LITTLE WALNUT TOWNSHIP.
By Charles R. Noe.
The Indian Trust Lands: Terms of Settlement. The Osage Indians owned a strip of land across the south side of
the state of Kansas, fifty miles wide, which included the south half of Butler county until the year 1868, when
a strip twenty miles wide, which included all of the reservation in this county, was ceded to the United States
government, in trust, to be sold to actual settlers. The price and terms of settlement were not promulgated until
the summer of 1869, viz., from forty to one one hundred and sixty acres, in legal subdivisions and compact form.
i. e., square quarters or forties must adjoin or Z-shape or a forty wide and a. mile long or less, to each qualified
settler. The price was $1.25 per acre. The claimant must have at least ten acres of sod broken and living water,
a well or spring (Many wet weather springs at certain seasons served the purpose), and a house (a shanty, a dugout,
a sod house, or even a hay house passed muster in those days.) An actual occupation of at least six months was
required, but the great majority of the prairie claims were not "proved up" until 1880-1881. When desiring
to make his final proof, the claimant appeard at the United States land office, located at Humboldt until the fall
of 1870, removed to Augusta and thence to Wichita in 1872, where he received a declaratory statement of his intention
to make his final proof. This statement gave the date and the names of two witnesses, neighbors, who could testify
to the facts of his having complied with requried conditions of settlement. This declaratory statement was published
in a newspaper, as near the land as practicable, for five consecutive weeks, at the settler's expense.
Augusta township extended from the west line of Greenwood county thirty four and a half miles to the east line
of Sedgwick county until 187o, when Daniel Stine was trustee and assessor. In 1871, Little Walnut township was
taken from this territory. It extended from the Greenwood county line to what is now the west line of Spring township.
It also included what is now the north half of Bloomington township. C. R. Noe was elected the first and only trustee
of the township thus constituted. The formation of Bloomington, Spring and Glencoe townships in 1872, reduced Little
Walnut township to its present limits of six miles square. H. H. Marshall, who had moved from Indiana the year
before, was elected trustee.
Early Settlements - Though these lands belonged to the Indians until 1878, there were squatters along the Little
Walnut several years earlier. As far back as 1860, a settlement was established at a spring, less than one mile
northeast of where the Leon high school building now raises its stately form. The ambitious squatters christened
their prospective city Crittenden. But the record drought of that year caused the fountain to recede. Excavating
a depth of sixteen or eighteen feet and failing to find the living fountain, they loaded their effects into their
horse mobiles and quietly stole away, without even leaving a record of their names. The first permanent settlements
were made in 1868. So far as the writer, who came in April, 1869, can recall they were W. Packard, Charles Tabing,
bachelors, east; M. A. Palmer, south of the present site of Leon; B. F. Rickey, southwest of Mr. Palmer; Jacob
Carey, west of Mr. Rickey; W. T. Galliher, south of Mr. Carey; Addison Sawyer, west of Mr. Galliher; Joshua Tull
west of Mr. Sawyer. These had their families with them. Mr. Sawyer was killed while out after his horses, about
March 22, 1870. His remains were laid in the first grave in what is now the Leon cemetery. In the years 1870 to
1872, the uplands in this township were practically all settled, but it was a physical impossibility for the settlers
to obtain fencing material to protect their little crops of sod corn, sorghum and truck from the Texas longhorns.
Hence arose a great cry throughout the State for a herd law. This need was so pressing that the legislature passed
a crude law in 1871, which was declared null and void by the courts a year later. The stock was again turned loose,
to the great loss and discouragement of the "uplander." Thousands abandoned their claims. The stock men,
as a rule, maintained that the prairies were fit only for grazing. But the stream of immigration was irresistible.
Thousands of ex-soldiers and others inured to hardships were determined to make homes on these fertile plains.
Hence the legislature of 1873 gave us the present stock law without any jokers in it. But, say, gentle reader,
you who arrived within the last decade or two, you who gather your kafir by thousands of bushels and harvest your
four crops of alfalfa each season, and perambulate and do your marketing in auto cars, it is well for you to know
of some of the experiences and hardships of those who made present conditions possible. Here are mentioned a few
of the drawbacks and discouragements which beset the pioneer. Whatever he had to. buy, implements, groceries, clothing,
etc., etc., were hauled on wagons two hundred miles from the Missouri river. The drought, without the drought resisting
products of today; the cyclone, the chinch bug, the grasshopper and the rapid fluctuation of, prices. The horse
thief also plied his nefarious industry with relentless persistency.
