Welcome to Woodson County, Kansas
Woodson County is one of the original counties created by the first territorial legislature of 1855, also known as the “bogus legislature”. Woodson County is in the third tier of counties west from the Missouri state line and in the third tier up from the Oklahoma state line (three up and three over from the southeast corner of the State). It is bounded on the north by Coffey County; on the east by Allen County; the south by Wilson; and on the west by Greenwood. The current county contains little of its original land as it was mapped out. The Kansas Territorial Legislature changed the boundaries several times giving over significant pieces of the county’s land to Greenwood and Wilson Counties.
The county at that time was largely upland (90%) and bottom land (10%). Forest covered 6%, the remaining 94% of the land being prairie. The Neosho River is the county’s principal “stream”, crossing the northeast corner of the County. The Verdigris River cuts across the southwest corner of the county. Owl Creek and its tributaries rise near the center of the county and run to the eastern line. There are numerous small creeks and springs that also supplied water to the County. Water wells were sunk to a depth of 20 to 40 feet. The timber consisted of oak, hickory, black walnut, hackberry, locust, sycamore, elm, and cottonwood. Coal was found in veins of considerable thickness and provided fuel for heating purposes. Fine quality sandstone was found at various points in the County with several quarries in operation.
The County was named in honor of Daniel Woodson, first Secretary of the Kansas Territory. He served from 1854 to 1857.
Woodson County was not opened to settlement until 1860. The lands of Woodson County were a reserve belonging to the New York Indians who chose not to live on it. When the Government found that the Indians declined to settle on the lands, the land was offered for sale to settlers. As nearly as can be ascertained, the first permanent settlement of white men within the county was made in 1856. It is impossible to determine who were the first white settlers. Some of the earliest settlers carried the following surnames: Caven, Woolman, Chapman, Sears, Stockebrand, Toedman, Lauber, Daniels, Cooper, and Coleman, although the best known of the pioneers were not the first, Reuben Daniels settling in Belmont in 1856, David Cooper in Toronto and John Coleman in Owl Creek Township also in 1856.
The County townships were established in the mid-1850s and numbered ten: Liberty, Everett, Neosho Falls, Toronto, Center, Owl Creek, Belmont, Eminence and Perry. Their numbers have varied over the years from five to 11. Currently there are six townships - North, Liberty, Neosho Falls, Toronto, Center, and Perry.
Towns and close-knit communities sprang up all over the County. They had names such Athens, Batesville, Belmont, Bramlett, Burt, Byron, Center Ridge, Chellis, Coloma, Cookville, Crandell, Defiance, Durand, Everett, Finney, Geneva, Hamburgh, Kalida, Miller’s Grove, Neosho Falls, Nikketown, Piqua. Rose. Toronto, Vernon, and Yates Center. Some thrived and remain while others are simply a memory in the dust.
Looking at the Woodson County Map mural you will see fifteen (15) numbered sites represented by drawings of people, buildings, and objects. Each icon represents a place of historical significance in Woodson County and is accompanied by a short narrative telling of its significance below. If you want more detailed information, contact the Woodson County Historical Society at (620) 625-5233.
1. Turkey Creek Church
Located five miles north of Yates Center on US Hwy 75 and five miles west on 160th road, The Turkey Creek Community/Neighborhood was established in the last quarter of the19th century. Many of these early settlers were German immigrants fleeing their country to avoid military service. They were a religious group as were most early settlers. The first religious services in the Turkey Creek area were nondenominational. These services were probably held in the log schoolhouse for the purpose of having a place to gather for worship. A permanent wooden frame church was erected in the fall of 1891 at the cost of $1000.00. The nameplate outside the church was inscribed “Evangelical Emmanuel Kirche – 1891” (translated it reads, Emmanuel Church Evangelical Association - 1891). The church served under three different denominational names, first as an Evangelical Association Church, then as an Evangelical United Brethren Church and finally as a United Methodist Church. The German language was used entirely until after the turn of the century in the church services and until 1915 in Sunday school. In 1916 a small plot of land across the road south from the church was set aside for a cemetery. Turkey Creek Methodist Church is the oldest rural church in years of service in the County.
