Geographical Names in Ottawa County
by Theo. A. Scheffer
August 1934 (Vol. 4, No. 3), pages 227 to 245
Transcribed by lhn; digitized with permission of
the Kansas State Historical Society.
IT IS some time since the writer last had residence in Ottawa county; so many years, in fact, that when we visited Delphos recently we found young people in the high school whose dads and mothers had listened to our words of wisdom when we were in charge of the same institution. At this former time a young lady in the schools suggested something which we haven't quite forgotten in all these years-an investigation into the sources of the geographical names in the county.
Having since then had opportunity at times to follow up the matter, by way of mental recreation, we have found it most interesting, and trust that our relation of some of the details will interest at least those who are familiar with the scenes and places to be considered. The recording of these things will seem the more worth while if, perchance, it stimulates an interest in like research in other communities of the state. For much really valuable local history of the early settlement and development of a region is lost unless recorded before the first generation of pioneers, or their immediate descendants, have passed from the stage. Already are the years three score and ten since the first actual home builders found their way up into the lower valleys of the Smoky Hill and the Solomon. For, away off under the dome of the national capitol, about that time, a group of men, in heated controversy over state rights, started something when they threw down the gauntlet of squatter sovereignty to the free and courageous.
In the near background of this period of first settlement are the frontier traders and trappers, who outfitted for their trips and disposed of their catches at Missouri river points. Still earlier were the French of like pursuits, who, under concessions from the governor of the greater Louisiana, were the first to come up the streams of central Kansas to take beaver and to traffic with the Indians. Each of these groups of trader-trappers had something to do with the naming of our streams. But, unless their trails were crossed by an adventurer or explorer who kept a journal, some of the names did not stick.
For some of the historical information, of local character, the writer can vouch from his personal knowledge of things. Much
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more we gleaned from conversations or correspondence with a few of the homestead settlers who were among the first on the ground. The data of broader historical scope we gathered in the Library of Congress during several short periods of residence in the national capital.
The writer, having lived for some years now in a state that is all shot to pieces with Indian names, considers it fortunate that the part of the map we are dealing with in this sketch has only three or four such designations. For sometimes when we come to analyze the term which the local people fondly believe means "Babbling Brooks," or "Sky-blue Moonbeams," it is found to designate the "Place-Where-the-Buffalo-Had-a-Fit," or something equally prosaic. The name "Ottawa" is derived from a word which signifies "to trade," "to buy and sell." In early traditional times and also during the historic period the Ottawa Indians were noted among their neighbors as intertribal traders. The national emblem of the tribe was the moose.
The Ottawas were first visited by Champlain in 1615 on Georgian bay, where they were picking huckleberries. In the next century they are known to have migrated considerably in bands, some settling in southern Wisconsin, northeastern Illinois, and along Lake Erie. They took part in all the Indian wars of their region up to 1812. Pontiac, a chief in "Pontiac's War," 1763, was a member of the Ottawa tribe.
By treaty of August 30, 1831, made at Miami bay, in Lake Erie, four bands of Ottawa Indians dwelling along the Maumee river and its tributaries, in Ohio, ceded their lands to the United States and were moved to a tract of which the present Ottawa, Kan., is about the center. This tract was about eleven miles square. In June, 1862, they ceded these lands back to the government, and under the conditions of the treaty then made, the tribal relations were to be dissolved in five years and the Ottawas to become citizens of the United States.
The right of the Kanza Indians to the lands now comprised in Ottawa county was recognized by the United States government in its treaties, the first of which was made in 1815. By a second treaty, at St. Louis in 1825, this tribe ceded to our government all their lands lying north of the Kansas-Arkansas watershed and west to the headwaters of the Smoky Hill and Solomon forks, except a tract thirty miles wide beginning twenty leagues west of the mouth of the Kansas river (near the mouth of Soldier creek) and running
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west through the lands ceded. This long and comparatively narrow strip included approximately townships 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 south, government survey, covering thus all the present Ottawa county.
On January 14, 1846, at the "Methodist mission in the Kansas country," the Kanza tribe ceded to the United States 2,000,000 acres, beginning at the east end of the above strip, including its entire width of thirty miles and running west for quantity. This cession included part of Ottawa county to be, but as insufficient timber for the use of the Kanza was found to exist in the part of the strip that was left them, the provisions of the treaty were made to cover the entire strip to its western limit, and a new reservation, about twenty miles square, was given to the Kanza Indians in the region of Council Grove.
Thus the simple red man (very simple) disposed of his Ottawa county hunting grounds, and thereafter received his rations of beef more or less regularly from the generous hand of Uncle Sam. The Council Grove reserve was diminished by treaty in 1859, and in the period between 1873 and 1880 the lands of the reserve were all sold, the Indians having been removed to the Indian territory on a small reservation bordering the Arkansas river on the east, where it enters the territory from Kansas.
