Harper County,

Harper County is a county located in South Central Kansas. The population was estimated to be 5,952 in the year 2006. The official county code for Harper County is HP. Its county seat and most populous city is Anthony. The county was named in memory of Marion Harper, first sergeant of Company E, Second Regiment Kansas Cavalry. He was mortally wounded at Waldron, Ark., December 29, 1863. The county is also home to Freeport, the smallest incorporated city in the state of Kansas.


The Early History of Harper County

by William G. Cutler (1883)
Harper County lies in one of the most beautiful prairie regions of Kansas. South of it stretches the fertile Indian Territory, already containing nearly as many whites as aborigines, from which comes a vast and profitable traffic. From its fertile soil can be produced cereals enough to well-nigh supply the State, or turning south the vast army of stockmen with their cow-boys, an overplus is left for the ranges in the unorganized counties farther west. That so fertile a county should have so long remained undeveloped is due to causes which will be later detailed, and which, while they throw no shadow of disgrace or dishonor on the present inhabitants of the county, are sufficient cause for its late settlement.

The county is bounded on the north by Kingman, east by Sumner, south by the State line and the Indian Territory, west by Barber County. As first blocked out, the county was thirty miles in width up to its present north line, and thirty-three and a half miles in depth. On the north tier of townships, it extended six miles farther west than on the other tiers, the county line on the north being thirty-six miles in length. This upper tier was included in the space covered by Kingman County when it was created, but was never formally set off until 1879, when a bill giving Harper County its present boundaries was passed.

The text of this bill reads as follows: "Commencing at the northeast corner of Township 31, Range 5 west, thence west to the northwest corner of Section 31, Range 9 west, south to the State line, east to Range 5 west, thence north to place of beginning." This is an error probably typographical, as the line north from Range 5 west would not strike the place of beginning and that from Range 4 west would do so. The county now measures 27 1/4 x 30 miles.

The county has ten percent of bottom and ninety per cent of upland. Forest occupies but two per cent, the remaining ninety-eight per cent being more or less level prairie. The principal streams are the Chikaskia River and Bluff Creek, both pursuing a southeasterly direction. The timber along these streams is very sparse and hugs the water-course closely.

The mineral resources of the county consist of large deposits of gypsum in the northwest part and some lime and sandstone in the other portions. There have been numerous false alarms of the finding of paying coal scams, but there is as yet no proof of their existence.

Early History
The organization of the county in 1873 was through a fraud of the worst description, though legal in form, and was by a decision of 1878 decided to be an actual organization. How it came about is briefly as follows: Early in 1873, three men named Boyd, Wiggins and Horner met in conclave at Baxter Springs in Cherokee County. Of these men, Wiggins was a groceryman sic, and the other two soldiers of fortune - in plain English, men who lived by their wits. Among this precious three, the scheme of organizing some new counties in Southwestern Kansas was hatched out.

Wiggins disposed of his store, and with the funds thus secured the adventurers came to Harper County. Here they met George Lutz, who was hunting and trapping, and was readily secured as a guide. After some little looking over the county, the party put up a little house on Bluff Creek, and proceeded to develop their schemes. The Cincinnati directory was put in use and enough names taken therefrom to make a sufficient showing of inhabitants; buffalo heads were set up in a row and the mummery of naming them and voting for them gone through with in due form. For their further proceedings, we must look to the following documents which are at once rich, rare and racy, and explain pretty fully the process of bogus county organization:

The petition which led to the taking of the census of Harper County bears date July 13, 1873, and prays that John Davis be appointed Special Census Taker, and H. H. Weaver, H. P. Fields and Samuel Smith be appointed Special County Commissioners, and Daniel Holson, Special County Clerk. This veracious and interesting document also states that "the city of Bluff City is centrally located in the county, and being the largest and most important business point in the county, with good water and timber, we humbly pray that it may be designated the temporary county seat of said county."

