Ellsworth County is a county located in Central Kansas. The population was estimated to be 6,332 in the year 2006. The official county code for Ellsworth County is EW. Its county seat and most populous city is Ellsworth. The county is home to Kanopolis Lake, a product of a dam on the Smoky Hill River.
Ellsworth County was established February 26, 1867. The county was named after the old Fort Ellsworth, which was named in honor of 2nd Lieutenant Allen Ellsworth of the 7th Iowa Cavalry (Company H), who supervised construction of the fort in 1864. On November 17, 1866, the fort was renamed Fort Harker in honor of General Charles Garrison Harker who had died on June 27, 1864, from wounds received in an abortive offensive action in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. The fort was subsequently moved to a new site about one mile to the northeast, and the old fort's remaining buildings were ordered torn down in June 1867.
An Early History of Ellsworth County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Ellsworth County is comprised in that portion of the State of Kansas which commences at the east line of Range 6, west of the Sixth Principal Meridian, running thence west to the west line of Range 10, and embracing Townships 14, 15, 16 and 17. The county is twenty-four miles north and south, and thirty miles east and west, and contains 460,800 acres, or 720 square miles. This territory is divided into eight civil townships, and three commissioner districts. ... The county is bounded on the north by Lincoln County, on the south by Rice County, on the east by Saline and the northern portion of McPherson, and on the west by the south half of Russell County and the north half of Barton. The east line of Ellsworth County is one hundred and eighty miles west of the east line of the State.
The surface of the county is somewhat diversified, and may be divided into bottom land, upland, and land that is bluffy. The bottom land that is confined to the margins of streams and creeks, and are denominated valleys. These valleys are very limited in extent, not exceeding one mile in width at the widest part, and in many places being as narrow as one fourth of a mile. The aggregate of these valleys is not quite equal to one-eighth of the area of the county. Township 14, Range 6, which is the north-eastern township of the county, is exceedingly bluffy.
In Township 14, Range 7, a long line of bluffs extends from the north line of the township, as far south as Section 28, following the east bank of the Elkhorn, while from the west bank of the creek, long stretches of bluffy land extend westward. The north half of the northwest township of the county is beautiful undulating prairie, but in the south half of the township there is a chain of bluffs which extend to the west line of the county, about a mile or so north of the Smoky Hill River. In the extreme southwest of the township, there is a cluster of bluffs, known as Cedar Bluffs, the average height of which is over one hundred feet.
In Township 15, Range 10, a range of bluffs extend along the north bank of the Smoky, which run as far east as the east line of Section 35, in Range 8, varying in distance from one-fourth to a mile from the river. Commencing at the west line of the county, and immediately south of the Smoky, which is the northwest corner of Township 15, Range 10, there is a chain of bluffs which extend as far east as Blood Creek, and at this point they make a turn and follow the west bank of the creek as far south as Section 16. Another line of bluffs extend from the west bank of Blood Creek north to the Smoky, and thence south to Section 24, when they change to southwestern direction, running as far as Section 27.
Commencing again at the southeast corner of Section 13, the land is bluffy to the south line of the township. In Township 15, Range 9, besides the bluffs on the north of the Smoky, there is a range beginning at the west line of the township, which runs in a southeastern direction as far as Section 29, when they take a northward turn as far as Section 21, and thence to the east line of the township. Section 25 of this township and range is exceedingly bluffy, with here and there large ledges of rock.
The southern half of the county is mostly undulating upland, except, that there are some bluffs along Ash Creek and on both sides of the Smoky, and the southeastern township of the county which is very bluffy, as it is also in the vicinity of Bluff Creek, in Township 17, Range 7. The remainder of the county, which is by far the greater part, is beautiful rolling prairie and table land.
The face of the county is considerably scarified with creeks, all of which, with the exception of Elkhorn on the north, and Plum Creek on the south, empty into the Smoky Hill River, the course of the latter being from the northwest to the southeast. The timber land of the county, taken altogether, does not equal one percent of the whole area, and what there is, is confined entirely to the streams, although not all of these have timber upon them. The timber is not in heavy bodies, but in narrow strips along the Smoky Hill River, and Buffalo, Oak, Elkhorn, Blood, Turkey, Oxhide, Ash, Thompson and Bluff creeks. That on the Smoky is chiefly cottonwood, but on the other streams it is a mixture of box elder, hackberry, walnut, ash, elm and oak.
