William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas


[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]


Allen County was formed from a part of the territory included in the New York Indian Reservation, which, at the time settlement commenced, had just been ceded to the United States Government. In 1855, Joseph Ludley, with a party of surveyors, began the survey of the standard parallels of the Territory of Kansas, and finished in February, 1856, with the fifth standard parallel, which passed through Allen County, a short distance north of the present town of Humboldt. North of this parallel, the land was soon surveyed into towns and ranges, and then into sections. South of it, the town and range lines were not surveyed until 1857 and 1858, and the section lines not until 1859. In the meantime, after the town and range lines had been run, the settlers employed surveyors at their own expense, and had the section lines laid off, which were afterward found to nearly correspond with the Government survey.

When the settlers first located, they selected claims in or adjoining the timber, and while professing to hold but a one quarter section, many of them staked off and held a square mile. As this was the most desirable land, it caused much trouble as the settlement progressed. The Territorial Legislature passed a law allowing 320 acres to each settler, 160 acres as a timber, and 160 acres as a prairie claim. This was contrary to the law of Congress allowing 160 acres to each settler, and caused trouble among the settlers. There was a great deal of quarreling, but except in few instances violence was not resorted to. The settlers organized a "squatter's court," which, though having no legal authority, did much to preserve peace among the contestants over land claims. The decisions of this court were prompt, generally just, and usually acceded to by the contestants.

The land difficulties kept up for several years, and there were many assaults, but only few of them resulted in bloodshed. One of these was the shooting of Anderson Wray by Anderson C. Smith. The latter had a claim on Martin Creek, which was bid off at the land sale at Fort Scott by Wray. Some neighbors returning, found Smith on his claim and told him of it. Though late in the evening, he at once started for Fort Scott, angry and swearing vengeance on Wray. About 4 o'clock the next morning he came up with the Wray party, who were camped on Turkey Creek. He at once sought out Wray and began firing at him. Two shots took effect in his body, but the wounds did not prove fatal. The difficulty was afterward settled between them.

A young man named Winn selected and occupied a claim a few miles west of Humboldt, but did not file on it at the land office. In 1860 he went to Missouri to secure work. In his absence a man named Harris went to Fort Scott and bought the Winn claim by private entry. When Winn returned and learned the state of affairs, he at once called on Harris and demanded that he give up the land, which he refused, and a serious quarrel at once arose. The two men finally started off together, but Harris did not return. The next day his body was found with a bullet-hole in the head. Winn was arrested on suspicion, and examined by a Justice of the Peace. He admitted the killing, but claimed it to be in self-defense. He was held to bail, but was never brought to trial. This was the first homicide known to have been committed in the county.

During the early political troubles between the Pro-slavery and Free-state men Allen County suffered but little. The Valley of the Neosho was separated from the counties on the east and north, where the strife was greatest by broad and uninhabited prairies. Both elements had settled in the county, with the Free-state men largely in the majority. The latter class were made up generally of Western men, who were moderate and conservative in their views, and were willing to allow the Pro-slavery men the right to their own opinion, so long as no open demonstration of violence was made. The headquarters of the Pro-slavery men were at Cofachique, and at one time a band of armed men were stationed there, which caused some anxiety and a feeling of animosity toward the residents of the town, but there was never but little danger on either side. No serious trouble took place, no lives were lost, and little or no property was destroyed, and not on cent of the Free-state relief fund of 1856 was expended in Allen County.


As soon as the news of the breaking out of the Rebellion reached Allen County nearly all the able-bodied men hurried to enlist in defense of the Union. In 1861 the Iola Battalion was formed, and from the county were three companies, commanded by Captains Coleman, Flesher, and Killen, which served in the Ninth Kansas. In the Tenth Kansas Regiment were two companies, one commanded by Capt. W. C. Jones, and the other by Capt. N. B. Blanton.

