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

By C. V. Cain.

After the passing of forty six years, that being the time I came to the township, it will be little wonder if many happenings of importance at that time have not gone from my memory, but to write up the sayings and doings of these pioneers, one must be in a reminiscent mood to make it of interest to any, but those that had part and parcel at that time, and also this little sketch must include the names of many who were residents of other parts of the county outside of Plum Grove. These outsiders came into our social life, as well as the commercial or business life of the community.

The largest immigration to this part of Kansas was in 1870. The newcomers that year and 1871 had their time all taken up with preparing a place to live, without devoting their time to sociability. Consequently, it was in 1872 before they began to move around and get acquainted with their neighbors, which they did by attending literary societies at the different school houses and one in particular at the Eaton school in Milton township which was largely attended by George, Howard and Arthur Neiman, Ed Eaton, W. J. McFrancis, E. B. Brainard, John and Mrs. Horner, C. P. Strong, and so many others from eight to ten miles away their names I do not now recall. Their debates were certainly interesting and there was always an editor and a paper that was full of jokes at the expense of the attendants, but I recall but one such; C. P. Strong had unusually large ears. One of the papers had this little squib: "If all flesh is grass, what a pile of hay Strong's ears ought to make." Of course it brought down the house. Not only the Eaton school house but the Wilcox school house in Clifford held their debates and spelling schools. Settlers in those days went a long distance to church and Sunday school; among the church and Sunday school workers were Daniel M. Elder, Jacob Holderman, Joseph B. Morton, Mrs. L. B. Cain, Mrs. I. Howe and many others.

Another line of amusement that was popular with the early settlers were the "surprise parties." They would gather at some neighbor's, and a neighbor was anyone living within fifteen miles. Everyone was expected to bring a basket of provisions, and sometimes in these baskets there would be some huge sell in the shape of sawdust pie, cake seasoned with salt in place of sugar, coffee spiced up with pepper. One night there was a large, nice looking cake brought in, which there was said to be a ring. When it was cut and divided around a young lady had the piece with a small harness ring. There were several good singers in the country and they formed a singing class, and there were some very fine singers. M. S. Eddy and brother in law, Will Power, were as fine bass and tenor as you could find anywhere. The Ketchum brothers, Ed and Hoyt, were also good. Mrs. W. H. Randall was generally the musician that accompanied. Prof. F. C. Buck, of Augusta, often attended the meetings of the musical crowd in their vicinity.

I have omitted mentioning some of the early settlers in the township who did not secure and occupy homesteads. Among the first was Weightman F. Joseph and four sons, William I., James, Moses N. and Sidney A. The father came in 1871, also William I., and bought a large tract of the best land in the Whitewater valley. They were among the most reliable and substantial citizens of this township and their children are following in the footsteps of their fathers. The Josephs were from West Virginia. M. D. L. Kimberlin also came in 1871 from Kentucky. He bought land on the east branch of the Whitewater and improved it and made a home for four boys and that many girls, and three of his sons are still on the home place and on land they have since bought.

A history of the early settlers of Plum Grove would not be complete without special mention of Mrs. Charles Coppins. She filled the place of nurse for any and all of the sick in this section. No night was so dark or the weather too hot or too cold or distance too great that Mrs. Coppins would not go to the relief of those that were sick and in distress. It was the same whether the sick lived in a dugout or in the best house in the land, oftentimes going to El Dorado to care for the sick. The nearest doctors, at that time was one living near the north line of the county and one at El Dorado. I have known Dr. McKenzie to leave El Dorado, come to my house, and from there drive to Cole Creek and on to the head of Walnut and on around to El Dorado, making a circuit of nearly one hundred miles in one drive. The people, in this like all newly settled countries, were afflicted with chills and fever. There was not much typhoid, but occasionally a case of it.

In those days there were no buggies or carriages in the country. In the towns the livery stables kept both, but I only knew of one buggy and one spring wagon in all the northwest Butler county. Before 1870, the settlers have told, there was no money in circulation, and in talking with one of the old pioneers who came in 1857, he said coon skins, meaning furs, and buffalo hides and tallow were legal tender. The men would go on a buffalo hunt in the fall when the buffalo were fat and kill and skin and save the tallow until a wagon load was saved, and then go to Leavenworth or Westport, Missouri, and trade it for suppies for the family. At that time these times were the nearest places to market their furs, etc. In 1870 the nearest railroad point was Emporia, which was sixty five miles from Plum Grove. The roads at that, time were located across' the prairies in every direction; to get any place that you wanted to go, you would have to know the direction from where you were and follow the road leading in that direction, as there were no guide boards and you were not liable to meet any person that could direct you.

