The Early History of Hodgeman County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Hodgeman County was organized by an act of the Legislature of 1868, but was not organized until 1879. Its area is 864 square miles; it is twenty-four miles from north to south; thirty-six miles from east to west. It embraces Townships 21, 22, 23 and 24, of Ranges 21, 22, 23, 23, 25 and 26. It is bounded on the north by Ness; on the east by Pawnee and Edwards; on the south by Ford; on the west by Gray and Lane.
In the spring of 1877, settlements were commenced. There was only a small acreage of wheat sowed, and the crop was cut short by hail. The average yield in 1878, was twenty-six bushels per acre, and other grain and vegetable crops were good in the years 1877 and 1878. The best yield of winter wheat in 1879 was four bushels per acre. Spring crops were a failure. There was a small growth of sweet and Irish potatoes, turnips, pumpkins and squashes and an abundance of melons. The summer crop embracing sorghum, rice corn, broom corn and millet, gave a medium yield in one-half of the county, the other half being almost an entire failure.
In 1880, winter and spring grain were an entire failure; summer crops were better than in 1879; but little Indian corn was raised, but considerable of rice corn, which is a good substitute for feed and food. Plenty of fodder was secured for stock. The drouth, of unparalleled duration in Western Kansas, commencing about the 1st of September, 1878, so affected the settlers of Hodgeman County, that they made appeals for temporary aid, and Rev. E. N. Ruddock secured valuable contributions from Eastern Kansas for these people. A Central Aid Committee was formed in the county; C. E. Roughton was Chairman and Samuel Townsend was its Secretary. The committee elected by the people in mass meeting to distribute the donations received consisted of William A. Agee, L. P. Mack and R. O. Silvius.
The Baptist, Christian, Congregational, Lutheran, Methodists and Roman Catholics have organizations in the county; the most numerous are the Christians. Rev. D. M. Jessup is one of the prominent spiritual teachers.
Hodgeman County has 84,320 acres of public lands. Jetmore, its permanent county seat, is situated just about in the center of the county from north to south and from east to west. It is accessible from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad from the county seats of Pawnee, Edwards and Ford Counties, Larned, Kinsley and Dodge City. The Hodgeman Center Post Office, two and a half miles distant from Jetmore, was absorbed by the latter office June 10, 1880.
In 1878, there were seventy-two organized counties in Kansas. During 1879, five were organized of which Hodgeman was the first. Early in 1879, Gov. St. John appointed S. A. Sheldon as Census Taker for Hodgeman County. Many of the then settlers of the county thought it better to organize the county as a municipal township, deeming it too young to support itself without going into debt. But while Mr. Sheldon was taking the census, public meetings were held in every quarter of the county, and the men that the majority of the settlers desired as the temporary officers of the county were E. M. Prindle for County Clerk; J. W. Hunter, D. McCarty and Samuel Townsend for County Commissioners, and a petition to the Governor requesting such action was forwarded by a messenger. March 29, 1879, the Governor issued a proclamation organizing Hodgeman County, appointing John W. Hunter, Jonathan R. Wilson and S. A. Sheldon, County Commissioners, and W. W. Wheeland as County Clerk, and designating the town of Hodgeman Center as the temporary county seat.
Monday, April 14, 1879, was the day appointed by the Commissioners for their first meeting; but neither Mr. Hunter nor Mr. Wheeland were there, whereupon the Fordham Republican commented as follows:
"We presume that Mr. Wheeland, the Governor's County Clerk, will be on hand at the next meeting, providing by that time he establishes a residence in the county. It looks as though the Governor was straining a point somewhat when he ignored the fact that we had competent material for county officers and went to Edwards County for a Clerk."
The meeting of the County Commissioners was held April 28, 1879. Each Congressional Township was constituted a road district, and Road Overseers were appointed for each one, and the county was laid off into the four municipal townships of Marena, Sterling, Center and Roscoe--the two former, each containing four; the two latter, eight Congressional townships.
The County Commissioners' meeting held May 5, 1879, recommended J. W. Marlow to the Governor for appointment as County Superintendent of Public Instruction, and two persons in each municipal township for Justice of the Peace. The Governor, however, declined to appoint these officers.
