Allen County, Kansas

Brief Histories of Allen County, Kansas


Allen County, one of the 33 counties established by the first territorial legislature, was named in honor of William Allen, United States senator from Ohio. It is located in the southeastern part of the state, in the second tier of counties west of Missouri and about 50 miles north of the state line. In extent it is 21 miles from north to south and 24 miles from east to west, containing 504 square miles. It is bounded on the north by Anderson, east by Bourbon, south by Neosho and west by Woodson county. The county was organized at the time of its creation, Charles Passmore being appointed probate judge; B. W. Cow- den and Barnett Owen county commissioners, and William Godfrey .sheriff. These officers were to hold their offices until the general election in 1857, and were empowered to appoint the county clerk and treasurer to complete the county organization.

The first white inhabitants located in the county during the early part of the year 1855. Duncan & Scott's History of Allen County (p. 9), says: "There is some dispute as to who made the first permanent settlement, but the weight of the testimony seems to award that honorable distinction to D. H. Parsons, who, with a companion, B. W. Cowden, arrived on the Neosho river near the mouth of Elm creek in March, 1855."

During the spring and summer settlement progressed rapidly. The greater number of settlers located along the Neosho river, among them being W. C. Keith, Henry Bennett, Elias Copelin, James Barber, Barnett Owen, A. W. G. Brown, Thomas Day and Giles Starr. Along the banks of Morton creek the early settlers were Hiram Smith, Michael Kisner, Augustus Todd, A. C. Smith, Dr. Stockton, George Hall, Anderson Wray, Jesse Morris and Thomas Norris. Although many of the early settlers were pro-slavery men, but few slaves were brought into the county. The free-state men showed such open antagonism toward slaveholders, that the slaves were soon given their freedom or taken from the county by their masters. A party of pro-slavery men from Fort Scott founded a town company and laid out a town in Allen county, south of the mouth of Elm creek and on the east bank of the Neosho river, about a mile and a half southwest of the present site of lola. The company was incorporated by the bogus legislature as the Cofachique Town Association, with Daniel Woodson, Charles Pass- more, James S. Barbee, William Baker, Samuel A. Williams and Joseph C. Anderson as incorporators. The first postoffice was established at Cofachique in the spring of 1855 with Aaron Case as postmaster, but no regular mail service was opened until July 1, 1857, the mail up to that time being brought in from Fort Scott by private carrier paid by the citizens.

In Feb., 1856, M. W. Post and Joseph Ludley, who were engaged in the survey of the standard parallels, finished with the fifth parallel through Allen county and concluded to locate near Cofachique. The next summer Mr. Ludley brought a sawmill from Westport, Mo., and set up in the timber near the town. This mill was run by horse power and was the first manufacturing concern of any kind in the county.

In the second territorial legislature, elected in Oct., 1856, Allen county was represented in the council by Blake Little and in the house by B. Brantley and W. W. Spratt.

In 1858 the town of Iola was started and the greater part of the town of Cofachique was moved to lola, while the old site of Cofachique became farm land. Several reasons may be given for the failure of the town. Being on hilly ground it was difficult of access and the water supply was limited; it had been built by pro-slavery men and during the political troubles a feeling of enmity had grown up against the town, hence it was not long before it was depopulated. Humboldt, in the southwest part of the county and Geneva in the northwest part were founded by free-state men and both became flourishing communities. Up to this time settlement had been exclusively confined to the timbered valleys of the larger streams, but the new settlers began opening farms upon the prairies and the population became generally distributed over the county, especially the western half.

A census of Kansas was taken in April, 1857, in preparation lor an apportionment of delegates to the Lecompton constitutional convention. By this census Bourbon, Dorn, McGee and Allen countries had a population of 2,622, of whom 645 were legal voters. This gave the district which these counties comprised four delegates in the convention, and at the election held in June, 1857, H. T. Wilson, Blake Little, Miles Greenwood and G. P. H. Hamilton were elected.
In the legislative apportionment of July, 1857, eighteen counties, including Allen were allowed two members in the council and nineteen counties, including Allen, were allowed three representatives. The election was called for Oct. 5, 1857, and under the assurance of the governor that it should be free and fair, the free-state men determined to muster their strength for the first time at the ballot box. At the election Samuel J. Stewart was elected a representative for the district and was the first citizen from Allen county to occupy a seat in the territorial legislature.

Immigration continued during the year 1858. The Carlyle colony from Indiana selected 320 acres of land in the northwest part of the county, north of Deer creek, for a town site, but found many difficulties in the way of making a prosperous town and abandoned the project. Later the site was cut up into farms. In the course of time a post- office was established, a store followed and Carlyle became a thriving village in the center of a splendid farming district. About the time that the Carlyle colony arrived another town was projected, called Florence, located north of Deer creek and east of Carlyle. It was expected that in time a railroad would be built, but it was not and the town was a failure.