A little history of the organization of Ottawa county may prove interesting here. In the Council Journal, Kansas territorial legislature, special session, 1860, February 25, we read in part:
House bill No. 420, "An act to provide for the organization of the counties of Republic, Shirley and Wade," was taken up, and, by consent, "Ottawa" was inserted instead of "Wade," and the bill was read third time, and the vote stood as follows: Yeas-12; nays-none.
In the House Journal, morning session, February 27, 1860, we read in part:
House bill No. 420, "An act to provide for the organization of the counties of Republic, Shirley, and Wade," was taken up, and, on motion of Mr. Pierce, the House concurred in the amendments of the Council.
At the evening session, February 27, which was the last day of the special session, the following message was received from the governor:
EXECUTIVE OFFICE, K. T.
To the House of Representatives: I have this day
February 27, 1860. approved House bills
"An act establishing and organizing the counties of Republic, Shirley, and Ottawa, and to define the boundaries thereof" Respectfully,
(Signed) S. MEDARY.
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In the General Laws of Kansas territory, 1860, we find the text of this bill: CHAPTER XLIII
Be it enacted by the Governor and Legislative Assembly of the Territory of Kansas:
SECTION 1 . . . . and the territory composed of townships nine, ten, eleven and twelve south, in ranges one, two, three, four, and five west of the sixth principal meridian, shall constitute the county of Ottawa.
SEC. 2. The following-named persons are hereby appointed commissioners for the aforementioned counties, to wit: . . . for the county of Ottawa, R. C. Whitney, Henry Martin, and - Branch, of Pike creek.
It will be noted that the county barely escaped being named "Wade." The selection of "Ottawa" instead was probably a compromise on a neutral name; for the same day on which the organization bill was introduced, the governor had sent in his veto of a bill prohibiting slavery in Kansas. Now, Benjamin F. Wade, for whom it was sought to name the county, was a fiery antislavery senator from Ohio, who fought the Kansas-Nebraska bill in 1854 and the Lecompton constitution of 1858. He was also a strong opponent of fugitive slave laws.
Though Ottawa county was thus defined and described by the legislature of 1860, it was not formally organized until 1866. At the first election, in this year, Minneapolis was chosen as the county seat. Ayersburg had been designated by the governor as temporary county seat.
ORIGIN OF NAMES APPLIED TO OTTAWA COUNTY STREAMS
Coming now to the geographical names of more local application, we find ourselves in deep water at once-figuratively speaking-for the Solomon is not that kind of a stream. We know that this river was formerly the Nipahela (Ne-pah-ha-la), meaning in the language of the Kanza Indians "water-on-a-hill." This we had directly from an educated tribesman who used to roam the valley as a boy. The designation also appears occasionally on the older maps or journals as the "Nepaholla river." The name originated from the peculiar situation of the Great Spirit Spring, along the river's course near the present site of Cawker City.
This name, however, did not stick, and we are left in some doubt as to the origin of the newer term "Solomon." The first recorded reference to the stream under this name is in the Expedition's of Capt. Zebulon M. Pike, entry of date September 23, 1806. He referred to the stream as Solomon's Fork, and as Solomon's Fork it
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usually appears on the earlier maps up to about the time the territory was admitted as a state. Sometimes it is given as Solomon's river.
There can be little doubt that the name was given the river by the French traders and trappers who were in the country in the years just preceding Pike's expedition; for they gave designations to other streams of the region, two of these partly within the present limits of Ottawa county. The name Solomon was fairly common among these people at that time, as we may note from a perusal of some of the journals of the early explorers. John C. McCoy, who came to the Kansas country as early as 1830, states in a letter written about fifty years later: "My impression is that a man named Solomon, connected with a. company of early Rocky Mountain trappers, was either lost or robbed by the Indians on that stream."
Our own impression is, however, that the name does not perpetuate the glory of the mighty Prince of Israel, but that. it had a more humble origin, in the character of the waters of the stream itself. This for two reasons: First, that no other natural feature of the region was given a personal designation at that early day; and, second, that the French had called two other streams of the regions the Grande Saline (Saline river) and the Little Saline (Salt creek) on account of the properties of their waters. Therefore we may be pardoned for expressing our belief that Pike, an Englishman, wrote the word "Solomon" in his journal from confusing it with the spoken French word "salement," pronounced almost identically the same, sa-leman. This is the adverbial form of a word meaning "dirty." So there you are! Good-by, old swimmin' hole I
To relieve this tense situation somewhat, we will quote Pike's entries in his Expeditions for the days he spent in Ottawa county-the first recorded account touching the territory. The year is 1806.
September 18th. Marched at our usual hour, and at twelve o'clock halted at a large branch [Saline river] of the Kans, [Smoky Hill] which was strongly impregnated with salt. This day we expected the people of the village (Pawnee] to meet us. We marched again at four o'clock. Our route being over a continued series of hills and hollows, we were until eight at night before we arrived at a small dry branch [of Salt creek]. It was nearly ten o'clock before we found any water. Commenced raining a little before day. Distance. 25 miles.
