Nemaha County is a county located in the State of Kansas. As of 2000, the population is 10,717. The official county code for Nemaha County is NM. The county seat is Seneca. The county is home to Nemaha County lake. It is thought that the expeditions of both Coronado and Fremont passed through Nemaha County, some 300 years apart.
The Early History of Nemaha County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Nemaha County adjoins Nebraska on the south, and is the third county of Kansas in the northern tier west of the Missouri River. It is bounded on the east by Brown and Jackson Counties, on the south by Jackson and Pottawatomie, and on the west by Marshall. Its size is twenty-four miles east and west, and thirty miles north and south, its area comprising 460,800 acres of land, 247,117 acres of which is divided into farms in the counties; contains about 87 per cent. of prairie and 10 per cent. of bottom lands, the amount of timber being estimated at about 3 per cent. The surface of the land, taken as a whole, is sufficiently rolling to insure good drainage, and hence is admirable adapted for both grazing and agricultural purposes. Good water is abundant - in fact, it may be said of all of Northeastern Kansas, that very few of the prairie States are so generously supplied with streams. The great water-shed in the northern part of the State lies in Town 4, Range 13, in Harrison Township, of Nemaha County.
The waters run southward, making the heads of Elk, Soldier and the Red Vermillion, and northward, making the heads of the south branch of Harris, Tennessee, Hickey, Illinois and Wild Cat Creeks, which find their way into the Nemaha, the latter leaving the county in Town 1, Range 12. None of the streams afford water power; but they pervade almost every portion of the county, and no considerable amount of a prairie is far from timber. The average width of the creed bottoms is one mile, of the soil is a dark, sandy loam, varying in depth from one to six feet, with limestone, the latter, of a quality suitable for building purposes, cropping out in various localities. Sandstone is also found in limited quantities.
Numerous coal beds about of little value, except in Illinois Township, where two shafts are worked, the product being used locally; and in Washington Township, where a vein eighteen to twenty-four inches thick has been recently been discovered. The native timber is hickory, oak, hackberry, elm, walnut, cottonwood, locust, sycamore and ash; the agricultural products comprising all almost that are indigenous to the temperate zone, the principal being wheat, barley, corn, oats and rye. Of wheat the yield is from fifteen to twenty- five bushels to the acre, of corn the average yield is about fifty-five bushels. Root crops, such as potatoes, sugar beets and turnips do remarkably well.
Wild fruits are moderately abundant, particularly plums and grapes, while the cultivated varieties of these may be found in every township in profusion. Peaches do well if protected from the winter winds, and no better country for the apple orchard can be found anywhere.
Artificial forestry has been carried to such an extent that the prairie farms are nearly all embellished with one or more thriving groves, from one half an acre to four, six and ten acres in extent. The growth of young trees, both fruit and forest, is very rapid.
Nemaha County is pre-eminently adapted to stock raising, the highly nutritious properties of the native grasses being best seen in the rapid change which takes place when cattle that have been poorly wintered, luxuriate on the young grass of May and June, their hair rapidly becoming smooth and glossy, and the animals taking on flesh very quickly.
The climate is salubrious, mild winters and healthful summers being the rule, for while the summer day may be such as is best for the great staple - corn - the night atmosphere is certain to be cool and bracing. The average rain fall for the past five years from 1876 to 1881, both inclusive, has been 44.03 inches per annum.
The territory now known as Nemaha County was originally, or at the time of the earliest white settlement, in the possession of various tribes of Indians, notably the Pottawatomies and the Foxes. Prior to this settlement, however, and to any knowledge we have of its native occupants, is the record of the history of its discovery, the soil of Nemaha County being pressed by the foot of civilized white men before a vestige of settlement other than that of the aborigines had touched any of the thirteen original colonies. In the Smithsonian Institute are the records of an expedition, under the command of Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, a Spaniard, which marched from Mexico to the northern boundary of Kansas, passing through the territory now known as Barbour, Kingman, Reno, Sedgwick, Harvey, McPherson, Marion, Dickinson, Davis, Riley, Pottawatomie and Nemaha Counties, reaching the fortieth degree of latitude, the northern boundary of Nemaha County of the State, in the month of August, 1541.
Coronado says that the country north of the Kaw was called by the Indians, Quivira. He says: "The earth is the best possible for all kinds of productions of Spain; for while it is very strong and black, it is very well watered by brooks, spring and rivers. I found prunes (wild plums)like those of Spain, some of which were black; also some excellent grapes and mulberries." Before reaching this point, he had traversed "mighty plains and sandy heaths, smooth and wearisome, and bare of wood." He says: "All that way the plains are as full of crooked-back oxen (buffalo) as the mountain Serena, in Spain, is of sheep."
The expedition appears to have originally consisted of three hundred and fifty Spaniards and eight hundred Indians, but, provisions failing the party in the neighborhood of the present site of Wichita, the main body turned back; the indomitable Coronado, with thirty-six picked men, passing on in hope of finding the cities of gold, which tradition and their guides, told them, lay "just beyond." This then, as nearly as can be ascertained, was the strength of the party which reached Nemaha County.
No other expedition of any importance is known to have crossed the territory in question, until the second journey of Fremont - that of 1842 - his route extending across Nemaha County, entering the county south of Sabetha, extending northwest to Baker's Ford, turning south to near Seneca, and leaving the county at Town 1, Range 11; the tortuous path of the expedition being due to its inability to cross streams, and of course, to its entire want of knowledge as to where the streams were. This road, with slight modifications, was afterward traveled by the Mormons in 1844, at the beginning of their exodus to Utah. In 1849, it was the trail of the California gold-seekers, and subsequently, the military road, along which passed many of the troops bound for the far west.
About 1852, Benjamin Harding, an Indian trader, settled on the site of Wathena, in Doniphan County, there being no other settlement effected in this section to the west of that point until 1854. In January of that year, W. W. Moore came from St. Joseph and located in the proximity of Baker's Ford on the Nemaha, some nine miles from Seneca, the name of Moorestown being subsequently given to the eighteenth election district. This point was afterwards known as Urbana, though it was a settlement it hardly deserved a distinguishing name, except as it was near the centre of immediately subsequent settlements.
In February of the same year, Walter D. Beeles settle to the north of Moore's place, and in March, Greenberry Key; Thomas, John C. and Jacob B. Newton locating upon the Nemaha, and somewhat to the south, in April. John O'Laughlin, formerly of Iowa, accompanied this party from St. Joseph and took a valuable claim on Turkey Creek. On the 4th of July a meeting of the settlers was held at Urbana, the object being to arrange for the protection of each other in their claims. Of this meeting John Castle was Chairman, and George T. Bobst, Secretary, both residents of Nebraska, where the latter had arrived on June 11, 1854, accompanied by Robert Turner, proceeding north from Urbana, and settling just over the future Territorial line.