At a meeting of the board held May 17, 1879, a contract was made with C. B. Hamilton & Co., of Topeka, to furnish the county with books and blanks.
July 7, 1879, the Board of Commissioners made the following appointments: Louis Stroud, Treasurer; Samuel Townsend, Register of Deeds; William A. Agee, County Superintendent of Public Instruction; W. J. Iliff, County Surveyor; E. B. McPherson, Trustee for Marena Township; A. A. Lord, Sterling; John Gillespie, Center; Joseph Nelson, Roscoe Township. In September, 1879, County Clerk Wheeland received a letter from the State Superintendent of Public Instruction to the effect that he would not recognize the appointment of Mr. Agee as County Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Hodgeman County was in the Ninth Judicial District, of which Samuel R. Peters was Judge, and in June, 1879, he appointed D. G. Curtis, Clerk of the District Court, and Edgar R. Fulton, County Attorney. The county--in 1883--is in the Sixteenth Judicial District, of which J. C. Strang, of Pawnee, is Judge.
At the general election, November 4, 1879, a vote was taken on the location of the county seat, with the following result: Buckner, 199; Marena, 107; Hodgeman Center, 40; Fordham, 5. The name of Buckner was changed to Jetmore a short time after the permanent selection of the county seat.
The result of the election of 1879 was so unsatisfactory to "the powers that be" in Hodgeman at that time than an action was held in the Supreme Court of the State, which was entitled:
"The State of Kansas, ex rel. vs. the Board of County Commissioners of the County of Hodgeman, S. A. Sheldon, J. R. Wilson and J. W. Hunter. Original proceedings in mandamus."
The defendants were compelled to make the canvass, and the county started in with a new set of officers, who had been opposed by the out-going powers. The retiring County Commissioners issued to J. W. Crawford, their attorney in the mandamus suit, on January 3, 1880, the sum of $650. Commissioner Wilson was allowed $38 for expense attending suit vs. county on the 13th of January, and each of the Commissioners $75, which was the last act of their official lives as Commissioners.
This county is part of the Thirty-seventh Senatorial District. It was represented in the State Senate of 1881 by J. C. Strang, of Pawnee County; in 1883, by Simon Motz, of Ellis. In the election that will occur in 1884, it will be in the Thirty-fifth Senatorial District. Samuel Townsend was elected as the first Representative to the Legislature from Hodgeman County, but there was no session during the term for which he was elected. In the session of 1881, Alexander Newby was the Representative; in 1883, R. J. Kenyon. The district is No. 119.
At the meeting of the County Commissioners February 2, 1880, the board accepted a lease for the building in which the county offices were held, from Mrs. Elizabeth Haun, for the consideration of $1.
The following is the official roster of the county: County Commissioners--1879, J. W. Hunter, S. A. Sheldon, J. R. Wilson; 1880, Lewis Stroud, C. E. Roughton, Edward E. Bowlus; 1881, Lewis Stroud, J. J. Freeman, J. P. Best; 1882, Samuel J. Eakin, C. E. Roughton, J. P. Best; 1883, Samuel J. Eakin, Samuel Townsend, J. P. Best. County Clerks--1879, W. W. Wheeland; 1880-81, E. M. Prindle; 1882-83, L. M. Miller. County Treasurers--1879, Lewis Stroud; 1880-81, W. A. Frush; 1882-83, C. E. Wilson. Registers of Deeds--1879, Samuel Townsend; 1880-81, J. A. Whiteside; 1882-83, J. E. Millicker. County Surveyors--1879, W. J. Iliff; 1880-83, D. V. Morgan. Sheriff--1880-83, George M. Curtis. Clerks of the District Court--1879, Daniel G. Curtis; 1880, W. H. Secor; 1881-82, A. O. Dickinson; 1883, D. N. Larned. County Attorneys--1879-80, Edgar R. Fulton; 1881, S. A. Sheldon; 1882, John Harlan; 1883, W. S. Kenyon. Probate Judges--1880-82, L. P. Mack; 1883, Ed. Waters. County Superintendents of Public Instruction--1879, W. A. Agee; 1880, George A. Curtis; 1881-83, J. R. Baird. Coroners--Taylor Jackson, T. P. Moore. The vote of Hodgeman County at its first Presidential election, in 1880, was as follows: Garfield, 176; Hancock, 52; Weaver, 38. The county has voted at two gubernatorial elections with the following result: In 1880, St. John, Republican, 177; Ross, Democrat, 54; Vrooman, National, 32; in 1882, St. John, Republican, 157; Glick, Democrat, 87; Robinson, National, 55. On the prohibition amendment, Hodgeman County's vote stood 147 for, 65 against.