Streams, Soil and Mineral Resources
The principal stream in the county is the Smoky Hill River, which, entering the county about six miles south of the northwest corner, flows in a southwesterly direction until it reaches Fort Harker, located in nearly the center of the county, when its course becomes due south for about three miles, when it makes a sudden turn northeast, which course it follows about five miles, when it makes another sudden turn to the southeast, and pursuing this direction for nearly two miles, it again turns northeast, which following for a few miles, the next turn it makes is to the southwest, following which it makes a curve and runs towards the northeast, when it again bends and takes up its southeasterly direction until it leaves the county about five miles north of the southeast corner.
The Smoky is fed by several tributaries, chief of which is Mule, Bluff, Thompson, Ash and Turkey creeks from the south, and Elm, Clear, Oak, Buffalo and Wilson from the north. Besides these are numerous minor streams both north and south, which occasionally help to swell the Smoky, but which are as often without water as with it. The only stream in the county that does not empty into the Smoky, is Plum Creek, which has its rise in the western portion of the county, and, after flowing about ten miles in a southeasterly direction, leaves the county and enters Rice County on the south, where it empties into Cow Creek. There are several very excellent springs in the county, chief of which is the Bradley Spring in the south, and Rock Spring in the east. Good well water can be found anywhere in the county without much difficulty, at depths varying from fifteen to fifty feet.
The soil is of about the same character as that of most counties in Central Kansas, a black loam. In the bottom lands or valleys along the streams, the soil is very deep. These valleys, however, are very limited in extent, being long, narrow strips, along the margins of the creeks, located sometimes on one side of the streams, and sometimes on the other, alternating in accordance with the changes in the direction of the water courses. The soil in these valleys is of great depth and richness. In the higher lands, however, it is far different. In the center of the county, the soil on the table-lands is not over eighteen inches in depth, while in the southeastern portion much deeper. In the northeast again, it is very shallow, while in the northwest, north of the line of bluffs that mark the Smoky, the soil is excellent.
Different sub-soils are found in different portions of the county. In one place it will be clay, in another sand, in another limestone and in another sandstone. The county, however, is included in the "Golden Belt," and, in proportion to the acreage in cultivation, yields immense crops. The extensive stretch of beautiful rolling prairie which includes about the west three-fourths of the south half of the county, is as magnificent a country as the eye ever rested upon. So beautiful is it that a portion of it has been given the name of "Green Garden."
The soil is well adapted to the cultivation of all kinds of cereals, and with a moderate rainfall, yields abundantly. Ellsworth County, however, is one more adapted by nature for sheep and stock-raising, than it is for agriculture, but that portion which may be termed agricultural possesses every advantage that nature could give it.
So far as yet developed, coal has been the only product in the mineral line yet discovered, and this has been found in different portions of the county. Where a country is so destitute of timber as is Ellsworth County, no happier discovery could have been made, and none of greater value to the people, of from which greater benefits could flow. By this discovery, fuel was brought within easy reach of a great many settlers, and within a reasonable distance of all, at reasonable rates and in sufficient quantity to meet all home demands. At present, seven banks are being worked with a considerable degree of success. Three of these banks are located immediately south of Wilson, in the bluffs south of the Smoky. These banks are located within a distance of one-half mile. One of them is owned by the Kansas Pacific Railway Company, but is leased to and operated by, John Balridge. The output from this bank in 1882 was about two thousand tons.
Another of these banks is operated by the Smoky Hill Coal Company, composed of Messrs. Eckert, Hines and Latshaw. The product of this bank in 1882 was fifteen hundred tons, valued at $4,500. The wages paid to employes (sic) engaged by this company was $3,500. The third one of these banks is owned by H. Carhartt, but is operated by Jacob Sackman. The output from this bank during 1882, was not as large as that of either of the others, an approximate estimate setting it down at twelve hundred tons.
To what extent the coal deposits underlying the bluffs exist, has not been demonstrated, and whether they will develop into extensive fields, or prove to be mere pockets, is yet to be determined. The next bank in point of importance, is that of L. H. Westerman, located on Elkhorn Creek about nine miles from Ellsworth. This bank is developing well, and at present, (January 1883.) gives employment to thirty hands. The product of this bank in 1882 was one thousand tons. Another bank, but not so well developed, is worked by J. D. Sibley, on Spring Creek, about three miles west of the east line of the county, (sic) In 1882, this bank yielded two hundred tons; and another bank, operated by J, (sic) Shoemaker, in the northeastern portion of the county, yielded a similar amount.
The quality of the coal mined thus far, is rather inferior, although it burns freely, and answers admirably for fuel. The method pursued in mining is rather primitive, being that system known as drifting, or digging in from the face of the bluffs. There have been no shafts sunk, nor has the work of getting the coal been facilitated by the aid of machinery, all the work, so far, having been done by manual labor. The coal, so far as it has been discovered in the county, runs from two to two and a half feet in thickness.
