El Dorado, Kansas in 1870
From: History of Butler County, Kansas
BY: Vol. P. Mooney
Standard Publishing Company
Lawrence, Kansas 1916

EL DORADO IN 1870.
By the Late H. H. Gardner, in 1895.

H. H. Gardner, (deceased), an early day merchant and later a banker writing for the Pioneer Edition of the "Times" in 1895, had this to say of the men most prominent in the city's affairs is those trying days.

"You have requested me, Mr. Shelden, to give my recollections of some of the people who lived in El Dorado during the early days. The year 1870 was the important year of pioneer life for this city. I say important because the foundation of its future was then prepared by those who cast their lot and fate with the fortunes of the place and the hoped-for city in future.

I arrived here on the 7th day of January, 1870, coming by private conveyance from Eureka, which had a hack line from Emporia; a triweekly line started at the beginning of the year, and this route was recommended to me by old man Robinson, who kept the Robinson House in Emporia. It was by his advice I sought the Walnut valley as a promising place for a young man wherein to choose a home and grow up with the country. It was five o'clock in the evening when I crossed the ford south of where R. O. James' mill stands (long removed), and drove up through the main street of the village to the corner where the State bank of El Dorado now does business (now the Citizens State bank). A stone hotel with a frame addition then occupied that corner. The stone part was new and the carpenter's bench was still in the office part of the building. The landlord was Sam Langdon, who met me at the door and to my request for a room for myself and companion John Gilmor, replied we could have a bed but no room to ourselves, for the house was not partitioned off yet nor the upstairs even plastered. We secured our bed in the southwest corner upstairs and deposited our luggage underneath it and were then ready to pay off our driver and begin sizing up the town. We were somewhat chilled from the long drive and the coldness of the day and needed - at least we thought we did - a nip of ginger essence or something of that nature to start our circulation and warm the cockles of the heart. We were referred to a building at the end of the block east of the hotel, which was pointed out as Dr. Allen White's 'foundry' with a drug store in front, whither we repaired and were greeted by Dr. Kellogg, who was the clerk of the store. The doctor could not be prevailed upon to give us anything straight, claiming the law would not permit, so we left him grumbling and feeling down on the town. The axiom of try, try again was then put thoroughly in force and brought its promised reward when we struck Henry Martin's store, then a square front, wooden, two-story building, standing on the corner where George Tolle now obligingly deals in his choice selection of hand me downs. (Haberlein's clothing store now.) The bluff English Henry took in my Dundreary side whiskers, spotted me at once for a Brittisher, and listened to my tale of woe. Joe Potter - all old timers will remember Joe-took us into the back room, disappeared down cellar and brought up a tin pint measure of Pike's Old Magnolia, then quoted at $1.75 per gallon, with gold at $1.20. The chill was averted, the malaria killed and we thought better of the town and the people.

"Returning to the hotel we found the room full of people preparing for supper. There were so many, we remarked, that the whole population must eat with Sam, and that was about right, for I had to wait for the third filling of the dining room. When all seats were taken, if one opened the door and looked in to see what his chance was, he was laughed at by those eating and the cry of 'Scooped, Scooped!' was fired at him with a malignant festivity that made him get out and close the door in a hurry. I caught on next day to the a la mode of the burg. I braced myself against the dining room door about a quarter of an hour before it opened; I was shot in quickly like a package from a pneumatic tube.

"During the next day we made the acquaintance of the reading and representative citizens of El Dorado and were introduced to C. M. Foulks, John H. Betts, N. F. Frazier, Judge J. C. Lambdin, Dr. J. P. Gordon, Capt. A. D. Knowlton, Ben King, Doc. White and Judge Sallee. Doctor Gordon had a twenty five foot stick in his hand that he used to measure off town lots with, and he immediately tackled us on the question of town lot buying, assuring us that the Chicago we had left would be a 'one horse town' when compared with the great metropolis that was to be built upon this site.

