Old Settlers' Tales by F.F. Crevecoeur

Historical and Biographical



In compiling the following record of the more interesting events occurring during the early settlement of the vicinity of Onaga, the writer has interviewed about one hundred and twenty persons. He has received the greatest encouragement in the compiling of the matter contained in this paper, the older settlers, especially, being greatly interested in the putting of their early experiences on Kansas soil in shape to be handed down to posterity. If there are events which occurred here a quarter of a century or more ago which are not mentioned in this paper, we hope the public will not judge the writer nor the old settlers too harshly, as many things have escaped the memory of the older people.

As "Distance lends enchantment to the scene," so Time adds a charm to matters of history that has always appealed to the curiosity and the higher sentiments of mankind. If it were not so, all of the great classics would fail to create emotions that have such a strong hold on the minds of men. If the Bible had not contained a record of the doings of the most enlightened race of man from the day of creation, with their genealogy, vicissitudes, victories, and progresses, until a time when its history was corroborated by what have been called profane writers, we doubt very much that it would have been accepted as the infallible guide which it is called by the nations into whose hands it had the fortune of falling. so, also, the great hold the Vedas has on the minds of the Hindoos, and that of the Zend Avesta on that of the Parsees or Persians, lies in the fact of their age and their dealing with the ancient history of mankind.

Secular history, though not being considered of so much importance as the above, is appreciated to a greater or less extent by all peoples, and in consequence it is not only read, but taught in nearly all schools of the present day.

Though the dissertion (sic) above might seem to imply that written history is not to be depended on as a reliable source of information, the writer wishes to say that he hopes the following account of the early settling of the territory more nearly contiguous to the city of Onaga contains as few errors as it is possible to keep from creeping into a work which deals only with persons and things of more than twenty-five years ago. This article covers all of Vienna, Mill Creek and the western edge of Grant townships, in Pottawatomie county, and Neuchatel township in Nemaha county. The removal of many of the older people to other states or communities, and the passing away of many of the others to that bourne from which no one returns, has prompted the writer to attempt the compiling of the comings, goings, and the principal incidents and events connected therewith, before it will be too late.

We have decided to close this paper with the year 1877, as the time from the earliest settlement in this locality until that year about equals in length the time from that year to the present. That year the railroad was built and Onaga founded, which events were followed by a large influx of people whose histories it would be difficult to trace; and it was quite soon after Onaga was founded when a newspaper (The Onaga Journal) was established, which recorded the principal events occurring in Onaga and vicinity. Therefore, if there are members of some families which are not mentioned in this paper, it will be understood that they either came to this locality or were born later than the above mentioned years. Where the present residence of people mentioned is not given, it will be understood that they are either living in the neighborhood where they settled or their whereabouts is not known. As most of the pioneers mentioned in this paper built log houses for their first home, it will be understood that each one built a house or cabin of that kind if there is no mention made of the style of house that was built.

Like most communities, the country surrounding Onaga was settled by small colonies, either from the older states or from the various countries of Europe, and usually consisted of families or people closely related, or of those speaking the same language as in the case of foreigners.

The earliest settlers always chose the streams as their first places of abode, as water and wood for building their log houses and for fuel, were more convenient and game more plentiful. In fact, as Judge Huffman so quaintly says, they had to do so to keep from freezing and starving to death. As a rule, the houses were built on the east or south side of the timber, so the northern wintry blasts would not reach them.

The early settlements consisted principally of the following, commencing at the east:

The Vermillion river, settled by residents of the older states in 1856-7.

Coal creek, by Irish, and Mound creek (Rocky Scrabble), mostly by French and Belgians, in the late 60's.

French creek, the lower stretch by Americans in 1856-7, and the upper by French-Swiss in 1857.

Dutch, Hise, and Mill creeks, in their upper courses by Germans, in 1857, and various colonies from the older states further down, near where they join the Vermillion, about the same year.