Upon the organization of the county in 1855, Cofachique was designated as the county seat, and as it was centrally located no strife was stirred up until Humboldt was located in 1859 by the free-state men who went before the state legislature early in 1858 and secured an act locating the county seat there. The first meeting of the county board at Humboldt, of which there is a record, was on Feb. 8, 1859, but little business was transacted, and they adjourned to meet at Cofachique where, on Feb. 14, the board organized the new township of Geneva and appointed judges of election to ratify or reject the Leavenworth constitution. Apparently little interest was taken in the election, as only 138 votes were cast, 134 for and 4 against the constitution.

In the summer of 1858 the second mail route was established from Lawrence to Humboldt, via Garnett and Hyatt in Anderson county, Carlyle and Cofachique in Allen county. The service began July 1, and a few days before that time a trail was marked from Hyatt to Carlyle. Zach Squires was the first mail carrier and for some time his weekly trips were made on mule back. Later the service was made tri-weekly, the mule gave way to a two-horse wagon, later to a two- horse stage, and finally to an overland coach, which was kept on the route until the railroad was built in 1871.

During the year 1859 political matters engaged the attention of the people. On June 7, an election was held for delegates to the Wyandotte constitutional convention (q. v.). When this constitution was submitted to the people on Oct. 4, the vote in Allen county stood 244 for and 159 against, and on the homestead clause, which was submitted separately, 201 for and 152 against. The territorial legislature of 1859 adopted a new plan of county organization, providing for three commissioners and a probate judge with restricted powers. On March 26, 1860, a special election was held for the new officers. J. G. Richard was elected probate judge; George Zimmerman, N. T. Winans and D. B. Stewart county commissioners.

The last year of the territorial period was the hardest in the history of the county. It was the year of the great drought. (See Droughts.) During the winter of 1859-60, there was little snow and the hot winds of the following summer swept over the dry, parched earth, burning all vegetation except in occasional valleys and ravines where a partial crop was raised. The population of the county was about 3,000, and with such a scanty crop, the prospect of starvation seemed imminent. Most of the people had come into the county within two years and had not fairly opened their farms. Many of the settlers, with starvation and hardship before them, returned to the east.

Great dissatisfaction developed over the location of the county seat at Humboldt, and on March 26, 1860, an election was held to decide on a location, Humboldt and lola being the principal contestants. The result of the election was 562 votes for Humboldt and 331 for lola, with 78 votes scattered, but the people in the vicinity of lola and the northern part of the county were not satisfied. The strife was kept up for some years until another election was ordered for May 10, 1865, when lola received the largest number of votes. When the county seat was located at lola, the town company donated 100 lots to the county to aid in the construction of public buildings. In 1866 bonds were voted for funds and within a short time a building was secured for county offices and court purposes. In 1877 the present court-house was purchased.

As soon as the news of the outbreak of the Civil war reached Allen county, nearly all the able bodied men hastened to enlist in the army. The Iola battalion was formed in 1861; three companies, commanded by Capts. Colman, Flesher, and Killen served in the Ninth Kansas, and two companies, commanded by Capts. W. C. Jones and N. B. Blanston, served in the Tenth Kansas volunteer infantry. As the county was located so near the border of the state there was danger of invasion from Missouri guerrillas and hostile Indians from the Indian Territory. While the Allen county soldiers were with Gen. Lane, a raid was made on the unprotected settlers of Humboldt, Sept. 8, 1861, by a band of Missouri guerrillas, Cherokee and Osage half-breed Indians. On Oct. 14, 1861, the town was captured and set on fire by Confederate cavalry. The Confederate officers claimed that this was done in retaliation for the burning of Osceola by Gen. Lane. The land office had just been opened before this and J. C. Burnett, the register, managed to have his sister save $25,000 in land warrants, that were in the office at the time. After the burning of Humboldt a military post was established there, but no actions took place until the Price raid in 1864. The militia of the county was organized into a battalion, known as the Allen county battalion, and was composed of six companies, three from lola and the northern part of the county, two from Humboldt and one from the extreme southern part of the county. This organization comprised all the able bodied men in the county between the ages of 16 and 60 years.

