By Martin Vaught.
In August, 1857, George T. Donaldson, J. C. Lambdin, his son Ralph, and myself, camped at Emporia, at that time
a village of less than a dozen houses. We were looking for homes and others joined us, among whom were William
Woodruff and wife, James Leander, Horace Cole, Stephen White, Israel, Tom and Dave Scott and their mother, Mrs.
DeRacken and her sons, Bob, John and Ruben; William Rice, and last, but not least, Prince Gorum Davis Morton, who,
having a wooden limb, was vulgarly dubbed pegleg. There came to our camp, too, with a long swinging stride, a long
rifle on his shoulder, a large pack on his back, carrying his boots, while his feet were unshod, his hat rimless
and clothing in tatters, a man who had been on an extended tramp. His hair was light, his eyes blue and bright
and contrasted strikingly with his suntanned skin. His name was I. N. Barton, college professor and civil engineer
from Maine. He had come to Kansas for health and had found it, having explored every stream south of Neosho and
as far west as Cow creek, west of Wichita. His description of the Walnut and Whitewater valleys and prediction
that in and near them was the garden spot of Kansas won us, and we unanimously decided to go with him and see them.
We crossed the Cottonwood where now is Soden's mill and proceeded across the trackless prairie southwest, up the
south fork of the Cottonwood, over the divide to Sycamore Springs and down the Walnut to the hill where J. K. Nelson's
house stands, northeast of Chelsea. We halted and took in the beautiful expanse, over the valley to the south,
to Cole creek on one hand and DeRacken on the other. Surprised and pleased, we went into camp on what is now the
Phineas Osborn farm, a half mile east of Chelsea.
We quickly took our claims. We went to building log cabins - homes - with a will. The three Cole brothers settled
on the stream - on section 16, now the Shelden farm - that bears their name. The DeRackens took claims on the stream
to which they gave their name, now incorrectly spelled Durachen. We found Doctor Lewellyn settled on the land which
is his home today, and Charles Jefferson, father of Henry, the first white boy born in Butler county - thirty six
years ago, or 1859 - was his neighbor on the north. Henry Martin, afterward so prominent in Butler county affairs,
was farther down the stream. All the land about us was unsurveyed and none could tell where to run lines that would
encompass all he desired, but it was in October, 1857, when I took my claim (because of the abundant timber on
it) at the junction of DeRacken with the main stream, now the C. H. Dawson farm.
"Pegleg" Morton was from Boston, which was to him the hub of the solar and other systems. He was a good
singer and enlivened our camp with songs whenever not engaged in relating his adventures, the like of which never
were on land or sea. He had sung to the elite of earth, even the crowned heads of Europe as far back as Mary Queen
of Scots. We kept tab on him and figured up by his romancing that he was not under 400 years old. He claimed to
be only 35. Morton named Chelsea. He wanted to call it Boston or New Boston, because he was from Boston. We compromised
on Chelsea, which is a town near Boston, and Chelsea it is even to this day. The first plat was made by a company
on what is now the Buchanan and Nelson farms, in 1858, and another, I believe, in 1867, where the school house
now is. The Cole brothers and White were from Wisconsin; Woodruff and Rice, Iowa; Scotts, Illinois; Lambdin, Indiana;
Donaldson and myself, last, anyhow, from Jefferson county, Kansas. The Lord only knows where the DeRackens did
In fifty eight the fifth parallel was the line between Butler and Hunter county on the south. West of range 4 was
Otoe; south of Otoe, Irving, while the east line of Butler crossed Fall river near Eureka.
Among the several families that came in the fall of fifty eight was Daniel Shipley, a burly Missourian, who rarely
wore a hat or shoes. His shirt flared open at the bosom and his arms were bare. He was always ready for a fight.