We will commence our narrative with a few families who settled near the western border of Lincoln township:

Benjamin F. Buzbee first came to this locality in August, 1856, with his two brothers, Leonard and George, and paid a visit to Henry Hoover, who was living here then. They camped for dinner on the rocks at the ford on the McBride farm, and the same day started to return to Osawkie, in Jefferson county, where he was living then. He enlisted in Company G, Tenth Kansas Volunteer Infantry. He married during the war (in 1864), and came to Lincoln township with his wife, Mary, and daughter, Anna (who was then two months old), in company with T. J. Roosa, who brought him out here in his wagon. He settled on a homestead now the property of Joe Johnson. His second house (a frame one) built on this farm was erected in 1870. To him were born, while living in the old house, Maggie (Mrs. Charles Harris, of Laclede,) and Richard, now of Belvue. Claudius and Clarence were born in the new house. Claudius died in December, 1875. Anna was married to Samuel Thomas, and died June 26, 1886. Mr. Buzbee is a native of Illinois, while his wife was born in New Jersey, but she lived in Illinois before coming to Kansas. Mr. Buzbee sold out in 1887, to W. A. Heald, and moved to the Anthony farm. In 1874 he purchased a thrashing machine in partnership with Major Jenkins, and ran it two years. He once took the machine into Nemaha county, where belts and one thing and another were stolen. He found it a poor- paying investment, though it was new when he got it. In the early 60's Mr. Buzbee made a trip through the south part of the county, and be found every stream from Soldier creek to the Vermillion had a toll bridge. The year Mr. Buzbee came to Vienna he was living near Leavenworth. May 3, when his daughter, Anna, was born, was very sultry and hot, while the next morning there occurred a heavy frost, necessitating the putting up of a stove in the house. Corn was about eight or ten inches high, and was frosted so it had to be replanted.

Miles Furman and his wife, Arvilla, were natives of New York. They had two sons, Isaac H. and Daniel, when they came to Kansas, in 1859. Mr. Furman first went up the Solomon river to make himself a home, but came back to Oskaloosa, in Jefferson county, the fall of the year. His wife died while he was living there, and during the war he moved back to New York, among his folks, with his children, as he supposed he would be drafted and did not care to leave them here among strangers. There he married his second wife, Mrs. Maria Ellison, and returned to Kansas about 1866. At Oskaloosa he went into the nursery business, which occupation seems to run in the family. In 1869 he moved to this locality, to what is now the Lank (Leander) Fields farm, where he opened up the nursery business anew. Mr. Furman died on his farm in 1874. The records of the varieties of fruit trees he had in his nursery are supposed to have been buried with him, as it is thought they were in the clothes in which he was interred, a search elsewhere failing to find them. As it was not policy to sell fruit trees without knowing for certain what they were, the trees were allowed to go to waste. Mr. Furman had two children from his second marriage, Ora and Cora, both of whom were born in New York. Cora is now Mrs. Sigel Ingalsbe, and is at Perkins, OK., where her husband is postmaster. A third child, Fred, was born to him after he moved out here, who went to Oklahoma, married, and died there. Mr. Furman's second wife, Mrs. Ellison, had three children from her first marriage, who accompanied their mother when she came out here. These are Mary (Mrs. James Blaine, of Dakota), Sarah Jane (Mrs. Hiram Fields), and Irwin, who was married to Miss Ella Robison. When last heard from he was a mail carrier in Colorado. After Mr. Furman's death, Mrs. Furman went back to New York, where she married Elijah Collins, moving back to this locality during the 70's. Mr. Collins and his wife lived on different rented farms, and are at present back in New York again. While living at Oskaloosa, Mr. Furman wore wooden shoes, such as the German peasants wear. When Mr. Furman was living on the Solomon river, in 1859, he found but five families there besides himself in all of what is now Saline county. Food was rather scarce there then, and the few people who were there resorted to hunting the buffalo, which were plentiful not far away. Most of them were killed only for their tallow, which they tried out by the barrelful and hauled to Leavenworth. They had to subsist mostly on "jerked" dried buffalo meat, and fish, some of which, taken in the Solomon river, were as tall as a man. This last statement is corroborated by Alfred Cory, so it must be so. Mr. Furman's family could not live on meat alone, which accounts for his leaving there so soon. While there Mr. Furman took part in a rather exciting buffalo chase, in company with his neighbors. They struck a herd that was so vast they could not see across it. They had to lay their plans so as to not scare them away at the first fire, nor did they care to be attacked by the whole herd should they kill some of those in front and get the rest mad; so they drove half a day before they came to the rear of the heard, where they killed some sixty head of them. Those they killed they tried to drive towards and nearer the camp, so they would not have so far to drag them to where they could better attend to cutting up their carcasses. In this hunt one of the men had shot a yearling, which it was intended to carry home so they could have some fresh beef. The animal, however, was only stunned, and when it was grabbed by the ear it commenced fighting by striking with its front feet. About the first lick it gave it rather surprised its captor, whose name was Burroughs, by ripping his trousers from one end to the other. This amused Mr. Furman so much that he lay on the ground, laughing for dear life and utterly unable to offer the least assistance. Finally, when Mr. Furman got over the worst part of his hilarity, he grabbed the creature by one of its feet, but it continued striking with its other foot and once landed a well placed blow in the region of his shirt collar, which made this garment of use only for the rag man. All this time Mr. Furman was vainly striving to stab it with a butcher knife which he held in his free hand.

