Boundaries and Topography
Bytler, the largest organized county in the State, may well be called 'the State of Butler.' Within it lines lies more territory than that of some of the Eastern States, while its arable land amounts to nearly as much as that of two of the smaller ones. From north to south it stretches forty-two miles, and from east to west thirty-four and a half; making a total area of about one million acres. It is named in honor of Andrew P. Butler, for twelve years United States Senator from South Carolina.
Butler County, as defined geographically in the legislative act of 1855, was a region thirty miles square, the northeast corner of which was the southeast corner of the present Morris County, then called Wise. The same act designated the region immediately south of the original Butler, a tract thirty miles east and west, and about seventy-eight miles north and south, to the southern boundary line of the Territory, as Hunter County. The act of 1857, made Butler to consist of a tract thirty miles wide, directly south of Wise (Morris) County, extending southward thirty-eight miles. Hunter was made to consist of the section south of Butler to the Territorial line.
An act was passed February 11, 1859, organizing the counties of Wise, Butler and Chase. Chase was made of the region south of Wise, twenty-four miles, by thirty miles east and west. The fifth standard parallel was then the south boundary of Butler County. Irving County was erected February 27, 1860, out of the region commencing where the fifth standard and guide meridian cross, between ranges 8 and 9, west thirty-six and north twenty-four miles. Eldorado was the temporary county seat. The southern boundary of Chase was extended to the northern boundary of Butler. February 26, 1867, Butler County was given the form now shown on the map.
Butler is essentially a prairie county, having, however, considerable land of a slightly rolling character. Bottom land has fifteen and upland eighty-five per cent of its surface. Forest occupies five per cent and prairie ninety five. The principal streams are the Whitewater, Walnut and Little Walnut. The Whitewater traverses the county from north to south. The Walnut rising in the northeast corner of the county, joins the Whitewater at August, and the Little Walnut, flowing southwest from near Rosalia, at Douglass. Other tributaries of the Whitewater are Hickory, Turkey, Muddy, Rock Creek, Indianola, West Branch, Four Mile and Eight Mile Creek. The bottoms along these water courses average a mile and one-quarter. Upon them are found walnut, oak, hickory, hackberry, sycamore, elm and minor varieties of timber. Limestone of excellent quality is found in all parts of the county, and in the extreme northwest, a bed of sandstone. At other points are small quantities of fire clay and gypsum. Coal is found in many places in thin layers, but has never been mined to any considerable extent or with profit.
The following record of early settlement has been carefully compiled from the recollection of Martin Vaught, J. D. Connor and D. M. Bronson and from data in their possession. It will be found to differ considerably form the matter found in the report of the State Board of Agriculture into which numerous errors had crept, either through lack of care on the part of the correspondents, or unavoidable typographical mistakes.
The first settlements in the several localities were as follows: Benton Township, April 13, 1878, by J. P. J. Nelson; Bloomington Township, 1867, Samuel Rankin; Bruno Township, May, 1869, V. Smith; Chelsea Township, August, 1857, Bob DeRacken, G. T. Donaldson, P. G. D. Morton, J. C. Lambdin, I. Scott, Martin Vaught, Dr. Lewellen, Charles Jefferson and J. and L. Cole; Clifford Township, 1859, Mr. William Badley; El Dorado Township, May, 1857, William Hildebrand; Fairmont Township, 1869, Holland Ferguson; Hickory Township, 1869, Mr. Myers; Pleasant Township, spring of 1869, Marion Franklin; Plum Grove Township, 1860, Joseph H. Adams; Rock Creek Township, July 1868, D. L. McCabe; Rosalia Township, July, 1869 Philip Karns; Spring Township, April, 1866, Dave, afterward County Commissioner, and H. W. Yates; Towanda Township, 1858, William Vann, A. G. Davis, Chandler, Atwood, and others; Union Township, April 2, 1870, A. S. McKee; Walnut Township, 1866, George Long.
