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

By J. M. Satterthwaite.

Probably the first settlers to claim land in the township were the Dunn brothers, Birney and Samuel, the latter part of the year 1867. (Samuel was killed by Indians May 17, 1869.) Their claims were upon the Walnut river at the south side of the township, and at the southern border of the land the Osage Indians were then ceding to the government for settlement. About the same time, a man named Hugh Williams opened a frontier trading post in a cabin near a ford of the Walnut, a little north of the claims of the Dunn boys. Just what lines he carried is not known at this date, but his stock must have been the frontier staples: Flour, bacon, gun powder, tobacco and whiskey.

In February, 1868, John W. Graves took a claim on "the island," nearly a mile north of the present city of Douglass. He still owns the original claim and long since added to it a hundred or two acres of the best land in the Walnut valley. The same year D. W. Boutwell, John Stanley, John Long and Samuel Shaff took claims along the Walnut river. G. D. Prindle, George Fox, John T. Martin, Neal Wilkie, William Hilton, Ed Wilford, T. I. Kirkpatrick, Capt. Joseph Douglass and others came and made settlement. Captain Douglass took the claim, the northeast quarter of section 20, township 29, range 4, east, upon which he founded the city of Douglass, to which he gave his name, and after which the township was named

Captain Douglass built the first house upon the townsite. It was constructed of hewn logs and stood near the present business center of the city.

In very early days, Joshua Olmstead and family located on a claim a mile and a half below the present city and started a saw mill. He then put a dam across the Walnut river and built a grist mill. John W. Dunn, a brother of Birney and Samuel, bought the mill and for many years it was successfully operated, farmers coming many miles with the grain to be ground.

In the earlier organization of the county the territory now comprising the township of Douglass was a part of Walnut township, which then comprised the south sixteen miles, clear across the county from east to west.

January 6, 1873, the county commissioners organized a municipal township, six miles by twelve miles in extent, comprising township 29, range 3, and township 29, range 4. The first officers elected were: J. R. Gardner, trustee; John T. Martin, treasurer; C. B. Scott, clerk; S. A. Goodspeed and J. W. Alger, justices of the peace; F. S. Fleck and Thomas Long, constables. Not long afterward township 29, range 4, was taken from Douglass and Richland township organized.

The town of Douglass was organized as a city of the third class in 1879. The first mayor was C. B. Lowe; E. D. Stratford, city clerk, and F. W. Rash, city attorney.

In the years 1868, 1869 and early 1870 mail was brought from El Dorado by private subscription, John Long making weekly trips to that point, bringing to the settlers such mail as might come to them. In 1870 a regular stage line from Emporia was instituted and a postoffice established. C. H. Lamb was the first postmaster. He was succeeded by C. Calhoun, he by his partner, Dave Young, and he by Rev. J. B. Ives.

The first paper published at Douglass was The Douglass "Enterprise," founded by D. O. McCray in 1879. After a year he moved the paper to Burden. Then The Douglass "Index" was started in 188o by J. B. Ives, with his nephew, a Mr. Cole, as editor.

Mr. Ives, with the help of several editors, continued the publication until the winter of 1883, when he sold it to J. M. Satterthwaite, who founded The Douglass "Tribune" in its stead and continues its publication until this date.

The first school taught in the township was a subscription school taught by Miss Agnes Stine, who soon became Mrs. George Fox, and still lives upon the Fox homestead two and a half miles north of the city. Mr. Fox died several years ago. Her early successors in educational work were S. L. Shotwell, afterward county superintendent and the organizer of much of the educational work in the county, and Mrs. Alma Wilkie, then Miss Henderson. Then Prof. J. W. Shively took up the work. For years he was the leading educator of the county.

In the year 1881 a branch ofthe Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad was extended from El Dorado to Douglass, which was the terminus of the road for about six years before the line was extended to Winfield.

Up to the year 1870 the Texas cattle trail crossed the Walnut river a mile north of the present city of Douglass. This Texas cattle trail was a great thoroughfare, over which vast herds were driven from the ranges in Texas, through the Indian Territory, to shipping points in Kansas. With the herds and along this trail reckless, venturesome men traveled, many of them too dishonest and reckless for the regions of settled society. Their doings in those wild days, just after the close of the Civil war and border troubles, in which men were educated to reckless deeds of violence, have furnished instances for many a. true, tragic and thrilling story of frontier life. This trail, passing through the Indian reservations, first touched the country open to white settlement, and presumably under civil law, at the point where it struck the territory now in Douglass township. Naturally Douglass was the rendezvous of many wild and reckless characters. Horse thieves and cattle rustlers came and went, and some took claims and made their stations near here.