At the time of this meeting, no settlement, except in the vicinity of the Nemaha, had been effected west of the Wolf River and Harding's station; the early settlement of Nemaha County, preceding the formal ceding of the Northern Kansas lands by the Indians, being due to the understanding that a twenty mile strip along the valley of the Nemaha, and extending southward some ways, was "neutral land," to which the Indians had no claim.
Of the settlers above mentioned, all who are known to have located in the county in 1854, but few records are to be found; most, if not all of them, have long since passed away. Elder Thomas Newton, then 58 years of age, accompanied by his wife, their sons and sons' families, settled five miles from the present site of Seneca, on what is now known as the Bloss farm. Elder Newton represented the Regular Missionary Baptists and during his first year on the Nemaha, preached occasionally when he could get a half dozen or more settlers, emigrants or claim hunters congregated together. He preached the first sermon, performed the first marriage ceremony, and officiated at the first funeral, that of his son, Jacob B. Newton, who died in September, 1854.
He died in February, 1881, after a residence of twenty-seven years in Kansas, and a useful life of eighty-four years. W. W. Moore and Walter D. Beeles, built the first bridge on the Nemaha in 1854, about half a mile below what was afterward known as Baker's Ford, a toll-bridge which the public was, for a time, obliged to use, by reason of its proprietors felling a large elm tree in the ford, rendering it impassable. In the spring of 1855, during the period of a great freshet, as the owners were one the bridge guarding it from drift, they saw the elm tree carried away by the rush of waters, and just as they left it, the structure itself, struck by the tree, loosened from its moorings, and swept towards the Missouri, a fair example of poetic justice.
In January, 1855, there arrived in the vicinity of the Newton farm, Mrs. Mary A. Lanham, with her two sons, Samuel and Joseph, her husband, H. H. Lanham, accompanied by Horace M. Newton, reaching the Nemaha on March 8th of the same year, the former having left Fayette County, in Illinois, from St. Louis, and come up the Missouri river to St. Joseph on the old "Banner State," in seven days' time. During the following month Rev. Thomas R. Newton, accompanied by his wife and children, arrived; and about the same time William Harris settled on the creek to which he gave his name.
Others who settled in close proximity to these, during the summer of 1855, were James Thompson, Cyrus Dolman, John S. Doyle, Elias B. Church and John S. Rodgers; all of the last mentioned, together with the Newton family, and H. H. Lanham, locating within the boundaries of the present Richmond Township. The first settlement in the east of the county-in Capioma Township-was made during the same year, by James McCallister, Robert Rea, William E. Barnes and Samuel Magill. William M. Betty and L. J. McGowan settling in the Valley Township, and David M. Locknane in Granada Township. Hiram Burger left Canada in the spring of 1855; his family stayed in Jackson County, Iowa, and in June, with Henry Medcalf and Joshua R. Brown, he came to Nemaha County, returning for his family in the fall.
On November 9, having accomplished his mission, and accompanied by George Frederick and George Goppelt, he arrived in the vicinity for the second time, settling on Turkey Creek. With Frederick and Goppelt was a negro, named Moses Fately, who took a claim, sold by him to Edward McCaffrey the following year for $200. This negro bought his freedom of a Mr. Speer of Boonville, Missouri, and also the freedom of his wife, sister, and the two children of the latter.
Among the early settlers in Rock Creek Township were Jubal Brown, Archibald Moorhead, Z. Archer, Levi Joy, William Z. and Robert Carpenter, Isaac Ferguson, L. R. Wheeler, Thomas C. Priest, Joseph Haigh, John L. George, William G. Graham, L. P. Hazen, A. W. Williams, James Oldfield, David Taber, John Ellis, Edwin Miller, Elihu Whittenhall, William B. Slosson and N. H. Rising. Thomas Carlin, Michael Rogers, Peter McQuaid, Andrew Brewer and Alexander Gillespie were among the earliest settlers in Nemaha and Clear Creek Township. In Granada Township, besides, and following Locknane, were Uriah Haigh, George D. Searles, Augustus Wolfley and sons, Jacob Geyer, Frederick Shoemaker, M. H. Terrill and Thomas S. Wright. The earliest settlers in Red Vermillion Township were Garrett Randel and D. Arnold, followed by Tobias Shaffer, William H. McCart, Joseph Hannum, Samuel Sandys, Jacob Jacobia, Peter Hamilton, and the Shepards. In Neuchatel Township, a settlement was effected in the spring of 1857, by Charles Aldolphe, Amie E. Bonjour and D. S. Veale. In Home Township, among the early settlers, were the Armstrong Brothers, William Meyers, J. Barnes, Hezekiah Grimes, Samuel Mitchell, George L. Squire, Dr. John S. Hidden, A. W. Slater, Stephen Barnard, Joseph W. Franks, T. A. Campfield, Drs. J. J. Sheldon, D. B. and N. B. McKay, R. Mozier, and William J. and Timothy McLaughlin. On the Nemaha, Illinois and Tennessee, south and southwest from Seneca, were William R. Wells and sons, Thomas Rich, Isaac Pliss, Thomas Carter, William Hickey, James F. Long, William M. Houston, John, John S. Doyle, Alonzo Whitmore, Elias B. Church, and others.
Of the above mentioned pioneers, H. H. Lanham became the first Postmaster in the county, the first Justice of the Peace under Free-state-laws, and was, for thirteen years, Probate Judge. He is still a resident of the county. Horace M. Newton, after a long residence in Richmond Township, farming and milling, removed to Marshall County. Rev. T. R. Newton, from 1855 to 1867, devoted himself faithfully to missionary work, his field of labor extending from Burr Oak bottom, in Doniphan County, to Blue River, in Marshall County, and from Manhattan, in Riley County, to North Nemaha, Nebraska. On the 20th day of January he performed his last work in preaching his last sermon in Seneca, his text being the passage from Job: "If a man die, shall he live again?" He died of cerebrospinal meningitis, on the 25th of the same month.
A characteristic incident of the man, occurring in April, 1856, may not be out of place in this connection. Through Isaac Hanby, a Free-state man, notice was given him that he would not be allowed to preach at Burr Oak Bottom. At the appointed time he appeared, met the mob, many of them armed with revolvers, with mild words, but an unyielding determination to preach the gospel of Christ as he understood it; the result being that he secured attention, delivered his address, and in the future was unmolested. Cyrus Dolman became the first Probate Judge, remained in the county a few years, and then went further West. William Harris, the first Justice of the Peace under Pro-slavery laws, remained in the county only about two years.
The first birth in the county, of which any record is to be found, is that of Mollie Key, born to Greenberry and Polly Key in March, 1855. The first marriage solemnized was in Nemaha Township, by Rev. Thomas Newton, on the 12th of November, 1854, the contacting parties being Charles Leachman and Mrs. Caroline Davenport, a widower and widow, who had emigrated from Iowa, to which State they shortly after returned. The first death is a question of some little doubt. In September, 1854, Jacob B. Newton, son of Rev. Thomas Newton, died of typhoid fever, the record further saying the first husband of Mrs. Davenport died in Nemaha County and was buried on the Henri Korber place, his coffin being made by Christian Bobst and Robert Turner, out of his wagon box.
