McPherson County is a county located in the State of Kansas. As of 2000, the population was 29,554. The standard county code for McPherson County is MP. The largest city and county seat is McPherson. The county is named for Civil War General James B. McPherson. The county is home to three institutions of higher learning: McPherson College, Bethany College, and Central Christian College.
The Early History of McPherson County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
McPherson County is one of the central counties of Kansas, and is one of the best wheat producing sections in the portion of the State. The county is principally watered by the Little Arkansas, a branch of the Arkansas River. The Smoky Hill River passes through the northwestern and northern parts of the county. Gypsum Creek runs through the northeastern portion-through Delmore, Battle Hill and Gypsum townships-into the Saline River. The tributaries of the Smoky Hill River flow in a generally northern and southern direction. Turkey, Crooked and Emmett creeks, branches of the Little Arkansas River, drain the entire southeastern portion.
McPherson County is situated just west of the Sixth Principal Meridian, and is one of the most prosperous counties beyond that line in the State. According to the reports sent to the State Board of Agriculture, the face of the country is thus divided: Bottom land, 5 per cent; upland 95 per cent; forest, (government survey) 1 per cent; prairie, 99 per cent. Average width of bottoms one mile. The surface of the country is generally undulating, sufficiently rolling, in short, to drain well. In the northern part, along the Smoky Hill River and Gypsum Creek the country is somewhat hilly. Besides being drained by the rivers and streams heretofore mentioned, the water supply of the county is maintained by a tolerable supply of springs. Well water is obtained, on the bottoms, at a depth of from ten to forty fee; on the high prairie from twenty to one hundred feet.
Native timber is very scarce, the principal varieties being cottonwood, ash, elm, willow and oak. The result is hat unusual attention has been paid to tree culture, and many maple and cottonwood groves afford plenty of fuel to owners. A great number of entries under the timber culture act have been made. The average width of the timber belts is not more than five rods. The soil of McPherson County is of a dark loam, from two to three feet deep, intermixed with a little sand. The subsoil consists of a porous clay, which retains moisture and stores it a way for use in hot weather, when it is drawn to the surface.
In the southeastern part of the county fair limestone has been found, and in the northern part an abundance of second rate sandstone. Gypsum also abounds in the north. A few salt springs have been reported, and mineral paint of a poor quality. No coal, of consequence, has been discovered.
Coronado's Expedition, taken in 1542, from Mexico to the northern boundary of Kansas, enables many localities in this State to justly lay claim to be considered historic ground. He is supposed to have entered the present State of Kansas, in the vicinity of Barber County, and marching, with his followers, in a generally northeasterly direction, to have entered the present limits of McPherson County from its southwestern corner, passing by the big lake, thence up the Turkey Creek via King City and Empire until he reached the Gypsum Valley which he followed down until he reached the Smoky River. Upon Gypsum Creek hi is said to have located the 'Diamond Fields of Quivira' - 'crystallized gypsum fields.'
'In 1823,' says the McPherson Independent of January 24, 1878, 'the first wagon train from Missouri to Santa Fe passed through Kansas, but it is probable that it did not pass through McPherson County, but would more naturally follow the Arkansas Valley. In 1825 was established the 'Santa Fe Trail,' traces of which can yet be seen three miles south of the city of McPherson. This trail was established by Major Sibley, under an act of Congress, and this was before any settlements were made in Kansas and two years before Fort Leavenworth was established.
Along this trail were located numerous ranches for the accommodation of travelers, and of this class a ranch called Fuller's Ranch was located on Turkey Creek, where Empire now stands, as early as 1855. John N. Corgan, who now lives in Delmore Township, this county, passed through here in 1856 with an expedition under Gen. Joe Johnston, who afterwards attained distinction as a General in the Rebel army. Johnston then commanded the Second United States Cavalry. Ranches were located by the Government and the land was given to the party who would keep the ranch.
Mr. Corgan says that in passing through this county in 1865 he stopped at Fuller's Ranch for dinner. It was then kept by a man named Charley Fuller, and who lives at Marion Center now. This man furnished good accommodations, and, as scarce as women were in those days, he had two women to cook and wait at table. These women were French and their names were Clara and Norma Nomo. Clara afterwards married a man named Henry Schonfeldt and Norma a man named Smith, a butcher at Fort Dodge.'
The first settler in McPherson County who remained long enough to be called a settler was Isaac Sharp; who lived upon Sharp's Creek (after whom the creek was named) during the winter of 1859-60. He settled upon what is now known as the Maxwell estate. He traded with the Indians, trapped and hunted. He came from Pennsylvania, and brought with him his father and mother. The latter died and was buried upon the creek. Mrs. Sharp was, without doubt, the first white woman who resided in McPherson County.
When the war of the Rebellion broke out, the Western Indians became troublesome and Mr. Sharp deemed it imprudent to remain longer at his new home. He removed to Council Grove, in this State, where he now lives as an attorney-at-law. Strange as it may seem, the first resident of the county was a Democrat. He ran for Governor of the State of Kansas in the fall of 1870, and the county of which he had the honor of being the first settler, out of a total of 198, gave him one vote. Shortly after Mr. Sharp came to the county, a man named Lewis settled upon the Smoky below Marquette, on the farm now owned by Solomon Stephens. He was also a trapper and a trader, but made some improvements upon his claim, and a strip of land plowed by him can yet be distinguished, although nearly gone back to the native sod.
