Prompted by that American spirit of enterprise, the people in January, 1871, began agitating the building of a school house. It was decided to build one of stone and large enough for the children then in the town and those who would probably settle within the following year. It was decided to raise four thousand dollars by issuing school district bonds, and the vote was nearly unanimous.
The building was located where the high school building now stands. It is a matter worthy of record, the obstacles and problems met with in that early day in erecting large buildings. That the building was faulty is true, but the fault was not in plan or work so much as in the material. First, they had to use rock whose strength and working qualities not a man here or elsewhere understood and which compelled them to work at a disadvantage.
We must "patronize home industries," so all the cottonwood that could be worked in lumber was used; the frame work and roof were made of this material. They knew its strength and weight, but they did not know that if a board of it were laid in the barnyard at night it would warp and walk out into the street before morning. The building of this large and substantial edifice gave an air of solidity and permanence to their little town and when people seeking for a location came, they would remark, "Well, that looks as if you meant to stay" (referring to the school building). Another would say, "Education of the youth seems to be a first consideration with the people here and as I have a family of children I will locate with you."
In connection with this it may be said the spirit that prompted the people at that time to build so expensive a house has been ever foremost with them, and they have spent more money in an educational way than any other city of equal population in the state of Kansas.
When the spring of 1871 was ushered in, the commissioners still refused to recognize Concordia as the county seat, and the town company pressed its mandamus suit begun the autumn before. We deem this of sufficient historical importance to justify the publication of a copy of the writ.
"Before the Honorable William H. Canfield, judge of the Eighth judicial district of Kansas.
"The State of Kansas, Cloud County, ss:
"James Hagaman and William McK. Burns, plaintiffs, vs. W.M. Page,
John Murphy and Chester Dutton, county commissioners of Cloud county; Ebenezer Fox, county clerk; David Heller, county treasurer, and B.H. McEckron, county superintendent of common schools of said county, defendants. - Notice:
"The above named defendants will take notice that on the 24th day of October, 1870, the plaintiffs will apply to the Honorable William H. Canfield, judge of the Eighth judicial district, at Clay Center, in the county of Clay and state of Kansas, for an alternative writ of mandamus, commanding the said defendants to remove their offices, books and papers belonging thereto, to Concordia, the county seat of said Cloud county, or show cause by a day to be named in the writ why they have not done so.
"Dated October 13, 1870.
This proceeding was not pressed at the time, the petitioners deeming it best to hold off until the land office was open for business, in the meantime hoping the recalcitrants would come to their senses by coming to the county seat. Registrar of deeds, J.S. Bowen, sent word by horseback that he would "be there just as quickly as he could find a place to shelter his family," and probate judge, D.J. Fowler, sent word that he was "coming a running."
Bowen bought the court house for thirty cents on the dollar, where he moved his family, and Mr. Linney, having purchased the Carnahan building (which stood on the corner now occupied by the Chicago Lumber Company office) and moved his family and goods there, Mr. Bowen took possession. Judge Fowler, having found a place "whereon to lay his head," opened his marriage shop and went to work issuing licenses.
The others failing to put in an appearance, the suit was revived, but before the writ was served all signalized their willingness to come if they were let off without paying costs, which was granted them.
This ended the great source of trouble which began more than a year before and which had done thousands of dollars' damage to the town and a great financial loss to the town company. The company paid the costs in this case, amounting, with attorney's fees, to the sum of one hundred and fifty dollars.
Gibbs & Snowden began the erection of their building for a drug store. It occupied the southeast corner of Sixth and Washington streets and was the first drug store in Concordia. About the same time Marshall & Andrews built their livery stable which stood in block one hundred and forty-nine on Sixth street. Henry Buckingham began all addition to his "whale back" printing office in March. R.P. Davis and Byron E. Sheffield erected buildings the same spring.
M. McKinnon built an addition to his store and also commenced work on a dwelling. All during the spring building was brisk in the little city. Everywhere the thump of the hammer and the music of the saw and plane were heard. Many business blocks were completed and under way. It was a marvel to all, and looked as if they might have a great city at once.
The most important enterprise started and completed this year was the building of a flouring mill by Mr. Lanoue. He erected a large stone building on the site of his saw mill, put in the machinery and made the first flour ever made in Concordia. The mill was operated by steam.
Second only in importance to the coming of the railroad was the construction of the dam across the Republican river; the most remarkable, inasmuch as it was undertaken by one man, and he of little means. Had a rich corporation been at the head of the undertaking it would have employed engineers of great reputation to plan and make estimates and thousands of dollars would have been the probable cost.
