By W. O. Moore.
Murdock township, comprising the territory known as township 25, range 3, east of the principal meridian, was
organized in March, 1873, and an election was ordered for township officers at the general election in April. Voting
place to be at school house in district 25. The following officers were elected: Wm. Spencer, trustee; W. Goodale,
treasurer; J. N. Shibles, clerk; Reuben Moore and B. F. Hess, justices of the peace; B. E. Doyle and A. G. Davis,
The township was named for the late Thomas Benton Murdock. Anthony G. Davis, now a resident of Benton, was, I believe,
the first settler in what is now Murdock township. Mr. Davis came to Butlet county in 1857. In the year 1868 he
had a little store in the southwest corner of Murdock township. Goods were hauled in those days with teams from
as far as Topeka; and the county abounded in Indians and buffalo. In 1859 came Mr. Gillian, a widower, bringing
one son and three daughters. The mother of. the girls, his second wife, was part Cherokee Indian. All these have
gone to their reward, except possibly one daughter. In 1862 came the Atkison brothers, Benjamin, now living in
Chautauqua Springs, Samuel, lying now at Independence, and Stephen, dead. About the same time came the Kelly brothers.
Jim, the oldest, is now in an old soldiers' home in California. Abe Kelly is deceased. Charley's whereabouts are
unknown. John Kelly was drowned in 1867 while swimming the Whitewater river about four miles south of Whitewater
City. In 1866 came John Folk. In the spring of 1868 Reuben Moore, father of the writer, came to the county, buying
for one hundred dollars a quarter section of homestead land on the Whitewater and on which stood down by the creek
a little log house. That summer and fall buffalo were hunted for winter meat out near the present location of Wichita.
Sometimes a deer, or an antelope and often a wild turkey, was killed. Failing these, a fat raccoon or opossum would
answer for a roast and always there were prairie chickens, thousands of them, and I have counted nineteen antelope
in one bunch on the divide between the Whitewater and the West Branch.
In 1870 the Whitewater overflowed its banks. We left the little log cabin about ten o'clock one night and the next
morning the water was half way to its roof. Then father decided it was time to build on higher ground. Lumber was
brought from Emporia, and for the times, a very fine house was built, it being one and one half stories high. The
following summer the young people decided that a dance, then the popular amusement, must be given at the house.
The time arrived, and most of the day it rained, but a large crowd gathered notwithstanding, again it rained, it
rained until daylight and until daylight we danced. At daybreak a trip was made to the creek. It was bank full.
As nearly all the guests must cross the creek to get to their home, all returned to the house. The following night
the dance was continued and all stayed another night. The girls occupied the upstairs and the boys the downstairs.
The next morning the creek was still nearly bank full. A little lumber having been left from the building a canoe
was made with which the girls were to be taken across the creek. Reuben Moore and his brother, Carl, took their
places in the boat and started off a high bank. When they had gone about two hundred yards, a swift current was
encountered, the boat capsized and the boys had a struggle to swim back to shore. In this catastrophe Reuben lost
his pocket book and fifteen dollars. That night the tired crowd retired about midnight, but some of the boys wakening
later, called the fiddler, the music began at "Balance all," down came the girls and another round was
had. This was always called the "protracted dance."
Other early settlers of Murdock township are: Edwin Hall, 1868, deceased; William Paul, 1869, deceased, 1873;
Leonard Shafer, 1868. Old Mr. Dorsey and family, Mr. Blankenship, son in law of Dorsey and Charles Mornhenwig,
all came in 1869. John Miller, Henry Dohren, Thomas Ohlsen, Dave Kehl, Albert and Charley Diemart, Robert Taylor,
Joseph Claypool, Henry Terbush and the Goodales all came in 1870. A. L. Drake, Isaac Curtin, Jim Shibles, 1871;
Bill Spencer and Barney Doyle, 1871; William McCraner, who came in 1870, locating in Milton township, just outside
of Murdock, was the first postmaster of the Caribou postoffice. Wm. McCraner, Jr. and myself made many a boast
of how much prairie we could "break" with four or five yoke of oxen.
In the winter of 1869 a little school house was built by the people of the township. This was a little log house
and like most of the other log houses, had a floor made of logs which had been split in the middle, and dressed
a little with an ax. These were called puncheon floors. The seats were of the same material, having holes bored
in with an auger and round pins or sticks driven in for legs. The writing desks were made in the same fashion,
the pins being driven into the wall. O. W. Belt was the first teacher, a three months summer term. Charles Noe,
now of Leon, was the teacher the next term. Some of us will always remember Charley as 'twas from him we received
In the spring of 1868 an Indian scare took all of us to El Dorado, where we stayed two or three days and returned
to our homes. Bill Avery said of this occasion, that when he had gotten back home everything seemed so peaceful
and quiet he was ashamed to look his cows in the face.
Rev. Isaac Mooney, "Father Mooney," as we always called him, for he was certainly a gospel father to
us all, was the first man to preach in the vicinity. He rode from Towanda on horseback. Each Sunday, without fail,
he came. Very few to attend at the start, no one to help with the singing. Some would come to remain on the outside,
these being especially the cowboys, their revolvers buckeled around them and seemingly more afraid of the preacher
than of a herd of buffalo. But in time all finally went inside. Father. Mooney continued coming until a larger
and better school house was built, and finally a strong church was organized. He was a faithful servant of the
Lord and his influence for good is still felt in this community today.
In my time here I have heard young men from the East say they would not stay if given the whole county. I have
heard the early settlers say the land would be stock range forever, and time spent in trying to farm these prairies
was wasted. But these mistaken opinions are evidenced by the prosperous farmers and fertile farms of this valley.
Often my mind goes back to the '60's when everyone was a friend, when no selfishness was among us, and those seem
the best days of my life.