A man named Peters also came to Sharp's Creek shortly after Mr. Sharp. He died and was buried upon the creek. From the time of the removal of Mr. Sharp from the county until the settlement in 1866, there were only occasional visits of traders and trappers. Messrs. D. H. Page, J. Lehman and A. C. Spillman hunter and trapped in this county, and Mr. Alex. Campbell, now Postmaster at Salina, made frequent trips here. He killed the buffalo for the hides, and with the same knife that he took off the skins, ripped the calico for the breech clout of the noble Indian.
In 1865, what was known as the Stone Corral, was built and owned by a man named Wheeler. It was located on the Little Arkansas River, at the crossing of the old Santa Fe trail. Here it was that during the next year, Col. Grierson, of the United States Seventh Cavalry, encamped with his troops, building huts in which to live. Lieutenant Colonel, afterward Gen. Custer, was the officer under Col. Grierson, and in 1876, he led this same Seventh Cavalry into the jaws of death. The stockade, which was made the headquarters of the regiment in 1866, was built of cottonwood logs set upon end.
During this year, 1866, the settlers commenced to arrive quite plentifully. In January, Milton Harper, Jefferson Harper and S. Delano settled upon Sharp's Creek; and in April, Solomon and David Stephens, a short distance above the mouth of the creek, (sic) In May, ten Swedes, the first in the county, located near the Smoky Hill. They were A. Klingbery, F. Lundstrum, J. E. Ericson, A. Lend, J. F. Huldquist, P. Ahlquist, N. Spoonberg, G. Johnson, B. Johnson and Andrew Hanson. The same month, H. B. Tolle and Sanford and Lowell Reese settled upon Gypsum Creek, and D. B. Ray, Robert Minns, J. G. Maxwell and family, and E. R. Falley, upon Smoky River and Sharp's Creek. In July, G. W. and S. D. Shields settled upon the Smoky near where Lindsborg now is, and in October, William Brown located upon Sharp's Creek.
In March, 1867, John F. Hughes, J. M. Claypool and H. Weber settled upon the Smoky River. It was during October of this year, that the Pawnee Indians made a raid along Gypsum Creek, murdering a Mr. Temple, and hiding his body in a ravine, where it lay for some time. In June of the next year, there was a great Indian scare among the settlers of Sharp's and Gypsum Creeks and the Smoky River, but it was not grounded upon anything except the ghosts of tomahawks and scalps.
It was during this year that the Swedish Colony, among whom were John Rodell, W. P. Johnson, Olof Thornburg and Gustav Johnson, purchased 13,000 acres of land of the K. P. R. R. Co., and settled near the present town of Marquette. Other arrivals of 1868: John Roos, A. Holt, G. Swenson, Charley Johnson, N. Nordlund, P. Westman, N. P. Swenson, O. Carlson, Frank Cross, Anderson, Bellows, D. H. Page, Joseph Lehman, L. N. Holmburg, on the Smoky River; Charles Sorrison, S. F. Tolle, F. N. Fraziure, Swan Nelson and R. Seikl, on Gypsum Creek.
August, 1868, the Chicago Swedish Company sent agents to McPherson County to purchase land; being attracted hither by letters which L. N. Holmburg had published in Swedish papers. The Chicago Land Company also made heavy purchases. It was the Swedish Company which located Lindsborg in 1868, N. P. Swenson being its first settler. During this year, the first postoffice was established at Sweadal, named by the Swedish Company, Mr. Holmburg, Postmaster; the first couple, F. Lindstrum and Miss Larson, who were married by him; and Mr. Holmburg also opened the first store in the county at Sweadal, during this year.
On August 19, 1869, was born Andrew Brown, son of William Brown, on Sharp's Creek, the first child born within the limits of McPherson County. September 4th was born Lewis E. Stephens, son of David and Mary Stephens, the second child. One of the first women to come to the county, if not the first, was Mrs. John G. Maxwell.
Among the settlers of 1870 were: B. F. Patten, Battle Hill Township, June 1; Ranson & Burk, New Gottland Township; Thomas Lockard, Little Valley Township; Cornelius Drum, Empire Township, came May 24, 1871; J. P. Grant and A. Shellert, McPherson Township, 1871; John Lindenberger, Lone Tree Township, spring of 1871; Soldiers' Colony, Ashtabula, Ohio, King City Township, May, 1871; J. C. Mahan and brother, Mound Township, May 1871; D. W. Minturn, Spring Valley Township, summer of 1872; Daniel Sitts, Groveland Township, 1872; A. S. Wilson, J. G. Snow and J. W. Boyce, Hayes Township, 1872; D. T. McFarland, Superior Township, 1872; A. Haight, A. Oldfield and E. Shaw, Canton Township, 1873.
In June, 1872, the town of McPherson had been surveyed, and this event may be said to close the early history of the county. In September, 1873, the first Mennonite settlement was made in the southern part of the county, the colony making the purchase of a large tract of land from the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. Co., besides buying from homesteaders.