We did not decide to permanently locate, when we tossed up a Canadian penny with the Queen's head on one side to decide our fate. If it came head up we were to remain and if tail, to return to Emporia. It came down head side up. Thus how and when we became citizens of El Dorado, and now that a quarter of a century has passed away I draw upon my memory for its recollections of those early days, I find faded negatives stored away in the cells of the brain. They flash to the front with vivid and distinctive outlines that prove what a wonderful store house it is, a photographic depository bringing back the scenes and faces viewed in the long ago.

"That I have only pleasant memories of the good pioneer friends I made in 1870 and who are not here today, I can truthfully say. There was then no caste, no clique, no sect or church separation. We were as one common community dependent on each other for social intercourse, company and human sympathy, a commune, a socialism or interdepend-enee which growth and development spoiled, then crushed and its recollection to all who participated therein can, I am sure, be only a most pleasing reminiscence.

"I think Dr. Allen White was the strong central figure in El Dorado in the days of '70. He was enthusiastically interested in the growth and progress of the town and hardly a night passed that he did not have some private or public meeting of the people to discuss something of importance. He would go his rounds and notify us all to come out. He was a Democrat, but local issues then were paramount and 'Doc' would remark that he had 'to plow with the Republican heifer for the common good.' He was the author of the remark that there was 'no general or state statute against damned fools.' In fact, his quaint and terse sayings were the bonmots of the time and today constitute the special provincialisms of old El Doradoites. When he traveled he always carried a bottle of water in his pocket so when he discarded his chew of fine cut he could rinse out his mouth without leaving his seat. Five feet one way and 220 pounds all over, he hated to get up and sit down often, but when on his feet and in motion he moved brisky for one of his size. He had enterprise and built a showy drug store where Hitchcock's store now stands, the large fine house on Central avenue and laid out the handsomest block and planted trees upon it where Judge Leland's and Ed C. Ellet's (H. Hitchcock's) houses are built.

"Henry Martin was county treasurer in 1870 and had the county safe in his store. There was not much money on hand and the script passed current in trade among the merchants, but as Henry was the treasurer he had a monopoly and what we now call a cinch on his kind of traffic. He lived on his farm where the John Teter farm is now, and owned much good town property. The era of '70 brought business competition to El Dorado and Martin could not stand the new and less profits in selling, so in time his substance melted away and he lost most of his possessions. He was an honest, kind hearted man. He would now and then hit a little too heartily the 'flowing bowl' and when so fixed his favorite remark was 'my name is Haitch, Haitch Martin, and I'm hon it!' the English massacre of the letter H being at that time most pronounced. Martin lost his life while out on the plains on a buffalo hunt with John L. Cuppies and others. He came home badly frozen and died from the effects of the exposure.

"T. B. Murdock and J. S. Danford were the first proprietors of the Walnut Valley Times. The office of the paper was in the second story of Martin's store. Danford attended to the outside business and sold and traded the town, property that was given the firm as a donation to induce the establishment of the paper in El Dorado. Murdock was the editor and worked at the case. Both being strong men mentally, they exercised great influence in the community and were at the head of about all matters of general interest. Danford sold his interest in the paper and was appointed clerk of the district court, justice of the peace and I think probate judge. I know he held three offices at the same time. He finally established the first bank in the town, then changed to a First National bank-this when charters were hard to get and the privilege was not free as now. I never met a brighter, smarter man than Danford and he grew rich fast on three and five per cent per month, the rates for money. He lacked discretion and made too public the nature of his business and his daily 'rake offs' which he should have kept to himself. He left here with a good stake and moved to Osage City and afterwards branched out in a syndicate of banks extending from Caldwell to Carbondale. All went to pieces one day and he was held up at Caldwell by the cow men, a rope put around his neck to scare him to make good the losses to the Caldwell people; but he persuaded the lynching committee to spare his life and he would straighten out matters; but if they killed him they could never hope to secure a cent. His plausible reasoning and the efforts of his true wife in his behalf got him out of his tight place. His wife once nursed me through an attack of bilious fever which followed my experience of the tornado here and I gratefully acknowledge my debt of gratitude therefore and for her other kindnesses of heart I make thankful and respectful recognition.