Ewing Moxley was another, a thorough frontiersman, born in the wilds, an unerring marksman, fearless, honest and
simple and tender as a child. I never read Fenimore Cooper's "Leather Stocking Tales" without thinking
of Moxley. He had been a government scout and guide on the plains and while carrying dispatches was drowned in
the Kaw river near Lawrence in attempting to swim his horse across it. Henderson Thomas first settled on what is
now the Henry Diller farm in Sycamore. F. B. McAllister started a blacksmith shop on the Cogeshall farm north of
Nelson. Settlers came in rapidly and took claims on all the creeks, the more heavily timbered ones first. William
Thoroughman was the first settler on Satchell creek. He subsequently sold his land for $300 to Thomas W. Satchell,
who gave his name to the stream. This was afterward the Shaffer brothers' farm and is now owned by Charles L. King.
It has on it a magnificent spring which furnished water even in 1860, the year of the terrible drouth.
Our most accessible postoffice was Lawrence. A triweekly hack was running from Lawrence to Emporia, and Chelsea
and Emporia people rented box 400 at Lawrence, to which their mail was addressed. Whoever went to Emporia brought
down the mail for Chelsea, receiving it from Messrs. Fick & Eskride; merchants. Ox teams were used for all
purposes, whether freighting or going to church or a dance.
L. M. Pratt, his wife and sons, John and Dick, came in the winter of fifty seven - fifty eight; also Matthew Cowley,
James Trask and Dr. S. P. Barrett. Settlements were made on West Branch, upper Whitewater, and on Fall river by
a Norwegian colony, whose names even to this day prove that they stayed. Such as Ole Ladd and H. G. Branson were
leaders. In troublous times we found them loyal and true.
Our amusements were hunting buffalo, deer and turkeys, which abounded. I have seen the prairies between the Whitewater
and the Arkansas black with apparently one herd of buffalo. Turkeys came to our corn cribs. Lambdiñ shot
one in his crib one Christmas morning. Dances were frequent. James Gordy and John Pratt, both still living, the
one at Oklahoma City, the other at Cottonwood Falls, were the fiddlers - Gordy played half a tune and Pratt the
other half, passing the fiddle back and forth. We stayed all night. One time we started to a dance with an ox team
and picked up so many girls that the boys had to walk
My first acquaintance with Bige Bemis was when I found him roasting chickens in camp. His was probably the first
restaurant in the valley; we got all the chicken we wanted and a drink out of his whiskey jug for fifty cents.
In the spring of fifty nine C. S. Lambdin, cousin of J. C. Lambdin, built a saw and grist mill at Chelsea, the
settlers hauling the machinery from Leroy. We now established independent municipal organization and we voted on
one of the numerous state constitutions submitted to us. The first election was in a grove near Joseph McDaniel's
house, on Bchanan's farm. We used an old coffee mill for a ballot box, furnished by Mrs. Woodruff to help us out
of the dilemma. The drawer would be pulled, the ballot deposited, the drawer closed and the will of an American
Kansas elector was expressed.
Archibald Ellis came to us this summer, a sterling man in every relation, a true man, excellent citizen, fine neighbor
and honest officer. He and his most estimable wife were from Ireland. They were indefatigable workers and generous
and kindly beyond expression to their neighbors and friends. They are remembered by hundreds in Butler county for
their strength of character, their integrity, thrift and energy. Their children are among the prominent people
of the county, and are wealthy, not alone by what they inherited, but by what they themselves have won. George
(now deceased) and John have splendid farms which they till with profit. John was county commissioner and served
two terms. Mrs. N. B. Cogeshall, who resides near Chelsea, is their only daughter.
Illustrating the light hold the moral code had on some, let me say that many horses had mysteriously disappeared
and were traced very close to DeRacken's, and Bob was suspected. A vigilance committee called on him but he was
discreetly absent. His younger brother was - caught and ordered to tell where Bob was. He refused, a rope was brought
and he was hung by the neck repeatedly, but he was steadfast and said they might take his life, but they couldn't
make him tell, and they didn't. The DeRackens, however, "made themselves scarce."
