Allen County Kansas


of the 1912 book

Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History

From: Kansas: a Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc., edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Chicago : Standard Publishing Company, 1912




Allen County, one of the 33 counties established by the first territorial legislature, was named in honor of William Allen, United States senator from Ohio. It is located in the southeastern part of the state, in the second tier of counties west of Missouri and about 50 miles north of the state line. In extent it is 21 miles from north to south and 24 miles from east to west, containing 504 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Anderson, east by Bourbon, south by Neosho and west by Woodson County. The county was organized at the time of its creation, Charles Passmore being appointed probate judge; B. W. Cowden and Barnett Owen county commissioners, and William Godfrey sheriff. These officers were to hold their offices until the general election in 1857, and were empowered to appoint the county clerk and treasurer to complete the county organization.


The first white inhabitants located in the county during the early part of the year 1855. Duncan & Scott's History of Allen County (p. 9), says: There is some dispute as to who made the first permanent settlement, but the weight of the testimony seems to award that honorable distinction to D. H. Parsons, who, with a companion, B. W. Cowden, arrived on the Neosho river near the mouth of Elm creek in March 1855."


During the spring and summer settlement progressed rapidly. The greater number of settlers located along the Neosho River, among them being W. C. Keith, Henry Bennett, Elias Copelin, James Barber, Barnett Owen, A. W. G. Brown, Thomas Day and Giles Starr. Along the banks of Morton creek the early settlers were Hiram Smith, Michael Kisner, Augustus Todd, A. C. Smith, Dr. Stockton, George Hall, Anderson Wray, Jesse Morris and Thomas Norris. Although many of the early settlers were pro-slavery men, few slaves were brought into the county. The free-state men showed such open antagonism toward slaveholders, that the slaves were soon given their freedom or taken from the county by their masters. A party of pro-slavery men from Fort Scott founded a town company and laid out a town in Allen county, south of the mouth of Elm creek and on the east bank of the Neosho River, about a mile and a half southwest of the present site of Iola. The company was incorporated by the bogus legislature as the Cofachique Town Association, with Daniel Woodson, Charles Passmore, James S. Barbee, William Baker, Samuel A. Williams and Joseph C. Anderson as incorporators. The first post office was established at Cofachique in the spring of 1855 with Aaron Case as postmaster, but no regular mail service was opened until July I, 1857, the mail up to that time being brought in from Fort Scott by private carrier paid by the citizens.


In Feb., 1856, M. W. Post and Joseph Ludley, who were engaged in the survey of the standard parallels, finished with the fifth parallel through Allen County and concluded to locate near Cofachique. The next summer Mr. Ludley brought a sawmill from Westport, Mo., and set up in the timber near the town. This mill was run by horsepower and was the first manufacturing concern of any kind in the county.


In the second territorial legislature, elected in Oct., 1856, Allen county was represented in the council by Blake Little and in the house by B. Brantley and W. W. Spratt.


In 1858 the town of Iola was started and the greater part of the town of Cofachique was moved to Iola, while the old site of Cofachique became farmland. Several reasons may be given for the failure of the town. Being on hilly ground it was difficult of access and the water supply was limited; it had been built by pro-slavery men and during the political troubles a feeling of enmity had grown up against the town, hence it was not long before it was depopulated. Humboldt, in the southwest part of the county and Geneva in the northwest part were founded by free-state men and both became flourishing communities. Up to this time settlement had been exclusively confined to the timbered valleys of the larger streams, but the new settlers began opening farms upon the prairies and the population became generally distributed over the county, especially the western half.


A census of Kansas was taken in April 1857, in preparation for an apportionment of delegates to the Lecompton constitutional convention. By this census Bourbon, Dorn, McGee and Allen counties had a population of 2,622, of whom 645 were legal voters. This gave the district which these counties comprised four delegates in the convention, and at the election held in June, 1857, H. T. Wilson, Blake Little, Miles Greenwood and G. P. H. Hamilton were elected.