"Judge J. C. Lambdin was the youngest old gentleman I ever knew.
He was a friend that could be depended on, as true behind your back as he was warm and genial to your face. His tall, commanding form would have made him a man to be observed anywhere. He fought the county seat and political battles of El Dorado with a fervor that was admirable. At a time when he needed it I was able to help him secure the government place he held when he fell dead in Wichita and his warm appreciation of my efforts in his behalf made me feel good all over whenever I thought of the deed. I was pall bearer at his funeral and God knows I mourned him sincerely.

Galligher. Col. Henry T. Sumner and W. P. Campbell were the legal lights of those early days. Galligher had great natural ability and a homespun grade of wit that always provoked laughter by its dryness and quaint expression. The Irish in Sumner was the dominant characteristic, and he had the whole town nicknamed. Some were bishops, others president, elders, princes, grand dukes, and other hifalutin titles.

"John Long in those days talked learnedly of history and his war and political knowledge was unequalled among us all. There was another John whose surname was Donnelly, who was the wit par excellence of the town. He was a harness maker by trade, but upon his first appearance he played the role of a tonsorial artist. When John's nerves were all right you got a clean shave, but after an alcoholic jubilation, how your face would suffer and bleed. John sold his barber shop and opened out in the horse millinery line and did a flourishing business, put on the brakes and made a splendid man of himself. At repartee he was a regular terror and there was a pitched battle in the joke line ever waged between John and Frank Frazier and John Betts - one side having the victory for a time, but ever watchful for surprises. John had a mule that he had taken in trade that he wanted to sell. He led him down town from his home stable and hitched him to a temporary awning post in front of his shop. He found a farmer wanting a mule and was arranging terms of sale and eloquently expatiating on the many good qualities of his mule with the farmer who was inside the shop. Frazier had taken in the performance when he saw the farmer examining the mule, and when he went inside with John, Frank walked quietly down the street from his corner store above and when right in front of the mule took off his slouch hat, flourished it and with his characteristic 'Get out, you son of a jackass, he scared the mule so badly that he jerked the awning post out and galloped up Main street at his best pace taking the post along with him. Donnelly and the farmer came rushing out and gazed at the vanishing beast and the farmer told Donnelly that he would not give a dollar for such a vicious animal. Donnelly looked down the street and saw Frazier so unconcerned and quiet and he at once smelled the mouse and waited for his turn. There came a Polish peddler one evening to his store, who could talk Hebrew lingo better than he could English. Donnelly told him there was a merchant in the store on the corner who spoke the same language the peddler did. 'He is ashamed, however, of his nationality,' said Donnelly, and has changed his name since he came to this country. He calls himself Frazier now but his old name was Slavinski. Come with me and I will introduce you to him, and when you address him in his old home tongue I think he will be glad to see you and will buy a bill of goods from you. The peddler was taken to Betts & Frazier's and Frazier was called for and introduced to him. He began giving Frank his Hebrew lingo at once and copiously. The stony gaze of Frank soon riled him and as he did not reply he changed off to broken English andudely damned him as a man ashamed of his country and his mother tongue and walked out of the store in disgust. Of course Donnelly stayed and enjoyed his avengement of the mule trick.

"C. M. Foulks, who manage the J. C. Fraker general store, was one of the 1870's, a tall young man, with piercing black eyes, raven hair and high color in his cheeks. Charley was the handsome man of his day. With a young blonde wife in striking contrast to his brunette style, the pair was much admired. I had the honor of prescribing for him for indigestion and dyspepsia, and he now claims he had to leave town to escape my medicine and avoid an early grave; truly an ungrateful accusation for my tender care of his health and my recommendation to always take gentian in his.