In February, 1873, the colony from Ashland, Ky., located three miles east of McPherson, hauling the timber for their homes from Salina. Most of the families arrived in March, among the best known settlers being James Dean, Thornton Dean, T. J. Matthews, J. R. Dean, T. J. Dixon, D. Hodge, R. A. Barnes, W. G. Doughty, T. D. Wickersham, John Davis, S. N. Gray, L. Dale and D. H. Murrain.
Incidents of Pioneer Life
In September, 1868, the Osage Indians, who were raiding the country in the vicinity of Sharp's Creek, carried off Mrs. Bassett and a child only a few days old. The poor mother was so weak that she could not ride, and was left, with her babe, upon the prairie. When found by her husband and some neighbors, who were absent at the time, they were in a pitiable plight, the baby dying from exposure.
During this year, also, many of the Shawnee and Kaw Indians were attacked by the cholera, which proved to be of a peculiarly fatal character. Many of them died, and their bones are now found in the vicinity of Sharp's Creek.
In the spring of 1870, a military company was organized for protection from the Indians. L. N. Holmburg, Captain; Sol. Stephens, First Lieutenant; G. W. Shields, Second Lieutenant.
August 20, 1870, the body of a man, supposed to be that of E. W. Broomfield, was found near Big Lake, Superior Township, by a Mexican herder, and buried by a number of herders, among whom was John F. Hughes. There were evidences of foul play about the body, the head being crushed in by what might have been an ax, and a rope being tied about the neck. In October a coroner's inquest was held, and the testimony went to prove that a man answering to Broomfield's appearance stopped at the house of Joseph Mullen, in company with James Wickersham.
He was searching for a ranch location, the time being about August 1. The Coroner's jury found evidence against Mr. Wickersham sufficient to cause his arrest in October, in Saline County, where he then resided. When the case was brought up for trial before Esquire Maxwell, of Sharp's Creek, the testimony then presented was not sufficient to hold the prisoner and he was discharged. Many of the settlers were very indignant at the result and threatened hanging, but Wickersham's friends presented a 'double-barreled' shot-gun front and the man escaped unharmed. A band was organized in Saline County to lynch him, and soon after his discharge he left the country for the South.
Other crimes and supposed crimes and casualties have occurred, such as the killing of C. Morris by James Savage, on Turkey Creek, during the fall of 1871; the death of Robert Keiser, caused, supposably, by poison, administered by his wife and her paramour; the drowning of County Commissioner James Weir, in Turkey Creek, in October, 1872; the shooting of James Wickersham by James Abercrombie, while plowing on the farm of Ben Dale, seven miles east of McPherson, June 8,1876 - no fatal results, however; the terrible wind storm of June, 1876, which passed over a portion of Saline County, south and west of Salina, and just north of Lindsborg, the first storm of the kind which ever visited Kansas, etc., etc. (sic)
One of the last buffalo seen in this locality wandered, with dignified mien, through the center of McPherson Town, July 22, 1873. The last of the shaggy monsters in this county was killed by G. W. Gandy, six miles west of McPherson, in 1875.
An event of general county moment was the cyclone which raged June 17, 1876. It passed over the northern portions thereof, blowing down many houses and injuring several persons, but killing no one. When it crossed the Smoky Hill River large trees were twisted off or uprooted.
Ashtabula Colony and King City
In January, 1871, E. L. King, president, John W. Hill, vice-president, J. U. Fellows, secretary, and J. R. Williams, treasurer, organized a colony in Ashtabula, Ohio, for the purpose of locating a town in Kansas. Messrs. E. L. King, John W. Hill and Smith Edwards, were appointed a locating committee. They traveled a thousand miles over the State, and were returning homeward without having made a location, when they came into McPherson County, and decided upon the site of King City. The locating committee returned to Ohio, and about the last of May, the president of the company and about twenty-five others, started for Kansas.
By June, 1872, the town contained twenty-five houses, and it is probable that if the tier of townships had not been struck off from the southern part of the county, King City would have obtained the county seat. When this was accomplished, however, in the winter of that year, its fate was a foregone conclusion. King City was surveyed by County Surveyor J. D. Chamberlain, in February 1875, it being located upon the west half of the northwest quarter, and the west half of the southwest quarter of Section 26, Township 20 south, of Range 3 west of the sixth principal meridian. The city is now virtually defunct.
On June 22, 1871, says N. S. Hoisington,
'I came to what is now known as King City. When I arrived at the woods on Turkey Creek, where the Ashtabula colony had stopped, I found tents, covered wagon boxes, and shanties in which were also a few people who were not natives of Ohio. During the night of my arrival I experienced one of the most violent storms of wind, rain and hail I ever witnessed. The shanty in which I was sheltered, with its inmates, was nearly blown down the bank. Every man during that night was busy holding on to his tent poles. H. D. Fellows were (sic) the proprietor of the shanty in which I was housed, his boarders furnishing the provisions.
