History of Clifford Township, Kansas
From: History of Butler County, Kansas
BY: Vol. P. Mooney
Standard Publishing Company
Lawrence, Kansas 1916

By Col. Bill Avery.

I first landed in Kansas in March, 1860, and settled in Breckenridge, now Lyon county, where I stayed until December of that year, when I returned to Hillsdale county, Michigan, my place of birth; in August, 1862, I enlisted in Company D, Eighteenth Michigan infantry. I returned from the army in July, 1865, and in October of that year, I returned to Kansas and settled on the old Santa Fe trail twenty miles east of Council Grove at 142 creek. When I lost all I had, with stock dying of Texas fever, in April, 1868, I came to Butler county and settled in what is now Clifford townships. It was then Towanda township, from northwest corner of Butler county to four miles south of Towanda, and twelve miles wide.

When I landed in what is now Clifford township, I unloaded my goods in the brush on what was afterward named Avery creek, in company with my wife and one son, U. S. Avery, 3 1/2 years of age. There were in the territory the following settlers: T. L. Ferrier, his father and family; Walter Gilman, H. H. Wilcox and a man by the name of Cams. In June of this year, we had the Indian scare, when everybody left their homes and all returned but Cams. In the fall of 1868, I. V. and William Davis came and located about three miles northwest of our claim. William Davis is still living there. Of all the settlers who were there when I came none are now living.

In the spring election of 1869, I was elected trustee of Towanda township and I assessed the following persons, commencing on the northwest corner of Towanda township: H. H. Wilcox, Walter Gilman, T. L. Ferrier, ____ Cairns, H, Comstock, John Wentworth, Joseph Adams, Jake Green, Amos Adams, John Adams, Anthony Davis, a Mr. Kelly, on west branch of Vhitewater; Mr. Green, Dan Cupp and Sam Fulton, and I stayed all night with two Ralston boys and Lew Hart four miles south of Towanda. The Goodales were on their claims, having just arrived, and were not subject to taxation that year. I presume I have forgotten some names. These are all I can remember now.

On November 15, 1868, H. H. Wilcox, his son and Mr. Dean and I went on a buffalo hunt, and on the eighteenth we were caught in a snow storm which lasted forty eight hours, and covered the ground to a depth of ten inches, and we camped on the Ninachee river with one dead cottonwood tree for fuel. We succeeded in getting a supply of meat, and finally reached home after our friends had about given up hope for our return.

The first school in Clifford township was taught in a log cabin on the claim of Martin Ashenfelter on section 34, in the summer of 1871, and the teacher was Nettie Maynard, the term being three months. Her compensation was $12 per month and "board around" and, of course, being a sensible girl, she boarded with the best cook most of the time, and all old settlers know who that was. A baby girl was born to us in March, 1871, and died in 1886, aged 16 years.

The first Sunday school was a union school organized at the same place in the same year. Morton Eddy was superintendent and Mrs. Avery was clerk, and she secured the first Sunday school papers through an uncle, Randall Farrote, a Christian minister at Newville, Ind.

There was a rush of new settlers during 1870, 1871, 1872 and 1873, and in 1873 we cut loose from Towanda and organized the township of Clifford out of township 23, range 4. W. H. Avery circulated the petition for said organization and selected the name of a friend, John A. Clifford, the father of Sam Clifford, of El Dorado, and presented the petition to the proper authorities.

The first township election was held in the house of John A. Clifford on April 1, 1873. At the election the following were elected: E. Y. Ketchem, trustee; J. A. Clifford, treasurer; Z. M. Ketchem, clerk; J. J. Long and W. C. Derby, justices of the peace; William Bain and W. G. Hess, constables.

The year 1874 was and will be long known as "grasshopper year." The clouds of hoppers came like a snow storm and the sun was blotted out. Our little garden was north of the house, and we were at the west door of our little cabin watching the hoppers come and wondering what they would do, when my wife said: "They are getting my onions." I wondered how she knew 'and she said: "One of them hit me on the nose and I smelled his breath." Sure enough, she was right, and we found holes in the ground where the onions had been and that was all. The only thing they left was the prairie grass, and we put up lots of hay and the good people in the East sent us food and clothing.

The first school district was No. 21, organized in 1871, and the first stone school house in Butler county was built by Avery & Jackson in district 21, on the southeast corner of the southwest quarter of 14-23-4. This was in 1871 and 1872.

We at that time tried to farm and raise the same things we were used to in the east. Had we known of the merits of alfalfa, kaffir and the sorghums, life would have been much more satisfactory to the homes.