"Ed C. Ellet was the first of the young men to bring a wife here. He built the house that I. C. Thomas now owns, the first one south of J. R. Cooper's. (This house stood between the homes of R. H. Hazlett and Dr. F. E. Dillenbeck and is now removed.) It looked a long distance out to his home, for there was a large tract of unoccupied land between the four corners and his lot. He was joked about building so near Towanda and asked if he would have his mail to come to him at El Dorado or Towanda. This location is now the choice one upon the town site. We had our first large surprise party at his house, taking canned cove oysters, crackers and canned fruits with us. Mrs. Ellet furnished the milk and made home made cake, and the jolly time of that party was the topic of talk for many weeks, and before and after this party were quotable dates concerning all events for many months thereafter. Mrs. Ellet had what the French call chic, and was so pleasing and gracious of manner that everybody was her friend. She was very young and extra good looking, and when we bachelor youths would visit Ed's snug and attractive home we would be full of envy at his comfortable lot. That picture hastened on the Benedict acts with many a lonesome youth.

"Wm. Price was one of our first teachers and school principals. He was useful in all good works, superintendent of the union Sunday school, and the Sunday he took off to get married, Geo. Tolle, who was secretary, read the Scripture lesson, the one that speaks of the man who married a wife and could not be on hand. George's application was considered a good one. If he had desired a coup de etat he could have taken the superintendency.

"James Thomas was sheriff in 1870 and made a fine officer. After his time expired he opened what was then called the Palace Saloon. Jim claimed he started the saloon because he was a philanthropist and realized that men in those days of excitement and rapid development would drink and use daily a certain amount of stimulant; he proposed to give them good goods in his line to substitute for the sulphuric acid drinks, a milder poison and a slower one. His new era was for the general betterment, and under the benign influence of his better goods, the howls on the street at night were lessened; his whiskey had less fight in it and did not beget a fusilade of revolver shots as a fitting accompaniment. So his mission paved. the way in due time for the evolution of the belief that even good whiskey saloons were not a necessity to the welfare of the town, and by process of further thoughtful developments came the climax of the absolute prohibition that now prevails in Kansas. Jim started the ball a going, I really do believe.

"R. T. Whelpey came here from Chicago in April, 1870, to clerk for Gardner & Gilmor. Dick, as he was familiarly called, was a city youth all over, and the country air and the hunting so handy was a great treat to him. He took his gun one afternoon and went out and shot a turkey buzzard. Thinking he had killed a genuine turkey he proudly fastened the bird to the barrel of his gun and sailed up Main street with his trophy. When he struck the Betts corner the crowd that was there (same way you will find the corner today) took in the situation and cheered him lustily as he passed. He took it for a compliment till he was told of his mistake and he was all broke up and had to buy the brandied peaches to have the thing hushed up.

"I hardly know if Frank Gordy is far enough away to make it safe for me to dare characterize him. When Frank was "Goff," no frontiersman was ever more gentlemanly, genial or kindhearted than he. Nothing small or mean about Frank; generous to a fault, lavish with his money which he carried in rolls; pleasant to meet and intelligent in his talk which had a spice of racy western phrases that to a novice were entertaining and captivating. He was the beau ideal of his kind. When he was "on," oh, my ! but he was the holy terror of the place. He would ride his Cheyenne pony into any store he could enter from the sidewalk, demand to be waited on for his particular vanity, which was cove oysters in the can soured up with acid vinegar to a pitch that would pucker up his tongue and mouth so that his volapuk would be shut off and he could only gesture like a deaf and dumb man. Those gestures, however, were of a nature that spoke louder than words and made his attendants waltz to his signs with amazing alacrity and no smart clerk here today could move so fast as did the clerks and proprietors of the store Frank honored with his horseback visits. There was no polite 'come again, sir, we will be pleased to see you.' When Frank backed out, the door was generally closed and bolted for fear he would ride in again. I will remember my first observation of his peculiar prancing. It was only a few days after I became a citizen that just at dusk R. H. Cooper drove over from Emporia with a spring wagon full of prospectors and left them at the hotel. It was just before supper and the hotel office was crowded with the waiting hungry throng. Frank opened the door and inquired if Cooper was within; said he wanted to kill him, because he was not going to allow anyone from Emporia to come down here and run the town. He had his pistol in hand and not finding Cooper he blazed away at the lamp which had a reflector behind it and was hung well up on the wooden partition. How quickly that office was emptied and the guests dispersed! Some lifted the windows and jumped out, others rushed out by way of the dining room and he was left to sole possession. It was 7 o'clock before things were calm and supper could be served. It was his night to howl and he thoroughly enjoyed himself. His tempestous career closed one night and for how, when and where I refer the readers to Elisha Cook of Fairview. This past time I have spoken of was the mere ebullition of the eccentricity and idiosyncrasy of Frank when 'on.' I have done him justice when he was 'of,' and if he should ever see these lines I beg his pardon for my little tale of his reckless days. He owned the t6o acres south of Central avenue, the original town site of El Dorado, and received many thousand dollars from the sale of his lots. One street of the town bears his name and he gave what is now the park to the town.