In the fall of 1870, three horses were taken from the lariat near W. Packard's cabin about dusk one evening. They
were recognized as they passed the place of his neighbor, A. N. Sloan, and Mr. Packard was notified, and, in company
with two of his neighbors, he started in hot pursuit. Near where is now the Harmony church they noted that the
thieves had hastily pulled some grass, presumably used as a substitute for saddles. The third day they returned
home with their recovered stock, badly jaded. All the information vouchsafed the inquisitive was, "Them thieves
won't steal any more horses." That incident, followed by the lynching of eight men near Douglass, put a damper
on horse stealing as a business for a time.
As to price fluctuations - In 186o, this chronieler paid $2.25 per bushel for about No. 3 grade of corn; $2.25
per bushel for potatoes; five cents per pound for salt and 35 cents per pound for bacon. In 1872, this same scribe
sold Comrade James Dodwell, of Wall street, El Dorado, a nicely dressed hog for $1.75 per hundred pounds, after
butchering and hauling it twelve miles. That was the best offer he could get.
The first school in the township was taught by J. D. Porter in 1870, a mile west of the Frisco depot. The first
school house was the Chenoweth, on the corner of section 16, a quarter of a mile west of the present stately Leon
school building. It was built in 1871. T. O. Shiner taught the first term in it. A lively literary society fourished
there and many notable debates were held. The society paper was a gem. Too bad that it was not preserved. This
scribe would give $10 for a file of it. The Christian church was organized there in 1872, by John Ellis, author
of "The White Pilgrim." This was the first church of Christ organized in the county.
The first village to have a blacksmith shop, a drug store and a physician, D. ____, was at the junction of the
north and south
branches of the Little Walnut in the fall of 1872. Some notable meetings were held there. One held during the winter
of 1872-1873 was supposed to be epoch making. Two narrow gauge railroads were pro projected to cross at that particular
point. They were to be built and owned by the people. Neil Wilkie, of Douglass, afterward a State Senator; and
C. W. Packard, of North Branch, were the chief speakers. The proposed city was christened New Milwaukee. But the
roads never got as far as the bond voting age, and the christener kept the key and stubbed his toe, so you all
The drought, chinch bug and grasshopper nearly annihilated the crops in 1874. The little wheat grown, a few
patches of oats and the early truck was all that escaped the devastation. The hopper arrived on the afternoon of
August 13th. The floating army formed a cloud that dimmed the sunlight. Every blade of corn, even where it was
in the shock, disappeared within a few hours. They literally covered the ground in some places to a depth of four
inches. The lint on the lumber was eaten so that it showed spotted for two or three years. Fork handles and other
hardwood tools and implements were nicked and married by them. Having done their work of destruction, the bulk
of them took wing on the 15th and t6th. However, there were sufficient left to literally fill the earth with eggs
in favored localities. Mrs. Hopper drilled a hole an inch and a half to two inches deep and deposited a hundred
eggs or more. Then she slimed them over to resist the moisture. In the early spring of 1875 they hatched out in
great numbers. But subsequent cold and wet weather was such that few survived and there was no damage to speak
of in this vicinity. The field north of the Leon cemetery was a peculiarly favorable locality for the deposit of
the eggs. The eld was plowed shallow early in the spring so as to cut the hopper nests in two. The white eggs showed
so thick as to give the ground somethinng of the appearance of having received a skift of snow. This was the first
and last serious invasion of the army hopper in this vicinity during the forty six seasons of our residence.
Little Walnut township voted $17,000 in bonds to the Wichita & Western Railroad Company (construction company
for the Frisco), whose western terminus was then at Severy, in the spring of 1879. When the line was located across
his land, the writer gave the right of way and paid the president of the company, B. F. Hobart, $150 to pay for
the right of way across Charles Tabing's land, upon the promise to locate the depot where it now stands.
The Leon "Indicator" was born and the first house erected on the townsite in January, 1880. The first
issue of the paper, a three column folio, bears the date of January 31, 1880. Here are a few of the quips from
its local page: "The Indicator may die, its editor will die, but Leon is bound to make a town." "Look
here - Leon expects to have the first telegraph station in Butler county." "Don't laugh at us because
we are little, it might make us feel bad, and if we should live to get big enough, you might feel bad, too."