2. Burt Store
Located seven miles north on U.S. Hwy 75, two miles west, and one-half mile north of Yates Center was the town of Burt. Today two houses, and what was the old Burt Store is all that is there. In 1880, D.H. Burt built a small building that he stocked and operated as a small store. In 1884 a Post Office was established in the store and was called Burt with D.H. Burt as Postmaster. A mail route was established between Burt and Yates Center with mail delivered every other day. By 1900, Burt was a thriving community with two stores side by side, a post office, and a blacksmith shop. Telephone lines were run from Yates Center in 1906. The population in 1910 was 53. The Burt store closed in 1964. This was the last of the general stores in operation in the County.
3. Hay Capital of the World
One hundred fifty years ago the prairie in the North American heartland was practically undisturbed. The native prairie grasses were plentiful and a blessing to early settlers for whom they provided free pasturage and hay for the animals. In time almost all of the prairies had been turned into crop land. Grain crops promised higher yields and greater profit. Alfalfa, bromegrass and other forage crops were introduced. In recent years, large areas of unbroken grassland remain primarily in areas that are marginal for cropland in the Great Plains and the sandhills of Nebraska. The prairie still covers much of southeastern Kansas. The Flint Hills account for a major part of this grassland. There is a significant amount of this grassland existing as wild hayfields in midwestern farmland to the east. Woodson County was in the heart of this production area. In Woodson County almost a third of the total acreage harvested is in native grasses (prairie hay).
Prior to the time when hay balers became more plentiful the hay was stacked or put up loose in the barn. The first hay balers were horse powered. The hay was mowed, raked, and cured in the field. The hay press made it possible for bales to be made. The bales were tied with wire. Bales were then stacked in barns or shipped out on railroad cars.
The title Hay Capital of the World would not have been possible if it had not been for the hay production and shipping from the Woodson County communities of Vernon, Batesville and Rose. Toronto, Piqua and Neosho Falls also contributed to the hay shipped out of Woodson County.
Woodson County still celebrates the heritage of once being the “Hay Capital of the World” and the county’s agricultural heritage each fall with a Hay Fest. Events include hay bale art and tour, food trucks, live music, kid’s games, a haunted house, bingo and soup supper, a cornhole tournament and other family-friendly activities.
4. Neosho Falls Grist Mill
Neosho Falls is located ten miles east and nine miles north of Yates Center on the banks of the Neosho River. The Falls was most likely the second settlement in Woodson, being settled in 1857. The honor of being first goes to Belmont, another early settlement started in 1856. The Falls does have the honor of being the only town of the two to survive until this day. Neosho Falls likely drew its name from the rapids in the river at the point of the settlement. The early settlers built a dam across the rapids giving the town the name of ‘the Falls”. Shortly after, the town boasted a sawmill, a grist mill, and a woolen mill. In 1870, the Falls was incorporated as a town. In 1879, Riverside Park of Neosho Falls, hosted an agricultural fair with President Rutherford B. Hays, the First Lady and General William T. Sherman attending. It was reported that approximately 20,000 people attended this fair arriving by railroad, wagon, horseback and on foot. The river that was once this town’s livelihood also became its downfall. The river flooded numerous times over the years, but not to the extent of the 1951 flood. Its devastation was such that the town was not able to recover. A once vibrant town is now a few houses, empty lots and derelict buildings. The American progressive rock band, KANSAS, loosely memorialized the demise of the Falls in its 1988 CD, In the Spirit of Things.
5. Batesville Railroad Depot
Batesville - A Railroad Siding Settlement
Batesville had its beginning in 1883 when the St. Louis, Ft. Scott and Wichita railroad was built from Yates Center to Toronto. The townsite is located on U.S. Hwy 54, seven to eight miles west of Yates Center next to what was the overpass of the Missouri Pacific Railroad. (The overpass has been removed.) Several large homes, hay barns, and a stock yard were built. Batesville also had a gas station, general store, and blacksmith. During the prairie hay season, the population of Batesville multiplied by the hundreds as a tent city sprung up to accommodate the farm hands who came in to help process the prairie hay. Thousands of head of cattle and thousands of tons of bluestem prairie hay were shipped from Batesville on the railroad for many years. Batesville is believed to be named after the town of Batesville, Arkansas. The Batesville icon is the old Mo-Pac (Missouri-Pacific Railroad) depot. The photo used for the drawing was taken in 1911.)
