Bourbon County, on the Missouri border and in the third tier north of Oklahoma, is one of the 33 counties created by the first territorial legislature, with the following boundaries, "Beginning at the southeast corner of Linn county; thence south 30 miles; thence west 24 miles; thence north 30 miles; thence east 24 miles to the place of beginning." In 1867 the boundaries were defined as follows: "Beginning at the southeast corner of Linn county; thence south on the east line of the State of Kansas to the southeast corner of section 24, township 27, range 25; thence west to the southwest corner of section 23, township 27, range 21; thence north to the southwest corner of Linn county; thence east to the place of beginning." By this second act, the extent of the county from north to south was reduced to 25 miles, and increased from east to west a little more than 25 miles, which gives it an area of 637 square miles.
It was named after Bourbon county, Ky. At the present time it is bounded on the north by Linn county, on the east by the State of Missouri, on the north by Crawford county and on the west by Neosho and Allen counties. It is divided into the following townships: Drywood, Franklin, Freedom, Marion, Marmaton, Mill Creek, Osage, Pawnee, Scott, Timber Hill and Walnut.
The general surface of the country is undulating, the highest hills being found in the northwest portion, where they rise to about 200 feet above the Marmaton river. The valleys of the streams average about a mile in width and these bottom lands comprise about one-third of the area. Timber belts varying in width are found along the streams and contain hackberry, hickory, oak, pecan and walnut. On the uplands and in some of the lower lands, hickory, maple, poplar and willow have been planted. The main water-courses are the Little Osage, which flows east a few miles south of the northern boundary, and the Marmaton, which flows from west to east through the central portion of the county. The Little Osage has several tributaries flowing into it from both north and south, the main stream being Limestone creek in the northwest part of the county. The main creeks flowing into the Marmaton from the north are Turkey and Mill creeks, and from the south Yellow Paint creek, which also has several small tributaries. Drywood creek flows across the southeast corner.
The soil is deep and fertile, being underlaid with sandstone and limestone at various depths. There are quarries at Redfield, Gilfillan and near Hiattville. A good quality of cement is manufactured from the stone found in the vicinity of Fort Scott. Mineral paint and clay for brick are also plentiful. Natural gas was found in Bourbon county in 1867 and has been utilized for lighting and heating. There are numerous manufacturing plants, principally at Fort Scott.
The territory now embraced within the limits of Bourbon county originally formed a part of the reservation of the New York Indians, which was ceded to the government just previous to the organization of the territory, when the lands were thrown open to settlement by the whites. One of the first white men to enter the present limits of the county was Lieut. Zebulon Pike, in his expedition of 1806.
For some time previous to the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska act, the settlers just across the line in Missouri had known of the fertility of the soil in what is now Bourbon county, and only waited for the organization of the territory to rush across the line and take claims. A majority of the early settlers were pro-slavery men, but there were also men from the Northern states who were free soilers in politics, though for some years they were in the minority. Some of the men who settled in the county in 1854 were Gideon Terrell, William and Philander Moore in what is now Pawnee township, and Nathan Arnett in Marmaton township. In 1855 Guy Hinton located in Walnut township; James Guthrie, Cowan Mitchell, John and Robert Wells in Marion township. Others who came during the next two years were: Samuel Stephenson, Charles Anderson, John Van Sycle, D. D. Roberts, Joseph Ray, H. R. Kelso, Gabriel Endicott, David Claypool and Edward Jones, who built the first sawmill in what is now Marmaton township, the second mill in the county, the government having one on Mill creek. David Endicott, one of the first to locate, assisted in the survey of the land.
Scarcely had the first settlers become located when trouble over politics began. It is estimated that on March 30, 1855, at least 300 armed Missourians came to the Fort Scott precinct and cast their votes, while there were probably not more than 30 legal voters in the precinct. Early in the spring of 1855 a party of men came to Bourbon county from Carolina, under the leadership of George W. Jones, to assist in making Kansas a slave state. They were sent out under the auspices of the Southern Emigrant Aid society. They were mild mannered at first and went through the county visiting the free-state settlers, asking them their opinion upon the political questions of the day, how they were supplied with arms and ammunition, and inquiring about the good land in the territory. In this way a complete list of the free-state men was made. Later in the year nearly all the men on the lists were made prisoners, and while thus held were advised to leave the territory. As soon as they left, pro-slavery men were put on their claims.
