The Early History of Harvey County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Harvey County is situated on the eastern line of the central belt of counties in the State, about seventy five miles north of the Indian territory, and about one hundred and ten miles south of the Nebraska State line, being only about thirty miles in a southeasterly direction from the geographical center of the State. It is bounded on the north by McPherson and Marion; east, Marion and Butler; south, Sedgwick, and on the west by Reno County. The county contains fifteen congressional townships, is thirty miles from east to west, eighteen from north to south, and ranks fourth in being one of the smallest counties in the state. Harvey is also the center of population in the "Garden of Kansas" and it chances are favorable that with its superior advantages it will become, eventually, the center of population in the State.
The surface soil of Harvey is similar to that of other counties in the immediate vicinity, being a rich, black sandy loam, strongly impregnated with gypsum and lime, and varies in depth upon the uplands from two to ten feet, and upon the bottoms from three to thirty feet. The subsoil is very porous and underlaid with gypsum, which accounts for its remarkable productiveness. The entire county slopes gently to the southeast, about one half being upland and the remainder being equally divided between first and second bottom.
Harvey is one of the best watered counties in the state. the great Arkansas River flow through the southwestern corner, while the Little Arkansas enters the county from the north and flows southeast through the townships of Alta, Garden, Halstead, Lakin and Sedgwick. Tributary to this stream, and watering various parts of the county, are Turkey, Black Kettle, Kisawa, Sand, Jester, the three Emmets and Gooseberry creeks. In addition to these there are Doyle, Wildcat, Gypsum, Gester and two branches of the West White River, important tributaries of Walnut River. These streams are, in all seasons of the year, fed by numerous springs and minor tributaries. Between the two rivers are found several beautiful lakes, which afford abundance of pure water. from ten to fifteen feet on the bottoms, which never overflow, and from twenty to forty feet on the uplands, is the usual depth for sinking wells.
With an altitude of 1,500 feet above sea level, and its latitudinal location being traversed from east to west by the 38th parallel of north latitude, Harvey County has a climate similar to that of Central Kentucky, Southern Virginia and Delaware. No malaria is noticeable, and with short winters and summers soothed by the everlasting Kansas zephyr, diseases peculiar to damp climates are never contracted. From the nature of the soil and climate, all products common to the North and south can be raised here, including grains, cereals, grasses and fruits.
A few statistical points as to Harvey County's prosperity show that out of 345,600 acres, 208,472 acres are in farms; assessed value on taxable property in county, $2,183,141.64; value of animals slaughtered, 1879 -- $42,141; 1881 -- $120,493; wool clip, 1878, 8,040 pounds;1879, 13,134 pounds; 1881, 32,116 pounds; artificial forest in county, 2,500 acres. In 1874 there were 1,568 acres planted in winter wheat, which yielded 25,068 bushels, and in the same year 3, 590 acres of spring wheat, yielding 48,104 bushels. In 1882 there were 49,748 acres in winter wheat, yielding 1,243,700 bushels, and only 443 acres of spring wheat, yielding 5,316 bushels. In 1874, out of 13,178 acres of corn planted, 65,890 bushels were harvested. In 1882 4,836 acres in cultivation, yielded 337,440 bushels. other products have increased in proportion. Population in 1875, 5,046; in 1880, 11,454; increase in five years, 6,408; in 1882 11,486; increase in seven years 6,440.
From various sources it has been shown that H. Nieman, who took up a claim on the West White Water in the present township of Richland, in June 1869, was the first bona fide settler in what is now known as Harvey County. It has also been shown that certain parties had located claims prior to that date but were not actual settlers. Mr. Nieman was followed in July of the same year by Wm. Lawrence and Hubbard Wilcox, who settled in the immediate vicinity. In the fall of 1869 Wm. McOwen, Charles Schaefer, John N. Corgan, W. T. Wetheral, John Wright and S. Decker located on and in the vicinity of what is now Sedgwick City.
The early settlement of Harvey County by townships, as given by Judge R. W. P. Muse, in his history of Harvey County, is to the effect that Lakin Township was settled early in June 1869, by Messrs. Kimball and Howard, who located on Section 7;Macon Township, at the mouth of the three Emma creeks in the summer of 1869, by Geo. F. Perry, Wm. Cleveland, M. Alexander and Seth Goodley, who established a cattle ranche(sic);Richland Township was inhabited by Messrs. Nieman, Lawrence and Wilcox until June 1870,when A. G. Richardson, present County Commissioner, came and purchased the claims of Lawrence and Wilcox, and made a permanent location.