As Mrs. Davenport was married a second time, on November 12, 1854, and without evidence to the contrary, it must be supposed that a decent interval elapsed between the funeral and the wedding; the question of priority as regards Mr. Davenport or J. B. Newton remains a question. The first church was Congregational organization effected at Albany, in Rock Creek Township, in 1857. There were twelve charter members, of whom Hon. George Graham, now deceased, was the leading spirit. The first church edifice erected was that of the Catholics, built at Wildcat, in 1859, and, with additions, still in use.
The first school taught in the county was in 1856, in Granada Township, a small building for school purposes being erected during the same year. Various efforts in the cause of education were made a t an early date, of which, unfortunately, but few records can be found. A school building was erected at America City, in Red Vermillion Township in, 1857; 1858 saw the establishment of the first school in Seneca, taught by Addie Smith; and in 1859 witnessed the first school in Central City, under the charge of Mahlon Pugh.
The first claims were taken, necessarily, without warrant, there being no facilities for entry, or place at which payment could be made to the Government. The earliest payments for land in the county were as follows, all made in 1857: October 26, Frederic Shoemaker, Section 6, Township 5, Range 14: November 2, I. G., J. D. and R. N. Ramsey, sections 13 and 14, Township 1, Range 4; November 10, Augustus Wolfley, Section 6, Township 5, Range 14: November 11, Hugh R. Magill, Section 10, Township 3, Range 14: November 16, Elizabeth Farrar, Section 14, Township 3, Range 14; November 19, Peter Hamilton, Section 27, township 5, Range 12. Pre-emptions were made up to the autumn of 1860, and the Land Office for the district of which Nemaha County was a part was at Kickapoo.
The only Indian scare, in which the early settlers of Nemaha County were concerned, was one occurring in the spring of 1856. In the fall of 1855, and during the succeeding winter, they gathered from the signs and preparations of the Pottawatomies that as soon as the grass had grown sufficiently to support their ponies the war paint would be put on and the war path taken. The settlers naturally supposed that they were the intended victims of savage hate, and accordingly they gathered in force, early in the spring, at Baker's Ford. After some days of anxiety, they learned that the Pottawatomies, so far from premeditating an attack upon them, had gone forth in search other their ancient enemies, the Pawnees, who they found, by the way, and by whom they were disastrously defeated. Assured of their own safety, the settlers dispersed to their farms.
The first towns in the county were Central City, Richmond, America City, Granada, Ash Point, Pacific City, Urbana, Wheatland, Centralia, Lincoln, Seneca and Sabetha.
Central City was laid out in 1855, by William Dodge, for Thomas Newton and sons, and H. H. Lanham. It never was incorporated by legislative enactment. Its location was Section 1, Township 2, Range 12, now known as the Bloss farm. There was a postoffice, the first in the county, under charge of H. H. Lanham; a blacksmith and wagon shop, and a horse-power saw and grist-mill, all run by the Newton and Lanham families. There was also a store kept by Benjamin Shaffer, afterward sold to Beeler & Williams, of Iowa Centre, but managed by and in the name of Lanham and Newton. The mill was bought at Kansas City, brought to its destination by teams, and run for a time by ox-power.
In 1857 or 1858 its proprietors built a dam across the Nebraska, but failing by this means to secure sufficient power to run both branches of the business, they put in an upright boiler and small engine, using the water power for the mill stones, and steam-power for sawing. During the high water of 1858 and 1859, when the Nebraska was a mile in width, the dam and grist- mill works were carried away. What remained of the establishment was moved to the prairie, and leases to Leslie & Barnbrick, who put in a bolt and other necessary machinery, and for a short time ran a saw, grist and flour mill. Destroyed by an incendiary fire it was rebuilt, sold and moved away.
In 1863 Lanham & Newton bought a steam-mill at Pawnee City, Neb., bringing it to Central City, and a few months later removing it to Seneca. As has been said, the first school in Central City was taught by Mahlon Pugh, in 1859. It was select. Its first teacher was soon succeeded by Mrs. H. M. Newton, who taught till sometime in 1860. The Central City Baptist church was organized August 1, 1857, with Elder T. Newton and wife, Rev. T. R. Newton and wife, and H. H. Lanham and wife as charter members. A few additions to the membership were made. The first pastor was the Rev. T. R. Newton, who alternated with Rev. Thomas Newton for several years, when Robert Turner assumed the position. The members built a small church structure, afterward used as a school-house. On September 12, 1875, the society formally united itself with the Seneca Baptist church.
Richmond was started in 1855, at the crossing of the Nebraska on the Fort Leavenworth and Fort Kearney and Leavenworth routes. The owner of the claim was Cyrus Dolman, a Pro-slavery man, and the first County Judge. An act to incorporate the Richmond town company was passed by the "Bogus" Legislature of 1855, constituting as a body politic and corporate by name and style as above. F. T. Marshall, David Galispie, John Doniphan, A. G. Woodward, R. C. Bishop, James E. Thompson, John A. Dolman, Frederick J. Ebert, Cyrus Dolman, James O. Donoghem, Augustus Leist, John Donaldson and Daniel Vanderslice, and their successors. The second section gave the corporation the power to purchase and hold, and enter by pre-emption or otherwise, any quantity of land where said town of Richmond is located, not exceeding 1,000 acres, and to lay the same off into lots, parks, streets, squares and avenues, and to sell, dispose of and convey the same. As events proved, the entire 1,000 acres permitted by the act, were not required.
Two buildings were at once erected for the proprietors by Lanham & Newton; one occupied as a dwelling, and the other as a store-room and hotel, the latter being the individual property of A. G. Woodward. It is now on the farm of Festus M. Newton, the dwelling being removed to W. B. Stone's place, north of Seneca. This was the official business centre of the county; the first county warrants issued were drawn here, it being the temporary county seat, by legislative enactment; and honor it might have retained had it not been for its established Pro-slavery character.
Ash Point embraced the south half of the northeast, south half of the northwest, north half of the southwest, and north half of the southeast quarter of Section 8, Township 2, Range 11. John O'Laughlin was the main man of the town, which was made a postoffice, he being the official incumbent. He also established a general store and a hotel, these buildings, with one or two dwellings, constituting the town. Other residents in the immediate propinquity were Josiah Blancett and John Short. Ash Point was a stage station on the overland road, a fact which kept it from entire extinction until 1871 or 1872, though for the last ten years of its existence it had nothing but a store building to mark the town site, which is now a farm. It is situated at the junction of the old overland and California roads.
Farmington embraced the northwest quarter of Section 26, and the northeast quarter of Section 27, Town 1, Range 12, being southwest of old "Urbana," a paper town started by W. W. Moon, at Baker's Ford. Thomas Smith and James Parsons succeeded W. W. Moon at the point, where there was a store building, while Rosalvin C. Perham and John E. Perley directed their energies to the up- building of Farmington. They erected a hotel, store building and blacksmith shop, the last continuing in operation for some years. The old town site is now a pasture.
