Phillips County, one of the northern tier, is the 5th county east from the Colorado line. It is bounded on the north by the State of Nebraska; on the east by Smith county; on the south by Rooks, and on the west by Norton. This county was created in 1867 and named in honor of William Phillips, a free-state martyr who was murdered at Leavenworth in 1856. The boundaries were defined as follows: "Commencing where the east line of range 16 west intersects the 40th degree of north latitude; thence south to the 1st standard parallel; thence vest to the east line of range 21 west, thence north to the 40th degree of north latitude; thence east to the place of beginning."
There were no settlers in the county at the time. In August of that year a battle occurred on Prairie Dog creek between United States troops and Kansas volunteers on one side and the Indians on the other. County organization was completed in 1872. At the election that fall Phillipsburg was chosen as the county seat and the following officers elected: Treasurer, Thomas Cox, Jr.; county clerk, Henry McDowell; register of deeds, J. W. Kidd; surveyor, H. W. Bean; probate judge, J. S. Shurtz; superintendent of public instruction, P. 1. Hitchcock; county attorney, W. H. Gray; commissioners, Thomas Cox, Sr., A. W. Tracy and James Large. The first representative was Noah Weaver.
The first settlement was made in 1869 by C. J. Van Allen, who built a log house and preëmpted a claim near the site of Kirwin. A fort had been erected by order of the government under the supervision of Col. Kirwin at the close of the war, to prevent the encroachments of hostile Indians and protect travelers on the California trail. This fort stood just south of the Kirwin town site and was abandoned soon after the settlers came. In 1870 the Van Allen Bros., S. Brigham, N. S. Drew, William Dunbar, I. V. Lee, H. P. Candy, Adolphus and Albert Hall, J. Stovall, Richard Chutes, Richard Corcoran, Thomas Cox, Sr., and sons, John Butler, W. M. Cadwell and James Forbes united in building a fort at Kirwin for their mutual protection. Although hostile bands of Indians passed frequently, no actual outrages were committed, the preparation to resist effectively any hostile move being so evident.
A large number of settlers came in 1871 and in 1872. The next year immigration was very heavy and continued so until checked by the grasshopper scourge of 1874. Phillips county was one of those to receive state supplies during the following winter. However, the season of 1875 brought a large grain yield and encouraged settlement. The good years continued until in 1880, when the population was 12,617 and 90,857 acres of land had been brought under cultivation. There were 4 newspapers and 104 school districts. The next year there was a depression on account of drought, but the loss in population was regained before 1890, as the inhabitants in that year numbered 13,661. During 1880 the Central Branch of the Missouri Pacific R. R. was extended through the southern part of the county.
When the county was organized it was divided into 7 townships. There are now 25, viz: Arcade, Beaver, Belmont, Bow Creek, Crystal, Dayton, Deer Creek, Freedom, Glenwood, Granite, Greenwood, Kirwin, Logan, Long Island, Mound, Phillipsburg, Plainview, Plum, Prairie View, Rushville, Solomon, Sumner, Towanda, Valley and Walnut. The postoffices are, Agra, Glade, Gretna, Kirwin, Logan, Long Island, Phillipsburg, Prairie View, Speed, Stuttgart and Woodruff. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R. R. crosses the central part of the county, west and northwest through Phillipsburg; the Missouri Pacific crosses in the southern part, following the course of the north fork of the Solomon river; and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy crosses the northwest corner, following the course of Prairie Dog creek.
The general surface is gently rolling prairie, with limestone bluffs on the south sides of the principal streams. The bottom lands are narrow and comprise about 15 per cent. of the area. The timber belts along the streams contain all the principal varieties of wood native to the soil of the state. The north fork of the Solomon river enters on the western boundary 6 miles from the south line of the county and flows east into Smith county. Its numerous tributaries from the north cover the central part of the county. Prairie Dog creek flows across the northwestern corner. Magnesian limestone, potter's clay and clay for brick exist in commercial quantities. Bricks are manufactured in the county and have been used in the best buildings, including the courthouse. A bed of fine sand, suitable for glass making, exists in the east, and gypsum has been found in the south and northwest.
The total value of farm products in the year 1910 was $4,169,735. The leading crop was wheat, which brought $935,928. Corn was worth $930,222; tame grasses, $373,790; oats, $178,226; prairie grasses, $133,770. Potatoes, millet, sorghum and Kafir corn are other important field crops. Live stock sold for slaughter brought $1,046,846, and poultry and dairy products, $354,216. The value of live stock on hand was $3,277,604.
The assessed valuation of property in 1910 was $22,419,895. The population in the same year was 14,150. The average wealth per capita according to these figures was about $1,500.Pages 470-471 from volume II 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 July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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