Early in August a party of Texas rangers arrived at Fort Scott. Accompanied by a considerable number of citizens of that town they started northward through the border counties, intending to have "fun" at the expense of the free-state settlers. Early in 1857 many of the free-state men who had been driven from their homes returnd[sic] to Bourbon county. A number of new settlers from the Northern states also came about this time, and as the free-state men grew in number they also grew in confidence. In order to gain possession of the claims from which they had been driven, they organized a "Wide Awake" society, in opposition to the "Dark Lantern" lodges of the pro-slavery men. Some of the most important leaders of this movement were J. C. Burnett, Capt. Samuel Stevenson and Capt. Bayne. The meetings were held at different settlers' cabins at intervals, to evade surprise by the men of the "Blue Lodges." When all the plans of the "Wide Awakes" were perfected, they notified the pro-slavery men who had seized claims that did not belong to them, that they must leave. Most of the pro-slavery men realized that resistance would lead to serious difficulties, if not to bloodshed, and left, but some had to be driven off the claims by arms. The border strife continued in Bourbon county after it had nearly disappeared in other parts of Kansas Territory.
As a matter of reprisal some of the free-state men were arrested on various charges. The district court was presided over by Joseph Williams, a pro-slavery man. The adjustment of claims was referred to his court for a time, and usually decided in favor of the pro-slavery claimant. This caused great dissatisfaction among the free-state men and led them to take severe measures to secure the release of free-state prisoners held at Fort Scott. Another result of Judge Williams decisions was the formation of a "Squatter Court," in which the free-state men heard the cases of contested claims. Dr. Gilpatrick of Anderson county was made judge, and Henry Kilbourn, sheriff. The proceedings of this body were regular and dignified, its decisions were usually just and its decrees were rigorously executed by the sheriff. The proceedings of the court were naturally distasteful to the pro-slavery men, and as a consequence an expedition was organized and started out under command of Deputy United States Marshal Little to capture the court. The attempt failed and four days later (Dec. 16, 1857,) Little organized a posse of about 50 men, for a second attempt. They approached the cabin of Capt. Bayne, where the court was sitting, and a short distance from it were met by messengers from the court, consisting of Maj. Abbott, D. B. Jackson and Gen. Blunt, who had been sent out under a flag of truce as Little was advancing. A parley was held, at the conclusion of which Little said that if the court did not surrender he would open fire. The messengers returned to the cabin with the report of the conference, the decision was against surrender, the cabin was put in a state of defense, some of the chinking between the logs was removed to form loop holes, Maj. Abbott told Little that they would not surrender, and if he advanced beyond a certain line the free-state men would fire. Little advanced, however, received a volley from the cabin, which was returned, and then retreated half a mile. Four men were wounded but Little called for a volunteer party and made a second attack with no better result, except that no men were hurt. Finding it impossible to take the "fort" without loss, the marshal started back to Fort Scott. The next day he gathered a larger number of men and again started for the fort, but upon arriving there found the cabin deserted, as the court had moved to the Baptist church at Danford's mill.
By Dec., 1857, Capts. Bayne and Montgomery had succeeded in driving out of the district many of the pro-slavery men who unlawfully held claims. The parties thus driven out congregated at West Point, Marvel, Balltown and Fort Scott, where their Blue Lodges flourished, and from these as centers raids were made to harass the free-state settlers on Mine creek, the Little Osage and Marmaton. Almost daily reports came of outrages committed by the Missourians, and the free-state men would ride upon errands of swift retaliation.
Late in December two companies of United States cavalry were stationed at Fort Scott at the solicitation of the residents and order was restored in the district, but early in Jan., 1858, they were withdrawn and trouble broke out again. On the night of Feb. 10, 1858, Montgomery and a party of forty men started for Fort Scott to punish some of the bitter pro-slavery men who had been persecuting a Mr. Johnson who lived in the town. (See Fort Scott.) On Feb. 26, 1858, two companies of United States cavalry were again stationed in the town, and as Montgomery always avoided conflicts with government forces, he began operating against the pro-slavery men in the country, with the object of driving them into the city. It is estimated that as many as 300 families in the district were forced to flee from their homes and take refuge in the towns. Capt. Anderson, in command, could not protect them in their isolated settlements, and the result Montgomery wished was attained. But this was no one-sided guerrilla warfare, and it took all the sleepless vigilance and every resource of Montgomery, Bayne and John Brown combined, to protect the free-state settlers against "the wolves of the border."