Himself, N. S. and D. B. Hoisington, and D. D. Carpenter were all camped together. In Norman Allen's tent to the south were Mr. Allen, Mrs. Mertz (cook), Miss Mary Allen, Charles Allen, and N. D. Allen. In William Morgan's tent to the northwest were the proprietor, Jeff Beales, and William Firkey (?). West of Norman Allen's tent was that owned by John Sample, which was occupied by himself and wife, Nellie Sample, and John Drake.
L. B. Carr and R. B. Holbrook lived together in a covered wagon box, just on the southwest. Near the old road which led to King City were Albert G. Smith and ______ Gilotte, who used to run a breaking outfit, and they turned over a good many acres of sod in and around King City. Jack Thomas, who married Norman Allen's daughter, was also one of these early pioneer's - and a jolly fellow who kept us all good natured. Our camp was just fifteen miles from the Little Arkansas River.
A mile and a half north was the 'Brickyard Boarding House', where lived the proprietor of the yard, William Nelson, and his family and 'hands', of which I was one. The brick, however, proved to be of no use outside a building, since the first rain that come would wash them all to pieces. A spot one-half a mile from the camp was selected as the site of King City. George Crissy built the first store and did a flourishing business in groceries, provisions, etc. The building was afterwards moved to McPherson Centre.
Across the street (just 150 feet) R. O'Dell built a hotel, and across the way from the hotel D. B. Hoisington had his blacksmith shop. South of Crissy's store Norman Allen, of Michigan, built the first residence, and north of the hotel Charles Anderson built another house. D. D. Carpenter, John Carpenter, Mr. Bonnell and others afterwards built residences, and Dr. S. S. Gregg held forth as a physician in a little office between the blacksmith shop and Mr. Carpenter's house.
These were all the buildings on Main street. On the street east of Main Charles Zang built a house and storeroom, and George Galvin and Harry Morris also made some improvements. South was another hotel built by William West and Fred. Albright. South of this was another residence belonging to Mr. Camp, and south of Norman Allen's place was a house which had been moved into town by Barney Reichard. L. N. Holmberg also moved a building into King City. He, with S. E. Granger, soon started a good general store. Charles Anderson followed with a few groceries and agricultural implements.
After a time John W. Hill and H. A. Hendry built a large store and put in a stock of drugs and medicines. Overhead was the public hall in which Harvey Williams organized the first Sunday school, and in which the village school was also taught. Old Father Shelly used to preach in William West's hotel once every two weeks. After the two tiers of townships were taken from the south of McPherson County, however, and the county seat moved to McPherson Centre, King City fell to pieces.'
Political Organization and History
Peketon, Pekton or Peckton County (the reader has his choice of names) was established in 1860, by the passage of the following bill, introduced by S. N. Wood:
An act to establish Peketon County. Section 1. - That all that territory west of the sixth principal meridian and south of Township 16, in Kansas Territory, be and the same is hereby erected into a county, to be known by the name of Peketon County.
That the temporary county seat of said county shall be at Beach Valley.
That Ashel Beach, A. C. Beach and Samuel Shoff be and are hereby appointed Commissioners to divide and said county into election precincts, fix places for holding elections, and make all necessary arrangements for the first election in said county.
As the east line of Peketon County was then the Rocky Mountains, it is not recorded that Messrs. Beach and Shoff ever undertook to divide it into election precincts. But February 17, 1865, Peketon County was abolished, and McPherson County was made a part of Marion County, which extended from the west line of Chase County to the present western boundary of Kansas.
In 1868, Solomon Stephens and L. N. Holmberg were appointed Justices of the Peace - the first officers in what is now McPherson County. The next year (1869) occurred the first election for the township, now the county of McPherson, and the following ticket met with no opposition: Trustee, D. H. Page; Treasurer, David Stephens; Clerk, John F. Hughes; Justices of the Peace, J. G. Maxwell and L. N. Holmberg; Constables, R. D. Bagley and David Ray
McPherson was regularly organized as a county in the spring of 1870, a mass meeting being held at Sweadal. Gov. Harvey's proclamation is as follows:
Whereas,It appears from the records in the office of the Secretary of State that a census of McPherson County has been taken, according to law, by three resident freeholders off said county, showing a population of over 600 inhabitants, citizens of the United States; and
Whereas, More than twenty inhabitants, freeeholders in McPherson County, have petitioned for the appointment of three (?) special County Commissioners and one special Clerk, and have selected and named a place as the temporary county seat of said county; now
Therefore, by virtue of the authority vested in me as Governor of the State of Kansas, I, James M. Harvey, have appointed and commissioned the special County Commissioners and Clerk asked for in that petition, and do hereby declare Sweadal, Section 30, Township 17, Range 3 west, the temporary county seat of McPherson County.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto subscribed my name and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State.
Done at Topeka, Kan., this first day of March, 1870.
[L. S] JAMES M. MARVEY.(sic)
(Attest.) THOMAS MOONLIGHT.