Other settlers in the township were C. S. Fink, July 3, 1870; R. W. Denny September 18, 1870, and Joel and Jesse Parker, H. W. Bailey, B. P. Parks, S. Saylor, T. Ezra, R. Smith in October, 1870;Darlington Township -- Edward Doty, Thomas Winn, July 1870; C. E. Berry, August 1870; E. Marks, O. B. Hildreth, Wm. Geary and I. Stockwell on Section 4, in October, 1870; they were followed by O. B. Gingress and Jas. Allen and others in the fall of the same year; Garden and Alta Township were first settled by a French colony of ten persons, who located in Alta Township on Turkey Creek, in 1869-70. In the fall of 1870 the settlement was augmented by Palmer and Daniel Heath and others.
On the Little Arkansas River in Garden Township, an Irish settlement was formed early in 1870, and increased September 12, 1870 by F. P. and A. E. Munch; Newton Township -- in February, 1871, A. W. Baker, Miles Davids and Joshua Perkins;Highland Township -- in March, 1871, by John Hengst, C. W. Patterson, J. V. Sharp, H. Beery and F. Livingston, followed in April by J. S. and F. W. H. Hackney, J. C. W. E. and J. M. Johnston, R. T. Elwood, J. C. Caveny, W. Davis and others; Lake Township -- in March 1871, by Jas. McMurray, Jas. Patterson, John Gorgas and others;Burrton Township -- by John W. Blades and others in April, 1871; Emma Township -- in April, 1871, by Wm. and Chas. Bean, E. C. Munger, G. Webster and others; Walton Township -- in March 1871 by Theodore Kline and family; Halstead Township -- in September, 1870, by John N. Corgan, who had sold his claim where Sedgwick City now stands, and located near present town of Halstead. He was followed in October by G. L. Cooper, J. Schoonover, A. Olson, Allen Miller, L. D. and A. Brewer; Pleasant Township -- in January, 1871, by John Harlan, J. and P. Ray, L. B. Owen, D. E. Sheldon; in February, H. D. and C. Kettle, D. Denny, S. Chamberlain, S. A. Powell.
By consulting the biographical department of this work the reader will find many other names of the early settlers of this county who joined the hardy class of pioneers and left their Eastern homes to face the disadvantages and hardships of a frontier life. This county was then but a "wild sea of waving grasses" the monotony of which was now and then relieved by the sight of immense herds of cattle, controlled by Texan cow-boys, on their way to the nearest shipping point -- Abilene.
At this time large herds of buffalo -- controlled by no one -- were found in the western portion of the county, especially in the rivers. The last one was killed in the county in 1875, in the Prouty neighborhood, in Macon Township. Harvey County has been largely settled by that thrifty class of foreigners, the Mennonites. The immigration commenced to this county early as 1872. To induce this, committees were sent here from various counties and States to ascertain facts necessary for a future settlement. they are found in almost every portion of the county, but particularly in Halstead township. As a class, they are valuable additions towards promoting a steady growth in all business pursuits, but more so from an agricultural point of view.
The first birth in Harvey county was that of Rosa A., daughter of Charles Schaefer, August 12, 1870 in Sedgwick Township. The first male birth in the county also occurred in Sedgwick, February 13, 1871 being that of Henry, son of P. M. Morgan. Sedgwick, being the oldest settled town in the county, claims the first school building, erected in 1870; the first flouring mill, erected in 1871 by the Sedgwick Steam Power Company, and the first death, that of an unknown man, by shooting, in the fall of 1870.
The first celebration of our nation's independence occurred at Richardson's Grove on the West White Water, July 4, 1871. Seventy persons were present. Religious services were held early as July, 1871, at Newton, by Rev. Mr. Overstreet, of the Presbyterian denomination. The first passenger train entered Newton, July 17, 1871. June 16, 1871, a severe wind and rain storm swept over Harvey County, and assuming the violence of a hurricane, destroyed much property.
October 30, of the same year, a terrific storm of hail, sleets and now passed over the county from the North, destroying hundreds of cattle and occasioning much suffering. The gloomiest period in the history of Harvey County occurred in August, 1874, at which time that terrible scourge, the grasshopper, made its appearance. This pest in countless millions were first noticed August 7, and but a few days had passed when not a vestage(sic) of vegetation of any kind was to be seen, Many were obliged to abandon their hard earned homes and seek employment, to support their families. All business was practically suspended. But with the retreat of the insect came renewed determination by the people not to falter in the advancement of the county, and to-day the result is noticeable by the intelligent observer.
