Neosho County is a county located in the State of Kansas. As of 2000, the population is 16,997. The official county code for Neosho county is NO. The county seat is Erie, while the most populous city is Chanute. The county is home to both Lake Parsons and Lake Mckinley. The county is named for the Neosho River, which was in turn named by the Osage Indians.
The Early History of Neosho County
by William G. Cutler (1883)
Neosho County is situated in the second tier of counties from Missouri, and also from the Indian Territory. It is bounded on the north by Allen County, on the east by Bourbon and Crawford, on the south by Labette, and on the west by Wilson County. By the Bogus Laws, the territory now included within the limits of Neosho County was part of Dorn County, as explained in the history of Labette County; Dorn County extending northward about three-fourths of a mile from the township line between townships twenty-seven and twenty-eight, and southward to the Indian Territory - embracing the "Osage ceded lands." The name Dorn was changed to "Neosho," by the Legislature, June 3, 1861, and the county was organized by proclamation of Governor Carney, November 20, 1864.
On the 26th of February, 1866, an act was approved which established the boundaries of the county as "Commencing at a point on the north line of the Osage lands, as established by George C. Van Zandt, in the year 1859, to correspond with the southeast corner of Allen County; thence run due south to the south line of the State; thence due west twenty-four miles; thence due north to the said north line of the Osage lands; thence east along said line twenty-four miles to the place of beginning."
By an act, approved February 7, 1867, the boundaries were changed and established as follows: "Commencing at a point on the north line of the Osage lands corresponding with the southeast corner of Allen County; thence due south to the northeast corner of Labette County; thence due west on the north line of Labette County twenty-four miles to the north west corner of said Labette County; thence due north to the said north line of the Osage lands; thence east along said line twenty-four miles to the place of beginning."
On the 26th of February, 1867, the Treasurer of Neosho County was forbidden by the Legislature to collect of the taxes levied upon property in that part of Neosho County called Labette County more than that levied for State purposes.
Most of the county is within the valley of the Neosho River, which flows from northwest to southeast through it. This valley is, however, mostly upland, with the exception of its own immediate banks, and the comparatively narrow valleys of its immediate tributaries. About twenty per cent. of the surface of the county is properly termed bottom land, the balance, eighty percent., being upland. Weibly Bluff, about three miles northwest of Erie, is about eighty feet high, and Ditmas Bluff, in Tioga Township, is about seventy-five feet high. The latter is of earth, while the former is rock. The highest land in the county is in Shiloh Township, and does not exceed 150 feet in height above the level of the Neosho River.
The soil of the county varies from a few inches to thirty feet in thickness. About one-half of the county is denominated "black limestone"soil, one-third, "mulatto," and the remaining one-sixth "white ash" soil. The name "black limestone" is applied to black soil underlaid with and containing limestone; the name "mulatto" to that containing also sandstone, and "white ash" to that containing fine sand which gives to it a white appearance. All portions of the county are for the most part fertile and produce excellent crops of all the cereals. Coal underlies about ten per cent. of the area of the county, and is found mostly in Chetopa Township near Thayer. The vein is about eighteen inches thick, and the coal is of good quality. The largest amount mined in a single year (1876) is about 100,000 tons.
The native forests are found along the streams. The belts average about one-half a mile in width, and contain the cottonwood, elm, hickory, hackberry, maple, oak, pecan and walnut. There are numerous small groves of cultivated timber, but much remains to be done in this direction.
The Neosho is the principal river. It enters the county near the northwest corner, and after following a quite serpentine course, leaves the county about two miles west of its southeast corner. The total length of the river within the county is forty miles. Its width during most of the year is 100 feet, and average depth six feet. Previous to the construction of railroads the question of its navigability was one of considerable interest to the people, and also even in later years. In 1877, Mr. Graverock constructed a boat named the "Farragut," which traversed the river for a distance of eight miles, and was capable of carrying 100 tons.
The principal tributaries of the Neosho from the east are Hickory, Flat Rock, Four Mile, Canville, Big Creek and Beach's Creek, all running in a southwesterly direction; and from the west, Village, Turkey, Crooked, Rock, and Augustus or Ogee's Creek, all running east or southeast. In the southern part of the county are found Labette Creek and numerous branches, flowing southward, and in the west Chetopa Creek flows west into Wilson County. On account of the generally level surface of the county, springs are not numerous, but good well water is obtainable at depths varying from ten to forty feet.
