History of Hartford, Kansas
From: History of Emporia and Lyon County Kansas
By: Laura M. French
Emporia Gazette Print
Emporia, Kansas 1929


Hartford, twenty miles southeast of Emporia on the M. K. & T., was established in 1858. It is in a bend of the Neosho River, near the Coffey County line. It was located in the autumn of 1857, and named by a member of the Town Company, A. K. Hawkes, in honor of his home city, Hartford, Connecticut. Mr. Rice, whom Hawkes met in Topeka, and a man named Woodford, also a Connecticut man, were other members of the Town Company. The town site proper was laid out in 1858 by Judge Graham and D. F. Bond.

The first school in Hartford was taught by Mrs. Hawkes in her home, in 1860. That year a branch of Baker University was located in Hartford, and named the Hartford Collegiate Institute. Work was started in 1862 on a building for this school, and it was completed in 1863. Solomon Lewis taught the first school in the new building, which for many years was the home of the Hartford Public Schools and now houses the primary department. It is the oldest building in Hartford, and the oldest school building in Lyon County. In 1866 Asa D. Chambers (1) leased the institute building for ten years, and in 1867 opened it as an academy. The substantial brick public school building was erected in 1915, when Hartford became a consolidated school, and this building also houses its accredited High School. There are three flourishing churches - Methodist (2), Christian and Catholic.

Hartford was incorporated as a city of the third class March 12, 1884, and Thomas Campbell was its first mayor. The Emporia Gazette, the summer of 1929, said editorially of Hartford:

"Hartford is going after a system of sewers and a waterworks plant. Already Hartford has the best rural schools in this part of Kansas, and the town has turned out more smart men and women than any town of its size in the county. Highway No. 57 is paved through the town, and lacks only a few miles of being the short line to Joplin - a first class highway. The principal streets have been raveled since 1921."

A big celebration was held in Hartford on the completion of highway No. 57, in which Emporia and all Southern Lyon County participated. The grist mill on the Neosho north of town, founded and operated by I. A. Taylor, met the fate of many of the mills of the early days - it was burned and was not rebuilt. Mr. Taylor also founded the first bank in Hartford.

1) A. D. Chambers twice was elected superintendent of the Lyon County Schools - 1868 and 1870.

2) The Rev. Cyrus R. Rice always was called, affectionately, "Elder" Rice. He was the first of the itinerant Methodist ministers in the Neosho Valley, having been sent to Kansas as a missionary in 1855. On horseback, he rode over hundreds of miles of lonely prairie, seeking opportunity to minister to those in need of his services. There were no laid out roads and no bridges, and often he swam the swollen streams, and followed towpaths when the road disappeared. He organized numerous churches and Sunday Schools, was presiding elder of the Emporia district, served many churches as pastor, and from 1896 to 1898 was pastor of the Hartford Methodist Church. By this time he was growing old, and in Hartford he bought a home, on the site of the log cabin which had housed the first Methodist organization in Hartford, and named it Rice's Rest. There he and Mrs. Rice were happy in a beautiful and useful old age. Their sons, Edwin and Merton Rice, are ministers of prominence in the Methodist Church.

Elder Rice, in traveling over the country often found himself at night many miles from a human habitation, and he lay down under the stars on the blanket he always carried, his saddle for a pillow, his faithful horse his only companion. He was a fluent Greek and Latin and Hebrew scholar, and acquired these languages, largely, by the light of his lonely camp fires on the prairie, while traveling from one preaching point to another. In his later years he found holding a pen difficult, and after his retirement from the ministry, at an age when most men have ceased to labor he took up typewriting, and found it greatly to his advantage. He died in 1919.

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