By Dr. John Homer.
January 6, 1873, a petition was presented to the board of county commissioners asking that a new township be
formed out of the territory comprising congressional township 24, range 3, east. Petition granted and an election
ordered at the regular time of holding election for township officers. The election resulted as follows: C. P.
Strong, trustee; G. H. Sanders, treasurer; G. W. Carter, clerk; B. Clouce and H. H. Storms, justices of the peace;
E. J. Powell and Charles Barker, constables.
Milton township, so named after Milton C. Snorf, its first settler, is a block of thirty six square sections, and
joins Fairmount township on the south, which is situated in the northwest corner of Butler county, Kansas.
Milton C. Snorf, the first settler in the township, located on the northeast quarter of section thirty six in 1868.
He was followed soon after, and in about the order named, by W. G. McCramer, Stark Spencer, Levi Spencer, George
Cornelius, Sylvester Foster, George Sanders, W. B. Mordough, Charles Barker, L. C. White, George Ogden, E. J. Powell,
Sam Thomas, the Storms, Neiams, Hoss, Harder, Sparks, De Talent, Hershley, and many others.
The Holden post office was located on section eighteen and B. C. Leveredge was appointed postmaster in 1871. After
a few years Thomas H. Storms was appointed postmaster and the office moved to his residence on section eight. Later
the office was moved to section twenty and E. T. Eton was appointed postmaster. He moved the office to Brainerd
in 1886 where it remained until 1883, when changes in rural routes were made and the Brainerd post office discontinued,
a post office having been established at the town of Whitewater near the crossing of the tracks of the Missouri
Pacific and Rock Island railroads.
Towanda was the nearest post office in 1869 and 1870. The nearest railroad was at Emporia, seventy miles away,
from which place lumber and other necessities were hauled. There was a saw mill at Florence and a grist mill beyond
Florence, where grain was ground. A trip to either place meant two days and a night. On the prairie were many antelope;
some deer, and plenty prairie chickens. In 1871 Mrs. E. T. Eaton taught our first term of school in a small house
built on the southwest quarter of section twenty, township twenty four, range three, east, now in school district
No. 95. Holden school house was built later in '71 on the same section. In this school house the Holden Literary
Society held its meetings for years. The Holden "Times," a product of this society, was read at each
meeting. In the Times were discussed farm, home, and literary topics. It also had a local column that kept the
boys guessing who would come next.
Most of the land in Milton township was occupied by homemakers about 1870 and '71, and a battle for existence was
on the transformation of the prairie soil to a seed bed. This required much time but willing hands guided the plow.
The first township officers were G. P. Neiman, justice of the peace; E. T. Eeaton, constable; George Carter, clerk.
School districts were laid off in blocks of two by three miles, on which school houses were erected Teachers were
paid about twenty dollars per month. These school houses were used for many purposes, meetings, Sabbath school,
preaching, elections, secret socities, concerts, etc.
But, Work! More Work! Better Work! was the slogan and the soil yielded fair crops of corn and oats. Spring wheat
was first tried but was not a success, the chinch-bug being long on that variety of wheat. Fall wheat was then
tried with better success. Before the herd law was enacted, herds of cattle grazed over the prairie in the summer,
and hay was put up where shelter and water could be had they were wintered and rounded up occasionally. These cattle
(Texas) knew nothing of corn and were put on the market as "grass fed stock." One very severe winter
in the early seventies hay was put up late on sections thirty and thirty one in this township, and a large bunch
of rather poor cattle placed there to winter. The weather became bad, the ground froze, snow covered the earth
and the north winds were blizzardly. Many of these cattle died during the winter and the following spring. Incidents
of this kind taught the farmer and stock raiser that a better way of caring for the cattle was necessary if profit
was to be derived from this industry, and so the native cattle were bred up to a better standard, pastured during
the summer, and fed at home on good hay, fodder, grain it, etc. during the winter. This opened the way for the
dairy with a side profit on cream and cheese, and a solid foundation for better cattle and more hogs.
Grasshoppers came in 1874 and destroyed the crops and cleaned up nearly all vegetation, even tobacco plants, red
peppers, etc. People discouraged? Well, naw! Need any help? Naw! "Got any?" "Any?" "Oh,
yes, got friends back East, guess can pull through." A carload of friendship did come and was thankfully received,
seed corn especially. Yes, many were glad to get the seed corn and leave a dollar in its place. The debt was cancelled
in 1889 when Kansas sent East a whole train load of friendship, for the needy poor. In the spring of '75 the eggs
hatched out and the ground was thickly covered with young hoppers but heavy and frequent rains drowned a great
many and those left departed when their wings developed, not, however, until much of the early planted corn was
destroyed. Discouraged? No. Fall wheat looked good; the team and old bossy had lived on it all winter, and hogs
had given away or sold for anything one could get for them. April - finished corn planting; oats were looking good.