Secretary of State
McPherson County was organized with 738 inhabitants. Only two Special Commissioners were appointed - John H. Johnson and Samuel D. Shields; John Rundstrum, Clerk. They took their oaths of office before L. N. Holmburg, Justice of Peace. The first meeting was held March 24, 1870, and S. D. Shields was made Chairman. The county was divided into Gypsum, Turkey Creek, Smoky Hill and Sharp's Creek townships. At the same time, an election was ordered to be held on May 1, for the selection of township and county officers, and the location of the county seat. The result was as follows: Total number of votes cast, 172; for Section 17, Township 17, Range 3 west (Sweadal), 97; Section 26, Township 14, range 4 west, 18; Section 28, Township 17, Range 4 west, 57. County Officers elected: Commissioners - T. E. Simpson, James Weir and John Ferm. Clerk - J. R. Fisher. Treasurer - Solomon Stevens. Probate Judge - Nathan Bean. Register of Deeds - S. D. Shields. Sheriff - M. E. Harper. Coroner - John Rundstrum. County Attorney - D. H. Page. Clerk of the District Court - S. J. Swenson. Surveyor - J. D. Chamberlain. County Superintendent of Public Instruction - O. Olsson. Mr. Simpson was made Chairman of the new Board.
Sweadal, the county seat thus selected, was located about one mile and a half southwest of the present site of Lindsborg. In September, however, the County Commissioners resolved to meet at the latter place, a town which had already been located some two years. Their first meeting at the new county seat was held on the fifth of that month, when the first tax levy was made, 7 3/4 mils for State purposes, 1 for school and 10 for current expenses of the county - total 18 3/4 mils.
At the first general election held in McPherson County, James M. Harvey received 197 votes for Governor; D. P. Lowe, for Representative in Congress, 197; J. H. Prescott 185 for State Senator, and Olof Olsson 117 for the Legislature. Nathan Bean was chosen Probate Judge.
In April, 1873, a petition was filed for the re-location. It was signed by 483 voters, and a special election was accordingly ordered for June 10. Upon that day McPherson received 605 votes, New Gottland 325, King City 3 and Lindsborg 1; McPherson's majority over all, 276. In May the McPherson Town Company had offered, as an inducement for the location of the county seat at this point, the free use of rooms for ten years, and the donation of two squares of land on the town site. The offer was accepted the next month, the County Commissioners selecting blocks 56 and 65. Thus the county seat was established at McPherson and has remained here since. The Town Company built a plain, two-story, wooden court house, but the County Clerk and Treasurer occupy quarters in the new Opera House block. A structure commensurate in appearance with the prosperity and importance of the county is about to be erected.
Officers for 1882: County Clerk, J. A. Flesher; Treasurer, E. R. Walt; Register of Deeds, James B. Darrah; Clerk of District Court, D. B. Jeffers; Superintendent of Public Instruction, John A. Meyers; County Attorney, D. P. Lindsay; Probate Judge, C. O. Spencer; Sheriff, Wallace Gleason; Surveyor, Jeff Tourney; Coroner, A. J. H. Jansenius, M. D.; Commissioners, J. W. Bean (Chairman), John P. Grant and Edward Swander.
The poor farm consists of 160 acres of land, situated four miles southwest of McPherson, which was purchased by the county in the spring of 1875. In July, 1880, proposals were received for erecting a poor house, 28X40 feet, two stories in height. The contract was awarded to Jex & Nelson, of Marion Center. The building was completed in January, 1881. The value of the property is about $6,000.
An affair which created much excitement, and a mystery which has never been cleared up, was the robbery of the County Treasury, on the night of March 1, 1875. The robber or robbers made away with $3,500, but no trace of them has ever been found.
In Preceding pages a history has been given of the early political formation of McPherson County, and also its later history. Some intermediate particulars, however, have been omitted that the regular chain of political progress not be broken.
In November, 1871, O. Olsson was elected Representative; J. R. Fisher, Clerk of the Board of Commissioners; S. Stephens, Treasurer; S. D. Shields, Register of Deeds; J. D. Chamberlain, Surveyor; R. Wickstrum, Sheriff; S. S. Gregg, Coroner; M. M. Collin, John Ferm, and J. P. Stromquest, Commissioners.
1872-T. E. Simpson, Representative; J. M. Underwood, Probate Judge; C. W. Bouks, County Attorney; J. R. Wright, Clerk of the District Court; P. Wickersham, County Superintendent; J. W. Sanborn and E. M. Mills, Commissioners.
1873-Representative, T. E. Simpson; District Clerk, W. B. McCord; Treasurer, David Stephens; County Clerk, J. R. Wright; Sheriff, J. R. Dean; Register of Deeds, J. A. Buath (?); Surveyor. J. Leonard; Coroner, W. W. Murphy; Commissioners, J. W. Sanborn, M. M. Collier and J. P. Stromquest.
1874-Representative, A. W. Smith; Clerk of the District Court, Charles H. Knapp; County Attorney, M. P. Simpson; Probate Judge, J. M. Underwood; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Phillip Wickersham; Register of Deeds, J. F. Hughes.
1875-Representative, D. H. Page; Treasurer, A. Hogwell; Clerk, J. R. Wright; Sheriff, C. E. Pierce; Register of Deeds, John F. Hughes; Probate Judge, A. F. Waugh; Surveyor, J. Leonard; Coroner, D. W. Pitt; Commissioners, A. S. Eastlick, John Richey and J. P. Stromquest.