On September 16, 1874, a commission of two members was appointed by the President of the State Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives for the purpose of ascertaining the facts relative to the organization and bonded indebtedness of Comanche, Harper and Barbour Counties. The Commissioners, W. M. Matheny and Thomas S. Jones, made a majority report, and Atty. Gen. A. L. Williams, a minority one. In both are racy passages which are worth preservation. From the former is taken the following:

"As to the county of Harper, the committee finds as follows, to wit: That on the 11th of July, 1873, a petition purporting to be signed by forty citizens, householders and legal electors of the said county of Harper, and sworn to by T. J. Jones, J. D. Mains and J. G. How, three citizens of said county, as provided by law, was made and presented to the Governor, setting forth that there were, at that time, 600 bona fide inhabitants in said county, and asking that said county of Harper be organized under the laws of the State of Kansas."

The Governor accordingly appointed special county officers. One, John Davis, was appointed to take the census of the county, and his census of 641 names with the papers relating to the organization of the county, were filed in the office of the Secretary of State on August 20, 1873. The Governor then, as required by law, declared the county organized. The report goes on to state that gross and inexcusable fraud has been practiced by those persons who were instrumental in procuring the organization of said county...and that the names as reported by the Census Taker are forgeries, and obtained by consulting either the memory of some adept in rascality, or by the aid of the Cincinnati directory." The committee proceed to state that in their opinion the county never had forty bona fide inhabitants. Then turning to the indebtedness of the county they state: "That the present bonded indebtedness of the county of Harper is $40,000. That $25,000 of this debt is for court house bonds, and the remaining $15,000 funding debt. That the court house bonds were filed in the Auditor of State's office March 12, 1874, and the funding bonds April 4, 1874." The committee state that no court house does or has existed, and that they do not know what has become of the bonds, "but understand that they have been sold in the St. Louis market and the money used by individuals, and not one cent used for the purposes proposed, or for the benefit of Harper County." No record of the time of voting bonds, or proof that an election had ever been held could be found, nor any county books, or persons claiming to be county officers.

Attorney Gen. Williams, in his minority report, makes use of the following emphatic language: "It is not pretended that Harper County ever had an inhabitant; it is doubtful even if the bond makers of that county ever were in the county." He then gives the bonded debt of the county, and goes on to state: "In addition to this, I recently saw in New York City $3,000 of pretended school bonds of this county, ...and am satisfied from information gathered in New York that a vast number of bonds purporting to have been issued by school districts of Harper County are outstanding."

It can hardly be a surprise that after the publication of these reports in January, 1875, Harper County should have remained in extremely bad odor for several years prior to its bona fide settlement in 1877, and its reorganization in 1878.

The earliest settlement in Harper County was by M. Devore and family, H. E. Jesseph and family, John Lamar and family, and William Thomas and family, all of whom were settled near the east line of the county in 1876. No further settlement was attempted until the arrival of the party who laid out and built Harper City. The first wedding in the county took place at Harper, on September 22, 1878, and united Dr. J. W. Madra and Miss Mary Glenn. The second wedding was also celebrated in the Glenn House, at Harper, and joined W. S. Forry and Miss Frank Glenn. The first birth was that of a child of Mrs. H. E. Jesseph.

On July 10, 1880, Harper and Chikaskia Townships voted on the question of subscribing to the stock of the S.K. & W. Ry. (now the K. C. L. & S. K.). The vote was strongly in favor of the road, standing 153 to 5 in Harper and 102 to 22 in Chikaskia. The amount voted was $28,000 of which Harper had $16,000 and Chikaskia $12,000. The road was built at once, and is now running to Harper.

On January 31, 1881, Chikaskia Township decide by a vote of 65 to 15 to dispose of its railway stock at 65 cents on the dollar. February 1, 1881, Harper Township decided upon the same course by a vote of 137 to 8.

County Organization and County Seat
On August 15, 1878, Gov. Anthony appointed the following county officers for Harper County: E. McEnany, Sheriff; B. F. Lee, Surveyor; J. L. Rinehart, Treasurer; H. E. Jesseph, Clerk; R. B. Dawson, Probate Judge; W. R. Kirkpatrick, Attorney; H. C. Fisler, Register of Deeds; R. H. Lockwood, County Superintendent of Public Instruction; T. H. Stevens, F. B. Singer and J. B. Glenn were appointed County Commissioners, but the latter refused to serve, and there was no third Commissioner until the regular election in the fall of 1878. A wit of quo warranto was at once brought to test the validity of this appointment and the action of the Governor sustained.