In the legislative apportionment of July 1857, eighteen counties, including Allen were allowed two members in the council and nineteen counties, including Allen, were allowed three representatives. The election was called for Oct. 5, 1857, and under the assurance of the governor that it should be free and fair, the free-state men determined to muster their strength for the first time at the ballot box. At the election Samuel J. Stewart was elected a representative for the district and was the first citizen from Allen County to occupy a seat in the territorial legislature.


Immigration continued during the year 1858. The Carlyle colony from Indiana selected 320 acres of land in the northwest part of the county, north of Deer creek, for a town site, but found many difficulties in the way of making a prosperous town and abandoned the project. Later the site was cut up into farms. In the course of time a post-office was established, a store followed and Carlyle became a thriving village in the center of a splendid farming district. About the time that the Carlyle colony arrived another town was projected, called Florence, located north of Deer creek and east of Carlyle. It was expected that in time a railroad would be built, but it was not and the town was a failure.


Upon the organization of the county in 1855, Cofachique was designated as the county seat, and as it was centrally located no strife was stirred up until Humboldt was located in 1859 by the free-state men who went before the state legislature early in 1858 and secured an act locating the county seat there. The first meeting of the county board at Humboldt, of which there is a record was on Feb. 8, 1859, but little business was transacted, and they adjourned to meet at Cofachique, where, on Feb. 14, the board organized the new township of Geneva and appointed judges of election to ratify or reject the Leavenworth constitution. Apparently little interest was taken in the election, as only 138 votes were cast, 134 for and 4 against the constitution.


In the summer of 1858 the second mail route was established from Lawrence to Humboldt, via Garnett and Hyatt in Anderson county, Carlyle and Cofachique in Allen County. The service began July 1, and a few days before that time a trail was marked from Hyatt to Carlyle. Zach Squires was the first mail carrier and for some time his weekly trips were made on mule back. Later the service was made tri-weekly, the mule gave way to a two-horse wagon, later to a two-horse stage, and finally to an overland coach, which was kept on the route until the railroad was built in 1871.


During the year 1859 political matters engaged the attention of the people. On June 7, an election was held for delegates to the Wyandotte constitutional convention. When this constitution was submitted to the people on Oct. 4, the vote in Allen county stood 244 for and 159 against, and on the homestead clause, which was submitted separately, 201 for and 152 against. The territorial legislature of 1859 adopted a new plan of county organization, providing for three commissioners and a probate judge with restricted powers. On March 26, 1860, a special election was held for the new officers. J. G. Richard was elected probate judge; George Zimmerman, N. T. Winans and D. B. Stewart county commissioners.


The last year of the territorial period was the hardest in the history of the county. It was the year of the great drought. During the winter of 1859-60, there was little snow and the hot winds. Of the following summer swept over the dry, parched earth, burning all vegetation except in occasional valleys and ravines where a partial crop was raised. The population of the county was about 3,000, and with such a scanty crop, the prospect of starvation seemed imminent. Most of the people had come into the county within two years and had not fairly opened their farms. Many of the settlers, with starvation and hardship before them, returned to the east.


Great dissatisfaction developed over the location of the county seat at Humboldt, and on March 26, 1860, an election was held to decide on a location, Humboldt and Iola being the principal contestants. The result of the election was 562 votes for Humboldt and 331 for Iola, with 78 votes scattered, but the people in the vicinity of Iola and the northern part of the county were not satisfied. The strife was kept up for some years until another election was ordered for May 10, 1865, when Iola received the largest number of votes. When the county seat was located at Iola, the town company donated 100 lots to the county to aid in the construction of public buildings. In 1866 bonds were voted for funds and within a short time a building was secured for county offices and court purposes. In 1877 the present courthouse was purchased.