"Old preacher Hathaway was a Universalist, came here early in '7o and took a claim east of Dr. E. Cowles' farm on the Eureka road. The first night in the old stone hotel there were some thirty six of us sleeping upstairs and soon after the old man went to bed he began snoring at a fearful rate. He awakened Bob Holt, then the meat market man of the town, and Bob yelled out: 'If you don't stop that noise, my friend, one of my boots may get to wandering around and hit you on the nose.' The old man got out of bed, put on his trousers, went down to the hotel office and returned with a brace of pistols which he placed under his pillow and then announced that he had his light artillery with him and if any boots wandered in the vicinity of his nose he would reply with a cannonade. He soon went to sleep and snored without further disturbance, for every one felt that he was not carrying blank cartridges in his guns.

"Dr. J. A. McKenzie was the first competent physician who settled here. Perhaps no one today in El Dorado has more friends than the doctor. He has a taking way with him that is natural and not cultivated. So in the early days he became very popular and the dependence of the best families of the town and county. He always brings cheer to a sick room and his personal magnetism is known and felt. I once knew of a sick person twenty miles out in the country who declared if he could only have Dr. McKenzie prescribe for him and come and see him he knew he would surely get well. The faith in the case was with the patient; the doctor went, and, presto, the sick was well again.

"Ed Stevenson was our first permanent artist photographer and when tin types were the vogue Ed could hardly supply the demand. His studio would be as busy on Saturdays as a grocery store is nowadays. He has stuck to us and is today well to do and enjoying life comfortably.

"Ben King had one of the best stores in El Dorado, about in the center of the block betweenTolle's and Pattison's, was considered an honest square merchant and controlled a trade that stayed by him for years, long after the town put on city airs. He moved to the corner where Wackerle's grocery now is and his next door neighbor was Alex Blair, who first came to us as a stage agent in Augusta in 1870. Ben and Alex were like twins and in and out of each other's place of business and no rivalry or business competition ever brought about disagreement between them.

"Frank Anderson's father, James Anderson, was one of the first men to buy a valuable Main street lot and thus show his faith in El Dorado's future. I think it was about where W. Y. Miller's drug store is. Being a man of positive character and sterling qualities, he was soon picked out as good timber for sheriff and the choice proved a good one. He made a most honorable, faithful officer. Frank succeeded him as a sheriff. After his retirement from business he was the constant companion of his son and the tie between them was so close and devoted that everyone spoke of it. Frank lives to mourn a loving father and to care for his mother with a filial affection that is most praiseworthy.

"Jerry Conner had El Dorado located on his land before the Gordy tract was laid out and has been here much longer than any of the corners of 1870. He was always the same genial man that he is today and his happy manner has always given him hosts of friends. Judge Lambdin and Sam Hyde were his running mates for years and the trio were always true to each other as steel.

"John Friend and his father, while not in town, lived so close that they were part and parcel of its life. Father Friend was elected to the legislature after a stormy political campaign against Baker of Augusta. He made a good speech, was a man of dignity and fine bearing and bore the brunt of many a political fight for El Dorado. John yet lives on the old place where he has a handsome home. He is growing old gracefully and the time is dealing gently with him.