In some portions of the county a very fair quality of pottery clay is found, but no efforts have been made to utilize it. A clay, said to be terra cotta, is found in the eastern portion of the county, from whitch (sic) "Terra Cotta," a station on the Kansas Pacific Railway, derives its name. Some efforts have been made at making brick, and with considerable success, but the demand not being sufficient to make the business profitable, put a stop to brick-making. The brick in the Grand Central Hotel, court house and schoolhouse, the only three exclusively brick buildings in the county-seat, were made at Ellsworth. There is an abundance of good limestone in the county, alike excellent for building purposes and for making lime.
Ellsworth County was organized in 1867, but, ante-dating this by ten years, attempts were made at settlement in portions of the territory now embraced within its borders. Some discrepancies exist as to the date of attempted first settlement, some placing it as early as 1857, and others not sooner than 1860. There is no disagreement, however, as to the names of the parties who attempted the first settlement of the county. It is conceded that P. M. Thompson, known by the early settlers, as "Smoky Hill Thompson," Joseph Lehman, D. H. Page, Adam Weadle and D. Cushman, were the first who attempted permanent settlement in the county. Upon this there is no difference of opinion, the discrepancy, as before stated, being as to the date. This settlement was made on Thompson Creek, which took its name from Thompson, the leader of the party mentioned, and who was the first to discover the creek.
The next attempt at settlement was made by Henry and Irwin Farris, S. D. Walker, C. L. and J. J. Prather. This party came in 1860 and located on Clear Creek. H. Wait and H. P. Spurgeon came to the county late in 1860, the former locating in the Thompson settlement, while the latter cast his lot with the Farris party. Up to August, 1861, there was not a white woman in the county, but in that month a man named T. D. Bennett, moved from Dickinson County with his family, and located in Thompson settlement, so that Bennett's wife was the first white woman that ever resided in the county.
These parties supported themselves, chiefly, by hunting; although some attempts at farming were made upon a small scale. At that time game of all kinds was abundant. Herds of buffalo roamed all over the country, and organized parties from other counties would come to enjoy the sport of the hunt, and also for the profit to be derived therefrom. Swarms of wild turkeys inhabited every stream and creek, and antelope grazed upon the hills and in the valleys in immense droves.
In the fall 1862, a man by the name of Lewis, with his family, located in the Thompson neighborhood, and to this man and his wife was born the first white child ever born in Ellsworth County, the birth taking place in February, 1863.
In the summer of that year, the Indian trouble, which had been anticipated for some time, commenced, the first attack of the savages being made upon the settlers on Cow Creek. By treachery the Indians lured Walker, one of the early settlers in the Farris settlement, into a snare, and instantly killed him. The white men replied to the fire of the Indians, and killed three of their number. Knowing that the Indians greatly outnumbered them, and fearing that they would renew the attack during the night they made their escape, and succeeded in reaching the stage station on the Smoky late in the afternoon.
From this point word was sent to every settler in the county, to apprise them of the approaching danger. Page's ranch, located on the Smoky, at a point where the military road crossed the stream, was considered the best place from which resistance could be offered in case of an attack, and there the settlers all centered. Sentinels were posted, and a sharp lookout was maintained throughout the night, but the only attack they encountered was a false alarm, to the effect that hosts of Indians were coming over the hill to attack the ranch. The settlers held a consultation, and concluded that their lives were more dear to them than the amount they had at stake, and the next morning, after packing up all of their worldly goods that they could take with them, took their departure, and Ellsworth county relapsed into its primitive condition where the buffalo, deer, elk and antelope could roam without the foot of a white man trespassing upon their native domain.
As to how Ellsworth County received its name has often given rise to some doubt, and many have believed that it was named in honor of Col. E. E. Ellsworth, who was shot and killed by Jackson, in Alexandria, Va., in his attempt to pull down a Rebel flag at the commencement of the war. The belief that the county was so named is erroneous, as will be seen from a letter addressed to Mr. F. G. Adams who was at the date of the letter, Secretary of the State Historical Society, of which the following is a copy, the original of which is still on file in the office of the State Historical Society:
ELDEN, IOWA, February 20,1878.
F. G. ADAMS:
Some time ago I received a letter from you asking for information concerning the history of Fort Ellsworth. You are correct as to the Adjutant's report. I was mustered in as Second Lieutenant, Company H, Seventh Iowa Cavalry, July 13, 1863, at Davenport Iowa. I was in service in Kansas, and I am the man who established Fort Ellsworth, in June of 1864. I was stationed there with about forty men, and built that block-house. General Curtis gave it its name in July of the same year, when he came up to the fort. He was then in command of that division. We were ordered out on an Indian expedition. I had about twenty men, and a Company of the Fifteenth Kansas was with us. At Fort Larned, while on dress parade, General Curtis read the name of Fort Ellsworth.