On June 7, 1858, some of Montgomery's men attempted to fire the Western Hotel in Fort Scott, but no one was hurt and the fire was extinguished. June 13, Gov. Denver arrived at Fort Scott; a meeting was held and feeling ran high on both sides, but by judicious treatment on the part of the governor peace was restored. The next day a second meeting was held at Raysville, at which the governor proposed a compromise, which in a measure restored peace for some time. Subsequently a free-state man named Rice was arrested for the murder of Travis, who had been shot on Feb. 28. This was regarded as a violation of the agreement made on June 15, and Montgomery determined to rescue Rice. Accordingly he organized a party of 100 men, among them John Brown, who wanted to destroy Fort Scott, but as Montgomery's main purpose was to rescue Rice, he left Brown outside the town and proceeded without him. Rice was released, Mr. Little was killed, Montgomery's men looted a store of a stock valued at about $7,000, and 12 citizens were made prisoners. The citizens then appealed to the governor for protection and, as there were no troops to send, he advised the formation of home militia for defense, a suggestion which was carried out. After the passage of the amnesty act, there was but little further trouble along the border and peace came to stay in Bourbon county. After the Civil war began a big Union demonstration was made at Fort Scott, which had been one of the bitterest pro-slavery towns. Party differences were laid aside for defense of the nation and by the middle of April two companies had been raised on Drywood; two companies were formed at Fort Scott in May. Other companies were raised at Lightning creek, Mill creek, and a company of home guards was organized. The most important engagement which occurred during the war in Bourbon county was the battle of Drywood (q. v.), which occurred late in Sept., 1861, between the Confederate forces under Gen. Rains and the Union forces under Gen. J. H. Lane. Price's army passed through the eastern part of the county in Oct., 1864. While crossing the valley of the Little Osage, members of the army committed many outrages and for a time people of Fort Scott feared for the safety of the city. Bourbon county ranked fifth in the number of men who entered the militia during the war.
The county was organized Sept. 12, 1855, when S. A. Williams, the probate judge, administered the oath of office to commissioners Col. H. T. Wilson and Charles B. Wingfield. B. F. Hill was appointed sheriff and William Margrave deputy sheriff. On Sept. 17 the following officers were appointed: James F. Farley, clerk; Thomas Watkins, justice; John F. Cottrell, constable. Gov. Reeder had appointed William Margrave justice of the peace in Dec., 1854, the first in the county. On Oct. 15 four additional justices and three constables were appointed. At the same time A. Hornbeck was appointed treasurer; W. W. Spratt, assessor; and H. R. Kelso, coroner. In November the county was divided into five townships. From the time of its organization until Jan., 1858, the affairs of the county were in the hands of the county court, consisting of a probate judge and two commissioners, but the form of government was then changed and placed in charge of a board of supervisors, one from each township. In 1860 it was again changed and three commissioners took the place of the board. In 1855, by the act creating the county, the seat of justice was located at Fort Scott. In 1858, on account of border troubles, it was changed to Marmaton by a special law of the legislature. An election to determine the permanent location of the county seat was held on May 11, 1863, when Fort Scott received the majority of votes cast and again became the county seat, where it has since remained.
In 1865 the citizens voted $150,000 in bonds for the purpose of subscribing a like sum to the capital stock of the Missouri River, Fort Scott & Gulf railway. The road was completed to Fort Scott in Dec., 1869, and on Jan. 7, 1870, the bonds were delivered to the road. In 1867 a proposition to vote $150,000 worth of bonds to purchase stock of the Tebo & Neosho railroad was carried, but the commissioners decided it was not advisable to purchase stock of this road and ordered that $150,000 be subscribed to the capital stock of any road that would start at Fort Scott, run north of the Marmaton in the general direction of Humboldt. This amount was subscribed to the stock of the Fort Scott & Allen County Railroad company, on condition that the road should be completed west of the county by July 1, 1872. The Fort Scott, Humboldt & Western succeeded this road, and asked for the deliverance of the bonds, but the conditions had not been complied with and the bonds were issued to the Fort Scott, Humboldt & Western under that name. At the present time there are about 125 miles of main track railroad in the county. The Missouri Pacific operates two linesone traversing the center from east to west, the other crossing the county from north to southeast, both lines passing through Fort Scott. The St. Louis & San Francisco enters in the northeast, passes through Fort Scott and at Edward branches, both the lines entering Crawford county. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas enters in the east from Missouri, passes through Fort Scott, thence southwest into Crawford county.
The first schools in the county were private ones at Fort Scott, opened in 1857, but the district school system was not organized until 1859. One district, later known as No. 10, was organized on Dec. 10 of that year. In 1860 four more districts were organized and since that time progress in education has been steady, until at the present time Bourbon county has a public school system as fine as any county in the state.
According to the U. S. census for 1910, the population of the county was 24,007. The value of the farm products for the same year was $1,504,134, the principal crop being corn, with a value of $754,039, and hay second, with a value of $432,994.Pages 220-226 from volume I of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed May 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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