Organization of Ford County

      NOW THAT THE TOWN WAS WELL ON ITS WAY TO BECOMING a growing city, the "Occupants of the Townsite" turned their attention to the organization of Ford County. It had been named in honor of Col. James Ford, of the Second Colorado Cavalry, who had located at Fort Dodge in 1858. True Ford County existed on paper but the planners wanted to give the county more than a mere existence on paper and on maps. To organize the county required a census showing the names of six hundred bona fide inhabitants of the county.

      In an effort to bring this to pass, the men got together and prepared the necessary papers to send in to Topeka; the first: "MEMORIAL FOR THE ORGANIZATION OF FORD COUNTY, KANSAS OCTOBER 14, 1872 FORD COUNTY, KANSAS

We the undersigned who are house holders and Legal Electors of the County of Ford and State of Kansas, would most respectfully represent that there are, as we verily believe, six hundred (600) bona fide inhabitants in said County of Ford.
We therefore request Your Excellency to appoint Isaac Young who is a citizen of said county to take the census and, Ascertain the number of bona fide residents in said county.
We further request that you will appoint Charles Rath, J. G. McDonald and Daniel Wolfe as special- County Commissioners and Herman J. Fringer as County Clerk and recommend that the county seat be temporarily located in Dodge City, Fringer Township and your petitioners will ever pray. Chas. Rath, L. B. Shaw, E. Ritcher, R. M. Wright, J. H. Rice, Rich McCormick, John Shepard, M. Collar, P. F. Lull, Gary John McDonald, M. V. Cutler, A. Ruden, W. K. Nelson, Arthur Wilder, G. M. Gordan, G. H. Schoellbrugf, E. D. Lecompte, H. J. Fringer, Wm. Krause, George F. Jones, George Smith, Geo.

46 Early Ford County

E. Crawfman, T. A. Seyfers, H. O. Weiss, I. L. Leavitt, F. C. Zimmerman, Chas. H. Helinke, George Merritt Hoover, Peter Taschetta, Amos Buckart, Daniel Wolfe, Henry Munson, D. J. Jones, G. W. Hollinger, F. Williamson, D. S. Smith, Charles Stewart, Wm. H. Bener, Mrs. Brunt Mitchell, Chas. H. Drew, J. M. Essington, A. Guillemin.
The following affidavit was sent along with the Memorial for Organization to Governor Harvey:
Larry Ryman, Secretary of State
Leone M. Powers, Assistant Secretary     
State of Kansas          
Office of Secretary of State

State of Kansas
County of Ford
M. A. Cutler, Daniel Wolfe and G. J. McDonald of the county of Ford and State of Kansas, being first duly sworn, depose and say that they are house holders and legal electors of the county of Ford, State of Kansas, that the signatures to the Memorial to which this affidavit is attached are the genuine signatures of the parties whose names appear thereto, that they are citizens and house holders of said county of Ford, that these affiants have reason to believe and do believe that there are six hundred (600) inhabitants in said county as stated in the foregoing Memorial.
Gary John McDonald M. A. Cutler Daniel Wolfe

Sworn to and subscribed before me, a notary public in and from the county of Ford and State of Kansas, October 14, 1872.
Herman J. Fringer Notary Public

      The approval from Governor Harvey must have arrived promptly for according to the following document, the census began October 21, 1872:

I Assac Young, do Solemnly swear, that I will support the

Organization of Ford County 47

constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of Kansas, and will faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Census taker of Ford County, Kansas. So help me God, - sworn and subscribed before me a Notary Public, in and for Ford County, Kansas, Dodge City. October 21, 1872.
Herman J. Fringer Notary Public

      The names gathered in the census are listed in the back of this book, original spelling unchanged, with age listed in years following the name, unless otherwise quoted. The numbers ran to 609 and the name on number 159 was scratched out; while the numbers 288, 320, and 466 were blank, having no name listed. At times a name was listed twice. First on the list is Charles Rath, 24; then his wife, Carrie, who is incorrectly listed as Alice Rath, 26.