First churches: August Township, 1876, Methodist; Chelsea Township, no church building; Rev. Winberg, Baptist, 1858, was the first resident preacher, Rev. C. G. Morse, Congregationalist from Emporia, had preached occasionally prior to this, and services were held in the house of J. C. Lambdin; a Presbyterian society was organized in El Dorado township and building commenced in 1872, completed in 1877, Methodist, 1873; Union Township, 1873, Methodist; 1874, Christian. Religious services are held regularly in nearly all the schoolhouses in the county.
First school-houses; Augusta, 1869, District No. 13; Bloomington Township, 1872, District No. 5; Bruno Township, by District No. 72, date not given; Chelsea Township, 1860, by District No. 10, first school taught by Miss Sarah Satchel; Clifford Township, 1871, by District No. 21, first school taught by S. L. Roberds, afterward County Superintendent; El Dorado Township, first schoolhouse built by subscription of settlers, 1861-2, afterwards purchased by District No. 2; Fairmount Township, 1872, by District No. 70; Little Walnut Township, 1872, by District No. 59; Plum Grove Township, 1872, by District No. 53; Prospect Township, by District No. 79; Rock Creek Township, 1870, by subscription of settlers in District No. 30; Rosalia Township, 1872, by District No. 35, there are four schoolhouses in this district; Spring Township, August, 1872, by District No. 45; Towanda Township, 1863, built of logs, by settlers; Union Township, 1874, by Districts Nos. 41 and 42; Walnut Township, by District No. 64.
First business houses: August Township, general merchandise, 1868, Shamleffer & James; Chelsea, 1859, country store, Mr. Kaufman; El Dorado, grocery, Mr. Rowland, 1857, Fairmount Township, store, S. S. Saunders; Hickory Township, dry goods, William ole; Little Walnut Township, at Qaito, groceries and drugs, Dr. Pickett, 1871; Plum Grove Township, general merchandise, 1871, Drake & Lobdell; Rock Creek Township, grocery, 1872, A. P. Bittingham; Towanda, general store, J. R. Mead 1862.
First marriages: Jacob E. Chase and August Stewart, El Dorado Township, January, 1859; Berg Atwood and Elizabeth Badley; Towanda Township, September, 1859, J. P. Goodall and Lizzie Cooper, Chelsea Township, 1860. First births: I. Johnson, Towanda Township, August, 1859; Nellie Martin, El Dorado Township, and Charles Stewart, Plum Grove Township, 1860. The first postoffices in the county were established at Chelsea, in 1858, C. S. Lambdin, P. M., and at El Dorado, in 1860, D. L. McCabe, P. M.
William Hildebrande, who came in May, 1857, to El Dorado Township, was the first settler in Butler County. In June, 1857, Samuel Stewart, of Lawrence organized a colony to settle in Butler County. Following the old California trail until they came to the crossing, the party pitched the ten wall-tents with which they were provided, in a circle, and erected in the centre (sic) of the camp the stars and stripes. This was on June 15, 1857. Two days later the colonist planted some corn, the first ever planted in the county. On July 9, 1857, Henry Martin, William Crimble, Jacob Carey, H. Bemis and William Bemis, with their families, settled near El Dorado. There were in this party ten other families, but their names have been lost.
The first celebration in this county of our national holiday took place long before Butler was a county or Kansas a Territory. In July, 1847, Captain J. J. Clark, with his company of Missouri Mounted Volunteers bound for the Mexican war, came along the old California trail and crossing the Walnut about a mile below the site of El Dorado, on the evening of the 3d camped over night. The following day the eagle screamed, and salutes were fired, and due honors paid to the warriors of an older day.
Ten years later on July 4, 1857, came the second celebration on Butler County land. This was held near Conners, in El Dorado, by the newly arrived settlers. No houses had been put up for the immigrants, and their wagons stood in a circle to serve as a fort in case of Indian attack. Money was scarce in that camp, and had it been as plentiful as sea sands it could have purchased nothing; so the men started out to find in Nature's store-house the materials for a feast. In the Walnut William Crimble caught a large buffalo fish, Samuel Stewart shot a wild turkey and another of the party brought in a deer. While these supplies were being prepared numerous speeches served to show the patriotism of the various members, and Judge Wakefield, of Lawrence, delivered an address. There is no time like the first in anything, and though often a celebration of later days has been memorable, and its echoes have rung in Memory's ears for many a day, there can be none to efface in the hearts of those who heard them the resonant sounds of a quarter-century ago.