The Osage Indians
Neosho County is situated in the northern part of the Osage ceded lands. These ceded lands lie immediately west of the Cherokee Neutral Lands and are in extent fifty miles from north to south, and thirty miles from east to west. The total Osage Reservation, extending westward from said Neutral Lands 375 miles, was granted by treaty to said Indians, June 2, 1825. It was some time during this year that the body of the tribe moved on to their new reservation. But the Osages had, in 1820, conferred with the Rt. Rev. De Bourg, Roman Catholic Bishop of New Orleans, who was then visiting in Missouri, with reference to the appointment of a missionary to visit their towns and teach them the mysteries of religion.
Rev. De Bourg appointed as missionary Rev. Charles De La Croix, who visited Western Missouri and what is now Eastern Kansas, for the purpose of organizing churches among the Osages. In May, 1822, he reached the point in Neosho County now known as Osage Mission, and administered the rite of baptism to two Indians, named James and Francis Choteau, the first persons who were baptized within the present limits of the State, Soon afterwards, Rev. La Croix returned to Missouri, where, exhausted by his labors and exposure, he was removed by death.
Rev. La Croix was succeeded by Rev. Charles Van Quickenborn, who visited many of the Osage towns, and was indefatigable in his efforts to provide education for their youth. In 1824 he established the first manual labor school that existed among them, collecting the boys at the house of St. Stanislaus, near the town of Florisant, St. Louis Co., Mo., and the girls at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, in St. Charles County. But the next year, a new treaty having been concluded between the United States and the Osages, they removed to their new reservation, and as a consequence, Van Quickenborn's manual labor school came prematurely to an end. He, however, continued to visit them in their new home, and to care for them for a number of years.
Upon arriving in the vicinity of the present town of Walnut, which was for the most part destitute of water and timber, one of the chiefs of the Nation, sent forward a deputation to select a location suitable for their camp. This deputation soon discovered a long stretch of timber, and upon entering it came to a beautiful, clear stream of water, the gravelly bottom of which could be distinctly seen. Highly pleased with their discovery they returned to their Chief, reported their success, and guided their comrades to the river. Those who arrived first at the river rode into it and let their horses drink, and, as a consequence, when the Chief arrived a few moments later, the water was quite the opposite of"beautiful and clear." He thereupon gently rallied the discoverers of the river upon the subject, and from the circumstance of the roiling of the water, named the river Ne-o-sho, (Ne, water, o-sho, made muddy - water that has been made muddy.
For a year or two Van Quickenborn remained for the most of the time, with the Osages that were at Harmony Mission, on the Marais des Cygnes, near Pappinsville, in Missouri, but in 1827, he came to those on the Neosho, where they were forming permanent settlements. About this time the Osage Nation was divided into two divisions - one on the Neosho, the other on the Verdigris. The Indian Towns on the Verdigris extended from the mouth of Pumpkin Creek to that of Chetopa Creek, while those on the Neosho extended from the mouth of Labette Creek to that of Owl Creek. Each division had a Chief, the principal Chief being that over the Neosho division.
In 1828, Van Quickenborn, performed a marriage ceremony, the parties united being Francis Daybeau, a half-breed, and an Osage woman named Mary. This was the first marriage solemnized in the territory now included in the State of Kansas. Van Quickenborn died in 1828.
In 1837, the first trading posts were established among the Osages, by Edward Choteau, Gerald Pappin and John Mathews, the latter locating near White Hair's village, now Oswego, Labette County. A half-breed settlement was established between Canville and Flat Rock Creek. The former creek was named after A. B. Canville who came to the Osages in 1844, married in 1845, and settled on Canville Creek in 1847.
From 1829 to 1847 various Fathers of the Catholic Church visited the Osages, but they, desiring a missionary permanently settled among them, requested Rt. Rev. Peter R. Kendrick, Bishop of St. Louis, to make an appointment for them. Consequently the Bishop appointed Rev. Father John Schoenmakers, S. J., Superior of the Mission. Bather S. arrived on the 29th of April, 1847, and took possession of two buildings then in process of erection by the Indian Department. Father Schoenmakers was accompanied by Fathers John J. Bax and Paul Ponziglione, who visited the Osage villages and urged upon them the importance of civilization and Christianity.
On the 10th of May, a small number of Osage children were collected, and a manual labor school established. The two buildings, which were now completed, were designed - one for the education of Indian boys, the other for the education of Indian girls. On the 5th of October, 1847, several sisters of Lorette arrived at the Mission from Kentucky, for the purpose of educating Indian girls; a convent was established, which, with the school for boys is still flourishing. As the numbers of scholars increased, other and larger buildings were erected for their accommodation. The principal school buildings are now two large, three-story stone structures, besides which there are two large three-story dwellings - one for the boys, the other for the girls.
The church that was first erected, a frame building, 30x93 feet in size, is now being superseded by a magnificent stone church, 75x175 feet in size, and which, when completed, will have cost about $75,000. The spire of this church will be 110 feet high. These schools were always popular among the Indians until their removal from the Reservation, which occurred in 1865, and they have even since then been attended by Indian children to considerable extent. The highest number in attendance during any one year was 236, and for the ten years from 1855 to 1865, the average annual attendance was 150.
