Topeka, the capital city of the State of Kansas, is a station in the eastern part of Shawnee county, of which it is the judicial seat. It lies on both sides of the Kansas river, which is spanned at this point by three railroad bridges and an arch street-car, wagon and foot bridge. The Shunganunga creek flows through the southeastern portion and is spanned by a bridge on Sixth street. Two lines each of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, the Union Pacific, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific and the Missouri Pacific railroads connect here, furnishing 65 passenger trains daily. Topeka is an ideal residence city, having clean, wide and well shaded streets, 9 public parks, on which about $25,000 annually is expended, 65 miles of paved streets, 350 miles of cement and brick walks, city waterworks with 65 miles of mains, 110 miles of sewer pipes, natural gas for lighting and heating purposes, electric lights, 47 miles of electric street railway and 7 miles of suburban, 6 hospitals, 72 churches, 26 public school buildings with 219 teachers, one of the best high schools in the state with a manual training department, Washburn College, one of the leading educational institutions in the Middle West, Bethany College, 6 business colleges, a large number of department stores and other retail establishments, and no saloons.
Among the public buildings located here are the state capitol, which cost over $3,000,000; the government postoffice, in the upper part of which is located the pension bureau; the county buildings, the city hall, in which is located an auditorium with a seating capacity of 4,500, and one of the three largest pipe organs in the country; the city library on the state house grounds, and the memorial building, now in process of construction, which will cost $250,000. There are three state institutions, the industrial school for boys, an insane asylum and the printing plant; three daily newspapers (the Capital, the Journal and the Legal News); five weeklies (the Capital, the Mail and Breeze, the Kansas Farmer, the Washburn Review and the Topeka Plaindealer); two semi-monthlies (the High School World and the Western Odd Fellow), and a large number of monthly publications, among which are the Western School Journal, the Merchants' Trade Journal, the Missouri Valley Farmer, the Household, the Nebraska Farm Journal, and the Commercial Club Bulletin.
There are 376 manufacturing plants, a few of the larger ones being 6 flour mills with a combined capacity of 3,600 barrels daily, 2 woolen mills, a vinegar and preserving works, 2 creameries, the larger making 8,000,000 pounds of butter annually, factories for the production of dairy machinery, automobiles, brooms, mattresses, boxes and barrels, tents, food products, patent medicines, foundries, machine shops, vitrified brick works, and meat packing establishments. There are 29 wholesale and jobbing houses. One of the largest railroad machine shops in the country is that of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe company located here, employing 3,500 men. The general offices of the same company employ about 1,500 persons, and the general offices of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific employ about 150. The United States district court is located here, and also one of the government land offices. The residents of Topeka own more than 700 automobiles, and the 9 banks have a combined capital and surplus of $1,300,000. There are about 10,000 homes, 90 per cent. of which have telephones. The Elks' lodge has a fine home on Seventh and Jackson streets, the Masons are about to build one of the best buildings owned by the order in the country, the Topeka club maintains a beautiful home for the use of its members, there are 3 Y. M. C. A. buildings, one of which cost nearly $100,000 and a Y. W. C. A. building which cost $85,000. According to the government census the population of Topeka in 1910 was 43,684.
Topeka was founded in 1854 by Col. Cyrus K. Holliday, F. W. Giles, Daniel H. Horne, George Davis, Enoch Chase, J. B. Chase, M. C. Dickey, C. Robinson and L. G. Cleveland. The site was selected by Holliday and Robinson as representatives of the New England Emigrant society in October. In November a party including the other gentlemen arrived on the scene. The town company was organized on Dec. 5 with Mr. Holliday as president. The site was laid out with a view to building a city which should be the capital of Kansas, although there were two or three other towns already bidding for that honor. According to the suggestion of Mr. Webb of the New England Emigrant Aid society the town was named Topeka from the Indian word Topeka-okie, meaning "a good place to dig potatoes."
At the close of the year there were about 25 people living on the new town site. The next spring a great many eastern people located here and the work of building the town went on rapidly. A sawmill was set up, a number of stores and a hotel were opened, a blacksmith shop, a tinware factory, a brick-yard and a number of other institutions established. The postoffice, Fry W. Giles postmaster, was kept in a log cabin which was also used as a blacksmith shop. Among the buildings erected that year was Constitution Hall and the Topeka House. A military company called the "Topeka Guards" was organized by Daniel H. Horne early in the spring, and in November Capt. Horne led the guards, 100 in number, to the defense of Lawrence, leaving but one able-bodied man in Topeka. It was feared that an attack might be made during their absence, but the women thought themselves capable of making a defense in case such a thing should occur.
From the first Topeka was a temperance town. On the evening of July 4, 1855, after a temperance demonstration the mass meeting resolved itself into a committee of the whole and destroyed all the liquor in the vicinity. On that date the first number of the Kansas Freeman appeared. The second newspaper was the Kansas Tribune, which was brought from Lawrence in November. The first child born in the new town was named Topeka Zimmerman and received from his godfather, Dr. F. L. Crane, a lot 75 by 150 feet. The first literary society was organized late in the fall of 1855 and called the Kansas Philomathic Institute. A state constitutional convention to take preliminary steps for the admission of Kansas into the Union was held in Constitution Hall, beginning on Sept. 19. The winter of 1855-56 was very severe and, the homes being nothing but shells, there was much suffering.
