The Early History of Spring Hill
by William G. Cutler (1883)
This very beautiful town is situated in the southern part of the County, on the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf Railroad, ten miles south of Olathe. The surrounding country is gently undulating, and the soil exceedingly fertile. Vegetation grows in extreme luxuriance.
The first settler in the township was James B. Hovey, who arrived at the present location of the town in March, 1857. About two weeks afterward, William Mavity arrived, and settled where the railroad depot now is. Immediately afterward, S. B. Myrick and E. F. Davis came in and took up the adjoining claims. J. B. Hovey and E. F. Davis became associated in holding the town site. The survey was made May 18, 1857, and the town named by Mr. Hovey, after Spring Hill near Mobile, Ala., a town considered by him one of the most beautiful he had ever seen. It was Mr. Hovey's opinion that Spring Hill, Kan., might be made to fully rival in beauty the older town in Alabama.
In the fall, Mr. Davis sold his interest in the town site to A. B. Simmons, William A. Jenkinson, and J. P. Lockey, and Mr. Hovey sold a portion of his interest to H. E. Brown, James McKoin, and Edwin Walker. In January, 1858, a town company was organized of the above named persons, J. B. Hovey elected President, and A. B. Simmons, Secretary.
The first farmer in the township was George Sprague, whose farm adjoins the north half of the town on the east. Mr. Sprague made the first improvements in the township, building the first good board fence, the first good barn, and the first good two-story frame dwelling. Mr. Sprague settled here in 1857. Quite a large number of others came into the settlement the same fall, among them, D. F. Dayton, James Sweeting, B. H. Stiles, W. G. Davidson, David Sprong, Hiram Mitchell, J. H. Jackson, Thomas Jenkinson, William Sowers, and W. R. Rutter.
The first building in the town was known as the Spring Hill Hotel, built by J. B. Hovey, in the summer of 1857. The postoffice was established in the fall, J. B. Hovey being appointed the first Postmaster. In the spring of 1858, A. D. Richardson bought an interest in the town, being admitted on the same footing as if he had been an original member. During the same spring, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized, a building erected which served the purposes of church and schoolhouse, and Rev. Richard P. Duvall became the first resident minister, L. B. Dennis the first presiding elder. The first store was opened by W. G. Davidson, in the winter of 1857-58, the second in 1860, by a Mr. Prunty.
The Methodist Episcopal Organization erected a new church edifice in 1868, at a cost of $2,700. The membership is now two hundred. The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1861, with four members, all women. At present there are seventy members on the roll. The church was built in 1869, costing also $2,700. The Methodist Protestant Church was organized in 1871 and 1878. Their church was built at a cost of about $1,200. There is also a colored Baptist Church organized in Spring Hill.
In 1869 the railroad reached the southern part of the county. The town being situated on high land, and as considerable cutting down through rock would be necessitated if the road should be built through or near the town, which would cost according to the estimates of the engineers of the road $15,000, the people of Spring Hill were asked to contribute that sum to enable the company to build through and establish a station at the town. This they declined to do.
The company therefore built the road one-half mile east of the town, and established their station two miles north, at Ocheltree, possibly as a kind of punishment to the Spring Hill people for refusing to contribute the $15,000, or perhaps expecting the town to be moved to the station, as Lanesfield was moved to Edgerton. For some time the trains did not stop at Spring Hill, and the people had to go to Ocheltree for their mail, and to take the cars. This was very inconvenient, and an effort was made to induce the company to reconsider the matter of a station at Spring Hill. A. D. Richardson, who at the time owned sixty-four lots in the town, went to see Mr. Joy, with whom he was well acquainted, in reference to the matter, and was successful; the people of Spring Hill and vicinity contributing $1,500 toward putting in the side-track.
The first schoolhouse was built in the spring of 1858, and in the summer following Mrs. Duvall taught the first school. The present fine large frame schoolhouse was built in 1868, at a cost of about $4,000. In the spring of 1882 an election was held for the purpose of voting bonds to build a new schoolhouse, which was defeated by a vote of twenty-three for, ninety-two against.
Spring Hill contains six general stores, besides the Grange store, one dry goods, one grocery, one furniture, two hardware, three drug stores, two hotels, four blacksmiths, two agricultural implement dealers, two grain dealers, three mills, one newspaper and about 700 inhabitants, 215 children of school age.
The Standard Mills were built in 1871, by Miller, Gristy & Jenkinson, at a cost of $25,000. The mill is three stories above the basement, has four run of buhrs, and a capacity of eighty barrels of flour in twenty-four hours. June 1, 1882, the mills became the property of H. L. McLachlin & Bro. Besides these mills there are two small feed and grist mills, one driven by steam, the other by a wind mill.
The Spring Hill Enterprise was established December 7, 1870, as a Republican journal, by Buel & Sprague. Sprague bought out the interest of Buel January 24, 1871, and soon associated with himself Dr. Parker. Dr. Parker then bought out Sprague's interest and conducted the paper as a Democratic journal for a time. Early in 1872 W. H. McGown became the owner, changed the name to the Western progress, and the politics to Republican.