During the War of the Rebellion the Osages suffered much from depredations of various kinds. Their newly built houses were torn down, their crops destroyed, their hogs and cattle stolen, and, becoming discouraged with their prospects, they ceded to the United States Government a strip off the east end of their reservation, fifty by thirty miles in extent, containing 960,000 acres for $300,000; the money to be deposited in the treasury of the United States, and to draw five per cent. interest, the interest to be paid to them semi-annually in money, clothing, provisions or such articles of utility as the Secretary of the Interior might from time to time direct.
At the same time they also transferred in trust to the Government to be sold for their benefit a strip off the north of the balance of their reservation, twenty miles in width from north to south and extending to the western limits of their reservation. The reservation thus reduced was called the "Diminished Osage Reserve," and was sold to the Government in 1870, and the Osages went to a new reservation in the Indian Territory. After the close of the war, southeastern Kansas was rapidly settled up, and the necessity for educational facilities became more and more urgent. The Osage Mission Manual Labor Schools were the central point of settlement, and it was deemed expedient by the conductors of the schools to provide for the admission of white children.
Accordingly, on the 7th of May, 1870, the school for boys was chartered under the name and title of "St. Francis Institute," with the view of making it a high school; and the school for girls was chartered on the 19th of September, 1870, under the name of "St. Ann's Academy." This school is conducted by the Sisters of Loretto. Bridget Hayden has been in charge of the school for girls ever since its establishment, October 5, 1847, a period of thirty-five years. Fathers Schoenmakers and Ponziglione, still live at the Mission, and are among the very oldest settlers in Kansas. With them now are associated three other priests of the Jesuit order, viz: Fathers Kuleman, Condon and Hagan.
The treaty by which the Osages ceded the "Ceded Lands" to the United States was concluded September 29, 1865, and proclaimed January 21, 1867. Before the former date, in some of the townships as now organized, quite a number of settlers had taken claims, in anticipation of the removal of the Indians. So far as ascertainable the following named persons were the first, or among the first, in the various townships: Dr. W. W. Hill settled in Grant Township in 1851, and was killed in his own door-yard by a mob, November 1, 1866. In 1858, Levi Hadden settled in this township, and in 1859, Simeon W. and James A. Hadden, and Solomon Markham and his four sons.
Big Creek Township was settled in 1859 by J. L. Fletcher, S. Barbee, H. Schooley, and Thomas Hadden; and Tioga Township, in the same year, by Darius Rodgers, Benjamin M. Smith, Thomas Jackson, and S. E. Beach.
Canville Township was settled by T. R. Peters in 1859; the next settlers being M. Kitterman in 1864, and William Box, David Lowery and J. C. Comstock in 1865. Walnut Grove Township was settled in 1865 by E. J. Pierce and W. I. Brewer; Centerville in 1865by Reuben Lake, Joseph Cummings, Henry and John Wikle, and John Blair. Chetopa Township in 1864 by George T. Shepherd and A. A. Ashlock, and by M. J. Salter and John Post in 1865; Ladore in 1865 by I. N. Roach and family, W. C. Dickerson and S. Rosa; Lincoln in the same year by J. L. and Frank McCashu, Dr. Dement, M. A. Patterson and J. L. Evans; Erie also by I. M. Allen, John Johnson, D. T. Mitchell, P. Walters, R. Leppo, E. F. Williams, P. McCarthy and John C. Weibley, and in 1866 by Capt. John Berry, J. A. Wells, A. H. Childs, James Hoagland, A. H. Roe, J. Naff and D. W. Bray.
First Things. - The first marriage has already been mentioned as having occurred in 1828. Some authorities give it as late as 1830, but as Van Quickenborn, the officiating priest, died in 1828, it seems safe to place the date of the marriage as early at least as some time in that year. The first postoffice was at the Catholic (Osage) Mission in 1851. The first Protestant sermon on the Osage ceded lands was preached by Rev. Mr. Woodward in 1860. The first bills (sic) allowed by the County Commissioners was that of Wiley Evans for assessing the county, sixteen days at $2 per day. The first deed now found upon the records of the county was one bearing date December 28, 1866, for sixty-two acres of land, in the southeast quarter of Section 35, Township 28, Range 21; the grantors were John and Electy Ann Pisell and the grantee Thomas H. Pierce.