The county being on the southern border of the State, it was considered in danger of invasion from the Missouri guerrillas and the hostile Indians of the Territory. The scene of most the military operations in the county were in and about Humboldt. In the summer of 1861 a company was organized there with N. B. Blanton, Captain; S. J. Stewart, First Lieutenant. J. H. Signor was afterward Second Lieutenant. Capt. Isaac Tibbetts organized a company of infantry, and Capt. I. N. Phillips a company of cavalry. During the same summer a regiment was organized in Allen and Woodson counties. Orlin Thurston was Colonel; James Kennar, Lieutenant Colonel; and N. S. Goss, Major. This was the Seventh Kansas Regiment, for the defense of Kansas, and was under command of Gen. J.H. Lane. While this regiment was with Lane in Missouri there were but very few men left at home to protect the settlements, and the most of the farming and other work for the maintenance of the families of the soldiers was done by the women and children.

Sacking of Humboldt. - While the Allen County soldiers were away with Lane, a raid was made on the unprotected settlement of Humboldt on September 8, 1861, by a band of Missouri guerrillas, Cherokee Indians, and Osage half-breed Indians, under command of Captains Matthews and Livingstone. Matthews had been a trader among the Indians, had married an Osage squaw, and lived where Oswego now is. He had great influence among the Osages and incited them to take sides with the Southern Confederacy. At Humboldt they sacked the stores and dwellings, carrying off all the money and valuables they could find without resistance, all the men being absent.

Burning of Humboldt. - At the time of the raid in September, Dr. George A. Miller was absent trying to obtain authority to organize a company of Home Guards. He succeeded in this, and on his return organized a company of infantry in the town, which was composed of old men, boys, and a few of the militiamen who had returned to Humboldt as soon as they learned of the raid, to help protect their defenceless (sic) families. A company of cavalry was also organized in the neighborhood, composed of farmers, and commanded by Capt. Henry Dudley. These companies accompanied by Col. J. G. Blunt, went in the pursuit of the guerrillas, and succeeded in overtaking them, when a skirmish took place, during which the outlaw, Capt. Matthews, was killed. The Home Guards returned, and for several days the cavalry was sent out regularly as a scouting party, it being feared that another attack would soon be made on the town. The infantry remained at home, and were always upon guard. Soon, however, there appearing to be no danger, the cavalry were allowed to return to their homes. Late in the afternoon of the 14th of October, 1861, a body of Rebel Cavalry, under command of Col. Talbott, dashed into Humboldt. The Home Guards, comprising less than 100 men, were taken completely by surprise, and it was impossible for Capt. Miller to get them together. The town was soon filled with armed men, who kept up a continual firing of guns and pistols. A few of the men by running succeeded in making their escape, but the others were soon captured and placed under guard. It was supposed that they would all be shot by the outlaws and the Indians who accompanied them. The only resistance offered was by Capt. Miller and Charles Baland. The captain finally give up his arms, pleading that the women and children might be saved, even though he expected to be murdered. The town was then set on fire, but before this was done, the Rebel officer ordered his men to allow the women and children to remove their valuables and household goods from their dwellings, and even ordered them to assist. The rebel officers claimed that Humboldt was burned in retaliation for the burning of Osceola, by Gen. Lane, and the killing of Matthews. Nearly all the buildings were then set on fire. The churches were saved, also the Masonic Hall. Of the other buildings not set on fire was the house of Dr. Wm. Wakefield, who, when he saw that he was in the power of the enemy, invited the officers to take supper with him. Among them was Capt. Livingstone. A few other houses were saved where there were women too sick to be moved. Among these was the residence of Col. Thurston, whose wife was unwell, and Mrs. Goodwin, the wife of Hon. J. R. Goodwin, sent her to bed and told the rebels she was too sick to be moved. The land office and court house building was set on fire, but after the departure of the rebels the fire was extinguished, but not until many valuable papers among the records were destroyed. Coffey's store was set on fire, but the rebels had in their excitement poured out a barrel of black molasses, thinking it to be tar, and this did not burn very well, besides which Mrs. Coffey had just been washing, and the wet clothes were thrown over the burning portion, extinguishing the fire. The raiders did not stay long, departing early in the evening. The men they had captured were taken a short distance and then released. They returned in time to help save some of the burning buildings. During the entire trouble the women behaved nobly. By their coolness they succeeded in making the invaders believe that an armed force was on the way from Iola, therefore they hastened their departure. The land office had just been opened, with J. C. Burnett, Register. He managed to speak to his sister, Miss Kate Burnett, now Mrs. S. N. Simpson, telling her to save $25,000 in land warrants that were in the office. Obtaining permission to go to the office for a candle, she secured the warrants, and dropped them on the prairie in the high grass. Judge J. R. Goodin and his wife had been absent all day, gathering wild grapes, and were just approaching the town from the west. The judge jumped out of the vehicle and told his wife to drive away, but instead of this she went to Mrs. Thurston's residence and aided in saving it. Numerous other heroic acts were performed by the women. The better portion of the town was entirely destroyed. There were only a few buildings left, and some of these had been badly damaged by the fire. The only man killed was farmer Seachrist, who was running away trying to save his mules. He was ordered to stop, but not doing so, he was shot and fatally wounded. All the horses that could be found were taken by the rebels. Besides this but little property was stolen, and outside the town no damage whatever was done. The rebel force numbered 331 men, who were all well mounted and thoroughly armed.