The first railroads in Allen county were built in 1870, the Missouri,. Kansas & Texas being completed across the southwestern part of the county in the spring, and the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston in the fall of the same year. Bonds were voted by the county to aid in the construction of the railroads. In 1880, bonds having been voted by different townships along the line, the Fort Scott & Wichita railroad was built across the county east and west, through lola. There are now 96 miles of main line railroads in the county: The Atchison. Topeka & Santa Fe running almost directly north and south in the western part of the county, and a branch southwest from Colony, Anderson county, across the extreme northwest corner. The Missouri, Kansas & Texas crosses the eastern part, almost directly north and south, with a branch north from Moran and another running west with its terminus at lola. Another line of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas enters the county near the center on the west and crosses the southwest corner, while the Missouri Pacific crosses from east to west somewhat north of the center, through lola.

The first church in the county was that of the United Brethren, begun in 1859 and completed the following year. For some years this church was used as a union church by all denominations and also as a school house. The Humboldt Herald was the first paper established. It was started Nov. 16, 1864. by Maj. Joseph Bond and two years later the Humboldt Union was established with Orin Thurston as editor.

In Nov., 1871, a tax was voted for the establishment of a county poor farm. Settlement of the county was somewhat retarded for some years by the contention between the settlers on the one hand and the Kansas City, Lawrence & Southern Kansas railroad company over the title to certain lands. The case was finally settled by Judge David Brewer of the United States circuit court on Sept. 3, 1885, in favor of the settlers. His decision threw open to settlement some 27,000 acres and immediately there was an influx of immigrants.

The general surface of the county is level, the soil is fertile and highly productive. The valleys average a mile and a half in width and the timber belts about a mile. The principal varieties of trees native to the county are black walnut, hickory, cottonwood, oak, hackberry and elm. The main water course is the Neosho river, which flows through the western part of the county from north to south. Its tributaries are Indian, Martin's, Deer, Elm, and other small creeks. The Little Osage flows through the northeast and the Marmaton river through the southeastern part of the county.

The chief agricultural products are corn, wheat, oats, Kafir corn and potatoes, and the county is one of the leaders in the production of flax and broom corn. Live stock raising is an important industry, and many fine orchards afford good profits to their owners.

Natural gas is the most important mineral resource. There are several large wells, but the field is particularly well developed near lola in the west and La Harpe in the north central part, and valuable oil wells exist near Humboldt. There are vast quantities of raw material for Portland cement, which is manufactured and sent to all parts of the United States. An almost in exhaustable supply of shale has been found for making high grade brick and tile, which are manufactured and shipped out of the state. A good quality of limestone is also found. The county is divided into the following townships: Carlyle, Cottage Grove, Deer Creek, Elm, Elsmore, Geneva, Humboldt, lola, Logan, Marmaton, Osage and Salem.

According to the U. S. census for 1910 the population of the county was 27,640, a gain of 8,133 during the preceding decade. The report of the State Board of Agriculture for the same year gives the total value of farm products as $1,362,654.60, corn leading with 1,123,290 bushels, valued at $550,412.10. (Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, by Frank Wilson Blackmar, 1912, pages 59-64)


Allendale, a little hamlet of Allen county, is situated about 5 or 6 miles northeast of lola, the county seat, from which place it receives mail by rural delivery. It is about equally distant from Carlyle on the Santa Fe and La Harpe on the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroads, which places are the nearest railway stations. (Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, by Frank Wilson Blackmar, 1912, page 64)


This town is the county seat of Allen County, and is pleasantly located in the level valley of the Neosho River, on the west side of that stream, and on the north side of Elm Creek, nearly at the confluence of the two streams. The town is situated a short distance northwest of the center of the county. The railroad connections are by the Kansas City, Lawrence & Kansas Southern railroad, running through the county form north to south, and the Fort Scott & Wichita railroad extending across the county from east to west.

The population of the town, according to the census of 1882, was 1,070, but this has increased largely during the past year. The different branches of business are well represented, and a large trade is carried on. The buildings are of a very good class and compare favorably with those of other of the older Kansas towns.

The history of Iola begins with the year 1859. After the location of the county seat at Humboldt, by the legislature of 1858, there was a great deal of dissatisfaction, and a number of citizens of the county selected the present site of Iola, with the intention of ultimately securing the county capital.

On January 1, 1859, a large meeting of the citizens of the northern and central portions of the county, was held at the Deer Creek schoolhouse, near the residence of J. C. Clark. It was determined to organize a town company, which was immediately done. A constitution was then adopted and officers elected. J. W. Scott was president; John Hamilton, vice-president; J. M. Perkins, secretary; James McDonald, treasurer; A. G. Carpenter, B. L. G. Stone and H. D. Parsons, directors. The town company numbered between fifty and sixty members. Among them were Wm. C. Keith, W. H. Cochrane, J. C. Redfield, D. Horville, J. C. Clark, Simon Camerer, J. F. Colborn, L. E. Rhodes, James Faulkner, Eli Lawrence, W. M. Brown, N. Hankins, W. F. Brooks, John A. Hart, J. F. Cornell, Carlyle Faulkner, J. M. Faulkner, J. B. Lambkin, M. A. Simpson, J. C. Parsons, Rufus Perkins, H. D. Parsons, Wm. Lewis, A. Case.