The first deed on record of land lying within the present limits of the county was dated May 27, 1867. The grantors were Thomas and Adeline Mosier and the grantee Wesley Hobson. Hobson's choice was the north half of the southeast quarter of Section 16, Township 29, Range 20. The first marriage on record in the county was that of Hezekiah Davis to Miss Frances M. Stroud, which was solemnized September 4, 1865. The first political convention held in Neosho County was at Trotter's Ford in September, 1866. It was a Republican convention, with B. J. Waters for chairman. This was before Labette County was organized, but all nominees of the convention were selected from what is now Neosho County. J. A. Wells was nominated for Probate Judge, Joel Barnhart for County Assessor and M. C. Wright for Representative; but Darius Rodgers, running as an independent candidate, was elected. S. R. Nugent was elected delegate to the State Convention and instructed to vote for S. J. Crawford for Governor.
The first term of the District Court was held at Old Erie in September, 1867. Hon. W. A. Spriggs, of Garnett, was presiding Judge. T. C. Cory was appointed by Judge Spriggs County Attorney, and acted in that capacity throughout the term. T. J. Brewer was Clerk of the Court, and the lawyers in attendance from Neosho County were J. C. Carpenter, B. P. Ayers, Tom. Bridgens and C. F. Hutchings.
The first newspaper published in Neosho County was the Neosho Valley Eagle. This paper was started at Jacksonville, May 2, 1868, by B. K. Land, and moved to Erie October 24, 1868. March 22, 1869, it was purchased by Kimball & Burton, enlarged from a six to an eight column folio, and the name changed to the Dispatch. J. A. Trenchard became editor December 9, 1870. J. A. Wells became editor of the paper February 24, 1871, and changed the name to the Erie Ishmaelite. The publication of the paper was suspended June 2, 1871, the material of the office being purchased and removed to the Osage Mission by J. H. Scott and H. T. Perry, and used by them in publishing the Neosho County Journal.
The first murder of a white man by a white man was that of H. H. Beck by man named Yearsley at Osage City, in 1868. Yearsley was never brought to punishment. The greatest crime ever committed in the county was by a gang of seven men at Ladore on the night of May 19, 1870. The gang took possession of the town, robbed several of the citizens, fired their revolvers at others, and then went to the house of I. N. Roach, and beat him with clubs and revolvers until they supposed him dead, when they left him senseless and covered with blood. They then took out two young daughters, and after stationing guards to prevent interference, repeatedly outraged their persons.
During the commission of the crime a quarrel arose among them, and one of them shot a comrade dead. In the morning the alarm was given and a party was organized which pursued and captured six of the fiends, and hanged five of them to a hackberry tree near Labette Creek, all of whom with the one that was shot were buried in one grave. the one who was not hanged was named Peter Kelly, the one shot, Robert Wright, and the five hanged were William Ryan, Patrick Starr, Patsey Riley, Richard Pitkin and Alexander Mathews. About three hundred of the best citizens of the county were engaged in or were present at the lynching. There has been but one other case of lynching in the county. This was the case of a man who had strangled his wife with his own hands.
The Settlers and the Railroads
After the "Canville Treaty," of September 29, 1865, so called because it was concluded at the trading post of A. B. Canville, the most important event in the history of Neosho County was the contest between the settlers and the railroad companies, over the title to certain lands contiguous to their lines of road. The lands, the title to which was in controversy, lay within the tract known as the "Osage Ceded Lands." These lands had been reserved to the Great and Little Osages by the treaty of June 2, 1825, in the following language:
"Within the limits of the country above ceded and relinquished, there shall be reserved to and for the Great and Little Osage Tribe or Nation aforesaid, so long as they may choose to occupy the same, the following described tract of land," etc., etc. This tract of land has been previously described in this sketch. The settlers maintained the position that under this treaty, the Government of the United States had no authority to make grants to any railroad company of any portion of the said reservation, so long as the Osages chose to occupy the same, which they did continue to do until the conclusion of the treaty of September 29, 1865, by which the tract thirty by fifty miles off the east end of their reservation was ceded to the United States, and henceforth was known as the "Ceded Lands."
The Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad Company insisted on the claim that it was entitled to every alternate section of land designated by odd numbers for ten miles in width on each side of its road from Lawrence, Kansas, to the southern line of the State, the road being projected through the Ceded Lands. This claim was based on an act of Congress passed March 3, 1863, two years and six months before the conclusion of the "Canville Treaty," and nearly four years before this treaty was proclaimed, January 21, 1867.