George Mason, his wife and son, Randolph, came from Lawrenceville, Tioga county, Pennsylvania, in 1866. He settled in or near section 20, in Lincoln township. Mrs. Mason died here and is buried in the Jenkins cemetery. Mr. Mason was a painter by trade, and painted the first Jenkins home.

Mr. Sprague, wife and two daughters, one of whom was named Mary, came from New England and settled just east of the Masons.

Rev. Willard Thompson, who is a native of New York, came here from Michigan in 1870, and homesteaded the farm on which he is now living. He commenced preaching during the winter of 1872-3. He went to conference and was ordained to the ministry in 1874. He preached continuously for three years, working his farm at the same time. He organized the Baptist churches at Wheaton, Bluff Creek and Westmoreland, during the winter of 1874-5, all three of which are still in existence. Afterwards he did missionary work at Neuchatel and Mulberry, also in Neuchatel township, Nemaha county, and in Jackson county.

Robert Wilson and his wife, Hannah, came to Lincoln township from Ontario, Canada, in 1868. He homesteaded his present home, and built his house (a frame one) of lumber hauled from Corning, Kan. His children, who were born on the homestead, are; Ada (Mrs. Arthur Wilson, of Canada), Andrew, Robert, Henry, and Eddie, who died in 1878 or 1879.

Charles W. Thompson, sr., with his wife, Alice May, and children, Henry, C. W., jr., Allie (Mrs. Lute Kidney), Cora (Mrs. John Davis), and Mel J., came to Lincoln township in 1870, from Illinois, and homesteaded a farm near Fairview school house, now owned by Fred Bob. Mrs. Thompson died in Onaga, in 1874, while Mr. Thompson's demise occurred in Topeka a few months ago.

Isaac N. May came from Valley Falls to his present home, which he homesteaded, in 1870. He built a frame house on his farm. His wife, Emma, came with him, and to them were born; Mary (Mrs. Edward McClellan), Joe, who was killed by a horse a couple of years ago, and Arbie. He served in Company I, Eleventh Kansas Cavalry, during the war. He and Robert Wilson are the only ones in that neighborhood who came so early who are still living where they then settled.

Benjamin Michaels and wife, natives of West Virginia, came to Kansas, at Valley Falls, from Ohio, about 1871; then moved to Vienna about 1872 or 1873, and took the homestead now occupied by Abe Godlove, in Lincoln township. His children, who came with him are; Minnie (Mrs. E. S. Lewis), Zany (Mrs. Will Jenkins), Lena (Mrs. Will Elliott). George was born on the homestead. Mr. Michaels died on his farm about 1891. Mrs. Michaels and her son, George, are now in Chautauqua county, this state.

James W. Slater, who is a native of Ohio, and his wife, Lydia, who is from Illinois, came from the latter state 1876. Their children, brought with them, are:; Lewis, Nettie (Mrs. Henry Randall), Flora, and another young daughter, who have since died. Mr. Slater bought his farm of Orin Foote.

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