in hand with schools. The city has many
prosperous societies which are gradually increasing their congrega-
tions, and two or three are erecting good buildings for worship.
But at the present time the city has a great work in this line to do.
There is not yet an elegant church standing, and the standard of
morals has not yet been raised to that point which renders the
building of fine churches an easy matter. Church-going has not
acquired that popularity which might be expected from the enter-
prise in schools. The society contains a large per cent of the rough
and tumble business energy, an element more apt to build up sa-
loons and good liveries than fine churches. There is also a large
element of real roughs, whose energy is spent principally in the
direction of beer drinking, horse racing, street fights and attendance
upon the police courts. But this is not to be wondered at in a
western city of rapid growth. The population is heterogeneous,
coming from everywhere, bringing all sorts of customs and princi-
ples. But the good people are active in their efforts to improve
society and are rewarded with abundant indications of better days

The country around Kansas City is as good as lies out of doors.
The old farms sell from $100 to $300 per acre, according to quality
and improvements. The land is excellent for grain and stock
farms. The farmers are usually independent, solid men and pride
themselves upon their fine cattle and horses. As a fruit growing
region it is also unsurpassed. Every farm has its large orchards of
choice apples, peaches and pears. Grapes are also raised in abun-
dance, also raspberries, strawberries, watermelons, &c. This feature
of the locality is what would please everyone. For health and
luxury of living, give us a fruit growing country. A few snows with
perhaps a few weeks of sleighing is all the winter ever known here.


Many winters pass without a single week of sleighing. Not half
the people who keep good horses ever bother themselves with
sleighs of any description. Isn't this charming? Wouldn't the
Vermont reader delight to live in a country where he could hie to
the woods in January and sun himself on a log? If you ever come
out here at that season of year, it wouldn't be policy to strike for
the woods at once, because the log might be covered with snow;
but there is scarcely a January passes, that during some part of it,
the ground is not bare and the weather mild.

All things considered, I believe the latitude of Cincinnati, St.
Louis and Kansas City the most desirable for its climate. It is the
medium between the frigid North and the sunny South, affording
long and mild summers, and winters not severe. The most desirable
vegetation has abundance of time to mature. People are not
obliged to spend money and patience over hotbeds, to get a ripe
tomato or a watermelon. Sewing and planting can begin in March
and the harvest time comes long before Jack Frost puts in his
appearance. [C. M. C.]


Nov. 17, 1873.

This is down south; 169 miles south of Kansas City and in the
southeastern corner of the state, two miles north of Indian Territory
and seven miles west of the Missouri state line. We arrived here
Monday evening, Oct. 27, and since have been interviewed by
disease, "right smart." We have been confined to the bed for a
week, and to the house for a longer period, and are now practicing
moderately each day with a shotgun to regain 25 pounds of strength
parted with during sickness.

Speaking of shotguns reminds us that we see, by actual count
2,000,000 prairie chickens every day. That means an indefinite
number, which, actually, cannot be counted. The prairies are alive
with them, but they are grown up and know about as much as a
green hunter from Vermont. As a general thing they are too much
for us, but a few of them, having blundered against our ammuni-
tion, have deceased and been buried with pot pies. The time for
hunting them is in August and September, when the hen and her
little brood occupy together. At this time the pointer starts them up
one by one for the hunter to shoot. But now they congregate in
flocks of from 20 to 500 or more, are wild and difficult to approach.
We took a stroll about the farm a few days ago, and started up


thousands during a two hours' slow tramp. We bagged a few, but
an expert with the same opportunity would have secured at least
20 birds. The day was very hot, at which times they sit very still
in the grass during the middle of the day. Quail, ducks and geese
also abound here, and we have been twice serenaded by prairie
wolves. They do not sing in tune, at all. We were complimented
with a duet, only, but it sounded as if somebody was whipping a
pen of two dozen small curs. It was difficult to believe that only
two wolves were capable of getting up such a variety of quavers.
Forty miles below, in the Indian nation, is a favorite resort for
hunters who spend a fortnight or so there, between now and the
first of January, taking deer and wild turkey in abundance. Lovers
of sport, who can afford it, are finely rigged with breech-loading
shotguns and rifles, schooled dogs, &c., and expect to devote a few
weeks each year exclusively to hunting.