One of the earliest items in Butler County's history is the apportionment of the State into judicial districts. The counties of Butler, Hunter, Greenwood, Madison, Weller, Coffey, Anderson and Allen constituted the Thirteenth District, which was entitled to one member. In August, 1857, Samuel L. Adair was elected to the Senate and C. Columbia to the House. In October, 1857, Madison and Butler counties polled sixty-nine Free-State and seven Democratic votes. At the election under the Lecompton constitution December 21, 1857, there were no returns from Butler County. On March 9, 1858, Samuel Stewart, who built the first house in the county, and was later killed in the Indian Territory, was elected a delegate to the Minneola convention.
On August 2, 1858 an election was held, at the old El Dorado town site on the Lecompton Constitution, and the entire vote (twenty-three) polled was cast against that infamous platform. On April 15, 1859, the county cast fifteen votes for the Wyandotte constitution and two against it. On November 8, 1859, the county cast one vote for Johnson, Democrat, and forty-seven for Parrot, Republican, candidates for Congress. J. C. Lambdin was elected a member of the Territorial Council at the same time.
A Primitive Election
An election in Butler was held in May, 1858, on the adoption of the Free State Constitution, the "Topeka" constitution. It was held right north of Chelsea under some spreading oaks that still stand at the north end of what is now the lane between J. E. Buchanan's and Joseph McDaniel's farms. No box could be found out of which a ballot box could be made, but after hunting around awhile Mrs. Woodruff handed out a big coffee mill - one of the kind that has a drawer, which was used and answered the purpose. The drawer was pulled out, a ballot dropped in and then shoved up again. There were about a hundred votes cast.
When the first settlement was made in Butler County, the lands south of the Fifth Standard parallel, which runs at the north line of the present city of El Dorado, were largely Indian property. Just south of this line lay what was known as the four-mile strip extending completely across the county from east to west, and open to entry and pre-emption. Next south lay the twenty-mile strip, the property of the Osage tribe. This, at the time of earliest settlement, Indian land, was ceded to the Government by the Little Osages on September 29, 1863, and was held as trust land. Next south lay the diminished Osage Reserve which remained the property of the Indians until September 18, 1870, when it passed into the hands of the Government and was opened for settlement. It was locally known from its width as the 'thirty-mile strip.'
The first invasion of the grasshoppers took place in the fall of 1860, but, as is quaintly said by an old timer, the settlers had nothing to lose and no damage was done. In March, 1861, the eggs deposited the preceding year hatched out and considerable loss was suffered, though this was very slight compared with the visitations of a later time.
At the breaking out of the war of 1861, a company was raised near Chelsea, for home defence (sic); this company was under P. G. D. Morton. Its only service was shortly after its organization and consisted of the capture of a wagon train proceeding, in violation of a recent order, to the Indian Territory. The entire outfit was by the exertions of Capt. Morton safely forwarded to Leavenworth and delivered to its owners from whom the persons found in charge had attempted to steal it. During the winter of 1861-2 this company built and occupied a fort on what is now John Teter's farm about two miles northeast of El Dorado. In the spring of 1862 the company broke up, the majority of its members joining the United States forces mustered in at Leavenworth.
The pioneer of religion in this as in many other counties was Father Stanberry of the Methodist Episcopal Church. At various times in the very early days of the county this zealous old man visited different points, stopping in the rude cabins of the settlers and in his quaint fashion expounding the untiring faith which animated him. The old settlers to this day tell stories of his trips on a weatherbeaten pony that fairly matched the grizzled locks and antiquated appearance of its master. Yet none ever doubted his simple truth or failed to yield him the love and reverence that was his due. The next missionary was Elder Rice, who for some time traveled the indefinite southwestern circuit and held the first quarterly meeting in the county on the east bank of the Walnut, at a spot now part of the farm of Henry Small.
Miss Minnie Post and Miss Maggie Vaught, now Mrs. H. O. Chittenden, of El Dorado, established the first Sunday school in Butler County, at Chelsea, in the summer of 1859. They kept it up until the summer of 1860, when many settlers left on account of the severe drouth (sic) and caused a suspension of the school. In this year a Mr. Matice, of Lawrence, a Sunday school agent, attempted to revive the school but failed.