Mr. Lanoue worked long and earnestly to establish a water power, and there was no limit to his courage or he would have renounced his efforts. The river where the dam is built was four hundred feet wide, and in high water times was thirteen feet deep (which occurred in 1869), running eight miles an hour. The sand and gravel down to bedrock was twenty-four feet and one stratum of it was quicksand, an uncertain foundation on which to build.
To be safe the dam must rest on a rock bottom and there is where Mr. Lanoue put it in the end - after four attempts. Work began on the dam in the summer of 1872, and when completed was pleasing to look upon, but like the "apples of Sodom," fair without but false within. Lincoln township voted Mr. Lanoue twelve hundred dollars on condition that he make a roadway for wagons over his dam. March 11, 1875, Mr. Lanoue completed the work of elevating and aproning the dam, which greatly strengthened it, increased the power, and completed one of the best free roadways anywhere over the Republican river.
With a twelve-inch head of water the great wheel was started for business, and the machinery was kept humming through the night, grinding fifty bushels more wheat than the steam power had ever done in the same time, The public congratulated Mr. Lanoue upon the consummation of his long cherished hope. The dam cost Mr. Lanoue in the neighborhood of ten thousand dollars.
Mr. Lanoue possessed unbounded faith, which is the success of everything. The strength of the feeble, the salvation of the miserable, "The greatness of individuals or nations may be measured precisely by the greatness of their faith." Three times within four years his efforts were severely damaged by floods and ice, but each time he immediately repaired damages with the same undaunted courage that marked all his undertakings, and the roar of his mammoth wheel could he heard night and day.
The repeated breaks in the dam finally crippled Mr. Lanoue financially until he was forced to take in partners. In the spring of 1878 George R. Letourneau, A. Berard and A. Gauselin, of Kankakee, Illinois, bought an interest in the mill. The bargain was closed at night, the papers signed up, the money paid and the gentlemen from Kankakee slept soundly in the happy thought that they had purchased a fortune, but they woke in the morning to find their dreams an illusion. During the night the water had bursted through its confines in an entirely new place on the right bank of the river, and through this gap the entire volume of water was running, which would require much labor and expense to rebuild; but Mr. Lanoue was cool and treated the loss as a small matter, saying, "It is only a trifling break." However, it took a month of hard work by a small army of men and twenty-five hundred dollars in money to rebuild it.
Unlooked for trouble and expense after this forced Mr. Lanoue to sell. In 1884 this property passed into the hands of a stock company of which H.M. Spalding was president and afterward sole proprietor. After operating it for a number of years he had reason to be dissatisfied with the treatment received from the merchants of Concordia, and sold at a sacrifice of thousands of dollars to Lingle & Cline. On account of his health Mr. Lingle was compelled to retire from business, and Mr. Cline became and is at present sole owner of one of the best properties in the state of Kansas. The dam is jointly owned by Mr. Cline and the Concordia Electric Light Company in which Mr. Spalding is president and a large stockholder. The interest of the owners is one-third to the Concordia Electric Light Company and two-thirds to Mr. Cline, the former using the power from the time the lamps are lighted in the afternoon until twelve M.
The year 1872 was prolific in events for Concordia. The voting of bonds for the railroad; the organization of the city as third-class; the retirement of the Buckinghams from the Empire and its purchase by H.E. Smith; the commencement of the Presbyterian church; building of the malt house and the brewery; the great conflagration that laid waste the best portion of the city; the confiscating of the greater portion of the town company's lands.
The brewery stood just above the mill where some of the ruins may yet be seen. The builders were D.W. Williams, and Orin Bennett (brothers-in-law) and for several years they did a thriving business. On the eve of December 24, the night before Christmas, 1872, occurred the big fire. It originated in the Collins & Dennis building, then owned by W.O. Wagoner. Eight buildings were burned and one torn down and thrown into the middle of the street, which checked the fire and saved the other nine buildings. The most important building destroyed was the Glidden House, a good hotel for that early day. The fire cast a gloom over the struggling little city, and many predicted that years would pass ere it would be rebuilt as good as before.
This was Concordia's first disaster and entailed a loss of about thirty thousand dollars. The city was in its infancy and this was a very serious set back to the new western town, but not many months elapsed ere new and better buildings were erected and larger stocks of goods were brought in. T.L., F.W. and Heber Sturges had put their money in a hall which was totally destroyed, with no insurance. The destruction of this property was a severe blow to the town as well as to the owners of the property.