Pacific City was situated on Section 14, Town 3, Range 13, occupying high prairie land. It was once a place of high expectations, though the town consisted of a hotel building, owned by Orrin Gage, and a good well, used by travelers to a considerable extent. The town site is now fulfilling its destiny as a farm.
Lincoln was the property, and its future glory the dream, of J. E. Hawkes. Its plat was filed for record November 20, 1860. At this point there were, for a time, two stores, a harness shop, a blacksmith shop and a mill, the last being subsequently sold to William Robinson, and removed to Capioma Township, where its machinery is still in operation. The other early towns that have been referred to, having yet an existence, will be found treated of in the proper place, together with something of their early rivalry, and their struggle for the county seat.
In August, 1861, A. W. Williams, then of Sabetha, acting under proper authority, and with the commission of captain, succeeded in securing 150 volunteers from the counties of Marshall, Nemaha and Brown. These, as they enlisted, went into camp near Sabetha, where they remained for about a month at Capt. Williams' expense as to rations, and making use of extemporized barracks. In September, they proceeded to Leavenworth, where they were sworn in, 100 of them as members of Company D, of the Eighth Kansas Volunteers, and fifty of them in other companies. The other commissioned officers of Company D were - R. Todd, First Lieutenant; John Graham, Second Lieutenant. Of the 150 men, Nemaha County contributed about one-third, the roster of whom will be found in the proper place in military history.
Subsequent to this, Hon. George Graham enlisted about thirty men from Nemaha County, the squad dividing when it reached Leavenworth, the members connecting themselves with various regiments, notably the Ninth and Thirteenth Kansas. The county had about forty men in the Seventh, and seventy in the Thirteenth, thirty-seven of whom were enlisted by Lieut. Hensel, and the remainder by Lieut. Cline and others. Company D, Eighty Kansas, was detached for service along the border, being stationed at Fort Kearney for a time, and afterwards at Atchison. In 1865, it was in Texas, whence it was ordered home for discharge. The Thirteenth Regiment was mustered out at Little Rock, Ark., in June, 1865, the Nemaha County men arriving home in July.
In addition to the volunteers from Nemaha County, about 200 in number who enlisted early in the action, there was a call July, 1864, for a regiment of 100 days' men, known as the Seventeenth Kansas. This quota demanded from Nemaha County numbered eighteen of whom eight enlisted and ten were drafted - the only draft made in the county, and one which need not have been made had time been given for volunteers to come to the front, notwithstanding that nearly all of the able-bodied citizens of the county were already in service, Sabetha having but one man left. These men were taken to Leavenworth and discharged the same month.
On November 3, 1865, occurred in Seneca a reception for returned soldiers, the welcoming address being delivered by Gen. Sherry, and the response by Hon. George Graham, the exercises concluding with a banquet and merry-making. Nemaha County did her duty, and more than her duty, in the war for the Union. To her, as much as to any county in the State, is the world indebted for the blow which struck off the fetters of the slave - fetters which became links to bind the States, both North and South, more closely together.
The section of Kansas in which Nemaha County is situated, while it has not enjoyed immunity from disaster, has certainly suffered as little as any part of the State. Its climate is mild, the temperature even, and the rainfall generally sufficient to assure good crops. No cyclones have swept its prairies; no great droughts at any time afflicted it.
The first great storm of which there is any record was one occurring July 13, 1871, blowing from west to east through the central tier of townships. A number of building in its path were demolished, and three lives were lost - those of Peter Westfall and his two daughters, who perished in the ruins of their dwelling. The residence of Howard Chilson, situated just south of Seneca, was blown several feet from its foundation, and the brick dwelling of S. B. Smith blown down; these disasters, with the loss of various barns and outbuildings, constituting the effects of the storm. On May 30, 1879, a strong wind swept a limited section of the county, demolishing several frame buildings insecurely constructed, but resulting in no loss of life.
In 1866 occurred the first serious raid of the grasshopper army. They put in an appearance in the early summer, swarming in immense clouds, and coming from a southwestern direction. During their brief stay of two weeks they did great damage to the growing crops, and deposited their eggs, after which they passed on to the northeast. In 1867, those eggs, which were deposited on light and sandy soil, exposed to the sun, hatched out in great numbers. The result, while bad enough, might have been a great deal worse, the fruit being comparatively uninjured, and the farmers securing about half a crop of small grain. In 1868, they came from the northwest, did immense damage to the growing crops, and also deposited their eggs in great quantities, of which, owing to the severity of the winter, but a few hatched out in the spring. In 1873, the swarms were comparatively small, but managed to effect considerable damage.
The year 1874 was one of drought, not sufficient in itself to have utterly prevented the results of good farming, not sufficient in itself to have utterly prevented the results of good farming, but so severe as to leave the farmers absolutely nothing as the result of their labors when taken in conjunction with the devastating hordes of grasshoppers which came from the northwest, arriving in the county July 31, and laying everything waste. The Courier says: "The corn fields resemble well poled bean patches, while the apple trees have been stripped of their leaves, and in many orchards this year's growth of wood destroyed."
The succeeding winter was that of the famine, when Kansas cried for help. Nemaha County had suffered less than some of its neighbors, and was richer than most of them: while aid was rendered her in a few cases from outside sources, she rendered at least an equal amount of assistance to Jewell and other counties. It was not until New Year's that the suffering really began, at about which time relief committees were organized in Wetmore and Granada townships, which reported fifty families then in need. In January and February, Illinois, Neuchatel, Harrison and other townships appealed for help, and received it, the first mentioned of these reporting forty destituted families within its boundaries. The Granges did good work systematizing the work of distribution, Hon. G. W. Brown deserving special mention as the county agent for the Grange relief system. With 1875 came good crops, and with these prosperity.
The first election held in the county was on March 30, 1855, for members of Council, and representatives to the Territorial Legislature. There were ten Council Districts with thirteen members, and fourteen Representative Districts with twenty-six members. Nemaha Precinct with Wolf River and Doniphan constituted the seventh Council District and the eleventh Representative District. The entire vote of the district, 478 ballots, was cast for John W. Forman, a merchant, a native of Kentucky, and a resident in the Territory for twelve years. The vote of Nemaha Precinct was 61.
The representatives chosen were: R. L. Kirk, a nine months' resident; and John H. Stringfellow, who had been in the Territory for one year. Nemaha Precinct gave the former 50, and the latter 48 votes. At this election George H. Baker, Jesse Adamson and Samuel Cramer were judges; Samuel Crozier and Thomas Cramer, clerks. Most of the voters were non-residents, the following being the list of those actually entitled to the right of suffrage; W. W. Moore, W. D. Beeles, George H. Baker, Jesse Adamson, Samuel Cramer, Samuel Crozier, Samuel L. Miller, William Bunker, Thomas Newton, Horace M. Newton, H. H. Lanham, John O'Laughlin, Greenberry Key and Uriah Blue.