By Elva Commons Nonkin, of Shady Land Farm

It is not my purpose in this short sketch to attempt a chronological history of Clifford and her people, but to try and trace some of the reasons for Clifford and her people appearing so seldom on the criminal docket of Butler county and so rarely on the list of the county commissioners' proceedings which relate to aid given to paupers.

The educational development of the community lay very close to the heart of the early settlers and Blue Mound was early recognized as one of the foremost districts in the county, having the reputation of turning out more teachers than any other district in the county. This was made possible largely by the efforts of the Averys, Ashenfelters, Austins, Lobdells, Hopkins and Harper families. District 47, Brown, was also noted for the length of its terms and the high class of teachers hired. The leading spirits in this were the Baxters, Commons, Smiths, Waggys, Johnsons, Crows, Goddings and Tuttle families, while the Leydigs, Superhaughs, McCroskeys, Jennings, Huletts, Shrivers and Liggets kept up a high standard in district 71, the third organized in the township.

Among those who developed the live stock industry most extensively during the early days were J. A. Clifford, H. H. Wilcox, Robert Hopkins and C. F. Bruner. Later their places in this industry were taken by H. Lathrop & Sons, the Liggett families, T. A. Enright, J. A. Day, H. S. Lincoln, the Gefeller Bros., V. H. Smith and L. P. Nonkin.

Perhaps no person has made a more permanent impression on the community than has Mrs. A. M. McCroskey. She lived for many years on the farm now occupied by Mrs. H. G. Liggett, but finally moved to Lawrence, where her son Ward and daughter Orrell graduated from the State university. From there she went to San Francisco, where she makes a home for her son Cyrus and daughter Anna, who are in business there, and although she is now past seventy, she is in the thick of municipal politics, on the side of woman suffrage and prohibition. While here her husband died, and she took charge of the farm, doing nearly all kinds of farm work. She was a member of the school board, a Sunday school superintendent, taught a few terms of school, took active part in organizing many social gatherings, helped young teachers secure schools and was a general neighborhood arbiter, but never during this time neglecting her family or failing to keep up her general reading. Another woman who lived in the township only four years, but made a lasting impression on the lives of the young with whom she came in contact, was Mrs. Maria G. Spear. With her husband, they settled on the farm now the home of L. P. Nonkin. Having no children and being of a social disposition and very fond of the young, she soon became identified with the best things in the community life, having had better opportunity in her early life than most of her neighbors and also of a high moral character, her influence for good cannot be over estimated. J. M. Linn, who lived in the Blue Mound district about fifteen years, developed the musical talent of his neighborhood. In winter he sometimes had six different singing schools, teaching every night in the week, and on Sunday he led the music at the Sabbath school and church. Although a modest, retiring man, yet he soon became the leader in the church activities, was an excellent public school teacher and a social leader in his community. His death in 1898, at the age of 48, was mourned sincerely by those whose lives he had touched.

Another who was a leading personality in the seventies and eighties was Mrs. S. D. Drake. Of a commanding presence, and with the voice of a prima donna, she always willingly sang and trained others to sing for church and social gatherings, and when she removed to her former home in Boston we felt that we would never have good singing in Clifford again.

Dr. I. V. Davis was an important factor in every enterprise for the upbuilding of the community, and in his capacity as physician he came very close to the hearts of the people. In 1870, John Boersma, a Hollander, with his family, homesteaded the farm now occupied by his son in law, Samuel Merwin. Although in the direst poverty for several years, they kept up courage, practiced extreme self denial and all worked untiringly, They lived in a one roomed sod house for many years. It was always kept scrupulously clean and orderly and no one entered it but was impressed by the innate worth of its occupants. It was a long time before he could buy a team, but with his spade and hoe he worked wonders, and in later years, after he had prospered and had built a good house and barn, the farm, with its beautiful well trimmed hedges and trees and orderly premises was the "show place" of the neighborhood. Of later years, the farm home of Adam Fawley deserves this title. The handsome, commodious, well painted buildings and the beautiful lawn and well cared for lots, fields and fences, set an example for the neighborhood. C. C. Page was for many years a potent factor in local politics, church and educational activities. His death occurred in the autumn of 1915, at his home in Peabody, Kan., where he had resided since leaving Clifford township. No history of Clifford township would be complete without the mention of Mrs. Hattie E. Meeks, a scholarly woman of high ideals, who, having no close family ties, gave her whole time and talent to the pupils entrusted to her care. Her work for many years in the Blue Mound and Brown schools could hardly be excelled.

While these to whom I have referred have seemed to be natural leaders, yet there have been many other noble men and women in Clifford township to whom we of a later generation owe a debt of thanks for the examples they have set for us and for the hardships they have endured that we, their children, might have the advantages they had been denied.

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