By W. C. Snodgrass.
I purpose to write a short history of Walnut township from the time of the red man and buffalo to the present
time. This will cover a period of half a century, from 1866 to 1916. The facts narrated will be those gleaned from
the storehouse of memories, personal experiences and observations of those still living who helped to make that
And we feel sure that our short record of our little garden spot of thirty six square miles of God's footstool,
with its thorns, thistles and flowers will show that our people have a right to be proud of their achievements.
They have developed to a rich fruition in this part of the Master's vineyard. We have made the "two blades
of grass grow where only one grew before." We have done this in spite of drought, hot winds, storms, floods,
grasshoppers, chintz bugs, elephant bugs, the "rain maker" and his fuse, and the politician.
The chintz bug eats the farmer's grain,
The bee moth spoils his honey,
The bed bug fills him full of pain,
And the humbug gets his money.
Walnut township was formed out of that part of the public domain known as the "Twenty Mile Strip." It
was ceded to the general government by the Osage Indians on September 19, 1865. This land was known legally as
the Osage Trust Lands. It was surveyed and opened up to settlement by the government a year or two later at $1.25
per acre. Each settler could take not to exceed 160 acres. He had to live on his land at least six months and make
certain improvements, in the way of breaking of the prairie and buildings.
At first, August 23, 1867, Walnut township, by act of the board of county commissioners, comprised a strip across
the south part of the county sixteen miles wide. At the election, November 5, 1867, Peter Harpool was elected justice
of the peace. He received seven votes. Benton Kramer was elected constable with seven votes. Harpool was club footed,
but much of a man physically. It was currently reported that when lie fought lie got on his knees. He had for his
homestead the northeast 3-29-4. It is now owned by Elroy Warner, who has a fine residence where Peter had his cabin.
This cabin was unusually far from the timber. It was out on the prairie nearly a half mile from the river Little
Walnut. Dave Kramer, a brother of Bent, owned the quarter west of Harpool's and "put on style" by building
a two story box house. The house fell' down about five years ago and was moved off by the present owner of the
land, M. T. Minor. The yard fence (hedge) was grubbed up last winter (1915) by M. J. Philips and Vance Glaze. Thus
disappeared one of the ancient landmarks. Charlie Durham (deceased), of Douglass, narrated that it was at this
house they held, on Saturday night of each week, one of a series of dances, commencing at Bill Groves', below Rock,
Cowley county. He said the "gents" were always fully booted, spurred and armed with the regulation "six
shooters." The ladies were very beautiful and buxom, but not too timid or shy. Many of them afterward became
the wives of the pioneers. Some of their offspring live in Walnut township today. 'Benton Kramer "proved up"
on a claim at the mouth of Hickory creek and sold it to N. M. A. Withrow, whose widow, Mary A. Withrow, still owns
The first township election was held in April, 1868. The township elections were held then in the spring instead
of as now at the time of the general elections in November. At this election William H. Edsell was elected trustee;
John Fetterman, clerk; J. W. Crawford, treasurer. Edsell owned the southeast 26-28-4, now owned by Schoeb.
On March 11, 1873, a petition to organize Walnut City township, comprising the territory known as town 28, range
4, east, was granted. The election to be held in Walnut City. At this election, April, 1873, William Potter was
elected trustee; M. C. Robbins, treasurer; Thomas Purcell, clerk; W. S. Waters and John C Riley, justices of the
peace, and A. J. Hughes and J. P. Bare, constables. On July 8, 1873, a petition to change the name of Walnut City
township to Walnut, striking out the word city, was granted by the board of county commissioners.
Thus the civil, or municipal, township of Walnut as now known and remembered by the oldest residents, became identical
with the congressional township legally described as township 28 south, range 4 east. It is of this six mites square
of territory I write. From the time of the organization of the township in March, 1873, we have a fairly complete
book record of the official business of the township. Part, of the old first set of township record books are still
in use and show many names of old residents who "did the township business" for Walnut. It is not as
big a territory as Europe and its story possibly not as big a theme. But its people have had their trials and tribulations,
too. A Kansas township is probably the most striking miniature example of a representative democracy.
