Early history of Wabaunsee County, Kansas
In an extra edition of the Alma Signal in 1892 we said: "The next enterprise we have in contemplation is an Illustrated History of Wabaunsee County. Many of the actors have passed from the scene, but the material of facts that they left behind are still obtainable and if gathered together would form the ground work of many interesting chapters that would be perused with pleasure as well as profit by those to whom many of these facts will prove a revelation. That they should be preserved while there is yet time, but one opinion prevails," Though other duties claimed our attention, we have never yet abandoned the idea of writing the history. Though somewhat deferred, our long cherished plans have assumed tangible form. Possibly some criticism relative to the subject matter or the manner of presentation will be indulged in by those prone to forget the precepts of the golden rule. Let this standard be applied to our work and we will be content.
We have endeavored to acquaint the people of today with the happenings of yesterday; of the events that transpired before the advent of railroads and the era of school houses, together with the march of progress that has caused the wilderness to blossom as the rose. Our mission is to tell of the time when there was much con- cern for the necessaries of life, but little care or thought of the luxuries of the present. We have tried to be fair and just to all. It has been our endeavor to write a book the people will read. We can only hope that our effort may be deemed worthy of a careful perusal and an impartial verdict. This assured, we shall feel that our labor has not been in vain.
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In touching upon the early history of Wabaunsee county, we promise nothing startling. We do not propose to recount the exploits of Coronado and claim Wabaunsee county as the theatre of some of his most daring adventures and hair-breadth escapes while in search of the famed seven cities of Cibola; neither are we so chimerical as to claim Buffalo Mound as the work of prehistoric man, nor will we advance the theory that the original Garden of Eden was located in the Mill creek valley. However willing we may be to concede that were beauty of landscape and fertility of soil matters of paramount consideration in the choice of a site for the abode of our first parents, there might be good and ample reasons why no adverse criticism should be placed on the judgment of those upon whom the responsibility might rest of making a choice of location. Had the site of the garden been defined by metes and bounds, including in their limits that small part of God's footstool Wabaunsee county people delight in calling their own, we could do no less than admire their judgment and applaud their act.
When as a matter of fact geologists claim that the earth— of which Wabaunsee county is a part— has been in existence about six hundred millions of years, it would be an idle waste of words to claim for Coronado, or John Smith, or Captain Pike, the right of discovery. Suffice it to say that less than half a hundred years ago all this western country, of which our county is but a fractional part, was known — on the map — as the "Great American Desert." It is well that we say "it was known on the map"— it assuredly was not known elsewhere, at least by civilized man.
Years ago, with characteristic generosity, Uncle Sam had set apart for the Pottawatomie and Kaw tribes of Indians certain tracts of lands known as Indian Reservations, hoping that the noble red man would prosper and grow rich in a country thought to be unfit for the abode of his white brother.
Here the dusky warrior wooed and won the maiden of his choice. Here the deer, the antelope, and the buffalo paid tribute to the Indian huntsman's arrow and these valleys and slopes and woodlands but a few years ago were made the more picturesque by the herds of Indian ponies, and the scores of Indian villages, where the prattle of the papoose, the coy maiden's song, and the sound of the tom-tom, gave evidence of aboriginal life and happiness and contentment.
But the day dreams were but of short duration being rudely disturbed by the inroads of the pioneer who had discovered the fact that the Great American Desert had an existence only on the maps.
But the reservation laws must be respected. The Kaws on the south and the Pottawatomie tribe in the North part of the county left the least desirable lands open for settlement. But the most valuable of these lands were soon taken.