September 19th. It having commenced raining early, we secured our baggage and pitched out tents. The rain continued without any intermission the whole day, during, which we employed ourselves in reading the Bible, Pope's Essays, and in pricking on our arms with India ink some characters, which will frequently bring to mind our forlorn and dreary situation, as well as the
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happiest days of our life. In the rear of our encampment was a hill, on which there was a large rock, where the Indians kept a continual sentinel, as I imagine, to apprise them of the approach of any party, friends or foes, as well as to see if they could discover any game on the prairies. [The Indians referred to here were some of Pike's scouts. The camp on this day was, according to the editor of Pike's Expeditions, on one of the small branches of Salt creek near the present site of Ada. The crossing of the Saline river at noon of the previous day was somewhere in the vicinity of Culver.]
September 20th. It appearing as if we possibly might have a clear day, I ordered our baggage spread abroad to dry; but it shortly after clouded up and commenced raining. The Osage sentinel discovered a buffalo on the prairies, upon which we dispatched a hunter on horseback in pursuit of him, also some hunters out on foot; and before night they killed three buffalo, some of the best of which we brought in and jerked or dried by the fire. It continued showery until afternoon, when we put our baggage again in a position to dry, and remained encamped. The detention of the doctor and our Pawnee ambassador began to be a serious matter of consideration. [They had been sent ahead to the Pawnee village on the morning of the 14th.]
Sunday, September 21st. We marched at eight o'clock, although there was every appearance of rain, and at eleven o'clock passed a large creek, remarkably salt. [This is Pike's Little Saline river, now Salt creek.] Stopped at one o'clock on a fresh branch of the salt creek. Our interpreter having killed an elk, we sent out for some meat, which detained us so late that I concluded it best to encamp where we were, in preference to running the risk of finding no water . . . . Distance, 10 miles. [We omit here an account of trouble with one of the Indian scouts.]
September 22nd. We did not march until eight o'clock, owing to the indisposition of Lieutenant Wilkinson. At eleven waited to dine. Light mists of rain, with flying clouds. We marched again at three o'clock, and continued our route 12 miles [probably by mistake for 2 miles] to the first branch of the Republican Fork. [There are some errors in Pike's map. He probably refers here to a branch of the Solomon, near the Glasco-Simpson district.] Met a Pawnee hunter, who informed us that the chief had left the village the day after the doctor arrived, with 50 or 60 horses and many people, and had taken his course to the north of our route; consequently we had missed each other. He likewise informed us that the Tetaus [Comanches] had recently killed six Pawnees, the Kans had stolen some horses, and a party of 300 Spaniards had lately been as far as the Sabine; but for what purpose unknown. Distance, 11 miles.
September 23rd. Marched early and passed a large fork of the Kans [Smoky Hill] river, which I suppose to be the one generally called Solomon's. One of our horses fell into the water and wet his load. Halted at ten o'clock on a branch of this fork. We marched at half past one o'clock, and encamped at sundown, on a stream [Buffalo creek] where we had a great difficulty to find water. We were overtaken by a Pawnee, who encamped with us. He offered his horse for our use. Distance, 21 miles. [It may be noted here that Pike counted distance mainly by his watch-so many miles per hour of march.]
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This gets Pike out of Ottawa county and across the Solomon, so we will follow him no further.
The Saline river and Salt creek, thus accounted for in connection with the naming of the Solomon, did not appear on any map under their present names until the settling-up period of territorial days. "Salt creek," instead of "Little Saline," first appears on Mitchell's map in 1859. The "Grand Saline," "Saline Fork," "Great Saline Fork" is shown first as the "Saline river," on Ream's map of Kansas, 1865.
The stream now known as Chapman creek was first recognized under its Indian name, "Nishcoba," as it appears on Eastman's Indian reserve map, 1854. A more nearly correct spelling of the word is Ni-skoba or Ni-skopa, meaning "Crooked Water." We may note here that the first syllable "ni" (water) appears also in the Ni-pahela (Solomon river) and in the Ni-obrara river. The equivalent Siouan or Dakotan form is "mi-ni," as in Minihaha and Minitonka.
On Whitman and Searl's map, 1856, the designation Chapman's creek is first used, and thereafter the stream was known by that name, except that on two other maps of practically the same date it appears as "Sycamore creek." This botanical name, though it may be correctly applied, apparently did not find favor. But who was Chapman? So far we have not been able to connect up any man of that name with the early settlement of the stream's lower course, in Dickinson county.
Pipe creek has probably shared the fate of many another geographical feature whose original designation has been carelessly handled by the cartographer or copying clerk. There is a current impression that the stream was originally called Pike creek in honor of the explorer, who camped, however, on Salt creek, west of the Solomon. At any rate we have noted that in the General Laws of Kansas territory, February, 1860, a Mr. Branch of "Pike creek" was appointed one of the first three commissioners of the newly created Ottawa county. This was probably E. W. Branch, who had come into the county the previous spring. Mitchell's map of that year, on the other hand, has the name "Pipe creek" for the stream. Therefore, if there was an error in listing or copying the word it dated from the very beginning, and has been perpetuated ever since, for the creek does not appear on any earlier map than Mitchell's, 1859.
