Washington Kansas

Washington, Kansas - The County Seat of Washington County Kansas

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Washington, Kansas

Taken from William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas 

First Published in 1883


In September, 1859, George G. Pierce and David E. Ballard platted the town of Washington, Kansas Center at the center of the township, then comprising the county. Papers were taken out before Rufus Darby, Justice of the Peace, by Messrs. Pierce, Ballard, Rezin C. and J. W. Darby, and M. H. Lott, on the 9th of that month and year. it was soon found, however, that the location was a little off the direct line of travel from Marysville, and the site was therefore changed to the present one, one mile north of the center. During the spring of 1860, when the township was changed into a county, the new town was platted by Mr. Pierce, assisted, as chairman, by E. Woolbert. The members of the Town Company were: Mr. Pierce, president; Mr. Ballard, clerk; H. Lott, J. W. Darby and T. Bowen, Mr. Bowen having acquired his interest from R. C. Darby.


Upon the second Monday in November, 1860, Washington, Kansas was selected as the county-seat. A log house had been erected by the Company, called the "Company's House," each member of the Company contributing seven logs towards its erection. In the meantime Rezin Darby, son of Rufus, and one of the members of the original Company, had, during the season's terrible drought, gone to Guthrie County, Iowa, for provisions. He was accompanied by his two brothers. In December Phil Darby returned with provisions and seed for the spring planting. The other two remained, and joined the army in the spring. Rezin was mustered into the Fourth Iowa Infantry, and was shot through the left lung, at the battle of Pea Ridge, March 7, 1862. He died from the effects of his wound a few days later. As will be seen, further on, Mr. Pierce, the energetic president of the Town Company, also gave his life in his country's service.


Soon after the "Company's House" had been erected two shanties were built in which Chris. Straum and Elgin Richards resided, that the Company might hold the two quarters comprising the town site. These men proved up their claims separately, and then deeded the land to the Company. The eighty acres of land lying south of East Washington was formerly part of the site. D. E. Ballard afterwards bought up the lots, canceled the plat and transferred the property to S. F. Snider, who disposed of it to H. C. Sprengle. In connection with the railroad company Mr. Sprengle re-platted a portion of it. Returning to the old Company house, built by Messrs. Pierce and Ballard, it is found that in 1861 Miss Agnes Hallowell (now Mrs. Philip Darby) opened the first school there. Thomas Bowen occupied the second house on the town site, it being erected by M. G. Driskell, who had settled near him.


In July, 1860, Mr. Bowen put in a stock of dry goods and groceries. In the fall E. Woolbert built a hotel of six-inch logs, put up end wise, stockade fashion. This became the old "Stockade Court House." A partial drawing of city lots was made in August, 1860, some to be owned by the Town Company, and others were given to the county as an inducement to locate the county-seat here at the coming November election. When the war broke out George G. Pierce and Thomas Bowen went into the United States army, leaving the town to be governed by D. E. Ballard. Mr. Pierce is a noted and popular character in the early doings of Washington County. He was well educated, popular, and full of young yet well-directed energy. Mr. Pierce came from Wyoming County, N. Y., with Judge J. G. Adams. He was the first representative in the Legislature, and active in everything relating to the advancement of the city's and county's interests. When the war broke out, he with most of the ardent and patriotic young men of the county, left Washington to enter broader battle fields of strife. Mr. Pierce was shot at Petersburg, taken to Washington, D. C., where he was cared for by Jim Lane, but died in about a week. Death surely had hit a shining mark.


As was the universal fact, the war had the effect to bring Washington City to a standstill, but in 1866 immigration commenced to flow this way again, among those coming with the tide being Dr. Williamson, the first physician, and George W. Shriner. Two years later came James F. Tallman and Charles Smith. In 1869 the first newspaper, the Western Observer, made its obeisance to the public, and the stone schoolhouse was built for $9,000. Bonds were issued to that amount -- the first in the county. The same year came J. W. Cullimore to open his pioneer hardware store, and Thomas Haak started his lumber-yard. In 1869 A. C. Baumbarger first made his appearance as a shoemaker, and J. C. McCew as a furniture dealer; Hon. A. S. Wilson opened a law office. Within the next few years business and professional men of all kinds settled in Washington, Kansas, and "early times" may be said to have ended with the year 1869.


Upon the petition of "George Shriner and fifty-five others" to Judge Wilson, of the District Court, Washington town was incorporated as a city May 3, 1875. The first election, held on the 10th, resulted as follows: Mayor, J. S. Vedder; Clerk, E. N. Emmons; Police Judge, T. J. Humes; City Attorney, J. W. Rector; Treasurer, Charles Smith; Marshal, M. Patrie. Mr. Vedder has acted as Mayor three years and is the present City Clerk. Thomas Groody is serving his third term as Mayor. Charles Smith, present City Attorney, is serving his fifth term, having acted as Treasurer three years.


In January, 1877, the Central Branch Extension of the Union Pacific road reached Washington, and the city experienced a decided revival in business prosperity. Since then nearly all her brick business structures have been erected, and her streets really commence to present a solid metropolitan appearance. She has now an abundance of general stores and those devoted to special lines. Washington, Kansas is pleasantly situated, settled by an intelligent and industrious class of citizens, and though she has experienced no mushroom growth, she is growing and bound to grow. Her population is about 1,100. In the fall of 1881 a fine brick schoolhouse, three stories in height, was erected, at a cost of $15,000. It is being conducted more as an academy than a common school, and is obtaining a reputation outside the county. The building has accommodations for 500 children, and is so constructed that when it is found necessary, an additional wing can be erected without marring the symmetry of the present imposing structure.


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