The township is an undulating prairie with a general slope to the south. In the spring, when it is covered with
its carpet of green, it is a beautiful sight. Sunshine and shadow flitting over the prairie, before the coming
of the unkept and unsightly hedge and barbed wire fences, was a sight to fill one with delight and emotion. It
resembled the waves of the ocean. There are three streams crossing the township. The Big Walnut crosses it from
north to south, on an average of about a mile west of the center. The valley is probably a mile wide and is very
fertile. Little Walnut crosses the southeast corner of the township from northeast to southwest. The valley land
will average a half mile in width. Four Mile Creek flows into the Big Walnut. The valley is rich and productive.
The streams are all fringed with timber, which was much used by the early settlers for building purposes; but now
only for fire wood and fence posts. Walnut logs are still shipped out to Eastern markets. Between the valleys of
these streams and the upland there is generally an outcropping, or ledge, of limestone. It is good building material
and good railroad ballast. There has been a large railroad rock crusher operated in the township for several years.
There are very few good springs in the township. Probably one should be mentioned. It is on the southeast 35-28-4.
The place is now owned by G. W. Brooks, who takes great interest in his spring and his fine garden he raises every
year along the spring branch. This garden is becoming almost a neighborhood affair, owing to the great generosity
of Mr. Brooks. Mr. Brooks has installed a hydraulic ram for water power for his house.
It is very probable that the buffalo and the Indian left Walnut township about the same time. The buffalo very
likely went in 1864 and 1865. The Indian followed in a year or two; 1865 and 1866. Observations made in 1869 and
1870 warrant these conclusions. There were numerous buffalo horns and bones in a good state of preservation to
be picked up on the "buffalo wailers," alkali spots where the buffalo would go to salt themselves. There
were forks, poles, hark and some cooking utensils to be found where the Indian's wigwam was on the south side of
the northeast quarter of section 35-28-4. The large elm trees had the bark peeled as high as a man could reach
from one side of the tree, but never clear around. The Indian must have loved trees. The line of cutting was regular
and V shaped. So it must have been cut by cross licks with a tomahawk. Where this wigwam stood was a patch of ground
of three or four acres which was cultivated and enclosed by a log fence, something on the style of the old "staked
and ridered" fence. The river helped to enclose the patch of low ground, which was entirely surrounded by
timber. This little patch of rich low ground is still known as the "Indian field." Straggling Indian
trappers were frequently met with in 1868, 1869 and 1870. The pioneers relate many incidents of their experiences
in meeting these roving hunters and trappers. Sometimes both Indian and pioneer were surprised.
The pioneer, "One who goes before to remove obstructions or prepare the way for another," came in 1866,
1867, 1868 and 1869, to bid the Indian goodbye. He came from the East North and South. He cut the trees, not the
bark, and replaced the wigwam with the log cabin. Like the Indian, he built his but in or near the timber along
the river, often near the little."Indian field." He was not yet ready or prepared to turn the prairie
sod. He planted his Indian field to corn and looked after his game. Game, such as deer, antelope, turkey, prairie
chicken, quail and other varieties common today, were very plentiful. Fish were fine and plentiful and could be
seen in the streams much plainer than now. The streams were clearer because the rains did not carry the soil hen,
as now, into them. There are a few, very few, of these pioneers still living in Butler county and still owning
their homesteads. But most of them, like the buffalo and Indians, have wandered away to other fields. Those who
are left can tell many rich and interesting experiences. I hope many of them will contribute their experiences
to the Butler County History.
Probably the two oldest pioneers, in point of settlement, who still own their old homes in Walnut township are
George W. Long and Mrs. Lou Kirkpatrick. They both now live in Augusta. Mr. Long settled on the Big Walnut in 1867
and doubtless knew all the pioneers of Walnut township. He helped Louis Booth to build his cabin, just southwest
of where Gordon now is, in 1867. Mrs. Kirkpatrick is a daughter of "Uncle" Billy Black, who settled with
his family of boys and girls on what is now known as the Blood laud. It is just west of Gordon on the Big Walnut.