1876-Representative, A. W. Smith; Probate Judge, B. E. Smith; Clerk of the District Court, Charles H. Knapp; County Attorney, Charles Ferm; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mattie Murphy.
1877-Treasurer, Anton Hogwell; Clerk, John R. Wright; Sheriff, C. E. Pierce; Register of Deeds, John F. Hughes; J. Leonard, Surveyor; Coroner, D. W. H. George; Commissioners, J. W. Bean, A. F. Waugn and O. W. Heckerthorn.
1878: Representative, George W. McClinctick; Clerk of the District Court, Charles H. Knapp; County Superintendent of Public Instruction, Mrs. Mattie Murphy; Probate Judge, B. E. Smith; Treasurer, A. Hogwell, County Attorney, M. F. Simpson; Commissioner, (1st District) J. W. Bean.
1879-Treasurer, E. R. Walt; Clerk, J. A. Flesher; Register of Deeds, J. B. Darrah; Sheriff, Wallace Gleason; Surveyor, G. D. Jackson; Coroner, M. H. C. Weaver; Commissioner (2nd District), J. P. Grant.
1880-Representative, J. M. Vannoldstrand; Probate Judge C. O. Spencer; Clerk of the District Court, D. B. Jeffers; County Attorney, D. P. Lindsay; Superintendent of Public Instruction, John A. Myers; Commissioner (3rd District), Ed. Swander.
1881-Clerk, J. A. Flesher; Sheriff, Wallace Gleason; Treasurer, E. R. Walt; Register of Deeds, J. B. Darrah; Surveyor, Jeff. Tourney; Coroner, Dr. A. J. H. Jansenius; Commissioner (1st District), J. W. Bean.
The officers serving in 1882 have already been given.
The county lines for McPherson County were fixed in 1867. From that time, up to 1870, it was attached, as a township, to Saline, for judicial purposes. The county then comprised 1,080 square miles, and included three townships which now belong to Harvey, and two townships which now belong to Reno County. The last change was made in 1872. It was thought that by striking off a row of townships on the south, Lindsborg would become the permanent county seat. This reduced McPherson County to its present limits, which are described as follows: Commencing at the northwest corner of Marion County, thence south with the sixth principal meridian, to the north line of Township 23, south; thence west with the township line to the east line of Range 6, west; thence north with range line to the south line of Township 16; thence east with the township line to the place of beginning.
It is an almost invariable rule that all localities which have eventually prospered have early commenced the agitation of railroad building. So with McPherson County. In April, 1872, a petition was presented to the Board of Commissioners, asking that the county take $150,000 in stock in the Salina & Sedgwick Railroad Company. At this time, however, the county was young and entirely undeveloped, and the whole taxable property amounted to only $219,000; consequently, the Board refused to submit the petition. In June a proposition was made to vote $150,000 in aid of the Salina, Sedgwick & Southern Railroad Company.
The road was to run from Salina through Lindsborg, McPherson, King's City and Lake View. The call for the election was withdrawn, however, and a citizens' petition granted by the Board of Commissioners, proposing to vote $200,000 bonds to the Salina, Atlanta & Raymond line. At the election held July 30, the aid was voted by 275 to 248. Sharp's Creek, Smoky Hill and King's City voted for, and Turkey Creek and Gypsum Creek against. The railroad was never built and the bonds were destroyed in the summer of 1873. The proposed line was from Salina to Lindsborg, New Gottland, King's City, and so on to the south boundary of the county; then west from Lindsborg to above the mouth of Sharp's Creek, on to the west line of the county towards Atlanta.
Thus did these schemes come to naught. In March, 1873, the county subscribed $200,000 to the Salina & Southwestern Railroad. By the summer of that year $75,000 of this sum had been issued in bonds and deposited in the State Treasury. But the Company did not live up to its contract, and in August M. M. Collier, on behalf of the Board of Commissioners, went to Topeka and the bonds were cancelled (sic) and burned. Notwithstanding her failures, the progressive element of the county kept the matter of proper railroad communication before the people, and finally in February, 1879, the proposition of the Marion & McPherson branch of the A. T. & S. F. was carried by a vote of 1,549 to 1,251.
During the same month the voters in Smoky Hill township decided to allow the building of the line to Lindsborg, the bonds issued being at the rate of $4,000 per mile. The company which finally constructed the line was called the Salina & Southwestern. The Kansas & Southwestern constructed the line from Lindsborg to McPherson, McPherson Township issuing $20,000 bonds. The branch from Salina to McPherson is now known as the Salina & Southwestern, the two construction companies placing the road, when completed, in the hands of the Union Pacific Railroad Company.
To avoid further unimportant details, it may be stated that the Marion and McPherson line was completed to McPherson, in September 1879. On the 23rd of that month a grand celebration was held in the city, attended by citizens of both counties to the number of 6,000 or 7,000. By eleven o'clock the streets were crowded with people, and at noon the first train arrived from Marion County, bringing nearly 2,000 visitors. L. Roberts was marshal of the day, Mayor Pitzer, master of ceremonies, and M. P. Simpson, made the address of welcome; music by the Marquette and Marion Center bands and the McPherson Glee Club. The multitude helped themselves from five long tables, bountifully spread and all went happy as a marriage bell. McPherson was, in fact, married to the outside world.