May - everything out of doors growing and looking fine. June - oats rank, corn booming, wheat big heads well filled
and taking on the golden color. Whomg! Bang!! 'Tis done. The big hail storm of 1875 did the work and did it well.
Trees and hedges were stripped of their foliage, grass was mowed down, windows broken, loose stock injured, prairie
chickens and rabbits killed. A sycamore board was taken up by the wind from sections 22-24-3 and found near the
town of Burns. Discouraged now? Nixey. Came to Milton tonship to get a home and intend to stay.
In June, '72, a heavy wind storm did considerable damage, wrecking a few small buildings; corn was blown down very
badly but next day the wind blew quite strong from the opposite direction which straightened the corn, whereupon
Neighbor S. remarked: "This is the darndest country I ever saw; the Lord knocks the corn down one days and
sets it up the next."
In '76 a colony of Prussian Menonites located in the township, built large houses and barns and put out orchards,
etc. They are good farmers. They raise fine horses and cattle. Their word is as good as their bond, and they believe
in settling their own affairs without resorting to law. About this time quite a number of Swiss Menonite families
located in this township and vicinity. Each of the above maintained a church of their own, services being conducted
in their native tongue. All of these people are sincerely devoted to their church and are good neighbors, upright
citizens, and have large families of native born American children.
The early settler. found that about all of the timber land and some of the choicest bottom land was owned by non
residents. This land was known as Potwin land, Lawrence land, railroad land, etc. The timber on this land made
it possible for the early settler to live on this prairie until the railroads were built across this portion of
Kansas, upon which coal and other necessities could be brought in. The loss of timber to the owners of the land
was a gain in the end, as the price of their land was increased by the development of the township.
Lord Harrison, an English subject, owned much land in Milton township. Houses of a like pattern were placed
on. each quarter section and rented or leased out on a rental basis. These renters suffered all the hardships and
many of the inconveniences of the real homesteader. Some of this land has been sold to real settlers. Lord Scully
also owned land in Milton township. This land was leased for cash, the lessee paying taxes. The object in making
this statement is to show that if this land had been owned by individuals it would have been improved as much as
adjoining farms, thereby improving the appearance of the township as well as adding value to these farms and evening
The early settler was not a grumbler. If things did not come his way he went after them. He would exchange work
with some one if he needed help. He would take his team and haul lumber or other freight from the nearest railroad
if he needed food for himself and family. Hem was a worker, not a kicker. The loss of a horse or team would ruin
a man's prospects of making a home or supporting his family. Horses were usually picketed out on the prairie at
night and it was easy for a person so disposed to untie a horse and be miles away by daylight. This kind of loss
became so frequent and annoying that the settlers formed a society for their protection. A few of the thieves were
caught and tried and the rest of them departed. That put a quietus on horse stealing for some time. With all his
work, trials, and tribulations, the settler took time to attend surprise parties, concerts, and Fourth of July
celebrations. The first Fourth of July celebration was held on the west branch of the Vhitewater on G. P. and I.
H. Neiman's place in 1871. The usual program of patriotic songs, picnic dinner and dance was observed.
In forty five years there has been no failure of wheat crops, though some of the crops were damaged by chinch bugs.
The Hessian fly has also done considerable damage, but by sowing late and not on stubble ground, there is little
fear from the fly. Corn failed in 1874, 1901 and 1913 but in 1889 Kansas had a bumper corn crop.
The first child born in Milton township was Edgar B. Brumhack, December 6, 1870. The first death, a child of Harley
Patterson, was in the winter of 1870.
In 1885, the McPherson branch of the Missouri Pacific came through this township. A station was located near the
center of the township and the town of Brainerd was quickly built up and did a thriving business until about 1888.
The Rock Island railroad came through the western edge of the township and located a station and built a depot
at the junction of the roads, then the Missouri Pacific, put up a depot and the town of Vhitewater was laid off
at the junction. Chester Smith moved his house from Annually to Whitewater in January, 1888. This was the first
house in Vhitewater. Two more houses were moved in from Annelly. About this time the town of Brainerd was put on
wheels and about thirty five business houses and residences were moved in to Vhitewater. I. H. Neimam was appointed
postmaster; S. L. Matter, deputy postmaster, and the infant, Miss Whitewater, stepped upon the stage of action
with her best bow.