The weather of this locality is what charms me most. For the
past fortnight, with the exception of two or three days, it has been
like a Vermont June, pleasant, mild, and a few days quite as warm
as desirable for outdoor labor. This weather, we are told, often
continues till Christmas. A foot of snow would cover the entire
fall for a winter, and it is rare that a single fall remains upon the
ground three days. Farm stock expect no better shelter than that
afforded by the warm side of a haystack. The reader may infer
from this that the warm summer months are insufferable, but the
inhabitants tell a different story. The thermometer seldom reaches
100 and the nights are invariably cool, so that the inhabitants
begin their day's work invigorated by a season of refreshing rest.
But we must not omit to mention that hurricanes pass this way.
This endless prairie is a favorite place for wind frolics. Nor is it
altogether in the way of frolics, for the atmosphere often gets on
a rampage which threatens serious business. A man can navigate
in a rain or snow storm easier than in a prairie wind, and it would
be safe to reckon on six days in every month of furious blowing.
This, with the drouth which is apt to visit this locality nearly every
summer, baking the soil, and, to some extent, retarding vegetation,
is the only fault to be found with the climate.

In 1864 we visited Fort Scott, 100 miles south of Kansas City,
then the lowest town in southern Kansas. It consisted of a fort,
with a few houses built up near it. Olathe and Paola were the only
towns of any importance north of it. These towns were all very
small. They had been through the fever heat of town lots, but were


crippled by the check of business produced by the war. Real
estate holders were blue enough, and in many cases sold out for
what they could and moved away. But when the war closed busi-
ness revived, railroads in different parts of the state were chartered
and built, the state adopted the best means to secure emigration,
and people and enterprises of all kinds came into the state so fast
as to astonish the most sanguine expectations. No state in the
Union has secured so large a population of emigration during the
past ten years.

Seven years ago that strip of country south of Fort Scott, fifty
miles wide, belonged to the Cherokee Indians, and there was but
now and then a white settler in it. In 1866 the government, as
trustee of the Indians, sold the tract, consisting of about 800,000
acres, for $1 per acre, to the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf
Railroad. The company consisted of Boston capitalists, with James
F. Joy of Michigan as their representative. The railroad was com-
menced in 1870, and in 1871 was running to the Indian line, 159
miles in length. 4 All along the road little villages sprang up and the
older villages grew rapidly. Olathe soon became an enterprising
little city of 2000 inhabitants, Paola 3000, and Fort Scott has grown
into one of the best towns in the state, numbering some 7000
people. Between Fort Scott and Baxter are several important vil-
lages, among them Girard, county seat of Crawford county, 1,200
inhabitants, and Columbus, county seat of Cherokee county, 700
inhabitants. At this point the Memphis & Northwestern R. R., now
nearly completed, intersects with the Fort Scott and Gulf road,
and will very soon make a flourishing city of Columbus. 5

Baxter, of all these new villages, has the most peculiar history.
While the road was building, certain enterprising people, predict-
ing that the last town on the line would necessarily take a great
trade from the Indian Territory and Texas, hurried to Baxter, the
terminus of the projected road, laid out a town, began to advertise,
sell lots, and build. The town started however in 1866, as a sort
of a trading point for Texas cattle, and had grown into a place of
about 100 inhabitants when the railroad question was settled.
When the engine reached the village in the spring of 1870 it found
one of the liveliest little towns in Kansas, containing between 2000

4. The road opened for business to Olathe, 21 miles from Kansas City, December 16,
1868; to Fort Scott, 100 miles, December 6, 1869; and to the south state line, 161 miles,
May 2, 1870. Report of the Directors of the Missouri River, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad
Co. . . ., June, 1871 (Boston, 1871), pp. 13, 14, 23.