About the year 1876, there were two Mennonite boys that had been to El Dorado. They were twins, about twenty years old, and their name was Dick. They lived near where Elbing now is. On their way home there was a big storm coming up from the north. The lightning struck the prairie grass right near and set it on fire. It scared the boys so much that they drove to my house and wanted to stay all night. In those days a traveler was never turned away. They stayed, but the rain did not reach my house; the cloud rained out on the head of Whitewater. In the morning they hitched up and started from my place to their home. When they drove into the ford on the Whitewater they did not think of the creek being up and the team, wagon and all were washed down the stream and the boys were drowned. The body of one was found a few rods below the ford, the other about a half mile below.

In the early days there were people who came to this section who afterward were prominent and widely known. I will recall one, Fred Remington, who became a great painter and cartoonist, so much so that he gained a national reputation for his paintings of cowboy, Indian and scenes of the Wild and Wooley West. They were admired by everyone who was acquainted with these characters, for they were so lifelike and natural. This sketch would be incomplete without mentioning the early day preachers. Of the Presbyterians there were Rev. Stryker, of El Dorado; Rev. E. J. Stewart, of Fairmount; Rev. A. H. Lackey, of Peabody; the Campbellities (?), Rev. I. Mooney, of Towanda; Rev. Kinney, of Fairview, and Rev. I. J. Curtis, of Murdock. The Methodists were represented by Rev. F. H. Martin, of West Branch of Whitewater, and Rev. S. L. Roberts, of Clifford.

The women who came to this country in the early settlement certainly deserve more than a passing mention in this history of Butler county, more especially those who came in the sixties and before. Settlers at that time were very scattering. Sometimes it would be a distance of four miles or more to the nearest neighbor. The men of the families sometimes would go away for supplies and be away for two or three weeks before they could return. At that time bands of Indians were occasionally roaming over the prairies and wherever there was a house they were sure to visit. Stop and think now of the feelings of a woman alone, or perhaps with her little children, with no white person within miles to come to her rescue if those Indians were disposed to be treacherous and cruel. I have in mind now two of those pioneer women, Mrs. W. H. Avery, who lived at least four miles from the nearest neighbor, and Mrs. Amos Adams. Their lives during those times were certainly anything but pleasant.

I must mention the pioneer school teachers, for what would a civilized settlement be without them? I recall the names of two, Jane Wentworth and Fannie Hull Wilson. Miss Wentworth taught school in diffrent places in the county during the sixties, at El Dorado, on the west branch of Walnut and other places. Fannie Hull Wilson taught many different schools in the county. For several years she taught the Blue Mound school, and I venture to say there is not a county school in the county graduated as many, that after became school teachers, as that school. All four of the children in the Lobdell family were teachers, Charles, Fred, Adda and Myrtle, and they were successful teachers with no other preparation than the district school that Mrs. Wilson taught. Besides the Lobdells, there were two from the Ashenfelter family and the three Boersnia sisters and others that I do not now remember:

Early Settlement. - What is now Plum Grove township received its first settlers in the spring of 1857, when a colony of people from Douglass county, Kansas, settled along the Whitewater River at the ford on the old California Trail, which started at Fort Smith, Arkansas, and united with the Santa Fe Trail near Hutchinson. This colony surveyed and platted a town which they called Whitewater City and many of the stakes were still in the ground in the spring of 1870. They built several houses, mostly of logs, which were afterwards torn down and moved to the claims of the later settlers along the Whitewater and its tributaries, as all the original settlers left during the year of the great drought, which was in 1860. The first man to make a permanent settlement in the township was Joseph H. Adams, who originally came from. Illinois and located on the Whitewater, one mile southwest of the present city of Potwin, in the spring of 1860, and lived there until fall, when he moved to Whitewater City, living there until the next spring, when he moved to the northeast quarter of section 7, where lie lived until his death in October, 1875. Mr. Adams wife died in 1868, and he was again married to Mrs. Margaret Pitzer, of Chase county, Kansas. After the death of Mr. Adams, Mrs. Adams was married to M. S. Bond in 1879. In 1911 Mrs. Bond died. Mr. Adams had three sons, one of whom, J. C. Adams, homesteaded the northwest quarter of section 19, Plum Grove township, and he is still the owner of it, but his home is now in Major, Oklahoma, and I am indebted to Mr. J. C. Adams tor nearly all of the early history of Plum Grove township. Another of J. H. Adams' sons is J. A. Adams, who was born in Plum Grove township in 1874, and is living on his father's original homestead, of which he is the owner of 120 acres, having bought out the Adams and Pitzer heirs. There were several settlers who came in the sixties. Mr. Adams' daughter, Harriet, was the wife of Charles Lyon, who homesteaded the quarter section joining Mr. Adams on the east. Mr. Lyon went on a buffalo hunt and was taken sick and died about 1862 on Cow Creek, a few miles southwest of Wichita. Mrs. Lyon afterwards married John R. Wentworth, who made final proof on the Lyon homestead. Stephen Wentworth, father of John R., came from Chase county, Kansas, and settled on an adjoining quarter and himself and wife lived there until their death. Sam Karner was a squatter on a claim upon which he did not remain long, and J. L. Green came and occupied it. Henry Comstock moved in and settled on Henry Creek, after whom the creek was named. Mr. Comstock was from Illinois and was a Civil War veteran. James Jones lived on a claim in the south part of the township. Amos Adams and wife, Nancy, cousins of J. H. Adams, and Mr. Adams, a Civil War veteran, came in 1866 and homesteaded on the northwest of section 3o, living there until his death in April, 1904. Amos Adams and son, Hon. J. B. Adams, who for several years has occupied a prominent position in Butler county's political and financial matters, was born in Plum Grove township on the old homestead.

While Plum Grove township had quite a number of settlers before 1870, it in common with all of Butler county received its great influx of settlers and homesteaders in 1870 and 1871. January I, 1870, there were yet forty quarter sections of Government land open for homesteading and which was entered by homesteaders filing before the last of 1871. Charles Coppins placed his homestead entry on the southwest quarter of section 26 in the spring of 1871, which was the last vacant Government land in Plum Grove township. There were two sections of vacant school land in the township, one of which was settled in 1870 by C. V. Cain and W. J. Johnson. Of the original homesteaders but one is now living on his claim taken in 187o, John H. Poffinbarger, a Civil War veteran. His homestead was the southwest quarter of section 14. Since then he has purchased 320 acres more joining his original claim. Mrs. Mariah Odor is living on a part of her husband's homestead in section 28. On the J. H. Adams land lives one son, J. A. Adams, and a stepson, C. C. Pitzer. The heirs of Amos Adams still own the land their father homesteaded in 1866. Mrs. Adams died in El Dorado, September 9, 1914.

Beginning at the northeast corner of Plum Grove township, I will name the homesteaders with the exception of those already mentioned: Section 2 had M. S. Eddy, his brother in law, Charles Johnson, James Turner and Thomas Commons. Section 4 had Mrs. Cole and one other whose name I cannot recall Section 6 had William Dennis. On Section 6 lived Ben Ogden and he died there about 1875. Section 12 was occupied by William Dornbus, William Powers, George Mann, who was killed there in blasting rock out of a well; also Henry Brown. On the southeast quarter of section 14 the owner was Frank Troxell, who died in the fall of 1872 with typhoid fever, at the house of Chas. Cobbins. John H. Poffinbarger, William Montgomery and Frank Jones were the other settlers on section 14. On section 20 was Nathan Duncan; who secured the relinquishment of the southeast quarter from the original homesteader, whose name I do not remember. Section 22 was originally homesteaded by Milton Bradley, James Stuart, Lida Poffinbarger and Sam Crow. Sam was one of the most successful deer hunters of this whole country; with his long barreled rifle he killed a great many, and at that time deer and antelope were very numerous on these prairies. Section 24 was settled by John Cave and ____ Poe and two others whose names I cannot recall. Section 26 had James Ledbetter, an old soldier, Charles Coppins, Jesse Smith and one other. Jesse Smith and Charles Coppins are both in their graves, but their homesteads are still owned by their widows, both of whom live in Wichita. Section 28 was settled by Robert G. DeYarman, Squire Smith, John H. Odor and William Watkins. Section 30 was owned by Amos Adams and James Jones Section 32 was homesteaded by Mrs. Cornelious, her son, Joe Cornelious, and Allen and Henry Atrible. The only of these four now living that I know of is Joe Cornelious, in Harper county. On section 34 I can recall but one of the original claimants, Silas Hall, who died several years ago. His widow still owns the homestead and is living in Wichita.