Where this Lieutenant Ellsworth was stationed with his Company, and where he built the block-house or fort, was at Page's deserted ranch on the Smoky, about three-fourths of a mile southwest of where Fort Harker was afterwards located. Fort Ellsworth soon became known, not only in Kansas, but in other States, and hence, when the boundaries of the county were defined by the legislature in 1867, and the county was named, it was given the name of Ellsworth.
The second settlement of the county began in 1865, when Harry Anderson took a claim and located on Clear Creek. In 1866, Rev. Levi Sternberg came to the county, having been preceded by one of his sons, Dr. George Sternberg. Shortly after the elder Sternberg came, he was followed by another son, Frederick, who took a claim, and located on the Smoky. In the spring of the following year, two more of his sons, Charles and Edward, arrived, this family making quite a settlement in itself.
In 1866, Fort Ellsworth was abandoned, and a large military post was established about three-fourths of a mile northeast of where it stood. Four large frame buildings were erected for barracks for the troops, two on each side of the square, while a third side was occupied by buildings erected, and a good-sized guard house, two stories high. A magnificent stone building was erected for a hospital, at a cost of $80,000. The military reservation upon which this post was located embraced sixteen sections of land, being four miles square.
At that time General Hancock was in command of the Division of the Mississippi, and named the post Fort Harker. The first year after the post was established, the cholera broke out, and caused fearful fatality among the troops and government employes (sic). This was a terrible calamity to strike the county in the first year of its existence, and nearly every settler that could get away sought refuge from the scourge.
The first marriage ceremony performed in the county was by Henry New, on the 2d (sic) day of April, 1868, when, in his official capacity of Justice of the Peace, he united in the bonds of matrimony, George W. Hughes and Miss Rusha Maxson.
The year 1873 witnessed the departure of the military from Fort Harker. This was the distributing point for all military posts further west, and was one of the most important military stations west of the Missouri River. The advent and extension of the Kansas Pacific Railway put an end to its usefulness, and in the fall of 1873 it was abandoned, and the reservation won which it stood was thrown open to settlement. The roofs of some of the buildings were taken off and sent to Leavenworth, and the remainder of the buildings were sold in the spring of 1882 to a man named Johnson. The officers quarters and some of the barracks still stand intact, as also the stone guardhouse and wooden stables, but in a short time all these will disappear, as the material is being sold as rapidly as purchasers can be found, and in a few years nothing will be left to indicate where once stood the great military post of Fort Harker.
For several years immigration to the county was exceedingly slow, but yet scarcely a season passed without bringing more or less new settlers. A great portion of those who came up to 1876 were foreigners, and consisted chiefly of Swedes, Bohemians and Germans. The Swedes settled chiefly in the southeastern portion of the county, and the Bohemians in the western portion, while the Germans distributed them selves more generally over the county, a great many of them, however, locating in the southern portion. In 1877 a large immigration of Bohemians set in, who located chiefly east, west and south of Wilson.
While among the new settlers the foreign element greatly predominated, quite a good many came from States further east and north. In the spring of 1878 a very large settlement arrived in the county from Pennsylvania, under the leadership of Samuel Killian. They came in a body and numbered over two hundred souls. This settlement located around Wilson, some of them going over into Russell County. Since that time immigration has been gradual, and although a good many have come to the county, the population during the last two years if it has not decreased, has not increased.
By comparing the population of the county in 1882, as returned by the respective township assessors, with that given by the United States census for 1880, there has been a considerable falling off. As returned by the assessors, the population in 1882 was 7,347, whereas, in 1880, the United States census shows it to have been 8,485. This falling off, if such really has been the case, can be traced to causes other than any inherent in the soil or climate. The county is noted for its superior advantages for stock-raising, and during the last two years, stock men have come in and bought up large tracts of land, in many cases buying out the settlers who moved out of the county.
A few instances will serve to show how the opening up of these large ranches affects population. The "Elkhorn Ranch," owned by H. C. Adams, contains 4,000 acres, on which at present he has 5,000 head of sheep. The ranch is well supplied with sheds and good buildings. The "Eden Ranch" on the Smoky, owned by Mr. Collins, contains 9,000 acres, all under fence and is well stocked with cattle. "Idaville Ranch," on Bluff Creek and the Smoky, owned by Capt. Millett, contains 18,000 acres, all under fence. At present there are between 4,000 and 5,000 head of cattle on the ranch.