This act of Congress of March 3, 1863, made grants of lands to the State of Kansas, to aid in the construction of certain railroads and telegraphs in that State. The railroads named in the act were, first, a railroad and telegraph from the city of Leavenworth, by way of the town of Lawrence, and via the Ohio City Crossing (Ottawa) of the Osage (Marais des Cygnes) River, to the southern line of the State in the direction of Galveston Bay, in Texas, with a branch from Lawrence by the valley of Wakarusa River, to the point on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad where said road intersects the Neosho River. Second, of a railroad from the city of Atchison, via Topeka, to the western line of the State, in the direction of Fort Union and Santa Fe, New Mexico, with a branch from which this last-named road crossed the Neosho, down said Neosho valley to the point where the first-named road enters the said Neosho valley; the grant being, for each of these roads and their branches, every alternate section of land, designated by odd numbers, for ten sections in width on each side of said road and each of its branches.
The Legislature of Kansas accepted this grant, and passed an act making the grants to the railroads mentioned, February 9, 1864, as contemplated in the act of Congress of March 3, 1863, thus showing that they considered the grant by Congress a valid one.
The Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad Company claimed under an act granting lands to the State of Kansas, to aid in the construction of a southern branch of the Union Pacific Railway and telegraph from Fort Riley, Kan., to Fort Smith, Ark., approved by the President of the United States, July 26, 1866.
The claims of both railroad companies were denied by Hon. Joseph S. Wilson, Commissioner of the General Land Office at different times, notably under date of April 26, 1867, and May 17, 1867. In his communication of the former date, to H. C. Whitney, attorney for the L. L. & G. R. R. Company Commissioner Wilson said:
"With reference to the right of the company to the odd sections within the limits of the land ceded by the Osage Indians to the United States, under the treaty proclaimed January 21, 1867, I would state that the lands granted and sold to the United States by the first article of the treaty, are to be disposed of on the most advantageous terms for cash, and after reimbursing the United States the cost of survey and sale, and the sum of $300,000, placed to the credit of said Indians, the remaining proceeds of sale shall be placed to the credit of the civilization fund.' Hence, by the stipulation of the treaty, the railroad can acquire no rights whatever to the lands."
Under the fourth article of the "Canville Treaty," which permitted citizens of the United States, who were heads of families, to purchase each a quarter section, one hundred and forty-four settlers, bought twenty-two thousand, three hundred and fifteen acres of land, paying therefore, $27,894. This was within one year from the conclusion of the treaty. From this time forward for a number of years, there was continual excitement over this question. O. H. Browning, Secretary of the Interior, reversed the just and humane decision of Commissioner Wilson, and immediately thereafter the lands were withdrawn from sale, and the settlers became very much excited and alarmed lest they, many of whom had fought and suffered for the perpetuity of the Government, should now be robbed of their homes, or be compelled to purchase them of the railroad companies at double or treble prices.
Meetings were held at various points in the county for the purpose of devising means to prevent, if possible, the railroads from obtaining title to the lands. During the contest numerous speakers addressed the various settlers' meetings; but in addition to their difficulties over the lands, was added that of not being sure whom of their counselors to trust. At one of those meetings, held at Osage Mission, August 22, 1868, an organization was effected, and named the "Osage Settlers' Rights Society." Of this society, J. Barnhart was made president; J. M. Barnes, vice-president; Louis A. Reese, treasurer; and J. D. Carpenter, secretary.
Petitions were drawn and sent to the various townships in the county for signatures. These petitions were designed especially to defeat the "Osage Treaty" of May 27, 1868, by which it was intended to sell eight million acres of the Osage lands to the L., L. & G. R. R. Co. for nineteen cents per acre. Through the efforts of Sidney Clarke, the House of Representatives of the National Congress passed the following resolution: "That this House does hereby solemnly and earnestly protest against the ratification of the stipulations of said pretended treaty by the Senate, and will feel bound to refuse any appropriation in its behalf, or to recognize its validity in any form." This was encouraging. Another encouraging feature of the case was that each of the two railroad companies claimed priority of right to the lands; or in other words, each denied the validity of the other's claim. And so the contest waged.
On the 10th of April, 1869, Congress passed a joint resolution, to enable bona fide settlers to purchase certain of the Osage Ceded Lands, throwing open to sale both odd and even numbered sections. under this resolution 2,295 settlers purchased 235,436 acres of the lands, paying therefor $292,545.72, besides officers' fees. But the joint resolution guarded vested rights. Then the question was as to whether the railroad companies had any vested rights. According to the ruling of Secretary Browning, they were entitled to certain lands under the grants, and the instructions forwarded June 3, 1869, to the Land Office, which was then at Humboldt, recognized the ruling of the Secretary of the Interior as of controlling authority.
