A Twentieth century history and biographical record of Crawford County, Kansas, by Home Authors; Illustrated. Published by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL : 1905. 656 p. ill. Transcribed by staff and students at Baxter Springs Middle School, Baxter Springs, Kansas.

1905 History of Crawford County Kansas




By A. J. Georgia.

Location and Organization.

Crawford county, Kansas, is located near the southeast corner of the state, and comprises a part of that great empire known as the Louisiana Purchase. At the first division of the state into counties the territory that now comprises the counties of Cherokee, Crawford and a part of Bourbon, was all one county, and named McGhee.

On the 18th of February, 1860, the name was changed to Cherokee, and remained thus until February 13, 1867, when, by act of the legislature, the territory comprising Cherokee county was divided, giving a strip six miles wide off the north end to Bourbon, and constituting Crawford and Cherokee counties from the remainder of the territory.

Thus on the 13th day of February, 1867, Crawford county was born. The boundaries, as defined by the act of the legislature, being in the following language "Commencing at the southeast corner of Bourbon, thence run south on the east line of the state of Kansas, to the southeast corner of section 13, township 31, range 25; thence west to the east line of Neosho county, as defined by an act approved February 26, 1866; thence north to the southwest corner of Bourbon county; thence east to the place of beginning;"—being twenty-three miles from north to south, and twenty-six miles from east to west, and containing 592 square miles; the county being named in honor of Samuel J. Crawford, then governor of Kansas.

By the act creating Crawford county the governor was empowered to appoint special commissioners to organize the county. Accordingly the following named persons were appointed: J. W. Wallace, Lafayette Manlove and Henry Schoen; and F. M. Logen was appointed county clerk, who, not being present, was superseded by Lafayette Manlove. These persons met at the cabin of William Campbell, on Lightning creek, near Crawfordsville, on the 16th day of March, 1867. J. W. Wallace was chosen chairman, and the first order of business was dividing the county into townships, precincts and commissioners' districts.

At this meeting the county clerk was authorized to give thirty days' notice of an election; which was held on the 15th day of April, 1867, at which time township and county officers were elected. For the county:— James Wamsley, probate judge: Lafayette Manlove, county clerk; Samuel J. Langdon, county treasurer; W. H. Ryan, sheriff. The following named persons were elected justices of the peace W. A. Martin, A. J. Georgia, D. W. Crouse, Joseph Carson, J. D. Johnson, William Gass, E. P. Wiley, Jespy Everetts.

Cherokee Neutral Lands.

This entire territory—comprising Cherokee, Crawford and a part of Bourbon counties, six hundred thousand acres in all—was known as the Cherokee Neutral Lands. The name was given to this tract from the fact that the lands belonged to the Cherokee nation of Indians, but was not occupied by them. At the time the treaty was made with the Cherokees, by which they gave up their lands in the state of Georgia (1828) and occupied lands, in lieu thereof, in the Indian Territory, the Cherokees claimed a half million dollars as an additional compensation for their improvements. They had good farms, with buildings and orchards, near Savannah, Georgia, and for these valuable improvements they demanded pay. This the United States agreed to give, either in lands or money. Thus the territory was set off, but not occupied by the Indians, as they preferred the cash. And thus it became known as the Cherokee Neutral Lands.

As early as 1850 a few families settled on these lands, and from time to time others were added to them, until in 1860 many families were scattered over the territory. Then the Cherokees thought they saw an opportunity to get the money which had been promised them by the United States government. Accordingly they sent a deputation of their wisest chiefs to interview the Great Father at Washington and demand the money, in as much as the white men had taken their lands. But the Great Father, James Buchanan, President of the United States, found the treasury empty, and promised to see that the lands should he vacated. Accordingly, in the fall of 1860, two companies of United States soldiers arrived at the south line of the Neutral Lands and, proceeding northward, drove the settlers before them, burning their stacks of hay and grain, their cabins and fences. By the time the dispossessed people arrived at a creek named Drywood, near the north line of the Neutral Lands, they constituted a cavalcade of several hundred persons, men, women and children, with their flocks and herds and all their effects. Here a halt was called, and a pow-wow held, at which it was determined that as winter was approaching and further removal would cause much suffering, and in consideration of the fact that they were so near the north end of the lands, perhaps the Indians and the United States would both be satisfied to let the people remain where they were until a messenger could be dispatched to Washington to receive further instructions. But in those days travel was slow. The messenger made his way to Kansas City, by private and public conveyance, and from there proceeded to Washington as best he could. But winter, with its cold and its inconveniences, was at hand, and the President was worrying over matters of greater import. Bodies of armed citizens, in the south, were seizing the arsenals and forts belonging to the United States, and a general condition of strife and discord was alive in the land; so that the messenger had to wait until nearly spring for his instructions, and by the time he arrived with his message war was on and the Cherokee Neutral Lands were abandoned, except a strip along the north end. Here some families continued to live until after the close of the war; when a treaty was entered into (July, 1866) by which the lands were to be sold at not less than one dollar per acre, and the money paid to the Cherokee nation of Indians.

