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


Politically, Lyon County and Emporia have enjoyed variety. The Republican party, usually in the lead, has been compelled on numerous occasions to give way to other parties. In the early seventies, the Greenbackers caused the Republicans much uneasiness, and in 1873 the farmers nominated the only ticket in the field for the county election. For a majority of the offices there were two, and sometimes three nominees. The Union Labor party in the eighties gave the Republicans another bad turn, and when, in the nineties, the Populists elected county officers and members for the legislative and judicial districts, and helped to elect a couple of governors of the State, a United States senator and congressman, the Republicans were convinced that Lyon County had gone to the dogs. The Bull Moosers, the first decade and a half of the present century, again caused the Republicans to squirm, and kept them busy, after several elections, as had the Populists, explaining how and why, in a "county normally Republican," it was possible for any other party to win a victory.

But the real how and why is that Lyon County people exercise their God given right to vote as they please, to split their tickets at any time they wish to do so, and to bolt their party if they choose. In a "county normally Republican," no doubt it is good for the souls of members of all parties that no party is continuously triumphant, but that each must keep "on its toes" in an effort to escape the criticism of the other. Politics in Lyon County becomes each year more a pleasurable game and less a deadly serious proposition. Because, deep in his consciousness, each voter knows that, in all probability, the candidates of both parties are honest men and women, ready to do their duty by their friends and neighbors if elected to office.

Always the political reform movements and all parties in opposition to the Republicans have had as their leaders some of the strongest men in the county, who have put the best that was in them into the fight. Among the early day Democrat leaders were Robert M. Ruggles,* appointed district judge in July, 1861, to fill the place of Judge O. A. Learnard, who had enlisted in the Civil War. Ruggles was elected to this position at the general election in the autumn of that year. Perry B. Maxson was a state senator, elected in 1862 without opposition, and again in 1866 with but sixty eight votes polled against him. He became an ardent Greenbacker in the seventies, and represented that party in the lower house of the State Legislature. When the Populist party grew out of the Farmers Alliance, Mr. Maxson took up that cause with all his old time fervor. He was an able and conscientious man, firm in his convictions and ready to fight for them as long as he lived.

In 1871 and again in 1876 the Democrats elected E. B. Peyton as district judge, and he was a leading attorney in this county for many years. Levi Dumbauld, of Elmendaro Township, a successful farmer and stock raiser, became a leader in the Populist upris ing, and was elected by that party to the State Senate in 1892. He has lived for many years at Las Animas, Colo. William E. McCreary served the Populist party faithfully and well, without thought of personal reward. M. A. Coppock and J. V. Randolph were wheel horses in every political reform movement. P. F. Yearout led the Populist party in Lyon County - and his influence extended over the State - from the date of his purchase of the Emporia Times in 1895, and after the dissolution of the Populist party, gave his personal influence and the influence of his paper to the Democrats until he sold the Times, in 1906.

R. T. Snedeker, of Hartford, a highly educated and able man, an adherent of Henry George, preached Single Tax in season and out of season for many years in Lyon County and over the State. He advocated other lines of political reforms, but Single Tax was his hobby. Hartford long was the Single Tax center for Kansas, and was known all over the United States for the devotion of its followers.

William C. Harris, Democrat, served three terms - twelve years - as district judge, having been elected in 1912, and twice reelected. W. M. Price, elected to the State Senate from the Lyon Greenwood district in 1912, since that time has held the leadership of the Democrat party in this county and judicial district. Lon C. McCarty, who served three terms, 1916-1918-1920, as county attorney, in 1928 was elected district judge by a large majority. Many other Democrats and reform party men and women have held office in Lyon County.

In the Progressive movement of the early part of the present century, W. A. White was national committeeman for the Progressives, and among other leading Lyon County men of this political faith were J. H. Glotfelter and C. A. Stannard.