J. C. Lambdin was elected to the upper house of the territorial council of fifty nine, the member of the lower
house coming from Chase county. Lambdin was also a member of the constitutional convention in 1860, and under that
constitution the State was admitted, January 29, 1861.
The year 1860 surpassed beyond expression any I ever saw in Kansas. It was a year of unprecedented drouth - May,
June and July passed without a drop of rain. Every green thing withered; even the leaves on the trees turned yellow
and then brown. The streams dried up. Fish innumerable died, and as the deep water holes dried away they were pitched
into a wagon and hauled to hogs. Great seams cracked in the earth. It was really dangerous to ride a pony at speed
across the prairie. To add to our woes along in August came myriads of grasshoppers that literally hid the sun.
Many settlers, under these distressing circumstances, coupled with the doubt what democracy meant to do regarding
their homesteads, left the State never to return. This awful year gave Kansas a name that was a detriment to her
for years after.
A settler named Gordon died, and his widow, trying to save the claim and house, went to Lawrence, where she had
friends who would furnish her money. Her claim was "jumped" by a man and his two sons, who shall be nameless
here. They had taken possession, but George T. Donaldson notified the settlers of the facts and in a short time
a hundred men were at the widow's cabin fighting mad. It was dusk and the jumpers were within. Donaldson hailed
them. They refused to open the door and Donaldson promptly kicked it into the middle of the cabin. The inmates
were ordered to strike a light, which they did. They said they were going to hold the claim. The settlers expressed
a different view and directed that they load their "plunder" into their Wagon and get off immediately.
They pleaded that their horses were on the prairie a,nd could not be found. It was no use, the settlers made them
load up, the old man was required to take the end of the tongue and each boy a single tree and the procession moved.
When they reached a big drift near Lewellyn's they were halted. The drift was fired and preparations made to hold
an impromptu court. The culprits were ready to promise anything and were turned loose. That broke up claim jumping.
The first law suit was before Jutice Scott. Rev. Isaac Winberg, of Cole creek, had a yoke of oxen that broke
into a neighbor's field. The neighbor brought suit for damages. A. J. Miller was attorney for the plaintiff and
"Pegleg" Morton for the defendant. The case was heard and the jury retired to deliberate in the shade
of a tree. Dan Shipley was foreman and, when a verdict was quickly reached, marched the jury back, single file.
Barefooted, bareheaded, shirt wide open, sleeves rolled up and his stiff hair standing on end, he loomed before
the court. "Have you agreed on a verdict?" said Justice Scott. "Yes, by Gad, we have," said
Shipley. "Hand it to the court." said Scott. "Well, judge, by G---d, it ain't writ," said the
foreman. "We, the jury in the d---d case decide that this here court hain't got no jurisdiction; we'll be
d--d if old Pratt shall run this county!" Miller protested and Shipley told him to "shut his d---d mouth
or there'd be a --- get a --- good licking quick." The case ended.
Rev. J. S. Saxby was a Congregational minister who took to the frontier like a duck to water. He created quite
a sensation by his brilliant sermons, until some too critical persons who read the New York "Independent"
claimed to have discovered a remarkable similarity between his discourses and those of Henry Ward Beecher. Saxby
was a good feeder. Any old settler can tell of his marvelous gastronomic feats. Getting ready for a buffalo hunt,
Saxby was preparing to grease his wagon, having only a small piece of tallow for the purpose. He laid it down for
a moment, a dog bolted it, whereupon he calmly shot the dog, removed the lubricant by means of a butcher knife
and was soon ready to roll out.
Some buffalo hunters coming in off the plains in 1859 became frightened at what they thought to be hostile Indians.
They alarmed the settlers on Whitewater and the lower Walnut. There was a great stampede to Chelsea. One of the
hunters, Jerry Woodruff, mounted a pony at Towanda springs and, with a butcher knife for a spur, made the trip
to Chelsea in quick time, feeling for his scalp at every jump and warning everybody he saw. The settlers barricaded
the C. S. Lamblin (log) house that stood on the then townsite not far from where J. K. Nelson's house now is. Some
of the settlers declared that as they came they saw houses burning on the Whitewater. Wagons were formed into corrals
with the stock inside. Water was provided in the house and every preparation made to stand off the noble Red Man.