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A post office named Pipe Creek was established June 24, 1874. This office was discontinued September 30, 1898. The first postmaster was Edwin Colton.
Some of the pioneers who traveled or freighted by ox team must have had trouble at the Coal creek fords, for this stream first appears on the map (W. J. Keeler, 1866) as "Hard-Crossing creek." Concerning the change of name, we have the following from J. J. Jenness, prominent in the pioneer history of the county
Coal creek was originally called Hard Crossing, but in 1864 or 1865 a man by the name of Gladden, living on the headwaters of the creek, discovered a small vein of coal about six inches thick. He took a sample to Junction City, then the nearest town of any importance, and endeavored to organize a company to prospect. In this he failed; but in order to keep the thing before the public, he went to the land office at Junction City and succeeded in getting the name changed, on the government map, to Coal creek.
Coal Creek post office was established October 3, 1866, with Jas. L. Ingersoll as the first postmaster.
Sand creek trickles, sometimes flows, over a stream bed whose nature has given this watercourse its name. In places the ripples are clear enough that one can see the bottom and find proof of this condition-which is rather unusual in a prairie stream. Before the country was settled up the antelope came there to drink, and as "Antelope creek" the stream was first known to the pioneers. We find it thus represented on Colton's map, 1867, on Johnson's map, 1870, and on Cram's map in 1872. On a revised edition of the latter, appearing in 1876, the designation "Sand creek" is first used. Why the name was changed, after it had been on record for nearly ten years, we have not been able to learn.
Concerning the naming of Lindsey creek there is some difference of opinion. Mrs. S. B. Chapman, who, with her husband, settled in the valley just below the mouth of this stream in 1863, wrote me some time ago as follows: "A man by the name of Lindsey took a claim before the Civil War, running from Lindsey creek east. His home was on the creek. All who took claims were run out by the Indians at the commencement of the war."
On the other hand, we find in Cutler's voluminous History of Kansas, published in 1883, pertinent matter of interest. on this subject:
In 1857-1858 the hunters and trappers who visited Solomon valley gave names to many of its creeks. For some unexplained reason these wayfarers left a wagonload of plunder behind them, just above Minneapolis, for the ownership of which a lawsuit was subsequently tried in the district court, at Junction
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City. Judging from the evidence there produced the "gentlemen" who gave Fisher, Lindsey, Brown, and Chriss creeks their names, were not the most. savory morsels of humanity in the world. Most of the names of these Solomon valley creeks have since been changed-in respect to the living.
We may reconcile these two accounts of the man Lindsey by assuming that he "stuck around" for a while subsequent to the events just narrated, and tried to hold a piece of land on the creek. This appears reasonable from the fact that. his name came to be associated with the stream, while the wanderers Fisher, Brown, and Chriss lost out on their geographic designations. "Lindsey creek" first appears on Keeler's map in 1866.
We have made diligent effort to locate the court records to which Cutler evidently had access, but have met with no success. Probably they have long since been destroyed.
Flowing through the southeastern part of the county and nosing into the Solomon not far above the place where the latter joins the Smoky Hill, is a stream called Buckeye creek. We have had no opportunity to explore this stream in search of the buckeye bush, but have been told on good authority that it does not grow there. Several types of tree and shrub-as the buckeye, hickory, and sycamore-which are to be found in the Permian limestone district as far west as eastern Dickinson county, disappear when we enter the Dakota sandstone belt of central Kansas.
We are left, then, to assume that Buckeye creek was so called by some of the pioneers who had come from the Buckeye state-Ohio. In the history from which we have quoted above, Cutler states that: "In June, 1855, a party from Ohio explored the Solomon valley with a view to locating a colony, but were deterred by Indian scares and by the fact that the Kansas river was found to be not navigable." John Riordan, who settled on or near the creek in 1859, says that it bore the name Buckeye at that time.
Keeler's map, 1866, is the first to give the stream a name-Buckeye creek. Colton's map, appearing the following year, changes it a little to "Buck Eye creek." The next transformation of the work was evidently the work of a susceptible young copying clerk whose thoughts were busy with dimples and lace bonnets; for he wrote it down "Blue Eye Creek." Johnson's map, 1870, is responsible for this bit of romance. Two years later Cram's atlas goes him one better, by calling the little brook "Blue Eye river." He corrects his mistake, however, in his revised atlas of 1876, and since that time the stream has been plain Buckeye creek. One of the municipal townships of the county has been given the same name.
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Rand, McNally & Company's map, 1879, is apparently the first publication to recognize and record the local names of three of the smaller streams of the county. These are Table Rock creek (flowing into the Saline from the south, between Tescott and Culver), Mortimer creek, and Yockey creek, the latter two tributaries of the Solomon, from the east, just above Delphos.
