BOUNDARIES, TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY.
Cherokee County is situated in the southeast corner of the State. It is bounded on the north by Crawford County, on the east by Missouri, on the south by the Indian Territory, on the west by Labette County. It lies within what was originally McGee County, which according to the "Bogus Statutes," was bounded as follows: "Beginning at the southeast corner of Bourbon County; thence south to the southern boundary of this Territory: thence west on said boundary twenty-four miles; thence north to a point due west from the place of beginning; thence east twenty-four miles to the place of beginning."
The name of the county was changed from McGee, which name had been applied to it in honor of A. M. McGee of Kansas City, a noted Pro-slavery leader of those early days, to Cherokee, in honor of the Cherokee Indians, on the 18th of February, 1860, by the Territorial Legislature in the following language: "That the name of the County Magee (McGee) be and the same is hereby changed to that of Cherokee, and detached from Bourbon County, and the town of Freepoint shall be the temporary county seat thereof." By the same act John Sears, John Lemon and B. M. Blanton were appointed Commissioners to divide the county into townships, not exceeding three in number, each township to be an election precinct; and a special election was appointed for the fourth Monday in March, for the election of county and township officers. On the 27th of the same month, the western boundary of Cherokee County was declared to be the line between Ranges 21 and 22.
The next legislation, with reference to the boundaries of the county, was had February 13, 1867, when the following was enacted: "That the boundary of the county of Cherokee shall commence at the southeast corner of the county of Crawford; thence run south on the east line of the State of Kansas to the southeast corner of Neosho County, as defined by the act approved February 26, 1866; thence north to the southwest corner of the county of Crawford; thence east to the place of beginning."
The general surface of the county is gently undulating prairie. A water-shed extends through it from north to south, dividing it into two nearly equal areas. The east half is drained by Spring River and its tributaries, while the west half is drained by the Neosho and its branches. Nowhere are there any high bluffs or precipitous descents. The variation in the elevation of different parts of the county is not over 200 feet; Baxter Springs being 831 feet above the sea level, while the highest land, which is in the vicinity of Columbus is about 1,000 feet above the same level. The average width of the valleys is one and a half miles. The bottom lands constitute twenty per cent of the surface, balance upland.
The principal streams are the Neosho and Spring Rivers. The former enters the county from the west, about the middle of the western boundary, and flows southward, leaving it in Section 16, Township 35, Range 22. It receives as tributaries, commencing with the most northerly one, Lightning Creek, Cherry Creek, Fly Creek, Four Mile Creek and Tar Creek, the three latter forming their junctions with the Neosho in the Indian Territory. Spring River receives as tributaries, commencing similarly with the most northerly one, Cow, Shawnee and Brush Creeks, from the northwest, and Short Creek, from the southeast. In addition to these constantly flowing streams, there are numerous springs of soft water in all parts of the county, and good well water is found at depths varying from ten to fifty feet.
Spring River, flowing through the southeastern corner of the county, is, on account of its beauty, worthy of special mention. Its entire length within the county is fifteen miles; its average width is about 100 feet, an it is fordable in many places. It is fed by innumerable springs, hence its name, and, flowing over a rocky bottom, its water is remarkably and beautifully clear. Having quite a number of rapids, it furnishes illimitable water powers, which is already utilized to a considerable extent. It is one of the most, if not the most, beautiful of the rivers in Kansas, and in its beauty the people of Spring River Valley and of the entire county feel a just and pardonable pride.
The timber belts are along the streams, and average one-half mile in width. The heaviest growth is along the Neosho River and its branch, Cherry Creek. Not over 10 per cent of the area is covered with native forest. The principal varieties are the ash, cottonwood, elm, hackberry, hickory, maple, mulberry, oak, pecan, sycamore and black walnut.
The soil varies in depth from one to five feet. It is of a dark vegetable mold, underlaid by a reddish brown clay subsoil. It is exceedingly fertile, and well adapted to all the cereals and garden vegetables. The heaviest yield of wheat so far reported is that of M. Martin in Shawnee Township, of fifty-four bushels per acre. The heaviest yield of oats is ninety-two bushels per acre, and of corn ninety bushels. Sweet potatoes sometimes grow to enormous size, one specimen having been raised which weighed fifteen pounds. Cotton also is an excellent crop, two bales per acre having been raised.
There is an abundance of building stone, both magnesian limestone and sandstone. The variegated sandstone quarried near Columbus is one of the most beautiful varieties found in the world. It is susceptible of the highest finish, and continues to harden the longer it is exposed to the air. Had the Tower of Babel been erected from this quarry, it would probably have been in a perfect state of preservation today. Coal is found most abundantly in the western and northern portions of the county. The vein enters the southeastern part of Labette County from the Indian Territory, then it enters Cherokee County, crossing it in a northeasterly direction into the southeastern corner of Crawford County, and extending in the same direction toward Boonville, Mo. This vein is within sixty feet of the surfaces and varies in thickness from twelve to fifty-four inches. One-half of Townships 33 and 34, in Ranges 23 and 24, is underlaid with it, and it is also found in Townships 31 and 32, in Ranges 23, 24 and 25. Here it is from three to four feet thick.