As soon as the news of the outbreak of the Civil war reached Allen County, nearly all the able bodied men hastened to enlist in the army. The Iola battalion was formed in 1861; three companies, commanded by Captains Colman, Flesher, and Killen served in the Ninth Kansas, and two companies, commanded by Captains W. C. Jones and N. B. Blanston, served in the Tenth Kansas volunteer infantry. As the county was located so near the border of the state there was danger of invasion from Missouri guerrillas and hostile Indians from the Indian Territory. While the Allen county soldiers were with Gen. Lane, a raid was made on the unprotected settlers of Humboldt, Sept. 8, 1861, by a band of Missouri guerrillas, Cherokee and Osage half-breed Indians. On Oct. 14, 1861, the town was captured and set on fire by Confederate cavalry. The Confederate officers claimed that this was done in retaliation for the burning of Osceola by Gen. Lane. The land office had just been opened before this and J. C. Burnett, the register, managed to have his sister save $25,000 in land warrants, that were in the office at the time. After the burning of Humboldt a military post was established there, but no actions took place 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. This organization comprised all the able bodied men in the county between the ages of 16 and 60 years.


The first railroads in Allen county were built in 1870, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas being completed across the southwestern part of the county in the spring, and the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston in the fall of the same year. Bonds were voted by the county to aid in the construction of the railroads. In 1880, bonds having been voted by different townships along the line, the Fort Scott & Wichita railroad was built across the county east and west, through Iola. There are now 96 miles of main line railroads in the county: The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe running almost directly north and south in the western part of the county, and a branch southwest from Colony, Anderson county, across the extreme northwest corner. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas crosses the eastern part, almost directly north and south, with a branch north from Moran and another running west with its terminus at Iola. Another line of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas enters the county near the center on the west and crosses the southwest corner, while the Missouri Pacific crosses from east to west somewhat north of the center, through Iola.


The first church in the county was that of the United Brethren, begun in 1859 and completed the following year. For some years this church was used as a union church by all denominations and also as a schoolhouse. The Humboldt Herald was the first paper established. It was started Nov.16, 1864, by Maj. Joseph Bond and two years later the Humboldt Union was established with Orin Thurston as editor.


In Nov., 1871, a tax was voted for the establishment of a county poor farm. Settlement of the county was somewhat retarded by the contention between the settlers on the one hand and the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas railroad company over the title to certain lands. The case was finally settled by Judge David Brewer of the United States Circuit Court on Sept. 3, 1885, in favor of the settlers. His decision threw open to settlement some 27,000 acres and immediately there was an influx of immigrants.


The general surface of the county is level, the soil is fertile and highly productive. The valleys average a mile and a half in width and the timber belts about a mile. The principal varieties of trees native to the county are black walnut, hickory, cottonwood, oak, hackberry and elm. The main watercourse is the Neosho River, which flows through the western part of the county from north to south. Its tributaries are Indian, Martin's, Deer, Elm, and other small creeks. The Little Osage flows through the northeast and the Marmaton River through the southeastern part of the county.


The chief agricultural products are corn, wheat, oats, Kafir corn and potatoes, and the county is one of the leaders in the production of flax and broom corn.  Livestock is an important industry, and many fine orchards afford good profits to their owners.


Natural gas is the most important mineral resource. There are several large wells, but the field is particularly well developed near Iola in the west and La Harpe in the north central part, and valuable oil wells exist near Humboldt. There are vast quantities of raw material for Portland cement, which is manufactured and sent to all parts of the United States. An almost inexhaustible supply of shale has been found for making high-grade brick and tile, which are manufactured and shipped out of the state. A good quality of limestone is also found. The county is divided into the following townships: Carlyle, Cottage Grove, Deer Creek, Elm, Elsmore, Geneva, Humboldt, Iola, Logan, Marmaton, Osage and Salem.


According to the U. S. census for 1910 the population of the county was 27,640, a gain of 8,133 during the preceding decade. The report of the State Board of Agriculture for the same year gives the total value of farm products as $1,362,654.60, corn leading with 1,123,290 bushels, valued at $550,412.10.

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