Table Rock is no more, but before it fell from the attacks of vandals it had perpetuated its name in the stream which flows close by, in the eastern edge of Lincoln county.
Yockey creek perpetuates the memory of Levi Yockey, whose homestead cabin once stood on the bank of this stream somewhat less than a mile west of the present site of Delphos. The few who still remember the location can trace the foundation of the old log structure and that of the pioneer schoolhouse which was near it.
The groves of timber on Mortimer creek, about two miles farther up the Solomon valley, still shelter the home of David Mortimer, who came to the county in 1865. These groves once witnessed serious Indian troubles, but the writer remembers them only as the happy hunting grounds of unforgettable vacation days.
Dry creek, which doesn't flow into the Solomon about two miles south of Delphos, and Henry creek, which sometimes does run through the city limits, are streams that occasionally appear on the maps. As to the former, we need offer no explanation of the origin of its name. Henry creek may have been named for Henry Stelter; a pioneer, whose home was on the edge of the stream just south of Delphos. But David Mortimer, mentioned above, thinks the name dates back to an earlier settler who lived there for a time before the lands were surveyed, and who was driven out by the Indians. In this connection we may note that one of the municipal townships of the county also bears the name "Henry."
Other small streams of the county are only branches of the creeks already accounted for, and have merely a local interest that will not, in the scope of this article, warrant inquiry into the origin of their names.
ORIGIN OF NAMES APPLIED TO OTTAWA COUNTY TOWNS
As a preliminary to discussing the origin of names applied to towns in Ottawa county, or anywhere else for that matter, we may say that such names usually originate with the establishment of a post office at the place designated. Now, the naming of a post office, or a Pullman car, is anybody's game so long as the alphabet holds out. We have never been able to fix responsibility for the atrocious
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combinations of letters that appear on some of the cars, but with the post offices we have fared better. Not that we object to any of our home county names- -understand! We are lucky to have a list of good and worthy ones. If they were not such they could be changed, for all-names of towns in our basic language are feminine:
A letter or petition from local residents requesting the federal government to establish a post office in their community, may or may not suggest a name for the new geographical location. When a name is offered, the officials in charge of such matters usually adopt it, though they reserve the right to reject fool names, or one that is so nearly like another in the same state that confusion might arise in routing the mails. If no name is suggested in the petition, an official or clerk in the Washington office used to take it upon himself to call the place after some friend, or perhaps a person of high rank in his estimation. Sometimes, however, the name has proved to be too rank to suit the community concerned, wherefore in more recent years the federal office has adopted the slogan "Give us a name or you don't get the mail bag," or words to that effect.
With these necessary preliminaries, we will try to discover who's who and what's what as pertains to a dozen or more names of towns in Ottawa county.
"Minneapolis" is an Indian-Greek combination-Mini (water), apolis (city), therefore, "City of Waters." Good, so far as it goes! We drank from the old town well many years and found that it satisfies.
As to the local use of the word, we have it on the authority of the late Frank Rees, who may have been present at the christening, that the name for the future county seat was suggested by Captain Pierce, who had come to the county from Minneapolis, Minn. Everybody came from somewhere in those days. The homestead of Capt. A. D. Pierce was a mile or so below the present site of Sumnerville station, at a fording place on the Solomon which still bears his name. At one time, in June, 1869, an Indian raid extended as far down the valley as his place; but the marauders were beaten off by the homesteader, with the able assistance of another pioneer-Ben Markley.
The Pierce family evidently did not remain to enjoy the peace and prosperity that later came to the Solomon valley, for, after the death of the captain, survivors of that name appear to have left the country.
Although Ottawa county had been legally established in 1860, it
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was not formally organized until six years later. At the time of its establishment Ayersburg had been designated by the governor as the temporary county seat; but at the first election held in the county, November, 1866, the community center of Minneapolis was chosen instead. A post office was established at the latter place on January 13, 1868. Elijah Smith, who was afterwards identified with the business interests of the new town, was the first postmaster. Minneapolis appeared on a state map for the first time in 1870.
Ayersburg, to which reference has been made above, was the cabin of Seymour Ayers, on Lindsey creek, between the present highway bridge and the mouth of the stream. As legally constituted, it had been the county seat for more than six years. A post office of that name was established on July 16, 1864, the same date on which Bennington post office was created. These two, then, were the first post offices in the county.
The first postmaster at Ayersburg was John C. Boblett, who, according to report, dealt out the postal cards at a cabin somewhat nearer the present. site of Minneapolis than the home of Seymour Ayers on Lindsey creek. The latter, however, succeeded to the postmastership on September 12, 1865. From the recollections of Mrs. Frank Rees, Ayers used to ride to Solomon once or twice a week to supply the neighbors with their news of the outside world. After serving in this capacity until July 5, 1867, he was succeeded by Thomas Waddell, who held the office until it was changed in name to Lindsey the next year. "Ayersburg" appears on Keeler's map, 1866-1867, and on Colton's map, 1867, but on no map published later.
