History of Muscotah, Kansas
From: History of Atchison County, Kansas
BY: Sheffield Ingalls
Standard Publishing Company
Lawrence, Kansas 1916


The name of "Muscotah" is of Indian origin, but when, why and by whom it was applied to a town, seems to be a question. "Andreas' History of Kansas," in a brief historical mention of the town of Muscotah, says: "The name Muscotah, written in Indian Styled, Musco-tah, signifies 'Beautiful Prairie,' or "Prairie on Fire.' " Andreas does not give any authority for this statement, but on page 1343 in a biographical sketch of William D. Barnett, one of the earliest settlers of Muscotah, he says that Mr. Barnett did not name the town, but that it was named by Paschal Pensoneau, the old Kickapoo trader and interpreter! Mr. Kessler was a blacksmith among the Kickapoos at an early day.

Maj. C. B. Keith was one of the founders of Muscotab, and an early agent for the Kickapoo Indians. In a letter under date of December 8, 1908, Mrs. Keith, the widow of Major Keith, wrote that Muscotah was named by her husband and her two brothers, William P. and John C. Badger. She corroborates Andreas in his statement fhat the name signifies "Beautiful Prairie," or "Prairie on Fire," and says that Muscotah should be accented on the last syllable. She further says that Paschal Pensoneau may have suggested the name, and incidentally adds: "He was interpreter for my brother, William P. Badger, who was Indian agent under President Buchanan, and later for my husband under Lincoln. He was a good friend for both of my brothers and Major Keith, and accompanied my husband to Washington with the head chiefs when hey made their treaty. The original Muscotah was on a fine site and justified the name."

There is a town 'in the old Kickapoo country, in Illinois, named Mascoutah, and believing it to be synonymous with the Atchison county name, though slightly different in orthography and pronunciation, Milo Custer, of Heyworth, Ill., the well known authority on the Kickapoos, wrote: "As to the meaning of the names Muscotah and Mascoutah, they are synonymous with the old Algonquin word, Masko-teh, meaning 'prairies.' The Kickapoo word for prairies was one among others that I failed to get when I visited the tribe in Kansas in October, 1906. However, I am of the opinion that the word was originally derived from Mashie 0-shkoo-teh, meaning Big Fire,' and that it referred to the great prairie fires which swept over the country. In fact I have seen the opinion advanced by some other authority, but cannot now recall the name." When the Kickapoos lived in Illinois there was a band called the Mas-cou-tins, which Maj. H. W. Beckwith, the highest authority on the Illinois tribes, says was the Indian name for "Indians of the Prairie." Hence it is evident that the name Muscotah is at least a derivation of the word "prairie," whether a "beautiful prairie" or "prairie of fire."

The plat of the Muscotah Town Company was filed by W. P. Badger, one of its proprietors, June 5, 1857, and the town is located in section 34, township 5, range 17, on the Central Branch railroad, near the western edge of the county. Its streets run from one to thirteen, and its cross streets are named Pawpaw, Elm, Vine, Walnut, Mulberry, Hickory and Oak. Following the construction of the Central Branch railroad William Osborn filed another plat of the town, and several amendments have since been made to it. Muscotah has always been an important trading point, and one of the prosperous towns of the county. In 1916 there were three general stores, one hardware store, two banks, two elevators, one lumber yard, two cream stations, two barber shops, one harness shop, two drug stores, two restaurants, a hotel, private boarding house, two garages and blacksmith shops. The town also has four practicing physicians, including an osteopath, and one dentist. The first general store was established by Nels Brown in 1868, and a year later Watson & Guy put in a general hardware store. Hagerman & Roach conducted a grain business in 1865, and the first elevator was built in 1874. Several serious fires have destroyed much property in Muscotah, the largest being known as the Watson fire, which occurred in 1883, destroying much property. The first mayor of the town was Dr. William P. Badger, who was eelcted in 1882. Albert Harrington was the first postmaster, in 1866. The first physician toe locate in the present limits of Muscotah was Dr. L. N. Plummer, who came there In 1869. In 1868 a Dr. Heath located a few miles out from Muscotah, but never lived in the town. Dr. S. M. Riggs came in 1872 and he and Dr. Plummer are both active physicians in the practice in 1916, together with Dr. O. O. Barter and Dr. F. A. Bermen. Years before Muscotah was established there was a small settlement nearby where there were a few houses and a postoffice located about where the Robert Russell farm is John Keeley, an enterprising early settler, built a flouring mill on the Grasshopper river, now known as the Delaware, in 1869. Mr. Keeley did considerable business with the farmers in the surrounding territory, but business finally fell off and the mill was washed away by high water in 1895.

Muscotah is an important shipping point, and the annual shipment of grain amounts to $150,000 to $200,000. Much live stock is also shipped from Muscotah, and during the year 1915 fifty two cars of cattle, hogs and horses were shipped to the Kansas City and St. Joseph markets.

Muscotah is also a city of churches and schools. The Congregational church was established in 1866. The pastor of this church in 1916 is Rev. Fred Gray, who preaches to a congregation of about 150. When this church was organized its members worshipd in the home of Robert Russell, which was at that time in the depot, and the church edifice which is now occupied was built in 1914.

The Methodist Episcopal church was established about 1876; it now has a membership of 120, and its pastor is Rev. Rollo J. Fisher.

The Advent Christian church was organized in 1889, and its first pastor was Rev. Marshall McCollough.

Mission Hall is maintained by unattached and unorganized Christians. It holds meeting several times a week, including two services on Sunday.

The public school system of Muscotah includes an accredited high school, in which two four year courses are offered. together with a general and college preparatory course. R. E. Decor is superintendent of schools, and the officers of the school board are: J. F. Thompson, president; W. D. Roach, treasurer; R. A. Allison, secretary. The first school house within the present limits of the town was built in 1870, but was subsequently destroyed by fire when another school was built in 1885. A six room school was erected, and it was also destroyed by fire in January, 1916. A movement is now under way to build a new, handsome, modern school building, to accommodate twelve grades. together with manual training, domestic science and a gymnasium.

Muscotah is supplied with electricity by high tension line from Atchison, and in 1916 it has forty two street lamps and fifty five private consumers.

In addition to being a town of churches and schools, Muscotah also has several active lodges. The Masonic lodge was organized December 20, 1871, by E. D. Hillyer, of Grasshopper Falls, on a dispensation issued by the grand lodge; the charter was issued October 17, 1872, and the officers installed November 16, 1872. The first officers - were: Ben F. Freeland, William N. Kline, Thomas H. Phillips, B. G. Merrill, D. M. Stillman, W. Bullock and I. C. Archer.

Purity Council No. 293, Knights and Ladies of Security, was chartered July 6, 1895, with John. Edward Lewis, president. It had ten charter members and in 1916 there was a membership of seventy, with George W. Rork, president, and Mrs. Carl Rork, secretary.

Modern Woodmen was chartered in August, 1898. The present officers are W. F. Murray, V. H. Little and G. W. Harris. There are also active lodges of the Mystic Workers, Eastern Star and Royal Neighbors.

Muscotah's new combination grade and high school, which will take the place of the one destroyed. by fire, will cost approximately $20,000, and will be a fire proof structure of brick and concrete. When completed it will be one of the best school buildings of its kind in any town the size of Muscotah in the State. The present city officials of Muscotah are: William Buckles, mayor; R. A. Hillyer, J. G. Burbank, W. D. Roach, - R. H. Trial and R. A. Allison, councilmen; H. M. Turner, city clerk; E. M. Hicks, police judge, and S. B. Liggatt, marshal.

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