At the Close of the Civil War.

The close of the war found a large number of men who had responded to the country's call, out of a home and out of a job. While they had been serving the United States as soldiers others had taken their places in business, and immediately after the close of the rebellion thousands in the middle west began to consider the question of how and where to make a home.

Kansas was an inviting field, and many turned their faces thitherward. The war closed in May, 1865, and by the last of July nearly all the soldiers had returned home, and in September of said year settlers began to arrive on the Cherokee Neutral Lands. They came mostly in farm wagons, with white ducking for a cover, and in many instances the wagons were drawn by oxen. Many of these families consisted only of two persons—a young man and a young wife; while other families were made up of father, mother and several children, all journeying to the land of promise. They came with their sheep and cattle, their pigs and chickens, and whatever household effects they were able to transport.

Pioneer Conditions and Methods of Living.

Thus by the close of the year 1865 quite a number of families had selected claims, built themselves cabins, and were prepared, when spring should come, to open farms. Many of them had but little money, and everything they ate had to be hauled by wagon from Missouri. But the war had so devastated her western border that Missouri had nothing to sell until a point was reached very many miles in the interior. Then, there were no bridges or ferries, and if the streams were up many days of waiting was the lot of the family at home, before father or brother returned with his load of provisions, which generally consisted of corn meal, purchased a hundred miles away, at a cost of one dollar per bushel, and a few pounds of bacon at thirty cents per pound. Not much of the latter was required, as the expense was greater than the purse would justify. Corn bread and sorghum molasses was the principal diet and served the purpose of keeping the wolf from the door of the pioneer's cabin. So it was that no one really suffered from hunger, although many times the families were on short rations.

One particular phase of the early settlement of Crawford county was the willingness of the people to lend. There were many instances when the head of the family had been detained by high water, sickness or other causes, while on a trip in search of food, and the family looking hourly for his return had borrowed from neighbors until not more than a peck of meal was left in the cabins of this immediate community. And it often occurred that on a settler's return with a wagonload of provisions the neighbors would flock about his wagon, and in a few hours nearly the whole load had been loaned. Perhaps in a day or two, other loads of provisions would arrive, when the owner would pay back what he had previously borrowed. And thus the winter of 1866-7 passed, and only remains a memory to those who faced the difficulties and privations of the pioneer. The men and women who settled Crawford county were not made of the stuff that shrinks at hardships. They had migrated to Kansas to help build a great state, and no amount of privation could dampen their ardor. In their vocabulary there was no such word as fail.

Crawford county consisting largely of prairie with small bodies of timber along the streams, the early settlers selected their claims with a view to getting some of the timber. But the lands were unsurveyed, and claim lines were made to extend across the streams, so that a claim was one-half mile wide up and down the stream and extended in length half way to the next stream, on either side. During the winter of 1866-7 the lands were surveyed, and the pioneers were compelled to make their claim lines conform to the United States survey, which had the effect of stimulating the industry of railmaking, as each one desired to secure as much of the timber as possible.

All the buildings were of logs, and generally consisted of one room, which served the purpose of kitchen, dining room, parlor and bedroom. Some of these cabins were not more than ten by twelve feet, while others, of more aristocratic pretensions, were sixteen by eighteen feet, and some even boasted a loft, under the roof, where the entire family slept. Fireplaces served for stoves, and notwithstanding adverse conditions many happy evenings were passed around a blazing fire, while wind and wolves howled without. If the pioneer had been so successful in his affairs as to become the owner of a pig and three or four chickens, a place was provided for them in a corner of the cabin, lest they should become a dainty supper for wolves or other wild animals that roamed the prairie after dark.