The Ayers family afterwards moved to a farm on Pipe creek, on which, or near which, the Ayers schoolhouse, district No. 10, stood in later years. The old stone schoolhouse has been replaced by another which bears the name of Woodsdale.
The original townsite of Lindsey was less than a mile from the proposed Ayersburg, and the history of the two efforts to establish a community center is practically the same-early rivalry to hold there the county seat designated by the governor at the creation of the county. As we have noted, however, Minneapolis was chosen in the election of 1866.
A post office was established at Lindsey on July 7, 1868, Harvey Markel (Markley?) being appointed postmaster. When the writer first saw the place, in October 1879, this office was in the old hotel or stage tavern which stood at the first corner south of the Lindsey creek bridge. It was then the home of the Best family and Mrs.
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Best's second husband, O. B. Potter. The schoolhouse, "Dickie" Knight's blacksmith shop, two or three old shacks, and a number of cellars were all that remained of the former aspirant for county-seat honors. In later years the school, the blacksmith shop, and the post office were reestablished at the railroad crossing a half mile farther south, where Lindsey is still on the map.
If the man Lindsey, who once claimed the creek for his own, was the type of "gentleman" Cutler pictures him in his historical reference, perhaps his hoodoo thwarted the efforts of the settlers to build on this stream a city of destiny. On the other hand, the shades of the gallant Pike, who fell at York in the defense of his country, may have assisted in the establishment of a town at the mouth of a stream evidently intended to be named for him.
We have not been able to learn definitely just why the original post office at Bennington was so named. But since there is a post office in each of seven states of the Union apparently named for the original Bennington, Vt., we assume that this is a case in which a designation was given the Ottawa county location by an official of the federal post office. Bennington, Kan., post office was established on July 16, 1864. Two years later the name appeared on both Colton's map and Keeler's map of the territory.
Samuel Z. Boss was the first postmaster at Bennington, according to government records. Some have thought to identify Richard Knight with this position, and state that he came to the Solomon valley from Bennington, Vt. But members of Richard Knight's family state that he came to Bennington, Kan., in 1866, after having served an enlistment in the Second Colorado cavalry. He was born in Ireland, and when he came to this country located at Sandusky, Ohio, before coming to the West. His homestead dugout and blacksmith shop were near a lone cottonwood tree about one-fourth mile southwest of the intersection of the section lines in the present town of Bennington. In 1870 he was flooded out by high water in Sand creek and moved to Lindsey.
Bennington, Vt., is the only town in the list of eight of the name that has a population over one thousand. It was there we fought, and won, a decisive battle of the Revolutionary War.
In discussing the two geographical locations down the line below Bennington, we are inclined to sympathize with the fellow who "Stood on the bridge at midnight, feeling rather tough; Two moons rose o'er the city, where one would have been enough."
There are some discrepancies in the reports we have as to the
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naming of Niles and Verdi, but all other historical facts seem to accord fairly well. To begin with the federal government records, a post office was established at "Coal Creek" on October 3, 1866, with Jas. L. Ingersoll in charge. This office was located on a claim between the present stations of Niles and Verdi, which are less than three miles apart. The origin of the name Coal creek has been discussed elsewhere in this article.
On April 18, 1879, the name of the office was changed to "Georgetown," the first postmaster under this new name being John J. Jenness. Two correspondents who gathered information for the writer about twenty years later, at Niles and Verdi, respectively, state that this office was so named in honor of George Ingersoll, on whose original claim it was located. Did the old timers have in mind Jas. L. Ingersoll, the first postmaster at the "Coal Creek" office? At any rate there are Georgetown post offices in twenty-seven different states of the Union, all presumably named after the "Father of his Country."
A few years later, January 16, 1885, this office was changed to "Verdi," with C. H. Shultice as the first postmaster. Verdi was a new railroad station just north of the mouth of Coal creek. In the same year, according to one correspondent, a post office was established at "Nilesville," a station about three miles farther down, and below the mouth of Coal creek. The report of this correspondent we have been able to verify just recently by further inquiry at the federal department. The office at Nilesville was created August 10, 1885, with Thomas Casebeer in charge. Two years subsequent to this event, or, to be exact, on August 25, 1887, the office was rechristened "Niles."
As to the origin of the two names, "Niles" honors the memory of Hezekiah Niles, an American publisher who was the founder and for many years editor of the Niles' Weekly Register, at Baltimore, Md., and Washington, D. C. This publication was devoted chiefly to the discussion of political matters and affairs of state and is a valuable source for the study of American history of the period 1810 to 1850. There are ten towns named Niles in as many different states of our country. Two of them only, in Ohio and in Michigan, have a population of more than one thousand.