The Legislature convened on the first Monday of July. Its acts took effect as soon as they were passed, being now best known as the "Bogus laws of Kansas." Among other things, provisions was made for the organization of nineteen counties in the Territory, including that of Nemaha, the boundaries of which were defined, as they have been given, and as they yet exist.
Cyrus Dolman was appointed Probate Judge; James E. Thompson, Sheriff, the latter being soon superseded by James E. Hill; and Edwin Van Endert, County Treasure. The first County Commissioners were Jesse Adamson, of Nemaha; David P. Magill, of Capioma, and Peter Hamilton of Red Vermillion Townships. Richmond was made the temporary County seat, remaining the official business centre until 1858, when the County seat question was decided by the people.
On October 6,1856, the Pro-slavery men held an election, at which Cyrus Dolman was elected a member of the second Territorial Legislature, receiving 12 votes. At this time the counties of Doniphan, Brown, Nemaha, Marshall, Riley and Pottawatomie, constituted the Council District, and those of Nemaha and Brown the Representative District. On October 5, 1857, the former of these elected Benjamin Harding, of Doniphan, and Andrew F, Mead, of Riley; the fourth Representative District choosing E. N. Morrill, of Brown County.
The members of the Council held office for two years, the representatives for one session only. This, the third Territorial Legislature, placed Nemaha County with Brown, Pottawatomie, Marshall and Washington, in the fifth Council District; constituting Brown County the eighth, and Nemaha the tenth Representative District. When it came to the election of State Senators and Representatives, the districts were again changed, Nemaha being at present associated with Marshall in the election of Senator, and herself entitled to two Representatives. In the official roster which follows, no further account is made of these changes, the list merely showing Nemaha's representation, whether solely her own or in conjunction with other counties.
The first election for county officers was held November 8, 1859, the incumbents prior to that time holding their positions by appointment. Samuel Lappin had been Register of Deeds, R. N. Torry performed the duties of County Clerk, Clerk of the District Court, and succeeded Edwin Van Endert as County Treasurer. The Probate Judges from 1855 had been, in the order named, Cyrus Dolman, Morton Cave and Haven Starr. J. C. Hebbard, and subsequently J. W. Fuller, had been County Superintendents of public instruction, the former making the first annual report of school matters of the County to Samuel W. Greer, Territorial Superintendent.
The election resulted as follows: County Clerk, R. U. Torry; County Treasurer, Charles F. Warren; Register of Deeds, Samuel Lappin; Sheriff, John S. Rogers; county Superintendent, J. W. Fuller; Probate Judge, Haven Starr.
The first Court House stood on lot 4, block 74, on Main street. It was a small two-story frame building, the lower room of which was used for general meeting purposes, and the upper part by the county officers. In December, 1860, it was burnt. A building for Court purposes, but too small for county offices, was at once erected, on the corner of Main and Castle streets, in Seneca, and in this the first term of District Court in Nemaha county was held November 11, 1861, prior to this time Nemaha having been associated with Brown County for judicial purposes.
Albert H. Horton, of Atchison, was at this time District Judge, having succeeded Judge Albert L. Lee, who had received a commission as major in the Seventy Kansas. The District Clerk was I. C. Hebbard, to whom Homer L. Dean, the Clerk of Brown County, had turned over the books and papers relating to Nemaha. The Grand Jury who served at this term of Court, consisted of John Downs, Thomas Carlin, Isaac H. Steer, Elias B. Church, James Larew, Salem B. Dodge, Samuel Dennis, T. A. Campfield, H. A. Goodman, Hezekiah Grimes, John Hodgins, William Histed, John Kilmer, Augustus Wolfley, H. D. Channell and James M. Randel. Wm. Histed was the foreman.
The most important case upon the docket was that of the State of Kansas vs. Josiah Blancett, wherein the defendant stood charged with the murder of Thomas Wilson. The verdict was 'not guilty.' The indictment failed to state that the murder was committed in Nemaha County. In 1855 three County Commissioners were appointed. From that time until the spring of 1860, the Chairman of the Township Board was the Supervisor in the County Board. In 1860 three Commissioners at large were chosen, a like number being elected each alternate year until 1878, when the system was changed, so that one was elected each year, to hold office three years. The population of the county at various times has been as follows: 1855, 99; no returns were made at this census of the number of voters. 1857, 512, voters 140; 1860, 2,436; 1870, 7,296; 1880, 12,463; 1881, 13,476; 1882, 15,073.
As originally divided the county had, for municipal purposes, nine townships: Rock Creek, Nemaha, Cedar Creek, Richmond, Capioma, Valley, Home, Granada and Red Vermillion. These have at various times been sub-divided, forming Washington, Gilman, Illinois, Harrison, Nenchatel, Reilly and Wetmore. In July, 1882, the Commissioners further changed the local geography, by the creation of Mitchell Township, from Home, Richmond and Valley; and of Adams Township, from Valley and Capioma, the two dividing Valley equally between them and blotting it from the map.
The official roster of the county since its organization is as follows:
Council. - 1855, John W. Forman; 1857, Benjamin Harding, Andrew J. Mead; 1859, Luther R. Palmer.
State Senators. - 1860, Samuel Lappin; 1862, Byron Sherry; 1864, Samuel Spear; 1866, George Graham; 1868, Albert G. Spear; 1870, Joseph Cracraft; 1872, E. N. Morrill; 1874, J. M. Miller; 1876, E. N. Morrill (for four years); 1860, I. F. Collins.
Territorial Representatives. - 1855, R. L. Kirk, John. H. Stringfellow; 1856, Cyrus Dolman; 1857, E. N. Morrill; 1858, George Graham; 1859, Morton Cave; 1860, Charles C. Coffinbury.
State Representatives. - 1860, David C. Auld, D. E. Ballard; 1861, Harrison Foster, F. P. Baker; 1862, John S. Hidden; 1863, Richard Bradley, J. S. Hidden; 1864, J. D. Sammons, C. Coffinbury; 1865, James K. Gross, George Graham; 1866, T. B. Collins, Joseph Hanemum; 1867, Phillip Rockefeller, John Hodgins; 1868, Samuel Lappin, Daniel Helpshrey; 1869, L. Hensel, William Morris; 1870, Richard Johnson, A. Simmons; 1871, Ira F. Collins, H. C. De Forrest; 1872, Cyrus I. Scofield, H. C. De Forrest; 1873, J. E. Taylor, C. S. Cummings; 1874, G. W. Brown, S. P. Conrad; 1875, D. R. Magill, S. P. Conrad; 1876, J. F. Collins; L. C. Preston (for two years); 1878, E. G. Stitt, M. L. Wilson; 1880, N. F. Benson, A. W. Cracraft.
County Officers. - Sheriff, - 1855, James E. Thompson, superseded by James E. Hill; 1857, John S. Rogers; 1859, John S. Rogers; 1861, John S. Rogers; 1863, William Boulton; 1865, William Boulton; 1867, Abram Kyger; 1869, Abram Kyger; 1871, David R. Magill; 1873, David R. Magill; 1875, Richard Johnson; 1877, James Martin; 1879, D. R.. Vorhes; 1881, D. R. Vorhes.