An unusual feature connected with the history of the Marion and McPherson road is this: That it cost McPherson County not one cent. In the original proposition, it was stipulated that the company should not mortgage the road for more than $7,000 per mile. The management of the road in the East, however, mortgaged the line at the rate of $8,000 per mile and made the transaction a matter of record. So that, although the county voted the bonds they were never issued - and McPherson County is 'a railroad ahead.'
The Kansas & Southwestern line was completed through McPherson Township, January 1, 1880, but as this was not the first railroad of the county, the occasion was allowed to pass without so glorious a celebration as marked the completion of the Marion and McPherson.
The Salina and Southwestern road passes from Salina, where it connects with the Kansas Division of the Union Pacific road through Smoky Hill, New Gottland and McPherson Townships to the county seat - principal station, Lindsborg the most flourishing village outside of McPherson City. The Marion & McPherson road passes through the county, east and west, having as stations, Canton, Canton Township; Galva, Empire Township; McPherson, McPherson Township; and Conway, Jackson Township.
Agriculture and Other Statistics
McPherson County is without doubt the banner wheat and broom corn county of the State of Kansas. Situated as it is, 175 miles west of the Missouri River, between the Smoky Hill and Arkansas rivers and the Kansas Pacific and Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe roads, there is no section of the State better fitted for grain raising or more abundantly supplied with railroad facilities to get the produce to market. The county lies upon the great divide or water shed between the Smoky Hill and Arkansas. The water supply is adequate to the wants of a grain and stock-raising country.
The soil of the county is easily worked. It is naturally dry and so quickly absorbs a heavy rain as to be always at the command of the cultivator. A six days' rain does not check the plow ten hours after a heavy storm. The soil is loose and quite flexible in its character - so much so, that grain of all kinds is easily raised. Wheat, rye, Indian corn, broom corn, barley, oats, beans, peas, sorghum, millet, Hungarian and all grasses, vegetables and fruits are raised. In 1878 the number of acres of winter wheat in the county amounted to 83,727; in 1879, to 86,210; 1880, 116,997; 1881, 133,478; 1882, 105,362. During the prolific harvest of 1878, the following statements were made regarding winter wheat.
Turkey Red variety, John Peterson, residing on Section 12, township 19, Range 5 west, his postoffice being Eden Prairie, planted twelve acres of wheat, on upland, form which he harvested fifty-seven and half bushels per acre, costing $9.30 per acre. James B. Darrah, whose postoffice address is Marquette, raised twelve acres of wheat on Section 30, Township 17, Range 4, bottom land, black loam, which was planted in the middle of September, and harvested early in June, yielding thirty-six bushels per acre. The crop was cultivated with harrow and cultivator, going over it three times. The total cost of producing the crop was $4.65 per acre. From twenty-eight to thirty-five bushels, in fact is not an unusual yield. The number of acres of spring wheat, throughout the county was: 1878, 4,251; 1879, 4,985; 1880, 2,348; 1881, 2,967; 1882, 1,492.
Broom corn: - 1874, 1,156 acres; 1875, 3,741 acres; 1876, 3,895 acres; 1877, 7,762 acres; 1878, 7,152 acres; 1879, 5,146 acres; 1880, 6,039 acres; 1881, 10,891 acres; 1882, 14,337 acres.
Oats: - 1872, 906 acres; 1873, 989 acres; 1874, 2,211 acres; 1875, 6,082 acres; 1876, 9,680 acres; 1877, 12,173 acres; 1878, 16,696 acres; 1879, 26,535; 1880, 17,049; 1881, 12,101; 1882, 20,178.
In March, 1882, there were 90,392 bushels of old corn on hand.
The growth in the live stock business of the county has been almost as great as the agricultural development. In 1882, there were 8,421 horses in the county; 1/135 mules and asses; 5,108 milch cows; 8,787 other cattle; 5,035 sheep and 17,738 swine.
For the past eleven years, the increase in he acreage of the principal grains raised, is represented by the following figures.
Winter wheat: - 1872, 1,819 acres; 1873, ditto; 1874, 4,572 acres; 1875, 16,434 acres; 1876, 36,902 acres; 1877, 58,844 acres; 1878, 83,729 acres; 1879, 86,210 acres; 1880, 116,997 acres; 1881, 130,456 acres; 1882, 105,362 acres.
Corn: - 1872, 4,854 acres; 1873, 4,454 acres; 1874, 15,872 acres; 1875, 17,738 acres; 1876, 16,403 acres; 1877, 32,800 acres; 1878, 36,552 acres; 1879, 54,646 acres; 1880, 57,435 acres; 1881, 67,861 acres; 1882, 87,643 acres.
McPherson County has raised as high as 37 per cent of the total amount of broom corn grown in the State of Kansas. In 1878, 7,152 acres were under cultivation; 1879, 5,146 acres; 1880, 6,039 acres; 1881,10,891 acres; 1882, 10,891 acres. F. G. Hawkinson had, during the season of 1878, 150 acres of broom corn, which was planted on bottom land, a sandy loam, and cultivated three times, producing three-eighths of a ton per acre; the total cost being $5.75 per acre, which includes the cost of pressing.