      Heinie Schmidt has given this census list some thought and reprints in his column, Its Worth Repeating, High Plains Journal, June 8, 1950:

It is evident from the order in which the names appear on the census report that the census taker started at the Dodge House Hotel on the corner of Central Avenue and Front Street and worked west the entire three blocks. A study of the names will convince anyone that the census taker enumerated all the cowboys, freighters, buffalo hunters, dance hall girls, gamblers, and loafers along the street.
This theory is borne out by the fact that the names of many known to have been residents of the county at that time are not included in the census report, among them were G M. Hoover, H. L. Sitler, O. A. Bond, John Riney, Andrew Johnson, A. J. Anthony, and Col. R. J. Hardesty.
Among the enumerated were the following who played an important role in the frontier days of Dodge City, Loran Warren, killed by the Indians and buried on the prairie near Dodge City; James Kelly, scout with General Custer and the city's second mayor; Pat Ryan, buffalo hunter and founder of Ryanville (now Ford) ; Edward Masterson, killed by Texas cowboys Walker and Wagner while serving as city marshal; Thomas Nixon, killed in a gunfight with Mysterious Dave Mather, while serving as city marshal; Jack Bridges, the city's first marshal; Bat Masterson, frontier sheriff and peace officer; George B. Cox,

48 Early Ford County

proprietor of the famous Dodge House Hotel; R. W. Evans, Sr., first postmaster of Hays and father of R. W. Evans.

      While the census was finished in January, 1873, and presumably was sent in at once, it was early in April before word was received from Topeka, which is given in full:

Proclamation of Governor Thos. A. Osborn declaring Ford County, Kansas organized
Whereas a memorial signed by Forty householders, residents of Ford County, Kansas, and legal electors of the State whose signatures have been duly attested by the affidavits of three householders thereof, showing that said County had Six hundred inhabitants and praying for the organization of the same affiants also setting forth that they had reason and did believe said memorial and, Whereas it appears from actual enumeration by census returns duly made and certified according to laws by an officer regularly Commissioned and qualified that there are Six Hundred Bona-fide inhabitants in said County of Ford.
Now therefore know ye that I, Thos. A. Osborn, Governor of the State of Kansas by authority vested in me have appointed and Commissioned Charles Rath, J. G. McDonald and Daniel Wolf Special County Commissioners and Herman J. Fringer Special County Clerk for Ford County, Kansas, who were the persons recommended in said memorial and do hereby declare Dodge City the temporary County Seat for said County.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and caused to be affixed the Great Seal of the State.
Done at Topeka this Fifth day of April, A.D. 1873.
(Seal) (Signed) Thomas A. Osborn
By the Governor, W. H. Smallwood
(Signed) Secretary of State

      When commissions arrived from the Governor, Daniel Wolf was no longer a citizen of the County. James Hanrahan was appointed by the Governor as Special County Commissioner in the place of Daniel Wolf.

      Charles Rath, James G. McDonald, and James Hanrahan were qualified as Special County Commissioners for Ford County, April 30, 1873. Herman J. Fringer was qualified as Special County Clerk, April 18, 1873.

Organization o f Ford County 49

      The Board of County Commissioners had organized by April 30, 1873. Charles Rath was appointed Chairman and it was agreed to call a special election June 3, 1873, for the election of County Officers to continue in office until the next general election; also to vote for a county seat, the voting to be done at Dodge City, Kansas.