Fire clay is found in the northern part of the county, and pottery clay, lead and zinc in the southeastern.
The first attempt at a settlement within what is now Cherokee County was made in 1842, when a detachment of United States soldiers attempted to establish a fort on Spring River. The site selected by them was owned by John Rogers, a Cherokee Indian, who asked $4,000 W for the piece of land, but as $1,000 was the limit, beyond which the officer in command could not go, Fort Scott was finally selected. (See Bourbon County.)
The next settlement was made in what is now Shawnee Township, in 1856, by J. Pickerell.
The population of the county was returned in 1860 as 1,50l, but then Cherokee County included what had been included in the old county of McGee, extending northward to within about five miles of the northern boundary of Crawford County. During the years of the war, settlements were made, but not so rapidly as would otherwise have been the case had the Territory been public lands instead of Indian lands. But after the conclusion of the treaty between the Cherokee Nation and the United States Government, in 1866, notwithstanding the dispute between the settlers already there and James F. Joy over his title to the land, the increase in the number of the inhabitants in the county, up to 1870, was 9,537, and the total number, 11,038.
The first marriage license issued in the county was to Clark Johnson and Viena Young, who were married November 6,1867; but the first marriage was that of John N. Burton to Mary Wilson, December 5, 1866.
The first deed executed and recorded was dated July 20, 1867; grantors, Nathan V. and Sarah A. Williams; grantee, Joseph A. Watson; property, northwest quarter of Section 9, Township 32, Range 25.
The Cherokee County Agricultural and Horticultural Society was organized November 30, 1869, at Brush Creek Schoolhouse, in Spring Valley Township. . W. Willey was elected President: H. C. Veatch, Vice President; J. Wallace, Secretary, and B. L. Devore, Treasurer. The first fair was held the next year, and an annual exhibition has since been held.
The Cherokee County Teachers' Institute held its first session October 20, 21 and 22, 1869, at Lowell. The most notable resolution passed by the institute was one favoring equal wages to male and female teachers.
One incident in the history of Cherokee, Kansas perhaps overshadows most others. That would be the Battle of Baxter Springs, which took place on October 6, 1863, between anti-slavery and pro-slavery factions.
COUNTY ORGANIZATION AND COUNTY SEAT TROUBLES
The county was permanently organized in February, 1867. On the 5th of November following, an election for county officers was held, which resulted in electing the following officers by the vote attached to their respective names: Commissioners, W. C. Pender, 533; P. G. Noel, 330; Johnathan D. Busk, 335; Probate Judge, J. B. Hodgens, 337; District Clark, L. Williams, 334; County Clerk, William Little, 331; Register of Deeds, C. A. Keithly, 333; Sheriff, W. G. Seright, 323; Treasurer, J. J. Goodner, 336; Surveyor, J. C. Lucas, 512; Assessor, Clinton McMickle, 443; Coroner, A. Lynch, 494; Superintendent of Instruction, William Givens, 329. On the proposition to strike the word "white" out of the Constitution, the vote stood 220 for 299 against; on the proposition to strike out the word "male" the vote stood 232 for, and 269 against; and on the proposition to limit the exercise of the elective franchise to loyal persons, the vote was 404 for it, to 86 against. At that time the county had been divided into the following townships: Pleasant View, Shawnee, Spring Valley, Lyon, Lola, Salamanca, Ross, Sheridan and Neosho.
The first meeting of the Commissioners was held at Pleasant View. at which time Sidney Smith was appointed to fill the vacancy in the board caused by the failure of Jonathan D. Busk to qualify, and the first account allowed was that of John D. Coulter as County Attorney, for $11.40. The second meeting was held February 6, 1868, at which John Mansfield was appointed County Treasurer to fill the vacancy caused by the failure to qualify of J. J. Goodner. The Treasurer's bond was fixed at $16,000. D. R. Martin was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction. A grand jury was called to meet May 4, 1868, at Baxter Springs.
An election was held in November, 1869, which is important as showing the sentiment of the settlers on the question of contesting Mr. Joy's title to that portion of the Neutral Lands which he bad purchased of the Secretary of the Interior, as Trustee for the Cherokee Indians. The "Anti-Joy" settlers had formed a " Union " in every township, and had declared themselves in opposition to land monopolies, corruption in office, and wrong and oppression in every form. They opposed the presence of troops on the Neutral Lands, and severely censured Sheriff Seright for his certificate to the Governor setting forth his inability to execute the laws and asking for troops, and denounced the certificate as false, scandalous and malicious.