County Clerk. - 1855, R. U. Torry; 1857, R. U. Torry; 1859, R. U. Torry; 1860 Byron Sherry (to fill vacancy); 1861, William F. Wells; 1863, J. W. Fuller; 1865, J. W. Fuller; 1867, J. W. Fuller; 1869, J. W. Fuller; 1871, Joshua Mitchell; 1873, Joshua Mitchell; 1875, Walter J. Ingram; J. W. Fuller; 1869, J. W. Fuller; 1877, Joshua Mitchell; 1879, Joshua Mitchell; 1881, Joshua Mitchell.
Register of Deeds. - 1855-1859, Samuel Lappin; 1859, Samuel Lappin; 1861, J. H. Peckham; 1863, William Smith; 1865, William F. Wells; 1867, Abijah Wells; 1869, Peter McQuaid; 1871, J. H. H. Ford; 1873, J. H. H. Ford; 1875, J. H. H. Ford; 1877, J. H. H. Ford; 1879, Roy A. Thompson; 1881, Roy A. Thompson.
County Treasurer. - 1855, Edwin Van Endert; 1857, R. U. Torry (acting); 1859, Charles F. Warren; 1861, Charles G. Scrafford; 1863, J. H. Peckham; 1865, J. H. Peckham; 1867, J. C. Hebbard; 1869, J. C. Hebbard; 1871, O. C. Bruner; 1873, O. C. Bruner; 1875, Edward Butt; 1877, Edward Butt; 1879, T. W Johnson; 1881, T. W Johnson.
Probate Judge. - 1855, Cyrus Dolman; 1857, Morton Cave; 1859, Havens Starr; 1860, Thomas S. Wright; 1862, James R. Gross; 1863, James P Taylor (to fill vacancy); 1864, H. H. Lanham, 1866, H. H. Lanham, 1868, H. H. Lanham, 1870, H. H. Lanham, 1872, William Histed, 1874, H. H. Lanham, 1876, H. H. Lanham, 1878, George Graham; 1880, William Histed.
Superintendent of Public Instruction. - 1857, J. C. Hebbard; 1859, J. W. Fuller; 1860, F. P. Baker; 1861 Daniel Foster (to fill vacancy) 1862, J. C. Hebbard (to fill vacancy); 1862 Thomas D. Shepard; 1864, L. C. Preston; 1865, Thomas D. Shepard (to fill vacancy); 1866, Thomas D. Shepard; 1868, J. S. Stamm; 1870, P. K. Shoemaker; 1872, Josiah D. Sammons; 1874, Abijah Wells; 1876. Abijah Wells; 1878, Abijah Wells; 1880, J. A. Amos.
Clerk of the District Court. - 1859, R. U. Torry; 1861, J. C. Hebbard; 1862, O. C. Bruner; 1864, William Histed; 1866, Abijah Wells; 1867, D. B. McKay (to fill vacancy); 1868, J. H. Williams; 1870, George Gould; 1872, George R. Benedict; 1874, George R. Benedict; 1876, George R. Benedict; 1878, George R. Benedict; 1880, George R. Benedict.
County Commissioners. - 1855, Jesse Adamson, David P. Magill, Peter Hamilton; 1857, George Graham, A. A. Wood, John Lowery, William R. Wells, Thomas S. Wright, Peter Hamilton; 1859, George Graham, G. H. Baker, Morton Cave, Charles C. Coffinbury, Thomas S. Wright, Peter Hamilton, 1860 (spring election), John Ellis, Charles C. Coffinbury, Garrett Rendel; 1860 (regular election), John Ellis, David M. Locknane, Moses Shepard; 1861; John T. Goodpasture, Nicholas Hocker and Samuel Bradshaw (M. H. Terrell successfully contested Hocker's seat, the only contested election in the county): 1863, Edward McCaffrey, Jacob Nicholson, Moses Shepard; 1865, L. P. Hazen, George D. Searles, Albert Bonjour; 1867, E. F. Bouton, John M. Ford, H. M. Metcalf; 1869, Archibald Moorehead, George D. Searles, Henry O. Stauffer; 1871, Archibald Moorehead, George D. Searles, Henry O. Stauffer; 1873. George H. Adams, G. W. Conrad, Patrick Reilly; 1875, George H. Adams, Patrick Reilly, Aaron H. Burnett; 1877, George H. Adams, Aaron H. Burnett, T. M. Durand; 1878, G. H. Adams; 1879, T. M. Durand; 1880, A. H. Burnett; 1881, George H. Adams.
County Seat Troubles and County Buildings
Upon the organization of Nemaha County, in 1855, the legislature established the county seat at Richmond, the official business center for several years vein the combined store and hotel building of A. G. Woodward, now on the farm of Festus M. Newton. For judicial purposes Brown and Nemaha Counties were united, the District Court of both being held at Hiawatha, until 1861; but the first county warrants were issued from Richmond, and it is probable, considering its very favorable location, that it might have remained the county seat, permanently, had it not been for the pronounced Pro-slavery opinions of its proprietors, these making them and their embryo city unpopular with the Free-state men, who were in the majority.
By an act of the Legislature, approved February 12, 1858, a special election was ordered to be held April 4, of the same year, for the purpose of selecting a permanent county seat. It being provided that if no choice be made at the first election, it be continued from month to month, but after the second election the votes should be cast only for the three places having the highest number. At the first election the contesting places were Central City, Richmond, Seneca, Wheatland, Centralia and Ash Point, all of nearly equal unimportance.
All of the towns mentioned offered to give the county one-half of the town lots, to be taken alternately, but Seneca, besides this, promised in case it secured the county seat, to build a court house, donating the same to the county for five years. The first election resulted in no choice. The next occurred in May, when several of the aspirants had withdrawn, and the third in June, when the struggle lay between Richmond, Seneca and Wheatland, Central City having retired from the contest in favor of Seneca, the idea of its proprietors being that Seneca was at a sufficient distance to allow Central City to amount to something, while Richmond was so near that its prosperity must necessarily be fatal to its neighbor. At the last election the vote of Graham Township was contested. With it Seneca had won; without it she was defeated and Richmond successful. The vote of the Board of Commissioners regarding it was a tie, the question remaining to be decided by the chairman, Hon. George Graham. His vote was cast for Seneca.
The removal of the county seat has been agitated at various times since 1859, notably when the court house was destroyed by fire in 1876. Sabetha, in the extreme eastern part of the county, seemed, at that period, disposed to bring the question to an issue, but nothing definite was done, and the probabilities are strongly against a change ever being made. Seneca being but a few miles from the geographical center of the county, and the public buildings - the court house, erected in 1876, and the jail in 1879 - being altogether too valuable to abandon, the question may safely be considered as settled for all time.