"White Bluff's Ranch," on the Smoky, owned by Richardson & Bates, contains 3,000 acres, on which there are 3,000 head of cattle. "Black Walnut Ranch," on Thompson Creek, contains 5,500 acres, and is owned by H. B. Clark. At present it is stocked with 7,000 head of sheep and 250 head of cattle. "Monte Cenario Ranch," on Mulberry and Alum creeks, contains 7,000 acres, and is owned by Mr. Wellington. This ranch is stocked with sheep, on which, at present, there are 9,000 head. The place is very highly improved. It is all under fence, and $16,000 were expended in the erection of sheds and buildings, the residence alone costing $8,000.
These six ranches represent one-tenth the entire area of the county, and in order to get such large tracts of land in one body, a good many settlers had to be bought out. Besides these, there are several smaller ranches, ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 acres. The immense amount of stock on these ranches adds greatly to the wealth of the county, but such extensive bodies of land being in the hands of a few individuals, precludes population, and to the establishment of these gigantic stock farms is to be attributed whatever difference there may be between the population of 1882 and that of 1880.
In October, 1881, the entire community was startled by the news of one of the most cold blooded murders ever perpetrated in Ellsworth or any other county. The terrible tragedy was enacted in the southeast part of the county, Andrew Weir and his son, Bennie, being the victims, and Lewis A. Rose and wife the murderers. Rose and Weir lived upon adjoining farms, and some enmity arose between them over the division of some crop, in which both were interested. This feud had existed for some time, until one day Weir went to the house of Rose, when an altercation of words arose, and as Weir started out to go home, Rose followed and shot him dead.
Weir was a widower and lived alone with his son Bennie, a little lad about twelve years old. The boy thinking the father was staying away unusually long, started over to Rose's to see if he was there, and when Rose and his wife saw the lad coming, they consulted together and concluded that it was necessary to their own safety to kill the boy. When the lad reached the house and inquired for his father, Rose took him to the barn, and there knocked out the innocent boy's brains with a club and threw him into a manger.
After dispatching little Bennie, Rose went out to a field and dug a hole, in which he buried father and son, and having covered them over with earth he harrowed the field so as to escape detection. The neighbors, however, began to miss Weir and his boy, and suspicions of foul play began to be bruited in the vicinity. Finally a search was instituted, which led to a discovery of Weir and his son in the place where Rose had buried them. Rose and his wife were arrested, tried and convicted, he for murder, and she as accessory to the crime.
The trial took place in May, 1882, and both Rose and his wife are now in the penitentiary, she serving a term of eighteen months, and he serving the preliminary year, at the end of which his case is subject to the decision of the governor, whether his further punishment shall be death by hanging or imprisonment for life.
Scarcely had the people recovered from the shock occasioned by this terrible murder, when they were startled by another. This occurred in November, 1882, on the farm owned by Rev. Levi Sternberg, about five miles east of Ellsworth. The farm was warded by one of Doctor Sternberg's sons, named Fred, who had in his employ a hired man named Hughes. The forenoon of the day on which the murder was committed, young Sternberg and Hughes were out in the field gathering corn, at which they worked until noon, when they went to the house for dinner.
What occurred between them, if anything, will, probably, never be known, but as they were returning to the field after dinner, and just as they had crossed the bed of the Smoky, Sternberg drew a revolver and shot Hughes, causing him to fall from the wagon, and while lying on the ground, Sternberg jumped down from the wagon and shot him again, although he was dead at the time, as it was proven at the coroner's inquest that it was the first shot that killed him. Sternberg immediately surrendered himself, and is now in jail awaiting trial, and no excuse can be offered for the commission of the deed, except that Sternberg was insane, which, people believe, must have been the case.
The opening of 1883 found Ellsworth County in a prosperous condition. The bountiful crops of 1882, not only bettered the condition of the agricultural classes, but was of immense benefit to all those engaged in mercantile pursuits. There are sixty-six schoolhouses in the county and six churches, and several church organizations, besides several other societies, benevolent, literary and sociable. The financial condition of the county is good. The assessed valuation of the county is $1,500,000, and the real valuation, $5,000,000. The county bonded indebtedness is $34,000, and it has no floating debt. County warrants are at par, and are paid by the County Treasurer upon presentation, which would indicate that the county government has been honestly and economically conducted.
Only one railroad traverses the county, the Kansas Pacific, which enters from the east at Rock Spring, and follows a due west course until it reaches Ellsworth, when, following the course of the Smoky Hill, it takes a northwestern direction and leaves the county at Wilson, three miles south of the northwest corner. The principal stations on the road are Ellsworth and Wilson. The road was built through the county in 1868.
