By N. A. Yeager.
Augusta township was organized April 4, 1870, by the board of county commissioners, on petition of C. N. James
and others. It included the present territory of Augusta, Bruno, Spring and the north halves of Pleasant; Walnut
and Bloomington townships. The following township officers were appointed until the regular election: Daniel Stine,
trustee; A. Palmer, treasurer, and C. N. James, clerk. The first election was held at Augusta, May 14, 1870, which
was a special election called to vote on the proposition to move the county seat from El Dorado to Chelsea. The
vote was 119 for and 9 against. The next election was a special election on June 27, 1870, to vote $25,000 bonds
for county buildings at El Dorado. The vote was 253 against and none for the proposition.
At the first general election the following officers were elected: Daniel Stine, trustee; E. R. Powell, treasurer;
H. M. Winger, clerk; William Treweeke and W. D. Mead, justices of the peace. At this election the county herd law
was also voted upon. The present boundaries of Augusta township were established by the county commissioners April
4, 1870. The town of Augusta was incorporated February 8, 1871, upon the petition of C. N. James and eighty other
taxpayers of the town. C. N. James, Thomas H. Baker, W. A. Shannon, G. W. Brown and J. R. Nixon were appointed
board of trustees. At the first regular election C. N. James was elected mayor. In 1868, Shamleffer and James opened
the first store near the corner of Third and State streets, in a log building, which has since been weather boarded
and is now used as a residence. It is now known as No. 309 State street.
On January 2, 1869, the postoffice was established with Mr. James as postmaster, and the postoffice and the town
were given the name of Augusta, in honor of his wife, Augusta James. Immediately across the street from the postoffice
the first hotel was built and operated by Mr. Mitchell, and is now known as No. 308 State street.
Prior to this time the adventurers and, explorers of this region recognized the commercial importance of this location
for a city, and two town companies were formed and platted this location in 1857 and 1858, and its natural advantages
were advertised and exploited by the respective promoters in the east. One of these towns was named Arizonia and
the other Fontanelle. They were both located on the present townsite. About this time an investigation was had
by some of the purchasers of lots, and a survey was made which started from a known boundary line stone on the
Neosho river, near Humboldt, and was run due west through this county. It was discovered that the townsites were
on the Osage Indian tract and were not subject to sale, and these towns died, as did also the hopes of their founders
and the eastern investors to make fortunes. It is said that C. N. James, in 1868, purchased the relinquishment
on which the original townsite is located for $40. Daniel Stine is recognized as being the oldest permanent white
settler of this township. He came to Butler county in 1858. A man named Hilderbrand had preceded him to this county
and took a claim east of El Dorado on what is now the county farm. A few years afterward it is said that Hilderbrand
was suspected of conducting some dealings in horses at night which made him unpopular, and he received an urgent
invitation to emigrate. There is no record of how or when he departed.
In 1868, the government concluded a treaty with the Indians whereby they relinquished their claim to a strip twenty
miles wide on the north side of their reservation. This is known as the Osage Indian trust land, the northern boundary
of which is about six miles north of Augusta. In 1869 A. Palmer brought in a saw mill which was located on the
west banks of the Walnut river, immediately north of the present residence of Mrs. M. J. Loy. The first residence
of the town was erected in 1869, on the corner of State street and Fourth avenue. This building is now occupied
and owned by G. W. Obmart, and was built almost entirely of native lumber from the Palmer mill. October 1, 1870,
the United States land office was located at Augusta. This was largely due to the influence and energy of Thomas
H. Baker, who afterward served in the State legislature. Andrew Akin was registrar and W. A. Shannon, receiver.
The land office brought with it a large influx of immigration to this county, and Augusta experienced its first
boom. The county settled rapidly, and the flood of immigrants pouring down the valley were enraptured by the broad
fertile valleys, the beautiful streams and abundance of walnut and other valuable timber fringing them.
Augusta was especially favored by being in the center from which these fertile valleys radiated. The Whitewater
river from the north, the Walnut from the northeast, Indianola creek from the northwest, centered at this point;
and Four Mile creek, a few miles to the southwest, and the Little Walnut river and Hickory creek, to the southeast,
made an ideal location for the central point of a rich agricultural community. About this time the Santa Fe Railroad
Company, recognizing the commercial importance of this point, made a survey from Emporia, with a view to extending
its line from that place, but either from lack or grasp of the importance and advantage of this move by the citizens
of Augusta, or from some reasons which are not now definitely ascertainable, the railroad company abandoned the
project and extended its line west to Newton, and afterward to Wichita, and the land office was moved to the latter
place. It is generally conceded by the old time residents that Augusta failed to avail itself of an opportunity
which might have changed the map of this part of the state, and in which they were assisted by some of the old
time residents of El Dorado.