Thus the vexed question seemed settled, and, although the settlers had not accomplished all they desired, yet they knew what they had accomplished, and that was something. But they did not long rest satisfied with this settlement of the question, and in September, 1870, determined to test legally the validity of these "vested rights." Excessively expensive counsel was employed and the case carried to the Supreme Court of the United States, which decided in favor of the settlers on these two vital points only, which carried all other points with them. First: That the act of Congress of March 3, 1863, made no grant of any of the Osage Indian Reservation, and second, that the Osage Ceded Lands were expressly reserved from the grant by the very act under which the railroads claimed the grant, in the following proviso: "That any and all lands heretofore reserved to the United States, by any act of Congress or in any other manner by competent authority, for the purpose of aiding in any object of internal improvement, or for any other purpose whatsoever, be, and the same are hereby reserved to the United States from the operation of this act except so far as it may be found necessary to locate the routes of said road and branches through such reserved lands; in which case the right of way only shall be granted, subject to the approval of the President of the United States."
For this favorable result, the Settlers' Self-Protective Association is deserving of the credit, and since it was secured the county, as a whole, has enjoyed peace, and has made gratifying prosperity.
Neosho County now has three railroads: the Missouri Pacific Railroad, entering the county nine miles from its northeast corner, running in a southwesterly direction, and leaving it nine miles west of the southeast corner; the Neosho Division of the same road, entering the county from the north three miles east of the northwest corner, running southeasterly and leaving it about the middle of the southern boundary, and the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas, entering the county from the north, running southward through a total of seventy five miles of railroad within the county.
The Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas was built to Thayer in the fall of 1870, and in the spring of 1871 completed to the southern boundary of the county; the Neosho Division reached Chanute in December, 1870, and its further construction through the county was pushed rapidly forward, and the main line of the Missouri Pacific, constructed from both directions at the same time, was completed in February, 1871; the two sections meeting just south of Walnut, and the last rail being laid on the 3d of that month. The first passenger train passed over this road from Chetopa to St. Louis on the 5th of February, 1871.
The county has extended no aid to railroads, but Mission Township, on the 16th of August, 1870, voted $80,000 in bonds in aid of the Tebo & Neosho Railroad, now the Missouri Pacific, by a vote of 256 for to 77 against the bonds. This is the only township that ever issued any railroad bonds, and as a consequence taxes generally throughout the county are comparatively low.
County Organization and the County Seat
At the time of the organization of the county, in November, 1864, the Governor appointed three Commissioners: R. W. Hadden, S. E. Beach and S. W. Hadden. Previous to the proclamation of the Governor, preliminary steps had been taken by the people looking to this organization. On the 8th of November an election had been held, at which various officers were voted for, and on the 11th of the month the vote was canvassed, by S. E. Beach and R. W. Jackson acting as Commissioners. At that canvass it was found that the total vote cast was 35, and that the highest number received by any candidate was 32 for Darius Rodgers for Representative from the Seventh-eighth District. Solon O. Thacher received 24 votes for Governor and J. J. Ingalls 27 votes for Lieutenant Governor. J. L. Fletcher acted as Clerk of the Board.
On the 27th of December an election was held to complete the county organization. The vote was canvassed on the 30th, and resulted in the election of the following officers, by the number of votes appended to each respective name: Commissioners, R. W. Jackson, 47; S. W. Hadden, 46; T. Jackson, 47; Clerk, J. L. Fletcher, 46; Treasurer, Wm. Jackson, 46; Surveyor, S. Jackson, 46; County Attorney, Darius Rodgers, 47; Probate Judge, H. Woodward, 45; Sheriff, B. Vaughn, 46; Coroner, W. H. Davis, 39; Assessor, Wiley Evans, 45; Superintendent of Public Instruction, S. E. Beach, 45. The total number of votes cast was 47. Two votes were cast on county seat, one in favor of locating it at "The Mound above Swisses," and one on "The Henchly Claim."
On the 6th of March the county was divided into four townships: Neosho, Big Creek, Canville, and Mission. From time to time new divisions were made, until finally , in July, 1871, the present symmetrical division was settled upon, as follows: Tioga, Big Creek, Grant, Canville, Erie, Walnut Grove, Chetopa, Centerville, Mission, Shiloh, Ladore, and Lincoln. With the exception of Erie and Centerville, each township is six miles by eight in area; Erie, on account of the windings of the Neosho, containing about two sections more than Centerville.
The State Senators from Neosho County, with date of election, have been as follows: John C. Carpenter, 1868; W. L. Simons, 1870, '68 and '69; W. S. Irwin, 1870; O. S. Copeland and E. H. Keebles, 1871; Frank Bacon and C. F. Hutchings, 1872; T. P. Leach and J. M. Allen, 1873; A. P. Gibson and C. F. Stauber, 1874; John Stall and T.F. Rager, 1875; John Stall and L. Stillwell, 1876; R. D. Hartshorn and John Hall, 1878; John Hall and T. F. Cory, 1880; T. F. Cory and J. M. Dunsmore, 1882.