Pickets were posted by Capt. George T. Donaldson, who commanded, among them "Pegleg" Morton. Along toward
morning, when Indians usually make attacks, he heard the whizz of arrows coming from the river. In a panic he fired
his gun and broke for the house yelling "Indians! Indians! The Indians have come! !" Consternation reigned.
Children cried; mothers prayed; men swore and prepared to sell their lives dearly. The redskins didn't advance
at once and cool men said we'll reconnoiter. They advanced with Morton to his picket post when whizz! whizz! went
the arrows. "That's them," said Morton, "they're shooting at us!" But the sounds were nothing
more nor less than goshawks gathering their food as they flew. Morton never heard the last of his scare. The Indians
didn't come, and those of the settlers who quit running at Chelsea (some didn't, continuing on to "the States")
returned to their claims. The alarm was due to the passing of Indians from the southwest to fight with the Kaws
near Council Grove. The false character of the scare was not discovered until P. B. Plumb, at the head of a small
company from Emporia, came down to help repel the Indians. Emporia was a little selfish perhaps. She wanted the
people of the Walnut as a buffer between herself and the Indians. Neither storm nor flood could restrain Plumb
and his men in after years from coming to our relief at the least hint of trouble.
George T. Donaldson was Chelsea's first postmaster. Many early pioneers recall him. He was a natural leader, keen,
quiet, soft spoken, with a dash and daring when there was a call for action that made him the admiration of the
settlers. He had good judgment and was never "rattled" by emergencies. He had accumulated some Boo acres
of land, was in the very prime and vigor of manhood, when in hauling logs, on November 4, 1869, one of them rolled
off the wagon, crushing him upon a wheel as it went.
The awful drouth of 1860 was most disheartening and hundreds of settlers left their claims. Agents went to the
States and solicited aid. S. C. Pomeroy, afterward United States Senator, was relief agent at Atchison and all
supplies were shipped to him. The human hogs came to the front, as usual on such occasions but generally relief
was fairly distributed. Grain, flour and beans were shipped in heavy grain bags which were afterward utilized for
clothing, on which the lettering would show. Sometimeg it would be "S. C. Pomeroy" on one leg, "Kansas
Relief" on the other and "Atchison" somewhere else. A pair of pants worn by ____ Bixler took the
cake. He was both broad and tall and on the broadest part of his pants in black letters was "Kansas Relief,
S. C. Pomeroy, Atchison, Kansas."
I went to my old home in Edgar county, Illinois, in the fall of 186o and did what I could soliciting aid for "Bleeding
Kansas," a name given in derision by proslavery people. When I returned in the spring of sixty one I did not
come alone. I had induced a brave hearted girl to cast her lot with mine. To my wife is due in great measure the
credit of our staying through the dangers and privations which followed. The "Border War" in Kansas and
the issues leading thereto had become national and the Civil War came on. The Indians were restless and threatening.
Many settlers abandoned their homes. A majority of the able bodied men enlisted in the Union cause. A more patriotic
and heroic people never lived than the Kansans of sixty one and sixty five. Enlistments from our section were discouraged.
Col P. B. Plumb declared that one of us was worth more to the country here than ten of us in the army because of
the rebel and Indian raids which we could repel. We kept up a military organization in readiness most of the time
for quick action.
Butler county's first organization was in 1859, when J. R. Lambdin (Joshua?) was chosen county clerk; C. S. Lambdin,
county treasurer; J. C. Lambdin, probate judge; Dr. Lcwellyn, sheriff, and George T. Donaldson, Dr. P. G. Barrett
and Jacob Landis, county commissioners. This organization failed, most of the officers moving away.