Court House. - In 1858, the Seneca Town Company, comprising S. and F. Lappin, R. U. Torry, J. B. Ingersoll and C. G. Scrafford, in order to secure and retain the county seat, entered into a contract with the commissioners, giving them, in trust, alternate lots to the number of one-half of those on the town site, the amount arising from the sale of the same to be used for the erection of public buildings. In addition to this, the company agreed to build a structure suitable for court house purposes, donating the use of the same to the county for five years. Prior to this, official business had been transacted in the combined store room and hotel of A. G. Woodward, at Richmond.
Upon the removal of the county seat to Seneca, the town company, in accordance with its agreement, erected a two-story building, near the corner of Main and Buffalo streets, the first floor of which was used for meeting purposes of every description, and second floor by the county officers, of whom Byron Sherry, the county clerk, was generally the only one to be found, the other incumbents engaging in other than official business, of which there was little to attend to, Nemaha being attached to Brown County for judicial purposes, and court held, until 1861, at Hiawatha.
In December, 1861, a religious meeting was held in the court house, on Sunday night, the building being closed about half past eight o'clock; about half past two the next morning it was discovered to be on fire, and by three o'clock it was completely destroyed - probably the work of an incendiary.
The Town Company immediately made arrangements with the Board of Commissioners for the erection and donation, in fee-simple, of a one-story frame building on the corner of Main and Castle streets. This was first occupied in November, 1861, by Judge A. H. Horton, the first term of the district court in Nemaha County being held at the time. The county officers did not occupy the building, which comprised but one small room, but remained in different stores and offices about town.
In January, 1871, an order was passed by the board, locating all the offices except that of the Treasurer, in the second story of the postoffice block. The Treasurer's office remained where it had been for some time on Main and Court streets, and court was held elsewhere, the building of 1861 having been abandoned.
In the meantime the city lots owned by the county had been sold, the last of them in August, 1870, netting to the court house fund the sum of $17,473.83. The question of building a court house was submitted to the people, carried by a majority of 289, and on March 30, 1871, ground was broken for it by Major Sargent, of Seneca, and in 1872, the building, 57x80 feet, ninety-six feet in height, from the basement to the top of the tower of brick, with sawed stone trimmings, was competed. Its cost was $29,172.78.
On March 4, 1876, fire was discovered in the southeast attic jury room, and notwithstanding the strenuous efforts of the citizens, the building was totally destroyed. The books and papers, with the exception of most of those in the superintendent's office, and the records of surveys prior to 1872, in the Surveyor's office, were saved. The fire was supposed to result from children playing with matches. The offices were temporarily located, those of the Clerk, Register of Deeds and Treasurer in the Universalist Church building; the others in various parts of the city.
The insurance on the buildings, amounting to $20,000, being promptly paid, the Commissioners immediately advertised for bids, awarding the contract for the erection of a duplicate structure to James A. McGonagle, of Leavenworth. The new edifice, in almost every respect similar to the previous one, was completed in June, 1877, at a cost of $20,138.47. The first floor, divided by a wide hall, contains the various county offices; the second floor being used for court purposes. The grounds surrounding the building comprising an entire city block, are well fenced, and planted with trees now several years of age, and will ultimately make a fine grove.
County Infirmary. - At the election of November, 1868, by a vote of 531 to 275 it was decided to levy a tax of one mill on the dollar of assessable property, for the purchase and improvement of a poor farm. At the January meeting, 1869, the Commissioners advertised for plans and specifications for a building to be erected on the land, 160 acres, which they had purchased one and one-half miles west of Seneca, and on February 8th proposals were invited for putting up a building according to specifications on file, and for breaking not less than forty nor more than eighty acres of farm land. The contract was let and the building erected at once, the building being completed the same year. It is a two- story stone building with basement, situated on ground sloping to the south and east, and is capable of comfortably accommodating thirty persons. The cost of the building was about $2,500. The farm itself is a good one, and under efficient management has been made to contribute not a little to the support of the unfortunate inmates of the infirmary.
County Jail. - Prior to the 1860, the few prisoners with which Nemaha County was concerned, were lodged in various places, usually under guard, the tedious delays of the law being less noticeable than at present, and there being little occasion for a jail. In 1859, however, the county seat question having been definitely decided, the Commissioners erected in the court house grounds a one- story stone building, about 20x30 feet in size, and containing four cells, two light ones and two dungeons. This was completed in 1860. There is nothing remarkable concerning it to be noted, except its insecurity. Escapes from it were not only frequent, but the usual thing.
In October, 1878, the question of building a new jail was put to the people, the vote standing 1,439 to 162 in favor thereof. The contract was at once let, and the structure completed for occupancy on October 1, 1879. It is situated opposite the public school building, near the court house. It is a two-story brick structure with an L, the main building, 32x25 feet, containing six rooms conveniently arranged for the residence of the jailor. The L, 29x26 feet, contains three of J. Pauley's patent steel cells, each of sufficient size to accommodate four persons, while above the jailor's residence are two rooms used for the incarceration of female prisoners and those retained for minor offenses. In connection with the building is a large cistern and facilities for using the water to the best advantage in case of fire. The building cost $9,965, and is in every way a credit to the county.
Central Branch, Union Pacific. - This road, proposed and surveyed as early as 1863, received as substantial aid from the Government as any railway corporation in the West. It was granted $16,000 a mile for the distance of 100 miles, from Atchison to Waterville in Marshall County, and in addition to this, alternate sections of land on both sides of the track, and the territories back of these sections to the distance of ten miles. It needed and received no aid from the county. It was completed to Wetmore in 1866, and to the present site of Centralia a year later, the company virtually establishing both towns; though a postoffice of the latter name was in existence before the arrival of the road. The Central Branch enters Nemaha County at Wetmore, about five miles north of the south line, traverses it in a northwesterly direction, touching at Sother, Corning and Centralia, and leaving the county about ten miles from the southern boundary. In Marshall County it connects with the B. & M. in Nebraska, which renders close connection with east and west roads, at Lincoln, if possible, while at Atchison the road connects with lines traversing the south and southwest, the north, east and northeast.
St. Joseph and Denver City Railroad Company. - Early in 1860 an effort was made to build a railroad from St. Joseph west through the northern tier of counties in Kansas, and four miles of track were laid connecting Elwood and Wathena; but the war stopped all work on it and nothing further was done for several years.
In September, 1862, a railroad convention in which the various counties interested were represented, was held at Troy in Doniphan County, but little appears to have been done then, or in 1864, when the question was again agitated, a meeting being held at Seneca, March 24 of that year. In 1866 the State Legislature passed an act granting the 500,000 acres of land that had been donated by the general government to Kansas, under the act of September 4, 1841, to four railroad companies, among which was the Northern Kansas, from Elwood west.
In April, 1866, a petition was presented to the Board of County Commissioners of Nemaha county, for an election on bonds to the amount of $125,000, to aid the building of said road, the election being held on May 8, 569 votes being polled, 322 of which were for, and 247 against the issue of such bonds.