After the burning of Humboldt it was considered to be in danger, and a military post was established there. There were no events of note until the Price raid in 1864. The militia of the county was organized into a battalion, known as the Allen County Battalion, and was composed of six companies, three from Iola and the northern part of the county, two from Humboldt, and one from the extreme southern part of the county. The officers were: C. P. Twiss, Colonel; Watson Stewart, Major. Among the Captains were J. M. Moore and G. DeWitt, of Humboldt, and D. C. Newman, of the southern part of the county. This regiment comprised all the able bodied men of the county, between the ages of sixteen and sixty years. The militia forces of the entire Neosho Valley were commanded by Major General J. B. Scott, of Le Roy, and under him the Allen County Battalion was ordered to Fort Scott. At the military post of Humboldt a block house was built, and a small force of the Eleventh Kansas stationed there under command of Major Haas. Besides this force, Captains Moore, DeWitt and Newman, under command of Major Watson Stewart, were left to protect the town against invasion. All remained at Humboldt except Captain Newman's company, which acted as scouts and was stationed on Big Creek. Maj. Haas ordered this company to come to Humboldt, which Capt. Newman refused to do. This gave rise to considerable difficulty between the two officers. Maj. Haas had charge of the government supplies of rations, etc., which he refused to issue to the Big Creek company until it should remove to Humboldt. The stores were kept at the German Church, in charge of a Sergeant. Newman's company being out of rations Major Stewart made a requisition on the post commander for five days' rations for the company, which was refused. Major Stewart then ordered the Captain to help himself to the rations and to receipt to the Sergeant. This was done, upon which Major Haas ordered Maj. Stewart and Capt. Newman under arrest. It was impossible, however, to carry out this order as the militia all took sides with their own officers. After the militia disbanded, Capt. Newman was arrested but was released the next day. After the companies under Maj. Stewart had remained in camp for three weeks they were ordered to Fort Scott, leaving Capt. Newman and his company, and a few colored men under Capt. E. Gilbert at the Humboldt post. During the entire period of the war there were a great many loyal Indians scattered over the county, they having been driven from the Indian Territory by the Indians who were in sympathy with the rebels.


Up to the year 1860 the county had been quite prosperous, but at that time the terrible drought came on. In September, 1859, light showers of rain fell, but for the next eighteen months there was no rain to wet the earth to the depth of an inch. During the winter of 1859-60 there was no snow, and in the spring the earth was perfectly dry. Notwithstanding this crops were planted, but during the summer hot winds swept over the dry and parched earth, burned to crisp all vegetation except occasional fields of corn in the valleys and ravines where a partial crop was raised. The population of the county was a little upward of 3,000 and with their crops all or nearly all destroyed, and the entire territory suffering from the same cause, the prospect for the settlers to escape starvation seemed small. Most of them had come in during the two preceding years and had not yet got their farms fairly open, while nearly all their surplus money had been spent. With suffering and starvation before them, a great many of the settlers, a majority, left the county, returned to the East, and only a few of them came back. The braver settlers remained, but many of them experienced much suffering. Their teams and stock were in a poor condition, for besides the ruin of the crops, the grass of the upland prairies was so scorched and dried up that but little hay was put up.

In the Eastern States aid societies were organized and provisions and clothing were contributed liberally. Most of these goods had to be obtained at Atchison, from S. C. Pomeroy, the distributing agent. The trip was a long one and many of the settlers had but ox teams, therefore it took some time to go, and considerable suffering was endured on the way, as the winter was severe with many cold storms.