In September, 187o, The Augusta "Crescent," the first newspaper, was established by A. A. Putnam and
L. J. Perry. These editors were succeeded by J. B. Davis, who changed its name to The Augusta "Republican."
He was succeeded by U. A. Albin, who in 1874 discontinued the publication with this short valedictory: "The
patronage we have received will not justify us in risking a continuance. 'Since self preservation is the first
law of nature,' we will endeavor to locate where we can do best." Afterward The Southern Kansas "Gazette"
was established by the late Charles H. Kurtz, and in 1880 Mr. Albin repented. returned and established the "Republican."
In 1872 a county seat election was held, in which Augusta received a majority of 206 over El Dorado. The removal
of the county seat was contested by El Dorado and the matter was taken into the courts and decided against Augusta
on a technicality. This county seat agitation continued for a number of years, to the detriment of both places,
and greatly retarded the development of the county. The same year the land office was moved to Wichita. With the
loss of the land office and the county seat, the population of Augusta decreased and the speculators, who are the
mainsprings in townsite promotion, lost heart and abandoned Augusta for more promising fields. In 1880 the Frisco
railroad was completed and Augusta took on new life. In 1881, the Santa Fe extended its line through Augusta to
Douglass. Within six months the population doubled and continued to increase steadily for several years. Stone
quarries were opened up in this vicinity and good building stone was quarried for local use and for shipment. From
1888 to 1898 the financial stringency over the entire country retarded the progress of Augusta, as well as all
the towns in the State, but Augusta still maintained its reputation of being one of the best towns of its size
in Kansas because of its favored natural resources.
In 1906, the city (largely upon the advice and earnest solicitation of Mr. Yeager, the writer of this article-Editor),
took up the development of gas for municipal purposes and commenced to furnish its citizens with gas at a low rate,
and now has a gas plant which is estimated to be worth $100,000, paid for out of the proceeds of the gas. In 1908,
the city put in a water system. In 1913, an electric light system was installed, largely paid for out of the gas
receipts. In 1916 the city completed a sanitary sewer system. From the development of the oil field, the growth
of Augusta has been very rapid; the census shows for 1915 a population of 1,400, and for 1916, 3,575, and is still
increasing in the same ratio. Its future growth and importance will be determined largely by circumstances and
the wisdom and energy of its citizens.
To the archaeologist Augusta presents an interesting field. Across the Walnut river from the present city are to
be found ruins of an ancient city covering many times the territory now covered by Augusta. Here is to be found
the evidences of very ancient races of people, and fragments of pottery as ancient as the pyramids of Egypt. Fragments
of rock used in the manufacture of tools, which are not found this side of Lake Superior or the Rocky Mountains;
hand mills for the grinding of grain, manufactured from stone not found in this vicinity; small mounds extending
from section 4 in Walnut township to section 26, Augusta township, representing the accumulations, perhaps, of
centuries. In these are the fragmentary evidence that delights the antiquarian and appeals to our imagination and
fancy. Here is represented an age in which all implements and cutlery were manufactured of stone. The process of
the manufacture of implements and knives and weapons is unknown today, and must have represented the highest skill,
evidencing a civilization far above the American Indian.
This location was selected, doubtless, for its commercial advantages as well as from strategic reasons. The three
sides of this - to the east, north and west, defines a wall almost perpendicular, ranging from twenty five to fifty
feet high, at the foot of which runs the deep channel of the Walnut, making an attack from this direction, with
ancient weapons, almost impossible. Here large springs furnish ample water supply of the best character. The Inidan
has it that many bloody battles were fought to gain and hold this important point. Doubtless this was the best
hunting ground in the mid continent. Here we find the first timbered protection and the first permanent water for
the game and animal life which necessarily must have sought shelter from the blizzards and winter storms which
swept the plains, and the drought which parched the great American desert. Here the rich valleys afforded game
for the primeval inhabitants.
According to Indian tradition, the last great battle was fought in the low grounds between the present site of
Augusta and the Whitewater and Walnut rivers. If Indian tradition can be relied upon, many thousand braves in hand
encounter battled and perished in this last great struggle for this stronghold, and that several thousands of braves
perished in this battle. Whatever may have transpired before the present civilization conquered this territory
is largely a matter of conjecture. One civilization succeeding another of different type, one race of people succeeding
another different in character, has been the history of all time, doubtless true of this locality. And the importance
of this location was recognized and built upon in the histories of all these tribes and races.