M. J. Salter of this county, was elected Lieutenant Governor in 1874, and re-elected in 1876. John C. Carpenter was appointed to the office of Internal Revenue Collector for Kansas in 1878, and more recently the Indian Territory has been added to his district. At present Erie is the county seat. Originally, in 1864, by proclamation of the Governor, the county seat was temporarily located at Osage City, three miles northeast of the present site of Chanute, on the east side of the river, the place having since been known as Rodgers' Mills. In June, by a vote of the electors, the county seat was removed to the "geographical center" of the county, the cost of finding which was $44. The first meeting of the Commissioners at this point was held July 1,1867.
Thereafter until May 30, 1868, the Commissioners continued to meet there, or at the "County Clerk's Office," at the store of Roe & Denison, one and a half miles east. On June 13 a meeting was held at Old Erie, and on July 6 at Erie, a preliminary election was held May 26, 1868, and a second one on June 9, at which Osage Mission and Erie were the two competing points. The vote of Mission Township, which had been cast mainly for the former place, was thrown out by the canvassing board, and the majority in favor of Erie was found to be 271.
All was quiet then until January 13, 1870, when, at a special meeting held that day, it was ordered by the Commissioners "that wherefor the removal and permanent location of the county seat, that said returns have not been fully canvassed as required by law, therefore be it ordered that Solon E. Marston, George W. Gabriel and John Moffit proceed to recanvass the said vote." By the recanvass it was found that Mission Town (Osage Mission) had 572 votes to 543 for Erie, a majority of twenty-nine in favor of the former place. The next day considerable excitement was occasioned at Erie by the announcement that during the previous night the Clerk's records and the tax rolls had been stolen and conveyed to Osage Mission by parties then unknown, subsequently, one of particeps criminis to this transaction made a confession of the part acted by himself and revealed the names of all the others, including the two individuals who carried the records to the Mission, but no legal steps were ever taken to bring any one to punishment, as previous to the revelation Erie had regained the county seat. The tax rolls stolen were never found, and as a consequence the county lost several thousand dollars; but the exact amount could not be ascertained, as it was impossible to obtain a settlement with the county Treasurer.
The next election "for the removal and permanent location of the county seat" was held March 12, 1872, at which time Osage Mission received 1,009 votes, Erie 837, Geographical Center 179, Alliance (now Chanute) 621, and "Section 30, Township 29, Range 19," 306 - a total vote of 2,9521. To decide the question the next election was held March 26, at which time, according to the "face of the returns," Erie had 1,712 votes and Osage Mission 1,679. Erie Township appeared to have cast for Erie 590 votes and Mission Township 842 for Osage Mission. Both townships were suspected of fraud.
Affidavits were submitted to the Board that the total vote of Erie Township at the election of March 26 was 342, 337 for Erie and 5 for Osage Mission; but it does not appear which township added most fraudulent votes to the correct number. On the 6th of April the Board made its final canvass of the vote, and on the ground that it had no legal power to "go behind the returns" resolved that, "it appearing that Erie had received a majority of the votes cast at the election of March 26, 1872, it is declared that Erie is the county seat of Neosho County." The question was carried into the courts, and finally, after reaching the Supreme Court of the State, was decided in 1874 in favor of Erie; and in October of that year the county records were removed to Erie, where they still remain.
According to the Assessors' returns of 1882, the personal property in the county was as follows: Horses, 4,508, value $122,456; cattle, 14,581, value $119,457; mules, 855,value $30,834; sheep, 7.068, value $6,990; swine, 8,532, value $10,978; farming implements value $31,405; wagons, 1,138, value $18,122; carriages, 324, value $7,953; money, $17,228.75; credits, $7,908; merchandise, $73,237; manufactured goods, $3,800;notes, $27,784.25; mortgages, $3,262; other personal property, $61,828; total personal property, $533,243; constitutional exemption, $213,200; net taxable personal property, $320,043, to which was [added] five per cent. by the State Board of Equalization, making the taxable personal property $336,045. The various kinds of real estate was as follows: Total number of acres of taxable lands under cultivation, 135,885; not under cultivation, 223,963; aggregate taxable valuation of farming lands, $1,492,605; total number of unimproved village lots, 3,903; of improved lots, 1,632; value, $178,507; railroad property, $427,595; total taxable valuation of all property in the county, $2,434,752.
The acreage of the principal crops raised in 1882, was as follows: Winterwheat, 10,000 acres; rye, 525; corn, 68,200; barley, 10; oats, 10,200; buckwheat, 25; potatoes, 700; sweet potatoes, 50; sorghum, 450; castorbeans, 12,000; cotton, 15; flax, 6,300; millet, 4,600; rice corn, 10; meadow-timothy, 75; other tame grasses, 900; prairie, 40,000.