6. Woodson County Courthouse
The Contest for County Seat
The board of supervisors for Woodson County met at Neosho Falls in May, 1858 and ordered that all official County business be transacted at that location. N. G. Goss & Co. donated a jail building to the county for so long a time as Neosho Falls should remain the county seat. In November of 1867 an election was called to select a permanent county seat. The competing towns were Neosho Falls, Center Twp, Coloma, and a site of which was entered in the list merely under its section, town and range description which later became the townsite of Yates Center. Neosho Falls received 129 votes and Yates Center 118. Center Twp and Coloma each received 2 votes. At the second election held in Sept.1868, Neosho Falls received 313 votes and Chellis, 199. The question was not revived again until 1873 when the vote stood as follows: Defiance, 506; Kalida 530; Waldrip, 1. This made Kalida, which was 2 miles south of Yates Center, the county seat. Another election held in September of 1874 made Defiance the county seat. Defiance was about 6 miles east of Yates Center. A second hotly contested election to decide between Neosho Falls and Yates Center was held 12 September 1876.
The results – Neosho Falls, 426 and Yates Center, 488. This settled the question. Yates Center became the County Seat. Many of the wood framed buildings in Kalida and Defiance, including the Courthouse, were moved to Yates Center. The old Courthouse was used until 1900 when the “new” Courthouse was finished.
In summary, Neosho Falls was the original county seat from 1858-1873. Kalida was the county seat from 1873-1874 when it moved to Defiance (1874-1876). Yates Center became the county seat after the election of 12 September 1876.
Yates Center, the Town That Became A County Seat Before It Was A Town
Established in 1875, Yates Center became the County Seat of Woodson County before it became a town. Yates Center is located in the geographical center of Woodson County. It is to this fact that it owes its existence. Abner Yates was a land speculator from Jacksonville, IL who bought up large swaths of land in Woodson County. He was particularly impressed with a hill in the center of the county which had springs that never seemed to run dry. The population of Woodson County was clamoring for a County Seat more towards the center of the County. The fact that it had a seemingly unending supply of water was an advantage that was quickly appreciated.
Abner Yates offered his property to the County Board of Supervisors if they would make it the County Seat. He offered to give free of charge the land for the town square, plots for churches and schools, land for parks, and a residential lot for the first baby born in Yates Center. This centralized piece of land was included in the first election for County Seat in 1867 listed only by its section, town and range description. It received 118 votes compared to Neosho Falls which received 129 votes. This piece of land was not involved in another election for County Seat until September of 1876 when it faced off against Neosho Falls. This election settled the fight for County Seat once and for all.
After the election, Abner Yates moved a two-story building from Defiance to the southwest corner of the Yates Center town square, this being the first building in the new town of Yates Center. Many buildings and houses were moved from Kalida and Defiance. By 1878, the town had a population of 800. It had two good hotels and many first-class stores. In 1879 the St. Louis, Ft. Scott & Wichita railway entered the town and at once afforded direct communication with the cities of the East. By 1882 over sixty buildings had been erected both wood framed and stone.
The Post Office was opened in 1877. School District # 51, which embraces Yates Center, was formed in 1875. In 1877 a stone schoolhouse was constructed on land given by Abner Yates. By 1882, the first school was inadequate, so a new stone four room school was built in the north part of the town. The new school quickly had an enrollment of one hundred and seventy students.
The first church in the new town was the Christian Church of Yates Center, built in 1876. This building is one of the oldest structures in the city and is the current home of the Woodson County Historical Museum. This was quickly followed by the Methodist Church, first organized in 1870 in Kalida and moved to Yates Center in 1876. The Presbyterian Church was organized in 1880 followed by the Baptist Church in 1882. There were two newspapers and four fraternal organizations, Gilead Lodge No.144, Woodson Lodge No.173 IOOF, Yates Center Lodge, No.99 Ancient Order of United Workingmen, and the Knights of Pythias.
Abner Yates was born in Gallatin, Kentucky in 1819. He was a successful businessman in Jacksonville, Illinois when he invested in Center Township in Woodson County, Kansas. His brother and nephew both became governors of the State of Illinois. In platting Yates Center, KS, Abner reserved considerable land for gifts: the central square for the courthouse, Lincoln city park, building sites for churches and schools, a lot for the first child born in the city, and lots to several settlers for assistance rendered in building up the community. He also donated rights-of-way and depot sites to railway companies to induce them to help develop the town.