Grasshoppers. - The first appearance of grasshoppers in any considerable numbers, after the settlement of the county, was in the fall of the year 1860. But little damage was done, as the drought had already destroyed most of the crops. Eggs were deposited, and in the spring of 1861, the young locusts hatched out in great numbers, and in some localities did considerable damage before their departure, which took place some time in June.

Again in September, 1866, the grasshoppers visited the county in immense swarms, and in a few days all vegetation yet green had disappeared from the face of the earth. Their eggs were deposited everywhere, but the winter being wet, and the ground alternately freezing and thawing, the greater number of them were destroyed. Those that hatched did some damage in the spring of 1867, but by the middle of June nearly all of them were gone, flying off toward the northwest.

The next visit of the grasshoppers was in August, 1874, when they appeared in myriads. The dry weather had already dried up the crops to some extent, and some of the corn was already too nearly matured to be injured, but all that was green was soon destroyed. As before, large numbers of eggs were deposited, and as the winter was dry, nearly all of them hatched out in the spring of 1875. So thick were the young grasshoppers that they destroyed all vegetation, in about two-thirds the area of the county. Before attaining sufficient size to have wings, they would hop from one field to another, and would sometimes pile up in drifts several inches in thickness. The greater part of the wheat crop was utterly destroyed, as well as the other small grains and vegetables. The first plantings of corn were destroyed, but early in June the pests began to fly away, and by the 17th of the month nearly all of them had disappeared. Corn was then re-planted, and the locusts having destroyed the young weeds, it grew very rapidly and yielded an abundant harvest, being one of the best corn crops ever raised in the county.

So great a portion of the crop of 1874 was destroyed by the drought and grasshoppers, that in many parts of the county some of the settlers were left in a suffering condition. Aid societies were formed, and provisions, clothing and grain were sent by the citizens of other States for the needy settlers. On January 11, 1875, the County Commissioners appointed Isaac C. Cuppy and Robert Cook to go to Ohio and Indiana to solicit aid, and gave $25 to each to help pay expenses.

One cause of the destitution was the fact that large numbers of the settlers had lately located, spent all their money in opening their farms, and a partial failure of crops left them in a crippled condition. Thoroughly discouraged, hundreds of them left the country, never to return. Large quantities of grain, provisions and clothing were distributed among the settlers. It is probable that much of it went to those that could hardly be said to be in a destitute condition, yet it is true that the large numbers of people were so much in need that they were fully warranted in asking help. Had the settlers their farms opened, paid for, and a very little surplus grain and stock, this would not have been necessary. At the present time, a crop failure no greater than the one above mentioned, would produce no perceptible effect other than making strict economy necessary.

Lynching of Dalson. - On the night of June 27, 1870, a deed occurred which caused a great deal of excitement, and the indignation of most of the citizens. It was the lynching of E. G. Dalson, who was confined in the county jail, on the charge of having murdered his adopted son. Late in the night three men appeared at the jail and demanded admittance, claiming to have brought a prisoner from Neosho County for safe keeping. Sheriff John Harris opened the door, when several men rushed in, and demanded the key to Dalson's cell. This was refused, when the mob tried to overpower the Sheriff. The Deputy soon came to his aid, but the mob soon succeeded in disarming them and getting possession of the jail, after which they broke into Dalson's cell, placed a rope around his neck and dragged him out. The next day a search was made and the body of Dalson was finally found hanging in a old building at Cofachique. The old man had borne a good reputation in the southern part of the county where he had lived. It is said that before being hanged he confessed the crime, stating that he had had occasion to chastise the boy, and finding him hard to conquer, had thrown him down and placed his foot on his neck, with no thought of doing him a serious injury. On raising his foot he found the boy lifeless, and fearing the consequences, he hid the body where it was afterward found. The hanging of Dalson was generally deprecated by the citizens of the county as an unwarrantable crime and efforts were made to ferret out the participators and bring them to justice. A man named R. T. Stevens was arrested as having been a member of the mob, but he was afterward released on bail.


The first session of the Territorial Legislature, in July, 1855, fixed the boundary of Allen County as follows: Commencing at the southeast corner of Anderson County, thence south thirty miles, thence west twenty-four miles; thence north thirty miles; thence east to the place of beginning. It is said the name was selected in honor of Hon. William Allen, of Ohio.

