Early Columbus History
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Columbus, the county seat, is beautifully located at the geographical center of the county and at the intersection of the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad with the St. Louis & San Francisco. It was named Columbus by F. Fry, after the capital of Ohio, and is now a lively and flourishing city of about 2,300 inhabitants.
The first settler on what is now the town site was John Appleby, who, in February, 1868, built a box house on Lot 17, Block 16, of the original plat of the town. The next house was commenced by Judge Fry in May following. When completed, the Judge opened therein the first hotel in the town; but, in the meantime, Martin Jones completed a dwelling house in June.
The first store opened in Columbus was by Dr. J. N. Lee, on December 25, 1868, the building having been completed in November. The second business established was a grocery store by Scovell & Hanson, in the spring of 1869, and the third was a drygoods and grocery by Bliss & Middaugh in August following. Dr. J. H. Walker was the first practicing physician, John Appleby the first Justice of the Peace, and F. Fry the first lawyer, though Martin Jones conducted the first law suit, before Justice Appleby.
The first blacksmith was George Thorp, who started his shop in the spring of 1869. The first birth was that of Mary Ann Fry, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. F. Fry, November 7, 1868. The first marriage was that of John Stone to Miss Mary Burger, in March, 1869, and the first death that of a daughter of Jeremiah Shuck, in the spring of 1869. The first school teacher was Miss Anna Wilson, now Mrs. Judge Miller, who taught a select school in the spring of 1870 in the Baptist Church. The first public school was taught in the spring of 1871 in a stone schoolhouse, erected the fall and winter previous.
From the time the county seat question was settled in favor of Columbus, the town made rapid progress. Additions were made to the town site to the population and to the business enterprises, and when on March 24, 1870, the M. R., Ft. S. & G. R. R. Company's graders broke ground for the building of a depot, the permanency and prosperity of the town were assured. At that time, important events followed each other in rapid succession. On the 8th of April, the first freight train entered Columbus; on the 11th, the first passenger train arrived, and, on the 18th, the people of Columbus enjoyed a free excursion to Fort Scott.
On the 11th of April, Columbus was incorporated as a town, the Trustees appointed by the Probate Judge being as follows: Samuel Freligh, J. R. Hallowell, J. S. Hunt, J. N. Lee and C. E. Middaugh. On the next day the Trustees met, and organized by electing Samuel Freligh President and J. R. Hallowell Clerk. At this time the town had 400 inhabitants.
At the April election of 1871, the town was organized as a city of the third class, with a population of 700, and in the spring of 1882 as a city of the second class, with a population of 2,200. The Mayors, with the dates of their election, have been as follows: Leland E. J. Webb, 1871; John N. Ritter, 1872; T. P. Anderson, 1873; J. H. Ludlow, 1874 and 1875; C. A. Saunders, 1876; George Hoyt, 1877; W. C. Lykins, 1878; S. 0. McDowell, 1879-80-81 and 1882.
In January, 1873, on account of the high price at which lots were held, a movement was inaugurated to remove the town to a new site, one-half mile east of its present location, onto the farm of George Theis. A joint stock company was organized and incorporated, a contract made by this company with Mr. Theis, and subscriptions to the stock of the company in shares of $100 each received. Each holder of a share was entitled to draw one business and two resident lots in the "Eastern Addition to Columbus." The plat of this addition was filed March 5, 1873. At the drawing excitement ran high, preparations were immediately made thereafter made to remove several residences from the old to the new site, and for a time every indication betokened [sic] a general moving of the town; but, just in time to prevent it, the owners of lots in the old town site reduced the price of their lots, and the movement was thus prevented.
In the summer of 1873, the Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad Company made an addition to the city of a row of blocks on the south and west of the original site; on the 11th of March, 1875, Lee's First Addition was made on the north; on the 14th of December, 1876, Lee's Second Addition was made, north of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway; on the 16th of April, 1878, the Gulf Railroad Company made their second addition, on the south; on the 8th of April, 1880, the same company made a third addition, between Main street and the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway; on the 10th of May, 1881, they made a fourth addition, east of their own depot; on the 17th of the same month. Slem Lisle made an addition east of the Gulf Railway, and between Main street and the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway, which is named Park Addition, and in January, 1883, he made another addition, east of Park Addition. The several additions have increased the town site to the aggregate of about one section of land.
The first considerable fire in Columbus occurred early on the morning of January 3, 1883. Ten frame buildings on the south side of the public square were consumed. The total loss was $19,950, upon which there was an insurance of $5,825.
Schools and Churches
The present two-story stone school building was erected in the winter of 1870-71, and the first public school in Columbus was taught therein in the spring of 1871, by 0. W. McNulty. Since this time, the schools have grown with the growth of the town, and steadily improved with the general progress made in the art of teaching. To W. H. Timberlake is due great credit for the enviable position maintained by the public schools of Columbus before the people of the county. Under his superintendency, which lasted from 1874 to 1879, a public school library was established, a monthly school journal was published, and a lecture course instituted. An impetus was thus given to the cause of education, which was widely felt, and has been of lasting benefit.
Six teachers are now employed, and there is a school population of 642. Prof. L. M. Cutler is at the present time in charge of the schools, as Superintendent, and is assisted by six teachers - Sallie Hutsel, Annie Snevely, Ida Vincent, Marilla Odell, Nellie Patty and Mr. Robbins.
The first Baptist church was organized, with twelve members, at a meeting held March 20, 1870, over which Elder C. A. Bateman presided. The first regular pastor was Rev. Mr. Maver, the second Rev. J. M. Lappin, who remained until March, 1872. Then followed, in succession, Revs. Messrs. Post, Lewis, Pierce and C. T. Floyd, who served about a year, commencing in April, 1875. The church was then without a regular pastor until July, 1882, when Rev. F. Bowman, of Missouri, was called, and who now preaches twice a month. The present membership is twenty-two.