County Organization and Buildings
After its limits had been defined, and the county named by the Legislature, as elsewhere detailed, Governor Crawford, appointed J. H. Edwards, V. B. Osborn and Ira Clark to be Commissioners of the county, E. W. Kingsbury to be Sheriff, and M. O. Hall, Clerk. The Commissioners met for the first time at Ellsworth on July 9, 1867. The following is a copy of the record entry of their first meeting:
"Ellsworth, July 9, 1867, Board met; present: J. H. Edwards, V. B. Osborn, and Ira Clark, who had been appointed Commissioners by Gov. Crawford; E. W. Kingsbury, Sheriff; M. O. Hall, Clerk. After being duly sworn in it was ordered that an election be held on August 10, 1867, for township and county officers, to serve till next general election, one polling place to be at Ellsworth, another at the house of Mr. Merriman, on Elkhorn creek, also one on Thompson Creek, at the house of Mr. Clark, and one at Clear Creek, at the house of Mr. Farris."
In pursuance of this order, an election was held on the 10th of August, 1867, at which the following-named persons were elected to the respective offices:
Commissioners, V. B. Osborn, W. J. Ewing and J. H. Blake; Sheriff, E. W. Kingsbury; Clerk, M. O. Hall; Probate Judge, J. C. Hill; Register of Deeds, Thomas Delacour; Treasurer, M. Newton; County Attorney, J. H. Ruukle; Superintendent of Public Instruction., C. C. Duncan; surveyor, J. C. Ayers; Coroner, M. Joyce; and Assessor, J. E. New. These were the first regularly elected officers in the county. This perfected the organization of the county, prior to which it had been attached to Saline County for municipal purposes. The next meeting of the Board was held August 24, 1867, of which the record shows the following entry:
"Rented upper part of H. R. Johnson's house on the following condition, to-wit: The county rents it for three months from August 19, 1867, with the privilege till May 1, 1868. If the county only retain possession for the three months, Mr. Johnson is to put in a partition across the room as the Commissioners may direct, and the county is to pay $100 per month in advance after first payment, which will be paid on the 10th of September. If the county keeps it till May 1, 1868, they are only to pay $85 per month for whole term of lease, and Johnson is to plaster or cell it when called upon.
V. B. Osborn}
W. J. Ewing} Commissioners."
J. H. Blake.}
In the early part of 1871, the question of building a court-house began to be agitated, and after having been discussed pro and con for nearly a year, the question of voting bonds to the amount of $12,000 for that purpose was submitted to the people by the Commissioners. The greatest interest was not centered in the court house itself, but as to what particular place in the town of Ellsworth it would be located. Some wanted it one place and some another, and for a time the contest waxed warm.
The vote on the question of issuing the bonds took place on April 20, 1872, and the fact that the proposition was carried by only twenty-one majority will show how strongly the proposition was contested. The bond question having been settled in favor of their issuance, all interest became centered in the question as to where the court house should be erected. Some wanted it here and some wanted it there, and petitions and counter-petitions were presented to the Board on the subject. The question was finally settled by the Commissioners on June 7, 1872, by the passage of the following resolution:
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Board that it is better to locate the court house in a business part of the city, and that when said building is not sufficient for a court house it will sell for money enough to build a larger building, and whereas, Mr. Arthur Larkin having by his warranty deed, donated two lots to the county for such purposes, therefore it is ordered by this Board, that the court house shall be erected on Main street on lots, number one and two, in block number eighteen, in the town of Ellsworth, formerly known in the plats as the first addition to the said town, and that the County Clerk be instructed to accept the warranty deed of Mr. Larkin for said lots, and immediately place the same in the County Register's office for record."
It was thought that this action of the Board would end the contest, and steps were taken looking to the immediate erection of the building, but just about this time, J. W. Phelps and others, sued out a writ of injunction restraining the Commissioners from issuing the bonds. After some litigation the injunction suit was dismissed and the bonds were issued on July 30, 1872. The writ having been dissolved, the Commissioners instructed the County Attorney to institute suit against J. W. Phelps, Perry Hodgen and others, to recover damages to the amount of $1,500, sustained by their wrongful suing out of the injunction.
How this terminated the records saith not, but the following year the court house was built. The first instrument recorded in the county, as shown by the records, is a bill of sale made by L. C. Palmer to D. Thomas Smith, conveying to him sixty-six yoke of working cattle, fifteen wagons, and yoke chains, sheets, camp outfit and all appurtenances belonging to a train belonging to him at Ellsworth. The consideration was $5,460, and was to be paid in ninety days, and if so paid, then the instrument was to be null and void. Dated August 12, 1867.