The officers of the company after due consideration of different points selected a site for the proposed town, about two miles north of Cofachique, at the confluence of Elm Creek and the Neosho River. The site was owned in part by J. F. Colborn and W. H. Cochrane. The claims on two quarter-sections were bought, and were soon after surveyed into lots by A. G. Carpenter.

The town company worked hard to get the town started. A meeting was held to choose a name. Several were proposed, and the choice was determined by ballot. Some one had proposed the name Iola, which was the Christian name of the wife of J. F. Colborn. As a result of the vote, this name was chosen.

Meetings of the company were held every week during the first year and efforts made to induce settlement. By the close of the year a number of lots had been disposed of, several buildings erected, and other improvements made, as all who bought lots were required to make some improvements at once. The residents of Cofachique despairing of making their town a success, joined with Iola, and most of them moved to the new site, all working together in the endeavor to secure the location of the county seat at once.

The first building on the town site was a small log cabin owned by D. B. Bayne. He, afterwards, late in 1859, built a frame house addition to it. It is now the residence of Wm. A. Cowan.

The first building erected after the town was surveyed was a dwelling completed early in June, 1859, by J. F. Colborn, who had lived on the claim of which the town site formed a part, since 1857. On the completion of the house, Mr. Colborn and his family moved into it, thus being the first settlers in the town of Iola.

The first birth in Iola was that of Luella E. Colborn, daughter to J. F. and Mrs. Iola Colborn, on June 29, 1859. She still resides in Iola, the wife of Wm. P. Northrup.

The first sermon was preached in the unfinished residence of J. F. Colborn, in May, 1859, by Rev. Mr. Hawley, a Methodist minister. He was soon followed by Rev. Nathan Taylor, a minister of the same denomination. In 1860, religious services were also held, under the leadership of Rev. E. K. Lynn, a minister of the Presbyterian Church.

During the year 1859, two stores were established by Aaron Case and James Faulkner, who had moved their buildings and goods from the old town of Cofachique.

The first hotel was opened in 1859.

The post office for the neighborhood had previously been at Cofachique, and Aaron Case was Postmaster, but in 1859, the office was removed to Iola, Case still being Postmaster, though James Faulkner attended to it, as his deputy, until he was appointed to the office a short time after.
In 1860, a number of buildings were erected, and the population increased to about one hundred and fifty. Two more stores were opened - a dry goods store, by D. B. Bayne, and a grocery, by J. M. Cowan.

The improvements of 1860 were nearly all made in the spring and early summer. In the latter part of the year the effects of the drought were so badly felt, in addition to failing to secure the county seat, that business became very dull, and for a time all of the citizens were much discouraged.

In 1861 the war broke out, and as nearly every able-bodied man in Iola, as well as the county, had entered the army there was no chance for improvement; and until the close of the war, in 1865, the town grew to be no larger than it was in 1860.

In 1865, after the return of the citizens from the army at the close of the war, the town began to improve steadily, and so continued until the year 1870, at which time it was incorporated as a city, and having secured the L., L. & G. R. R., rapid strides were made for the next two years in the improvement of the town. Several manufacturing establishments were in project, and some of them were built.

Among other heavy institutions at that time, was the King Bridge Manufacturing Company, which located the Bridge shops at Iola, in 1871. In January of that year, the city voted bonds of $50,000 to secure the location of the shops, which were built at once, and were large and substantial structures of stone, costing upward of $32,000, and by July of that year, work was commenced. For some time large numbers of men were employed, and a heavy business was done. But with the monetary panic of 1873, the value of bonds so depreciated that the company failed, and removed their machinery. They received bonds in payment, generally, for their bridges and work, and for this reason the "crash" ruined them. They afterward tried to collect the $50,000 in bonds voted by the city of Iola, but failed in doing so. The buildings and several acres of land on which they were located were sold at Sheriff's sale for $1,100, being purchased by several citizens of Iola. They are still unoccupied, though well adapted for a manufactory for almost any purpose.