There are 1,100 acres of nurseries in the county, and the following are the numbers of the various kinds of fruit trees: Apple - bearing, 76,370, not bearing, 72,354; peach - bearing, 183,425; not bearing, 32,028; pear - bearing, 2,439, not bearing, 5,082; plum - bearing, 4,793, not bearing, 4,954; cherry - bearing, 21,576, not bearing, 12,408. Of vineyards there were fifty-three acres, and these made 844 gallons of wine. But little attention has as yet been paid to the cultivation of forest or shade trees. Of walnut trees there are 12 acres; cottonwood, 26; maple, 50; other varieties 180; total, 268 acres.
The number of rods of the different kinds of fencing in the county, is as follows: Board fence, 24,315; rail, 93,177; stone, 9,529; hedge, 484,884; wire, 75,893; total number of rods, 667,798, or 2,086.8 miles.
The population of the county in 1860, was 88; in 1870, 10,206; in 1874,11,324; in 1875, 11,076; in 1878, 11,055; in 1880, 15,124; in 1882, 15,155. The decrease after 1874 was caused by the visits of the grasshoppers. They were a terrible scourge during 1874 and 1875, but in the latter year they disappeared and have not since returned. The population of the county in the spring of 1882 is reasonably believed to have been fully 16,000. When the returns of the census were first brought in by the assessors, the total population appeared to be less than 15,000. But in various districts the returns were soon discovered to be incomplete, and the assessors were compelled to add names omitted until the population was shown to be over 15,000, when the matter was dropped.
Some of the assessors were determined to keep the population below 15,000, if possible, as by so doing a saving of several thousand dollars in the salaries of the county officers would be effected; but the officers were fully as anxious to have the population returned as 15,000 or over, in order that the addition to their salaries, which then according to law could be made, should be made. Hence they brought influences to bear upon the assessors until this result was accomplished, but stopped short of securing a full and complete return.
There are ninety-seven school districts in the county, and the same number of schoolhouses. Of these one is log; three, brick; five, stone, and eighty-eight frame. The total of scholars in 1882 was 4,579 - males, 1,904; females, 2,675. There were employed 104 teachers - 44 males and 60 females, the former receiving on the average $34.20 per month, the latter $27.44. The value of school property was as follows: Houses $123,000; furniture, $17,000; apparatus, $1,900; libraries, $800; total $142,700. All the schools have adopted a course of study, and a Normal Institute of one month is held each year.
The Neosho County Agricultural Society was organized April 24, 1869. At a meeting of the directors of this society held May 8, a permanent organization was effected, by the election of the following officers: Larkin Jones, president; John Moffitt, secretary, and James P. Morgan, treasurer. The other directors for the first year were Joseph M. Boyle, R. D. Cogswell, John Stephens, John Cameron, J. L. Mattingly, Stephen Carr, C. H. Howard, Michael Barnes, S. T. Gilmore and Rufus Miller. The capital stock of the society was fixed at $5,000; shares $5 each. The first fair was held October 22 and 23 of that year.
The Neosho County Medical Society. - This society was organized May 5, 1870, at Osage Mission. A. F. Neeley was elected president; R. D. Cogswell, vice-president; Robert Brogan, secretary, and R. C. Leake, treasurer.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,497 km² (578 mi²). 1,481 km² (572 mi²) of it is land and 16 km² (6 mi²) of it (1.08%) is water.
As of the census² of 2000, there were 16,997 people, 6,739 households, and 4,683 families residing in the county. The population density was 11/km² (30/mi²). There were 7,461 housing units at an average density of 5/km² (13/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 94.90% White, 0.87% Black or African American, 0.98% Native American, 0.32% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 1.05% from other races, and 1.86% from two or more races. 2.91% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 6,739 households out of which 31.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.40% were married couples living together, 8.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.50% were non-families. 27.10% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the county the population was spread out with 25.70% under the age of 18, 8.90% from 18 to 24, 25.40% from 25 to 44, 22.50% from 45 to 64, and 17.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 93.40 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.10 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $32,167, and the median income for a family was $38,532. Males had a median income of $26,906 versus $19,387 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,539. About 10.00% of families and 13.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.60% of those under age 18 and 10.60% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
St. Paul, 653
Unified school districts
Erie-Thayer-Galesburg CUSD 101 is a consolidated school district located entirely within the county and serves the communities of Erie, Galesburg, Stark, and Thayer. The schools of St. Paul were transferred to Chetopa USD 505 effective July 1, 2005.
Cherokee USD 247 is a 300 square mile school district primarily covering portions of Crawford and Cherokee counties, but also includes small portions of Labette and Neosho counties.
Chanute Public Schools USD 413
Chetopa-St. Paul USD 505
Neosho County Community College