Press History, School Statistics, Etc.
The first number of the Fordham Republican was issued April 9, 1879. Guy F. Carleson, editor. In 1879, the paper was designated as the official paper of the county. In spite of this honor, however, the Republican passed from existence October 15, 1879.
March 1, 1879, the Hodgeman Center Agitator was started, Mr. Wheeland; the County Clerk, was its editor. The last number of the Agitator was issued January 10, 1880, and with its demise, its editor went out of the office.
The Buckner Independent, originally the Spearville News, of Ford County, was established by T. S. Haun, November 7, 1879. T. S. Haun and G. S. W. Stumbaugh became the proprietors, May 20, 1880. The Independent, June 24, 1880, is dated at Jetmore. In March, 1881, it became the Jetmore Republican. In June, 1881, T. S. Haun became the sole editor and proprietor. December 16, 1881, W. S. Kenyon became associated with Mr. Haun, in its management; on December 23, Frank H. Nash became editor. The Jetmore Reveille was started December 27, 1882. It is now the official paper of the county, W. S. Kenyon, editor and proprietor.
The number of school districts in the county in 1880 were 12; in 1882, the number was 14. The number of children of school age in 1880, was 138; it was 383 in 1882. The value of its school property in 1880 was $175; in 1882, it was $700. The average monthly salary of male teachers in 1880, was $11.66; in 1882, it was $23.33; of female teachers in 1880, $10.22; in 1882, it was $16.69.
In 1880, Hodgeman County had 1,704 inhabitants; in 1882, their number had decreased to 1,141.
In 1880, there were 3,425 acres in winter wheat; in 1882, 2,148. In 1880, in corn, 723 acres; in 1882, 1,346. In 1880, in Irish potatoes, 105 acres; in 1882, 629. In 1880, in sorghum, 614 acres; in 1882, 5,067. In 1880, in broom corn, 192 acres; in 1882, 996: in 1880, there were 423 horses, in 1882, 587. In 1880, there were 499 milch cows; in 1882, 754. In there were other cattle 1,131; in 1882, 4,805. In 1880, there were 1,103 sheep; in 1881, 11,075; in 1882, 14,529. In 1880, there were 113 swine; in 1881, 11,315; in 1882, 14,356. In 1880, there were manufactured 12 pounds of cheese; in 1881, 555; in 1882, 1,380; pounds of butter in 1880, 10,583; in 1881, 240,614.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,228 km² (860 mi²), of which 2,227 km² (860 mi²) is land and 1 km² (0 mi²), or 0.04%, is water.
Hodgeman County's population was estimated to be 2,071 in the year 2006, an decrease of 13, or -0.6%, over the previous six years.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 2,085 people, 796 households, and 581 families residing in the county. The population density was 1/km² (2/mi²). There were 945 housing units at an average density of 0/km² (1/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.31% White, 0.91% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.48% from other races, and 1.06% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.69% of the population.
There were 796 households out of which 34.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.10% were married couples living together, 4.40% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.00% were non-families. 24.70% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.58 and the average family size was 3.09.
In the county the population was spread out with 29.00% under the age of 18, 4.70% from 18 to 24, 25.20% from 25 to 44, 22.10% from 45 to 64, and 19.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 97.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $35,994, and the median income for a family was $39,358. Males had a median income of $27,568 versus $21,534 for females. The per capita income for the county was $15,599. About 10.70% of families and 11.50% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.90% of those under age 18 and 7.70% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Jetmore, 904 (county seat)
Unified school districts
Jetmore USD 227
Hanston USD 228