The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad was completed through the county during the summer of 1871. the road enters the county in the northeast corner and runs in a southwesterly direction to Newton, from which place its course is nearly due west. It passes through the townships of Walton, Highland, Newton, Macon, Halstead and Burrton, and leaves the county eight miles north of the southern boundary. its principal stations are Walton, Newton, Halstead and Burrton.
Early in June, 1871, the Wichita & Southwestern Railroad Company was organized with the following officers and directors: J. R. Mead, Pres; William Griefferstein, Treas; H. C. Sluss, Sec'y; S. H. Kohn, J. M. Steele, F. J. Fulton and R. W . P. Muse. At an election held August 11, 1871, bonds to the amount of $200,000 were voted for and carried by 330 majority. Newton being made the initial point, the contract was let, and the road completed to Wichita in a few months. Sedgwick City, in Harvey County, is the principal station.
The Memphis & Newton Railroad Company was incorporated August 15, 1872 but at this point the corporation became defunct. September 1, 1872, the Newton, King City & Ellsworth railroad company was organized. In 1873 a preliminary survey was made from Ellsworth to Newton, after which the road followed the fate of its predecessor. The St. Louis & San Francisco railroad enters the county at Sedgwick City, and running northwest strikes the main line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway at Halstead.
Although Harvey County was settled as early as 1869, the question of its being organized as a county was not agitated until the fall of 1871, when a Republican convention was called to nominate a county ticket for Sedgwick County, and this being a part of that county, delegates were elected to attend the said convention, to be held at Wichita. At this convention, the number of delegates from Newton, was cut down from seven to three, and being dissatisfied with this, the Newton delegates, followed by the Black Kettle and Grant township delegates, withdrew and nominated a separate ticket, which was partially elected.
This increasing the feeling for the organization of a new county, a meeting was held at Newton, December 13, 1871, at the place of Muse & Spivey, for the purpose of effecting a distinct organization. Among those present were J. T. Davis, R. M. Spivey, L. E. Steele, C. S. Bowman, James Sprague, J. C. Johnson, D. Ainsworth and R. W. P. Muse. A plan was adopted to form a new county, to consist of sixteen congressional townships, ten to be taken from Sedgwick County, three from McPherson County and three from Marion County, with Newton as the county seat. According to this plan, the territory embraced in the limits of Burton, Halstead, Darlington, Lake, Lakin, Macon, Newton, Pleasant, Richland, Sedgwick, Alta, Highland, Emma and Garden townships, was organized by an act of Legislature, February 29, 1872, and named Harvey, in honor of James M. Harvey, then Governor of Kansas.
Gov. Harvey appointed the following named county officers to officiate in their respective positions until after their successors could be duly elected and qualified to wit: County Clerk, H. W. Bailey; County Treasurer, C. D. Munger; Probate Judge, A. Markwell; Register of Deeds, R. H. Brown; Sheriff, W. B. Chamberlin; Coroner, C. C. Furley; County Attorney, C. S. Bowman; Clerk of District Court, J. B. Cunningham; County Surveyor, W. Brown; County Superintendent, Ellen Webster; County Commissioners, A. G. Richardson, Amos Prouty, and J. R. Skinner.
The first election for county officers was held May 20, 1872. At this election Newton was made the county seat. All of the county officials appointed by Gov. Harvey were elected, with the exception of John R. Skinner, County Commissioner, whose place was filled by the election of B. Thompson, of Halstead Township. At a meeting of the County Commissioners, held May 24, 1872, to canvass the vote cast May 20, it was found that the poll books of Sedgwick and Newton townships showed on their face a fraudulent vote, and it was voted by the Board that they be rejected, which was done, and the result was shown as above stated.
At the first regular meeting of the Board of County Commissioners, held April 16, 1872, it being mustered in by C. S. Bowman, Notary Public, A. G. Richardson, was chosen Chairman. The principal business transacted, was that of dividing the county into civil townships and giving them appropriate names. The county was divided into municipal townships, each being the size of a congressional township, and were named as follows:
Newton Township, from the city of Newton, the county seat; Darlington Township, in honor of its early settlers, who came from Darlington, La Fayette Co, Wis.; Sedgwick Township, after the town of Sedgwick; Lakin Townshipin honor of D. L. Lakin, then Land Commissioner of the A. T. & S. Fe R. R.; Lake Township, from the beautiful lakes it contains; Burton Township, was changed from Valley, in honor of the town of Burton; Halstead Township, in honor of the city of Halstead; Emma Township, after the three creeks of the same name, so called in memory of a "beautiful young lady" who died and was buried on the bank of one of the streams; Alta Township, in memory of a deceased daughter of Judge R. W. P. Muse; Macon Township, after a county of that name in Illinois; Walton Township, in honor of one of the stockholders of the A. T. & S. Fe R. R.; Garden, Richland, Highland and Pleasant townships, so named from their location and quality of soil.