In February, 1873, A.J. Shelhammer, N.H. Eaves and J.M. Hagaman began to excavate preparatory to the erection of a stone building in block one hundred and thirty-five, south side of Sixth street. This was in the burnt district and revived the hopes of the people. It showed these men still had confidence in the future of their town and other citizens took courage from the public-spirited act. The buildings were two stories and ready for occupancy in about eight months. The only stone buildings at this time were those of C. Case and Oliver Currier.
J.E. Burress began a stone building on the southeast corner of Broadway and Sixth streets the following summer. At this time the trouble over the town site was being contested and greatly retarded the growth of the town. The inhabitants desired to have thrown open to actual settlers the most of the land contained within the town of Concordia, and after quite a struggle before the United States land office succeeded in securing to all these citizens, and those who might afterward become such, the unpatented lands within Concordia.
Governor Osborne was installed in the office of governor in January, 1874. and the citizens prevailed upon him to appoint a normal school at Concordia and it went into operation March 5 of that year, with B.F. Robinson as principal and J.S. Shearer, assistant. Concordia, being a central point, was selected as a site for the location of the State Normal School, and but for the theory of some of the legislators, that to curtail educational institutions was economy combined with the jealousy of other towns in eastern Kansas, this school would have been successfully maintained.
The citizens of Concordia were much interested in the institution, but were destined to have it taken from them by the legislature of 1876 and a system of normal institutes established instead, abolishing the several State Normal Schools. Senator N.B. Brown made an effort to re-establish the normal school and prepared a bill to that effect, which he pushed vigorously but could not bring the measure to a successful end. The school was supplied by the state with the implied promise that it should be sustained. Senator Brown championed this cause manfully.
The citizens of Concordia invested twenty thousand dollars in this institution. Representative C.K. Wells secured the first and only appropriation for the State Normal School at Concordia. The normal from the first was a success, showing need of the school and Concordia's fitness for the location. It was proposed to re-establish the school and eighteen sections of state lands were asked for that purpose. In 1877 a bill was before both houses asking for an appropriation of six thousand dollars for the re-establishment of the institution, which was defeated by a strong effort of the opposition. In 1874 the school building erected in Concordia in 1871 was enlarged and given to the state for the holding forth of the State Normal. After the school was abolished, the building was transferred back to the city schools. This institution went down, not because it was not useful and greatly needed, but because Emporia stepped to the front and "gobbled it up."
The city of Concordia was organized as a city of the third class in August, 1871, and R.E. Allen was chosen mayor. He was succeeded in 1873 by E. Guilbert, who held the office one year. He was followed by Milton Reasoner, who held the office four terms. The mayors since then have been elected in the following order: J.M. Hagaman, E E. Swearenger, G.W. Marshall, Thomas Wrong, W.F. Groesbeck and C. Twitchel.
In April, 1887 Concordia was organized into a city of the second class, with J. Green mayor, and the term extended to two years. The next mayors were as follows: D.L. Brown, W.W. Caldwell, G.W. Marshall, Walter Darlington, John Stewart, E.W. Messall and S.C. Wheeler, the present mayor. The history of Concordia has been somewhat similar to most town settlements in Kansas. Clashing interests had the effect only of calling attention to their town and the building up of the thriving and prosperous city.
Much trouble arose over the acquisition of enough citizens to enable them to count two hundred inhabitants to organize as a city of the third class. They had some politicians then who perhaps did not hesitate to count amongst the two hundred several who might have come to town to trade off a few pounds of butter or a few dozen eggs, or perhaps to get a drink, for they had then "a senate" and some other establishments where liquor was dispensed.
The population increased quite rapidly and their business extended from the neighborhood of Waterville westward to Smith county. They became the center of trade and have maintained their pre-eminence, and as their citizens were generally public spirited and liberal, they have now a well built city provided with churches, schools, a magnificent court house, handsome homes, mills, etc., and greater conveniences than many of the older towns in the east. They are the center of many systems of railroads, connecting them with all points of the compass, and are destined to be an important point of trade on lines connecting them with the Pacific, Galveston and the Atlantic ocean.
Their lands through the changes brought about by the climate and the industry of the people have risen in value from the mere government price of one dollar and twenty-five cents to fifty dollars and upwards an acre in close proximity to towns and railway stations. It has been observed during the last thirty years that almost every man who settled upon an original claim was Impressed with the belief that he had dropped upon the lovelist spot of the universe, and as they have increased in years, imbibed the desire to obtain other lands alongside that their children might remain in the same favored locality.
