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

By J. O. Evertson.

Probably the first settler that lived in Hickory township was a man by the name of Myers, who, with his two wifes, lived in what is now the David Brittian farm, but, like the element to which he belonged, he was compelled to keep in advance of civilization and so moved on about the year 1870. A child of his was probably the first white child born in the township, also a boy of his was probably the first white child buried in the township.

Dr. J. A. McGinnis, a widower, together with his brother, A. F. McGinnis, and his two sons, S. A. and W. F., came from Lyons county in the year 1868 and settled on a claim in the forks of Hickory on the southwest quarter of 14-28-7, and a part of which is now owned by Samuel Ramp and the remainder by James Brewer. His brother, A. F. McGinnis, pre-empted the land now owned by Clarence Dillon, the southeast quarter of 15-28-7. Among the next arrivals were J. A. Armstrong, who bought out Mr. Myers, and established a general store at Old Brownlow. Mr. Bartholomew and J. F. Comstock arrived about the year 1871 and settled on the south fork of Hickory. About this time J. M. Hampton and family came from Kentucky. Before they had settled on their claim and while yet living in their wagon, they had the misfortune to lose their only daughter, and, there being no graveyard, she was buried on what afterward became their home, now the farm owned by Frank Comstock. About this time Wesley Cornell settled on what is now a part of the Evertson farm. H. L. Lemon pre-empted what is now the Will Hurt farm. Settlers began to arrive thick and fast. Aaron Surber, John Wing, John Hearne, Will Drury, N. Blunt, A. D. Stone, for whom Stone Branch was named, some of whom settled, and others drifted on away. Jerry Campbell, who now resides at Morrison, Okla., and H. M. Shannon, now of Attica, Kan., were typical happy go lucky, carefree bachelors of the frontier. When rfickory township was settled, Emporia was the nearest railroad town, from where most of the provisions were freighted. The first store was operated by Dr. J. A. McGinnis at his residence, where he dispensed green coffee, salt pork, sorghum molasses and corn meal. Few luxuries found their way into these frontier stores. With him from his home in Coffey county, he brought the first seed corn, which he sold at $5 per bushel.

The first regular mail was carried from El Dorado by a son of Wesley Cornell. The trip was made weekly, most of the time upon a bare backed pony, for which service he reecived the princely sum of $3 per trip. The first school for Hickory township was conducted by a Mrs. Whittlesy, the wife of Fie Whittlesy, on the Hayes farm, now owned by Marvel Kelly. The first church service, which consisted chiefly of exhorting and hymn singing, was conducted at the home of J. A. McGinnis. The audience consisted chiefly of the local bachelors and recruits from the neighboring settlement on Rock creek, near the present site of Latham. Among these visitors were Prosser brothers, Will, James and Alvah, and the VanMeters. The first Sunday school was organized in 1881 by Dr. J. B. Carlisle, who was then just a school teacher, teaching in what is known as the Lost school house. Here the school was organized. When his term of school was out, Mrs. Martin Reecher took up the Sunday school work and continued it intermittently until her death a few years ago. The first court of justice for Hickory township was conducted by a justice of the peace named Lamont, who resided over the line in Logan township. His court was very popular because it was an established rule that all cases in his court were decided in favor of the party bringing the suit.

June 16, 1871, the settlement was visited by a cyclone which, having destroyed the city of El Dorado, lifted and did little or no damage until it reached Hickory township, where it committed havoc in the timber. The Semishes, who had recently arrived from Holton and were yet camping, were all, six in number, in their covered wagon. This wagon was blown over and fortunately no one was hurt. Jerry Campbell and Billy Brown were camped in a shack on their claim on Honey creek; the shack was blown away and the occupants were blown into the creek. The two story frame house of Dr. J. A. McGinnis, which was at that time the only frame house in the township and probably the only two story house in the county, was totally destroyed. In this connection might be mentioned the destructive fire which visited the township in the fall of 1873. It originated somewhere near El Dorado and, driven by a northwest wind, swept rapidly across the country, driving the coyotes, deer and other wild inhabitants of the prairie scurrying before it, leaping streams as it came to them and leaving desolation in its wake, surging on toward the Indian Territory. Lumber which Michael Semist had hauled all the way from Humboldt, which he had to build his house, was burned while he looked on helplessly.

A history of the township's early development would not be complete without mentioning the vigilantes; which were organized by Dr. J. A. McGinnis and whose duty it was to dispense practical justice, unhampered by the frills and red tape of court proceedings. To illustrate: A certain Jack Armstrong, of unsavory reputation, was known to import and harbor lawless characters for the purpose of jumping claims of legitimate settlers. The vigilantes waited upon him at night and delivered their ultimatum to the effect that he leave the country within a stated time; a fight or rather a rackett ensued. Some shots were fired, some of which passed through the house of the host. It was never known whether the shots were fired by the visitors or by the host himself, after the party was over, in an attempt to create incriminating evidence against the vigilantes to be used when they should be summoned before the federal grand jury, as they were the following winter at his instigation, claiming to recognize the members of the committee by their voices. However, nothing came of it.

The township was organized, as it now exists, February 24, 1875. The petition for organization was headed by J. L. Moore and signed by fifty three others. It was granted and an election ordered, and it was held at the residence of J. A. McGinnis, April 6, 1875, at which election the following officers were elected: W. S. Dubois, trustee; J. F. Comstock, treasurer; A. F. McGinnis, clerk; Thomas Campbell and W. H. Baxter, justices of the peace; R. Joiner and J. W. Hearne, constables; Z. T. Huston, road overseer whose duties were purely imaginary.

From this meager beginning, Hickory township has advanced to an enviable position among the family of townships in Butler county. It now boasts a population of too, has under fence 23,820 acres, and in 1915 produced animals for slaughter valued at $26,725. It had 2,700 acres of kafir corn, 869 acres of alfalfa, 577 tons of hay, produced 3,830 pounds of butter, and marketed milk and cream amounting to $6,642; poultry valued at $4,493, and has in cultivation a total of 15,495 acres. Hickory has also produced its full total of country school teachers, preachers and missionaries, and the following county officers: W. S. Buskirk, county surveyor; C. W. Buskirk, county surveyor; H. I. French, county superintendent; J. O. Evertson, county treasurer.

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