During a period, from 1873 to 1876, business in all branches was very dull, and little improvement in the town was made. But since the last-named year, the city has steadily progressed until its present proportions have been attained. The greater number of the best business houses and residences have been built within the last three years. At the present time the town is growing very rapidly, and considerable building is being done by the wealthier and most substantial class of citizens, while several new manufactories of various kinds are in contemplation, and drawing a trade as it does for a radius of several miles, in a quite thickly settled agricultural country, Iola may be said to be one of the most prosperous of Kansas towns.

Iola was incorporated as a city of the third class in March, 1870. The early journal of the city disappeared during the trouble with the King Iron Bridge Company, relative to the payment of the city bonds voted to that company, which has caused some trouble regarding the legality of some of the ordinances and acts said to have been enacted by the first City Council. The city as a corporation is now in a prosperous condition, having no liabilities other than the $26,500 in bonds voted to the Fort Scott & Wichita Railroad. The present city officers are J. W. Scott, Mayor; Wm. P. Northrup, Clerk; A. J. Clark, Treasurer; T. F. Strickland, Marshal. The Council is composed of the following gentlemen: W. G. Allison, J. T. Beatty, C. D. Elliott, W. H. Richards, and L. B. Roach.

The first school in Iola has been mentioned in another place. A public school was at once established, and has since kept pace with the development of the town, new departments being added from time to time as required. There are now eight departments, all in a prosperous condition and under careful and efficient teachers, of whom Prof. C. C. Robbins is principal. The school is kept in two buildings, one a large two-story stone structure, erected in 1868, and has an imposing appearance with its twin towers. The other building is a two-story frame, and situated just south of the stone schoolhouse. (Source: William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, submitted by Kyle M. Condon)

Dear Sir: August 20, 1930

I was born in 1840, June 15th…at Park Hill, Indian Territory.

In 1862 I went to Iola, Kansas. I landed in Iola Aug 3rd. Iola was only a village at that time. The names of some of the people who lived there then were: Cowan (the mail carried), his son Sam Cowan was postmaster. Joe Colborn a blacksmith, John Cornell the constable. There was only one store owned by Brink Brewster. Jimmie Fortner (James Faukner) was judge. Old Man Packard ran an open saloon where the gas office now stands. William Care moved from some close by town (Cofachique) and ran a store in Iola, this made two stores. In 1864 L.L. Northrup came and established a store, this making three stores. Granny Cowden was the first white woman in Iola. William Lowe was also an old pioneer. Charles Briggs also Bill Cowhorn (William Caughron) Pete Blackwell lived below Bill Cowhorn. Old Man Dressback lived where the Davis edition is. Old Man Archie Thrasher was there. Old Man Perkins, Rhodes, Dr. Bostrick lived where the U.B. Church stands now. Dr. Cassidy lived where Sarah Crow lives. Mrs. Case lived where Gaylord Robbinson lives.

I left Iola and went to Charlestown (A Negro settlement just across the river west of Iola.) town was named for Charles Ross. The Creeks, Choctaws, Freedoms, (Freedmen), Seminoles all lived together in Charleston. Granny Cowden often visited us. One day Granny Cowden and a bunch of us were walking over to Iola and we ran across two men that were hanged beside the road. One had on a hat, the other a chew of tobacco in his mouth. Both were white. I don’t know who was frightened the worse the dead men or us. Granny Cowden never stopped running until she reached Coffachique. Aunt Sally Todd (colored) was there, hollering more than anybody.

Times were very hard during the war. We had to eat stewed pumpkin for breakfast, dinner and supper. Once in a while Old man Walter would kill a poor cow and bring meat, dividing it among us saying he was always indebted to the poor. I’ve ate cornbread made of water and salt. Riley Young brought us meat occasionally. There were many prairie chickens and rabbits. The people were very good to us. All lived in union. J.C. Clark and Billie Jones helped us. Sometimes Old Man Thrasher would give us a sack of flour. Wheat was taken to Neosho Falls to be ground. Of all the handing there were none but white men.

We would pound our hominy and cook it in big kettles then we would feast. Hickory nuts were plentiful. We would take their meats, mix , with the hominy and make connutiche.

In 1865 just at noon when we had started to eat dinner a runner came from Fort Scott saying: Price was on his way to raid Iola. We scattered in every direction. All of the men except two left to fight Price. Only two were left with all the women and children. We had lots of children… All of us went to the timber, and scattered along Deer Creek. There was a steady rain that night. We sat in the water with our babies. While running Granny Jones said. “Don’t run, If god is for us what can man do?” But Granny Cowden said. “If is the crookedest letter in the book. We will depend on out feet.” Old man Cowen walked the beat all night. …. Written by Nancy Grubbs. This is a retyped word for word copy of a story that I believe is in Allen County Historical Society. Submitted by: Kyle M. Condon


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