The county officers for 1883 are as follows: H. F. Hoesman, J. F. Baker, Frederick Deissroth, Commissioners; A. H. Evans, Probate Judge; R. R. Lyons, County Clerk; A. R. Hepperly, Clerk of the District Court; J. A. Wiggins, Treasurer; G. E. Alden, Register of Deeds; S. Hamilton, Sheriff; L. H. Sewer, County Attorney; J. A. Hopkins, Superintendent of Public Instruction; F. W. Rossiter, Surveyor; E. R. Lang, Coroner.
Agricultural Fairs, Manufactures, Etc.
The Ellsworth County Agricultural Mechanical and Fair Association was organized in 1877, for the purpose of advancing the agricultural, horticultural and mechanical interests of the county, and to carry out the objects of the association. Fairs are held annually, at which are exhibited stock, agricultural and horticultural products, cereals, products of the mechanical arts, and the various products of the garden and farm. The fair ground of the association contains forty acres, and is surrounded by a board fence. It is located about one-half mile east of Ellsworth, and about one-fourth of a mile north of the railway track. It is situated on the open prairie, with neither a tree nor bush on the premises.
Necessary buildings, stalls and sheds have been erected to accommodate exhibitors, and there is also a good one-half mile track for the convenience of those who wish to interest themselves in trials of speed. Liberal premiums are offered to those who are the successful competitors in the various departments which they enter, and paid to those to whom they are awarded. The fair of 1882 was a grand success, the receipts more than paying all premiums and expenses. The association is under the management of a board of directors, and the present officers are: M. D. Morse, president; A. O. Whaley, secretary, and H. F. Hoesman, treasurer.
The manufactories in the county are very limited in number, and are confined, chiefly, to flouring mills, of which there are five in the county, but of this number there are only four in operation, the other one being just about completed and ready to start. The first mill in the county was built by Foster and Everett in 1876, at the town of Ellsworth. Late in 1879 it was completely destroyed by fire, all that was left of it being the four walls, which were of stone. In the following year it was re-built, and has been in operation since that time. It is a small mill, having only two run of stone, and is operated by steam. It represents a capital of $6,000, and employs six hands.
The next mill erected was by Getty & Larkin in 1879, at Ellsworth. This is the largest mill in the county, and was built at a cost of $12,000. It has five run of stone and one roller, and is fitted up with the latest improved machinery. It gives employment to ten hands. Latshaw & Bro. erected the next mill in the county, at Wilson. It is a three-run mill and does an immense business for one of its size. It was built in 1880, and supplies a very extensive region with flour. To meet the demands upon it, the proprietors have to run it night and day to its fullest capacity.
A small mill has just been completed and put in operation in the vicinity of Green Garden, and still another has been erected at a small village in the southern portion of the county, named Cain City, which will be ready to be set in motion in the course of a few weeks.
The manufacturing establishment in which the greatest amount of capital is invested, is the sugar-mill at Ellsworth, which was erected in 1881. The amount invested is $25,000. But little has been done yet towards the manufacture of sugar; what little has been done in that direction being more of a test of the works then for profit. There was manufactured in the mill, however, during 1882, thirty thousand gallons of amber cane syrup, pronounced as fine as ever was put upon the market. This mill, as also every other in the county, is operated by steam.
About a mile east of Ellsworth, on the railway line, B. S. Rice has a cheese and butter factory, in which $6,000 are invested. There are two or three creameries in the count, the most important of which is that owned by George Gibson, about five miles east of Ellsworth. This creamery is fitted up with everything necessary to facilitate and perfect the manufacture of butter, of which immense quantities are manufactured, all of which is shipped to the Western market.
School and Other Statistics
The educational interests are among those to which people, generally, pay the most attention, and the people of Ellsworth County have been no way backward in manifesting an earnest desire for the advancement of education. Whenever, and wherever, it has been found necessary to build a schoolhouse for the accommodation of children in the neighborhood, though few in number, it has been erected. There are in the county sixty-six schoolhouses, of which one is brick, twenty stone, and forty-five frame.
Excepting those at Ellsworth ands Wilson, they are all located on the prairie, without a tree to shelter them from the storms of winter, or protect the children, in their minutes of amusements, from the burning sun of summer. Naked and exposed they stand, a great many of them without even as much as a fence. In a country where trees are of such easy growth, there can be no excuse for not protecting both the schoolhouses and the children who attend them, by sheltering groves. The number of school children enrolled in 1882 was nearly one hundred less than the number enrolled in 1881. This would indicate a decrease in population, and is accounted for by the fact that parties coming into the county, are desirous of establishing extensive ranches, buy out the settlers, who move away to other counties an States.