"Uncle Billy" (William Craft Black) came to Walnut township with his family in the spring of 1868. Some
of his sons and daughters were then married and had families. His children were Tom, Dave, Mrs. Andy Crawford,
Sarah J., Lou, Abe, Willie and Crit. He and two sons and one daughter took four quarters of land on the Big Walnut,
just west of Gordon. It was then, and is now, the finest body of land in Walnut township. It is now the most valuable
section of land in Butler county, maybe, cities not counted, in Kansas. This "big hearted pioneer" and
good man, who was striving for his children, lost his worldly inheritance - land - by that noble virtue of goodness.
His friends (?) played him false. They became rich. He became poor. He lost all, except his energy and determination
to labor and strive on honorably to the end. Surely history does repeat itself; but I am not allowed the space
here to repeat the old, old story of Lazarus and Dives.
Louis Booth and George Booth built their cabin on the west, southeast and southwest of 28-28-4. This land is still
known as the Booth place by the old settlers. It is also spoken of as the Cox farm. In November, 1870, "Judge
Lynch" decided that the Booths, Jim Smith (Gilpin) and Jack Corbin were undesirable citizens. So they were
convicted and executed. Smith was shot at a ford in the middle of Little Walnut, just northeast of Douglass, called
the "Slayton ford." Corbin and the Booths were taken from the Booth cabin, and a little way from the
cabin Corbin was hung and the Booths were shot. Some say the four (Smith, Corbin, George Booth and Louis Booth)
were all buried on what is now the Hayes farm, about a quarter of a mile southwest of the Gordon depot. Mrs. L.
Kirkpatrick, who attended the burial, gives a very interesting narrative of the affair. She says the four bodies
were buried in four homemade coffins in two graves - the two Booth brothers in one and Corbin and Smith in the
other. Another report is that Louis Booth's wife took his remains to Emporia for interment. There was great excitement
and much bitter feeling over this lynching for several years.
George B. Green was one of the pioneers who settled on the northeast quarter 35-28-4 on the Little Walnut. Green
settled here in 1867 or 1868. He bought out a Dutchman who had lost three children here and became dissatisfied.
The children were buried a little distance east of the cabin under a spreading oak tree, near the center of what
is now called the "Cabin Field." The graves were enclosed by a rail pen. Afterward the tree fell down.
In the clear up the brush and rail pen were burned, and all traces of the graves were lost. Green was an ex-Confederate
soldier, but he never told it in the "John Brown State" until he met some Southern "sympathizers."
He considered discretion the better part of valor. He sold his place to W. J. Snodgrass in October, 1869, giving
a warranty deed November 17th, acknowledged before C. H. Lamb, justice of the peace. It was recorded by W. A. Sallee,
register of deeds. The patent was issued November I, 1870, by the United States government. U. S. Grant signed
the patent as President of the United States. The number of the patent is 189; probably it was the first quarter
of land deeded in the township. It has very likely paid more taxes than any other one hundred and sixty acres in
the township. Green went to Thirty Mile Strip and got a nicer place than the one he sold. From the appearance of
the Broke land and the improvements, the Dutchman must have settled this quarter in 1866 or 1867. W. J. Snodgrass
was both pioneer and early settler. In the fall of 1869 he with two companions, James Yowell and Dr. Beauford Averitt,
landed at Abilene, Kansas, from Marion county, Kentucky. They bought three ponies, saddles and bridles and struck
out to the southeast. The first place they stopped at in Walnut was at Dave Black's, with whom they stayed all
night. They met Green the same day they stopped at Black's, who told them he wanted to sell his place. So the next
day they went over to see him and stayed all night with him. On account of the fertility of the soil and abundance
of timber, one hundred acres, they all liked the place very much, and Snodgrass bought the place for $1,250. Future
events proved the wisdom of the purchase. During the hard times of the early seventies, when U. S. Grant was President,
Snodgrass at one time sold the saw timber for $1,500 and had the tops or laps left, which were cut into cord wood
and sold to school districts and prairie settlers for fire wood. And wood posts. fire wood and walnut logs have
been sold off this quarter of land from 1870 to 1916. Snodgrass went back to Kentuckq, sold out and moved his family
here in the summer of 1870. He came by way of boat from Louisville to Kansas City. From Kansas City he came by
teams and wagons. The first man he got acquainted with in Butler county on this move was Uncle John Teeters. Teeters
was much attracted by a fine horse, and when he, learned that Snodgrass was a Kentuckian he would have him go by
and camp at his place. Teeters was a Virginian. And the gratitude of the Kentuckian has never forgotten the unbounded
hospitality of the Virginian.