The dugouts have long ago given place to substantial stone or frame residences which would do credit to the suburban neighborhoods of the far east.
The spring of 1874 did not promise much and upon good crops hinged a large portion of the prosperity of the town. On April 14, 1874, a frightful blizzard swooped down upon the country; eight inches of snow fell and the mercury dropped to seventeen degrees below zero. Several persons froze to death within a radius of ten miles around the town of Concordia. Considerable stock perished in this terrible storm.
There was a double affliction visited upon the people this year - drouth and grasshoppers - either being sufficient to, destroy the corn, none being raised that year anywhere in the path of the grasshoppers. But the people who considered it less to the discredit of the county, charged the loss to grasshoppers, while those who looked upon them as a greater curse than drouth, charged it to that source.
The grasshoppers appeared July 24, 1874; the corn was past redemption before the pests put in an appearance. The drouth was the most severe ever experienced In this section. Early corn that tasseled in June dried completely up and the tassels were blown in the wind like chaff. The following winter was a hard one for the people and because of lack of food and clothing, aid had to be extended to thousands of citizens.
The years 1875-6-7-8-9 were good average crop years and everybody firmly believed there never would be another drouth in this county; however, the next year one came.
As before stated Henry Buckingham established the first newspaper in Concordia, the "Republican Valley Empire." This was the first newspaper in either the Solomon or Republican valley above Junction City, which is of more than passing interest. That it lost its identity by being absorbed by the Blade in June, 1902, is to be regretted for its historical value. Following is an article written by Mr. Buckingham, which will be read with interest by the old settlers:
EDITOR EMPIRE: Some time ago, on one of the birthdays of the Empire, you stated that you would like to have from me a history of the founding of the paper. I promised to furnish it, but put it off from time to time till now. On its last birthday I was quite taken back to learn really how old the Empire was. I could hardly realize that so long a time had sped away since the little sheet was first issued. And the present number is volume twenty-five! How time flies!
When associate editor of the Leavenworth Times in 1859-60, I heard much about the Republican and Solomon valleys from the surveyors who had surveyed the country, and others. They spoke of the great beauty of those valleys - the fertility of the soil, the fine streams full of fish, the timber abounding with turkey and deer, the prairies alive with chickens and the buffalo not far away during the summer.
At that time the Indians were generally considered peaceable, but it was felt that it was too far away from the settlements to be absoluely[sic] safe from their depredations, as they might make a raid at any time. It was known that a few bold, hardy pioneers had settled along the lower portions of the streams, but it was considered that a man "took his life in his hand" when he attempted settlement very far up. At that time a friend who was contemplating bringing a flock of sheep from Ohio came to the office and wanted to know of me where he could herd them with safety. I replied that it was not deemed safe to go much farther west than Nemaha county! That was the feeling of uncertainty at that time. Rumors of raids were quite frequent, and settlers were compelled to be on the lookout.
The war came and but little attention was paid to the country, so far as I recollect; but after it was over, settlers - many of them having soldiered in that country - began to settle farther up the river. The Indians were reported to be unfriendly, if settlers went far above where Clifton now is, and decidedly hostile to those who went to and beyond the Great Spirit Springs, now in Mitchell county. We heard quite frequently of Indian raids and it was not deemed safe to settle far up as late as 1868 - possibly a short time later.
But the settlers continued to encroach on the Indian country and the enterprising merchants of Leavenworth, the largest and most enterprising town in the west, sent men to gather in the trade of that region. It may surprise many of your readers when they are told that the trade of Leavenworth once reached from the Missouri river to and beyond Salt Lake and Montana, to Old Mexico, and nearly to the eastern boundaries of California and Oregon. How trade has changed since the days of ox and mule teams! A regular Santa Fe mule team would be a curiosity to thousands of people who now live along the old Santa Fe and California trails.