These transactions have chiefly taken place in the eastern portion of the county, and last year two school districts, in which there were about fifty school children, were, in this manner, completely wiped out. The school population of the county in 1882, between the age of five and twenty-one years, was 2,971, being 1,546 males and 1,425 females. The total number of pupils enrolled, was 2,198, of which 1,116 were males and 1,077 females. Of this number the average daily attendance was 1,465, the males and females being about equal, the former being 747, and the latter 718.
The total number of teachers required to supply the schools in the county, was eighty-two, but only sixty-two were employed, forty of whom were females, and twenty-two males. The average salary paid to teachers was: Males, $25.73, and females, $19.72. There were, during the year ending July 31, 1882, seventy-one applicants for teachers' certificates, none of whom were rejected, their average age being nineteen years. Of the seventy-one certificates granted, six were of the first grade, forty of the second, and twenty-five of the third.
The receipts for all school purposes during the year, including the balance on hand at the close of the year preceding, was $17,137.82; and the amount expended was $15,878.64, leaving a balance on hand on July 31, 1882, of $1,259.18. The difference between the estimated value of school buildings and grounds in the county, and the bonded indebtedness is $14,464, the former being $39,760, and the latter $25,296. The schools, generally, are well furnished with seats, desks, globes, maps, charts, and other apparatus to aid the teacher and pupils, and facilitate the imparting of instruction.
The following statistics, taken from the latest returns made by the respective Township Assessors for 1882, will show how the county has advanced in material wealth during the decade of its existence, because, virtually, there was little or no agricultural settlement in the county until 1872, and even later. The statistical record in the County Clerk's office shows that the number of acres in farms in the county in 1882 was 237,188, the value of which is set down at $1,528,432. There were ninety farm dwellings erected during the year, valued at $38,510.
The number of acres sown to spring wheat in 1882, was 2,306; corn, 36,191; barley, 269; oats, 5,217; buckwheat, 65; Irish potatoes, 469; sweet potatoes, 49; sorghum, 2092; castor beans, 33; flax 30; broom corn, 340; millet and Hungarian, 1,795; pearl millet, 31; rice corn, 164. The number of acres of grass in cultivation and under fence, were as follows: Timothy meadow, 125; clover meadow, 22; clover pasture, 20; other grasses, 436; and prairie pasture, 38,474. There were cut in 1882, tame hay to the amount of 9,871 tones, and of prairie hay, 7,421 tons. The value of garden produce marketed during the year ending March 1, 1882, was $2,044, and eggs and poultry were marketed to the amount of $8,305. The cheese product amounted to 33,265 pounds, and butter to 188,252 pounds.
There were in the county 3,118 horses, 445 mules and asses, 2,946 milch cows, 8,768 other cattle, 16,880 sheep, and 6,263 swine. The value of animals slaughtered and sold for slaughter, amounted to $138,765, and the wool clipped was 72,072 pounds. The interest taken in horticulture was represented by the following number of fruit trees in bearing: Apple, 702; pear, 105; peach, 11,717; plum, 565; cherry, 612. Not in bearing: Apple, 14,343; pear, 1,594; peach, 37,091; plum, 2,980; and cherry, 2,573. The fences of the county represent a value of about $140,000, proportioned as to kind as follows: Board fence, 3,250 rods; rail, 2,062; stone, 9,132; hedge, 24,918; wire, 56,018.
Forestry is receiving some attention in the county, the number of acres devoted to this interest, in 1882, being as follows: Walnut, 220 acres; maple 73; honey locust, 25; cottonwood, 617; and other varieties, 368, making an aggregate of 1,303 acres. A good evidence of the adaptability of the soil to arboriculture (sic) is given on the farm of W. S. Gile, who resides on Section 26, Township 16, Range 6 west. It is what is called a bottom farm, the "Colonel" having settled upon it eleven years ago. Since then he has set out with his own hands 30,000 trees of different varieties, the oldest of which is now ten years old. Some of these are forty feet high and eighteen inches in diameter, and all are in a good, healthy condition.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,874 km² (723 mi²), of which 1,854 km² (716 mi²) is land and 20 km² (8 mi²), or 1.04%, is water.
There were 2,481 households out of which 27.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.20% were married couples living together, 6.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.90% were non-families. 31.40% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.30% 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 2.88.
In the county the population was spread out with 21.40% under the age of 18, 7.30% from 18 to 24, 27.10% from 25 to 44, 23.80% from 45 to 64, and 20.40% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 111.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 114.10 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $35,772, and the median income for a family was $44,360. Males had a median income of $30,110 versus $20,486 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,569. About 4.00% of families and 7.20% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.50% of those under age 18 and 11.10% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Ellsworth, 2,883 (county seat)
Unified school districts
Ellsworth USD 327
Lorraine USD 328