The Columbus Union Sunday School was organized in the Baptist Chapel May 8, 1870. Dr. A. F. Childs was elected Superintendent, and J. S. Vincent, Secretary. This Sunday school continued five years. The Baptist Sunday school was organized August 22, 1882, with thirty-two scholars, L. D. Dana being elected Superintendent.
The, Methodist Church was organized, with fifteen members, May 22, 1870. Before this time, there had been preaching by Rev. J. Kirchner, in 1869, and by Rev. Boyd Lowe, in March, 1870, the latter of whom was the first regular minister of the church, holding services once in four weeks. He has been succeeded by the following ministers: Rev. S. W. Bliss, came in October, 1870; F. H. Burrows, February, 1871; Clement Combs, May, 1871; H. H. Scaggs, May, 1872; A. Thorntrue, 1873; William Sibley, March, 1874, assisted by Mr. Marey; John Kirby, 1875; David Griffith, March, 1877; L. W. Thrall, 1878; Hugh McBirney, 1879, and A. G. Robb, the present pastor, in 1881.
Religious services were at first held in the court house, and afterward in the opera house. The building of the present church was commenced in 1873; it was inclosed in 1874, and completed in 1875, at a total cost of $4,000. The present membership is 210. The Sunday school was organized In December 1871, S. 0. McDowell being first Superintendent; L. L. Doubleday was elected Superintendent in 1874, and John N. Ritter, the present Superintendent, in 1877. There is an average attendance of 120 scholars.
The Christian Church was organized in October, 1870, with forty members, by J. A. Murray who served the church in the capacity of preacher for two years. He was succeeded by W. R. Cowley, who was for some years the regular minister. From this time until 1880, when Rev. Kirk Baxter was called, the church was without regular services, and depended upon Messers. Murray and Cowley for occasional sermons. Kirk Baxter remained until December 1, 1882, when he was succeeded by Elder C. C. Deweese. The present church building was erected in July, 1880, at a cost of $3,000. A Sunday school was immediately afterward organized, and Mrs. S. A. Mentzer elected Superintendent. At first, there were 80 scholars; now there are 125. The school meets regularly every Sunday; is well attended, and is a source of great promise and pride to the church.
The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1871. The pastors of this church have been Rev. Messers Hawkins, Warren Mayo, W. Coleman and H. D. Moore, the present pastor, who am called to the charge in the early part of 1881. The present church is building, a substantial stone structure, was erected in 1878, at a cost of $4,500. The present membership of the church is sixty-five.
A Sunday school was organized in 1874, and is now In a very flourishing condition, having 100 scholars enrolled.
Ritter & Doubleday, Bankers.-This bank was established in 1874, by B. F. Hobart and C. E. Middaugh, with L. L. Doubleday as Cashier. In May, 1875, Mr. Doubleday purchased the interest of Mr. Middaugh, and the firm continued as Hobart & Doubleday until August 4, 1880, when Mr. Hobart retired and John W. Ritter succeeded to his place in the firm. The firm is a private one and the business conducted is limited strictly to that of legitimate banking. This firm has the confidence of, and is of great benefit to the community.
Columbus City Mills. -These mills were moved from Carthage, Mo., in 1875, by A. J. Baney and a Mr. Henley. In 1879, Benjamin Henley bought a third interest; in 1881, Wilson Henderson bought Baney's interest, and in September of that year Benjamin Henley died, Mr. Henley, Sr., falling heir to his sons third interest. Mr. Henley sold a third to W. H. Benham, and the business was conducted under the name of Benham & Co., until March 1882, when Benham sold out to J. A. Walbert. In April following, Henley sold his interest to Samuel McGinity, and in September Henderson sold to George Theis. Soon after this change, Walbert and Theis bought out McGinity and became sole proprietors. The mill building is three and a half stories high. Four run of burhs are used and the machinery is propelled by a fifty-horse power engine. The mill property is worth about $10,000.
Bee Hive Manufactory. -This manufactory was established in the spring of 1880, by Scovell & Anderson. The firm is engaged in the manufacture of bee hives, comb foundations, smokers, and a general line of bee keeper supplies. Their works run about nine months of the year, the machinery being propelled by a twenty-horse power engine. The firm publishes the Kansas Bee Keeper, a monthly magazine established in February, 1881. Mr. Scovell has a large apiary at his house, containing from one hundred to two hundred colonies. In 1882, from one hundred and twelve colonies he produced eleven thousand pounds of honey.
Columbus is located at 37°10'17N, 94°50'27W (37.171379, -94.840704). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.2 km² (2.4 mi²), all land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,396 people, 1,412 households, and 885 families residing in the city. The population density was 544.1/km² (1,408.6/mi²). There were 1,610 housing units at an average density of 257.9/km² (667.8/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.70% White, 0.32% African American, 1.56% Native American, 0.41% Asian, 0.77% from other races, and 2.24% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.03% of the population.
There were 1,412 households out of which 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.5% were married couples living together, 11.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.3% were non-families. 34.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.94.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.3% under the age of 18, 8.4% from 18 to 24, 24.3% from 25 to 44, 20.7% from 45 to 64, and 20.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 82.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $27,530, and the median income for a family was $38,136. Males had a median income of $30,541 versus $17,069 for females. The per capita income for the city was $14,937. About 12.2% of families and 16.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.1% of those under age 18 and 8.3% of those age 65 or over.