From 1883, Abner, his wife Mary and their two children Mary M. and William H. made Yates Center their permanent home. Both Abner and Mary and their daughter and son-in-law are buried in Yates Center. While Abner was a wealthy man during much of his life, he died a pauper. The citizens of Yates Center paid for Abner’s burial. A monument to Abner and Mary was dedicated at the 25th Anniversary of the founding of Yates Center.
Located in the center of the town square is a massive two-story red brick building with a towering white cupola, the Woodson County Courthouse. Built in 1899-1900, it is still a working courthouse today. The original courthouse which served until 1900, when the new courthouse was completed, was a two-story white wood framed building which was brought to Yates Center from Defiance in two pieces. The architect of the new courthouse was George P. Washburn. He designed nine Carnegie library buildings in Kansas but is best known for the thirteen courthouses he designed. His style makes it relatively easy to recognize them.
The Yates Center Courthouse Square Historic District is a 4 acres historic district which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1986. The district includes 41 contributing buildings and two contributing structures. It includes the Woodson County Courthouse, the Yates Center Courthouse Square, the Yates Center National Bank at 100 N. Main St., the Masonic Lodge Building at 101 N. State St. and Others.
7. Pump Jack at Vernon
Vernon - A Railroad Siding Community
The town of Vernon was established seven miles north and four and one fourth miles from Yates Center. The town was platted in December 1886 when the Verdigris Valley, Independence and Western Railroad was built from LeRoy to Yates Center. For a short period of time, Vernon was known as Talmadge because there was another town called Vernon in western Kansas. The use of Talmadge was short lived. The name Vernon was adopted again and remained the little town’s name. Vernon was once an Oil Boomtown. The oil boom struck Vernon in 1903 as oil was discovered close by. A second oil boom came in 1917-1918 with much oil drilling in the area. From the time of its beginning Vernon was also known as a prairie hay center. This trade was one of the main sources of income. During its hay day, the population would increase by 50-75 workers during the summertime. In 1924, Vernon became known as the “World’s Hay Market.” A number of houses and buildings still remain in the area today.
8. Railroad Signal at Durand
Importance Of Railroads In Woodson County
Efforts to build railroads in Woodson County began in 1867, but were unsuccessful for a number of years, owing to the failure of bonds to carry. Several different railroads made propositions during the latter ‘60s and ‘70s but all were turned down by the people. The first railroad to be built was the St. Louis, Ft. Scott & Wichita (now the Missouri Pacific), which crossed the central part of the county in a northeasterly direction, passing through Toronto, Yates Center, Durand and Piqua. Another line of the same road entered the county from Kansas City and ran south to Yates Center, where it connected with the first line. The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R.R. crossed the county from the northeast corner to Yates Center, and a third line of the Neosho Falls Missouri Pacific ran north from Wilson County. A line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe also crossed the southwest corner, and a line of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas crossed the northeast corner, passing through Neosho Falls.
Durand - A Railroad Siding Community
Located two miles east of Yates Center on US HW54 and .8 miles north, Durand had settlers living in the area as early as the 1860’s. The greatest growth of the community rested with the expansion of the railroad. Around the turn of the 20th century, the railroad coming out through Vernon and Leroy had to make quite a bend to the southwest to get to Yates Center. As it went out it made another larger bend back to the southeast to get to Rose. In order to get away from the bends and hills, the Colorado, Kansas and Pacific Railway Co., later the Missouri Pacific Railway undertook a rerouting of the rails which took it through the little community of Durand. After the grade was made, the tracks laid, a town began to take shape. The depot, two hotels, several houses were built, and a store was established. The railroad finally built a siding for the farmers to ship out their hay. During its heyday Durand became quite a busy place with as many as 12 trains coming and going each day. About 75 workmen were in and out each day besides the ones living in Yates Center. The north-south rail line through Durand now carries Union Pacific trains. The hotels, the depot and other concessions are now gone. The railyard is now a maintenance station. Trains still pass through at all times of the day.
9. Buster Keaton of Piqua
Piqua – the Birthplace of Buster Keaton
Eleven miles east of Yates Center on US highway 54 is the town of Piqua, KS. The town came into being when the railroad finally made it into Woodson County in 1881. The town was named for Piqua, Ohio the hometown of the railroad construction foreman. By 1883 Piqua was quite a railway center with four daily passenger trains and four or more freight trains daily. Today the railroad is gone. The little town is now best known as the birthplace of Buster Keaton and the home of St. Martin’s Catholic Church.