5. The Memphis, Carthage and Northwestern R. R. Co. was reorganized to form the
Missouri and Western railway. Its line extended from Pierce City, Mo., to Oswego, a
distance of 73 miles. H. V. Poor, Manual of the Railroads of the United States for 1877-78
(London, 1877), p. 838.


and 3000 people. Town lots were selling rapidly at fabulous prices.
The idea of future growth and importance was up to fever heat.
In the latter part of 70 and in 71 the increase surprised the most
sanguine friends of the young city. Her population had reached
5,000. During this prosperity Baxter was a fast town. Every third
door was a gambling house or a beer saloon. The highest qualifi-
cation the citizen could offer as a candidate for office was a red
nose, and science in handling cards. Fast men got control of and
ran the city. But, notwithstanding general tendency to dissipation
and fast life, school, churches and public institutions received more
than liberal support: $17,000 was appropriated for a school house,
$10,000 for a town hall, several churches were organized, and
money voted liberally for street improvements. The highest point
reached by the city was about the close of 1871, from which time
she began to decline nearly as fast as she had grown up. The
Texas cattle trade was diverted by railroads reaching the Indian
line further west. The lead mining interest, which had promised
much, failed to meet expectations.

Lead mines of great richness were opened in Missouri, 15 miles
east, where in two years and a half has grown up a city named
Joplin, which now numbers 7000 inhabitants. The rapid decline
created a panic among property holders, some of them sold for what
they could get and left the place. Others took down their houses
and carted them over to Joplin. The city does not contain today
one-half the number of people it had in 1871, and, as for property,
there is no sale for it at any price. The Methodist church owns a
lot for which they refused $5000 in 1871, but could not sell today
for $100. But as a part compensation for this reverse of fortune,
Baxter has fallen into better hands, and is now governed by cool-
headed business men men possessing good judgment, principle
and enterprise. The mayor, H. R. Crowell, an eastern man, and one
of the solid merchants of southern Kansas, believes in the future of
Baxter, and is laboring to give it a good foundation for a healthy
growth. Although the reckless extravagance of two years ago has
left the city largely in debt, the present authorities are determined to
honor every dollar and to keep good the credit of the city. M. W.
Colton, postmaster, informs us that last year the post office was
worth $2,100, but this year the salary has been cut down to $1,800.
The salary of the post office is not a bad index to the importance of
the town. We visited the public schools the other day, and found
an excellent brick school building, with eight school rooms, each



of which has a commodious closet. In the basement are two large
coal furnaces, with flues leading to all the rooms and the halls. We
could find but one fault with the building, which is in location only.
Some scape-grace who owned lots on the street, secured a position
on the locating committee, and, to enhance the value of his lots,
located this beautiful building on one of the main streets, without
a rod of land outside of the street, for a playground. For the good
of the city this selfish "cuss" has made his exit.

The schools are under charge of Prof. Filow, formerly from New
York, who for a salary of $1200, directs the young ideas of Baxter
how to shoot. The Professor is a thorough instructor, aiming not
alone to secure correct recitations, but to develop brain force by
requiring from each scholar his own reasoning to sustain answers
given. His aim is to make them independent thinkers, which is too
apt to be forgotten by most teachers. In this building are five
schools, embracing 316 scholars, but the Professor informs us that
the city contains 420 children between 5 and 20 years old. The
cost of supporting the schools last year was $5,300, $4,800 being
paid to the teachers. This amounts to about $3 on the dollar of the
grand list, and shows the spirit with which western towns are actu-
ated in behalf of education.