Josiah Hocker, on whose land the railroad station of Niles, Kan., was built, is reported to have named the place after his old home town of Niles, Ind., according to one correspondent, or Niles, N. Y., in the Mohawk valley, according to another. As there is neither a
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"Niles" nor a "Nilesville" in either state, it is probable that the name was suggested by someone in the federal post office.
"Niles V" appears on Rand, McNally & Company's map published in 1886. On a revision of this map in 1888 the name has been changed to "Niles."
Kansas, Minnesota and Texas have each honored the great composer, Verdi, with a post office bearing his name. If anyone at Verdi, Kan., suggested the name for the local office, it may have been, as one correspondent writes, because of the famous singing schools conducted there at the time by Thomas Wood, and by the musical compositions of Mrs. Effie B. Frost. Officials of the Union Pacific railroad, who are credited with having named the station, report that their records do not show this to be the case. "Verdi" first appears on a map, along with "Niles V," in 1886.
Cleomenes, returning from a visit to the famous oracle at Delphos, in ancient Greece, reported, "The climate's delicate; the air most sweet." Considerations of this sort may or may not have influenced the Ottawa county pioneer, Levi Yockey, to suggest the name Delphos for the post office of which he first had charge. Probably, however, memories of his old home town of Delphos, Ohio, influenced him more than any knowledge of Shakespeare's Winter's Tale.
The office was established on November 13, 1866, in Yockey's cabin on the creek that still bears his name. Here the pioneers are reported to have gathered on "mail days" to witness the dumping of the sack's contents in the middle of the floor, after which ceremony every fellow scrambled about on hands and knees to get all he could rightfully claim.
The townsite of Delphos was laid out by W. A. Kiser, on his land, in 1869-1870, when the memory of Indian raids was still fresh in the minds of the few settlers. One such incursion of the Cheyennes reached Yockey creek on August 12, 1868. In another raid, on October 14 of the same year, Peter Karnes, John Andrews, and two members of the Smith family were killed, and Mrs. Morgan was taken prisoner. A third raid has been mentioned in connection with Captain Pierce's defense of his cabin at Pierce's ford.
Delphos first appears on a map of the state (Keeler's) in 1866-1867, along with three other locations in the county-Ayersburg, Coal Creek and Bennington.
In the summer following the arrival of the first mail bag at Yockey's cabin, Capt. A. D. Pierce landed a post office for his
242 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
community down the river. This was on June 21, 1867, and the place was called Sumnerville. It still has the distinction of being the only Sumnerville in the United States, though there are nineteen places called Sumner. All apparently were named in honor of the eminent statesman, Charles Sumner, whose famous speech in the senate on "The Crime Against Kansas" provoked the assault on his life by Representative Brooks of South Carolina. Whether the name of the new post office was suggested by Captain Pierce or provided by the federal officials we have not been able to learn. A railroad station still bears the name, but the post office has been discontinued with the spread of rural free delivery.
The post office at Ada, Kan., was called to serve the public on August 26, 1872. Jacob B. Lane was in charge, and in honor of his wife, Ada, he suggested the name for his cabin which held the soap box which held the few communications received once a week from the outside world. S. P. Beucler later secured the office for his store, the nucleus of the town Ada, about two miles northeast of the Lane homestead. For a long time, he writes, his office did not average more than a half dozen pieces of mail a week. With the coming of the Santa Fe railway, in 1887, the post office and the town of Ada were shifted three-fourths of a mile southeast to the station located there.
The Santa Fe railway officials named their way station between Minneapolis and Ada in compliment to Mrs. Blades, on whose land it is located. As Miss Thirza A. Brewer she had homesteaded the quarter in 1871. The year previous to the coming of the railroad a star-route post office had been established in this locality at the bachelor headquarters of Nathaniel B. Penquite and his brother Frank. This event dates back to January 11, 1886. Nathaniel was named as postmaster and, in addition to their none too burdensome duties of canceling stamps and distributing mail, the two brothers kept a small stock of goods for sale to the neighbors.
When Brewer station was located the next year the post office was transferred there, with Mrs. Blades in charge. Owing to a similarity in the name of the station and that of another post office in Kansas, the office at Brewer kept its original name of Penquite until it was discontinued on March 15, 1895.
About nine miles east of Minneapolis another station was located on the new Santa Fe line in 1887. It was called "Wells" by the railway officials, probably in honor of Henry Wells, whose name was
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linked with that of Wm. G. Fargo in the operation of an express company on that line.
The name "Wells" has been given also to a dozen other towns in the United States, not to mention combinations which may refer to springs of water. At first the federal officials refused to accept the designation for a post office, and when one was established there on May 21, 1888, it was called "Poe." The first postmaster was Isaac Piper, who still held the position when the name of the office was finally changed to Wells, October 26, 1892. Another post office, in Logan county, fell heir to the name Poe.