On the afternoon of May 17, 1869, Samuel Dunn and a boy companion named Henderson were slain by a band of Osage Indians. The killing occurred on the prairie near the timber that skirted the Walnut river. Dunn and Henderson had been hunting and looking over the land. Henderson's folks were looking for a desirable claim on which to settle. Returning from their wandering, they stopped to rest upon a log that had been washed up on the prairie bottom on the west side of the Walnut and east side of Eight Mile creek. As they were seated upon the log a band of Osages came riding up from the southwest, dashing down upon them. Dunn and Henderson ran for the timber, but were overtaken by the Indians and both killed and scalped. The savages not only scalped Dunn, but they cut off his head and three of his fingers. It is said that some of the Osages had a grudge against Birney Dunn, Samuel's brother, and when they made the attack supposed they were killing Birney.

The government called the Osages to account for the murder and two members of the tribe were turned over to the civil authorities for trial. The sheriff of Butler county, James Thomas, of El Dorado, had the Indians in charge and was bringing them to El Dorado from some point at the northeast. Coming up the south fork of the Cottonwood river, the two prisoners disappeared. Some assert that they made their escape. Others claim they were shot and buried. At any rate they never appeared for trial.

The horse thieves that infested the Texas cattle trail were a source of greatest annoyance and loss to the early settlers in the region around Douglass. Settlers among strangers, a long way from old home and former friends, driving teams to wagons in which were loaded their scant household effects and earthly belongings, would suddenly find themselves without horses, the animals having been ridden or driven off in the night, and in some instances boldly taken in the day time. Afoot and amid strangers, in a vast, unfamiliar region, was a woeful condition to be in. Few of the settlers had the cash wherewith to replace the teams so lost. The settlers became enraged and determined upon drastic measures to rid the country of suspected characters. A vigilance committee was organized. On the night following election day, in November, 1870, a force went to the cabin of George and Lewis Booth up the Walnut river, a little more than a mile north of the north line of the township. (The land is now owned by Lonnie Morrison.) George and Lewis Booth were shot and a man named Corbin hanged. The party, returning to Douglass, met a desperate character from Texas, named Jim Smith, at the crossing of Little Walnut on the old stage trail. He was an associate and companion of the Booths and Corbin, and was headed for the Booth cabin. He gave battle and his mount was shot from under him. He got behind a stump and stood off the vigilantes for a time. It is said he hit one or more of them, but it was never generally known who, for the vigilantes protected their doings with pledged secrecy. But Smith was soon surrounded and shot. When the Emporia-Arkansas City stage crossed the creek some little time afterward the driver found Jim Smith's dead body on the trail.

But the end was not yet. These four men who had been executed as horse thieves had friends. Whether these friends were associated with them in horse stealing and dividing the funds received for stolen horses is disputed. But these friends started criminal proceedings against men charged with having taken part in the killing and some were arrested. Feeling ran high and revenge was threatened. For the purpose of intimidating their opposers, the vigilance committee took action again, and on the night of December 1 four citizens of Douglass, William Quimby, a merchant; Dr. Morris, his son, and Mike Dray, a clerk in Morris' drug store, were taken to the timber a mile and a half below Douglass and hanged. At this act a number of suspicious characters left the neighborhood and horse stealing abated. It was a desperate remedy for a bad state of affairs and left a bad effect upon the community. Some of the men executed may not have deserved their fate. They may have been only warm friends of the men who did.

Joseph W. Douglass, the founder of the city, and after whom the city and township were named, was shot and mortally wounded on the townsite in 1873. He had taken a lively interest in the suppressing of thieving in the community, and on the night of his murder had arrested, without a warrant, a camper he suspected of stealing chickens. The man had chickens in his possession and did not give a plausible account of where or how he obtained them. Douglass marched his prisoner to several places where he had said he purchased the fowls, but the parties denied having sold them to him. The prisoner, evidently fearing the fate of others, shot his captor with a small pistol he had in his possession. Douglass was armed with a larger revolver, but had failed to disarm his prisoner. The man ran and Douglass fired at him several times, but failed to hit him. Douglass lived a day or two after being wounded and requested that no injury be inflicted upon the murderer. He was captured, tried and sent to the penitentiary for ten years.

One event that had great effect upon Douglass and community was the building of a great sugar mill for the manufacture of sugar from sorghum, in the year 1888. Investigators had set up the claim that sugar could be made at much profit from sorghum, and so heartily did the people of Douglass take up with the idea that they promoted a company, built a great mill, and induced the farmers to plant a large acreage of sorghum. When the mill was put in operation at great expense it was found to be unprofitable. Those who had put their money into the scheme lost it all. The city had voted bonds for water works and turned the bonds over to the sugar mill company, under contract of building the water works. The failure of this enterprise carried down with it the Wilkie bank. Mr. Wilkie had been a pioneer banker in both El Dorado and Douglass, having considerable wealth for those times. He had ventured it all to build up the city of Douglass and lost.

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