"Whitewater Independent." - In a reminiscent way one's thoughts occasionally return to the "old
times," especially so is it of your first home. Remembrance of it may be somewhat clouded, but there comes
to you some recollections that are vivid and lasting. This metropolis of northwest Butler county, at the intersection
of the Rock Island and Missouri Pacific railroads, and platted as the town of Whitewater by the Golden Belt Town
Co., has undergone the hardships of a small town, and now taken its place as a city of importance and a business
center. Whitewater has always been a city in many ways, and its citizens have that characteristic push and energy
that builds cities. Their brain, their brawn, their pride and enthusiasm is well marked and a visitor within our
gates can only say for us words of praise for the past and well wishes for the future. And incentive to either
build or help build the best town in these parts has been that its location, surrounding territory and natural
advantages enjoyed by few of the later built cities, gives it the prestige, and with a vim, its citizens, shoulder
to shoulder, push and don't pull. Cities builded by them are the ones that grow. As a part of the history of this
city we may start from so far back as 1885, when the Missouri Pacific railroad was builded. The Rock Island survey
was made through here the next year, and in August, '87, the first trains were run. In August, '87, Whitewater
had two general stores and a blacksmith shop. The first to start business here were: G. H. Otte, groceries; S.
L. Motter, groceries; John Eilert, general merchandise; C. H. Bruhn, blacksmith; M. M. Bishop, hotel. Mary Neiman
was teacher of the first school.
The first newspaper was the "Herald," and its first editor was Al M. Hendee. Before this it was known
as the Brainerd "Sun," edited first by Brumback and McCann, and was moved later by Mr. Morrison to this
city in 1889 and the business has grown from a small country office to one of the largest enterprises in the city,
under its present management. The first bank was moved here from Brainerd in 1889. Its officers were: A. H. McLain,
president; A. H. McLain, Jr., vice president; E. S. McLain, cashier. The first postmaster in Whitewater was I.
H. Neiman in his own building, occupied by S. L. Motter as general store, who was assistant postmaster under him.
Mrs. Nellie M. Godfrey, in the building now occupied by the "Independent," was second. The next Was H.
W. Bailey, editor of the "Tribune" at that timed. Next was G. W. Penner, followed by C. H. Otte, the
present incumbent. To date there have been two Democrats and three Republicans in the postal service as postmasters.
The first mail route on the rural free delivery was established in 1902. In June, Isaac Neiman was the first carrier
on the route, with his father as substitute. The route is north and east. The present carrier is T. J. Powell and
J. T. Welsh as substitute. The first carrier on route No. 2 was George Coriman.
In early days Whitewater had a United States male carrier from the Rock Island depot while the postoffice was out
of the limit. He was O. C. Shay. The Missouri Pacific never had one, other than its agent. The Rock Island is now
within the limits. The first school directors of Butler and Harvey county district No. 95 were: John Eilerts, Joseph
Weatherby, and Chester Smith. Under their term of office the present school house was built. Wert and Froese were
the contractors. The first grain buyers were: E. T. Burns on the Missouri Pacific and W. A. Sterling and brother
on the Rock Island. The first meeting of the council was held in the school house. The incorporation of the city
took place in 1889. The first mayor was G. H. Otte. Councilmen were J. Weatherby, G. G. Cooms, H. H. Weachman,
Fred Breising and E. T. Burns. The first city marshal was Wm. Newbury The board of canvassers for this first election
were: S. L. Motter, W. F. Vakefield and E. L. Neal. The first brick yard was operated by L. Fessler of Newton with
George Brazee as foreman. The first brick building was built by G. V. Penner and its first occupants were Penner
and Motter with a stock of general merchandise. This building was built of Whitewater brick.
Whitewater has had only six fires of any importance in its nearly twenty years of existence. The first was the
barn of G. H. Roach. The others were barns also and were but little loss.
The waterworks system was begun by McLains, the bankers. It was built by John E. Ford of Newton. The first location
of the postoffice was in the building now owned and occupied by the "Independent." The first pastor of
the Reformed Church was D. B. Shuey and of the Lutheran, H. Acker. The first church parsonage of which Whitewater
has two, was purchased by the Lutherans. The other was built by the German Reformed. The first elevator was built
by E. T. Burns in 1889 near the Missouri Pacific tracks on South Main. It was later moved and consolidated with
the Whitewater Mill and Elevator Co., of which he is a member. Mr. Burns was also the first coal dealer in Whitewater.
The first drug stores were owned by E. S. Raymond, from Brainerd, and G. H. Otte, from Annelly, in '89. The first
resident carpenter was Joseph Weatherby of Annelly. The first secret order was the Independent Order Odd Fellows,
in 1889. Its first meeting was in Eilert's, now Huguenin's Hall. The other orders represented here are the Masons,
Ancient Order United Workmen, Modern Woodman and Grand Army of the Republic. The first ladies' order was the Rebekahs,
the other the Woman's Relief Corps. The first furniture dealer was Mr. Henry Heigerd, who occupied the north room
of the Smith building which was the first store building moved from Annelly. The first retired farmer to move to
town was C. Miller. Many have come since. The first butcher shop was started by Fred Breising. The first barber
was O. E. McDowell. He was also the first painter here. The first lawyer was Peter E. Ashenfelter. Within the limits
of Whitewater are few people who do not try to make it a better place to live in socially and morally. The morals
of this community compare favorably with the best - none better while there are many worse.