Topeka having been designated the temporary capital by the constitutional convention the first free-state legislature was opened on March 4, 1856, in Constitution Hall. A new hotel had been built for the accommodation of the legislators. This body was dispersed by Col. Sumner on July 4, following. During the troubles which followed, a fort was erected on Quincy street in the fifth block south of the river. The basement of Constitution Hall was fitted up as a storehouse for the reprisals taken from the enemy during the war with the border ruffians.
Topeka was incorporated as a city by act of the territorial legislature on Feb. 14, 1857. At that time its limits were confined within the original plat of 320 acres. It was the third largest town in the state, with a population of 600. By the election of Oct., 1858, which was confirmed by an act of the legislature the next January, it was made the county seat of Shawnee county, and by the Wyandotte constitution drawn up in 1859 it was named as the temporary capital of the state. By a vote of the people in 1861 Topeka was chosen as the permanent capital. The sessions of the legislature were held in private buildings until 1863, when a temporary capitol was erected on the west side of Kansas avenue between Fourth and Fifth streets. In 1865 the Topeka association, through its president, C. K. Holliday, donated 20 acres of ground for the site of the future capitol building, which was begun in 1866. (See Capitol.)
The year 1860 was unusually hot and dry, the thermometer at Topeka registering 105 degrees in March. Among the improvements of that season was the establishment of regular stage lines to Atchison by way of Lecompton; to Kansas City by way of Lawrence, and to Junction City by way of Manhattan. A new bridge was built over the Kansas river and one over the Shunganunga, 75 houses were erected at a cost of $100,000, and $1,000 voted for school purposes. The first railroad meeting was held in Aug., 1859. A route was surveyed to Topeka, but this along with other improvements planned was arrested by the Civil war.
The depression incident to the war was quickly overcome and in the six months following July, 1865, the population doubled. In Jan., 1866, the Union Pacific railroad reached this point and the Santa Fe was begun in 1868. New bridges, schoolhouses, sidewalks, churches, business blocks and dwellings were rapidly built. By 1867 the city had outgrown its original limits and the outlying claims had been divided into lots. The little town of Eugenia on the north side of the Kansas river was attached to Topeka that year and became North Topeka. Four other additions were made in 1867. Since that time the city has been steadily spreading out on both sides of the river, especially toward the southwest.
The year 1872 was an eventful one. Topeka entertained a royal guest in the person of the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia, who was in Kansas on a buffalo hunt. The "King Wrought Iron Bridge Manufactory and Iron Works" was organized that year, the city voting bonds for $100,000 toward the building of its shops which covered 3 acres. The company failed the next year and the shops were taken over by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad company and formed the beginning of the Santa Fe shops. A number of flour mills and other manufactories were established in the next ten years. The Topeka Library association, organized in 1870, was authorized by the legislature of 1881 to erect a free public library on the state house grounds. In 1886 the Missouri Pacific railroad was built to this point and the next year the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific. About that time there was a great boom in Topeka real estate, there being in the year 1886 more than 20 additions platted and thrown on the market, and lots were sold 2 miles from the outskirts of town. The real estate transfers averaged $30,000 per day and the bank clearings $1,000,000 a month. In 1888 there were 3,000 new buildings put up at a cost of $3,000,000. The same year 4 miles of street pavement, 5 of sidewalk and 12 of sewer were laid, a $35,000 viaduct was built and an electric light plant was installed. The total expenditure for public improvements for the year was $598,000, the real estate transfers aggregated $7,879,569 and the bank clearings reached $17,000,000. Sixty-nine additions were made, one of them being Potwin Place. The depression resultant from this activity is shown by a loss of 5,000 in population in the year 1890. The city was beginning to revive a little when the hard times of 1893 and the rush to the southwest gave it another setback. The depression continued for some years and it was not until 1900 that the population exceeded that of 1889.
Although the sale of liquor was prohibited by an amendment to the constitution, carried in 1880, the authorities for various reasons had hard work to enforce the law during the first twenty years. A new era of law enforcement was introduced by Mrs. Carrie Nation, who smashed a number of Topeka saloons in 1901, thus arousing public sentiment on the subject. Since 1889, when municipal suffrage was given to women, they have been a factor in city politics and are considered a power for good government.
Perhaps the greatest disaster in the history of the town was the flood of 1903 when nearly the whole of North Topeka was destroyed. Twenty-nine lives were lost including that of Edward Grafstrom, the hero of the occasion. The property loss exceeded $2,250,000. Two other less disastrous floods have occurred sinceone in 1904 and the other in 1908. In 1911 cement dikes were built at Topeka to prevent future overflows.
In the fall of 1909 the city adopted the commission form of government and in the spring of 1910 the first commissioners were elected. In Sept., 1911, the fiftieth anniversary of the statehood of Kansas was fittingly celebrated and a great reunion of the Civil war veterans was held. President Taft honored the occasion with his presence and laid the corner-stone of the memorial building.
The population of Topeka at different periods was as follows: 1855, 405; 1860, 759; 1870, 5,790; 1880, 15,528; 1890, 31,007; 1900, 33,608; 1910, 43,684.Pages 811-815 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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