A petition to annex Walton and Highland Townships was circulated by John C. Johnson, which was signed by three-fourths of the voters in the two townships. On the presentation of the petition to the State Legislature by Representative H. A. Ensign, and a committee from Newton, composed of J. T. Davis, H. C. Ashbaugh, L. E. Steele, G. D. Munger, R. M. Spivey and J. B. Dickey, a bill passed March 5, 1873, which authorized the annexations of the two townships to Harvey County.
At the November election, in 1872, U. S. Grant received 563 votes and Horace Greeley 187 votes for President. The following county officers were elected: Dr. H. A. Ensign, Representative; D. W. Bunker, Clerk; G. D. Munger, Treasurer; A. Markwell, Probate Judge; H. W. Hubbard, Register of Deeds; Dr. S. Foster, Coroner; C. S. Bowman, Attorney; J. B. Cunningham, District Clerk; L. H. Hamlin, Surveyor; F. L. Faatz, Superintendent of Public Instruction; B. C. Arnold, A. G. Richardson and T. S. Floyd; Commissioners. At an election held November 4, 1873, A. G. Richardson was elected representative; I. N. Stout, coroner.
The County Board of Commissioners refused to canvass the votes cast for the election of other county officers. At this election bonds were voted to the amount of $3,000 for the purpose of establishing a County poor Farm, $2,000 in bonds were issued and Harvey County now has an excellent institution for that purpose. By a decision of the Supreme Court, October 3, 1874, a new Board of County Commissioners, composed of Amos Prouty, J. Hollister and T. R. Oldham, assumed control of the county affairs. At the November election, in 1879, bonds to the amount of $6,000 was voted for the purpose of erecting a county jail, which was subsequently done. The vote on the Prohibition Amendment in Harvey County, November 2, 1880, stood, for 1,140, against 858.
We make the following extracts from a "History of Harvey County" compiled by Judge R. W. P. Muse, who in speaking of the condition of the early county records, says:
"The time elapsing between the organization of the county and the fall of 1875, may be classed as the dark period in the history of Harvey County." He still further adds, in referring from this time to September 8, 1875, that "nearly all important papers which should have been filed in that office (County Clerk), are missing, and even the minutes of the meetings of the County Commissioners, have been imperfectly kept, or entirely omitted."
All this while the affairs of the county had been carelessly and badly (if not criminally) conducted. It was openly charged that a "Tweed Ring" had been formed with headquarters in some of the county offices. It was also charged, and generally believed, that large amounts of money had been wrongfully issued in the shape of warrants and paid out without the sanction of the law. it was further reported that the County Commissioners, or at least, a majority of them, had met and canceled, and destroyed some $10,000 of this redeemed scrip, and no sufficient record of the amount thus issued and destroyed, had been kept.
Excitement ran high -- indignation meetings were held and efforts made to have the books of the county investigated, and if found as charged, to punish the guilty parties, but as the books had been loosely kept in many instances, no record was made whatever of important transactions, it was found up-hill business to commence proceedings against the suspected officials, and the matter was finally dropped."
The official county roster for 1882-83, is as follows: Clerk, John C. Johnson; Treas., H. W. Bunker; Reg. of Deeds, H. Mathias; Dist. Clerk, W. J. Puett; Probate Judge, J. H. Campbell; Supt. Pub. Ins., H. C. McQuiddy; Surveyor, James Dawson; Attorney, W. E. Lathy; Sheriff, John Walter; Coroner, H. A. Ensign; Commissioners, D. W. Woodward, W. D. Tourtillot, A. G. Richardson.
County Schools and Agricultural Societies
Owing to the imperfect records found in the County Superintendents office, it has been impossible to get an correct data, concerning the schools of Harvey County, prior to 1877. In 1877, there were in Harvey County 66 organized school districts, and 2,485 persons within the school age; 1,703 pupils were enrolled, and 81 teachers employed, at an average salary of $33.00 for males and $25.50 for females.
During that year six schoolhouses were erected, making the total number fifty-nine. To build these six school houses, $10,409 in bonds were issued, making the total bonded indebtedness $45,389. For school purposes $27,266.13 was received, $20,133.59 of which was paid out for expenses. In 1882, there was 67 organized districts in the county and 4,140 persons of school age; 3,209 pupils were enrolled, and 82 teachers employed, at an average salary of $36.59 for males, and $31.09 for females. Bonds were issued to the amount of $7,775, which made the bonded indebtedness $34,539.30.
