By J. O. Evertson.
Probably the first settler that lived in Hickory township was a man by the name of Myers, who, with his two
wifes, lived in what is now the David Brittian farm, but, like the element to which he belonged, he was compelled
to keep in advance of civilization and so moved on about the year 1870. A child of his was probably the first white
child born in the township, also a boy of his was probably the first white child buried in the township.
Dr. J. A. McGinnis, a widower, together with his brother, A. F. McGinnis, and his two sons, S. A. and W. F., came
from Lyons county in the year 1868 and settled on a claim in the forks of Hickory on the southwest quarter of 14-28-7,
and a part of which is now owned by Samuel Ramp and the remainder by James Brewer. His brother, A. F. McGinnis,
pre-empted the land now owned by Clarence Dillon, the southeast quarter of 15-28-7. Among the next arrivals were
J. A. Armstrong, who bought out Mr. Myers, and established a general store at Old Brownlow. Mr. Bartholomew and
J. F. Comstock arrived about the year 1871 and settled on the south fork of Hickory. About this time J. M. Hampton
and family came from Kentucky. Before they had settled on their claim and while yet living in their wagon, they
had the misfortune to lose their only daughter, and, there being no graveyard, she was buried on what afterward
became their home, now the farm owned by Frank Comstock. About this time Wesley Cornell settled on what is now
a part of the Evertson farm. H. L. Lemon pre-empted what is now the Will Hurt farm. Settlers began to arrive thick
and fast. Aaron Surber, John Wing, John Hearne, Will Drury, N. Blunt, A. D. Stone, for whom Stone Branch was named,
some of whom settled, and others drifted on away. Jerry Campbell, who now resides at Morrison, Okla., and H. M.
Shannon, now of Attica, Kan., were typical happy go lucky, carefree bachelors of the frontier. When rfickory township
was settled, Emporia was the nearest railroad town, from where most of the provisions were freighted. The first
store was operated by Dr. J. A. McGinnis at his residence, where he dispensed green coffee, salt pork, sorghum
molasses and corn meal. Few luxuries found their way into these frontier stores. With him from his home in Coffey
county, he brought the first seed corn, which he sold at $5 per bushel.
The first regular mail was carried from El Dorado by a son of Wesley Cornell. The trip was made weekly, most of
the time upon a bare backed pony, for which service he reecived the princely sum of $3 per trip. The first school
for Hickory township was conducted by a Mrs. Whittlesy, the wife of Fie Whittlesy, on the Hayes farm, now owned
by Marvel Kelly. The first church service, which consisted chiefly of exhorting and hymn singing, was conducted
at the home of J. A. McGinnis. The audience consisted chiefly of the local bachelors and recruits from the neighboring
settlement on Rock creek, near the present site of Latham. Among these visitors were Prosser brothers, Will, James
and Alvah, and the VanMeters. The first Sunday school was organized in 1881 by Dr. J. B. Carlisle, who was then
just a school teacher, teaching in what is known as the Lost school house. Here the school was organized. When
his term of school was out, Mrs. Martin Reecher took up the Sunday school work and continued it intermittently
until her death a few years ago. The first court of justice for Hickory township was conducted by a justice of
the peace named Lamont, who resided over the line in Logan township. His court was very popular because it was
an established rule that all cases in his court were decided in favor of the party bringing the suit.
June 16, 1871, the settlement was visited by a cyclone which, having destroyed the city of El Dorado, lifted
and did little or no damage until it reached Hickory township, where it committed havoc in the timber. The Semishes,
who had recently arrived from Holton and were yet camping, were all, six in number, in their covered wagon. This
wagon was blown over and fortunately no one was hurt. Jerry Campbell and Billy Brown were camped in a shack on
their claim on Honey creek; the shack was blown away and the occupants were blown into the creek. The two story
frame house of Dr. J. A. McGinnis, which was at that time the only frame house in the township and probably the
only two story house in the county, was totally destroyed. In this connection might be mentioned the destructive
fire which visited the township in the fall of 1873. It originated somewhere near El Dorado and, driven by a northwest
wind, swept rapidly across the country, driving the coyotes, deer and other wild inhabitants of the prairie scurrying
before it, leaping streams as it came to them and leaving desolation in its wake, surging on toward the Indian
Territory. Lumber which Michael Semist had hauled all the way from Humboldt, which he had to build his house, was
burned while he looked on helplessly.
A history of the township's early development would not be complete without mentioning the vigilantes; which were
organized by Dr. J. A. McGinnis and whose duty it was to dispense practical justice, unhampered by the frills and
red tape of court proceedings. To illustrate: A certain Jack Armstrong, of unsavory reputation, was known to import
and harbor lawless characters for the purpose of jumping claims of legitimate settlers. The vigilantes waited upon
him at night and delivered their ultimatum to the effect that he leave the country within a stated time; a fight
or rather a rackett ensued. Some shots were fired, some of which passed through the house of the host. It was never
known whether the shots were fired by the visitors or by the host himself, after the party was over, in an attempt
to create incriminating evidence against the vigilantes to be used when they should be summoned before the federal
grand jury, as they were the following winter at his instigation, claiming to recognize the members of the committee
by their voices. However, nothing came of it.
The township was organized, as it now exists, February 24, 1875. The petition for organization was headed by J.
L. Moore and signed by fifty three others. It was granted and an election ordered, and it was held at the residence
of J. A. McGinnis, April 6, 1875, at which election the following officers were elected: W. S. Dubois, trustee;
J. F. Comstock, treasurer; A. F. McGinnis, clerk; Thomas Campbell and W. H. Baxter, justices of the peace; R. Joiner
and J. W. Hearne, constables; Z. T. Huston, road overseer whose duties were purely imaginary.
From this meager beginning, Hickory township has advanced to an enviable position among the family of townships
in Butler county. It now boasts a population of too, has under fence 23,820 acres, and in 1915 produced animals
for slaughter valued at $26,725. It had 2,700 acres of kafir corn, 869 acres of alfalfa, 577 tons of hay, produced
3,830 pounds of butter, and marketed milk and cream amounting to $6,642; poultry valued at $4,493, and has in cultivation
a total of 15,495 acres. Hickory has also produced its full total of country school teachers, preachers and missionaries,
and the following county officers: W. S. Buskirk, county surveyor; C. W. Buskirk, county surveyor; H. I. French,
county superintendent; J. O. Evertson, county treasurer.