[Note. George T. Donaldson, who is mentioned in the following post, built the first schoolhouse in Butler County.]

Every settler had a story.  Anyone of them is illustrative of the grit and determination of those who came to Kansas in the early days.

What follows is an excerpt by Martin Vaught from the History of Butler County on Skyways:
In August, 1857, George T. Donaldson, J. C. Lambdin, his son Ralph, and myself, camped at Emporia, at that time a village of less than a dozen houses. We were looking for homes and others joined us, among whom were William Woodruff and wife, James Leander, Horace Cole, Stephen White, Israel, Tom and Dave Scott and their mother, Mrs. DeRacken and her sons, Bob, John and Ruben; William Rice, and, last, but not least, Prince Gorum Davis Morton, who, having a wooden limb, was vulgarly dubbed pegleg.

There came to our camp, too, with a long swinging stride, a long rifle on his shoulder, a large pack on his back, carrying his boots, while his feet were unshod, his hat rimless and clothing in tatters, a man who had been on an extended tramp. His hair was light, his eyes blue and bright and contrasted strikingly with his suntanned skin. His name was I. N. Barton, college professor and civil engineer from Maine. He had come to Kansas for health and had found it, having explored every stream south of Neosho and as far west as Cow creek, west of Wichita. His description of the Walnut and Whitewater valleys and prediction that in and near them was the garden spot of Kansas won us, and we unanimously decided to go with him and see them. We crossed the Cottonwood where now is Soden's mill and proceeded across the trackless prairie southwest, up the south fork of the Cottonwood, over the divide to Sycamore Springs and down the Walnut to the hill where J. K. Nelson's house stands, northeast of Chelsea. We halted and took in the beautiful expanse, over the valley to the south, to Cole creek on one hand and DeRacken on the other. Surprised and pleased, we went into camp on what is now the Phineas Osborn farm, a half mile east of Chelsea.

We quickly took our claims.

Note. Going south from Emporia, the travelers would have crossed the Cottonwood River somewhere around present Cottonwood Falls in the Flint Hills. The "trackless prairie" would be the area that makes up the cattle crossing along the I-35 turnpike. The south fork of the Cottonwood joins up with the Neosho and passes to the east and south. The Walnut River basin is south of here. It eventually flows south through El Dorado. Sycamore Springs is two miles to the west of Cassoday.

The area that is Chelsea Township is south of Cassoday and north of present day El Dorado lake.

Even better is a newspaper article, written by the same Martin Vaught in 1869, detailing what happened afterwards. Reprinted at

George T. Donaldson (husband of Eleanor Vaught) was Chelsea's (Kansas) first postmaster. Many early pioneers recall him. He was a natural leader, keen, quiet, soft-spoken with a dash and daring when there was a call for action that made him the admiration of the settlers. He had good judgment and was never "rattled" by emergencies. He had accumulated some 800 acres of land, was in the very prime and vigor of manhood when in hauling logs, on November 4th, 1869, one of them rolled off the wagon, crushing him upon a wheel as it went.
Vaught continues to describe the drought of 1860's when many farmers gave up, the turmoil of "Bleeding Kansas", and the difficulties of the Indian tribes.In the midst of all that went on in Kansas during the Civil War, Martin Vaught takes time out to say:
Miss Sarah C. Satchell taught the first school in Butler county in the summer of 1860. Miss Maggie Vaught, now Mrs. H.O. Chittenden of Marlon, taught the next two years. Oliver C. Link, now a leading physician of Lincoln, Nebraska, taught a term.

With the end of the Civil War, he notes:

A big frame school house was erected, the first in the county and the first bell ever in the county was hung in the belfry and it is there yet. Mrs. J.E. Buchanan, Mrs. George Ellis and Miss Alma Henderson, (now Mrs. Neil Wilkie of Douglass) were the teachers in those early days.
 Note. The small community of Chelsea is now under Lake El Dorado.  Two miles west of Highway 177 on NE 50th Street is the slab where Chelsea school was located. Poet Monte Leon Manka grew up in Chelsea and in 1930 wrote The Chelsea, Kansas Blacksmith.

Up 13 highway
To the east of our Chelsea farm
Lived a blacksmith by the name of Orlando Buchanan
With a shop that was extremely warm.

When Dad and I arrived at the shop
You could hear the clanging of the hammer
Hitting against the Anvil
While he was molding Plowshares for some farmer.

I marveled at this large man
When I was just a kid
His arms were big and muscled
To do the work he did.
These are just the first three stanzas. If you like the poem you can follow the link above and read more.

No comments:

Post a Comment