In Plum Grove township all the odd numbered sections, when not previously claimed, were included in the Santa Fe Land Grant. Quite a large amount of the best land along the streams was claimed by Lawrence and Potwin, who located it with railroad and agricultural college script.

The different railroads were projected through the township. The first one, called Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska, came in the north line of the county and followed down the Whitewater on the west side to Augusta. County bonds were voted to aid in building it, the only bon s ever voted by Butler county for the aid of a railroad. I do not rember the year. The second project was from Fort Smith, Arkansas, but neither of those were ever more than paper roads. In 1884 the El Dorado, Newton & McPherson was under consideration, and the company asked the township to vote bonds and take $20,000.00 stock in the road, which was done, the township receiving stock certificates for their bonds. The road was built in 1885, and the town of Potwin was laid out and named after C. W. Potwin, who owned the land where the town was located. In a few years after the road went into the hands of a receiver and was sold to satisfy a mortgage, and the township lost their stock.

The first postoffice in the township was Plum Grove, located at John R. Wentworth's, and he was the first postmaster and the office was named for a thicket of plum bushes near the Wentworth house. The office was established in the fall of 1871 and was supplied with mail from Towanda, at first once a week, and afterwards two mails a week. In 1872 Drake & Lobdell erected a building and put in a stock of general merchandise, which was the first store in the township. Later a Mr. Stewart opened another store. After the railroad bonds were voted and a prospect for a road seemed quite certain, the stores and post office were moved over on the proposed line of the road. A mail route was established from Peabody to Holden, in Milton township, and to Plum Grove, and Oliver P. Bruinback carried the mail twice a week, walking and carrying it on his back. Some later the route was changed to run from Newton to El Dorado, and another postoffice was established in the township at the house of W. H. Randall. Office was named Ayr and Mrs. Randall was appointed postmaster. When the town of Potwin was started, the office was moved there and the name changed to Potwin. The new town of Plum Grove on the west side of the Whitewater had two general stores, a drug store and a blacksmith shop. Stark M. Spencer was one of the merchants, M. C. Snorf the other. Dr. I. V. Davis had the drug store and practiced medicine, and W. W. Kemper had a blacksmith shop. A school house was built and the prospect was good for a nice little country town. In 1885, when the railroad was finished, Plum Grove was divided, part going to the town of Brainerd and a part to Potwin. I believe the first school house built in the township was on the hill between the Whitewater and Diamond Creek and was known as the Plum Grove school house and district. It was built in 1872 and soon after there was a Sunday school organized, and I believe the first superintendent was Jacob Holderman. There were several living in this neighborhood who in times past had been members of the Presbyterian church. Rev. E. J. Stewart, a Presbyterian minister, moved into the community and a church was organized and regular services were held for quite a long time, and the settlers came, for a long distance to preaching. The Methodists had an appointment which was supplied by the El Dorado circuit and in June, 1871, S. C. Roberts was assigned to that charge, but as he did not suit some of the leaders in th El Dorado church, they did not want him. He drove out to Plum Grove and put up at my house, reaching there about 6 o'clock in the evening of June 16, 1871. As we came away from the stable there was a heavy black cloud coming up from the northwest. We had just got into the house when the storm came with a terrific wind and hail knocking the windows all out and destroying what little crops we had. That was the storm that destroyed so many buildings in El Dorado and with some loss of life.

In the spring of 1871, Daniel M. Elder bought a saw mill at El Dorado and moved it to Plum Grove and sawed a large amount of lumber, for at that time there were a great number of large trees all along the streams and the lumber was what the settlers needed in building houses and stables. Mr. Elder, after sawing all the timber that was brought to him at Plum Grove, moved his mill farther down the Whitewater.

The first death in the township was George Adams, son of, J. H. Adams, who died in 1864, aged twenty three years. The first birth in the township was Charles Stewart, born in 1860 and died the same year. Eliza Jane Lyon was born December 20, 1860, and is now living in El Dorado, the wife of W. G. Lyon. The first wedding that we have any account of was John C. Adams and Nancy M. Pitzer, in the year 1871.

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