      The following officers were elected, June 5, 1873, and the voting result made Dodge City the county seat of Ford County. The County Clerk, Herman J. Fringer, approved the election returns, signing his name and stamping the County Seal upon the returns. The County Officers:

Commissioners-F. C. Zimmerman, Charles Rath, A. C. Myers County Clerk-Herman J. Fringer
Treasurer-A. J. Anthony
Sheriff-Chas. E. Bassett
Attorney-N. V. Cutler
Register of Deeds-H. Armitage
Probate Judge-Geo. B. Cox
Trustee-M. Collar
Coroner-T. L. McCarty
Clerk of the District Court-Herman J. Fringer
Justices of the Peace-F. T. Bowen, and Thos. Nixon

      Charles Rath held the office of County Commissioner, year by year, until he resigned the latter part of October, 1877, giving as his reason that he was out of town much of the time, having business elsewhere. In November of the same year, he came back to Dodge City and sold his interest in the Charles Rath Mercantile Company general store to his partner, Robert M. Wright. After this he returned to Fort Griffin, Texas, to look after his interests there and the other stores in Texas Panhandle and Oklahoma that became his in closing out the store with Robert Wright. The store at Rath City, Texas, was also turned over to Charles Rath, who had already bought out Lee & Reynold's interests. Not until 1879, did the Rath family come back to make their home in Dodge City. Robert E. Eagan furnished the following information about Ford County's first representative, James Hanrahan: Now that Ford County was well organized and the fall election was coming up, the voters began thinking about a state representative and James Hanrahan's name was mentioned.

50 Early Ford County

      James Hanrahan was an energetic young man of twenty-five years. He was a partner, with Mose Waters in a billiard-hall Saloon which the two had opened in Dodge City. He had seen Dodge City grow from perhaps a dozen regular residents, not including officers and soldiers and a few civilians who may still have resided at Fort Dodge. Of course the buffalo hunters and cattlemen moved from place to place.

      When Ford County was organized, James Hanrahan was appointed county commissioner, along with Charles Rath and J. G. McDonald. He had been a government wagon master, and was an experienced frontiersman, Indian fighter, merchant, and cattleman of the old West. In the regular fall election, his name was on the ballot for state representative and he was elected. Because there was no money to wage a campaign, James Hanrahan was undoubtedly elected on his popularity and he is listed in the Annals of Kansas, 1883, as a tradesman, aged 34 years, 1874. He later sold his interest in the Dodge City saloon to his partner, Mose Waters, and joined with Charles Rath, Fred Leonard, A. C. Myers, and others, on the trek to Adobe Walls, in Indian Territory, where he opened a saloon. During the battle with the Indians, Hanrahan lost, not only all his stock of liquor and the building, but all his stock had either been run off the range or killed by the Indians.

      After the Battle of Adobe Walls, James Hanrahan was broke for no one was reimbursed by the government for their losses; Adobe Walls was out of bounds for white men. Later, discouraged, he left Dodge City to seek his fortune elsewhere.

      The Dodge City Messenger was the first newspaper in Ford County. It was published in Dodge City, running from February 26 to June 25, 1874. The next paper was the Dodge City Times, October 15, 1876 to December 25, 1891, and the Ford County Globe was being printed October 15, 1879. From May 18, 1878 to 1880, Spearville had a paper, Enterprise News; also the Prairie Home, which was short-lived, May 15 to June 14, 1879.

      Examples of early day advertising are taken from the Dodge City Times, June 8, 1878:


J. R. Holiday, Dentist, very respectfully offers his professional services to the citizens of Dodge City and

Organization of Ford County 51

surrounding country during the summer. Office at room 26, Dodge House. Where satisfaction is not given money will be refunded.

S. J. Crumbine, M.D.

Specialists in Catarrhal Diseases of Nose, Throat, Lungs and Ear.
Consultation and Examination Free.