Snodgrass found it hard picking in the early days. With a wife, six small children, two nieces and a nephew, it
kept a fellow stirring and thinking. Bacon at thirty six cents per pound and money at thirty six per cent. were
two hard propositions to face. Shakespeare wrote of Shylock. Snodgrass once, in moments of desperation, after giving
up thirty six per cent., wrote the following epitaph for the early banker:
"Here lies thirty six per cent.,
The more he got the more he lent,
The more he got the more he craved,
Great God! can such a man be saved?
Soon after, in 1872 and 1873, under the hero Grant, he was selling fat cows at $12.00 and $14.00. Of course, he
quit eating bacon and shortened the biscuits with tallow. He moved into the cabin on June 27, 1870. He went to
work and got out saw logs, hauled them to the mill and sawed lumber for a frame house, which he erected on north
2, south 2, northwest 35-28-4. This eighty acres and the one north, south 2, southwest 26-28-4, was his homestead.
The carpenters induced him to sell his native finishing lumber and go to Emporia and buy pine. So this house was
built of native frame and pine finishing lumber. The oak sills were hewn by hand. This was the first frame residence
built in Walnut township. The Snodgrass family moved into it on November 27, 1870. The family here grew from six
to eleven children. Mr. Snodgrass has always taken great pride in fine stock. He brought some good horses here
with him. He soon brought in thoroughbred Berkshire hogs. He has handled fine sheep quite extensively. For many
years he owned and exhibited at the State and Oklahoma fairs one of the finest Shorthorn herds of the State. He
sold them at Wichita in February, 1907. Old age and poor health compelled him to quit the live stock business.
There is not much question but what he has paid more taxes than any man, living or dead, in Walnut township. He
has never asked for nor held a public salaried office in Kansas. The township records show that he has never drawn
a cent of the public money, although he paid much of it into the till. He has always been a taxpayer, never a tax
eater. He still lives on the place he homesteaded. It is one of the very few homesteads of Walnut that the mortgage,
grasshoppers or taxes didn't get.
While the early settler was striving to build his home and to feed, clothe and shelter his children, he did
not neglect to provide for their education. He realized that a trained mind was a necessary corollary of a robust
physical manhood. So he began to organize districts and to build school houses. Probably the first school taught
in the township was taught by Miss Jennie Blakey, and the second by Miss Alice Yowell, in 1872. These two terms
were taught in a "claim house." This was the house built by James Yowell across the line to hold two
claims - the northwest quarter of 35 and the northeast of 34. The house was long enough for two rooms, but the
partition was never put in. It was used for a school house and chinch. The first preliminary meetings for organizing
District 64 and building the school house were held in this house and at the residence of W. J. Snodgrass. Some
wanted to build by subscription, some by voting bonds. The bond idea carried. So our District 64 school house was
built of native frame lumber and pine finishing lumber, in 1873. There was a preacher on the school board and he
planned to dedicate the new school house with one of his masterful sermons and a big meeting. The young worldly
patrons planned very differently. They wanted a jolly good dance. The carpenter, J. C. Mitchell, who was an Englishman
and a bachelor, held the keys to the house. He lived in a dugout a quarter of a mile from the school house. So
the young worldly minded patrons, or rather a few young men, representatives of theirs, went to Mitchell's dugout
and boosted James D. Yowell, a small boy, through the window and had him to get the keys out of the bachelor's
pockets. With these they proceeded to the school house, to open up and let the throng, assembled from ten miles
around, in. The crowd, gents and ladies, fiddler and callers, were all ready. The only necessary preliminaries
- opening the door being over, the dance commenced at once. And it was hilarious from start to finish. At one time
they thought they heard the deacon and board coming; but some brave Apollo shouted:
On with the dance ! let joy be unconfined,
It is not the cannon's opening roar,
It is but our gay light hearted Guyot,
Shouting and tripping the light fantastic toe.