"If there are not one hundred houses in half a mile of the Leon town well, November 1, 188o, set us down as
a poor guesser." At the above date the population of Leon was over 50o and it had taken rank, next to Douglass,
as the fourth town in the county. The coming of the barbed wire fence, the early growing of hedge fences, the introduction
of alfalfa and kafir corn and the building of the. Frisco railroad set Little Walnut township forward at a great
The first construction train reached the town April 29, 188o; the first regular passenger train from St. Louis
arrived May loth. The second issue of the Indicator, which had been dubbed the "Tri-Yearly." was published
May 8th. Up to this date very few of the upland settlers had made final proof of settlement. But now the lands
assumed a commercial value. Loan companies were established and anxious to make loans on them. Consequently the
rush of the claimants to secure publication of their final notice was something fierce. The first issue of the
"Indicator," a seven column folio, was printed on its own Washington hand press, June 18, 1880. It made
the price for publishing these final notices $3, which, up to that time, had been $4 to $5.
On Thursday afternoon, September 16th, fifty two of these notices came from the land office to appear in the next
morning's issue of the paper - and not a stick of type left in the office. But our printers said they would "stay"
with us. So, after supper, we drove to El Dorado and secured from the late T. B. Murdolk, of the Walnut Valley
Times, a big batch of nonpariel type. Reaching home at 11 o'clock p. m. the men fell to distributing that type
into the cases. By 7 o'clock p. m. Friday, the work of setting the type, printing a full page supplement, folding
and mailing the paper was completed: then home to breakfast and a good forenoon nap. That week the Indicator had
one hundred and forty three of those notices. F. W. Beckmeyer established the first general store in Leon; Palmer
& Westocott the first drug store; W. J. Martin the first hardware store; W. L. Beadle the first hotel; Postmaster
Kenoyer moved the office up from Tong's watermill and he and T. C. Chenoweth opened one of the first grocery stores;
H. Belton was the first man on the ground, and opened a blacksmith shop. S. A. Brown & Co. established the
first lumber yard. C. C. Miller was the local manager. A. Musselman, the first furniture store. Palmer & King
established the first bank. Tong & Fetrow erected a steam flouring mill and T. J. Lindsey and H. P. Morgan
started in the packing business in the early eighties. One year, they salted down 800 hogs. But, the hot competition
by the big, establishments, high freights, and a lack of capital flattened out both establishments. The loss of
half our population, when Oklahoma was opened to settlement in 1889, curtailed business and caused many business
A second paper, the Leon Quill, was established in 1885, by J. L. Stratford. O. W. Meacham became the owner and
the two papers were consolidated. He sold to the original "Indicator" man in 1891. He sold the plant
to J. B. Adams in 1894. After a few months, Mr. Adams moved the paper to Augusta, leaving Leon without a paper.
In the spring of 1895, the business men of the town prevailed upon the original founder to re-establish the "Indicator,"
which he continued to publish until December 2, 1901, when he sold to L. L. Schmuck, who, in turn, sold to J. E.
Hannon. He sold to C. W. King, whose office and building was burned in 1911 and the town was again without a paper.
December 7, 1911, C. V. Cole established the Leon News. He was succeeded by J. W. Watkins in February, 1915. May
1, 1915, the present editor, j. S. Martin, took the helm and is giving us one of the best local papers, for a town
of this size, in the state.
Little Walnut township has furnished two Representatives to the state legislature: M. A. Palmer, (who has also
served as a county commissioner and register of deeds), and D. W. Poe, and one state Senator; Fremont Leidy, who
also served as U. S. Internal Revenue Collector for a term of four years. James D. Anderson was elected sheriff
from this township; likewise, H. T. Dodson. C. R. Noe was appointed a regent of the State Agricultural College,
by Governor E. N. Morrill, in 1895, and served three years; filling the position of treasurer of that institution
in 1896. The township has furnished a score or more of employees for the Frisco R. R. Co., including George Edgar,
claim adjuster, and James Dunworth, a passenger conductor. Leon is perhaps the only town of its size in the state
with the distinction of having had two full fledged brass bands at one and the same time. It has for years held
the honor of having the best band in Butler county. In 1914, the city voted $10,000 in bonds and had three prospect
wells drilled to a depth of 1,500 feet. All proved dry.
However, there is little doubt that gas, or oil, or coal, will be brought to the surface in this vicinity within
a few years at most. Traces of coal have been found in several open wells, as far back as thirty five years ago.
The Leon public and high school building ranks with the best for a town of its size.