In the spring of 1869 my friend R.F. Hermon, now of Clyde, and a well known citizen, who was connected with a large wholesale house in Leavenworth, said to me one day, "I have just returned from the Republican valley pretty well up - and they have started a small store near the mouth of Elk creek, and it is a most beautiful country. Settlers are coming in, and I have decided to make my home there and bought an interest in a store. It will make a good business point." I asked him how a newspaper would pay. He replied that he could see no reason why one would not do well in a short time. So in the fall I concluded to take a look for myself, and boarded the cars for Manhattan and from there went with the mail, which was carried in a hack as far as Lawrenceburg. I think all of the goods for the Republican country and most of the Solomon, were shipped via team from Manhattan. The hack carried the mail via Whiting, Wakefield and Clay Center. The other towns between Manhattan and Clyde were Riley Center, Bala, Rosedale, Morganville and Clifton. There was but little settlement in any of the towns named. I think Whiting was the largest and Clay Center next. None of them had over one hundred people, and some were merely staked off. Clyde had a population of about two hundred in 1870, and Concordia was not quite so large.
It was late when we arrived at Clyde. The ride was a cold, disagreeable one, but the scenery along the route amply repaid the trip. One of the finest views I ever saw in Kansas was from the hill near the farm house of Mr. Haynes, where Clifton now stands. There were but few houses in sight, and for miles up and down the valley it appeared like an "unbroken wilderness." The traveler who glides over the line of railroad that now traverses the valley, can form no idea of the real beauty of that portion of the valley, now thickly settled and in a high state of cultivation.
I was so well pleased with the country and its prospects and the people of Clyde and surrounding community, that I determined to put in a press in the spring, it then being too late in the fall and besides no room could be secured.
Returning to Leavenworth I remained there until after the holidays and then concluded to take a trip over the Central Branch via Atchison to Waterville, the terminus of the road, and go by team to the Republican. It was said at Clyde that no teams had come direct from Waterville to the Republican, that no road had been made and the streams were not bridged, etc. Arriving at Waterville I found the only way to get over to the Republican was to take a team which had come down from Republic county to the mill and go to Salt creek, and from there to Clyde. I made arrangements to go that way and was to meet a team a few miles west of Waterville at the junction of the mill road. On arriving at the junction I found the team had passed.
On my way back I met Mr. McNab, Sr., one of the pioneers of that section - and a grand old man - returning home from Waterville. He kindly invited me to his claim some sixteen miles from that place. Seeing that I was in for a trip of sixty miles by "Ford & Walker's line," I concluded to accept the invitation. A storm came up just before dark and we had a very cold ride and walk to his hospitable home, traveling over ten miles after night had set in. The next day the storm grew worse, and the weather was extremely cold. The wind blew so hard we could stay out of doors but a short time. I remained at Mr. McNab's three days, when the storm abated and I concluded to start for the Republican in a buggy. We had not proceeded far when we ran into a snow bank and I decided to continue the journey on foot. I reached Clyde the next evening after a hard tramp. A portion of the way I got a ride.
I found the citizens of Clyde and surrounding country anxious to have the press located there, and they rendered every assistance in their power. After remaining there some time Messrs. E. Kennedy, E. Cline and Charles Davis took their teams and we went to Manhattan for the press and material. In a few days it was on the ground. The building it was put in was a log one, about twenty feet square, and was the first building in Clyde. It was put up by the Messrs. Heller and had been used as a dwelling, postoffice, hotel, store and court house. It was torn down a few years afterwards but a picture of it is in possession of some of the citizens of Clyde.
The first number of the paper was issued May 31, 1870. It had six columns to the page and no patent inside or outside. It was called the Republican Valley Empire, but after it had fallen into other hands the name was changed to Concordia Empire. During the summer the office was removed to a more commodious building, but not being sufficiently warm, it was impossible to continue its publication there. The plant was soon afterwards removed to Concordia, which had been chosen as the county seat, and it has been printed there ever since, the first number being issued December 24, 1870. The first edition printed was about five hundred copies, but it soon increased to near one thousand. The emigrants as they passed through town, bought a large number of papers to send back to their friends, and many had them sent to their new homes in the western counties.
It was my intention to write some reminiscences of early times in Cloud county and northwest Kansas generally, but my files are not at hand, and the names of so many who took part in settling up the country escape me, that I cannot make the history complete, but defer it to another time. The present sketch is not what I would make it, or what it ought to be, for the same reason.
While there was nothing in the enterprise in a pecuniary point of view, it is no small satisfaction to the writer to know that the first paper established in that region was a credit to all concerned, and recognized as such throughout the state. And further, that it did something to make known and build up one of the finest countries that turns its face to the still.
Transcribed from E.F. Hollibaugh's Biographical history of Cloud County, Kansas biographies of representative citizens. Illustrated with portraits of prominent people, cuts of homes, stock, etc. [n.p., 1903] 919p. illus., ports. 28 cm.
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