With sixty-six school buildings in use, and including all school property, represents a value of $72,100. Of the $37,891.96 received for school purposes, $32,829.25 was expended in promoting the educational interests. In addition to the public schools, there are many private schools, under the auspices of the Mennonites and other denominations, in which both the German and English language are taught. Considering her size, Harvey County is unsurpassed in her school facilities.
The Harvey County Agricultural and Mechanical Society was incorporated with a capital stock of $3,000, November 14, 1872, with A. G. Richardson, Pres.; E. Commons, Vice-Pres.; D. Ainsworth, Trea.; and H. C. Ashbaugh, Sec. The society purchased eighty acres of, and one and one-half miles west of Newton, and held the first fair in October, 1873. In 1874, during the grasshopper scourge, no fair was held. From 1875 to 1878 fairs were held on grounds north of the city. In 1879, a forty-acre tract was purchased one mile southwest of the city, and a fair held. In the spring of 1880, the Golden Gate printing office was burned, and with it the records of the society. Present officers: H. A. Ensign, Pres.; W. H. Cole, Vice-Pres.; A. B. Lemmon, Sec.; E. L. Parris, Trea. The Board of Directors, numbering eighteen members, include many of the successful men in the county.
Harvey County Attractions
Bethel College is a respected full four-year liberal arts college in Newton, Kansas. Bethel is the oldest Mennonite-sponsored college in America. It was founded in 1887. Find out more.
The Carriage Factory
This popular art gallery in Newton, Kansas was founded in 1983 by the Newton Fine Arts Association, which was formed by 27 art lover in 1968.The gallery features exhibits, special events, and workshops. Find out more.
Dyck Arboretum of the Plains
The Dyck Arboretum of the Plains, located in Hesston, Kansas, invites you to become better acquainted with the flora of Kansas. Displays of native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs and trees intermingle with carefully selected adaptable plants. Whether you are a gardener, a lover of nature or seeking a place of quiet meditation, visit this one-of-a-kind prairie garden. Find out more.
The two-year college, sponsored by the Mennonite Church USA, is located in Hesston, Kansas. Hesston College has approximately 500 students and graduates about 175 students per year. Find out more.
The Kansas Learning Center for Health
Since 1965, the Kansas Learning Center for Health in Halstead, Kansas has partnered with schools in Kansas. By adhering to the Kansas State Science & Health Standards and emphasizing tobacco and drug free living, the Learning Center has developed classes that actively engage students in learning. Multimedia exhibits and engaging activities enable everyone to explore the wonders of the human body. Our format also allows teachers to pick the option best suited to their lesson objectives. Find out more.
Country Boys Carriages
Take a step back in time with horse-drawn carriage, surrey and hayrack rides, and covered wagon excursions. Available for wedding and anniversary celebrations, festivals, grand openings, parades and parties. This attraction is located in Newton, Kansas. Find out more.
Harvey County Historical Society
Completed in 1904, and once a Carnegie Library, this is Newton's oldest building in continuous public use. Visitors today will find a wealth of local history and research material, including railroad memorabilia. Open Wednesday - Sunday, 1 p.m. - 5 p.m. and by appointment. Find out more.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,400 km² (540 mi²), of which 1,397 km² (539 mi²) is land and 3 km² (1 mi²), or 0.22%, is water. The Little Arkansas River flows through the county.
Harvey County's population was estimated to be 33,643 in the year 2006, an increase of 757, or +2.3%, over the previous six years.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 32,869 people, 12,581 households, and 8,932 families residing in the county. The population density was 24/km² (61/mi²). There were 13,378 housing units at an average density of 10/km² (25/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 91.04% White, 1.59% Black or African American, 0.52% Native American, 0.52% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 4.17% from other races, and 2.14% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 7.97% of the population.
There were 12,581 households out of which 32.80% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 60.20% were married couples living together, 7.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.00% were non-families. 25.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.00.
In the county the population was spread out with 26.00% under the age of 18, 9.10% from 18 to 24, 26.50% from 25 to 44, 21.60% from 45 to 64, and 16.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 94.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.60 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $40,907, and the median income for a family was $48,793. Males had a median income of $35,037 versus $22,492 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,715. About 4.20% of families and 6.40% of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.50% of those under age 18 and 5.00% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Newton, 18,154 (county seat)
North Newton, 1,574
Unified school districts
Burrton USD 369
Newton USD 373
Sedgwick Public Schools USD 439
Halstead USD 440
Hesston USD 460