The Settler's Union elected one Commissioner out of three by a majority of 22 out of a total vote of 1,166; the other two Commissioners being elected by the "Joy" settlers, by a majority of 18 and 2 respectively out of about the same total vote. For Representative in the Legislature according to the face of the returns, J. B. Hodgens, "Joy" candidate, had 589 votes, while Amos Sanford, "Anti-Joy," had 587; but upon a contest it was decided that a few illegal votes had been cast for Hodgens, and this gave the seat to Mr. Sanford. J. S. Vincent, "Anti-Joy" candidate for Sheriff, was elected by a majority of two over his opponent, F. C. Turner, the vote being 581 to 579. J. C. Dunlavy, "Anti-Joy" candidate for Register of Deeds, was defeated by a majority of 2 by John Little; S. S. Smith "Anti-Joy" candidate for Treasurer, was elected by a majority of 9, over J. J. Goodner; J. H. Walker, "Anti-Joy" candidate for Coroner, was defeated by a majority of 8, and J. Wallace, "Anti-Joy" candidate for Surveyor, was elected by a majority of 69. These results show that the electors were very nearly equally divided on the question of buying land under the "Joy contracts."
Originally, the county seat was temporarily located at Freepoint, but so far as can be ascertained no business was transacted at this point, and in 1867, the county seat was temporarily located at Pleasant View. An election was held November 5,1867, for the permanent location of the county seat. The total number of votes cast was 139, of which Baxter Springs received 136, and Cherokee Center 3. The last meeting of the Commissioners Pleasant View was held April 10, 1868, and the first at Baxter Springs April 14. Thomas Little was allowed $5 for moving the records from one place to the other.
A vote was then taken May 12, 1868, but as no place bad received a majority of the votes, another election was held May 26, and as the result of this election Baxter Springs was declared to have received a majority of the votes, and so retained the county seat. The geographical center of the county had competed with Baxter Springs for the prize and had lost, as many believed, through fraud. The Commissioners, therefore, upon application, granted another election which was held February 17, 1869. It was firmly believed by those who favored the geographical center, that if a fair election could be held, the question would be decided in their favor. But they learned through espionage that certain parties at Baxter Springs were determined to win as they had done before - by stuffing the ballot box.
It was therefore decided by these favoring the geographical center (Columbus), to cast if necessary more fraudulent votes than Baxter Springs, and thus to win in any event. One township was thereupon selected to cast the number of votes necessary to defeat Baxter Springs no matter how many fraudulent votes the latter place might cast. This township was Lola. The vote was canvassed on the 20th of February, and it was found that Baxter Springs had in her favor a total vote of 1,118. Of this number the town of Baxter Springs had furnished 1,045, the balance of the county having cast 73 in her favor.
The returns from the whole county were in except those from Lola Township, and it was found that Columbus had but 799 votes. The party intrusted with the transmission of the returns from Lola Township, upon arriving at the court where the vote was being canvassed, found that he had "lost" the returns. He thereupon immediately set out to find them. He soon returned, having found them "in the lining of his overcoat," and then it was found that little Lola had done her duty nobly, she having come up smiling with 352 votes for Columbus, thus bringing up the total vote for Columbus to 1,151 - a majority of 33 over Baxter Springs.
As showing the fraudulent character of the vote cut at this election, the following comparisons are useful: The total vote on county seat was 2,276, while the total vote for President in November, 1868, was but 1,358, Lola Township having cast but 102, and Baxter Springs but 112. And in 1882, the total vote for Governor in Lola Township was only 203, while in Baxter Springs, it was 182, and the total vote in Spring Valley Township in which Baxter Springs is located, including the vote of Baxter Springs, was but 376.
Columbus having become the county seat, a "temporary court house" was erected in the winter of 1870-71, at a cost of about $1,400, on the northeast corner of the public square. It is an incommodious two-story frame building, and still is occupied for the purpose for which it was erected.
SCHOOL AND OTHER STATISTICS
The public schools of the county have advanced with its growth. There are 100 districts, and 100 schoolhouses- 1 log house, 1 brick, 3 stone and 95 frame. The total number of school rooms is 117. The enumeration of school children for 1882, was 8,154 -4,217 males, 3,937, females; the total enrollment was 4,513 - males, 2,374; females, 2,139; the average attendance was 1,992 -males, 984, females, 1,OO8. The number of teachers employed was 159 - males, 74, females, 85; the average monthly wages for male was $35.50, for females, $27.90. The total valuation of school property was returned at $106,340, this is known to be too low, and $125,000 is deemed a fair estimate. The average tax for school purposes was 8 2/3 mills; the total receipts were $42,185.99, and the total expenditures, $42,185.99.