On August 27, 1878, the county was divided by three parallel lines funning east and west into three County Commissioners' Districts. At the same time, eight voting precincts were established as follows: Chikaskia, at the house of J. W. Clehause; Harper, at Harper City; Lake, at Cooper's Ranch; Silver Creek, at Freeman's; Anthony, at Anthony; Ruella, at Perry's; Stohrville, at S. G. Reid's; Spring, at L. Cooper's.

At the first meeting of the County Commissioners, held August 26, 1878, the offices of County Clerk, Treasurer and Register of Deeds were found to be vacant, and Henry E. Jesseph was appointed County Clerk, L. J. Rinehart, Treasurer, and G. W. Francis, Register of Deeds; at the same time the bond of Sheriff William McEnany was approved. All officers of 1878 held over to 1880, the ballots of the 1879 election having been spirited away as is elsewhere related. The roster runs as follows: County Clerks, H. E. Jesseph, 1878-79; E. A. Rice, 1880-81-82. County Attorneys, S. U. Mitchell, 1878-79-80-81; J. Paul Grove, 1882. Treasurers, L. J. Rinehart, 1878-79; R. B. Elliott, 1880; T. O. Moffett, 1881-82. Sheriffs, C. D. Bickford, 1878-79; F. W. Privet, 1880-82; Probate Judges, E. M. Watrous, 1878-79; George W. Vickers, 1880-81; W. S. Cade, 1882. Registers of Deeds, R. J. Simpson, 1878-79; George A. Zacharias, 1880-81-82. Clerks of the District Court, J. W. Clendenin, 1878- 79; A. H. Broadstone, 1880-81-82. County Superintendents of Public Instruction, R. H. Lockwood, 1878-79; J. T. Botkin, 1880-81; S. A. Vankirk, 1882. County Surveyors, G. W. Vickers, 1878-79; E. J. Kline, 1880; J. B. Glenn, 1881-82. C. S. Loyd has filled the office of Coroner from the date of organization to the present time. H. C. Fisler was elected as Representative from the One Hundred and Twenty-eighth District, in 1878, and R. B. Carr in 1882.

When the old organization of the county was effected, Bluff City, a bare piece of prairie, several miles northwest of Anthony, was designated as the seat of justice. But one building was ever erected here, and when the new organization was effected in 1878, Bluff City was an almost unknown spot. At the first meeting of the County Commissioners, held August 26, 1878, the following was ordered spread upon the record: "To all whom it may concern: Know ye, that we, the undersigned Commissioners of the county of Harper, State of Kansas, did on the day of our first session as Commissioners of said county and State, at Anthony assembled, this, the 26th day of August, 1878, procured conveyance and made diligent search for the alleged town of Bluff City, and supposed to be the county seat of said county of Harper and State of Kansas; and be it further known that we failed to find any town or village, or anything resembling or pertaining to a town or village, nor do we believe that there is any such place in said county. Therefore, we do hereby designate the town of Anthony, county of Harper aforesaid, as a temporary county seat of said county. T. H. Stevens, Chairman, F. B. Singer, Commissioner."

The first county seat election took place at the time of the general election of November, 1879. At that time, the county had about 800 legal voters and the casting of a total vote of 2,960 may be regarded as slightly suspicious. This view the County Commissioners took of the matter, and instead of canvassing the vote, left the ballots in the poll boxes and sought legal light on the subject. Returning to count the ballots, they found that all had been purloined and the boxes were empty. Notwithstanding, the County Attorney issued a writ to compel the canvass of the vote; but as the Commissioner had gone on a hunting trip to the Indian Territory, the writ remained unserved sic.

The people of Anthony then applied for an alternative writ of mandamus to compel a count, and the citizens of Harper made the same move. Both applications coming in at nearly the same time, that of Harper was granted, and a writ was served on the County Commissioners. An answer covering 110 pages of legal cap was returned by J. A. McPhee, attorney for the Anthony party. This answer alleged fraudulent and illegal voting, and was met by a motion from the Harper party to strike out all clauses charging fraud.