Salute your partner, first to the right, next to the left, and then to the one which you like best. All swing and
promenade and rest. Some wanted to "schottische," some to "waltz," some to "heal and toe,"
some to "Virginia reel" and some the "square," but the church member girls said Dan Tucker
or Weevily Wheat. So some guy, who was sweet on one of the church girls, started up:
"Come down this way with your "Weevily Wheat,"
Come down this way with your barley,
Come down this way with your "Weevily Wheat"
And bake a cake for Charlie.
Oh! Charlie he's a lovely lad,
Oh! Charlie he's a dandy,
Oh! Charlie he's a lovely lad
Who feeds those girls on candy.
We won't have none of your "Weevily Wheat,"
We won't have none of your barley
To bake a cake for Charlie.
Apollo broke forth with:
Old Dan Tucker, he came from town,
Saluting the ladies all around;
First to the right, then to the left,
Then to the one which he likes best.
Get out of the way for "Old Dan Tucker,"
Get out of the way for "Old Dan Tucker."
Then some laggard chimed in: "Shoot the buffalo," but he was quickly squelched in the general shout of,
"Let us have the square and the good old swing."- And so the "die was cast," and the Rubicon
was crossed and the landing made at early daybreak. The revelers all went home singing:
"We danced all night and a hole in the stocking; We danced all night and the heel kept a rocking."
There was much talk of prosecutions for desecrating the school house. The preacher never preached in it. He said,
"The devil got in before the Lord." But the deacon felt different about his wife. He was perfectly willing
and, in fact, helped to hire her, at an exhorbitant price, to teach in this habitation of "Satan." No
wonder this school house was named "Tempest." It is too early in time to speak of the tragedies which
have happened at "Tempest." It might cause the Innocents to suffer. It might cause even the "Rocks
of Rome to arise and mutiny." I will not speak of some of the teachers of bad character who were imposed on
the children of this school, through spite. The old school house still stands, but now a half mile northeast of
where it was built in the northwest corner of the southeast 26-28-4.
There was much talk of railroads in the seventies; but it did not seem to take much tangible form until the early
eighties. On April 24, C. H. Kurtz was paid for printing railroad proposition and election proclamation of February
21, 1880, $15.00. W. H. H. Adams, G. W. Long and John Van Arsdell, judges; W. H. Curry and J. L. Van Arsdell were
clerks at this election. This was for the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad Company. On March 8, this railroad
company paid into the township treasury, $30.00 for expenses of said election. They acted very "white."
The story of the present Santa Fe is entirely different. The township has "had it" with them from start
to finish. It is too much to tell in detail. I will mention a few things. On February 1, 1880, there was an election
held to vote $10,000 in bonds for $10,000 worth of stock in the F. E. W. V. railroad. The proposition lost. It
was either a tie or defeat. On April 12, 1881, they tried it again. And the old settlers say that with some bribed
votes the proposition carried by three or four votes. The township talked of contesting, but did not. In August
of the same year the "wise ones" came down to the township and told them how likely the township was
to get in bad by holding stock in a railroad that would go into the hands of a receiver. But the railroad would
be good to them and take the stock, off of their hands. So the township board had the township treasurer to make
the following entry: "Aug. 9, 1881; Rec'd of the F. E. W. V. R. R. Co. for Ten Thousand Dollars' worth of
Stock in said R. R. the sum of $1.00. July 3oth, 1881; C. H. Kutrz for printing R. R. Prop. of Apr. 12, 1881, $25.00.
W. H. H. Adams, Trustee, J. K. Carr, Treas, and Jas L. VanArsdell, clerk, were the township board at this time.
In the latter part of 1883, or the early part of 1884, the railroad moved away the depot. The township instituted
suit. The township record of January 26, 1884, shows the following entries: Paid $15.00 to T. O. Shinn to deposit
in court, $15.00; paid to T. O. Shinn and Leland, $50.00; paid to W. H. H. Adams for attending to railroad suit,
$15.00; paid to T. O. Shinn, $200. The township won. The railroad paid the cost of the suit and put up another
depot. Afterwards, about 1888, the railroad started to close the depot. The township was ready for another suit,
so they did not close it.