The herd law was passed in April, 1871, by a vote of 569 to 504, and has ever since been in force. Though no systematic effort has ever been made for its repeal, public opinion is still divided upon the question of its advisability, one party claiming that it retards hedge planting and fencing, and the other that it enchances (sic) agricultural interests and the value of farm property.
On June 22, 1871, a tornado struck the town of El Dorado, inflicting great damage. The wind was accompanied by hail and rain, which seemed to augment the intense violence of the air and materially aid the work of destruction. Houses were blown down or twisted off their foundations, windows dashed in, trees overturned and crops ruined. In the city the principal losers were: Hazlett & Dick, $1,500; McClaren & Jackson, $2,000; Gardner & Gilmore, $2,500, and W. H. Redden, $2,000. These amounts were swelled by a myriad of smaller ones so that the total loss was not less than $150,000. This looked like a crushing blow, but the hardy citizens began immediately to rebuild, and before another year all traces of the event were obliterated and business once more moving forward with a steady swing.
Horse Thieves and the Vigilantes
As the tide of civilization rolls in over the level prairies of the new West it carries on its further line a fretted surf of loose characters, men cast up from the deeper sea of close settlement and driven upon an unsettled shore only to be hurled still further by each successive onflow. Many such were within the border of Butler County during the period from its first settlement until 1870. For a long time a party of this sort had been operating about Douglass and between the secret assistance of unsuspected parties and the proximity of the Indian Territory had escaped capture. Matters had, however, reached an unbearable pitch, and on the night November 10, 1870, a decisive step was taken by the settlers.
On the morning of November 10, 1870, the citizens of Douglass found near the house of George Booth four dead bodies, with the warning notice 'Shot for horse thieves.' It is doubtful if this was much of a surprise to many of the citizens, although the lynching caused a great commotion. The dead men were not without a witness, Mrs. Booth having seen all that passed. Her version of the affair is that while James Smith, Lewis and George Booth and Jack Corbin, a Government scout, were seated in the room a party of men with leveled pistols stepped in and covered the party. George Booth attempted to escape by dashing from the house, but was shot down near by. Lewis Booth was taken out and shot, as was James Smith, and Corbin was taken to a tree and hung. On December 1, William Quimby, a prominent merchant, Dr. Morris and his son and 'Mike' Dray were taken quietly from town by the vigilantes and hung. This effectually broke up the gang which had so long been the source of loss to the honest citizens and the business was never resumed in the county.
The Agricultural Society
The Butler County Horticultural and Agricultural Society which organized in March, 1872, is still in a flourishing condition. Large grounds have been purchased in the west part of the city and a fine building erected for the display of all articles of farm and dairy production. Around the high walls which enclose the grounds are suitable stalls for the display of all varieties of stock.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 3,746 km² (1,446 mi²), of which 3,698 km² (1,428 mi²) is land and 48 km² (19 mi²), or 1.28%, is water.
Butler County's population was estimated to be 63,147 in the year 2006, an increase of 3,450, or +5.8%, over the previous six years; it has the seventh fastest growing population in the state.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000 there were 59,482 people, 21,527 households, and 16,059 families residing in the county. The population density was 16/km² (42/mi²). There were 23,176 housing units at an average density of 6/km² (16/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 94.94% White, 1.38% Black or African American, 0.91% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.69% two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.25% of the population
There were 21,527 households out of which 37.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.60% were married couples living together, 8.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 25.40% were non-families. 21.90% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.13.
In the county the population was spread out with 28.60% under the age of 18, 8.30% from 18 to 24, 28.80% from 25 to 44, 21.70% from 45 to 64, and 12.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 100.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.80 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $45,474, and the median income for a family was $53,632. Males had a median income of $38,675 versus $26,109 for females. The per capita income for the county was $20,150. About 5.40% of families and 7.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.00% of those under age 18 and 6.40% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2005 estimate):
El Dorado, 12,659 (county seat)
Rose Hill, 3,896