This motion was overruled by Justice Brewer of the Supreme Court on the ground that 2,960 votes were too many for 800 men to cast. Somewhat later, R. P. Shepard, Deputy County Attorney, secured an order for a count from the old tally sheets, and the result was found to be in favor of Anthony. There has never been a second county seat election, but R. B. Carr, the present member of the Legislature has introduced a petition for a bill calling for a special county seat election on May 5, 1883. This petition is numerously signed, but no more so than the accompanying remonstrance from the Anthony party.

On January 10, 1881, the city of Anthony held an election to decide upon the question of issuing twelve bonds of $250 each, to run ten years and bear ten per cent sic interest, the proceeds to be used in the construction of a town hall and jail. The bonds were carried, and at once sold to S. L. Davidson for $2,880. Work was at once begun on the present court house, and May 31 of the same year the city of Anthony donated the city hall to the county in consideration of $1. This donation was accompanied by the stipulation that when the county ceased to use the hall for court house purposes, it should revert to the city. The $3,000 voted by the city will cover but one-half of the cost of this court house, but, while the County Commissioners have no right to build a court house without submitting a proposition to the people, they have the right to repair buildings in use. This they have done so liberally as to make the unfinished building donated to the county a very neat and habitable place.

The educational history of the county begins with the year 1878, and the first report of a County Superintendent of Public Instruction was made for the year ending July 1, 1879. At that time there were twenty-four school districts, a school population of 683 (between five and twenty-one years of age), an enrollment of 214, and an average attendance of 141 scholars. There was only one schoolhouse in the county, and the value of all school property was given at $100. In 1880, there were thirty-seven school districts, a school population of 1,151, an enrollment of 542, and an average attendance of 374. There were two school buildings in the county, and the value of all school property was $2,212.

Bonds to the amount of $1,300 had been issued, the total receipts had been $3,057.36, and the total expenditures $4,148.28. The summary for the year ending August 11, 1882, shows forty-one school districts organized, a school population of 1,424, an enrollment of 1,011, an average attendance of 663, a bonded indebtedness of $11,555, and an issue of bonds to the amount of $4,615 during the current year. There were twenty-four frame school buildings in the county, and the value of all school property is set at $14,250. The total receipts of the year were $7,107.47, and the total disbursements $5,960.53. This showing is very creditable to so new a county, and is one that those who hold dear the solid growth of their home may well feel pride in scanning.

The immense growth in the wealth of the county and its taxable property may be seen from the fact that the taxes of 1879 were $138.80; of 1880, $2,721.25; of 1881, $19,834.07, and of 1882, $29, 392.96.

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, Harper County has remained a prohibition, or "dry", county.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,080 km² (803 mi²), of which 2,076 km² (801 mi²) is land and 4 km² (2 mi²), or 0.19%, is water.

Harper County's population was estimated to be 5,952 in the year 2006, a decrease of 550, or -8.5%, over the previous six years.

As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 6,536 people, 2,773 households, and 1,807 families residing in the county. The population density was 3/km² (8/mi²). There were 3,270 housing units at an average density of 2/km² (4/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.23% White, 0.83% Native American, 0.23% Black or African American, 0.14% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.38% from other races, and 1.18% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.07% of the population.

There were 2,773 households out of which 27.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.30% were married couples living together, 6.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.80% were non-families. 32.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.90% 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 2.90.

In the county the population was spread out with 24.70% under the age of 18, 6.60% from 18 to 24, 22.00% from 25 to 44, 23.50% from 45 to 64, and 23.20% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females there were 93.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.40 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $29,776, and the median income for a family was $39,866. Males had a median income of $27,869 versus $20,000 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,368. About 8.50% of families and 11.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 15.70% of those under age 18 and 7.70% of those age 65 or over.

Cities and towns
Incorporated cities
Name and population (2004 estimate):

Anthony, 2,307 (county seat)
Harper, 1,511
Attica, 616
Bluff City, 78
Danville, 58
Waldron, 17
Freeport, 6

Unified school districts
Anthony-Harper USD 361
Attica USD 511

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