In sixty two more grief came to us. Nevin A. Vaught and Ole Branson gave their young lives to their country and
were buried in unknown graves near Springfield, Mo. Soon after followed Moses, Thomas and Burge Atwood. I cannot
recall all, but I know that few who enlisted returned.
In those days buffalo and wolf hunting was a source of revenue. Wolf pelts were worth $1.25 to $2 each and buffalo
skins brought from $3 to $6. These furs had to be taken in the winter, and danger from storms and Indians made
hunting no pleasant work.
In sixty three Rev. I. C. Morse, of Emporia, Congregationalist, preached to us occasionally. Elder Rice, who was
presiding elder of the Emporia M. E. Church, preached each quarter at Donaldson's (log) house that stood but a
short distance south and west of where the stone dwelling is on the Holderman farm. Father Stanbury, an itinerant
Methodist and an unique character, also came occasionally.
Society as now defined was unknown yet, and the people were bound by social ties that do not now exist. One neighbor
could not do too much for another. None thought of locking doors or granaries. Strangers were welcomed with genuine
hospitality and entertainment for man and beast was free.
Miss Sarah C. Satchell taught the first school in Butler county, in the summer of 1860. Miss Maggie Vaught (Mrs.
H. O. Chittenden) taught the next two years. Oliver C. Link taught a term. In sixty two I enlisted in the Union
army, expecting to help fight General Price in Missouri, but instead was sent to the plains to watch forts and
Indians. I shall never forget one beautiful Sunday morning in April, sixty five, when I saw a horseman flying down
the road toward the present Chelsea, waving a newspaper over his head. It was Henry Donald, and he was shouting,
"Richmond is took! Richmond is took!" We could readily forgive his bad grammar for his news was very
good, and we rejoiced.
John Houser came in sixty nine and seventy and set up his blacksmith shop on a lot in front of (west of) the store
there now. His shop had neither foundation, sides nor roof - the whole business was out of doors. He had few tools,
but he made good use of them. He was successful and now owns a good farm and is one of the esteemed citizens of
the community where he has resided for years. (He now lives in El Dorado.) Mr. and Mrs. Joel Benson (both deceased)
and their sons, William and Fred (deceased) came in the latter part of seventy and located on what was then known
as the Mc Quarter land. They lived there until 1900, when Joel and William Benson moved to El Dorado, where William
was engaged in banking business. Fred Benson left the farm three years later to become register of deeds of this
county. In seventy seven, J. S. McWhorter, Henry Bell and J. K. Skinner put in a saw mill and shingle machine at
Chelsea. A Mr. Watson opened a store. Dr. Sparks stuck out his professional shingle. J. B. Shough, now of Prospect,
built a hotel, which still stands as the Chelsea store. J. B. Parsons, J. C. Rayburn, J. M. Rayburn, Dr. Zimmerman
and some others built dwellings and business houses. The next year, sixty nine, O. E Sadler and J. C. Becker built
the first good dwelling in Chelsea and put a stock of goods in it.
A big frame school house was erected, the first in the county and the first bell ever in the county was hung in
the belfry and is there yet. Mrs. J. E. Buchanan, Mrs. George Ellis and Miss Alma Henderson (now Mrs. Neil Wilkie,
of Douglass) were the teachers in those early days.
In looking back nearly thirty eight years I recall many sad and sorrowful scenes and many ludicrous events. The
remembrance of friends who, like myself, were then young, now old and gray; the recollection of many who have gone
to the "undiscovered country" is a solemn retrospect. Among the true hearted friends of that time who
have passed away are Mrs. Garrett, Archibald Ellis and his wife, George T. Donaldson and wife (my sister), J. C.
Lambdin and his son Joshua, Henderson Thomas and wife, P. P. Johnson and wife, drowned on West Branch in the flood
of sixty nine; Mrs. Lizzie Goodall, T. W. Satchell, J. M. Rayburn, Mr. and Mrs. C. A. Taylor, and Matthew Cowley
and the other boys in blue who gave their lives a sacrifice for the country. Peace he to their ashes.