The personal property of the county is valued at $552,720; village lots at $341,093; farming lands at $1,913,451, and railroad property at $508,977.63; total taxable valuation, $3,316,241.63.
Crops.-The acreage of the principal crops in 1882 was as follows: Winter wheat, 28,804; rye, 463; corn, 71,360; oats, 14,700; buckwheat, 23; Irish potatoes, 700; sweet potatoes, 106; sorghum, 360; castor beans, 872; cotton, 68; flax, 8,270; millet and Hungarian, 3,536; pearl millet, 63; meadow-timothy, 854; clover, 136; other tame grasses, 240; prairie, 31,654; pasture-timothy, 278; clover, 29; other tame grasses, 1,663; prairie, 39,760.
Horticulture. - were 23 acres to nurseries and the following numbers of fruit trees: Apple-bearing, 143,716, not bearing, 87,308; pear-bearing, 5,116, not bearing, 5,310; peach-bearing, 105,000, not bearing, 92,167; plum-bearing, 6,817, not bearing, 5,770; cherry-bearing, 31,549, not bearing, 17,577. Of vineyards there were 67 acres, and 16 gallons of wine were made during the year.
But little has been in the cultivation of forest trees. There were in 1882, of cottonwood 8 acres, walnut, 31, maple, 191, and of other varieties, 120 acres, making a total of 350 acres.
The number of rods of the different kinds of fence was as follows: board, 16,819; rail, 125,011; stone, 2,338; hedge, 502,565; wire, 115,979;-total, 762,712, or 2,383.5 miles.
The coal mining industry of Cherokee County is a very important one. The first mining was done in 1870, since which time the aggregate amount of coal raised has steadily increased, though at particular mines the amount has in some cases diminished. In 1872, there were raised upward of 16,000 tons; In 1881, there were 135,OOO tons mined at Stilson, Scammonville and Weir City, the value of which to the county could not be less than $270,00O. It is estimated that for 1882, not less than 300,000 tons were mined, the value of which to the county would be at least $600,000.
In 1860, the population of the county was 1,501; in 1870, 11,038; in 1875, 12,223; in 1878 17,770; in 1880, 21,907; in 1882, 23,232, divided among the townships and cities as follows: Pleasant View, 1,057; Cherokee, 1,332; Mineral, 1,224; Ross, 1,235; Sheridan, 1,644; Lola; 1,307; Salamanca, 759; Crawford, 1,031; Shawnee, 930; Lowell, including Galena, 3,721; Gardner, ,128; Spring Valley, 1,373; Lyon, 942; Neosho, 1,237; Baxter Springs, 1,237, Empire City, 1,054 and Columbus, 2,021.
There are two main lines of railroad in this county-the Kansas City, Fort Scott & Gulf, and the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad; the former extends from north to south, and the latter from east to west, intersecting at Columbus. The Short Creek & Joplin Railroad extends from Baxter Strings northwestwardly through Empire City, to Joplin, Mo. The total number of miles of railroad in Cherokee County is 60. No county railroad bonds have been issued.
Law and government
Although the Kansas Constitution was amended in 1986 to allow the sale of alcoholic liquor by the individual drink with the approval of voters, Cherokee County has remained a prohibition, or "dry", county.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 591 square miles (1,531 km²), of which 587 sq. mi. (1,521 km²) is land and 4 sq. mi. (10 km²), or 0.65%, is water.
Cherokee County's population was estimated to be 21,555 in the year 2005, a decrease of 1,000, or -4.4%, over the previous five years.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 22,605 people, 8,875 households, and 6,239 families residing in the county. The population density was 15/km² (38/mi²). There were 10,031 housing units at an average density of 7/km² (17/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 92.27% White, 0.61% Black or African American, 3.45% Native American, 0.23% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 0.50% from other races, and 2.90% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.29% of the population.
There were 8,875 households out of which 32.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.60% were married couples living together, 9.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.70% were non-families. 26.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.02.
In the county the population was spread out with 26.50% under the age of 18, 8.40% from 18 to 24, 26.90% from 25 to 44, 23.10% from 45 to 64, and 15.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 94.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.70 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $30,505, and the median income for a family was $37,284. Males had a median income of $29,045 versus $19,675 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,710. About 11.40% of families and 14.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.40% of those under age 18 and 10.60% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2005 estimate):
Baxter Springs, 4,246
Columbus, 3,259 (county seat)
West Mineral, 234
Unified school districts
Cherokee USD 247 is a 300 square mile school district primarily covering portions of Crawford and Cherokee counties, but also includes small portions of Labette and Neosho counties. It serves over 800 students in grades Pre-K through 12. Southeast High School (the "Lancers") is located just west of the city of Cherokee (where the district office is located). In Cherokee County the district serves the cities of Weir and West Mineral.
Riverton USD 404
Columbus USD 493
Galena USD 499
Baxter Springs USD 508