There are still from 5,000 to 6,000 acres of land in market, along the line of the A., T. & S. F. Road, in the southwestern part of the county, and about 15,000 in the northwestern and northern portions, near the Kansas Pacific. Raw lands sell at from $4 to $8 per acre; improved, at from $8 to $15.
Some 140 varieties of native grass flourish, the most nutritious being the Buffalo and Grand grasses. The coarser grasses make as good hay as the best timothy, and grow luxuriantly. Fully three-fourths of the country is covered with wild grasses, the domestic varieties, also, doing well. In portions of the county, the blue grass has been successfully cultivated. McPherson County is a royal stock country.
Fencing is chiefly done by growing the Osage orange, and there are probably 1,000 miles of this hedge now growing in the county, much of which has come by three, four and five years' growth to almost a state of perfection. The white willow and honey locust are also used with success in hedging, but the orange hedge is more popular, and nowhere succeeds better than here. The herd law is in force, and as fencing is not obligatory, a majority of the farmers are really giving very little attention to fencing. Among the Swedes along the Smoky Valley, and some of the older and thriftier American farmers, however, it is not an unfrequent (sic) thing to find from one to four miles of superb hedge upon a single farm.
Also, for the year 1882, McPherson leads all the counties of Kansas in acreage and total yield of winter wheat. Her acreage is put down by the State Board of Agriculture, at 105,362, and total yield, 2,739,412 bushels. The yield per acre is twenty-six bushels. Three other counties - Butler, Dickinson and Saline - report a yield of twenty-six bushels per acre. In oats, too, McPherson leads in acreage and in total yield. The report gives 20,178 acres, with a yield of 908,010 bushels. In broom corn, too, in acreage and total yield, McPherson leads with 14,337 acres, and yield 7,168,500 pounds.
In 1879 the assessed valuation of McPherson County was $1,452,771; 1880, $2,068,882;; 1881, $2,411,038; 1882, $3,263,087.14. In the county are 456,812 acres of taxable land; 6,270 unimproved town lots, and 839 improved, valued in the aggregate at $251,873. The aggregate value of personal property was $573,926; railroad property, $292,641.14. Total value of all property, 3,263,087.14.
Population of county in 1877, 9,417; 1878, 11,291; 1879, 13,196; 1880, 15,520; 1881, 16,092; 1882, 15,526. It may be remarked, parenthetically, that the figures of population, as returned by the assessors, are not considered perfectly reliable. For instance, the United States census for 1880 makes the population of the county 17,143, as against 15,520, the figures returned by the assessors. It is claimed by those best informed that there has been a continual increase in population, as there has been an advancement in every other particular.
Upon the organization of McPherson County, in 1870, it was divided into districts by the Superintendent of Public Instruction, Olof Olsson. School District No. 1 commenced at the northeast corner of Section 1, Township 17, Range 1 west and running south three and one-half miles; thence east six miles to the place of beginning. During the same year the southern boundary was located one and one-half miles north, leaving the district 3x6 miles. In 1872, Sections 1, 12 and 13 were attached on the west. Other alterations were made in 1874, 1876, and 1881. Districts No. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 were organized in 1870, No. 8 in 1871; No. 9 in 1871; Nos. 10 and 11 in 1872; No. 12 in 1874. The last district No. 106 was formed in August, 1881, by A. J. Myers, present Superintendent.
From Superintendent Myers' annual report for 1882 the following figures are taken: Number of school districts in McPherson County, 106; school population, 5,742; enrollment, 3,852; average daily attendance, 2,473; number of teachers employed, 116; average monthly wages, males, $33.40; females, $28.80; amount of school bonds issued during the year, $1,820.91; value of school property, $75,000; receipts for 1882, $47,837.77; expenditures, $40,379.55; balance in treasury, $7,458.22.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,334 km² (901 mi²). 2,330 km² (900 mi²) of it is land and 4 km² (2 mi²) of it (0.17%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 29,554 people, 11,205 households, and 7,966 families residing in the county. The population density was 13/km² (33/mi²). There were 11,830 housing units at an average density of 5/km² (13/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.53% White, 0.81% Black or African American, 0.34% Native American, 0.32% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.79% from other races, and 1.16% from two or more races. 1.94% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 11,205 households out of which 33.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.50% were married couples living together, 6.00% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.90% were non-families. 25.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 2.99.
In the county the population was spread out with 25.40% under the age of 18, 10.30% from 18 to 24, 25.20% from 25 to 44, 21.80% from 45 to 64, and 17.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 95.90 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.90 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $41,138, and the median income for a family was $48,243. Males had a median income of $33,530 versus $21,175 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,921. About 4.20% of families and 6.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.20% of those under age 18 and 8.10% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Unified school districts
Smokey Valley USD 400
McPherson USD 418
Canton-Galva USD 419
Moundridge USD 423
Inman USD 448
Central Christian College
McPherson Museum in McPherson
The Birger Sandzén Memorial Gallery in Lindsborg
Old Mill Museum in Lindsborg
McCormick-Deering Days Museum in Inman