We find a good paper, the Baxter Republican, published here by
A. T. Lee. It has a circulation of 600 or 700, and an excellent ad-
vertising patronage. Western merchants advertise more liberally
than in the East, and seem to more fully comprehend the benefits
of printers* ink. The prices of advertising and job work are higher
than in Vermont, but the people consider the prices reasonable.
Every little office is liberally patronized. Every village considers
the printing office a sort of home institutionone of the main pillars
and props of the place and, as such, gives it a good support. East-
ern villages may find this an example worthy of imitation.

Another prominent institution of Baxter is the First National
Bank I. H. Wright, president. Although with a capital of but
$50,000, it has in good times a large deposit, loans money for 2 and
3 per cent a month and declares semi-annual dividends of 9 per cent.
Mr. Wright informs us that there is no difficulty in keeping all the
money he can get, loaned on the best security, for 25 to 36 per cent
a year. But as most loans are for 30 days the capital is turned over
several times in a year, and the rates received amount to more than
the above sums. This seems like extravagant talk to eastern loaners;
but the truth is that anywhere west of the Missouri River money


commands about 25 per cent, and sharpers, who hunt up and take
advantage of people's distresses, often obtain from 3 to 5 per cent a
month. With a money capital of $10,000 a lazy man can come here,
sit down his whole heft in an office chair, and clear $3000 a year.
And he won't hate himself for doing it as he would in the eastern
country, because he will find himself in good company and in pur-
suit of what is recognized as legitimate business. Money loaning,
however, at the present time is at a standstill. Since the panic no
money is circulating, and, on all sides, we hear a cry of distress for
a very little of the needful. But there is no hand to help. Banking
and all other kinds of business are stagnant. People are living in
a state of suspense, anxiously watching for signs of better times.

The great business of all the towns on the southern line of the
state is the Texas cattle trade. All that vast country between the
state line and Texas belongs to various tribes of Indians. White
settlements go down to the state line and there stop short off. Right
in front of them to the south is one unbroken expanse of raw prairie.
Early in the spring Texas herders and drovers begin to move their
immense herds to the north, across Indian Territory, letting the
cattle graze as they move forward. They arrive all through the
summer, but in September, October and November the great herds
reach the north part of the territory where they halt and wait for
bids. Acres of them, however, are shipped on the different roads
for St. Louis, Kansas City and Chicago, while large bunches remain
herded on the border until sold. We have twice rode along the
border for several miles, viewing herds of from 300 to 1,000 cattle,
herded a mile or so apart. The herders watch the approach of
every stranger with an eye to business, and, especially as the season
wears away, they become exceedingly anxious to dispose of their
stock and return home. They want money first, and, if that does
not come, they will trade for horses, mules, wagons, goods, or any-
thing of which they can make a turn in Texas. This trade is the
real support of the southern towns of Kansas. When money is
plenty stock goes readily and Texans load up their wagons with
store goods and return.

Baxter has in one year sold to Texas $100,000 worth of lumber
wagons. All other branches of trade could give perhaps as good
figures. The farmers in the southern counties of Kansas and Mis-
souri rely upon this source to stock their farms. They pay but little
attention to breeding, but go down on the border and purchase
three year old steers, which they drive home, feed till the next fall,


send them to market and stock up again from the border. A few
who can afford to hold over buy young stock and get the growth
of two or three years. But the greater number purchase three and
four year old steers and hold but one year. The hard times of this
season have interfered with the trade and many large "bunches" of
cattle still remain on the border. The owners are ready to "trade"
a term that means exchange for other goods and in case they fail
to trade, they will remain through the winter and buy feed, or will
let out to farmers to feed for a quarter, or, in some cases, a third of
the herd. Many of the farmers have plenty of feed but no money
this season, and are quite ready to take stock to feed on shares.