"E. L. Lower owned the 160 acres north of Central avenue and his log cabin stood somewhere in the street between the John Betts corner and the Exchange National bank. In January, 1879. North Main street was laid out and several buildings were facing thereon before Lower's cabin was moved. He had sold a number of lots in his addition to Judge Lambdin, J. R. Mead and S. P. Barnes but still retained enough of his claim to have made him a rich man. He sold out in blocks however at low prices, but had considerable assets in notes. These he shaved at the appalling rates then prevalent and after Danford had his bank going it absorbed much of Lower's profits, so that in a few years he had virtually nothing left of his magnificent domain and promising estates. Lower was scrupulously honest and had great faith in mankind. He was thus imposed upon greatly to his detriment. There was great rivalry between the north end of town and the south end and when a new comer concluded to buy lots he was bewildered by the tales he would hear, and many disgusted with the fight left the town and would not settle in it. The south end or the B. F. Gordy original townsite had the best rustlers. Dr. Allen White, Capt. Knowlton and Ed C. Ellen were the strong workers for it and they secured the best of the new buildings and thus settled the question. The standard of realty values thus established remains unimpaired today.

"Jim Karnes was our first city marshal and in 1870 the city marshal was a man of importance and was generally chosen for his intrepid qualities, for he often had wild and wooly men to handle. A stage stable hand got drunk one day and felt like running amuck, so Jim started out to take him in. The stable hand was on the corner of Sixth avenue and Vine street. Jim went to the stable and told the man he had come to arrest him. He picked up a pitchfork, ran Jim out of the barn and as far as the Chicago store which had the sidewalk elevated in front. Jim here made a stand and emptied his pistol at the advancing man with the pitchfork. He missed him and on he came, and Jim moved on.

"L. B. Snow was a prominent figure in the early days, a builder, contractor, brick maker and an all round, active man. He built the Exchange National bank building (now the Farmers & Merchants National hank) and burned the first kiln of bricks that were made here. He had an interest in the first bank and was a money maker.

"In these hard up days when values are depressed and money tight and scarce it is a mental feast to think of the flow of money in such abundance as we had here in the days of new beginning. A man would sell his claim, have $1,000 or more in his inside pocket and come to town to put the funds into circulation. I remember a young man (we will call him Smith) who walked into my store one day and gave me $1,200 to keep for him. He had been baching on his claim for some time and was seedy and rough looking. He wanted to try the other extreme for a while, so laid out the best clothing outfit I had, with a broad rimmed brush hat that was a dandy, and high heeled top boots with yellow Texas stars on the front that loomed up like sunflowers in a field. He took his old togs and threw them out the back door and started in from feet to head with new under and outer wear. When arrayed in his new suit Solomon in all his glory never felt so well satisfied with himself. With pockets full of cigars and one tip tilted in the sangfroid style of a cowboy he departed for the barber shop for the completion of his cleanup. He filled up gradually and nicely and avoided the high toot pitch. The swagger to his air was inimitable and showed that his body was taking great comfort and ease in eating and drinking and making merry. Playing his little game of poker with the boys he happily passed the days, the weeks and lengthened out his dolce far into the months till the fatal morning came to him at last, as it does to all such revelers, and he was back to his normal condition - busted - cleaned out, physically jaded and nothing like the man he was when his ship came in with its first good freight. He went out from us, to the farther frontier to preempt or homestead or use some right still left to him for another piece of land and a fresh stake, if secured, would probably go the same way his first one did. The young man claim seeker and reveler is now a character of the past - we ne'er shall see his kind again.

"I will close with a brief mention of many of those who figured in the history of El Dorado twenty five years ago. Charles Selig, who was the head clerk and manager for Dr. White, is here today, one of the wealthiest citizens and one of the best all around informed men in this state. Geo. Tolle, then clerk with Charles Foulks, is still with us, a leading merchant and a most respected man. Dr. J. A. McKenzie, John Carpenter, Dr. J. P. Gordon, his son Miller and J. W. Small are still in the flesh and still call El Dorado their home, but time is telling on the old guard and their number, like the old army pensioners, will grow less with the passing of a few more years till the last one will be left to tell his tale of the early days to an audience unappreciative, out of touch in heart and mind; and who will call the teller of the blue moulded narratives a bothersome bore who is interested only in the musty past."

This El Dorado History is in 4 parts

El Dorado History.

El Dorado in 1870

El Dorado in 1881

El Dorado in 1916


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