The location of a post office at Vine creek, or Vine, in the eastern part of the county, antedated by several years the coming of the railroad; for the records show that the date of its establishment was December 9, 1879. The writer, having hunted rabbits in pedagogic days along these branches of Coal creek, is ready to testify that there are more vines than creeks. Therefore, perhaps, the government officials were justified in shortening the name of the office to "Vine." The name was suggested by the first postmistress, Mrs. Sara D. Seely.
Rumor has it that the little stream on which the railway station of Vine Creek is now located was once called "Nigger creek." All honor to the lady who suggested the change.
For forty years a post office was maintained at the community center of Lamar, on upper Pipe creek. This office was established on June 20, 1872, with Harlan P. Sanford in charge. Its sponsor was Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar, of Confederate fame, later member of congress and associate justice of the supreme court. The site of the civic center of Lamar is said to have been changed, in 1882, to -a point about 140 rods east of its first location. The post office was discontinued on March 28, 1912, the place being served thereafter by rural free delivery.
Early developments in the Saline valley district of Ottawa county resulted in the establishment of the two post offices there on the same date, April 8, 1869. The "Churchill" office was on the farm of T. B. Sears, its first postmaster. This was on the section directly south of the one on which the railroad station at Tescott is now located. The place was named by Mr. Sears in honor of his mother's family, the Churchills, of New England stock. The other office was called "Windsor," but for whom and by whom we have not been able to learn. Neither can we place its exact. location. Its first postmaster
244 THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
was E. C. Fisher, and as an office under the name Windsor it was discontinued on May 24, 1887, with the coming of the railroad.
About the same time, or a little earlier, two other star-route post offices of the Saline valley were discontinued and for the same reason-the building of the new Lincoln Branch railroad. These offices were "Bluffton" and "York." The former had been established on January 30, 1872, and was discontinued August 4, 1886. Its location was about three miles south and a little east of Tescott, near the county line. Its first postmaster was Peter Kipfer. York post office was located perhaps four miles northeast of Tescott and was first in charge of Henry M. Miner. It was created on April 14, 1880, and ceased to exist August 20, 1886.
Churchill office was never really discontinued but was changed in name to "Tescott" on August 4, 1886. At that time it was changed in location, also, to the new railroad station and town of Tescott, across the river and a mile or so to the north. The place was so called in honor of T. E. Scott, one of the progressive, outstanding farmers of the community. On his lands a part of the new town had been platted. The first postmaster at Tescott was Nathan H. Eddy.
Culver had its baptism of fire in the mid-September days of 1868, when the sun shone hot on the sands of Beecher Island. There in the dry bed of the Arickaree Fork, Lieut. Geo. W. Culver gave his life on the first day of the memorable fight with Indian hordes under the leadership of Roman Nose. Lieutenant Culver, originally from New York state, was reputed as a man of intelligence and sterling worth, and had won honors in service with the second Colorado cavalry. Before entering upon the campaign in which he lost his life, he had requested that in case he should never return his homestead claim on the Saline river should be given to his partner, a Mr. Hotchkiss. This homestead, according to a comrade, was located about a mile south of the present site of Tescott.
Associated with Culver in the fight at Beecher Island for the defense of their homes on the Kansas frontier was Howard Morton, another settler of the Saline valley. He was seriously wounded by an Indian's bullet, but survived the terrible encounter to live through the years of peace and prosperity that came as a result of the sacrifice at Arickaree.
Two of the municipal townships in the southwestern part of the county were named in honor of Culver and Morton. As a memorial to the former, also, Culver post office was established on April 14, 1875, at the home of the first postmaster, Robt. H. Lesley. After
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one or two changes to other farm homes, the office was located at the new railroad station of Culver in 1886.
In closing this historical sketch it may be considered worth while to include a few extinct geographical locations in Ottawa county--farm-home post offices which have ceased to exist:
|Ackley||Mar. 7, 1879||Ottawa township||June 2, 1888||Matilda Edwards|
|Ailanthus||Oct. 13, 1881||Garfield township||Oct. 18, 1882||A. S. Kinsey|
|Braid||Dec. 21, 1885||Durham township||May 14, 1890||Thos. Durham|
|Caledonia||May 5, 1878||Concord township||Feb. 12, 1885||Cicero H. Frost|
|Grover||April 19, 1870||Logan township||Nov. 4, 1885||Wm. Postlethwait|
|Melville||Mar. 25, 1878||Chapman township||Sept. 4, 1890||Jas. 8. B. McNay|
|Ohio Grove||Oct. 20, 1873||Culver township||*||J. C. Pittinger|
|Pipe Creek||June 24, 1874||Logan township||Sept. 30, 1898||Edwin Colton|
|Ritaman||June 7, 1880||Durham township||Oct. 5, 1881||David T. Riteman|
|Widerange||Sept. 4, 1882||Durham township||Feb. 29, 1904||Wm. M. Wyant|
|Yale||Mar. 17, 1873||Sherman township||Feb. 5, 1887||S. Y. Woodhull|
* Changed to Crown Point, in Saline county.