The foremost Republican of the first three and one half decades in town and county was Preston B. Plumb who, after serving his community and State in numberless ways, and his country during the Civil War, in 1877 was elected to the United States Senate, holding that high office until his death in 1891. L. D. Bailey was elected an associate justice of the Kansas Supreme Court, one of the group at the first election under the Wyandotte Constitution. He was nominated at Osawatomie, at the convention which met to organize the Republican party in Kansas, to which Oliver Phillips, J. M. Rankin and David Swim were delegates from Lyon County.

Other early day Republican leaders were Jacob Stotler, Charles V. Eskridge and E. P. Bancroft, all of whom represented their districts in both branches of the State Legislature, and Eskridge was elected lieutenant governor in 1868. Gov. Samuel J. Crawford** lived in Emporia in the sixties, and took an active part in Republican politics. William Martindale, from the time he was elected a representative to the lower house of the Kansas Legislature in 1865, reelected in 1866, and later elected to the State Senate, for almost half a century was a power in county, district and State politics. Lyman B. Kellogg, following his great service to the State as president of the Normal School, in 1876 was elected a representative to the State Legislature, then served Lyon County three terms as probate judge and before the expiration of the third term, was elected to the State Senate. In 1888 he was elected attorney general of Kansas. I. E. Lambert, for twenty years preceding his death in 1913, was active in County and State politics, and wielded a wide influence. George Plumb has given, for many years, freely and unselfishly and without partisanship, of his time and talents for the good, not of his party, particularly, but of the people whom he served.

William Martindale settled in Greenwood County, near Madison, in 1857, where until 1899 he owned the largest farm and cattle ranch in that county. He was interested in banking and milling, as well as in politics and ranching, and was known as one of the shrewdest stockmen and financiers in the State. The Martindales moved to Emporia in 1889, and the youngest son, Chester Martindale, with his family, lives in the home built by his father and mother at 811 Constitution.

E. W. Cunningham in 1903 was appointed by Governor E. W. Stanley to a position on the Supreme Court bench of the State, an additional place in that body having been created by the Legislature. Charles B. Graves, who was elected district judge in 1876, was appointed by Governor Stanley to fill the place made vacant by the death of Judge Cunningham. W. L. Huggins, in 1892 elected county superintendent of public instruction, served the community in this office two consecutive terms, then for twenty two years practiced law in Emporia uninterruptedly. In 1919 he was appointed a member of the Kansas Public Utilities Commission by Governor Henry J. Allen, and a year later was appointed by Governor Allen as presiding judge of the Kansas Court of Industrial Relations.

James Evans, of Hartford, was one of the keenest minded leaders of the Republican party in this county. For several decades he was high in its counsels, and his great regret in leaving Lyon County to live in California was that the move compelled him to give up his favorite diversion - politics in Kansas. He was appointed postmaster for Hartford about 1895, and held the office three consecutive terms. The fact that he was blind several years did not interfere with his political activities. He died at his home in Hollywood, Calif., a few years ago. Charles Johnson, of Hartford, was another Republican leader who could be depended upon to "vote'er straight," or to render any other service in the interests of his party.

*Robert M. Ruggles, attorney, settled first at Americus, where with T. C. Hill as publisher, he started the Americus Sentinel, and as its editor put up a hard but losing fight to retain the county seat at Americus. The Sentinel appeared first September 26, 1859. After the election of 1860, at which time by vote of the people, the county seat contest was decided in favor of Emporia, Judge Ruggles moved his law office to Emporia. Here he formed a partnership with P. B. Plumb, and the firm of Ruggles & Plumb became one of the ablest in the state. On the Ruggles farm, on the east side of the Americus road immediately south of the Ruggles bridge across the Neosho, Judge Ruggles bred registered Durham cattle, and Mrs. Ruggles - who was Susannah Spencer before her marriage - was considered as successful a cattle raiser and as competent a judge of livestock qualities as was her husband. This farm long was one of the show places of the county. W. S. Ruggles, sr., of Emporia, is a son of Judge and Mrs. Ruggles.

**Samuel J. Crawford lived in Emporia at the time of his election as governor of Kansas, in 1865. The Crawford home was at Ninth and Union, the house built by the Crawfords having been for many years the home of the Samuel Hall family.

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