On May 12, 1866, a meeting was held at Hiawatha for the purpose of final organization of a company, prepared to receive and make available the donation from the State, and various county grants, of which Nemaha's has been mentioned. This organization was perfected by the election of Samuel Lappin, President; F. H. Drenning, Secretary; W. B. Barnett, Treasurer, and of a Board of eleven directors, of whom three were from Nemaha County.
On October 9 of the same year, a joint meeting was held at Elwood of the stockholders of the St. Joseph & Denver City and the Northern Kansas roads, the conference resulting in the consolidation of the two roads, the union to be called the St. Joseph & Denver Railroad. Various delays occurring, the road did not reach Nemaha County until 1870, and the county objecting to the payment of bonds to a corporation other than that to which they were voted, sustained suit for such payment, the Supreme Court deciding for the defendant. Prior to its entry, however, an agreement was entered into by C. G. Scrafford, Samuel Lappin, J. H. Peckham, J. P. Taylor, W. G. Sargent, D. B. McKay, and forty-nine others, guaranteeing the road the right of way, 100 feet in width, through the county, and donating to it depot grounds to the extent of ten acres, at Seneca.
This agreement was strictly kept. The road was afterwards leased to the Union Pacific Railroad Company, being now known by that company as the Union Pacific (Kansas Division). It enters the county at Sabetha, about eight miles from the northern line; touches at Oneida, Seneca and Baileysville, and leaves the county eleven miles from the Nebraska line. At Marysville it makes connection with the B. & M. in Nebraska, at Hiawatha, Brown County, with the Missouri Pacific, and at St. Joseph with various lines running north, south and east.
Nemaha County Agricultural Society. - As early as July 28, 1864, an effort appears to have been made looking towards the organization of an agricultural society, the Courier of that date containing a leader on the subject, and urging the importance of holding a fair at some time during the fall for the exhibition of farm products. No energetic efforts appear to have been made, however, and, at all events, no fair was held.
The organization of the Nemaha County Agricultural and Horticultural Society was effected June 27, 1868, with C. G. Scrafford, President; J. P. Taylor, Secretary, and Samuel Lappin, Treasurer. Land suitable for fair purposes was donated to the association, comprising blocks 32, 33, 34 and 35 of the town site of Seneca, the grounds being enclosed early in the fall of the same year, and the first annual fair of the society held October 22, 1868.
In 1869, a building 28x60 feet in size was erected for the reception of the display of farm products and manufactured articles of various kinds, and the second fair held September 22, 23 and 24 of the same year. In 1870 and 1871, exhibitions were made, and in 1872, on September 18, 19 and 20, the fifth and, as it proved, the last annual fair of the series was held. The officers at this time were: Wm. B. Slosson, President; N. Coleman, Vice-President; William Histed, Secretary, and H. H. Lanham, Treasurer.
The cause of the discontinuation of displays and the practical disintegration of the society was due to financial troubles, it having gone in debt in the improvement of its grounds, and incurred other liabilities, the total amount of the indebtedness being $1,140.50. I August, 1873, this burden was assumed by George Graham, Jacob Van Loon, D. R. Magill, J. P. Cone and Mrs. C. G. Scrafford, as consideration for a warranty deed of the property of the association.
On October 4, 1877, a charter was issued by the Secretary of State, incorporating A. H. Burnett, Willis Brown, West E. Wilkinson, Richard Johnson and Edward Butt as the Nemaha County Agricultural Society. No other record of the new organization is found.
As has been seen, there has been no county fair since 1872. The recently- organized Board of Trade of Seneca, deploring this state of things, in July, 1882, appointed a fair committee, consisting of William Histed, Abijah Wells, George A. Marvin, C. G. Scrafford and M. Matthews, to devise ways and means for the holding of a fair, if possible, during the fall of 1882. Learning that the only piece of ground near Seneca in every way fitted for fair grounds was about to [be] sold, and if secured for fair purposes must be bought at once, the sum of $2,300 was raised by subscription, and the property purchased, William Histed, Willis Brown and George W. Williams being appointed trustees in behalf of the new owners.
The object of the proprietors is to hold the land subject to the acceptance of the people upon repayment of their investment, the law providing that the county may purchase and improve fair grounds, appropriating not to exceed one and three-quarter mills on the dollar of the taxable valuation of the county for that purpose. The question of the purchase of these grounds was voted on at the November election of 1882. The proposal was voted down by the county, but the existence of the society and the purchase of the ground is an assured fact.
Old Settlers' Society. - A meeting of the old settlers, preliminary to the organization of a society, was held at the court house in Seneca on August 14, 1880. Committees on permanent organization were at this time appointed from each township, and on September 2 the organization was perfected by the election of the following officers: D. B. McKay, President; J. S. Hidden, Vice-President; Abijah Wells, Secretary; George F. Roots, Treasurer. The first annual re-union was held October 7, 1880, 127 genuine old settlers being present. Speeches were made, toasts given, and a bountiful dinner in the court-house yard enjoyed.
The second annual re-union occurred October 6, 1881. The day was raw and cold, preventing very many from being present, there being in consequence only seventy-five in attendance. Great interest in the history and traditions of early Kansas was manifested. The officers elected were: A. W. Slater, President; E. F. Bouton, Vice-President; Abijah Wells, Secretary; Peter McQuaid, Treasurer. In addition to these, and executive committee was appointed, as follows: Rock Creek - William Graham; Washington - Jacob Spring, Jr.; Nemaha - James Gregg; Clear Creek - M. Keegan; Marion - Robert Bronaughs; Richmond - D. B. McKay; Gilman - David Adamson; Capioma - Samuel Magill; Grenada - A. M. Hough; Valley - D. R. Magill; Home - S. Barnard; Illinois - G. F. Roots; Harrison - J. H. Dennis; Wetmore - S. C. Shumacher; Reilly - G. W. Hannum; Red Vermillion - N. B. McKay; Neuchatel - Alfred Bonjour.
On May 30, 1879, the "Irving, Kansas Tornado" passed through Nemaha county. This tornado measured F4 on the Fujita scale, and had a damage path 800 yards wide and 100 miles long. Eighteen people were killed and sixty were injured in this tornado.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,863 km² (719 mi²). 1,860 km² (718 mi²) of it is land and 4 km² (1 mi²) of it (0.20%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 10,717 people, 3,959 households, and 2,763 families residing in the county. The population density was 6/km² (15/mi²). There were 4,340 housing units at an average density of 2/km² (6/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 98.35% White, 0.49% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.10% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.17% from other races, and 0.60% from two or more races. 0.71% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 3,959 households out of which 34.00% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.90% were married couples living together, 5.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.20% were non-families. 28.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.00% 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 3.20.
In the county the population was spread out with 28.50% under the age of 18, 6.00% from 18 to 24, 24.10% from 25 to 44, 19.40% from 45 to 64, and 22.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 97.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.10 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $34,296, and the median income for a family was $41,838. Males had a median income of $28,879 versus $19,340 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,121. About 6.50% of families and 9.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.90% of those under age 18 and 8.50% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Unified school districts
Sabetha USD 441
Nemaha Valley USD 442
B & B USD 451
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