Now a word in regard to the farming of this region. Eight years
ago the two southern tiers of counties in the state belonged to
Indians, and was an uninhabited prairie. A few had squatted a
short time before the government, as trustee of the Indians, sold
the land, 800,000 acres, to the railroad company. Of course they
expected to obtain it at government prices, but the railroad having
purchased the whole, allowed the squatters to contract for their
claims at $5 per acre. This made a row at once, and the squatters,
combining under the name and style of "Leaguers," waged deadly
war upon the company, and proposed to tear up their rails. Several
demonstrations in the direction of violence were made, and it was
found necessary for the state to guard the road two years with
soldiers. The storm has passed, the soldiers are removed and many
of the settlers have contracted with the company for their farms.
But many have not thus contracted, and are now working through
the Granges to induce the company to compromise by way of lower
rates for their land.

As the reader may know, all the great prairie states are surveyed
by government into sections one mile square, and containing 640
acres of land. These sections are subdivided into quarter sections
of 160 acres each, and the quarters are again divided into four
squares of 40 acres each. All farms are purchased according to these
lines. Public roads are laid out on every section line, north and
south, and east and west. And thus, all the roads, when properly
worked, run as straight and as long as the government can draw sec-
tion lines. A large majority of the farms contain a quarter section,
or 160 acres. But not one in twenty of the farms in this new country
are yet paid for. The country is settled by men with limited means,
who came in to secure land within the reach of small purses to which
they could add industry and economy, and build up farms and


comfortable homes. The work has but fairly commenced, although
nearly every section of land in this locality is occupied and improve-
ments have been started. We make a prediction that in ten years,
if the farmers are enterprising, and accompany their agricultural
pursuits with good taste in ornamentation, this southern Kansas will
be able to make a tolerable claim as an earthly paradise. But a
world of work will first have to be done. Nature has planted noth-
ing here but prairie grass. Not a tree or a shrub is to be seen, but
the soil is very rich and fruit and shade trees, transplanted, grow
rapidly. Many of the farmers have already set out peach and apple
orchards, and the disposition to set shade trees increases fast. The
fact that they are an actual necessity as windbreaks, will compel
every farmer to transplant liberally.

As timber is wanting, the New England farmer will inquire what
the people do for buildings and fences. It does not require much
lumber for the style of house already built on the prairie. Every
village has its lumber yard where Michigan and Wisconsin pine is
for sale at $30 to $40 a thousand. A two-horse load of boards and
scantling will build almost any house we find on the prairie. They
usually contain one room, about 14 x 20 feet in size. These answer
for the few years of pioneering when, as farmers prosper, a good
class of houses will take their places. For fencing every one relies
on the Osage Orange hedge which, in four years from the time of
transplanting, will be as serviceable as the best board fence. And
they are not only indispensable in the way of service, but they are ex-
ceedingly ornamental. All farmers have them growing, and in most
cases all around their farms. But a few posts and rails are indis-
pensable, and are obtained from forests one to twenty miles distant,
according to location of farms. Oak posts are obtained for three
cents each, and last in the ground about five years. A span of horses
will draw about fifty of them. Rails usually cost $2 a hundred, and
75 of them make a load for two horses. From this the reader will
see how much it costs a prairie farmer to fence his land with timber.

Of course barns are out of the question. We have not seen one
in southern Kansas. We have seen crotched sticks set in the ground,
covered with poles and prairie hay, and horses tied therein, which is
the nearest approach to a barn we have seen yet. But barns, though
desirable, are not among the indispensables in this warm climate.
They will appear by degrees, and as farm luxuries, when the country
gets older and richer.

The great drawback to most prairie farms is the lack of water.


Many have nothing but wells, where the water is pumped or drawn
by hand for the entire stock. In some cases stock is regularly driven
to a neighboring creek, a mile or two distant. Farms which have a
piece of creek upon them are regarded with envy. But these creeks
are not what the Vermonter understands by running brooks. In the
wet season you may detect a slight motion of the water. But usually
it stands still, and only in the lowest places in the bed of the

Online LibraryKansas State Historical SocietyThe Kansas historical quarterly (Volume 26) → online text (page 32 of 59)