      Copied from the Dodge City Times, March 24, 1877, is a list of county officers; also city officers:

Official Directory
County Representative, R. M. Wright
County Commissioners: A. J. Peacock, chairman; A. J. Anthony; Charles Rath
County Clerk, Jes. Means
County Treasurer, A. B. Webster
County Coroner, Dr. S. Galland
County Sheriff, Charles E. Bassett
County Register, James Langton
Clerk of district court, Harry Boyer
County Probate Judge, Herman J. Fringer
County Attorney, M. W. Sutton
County Surveyor, M. T. McCarty
County Supt. of Public Instr., Thomas I. McCarty
City Mayor, George M. Hoover
City Councilmen : Hon. D. D. Colley, Geo. B. Cox, Charles Rath, H. B. Bell, John Mueller
City Clerk, Harry E. Gryden
City Treasurer, James Langton
City Police Judge, Hon. D. M. Frost
City Attorney, Harry E. Gryden
City Marshall, L. E. Deger
City Deputy Marshal, Wyatt Earp

      The names listed above give a fair picture of the prominent men of that day in Dodge City and Ford County. One notes that a number of men were here from the earliest days of both the city and county.

      Land in Ford County was homesteaded by settlers and some land was purchased, coming from two sources, the Santa Fe Land Grant and the Osage Treaty Lands. To earn the land grant, the rails had to be at the Kansas-Colorado line by March

52 Early Ford County

1, 1873, and the sale of this land was to partly reimburse the backers of the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railway for the heavy expense they had incurred.

      The Osage and Diminished Reserve was a rectangular tract more than half the length of Kansas. The west boundary of the Osage Strip ran from the Santa Fe Trail south across the Arkansas River and due south through the county, between Fairview and Richland townships and bisected Concord and Wilburn townships. The tract was twenty miles wide in Ford County. Dodge City and vicinity are in the northwest corner of the tract.

      The treaty of September 29, 1865, provided for the sale of the Osage and Diminished Reserve Lands under the direction of the Commissioners of the General Land Office "at a price not less than $1.25 per acre." Sometimes, this land is referred to as The Osage Strip.

      Other settlers acquired land from the government by homesteading. Some of the requirements were: "It is required of the homestead settler that he shall reside upon and cultivate the land embraced in his homestead entry for a period of five years from the time of filing the affidavit, being also date of entry. And abandonment of the land for more than six months works a forfeiture of the claim. Further within two years from the expiration of the said five years he must file proof of his actual settlement and cultivation, failing to do which, his entry will be cancelled. If the settler does not wish to remain five years on his tract, he can, at any time after six months, pay for it with cash or land warrants, upon making proof of settlement and cultivation from date of filing affidavit to the time of payment. He must answer a list of forty-five questions to prove that he has been continuously on the land and he must have four witnesses to testify that he has been on the land continuously." If a man had five years of service in the Union Army during the Civil War, because of that service, he could prove up in less than three years. He used army time to substitute for the remaining period of five years' residence required to prove up on a homestead. Each applicant received this instruction, "Notice to Claimant-Give time and place of proving up and title of the officer before whom proof is to be made; also give names and

Organization of Ford County 53

postoffice address of four neighbors, two of whom must appear as your witness."

      United States land offices were increased in number or were consolidated, according to the amount of homestead business. For instance, in 1872, offices were at Topeka, Independence, Concordia, Wichita, and Salina. By 1884, additional offices had been established at Kirwin, Larned, Oberlin, and WaKeeney, and later at Dodge City.

      Kansas is associated with adjoining states, historically, especially Oklahoma which was admitted as a state much later than Kansas. When Stillwater, Oklahoma, was one year old (1890), there were 157 children under the age of ten years, and 99 of them were born in Kansas. Many settlers in Kansas and Oklahoma were Union veterans and their homestead papers reflect the fact. Ford County records bear out these statements.

      Homestead papers are filed in this wise: "Oberlin, Final Certificate 1230," and are thus designated in the Kansas Tract Books. They are filed in the Bureau of Land Management, Washington, D.C. The Kansas Tract Books have been filmed by the Interior Department, Bureau of Land Management. There are forty-three rolls. The map, used in the Bureau of Land Management instantly enables one to determine which tract book to use in locating a designated tract of land.

      Ford County has fifteen townships: Royal, Grandview, Spearville, Wheatland, Fairview, Dodge, Richland, Enterprise, Ford, Pleasant Valley, Concord, Wilburn, Bloom, Sodville, and Bucklin. Eleven of them boast one or more towns.