Our railroad bonds were "twenty thirties." That is, they could he paid in twenty years, but could not
run longer than thirty years. They drew seven per cent. So the yearly interest for our township was $700.00. This,
for many years, was about twice all our other expenses. It is a problem what these bonds did cost us. If they had
all been paid (which they were not) at the end of twenty years, the interest would have amounted to $14,000. The
principal and interest would have been $24,000. On June 30, 1900, some bond refunding attorneys from Topeka rounded
up our township board into a "special meeting" and got them to "refund" our "outstanding
bonds." They "showed" the board what a "good deal" it would be to give up the old seven
per cent bonds and issue new four and a half per cent bonds. They never mentioned it to the board that the township
had the right to pay off all these bonds the next year - 1901. So the board took the "bait" and agreed
to pay $1,800 for the deal.
The succeeding township board, E. B. Alexander trustee, W. H. Dare clerk, and. W. C. Snodgrass treasurer, employed
a lawyer and busted the deal, to the great chagrin of the bond attorneys. There was one bond holder who tried to
hold on to his good seven per cent. He contended that our county treasurer did not get the money to the fiscal
agency in New York in time. This contention ran on for several years. I think it was just $500 bond. The board
employed an attorney who got it settled without a law suit. I think it was a wise suggestion that township boards
should be leery of special meetings. The machinations and assiduous cries of these public spirited, patriotic promoters
will often hypnotize the most sagacious board.
The progress and prosperity of the township has been marked, steady and incessant. Some of our land has risen in
value from $1.25 "to $1000 per acre. The slow patient ox, who turned the first sod and hauled the first house
and first food, has been replaced with the draft horse, the standard bred, the motor car and the automobile. The
few little fields of corn, wheat and potatoes have been multiplied into many large ones of these cereals, and kafir,
alfalfa, cane, Hilo maize, sweet clover, etc. The Longhorn has given way to the Shorthorn; the broncho to the thoroughbred;
the razorback to the pure bred. The hen has made her respectful bow to the incubator and gone off to scratch for
more worms and to lay more eggs. The farmer does not pick dollars off of trees. He gathers them up after the hens.
The little honey bee has been helped, too, with foundation comb. The weekly mail, carried by your neighbors when
they thought of it, now comes every day to your door. The telephone is in every house. It connects you with the
telegraph and all parts of the habitable world. The phonograph gives you in your own homes, music, orations, operas,
band concerts, and sings the baby to sleep. Where E. A. Cease could count, from his house to the center of Walnut
township, his hundred head of cattle grazing on the prairie, his grandson, H. E. Cease, can now, from the Jame
spot, see the first oil well brought in in Butler county and count one hundred oil and gas wells.
And mother earth has just begun to give us from her bowels her hidden wealth. This new Eureka has made some farmers
rich over night. It is like the story of Aladdin and his lamp. These farmers have rented their farms and moved
to town, where they can rest on the shady side and give their children better educational advantages. Space forbids
a detailed oil and gas history of Walnut township. Oil and gas men claim that it is the richest pool in the State.
Every farmer in the township feels that he has plenty of oil and gas on his farm.
The boom has filled our township with strangers. It seems to have opened new springs of energy and action. Instead
of talking weather, crops, live stock, etc., they talk oil, gas, wells, deep tests, Mississippi lime, tanks, pipe
lines., etc. And the speculators, promoters and townsite men are here. Our town Gordon is to have an addition -
"Gordon Heights" - and is destined to become a city. Even the railroad no longer wants to move out. It
is taking on new life and bustle. It is changing and improving the station and putting in more trackage. It has
also put on an extra passenger train each way.
I hope the readers of this brief history of Walnut township will find some pleasure and satisfaction in its perusal.
If they do I will feel amply rewarded for my effort, then, both reader and writer will be happy, Where two souls
beat in sympathy and unison, there is a feast of reason and flow of soul that makes the whole world akin. So, without
apology, vain regrets are useless repining, I submit this to your lenient and charitable consideration.