The Legislature also passed an act providing for the speedy organization of the county, and appointed Charles Passmore Probate Judge; and Barnett Owen and B. W. Cowden, commissioners. These were to form a county court to appoint other officers and transact the business of the county. The Probate Judge was to be chairman of the board of commissioners, and as Judge, he had powers nearly equal to those of the District Judges at the present time. The Legislature also appointed William J. Godfrey, Sheriff, and designated Cofachique as the permanent county seat.

The first meeting of the county commissioners was held at Cofachique, May 7, 1856. B. W. Cowden and Barnett Owen were present and sworn in and the commissioners' court declared open. J.S. Barbee, at whose house all the early commissioners' meetings were held, was appointed County Clerk, but beyond this, little business was transacted. The next commissioners' meeting was held June 2, 1856, and A. W. J. Brown was appointed Probate Judge in place of Charles Passmore, deceased. James Johnson was appointed Sheriff; H. H. Hayward, Treasurer; H. D. Parsons, Coroner; and C. B. Houston, Surveyor. The county was then divided into three precincts. Deer Creek comprised all that part of the county north of the mouth of the creek of the same name. Richard Fuqua and Hiram Cable were appointed Justices of the Peace; and William Sater, Constable. Cofachique precinct comprised all that part of the county from the mouth of Deer Creek, south to the fifth parallel line. John Dunwoody and William Avery were appointed Justices of the Peace; and Ozias Owen, Constable. Cole Creek precinct comprised all the southern part of the county. Thomas Bashaw and Elias Copelin were appointed Justice of the peace; and James Brady, Constable.

A meeting convened at Topeka, September 19, 1855, to consider the project of holding a Free-state Constitutional Convention. The delegates from the Sixth District, of which Allen County formed a part, were Hamilton Smith, James F. Brannan, and Thos. J. Addis. An election of delegates to a constitutional convention was ordered to be held on October 9th, following. There was an election precinct formed in Allen County, the voting place being designated at the house of Richard J. Fuqua. The judges of election were Richard J. Fuqua, William C. Keith, and H. W. Humphrey. The clerks were George W. Goodrich, and Jacob Sherlock. In this precinct William R. Griffith, John Hamilton, A.W.J. Brown, and William Saunders, were voted for. There is no record of the election, but each of these men is said to have received twelve votes. Besides the persons above mentioned, the following named are said to have voted at this election of October, 1855: Marion Medlea, Gaston Reeves, Guilford Norris, James Johnson, Hiram Hayward, John Moberly, David Ward, Henry Bennett, David Dotson, Isam Prewett, Giles Sater, William Darden, William Sater, Hiram Cable, Augustus Todd, Thomas Owen, John Keyser, D. D. Brown, Edmund Henley, G. W. Jackson, Anderson Wray, H. D. Parsons, James Hertson, Hiram Ward, A. Jones, and A. H. Brown. The delegates who were elected from the district to the Topeka Constitutional Convention were James Phenis, T. H. Burgess and N. Vandever.

The first term of the United States District Court was held at Cofachique in 1856. Judge Sterling G. Cato presided, J. S. Barbee was Clerk, and James Johnson, Sheriff. There is no record of this term of court, and very little was done.

The second term of the United States District Court was held at the same place in October , 1858, Judge Williams presiding; J. B. Lambkin was Clerk and J. E. Morris, Sheriff. The grand jury was as follows: L. E. Rhodes, Thomas H. Bashaw, Thomas Dean, J. B. Young, Jacob Buzzard, Moses Neal, Michael Kiser, Robert Culbertson, Simon Camerer, A. G. Carpenter, J. C. Redfield, William Pace, Charles Barton, D. Reese and Rufus Wood. There were a number of civil cases before the court, and indictments were found against Leonard Fuqua, for assault and battery with intent to kill Josiah C. Redfield and assault on P. P. Philips, and several others on the same charge. Among the indicted were Homer C. Leonard, A. C. Smith, A. C. Spencer, Henry Spencer, Edward Cushion and William Fuqua. These were nearly all the result of disputes over land claims, and further than indictments the cases were not prosecuted.

[TOC] [part 3] [part 1] [Cutler's History]