      Fort Dodge, not classified as a town, is the oldest settlement in Ford County. Dodge City followed after. Settlers had begun to come into the county. Way stations or camps for the Santa Fe Railway construction had been set ahead to this point in advance of the coming rails and were still used for some time as the rail building moved on to the west in its mad rush to reach the state line in its appointed time. Ford County had its share of these towns and it was in May, 1872, that the Santa Fe division point was established at the Dodge City site.

      Overnight the raw prairie town, first dubbed Buffalo City, later Dodge City, sprang up on the 100th meridian, beside the wide, rutted trail of the Santa Fe Trail. Around the box car depot a turbulent town of four thousand souls mushroomed.

54 Early Ford County

      During the next four years, Dodge City was the largest shipping point for buffalo hides and meat in the world. The war department made Dodge City the warehousing and starting point for its immense southwest military supply system. Long government wagon trains freighted stores and munitions to the scattered forts, even into Indian Territory and Texas. Then and through the years it has continued, population-wise, to be the biggest town in Ford County.

      From the Atlas and Plat Book of Ford County, 1916, Dodge City Journal, the following towns, not already named, were listed: Wright, Bucklin, Spearville, Bellefont, Windthorst, Howell Sta., Sayre, Reinert, Wilroads, Ford, Wilburn, Bloom Sta., and Kingsdown. The maps listed Scroots Mogul Canon in the middle of Ford Township, Dry Basin Lake in Spearville Township, Hennings Lake in the southeast corner of section 12, and a nameless lake in Fairview. Among the creeks listed were the historically famous Sawlog and Duck Creek, Five Mile, Spring Coon Creek, the Mulberry, Big Daisy, and Rattlesnake Creek.

      The Arkansas River crosses Ford County from west to east. Maps of the topography of Western Kansas show that the Arkansas River is on a ridge. The ridge was made of its own deposits.

      From the extreme western part of the state: nearly to central Kansas, the river is shown running on a ridge. The whole land is on a north and south slope but the river runs on a ridge on the slope. This fact is further shown by creeks that originate near the river and run for miles without getting closer to it.

      Coon Creek, which starts near the river, east of Dodge City, and crosses the "butter and egg" road four times in one mile, does not run into the river for forty miles. Many other smaller creeks starting near the river run into the Sawlog and Pawnee creeks and eventually reach the river in the vicinity of Larned.

References: Ashes of My Campfire, Ford County Records. Note: No effort has been made to correct the spelling of names in the census. Author is indebted to Robert E. Eagan for much of the information in this chapter.
Dodge City Daily Globe; Dodge City Messenger; Robert E. Eagan photo Dodge City Town Company Share; Ford County records;
*Correct spelling of name in document-Samuel Weichselbaum, Fort Dodge, who came up missing one Sunday

Organization of Ford County 55

afternoon and his brother Theodore of Fort Riley feared he had been murdered.
*Alexander S. Johnson, born July 11, 1832, was the son of Rev. Thomas Johnson, missionary to Shawnee Indians. From 1870 to 1874, he was in service of Santa Fe Land Department as surveyor and appraiser; from 1874 to 1880, acting Land Commissioner. (Page 126, Story of Santa Fe.)
Kansas Tract Books of Interior Department, which show how the Federal Government disposed of lands at Dodge City (Copy from National Archives, Record Group No. 49); Dr. B. B. Chapman, Dept. of History, A & M College, Stillwater, Oklahoma, writes, "In regard to the `Osage Trust and Diminished Reserve' I am sending you some material which is xeroxed from C. C. Royce, Indian Land Cessions . . . A careful examination of this material, I believe, will leave you in no doubt as to location and time of disposal."
Dr. B. B. Chapman also sent a complete set of homestead papers, and also sent word that The Kansas Tract Books have been microfilmed on 43 rolls by the Interior Department.

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Dodge City History