Buster Keaton, known as the Great-Stone Face comic received his fame before the advent of the “talkie” motion pictures in the 1930s but his story began in a small town in Woodson County. Keaton’s parents were vaudeville performers who just happened to be performing in Piqua the night that their baby boy was born. The baby boy was named James Francis Keaton. How he got the nickname of “Buster” is controversial. One story is that the name was given to him by Harry Houdini when he fell down the stairs at 6 months of age. The other story is that the midwife who helped with his birth exclaimed, “My what a “buster” he is!” There is also a Hollywood version of this as well.
Mother and baby remained in Piqua for a few days until they were able to travel and join the troupe. Keaton did not return to Piqua until 1964 when he and his wife rolled up in a chauffeur-driven limo. They stopped at the railroad depot, talked with a couple of persons, and drove off. Keaton died on February 1, 1966.
The first St. Martin’s Catholic Church was built and dedicated on November 11, 1884. The present St. Martin’s Church building was dedicated on November 12, 1922. The Church observed its 100th Anniversary on August 18, 1984.
Several houses, agri-businesses, a restaurant, and Knights of Columbus Hall as well as a museum commemorating the birthplace of Buster Keaton remain in the little town.
10. Toronto High School
Toronto / Schools
Eleven miles west and six miles south of Yates Center is the city of Toronto. onto. Founded in 1869, Toronto is the second largest city in Woodson County. Several of the founders were from Canada. Toronto is named after Toronto, Canada. Town growth was slow. The town is situated in the lower southwest corner of the County. They had no railroad and no hope of becoming the County Seat. The first structure built on the townsite was a small frame house. This was followed by a hotel in 1870. Lots were sold for $10. The Post Office was established in 1870. The first school associated with Toronto predated the town having been held since 1858. The school was a small log cabin to the west of the town. When the town developed, the little log cabin was moved to the town square. A short time later it was enlarged as more children came to school. In 1882 a new two-story school building was built. The upper story held the 7th and 8th grades and a two-year high school. The first floor housed the lower grades, two classes in a room with two teachers. There was a 6-foot-tall fence surrounding the school with a partition down the middle in the back. The west side was the boy’s play yard and the east side belonged to the girls. Teachers were never present on the playgrounds. Other school buildings were built as classes outgrew the present one. They were either torn down and the lumber salvaged for the new school or parts were sold and moved to other locations and used for other purposes. The High School was opened in 1914. Toronto Schools were closed in the late 60’s and early 70’s when the County consolidated all of the schools in Woodson County. Most Toronto children attend schools in Greenwood County.
11. Kalida Castle
In January of 1869, the townsite of Chellis was surveyed and platted. The townsite was the property of Hale Chellis and his wife, Sarah. In May 1869 they opened the townsite of Chellis to the public. By the fall of 1869, the little town had a post office, a general store and a hotel. Numerous lots were sold for residences. Chellis sold a controlling interest in his newly formed town in September of 1870 to Thomas Davidson. Davidson renamed Chellis "Kalida," a Greek word meaning “beautiful." So, the town of Kalida was founded by Thomas Davidson on 24 September 1870.
Kalida grew rapidly to a population of 500. It was located on the town site of Chellis, two miles southeast of where Yates Center now stands. Kalida was chosen as county seat for a short time. The greatest drawback to Kalida and Defiance as County Seats was the need to haul water by ox-teams from the Neosho River, 12 to 14 miles to the northeast.
The town of Kalida had a hotel, livery stable, two grocery stores, two dry goods stores, a barber shop, drug store, blacksmith shop, post office, billiard hall, meat market, three physicians, two preachers, one lawyer and a newspaper, the “Kalida Advocate." When Yates Center was chosen as County Seat in 1876, numerous buildings from Kalida and Defiance, including the courthouse were moved to the new townsite of Yates Center. After attending the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893, Mr. Davidson hired a local stonemason to construct an elaborate above ground cellar and stone gateway. Made of native sandstone, quarried nearby, the Kalida Castle/Cave garnered much attention and speculation as to its true purpose. The only buildings left in Kalida are a farmhouse, several outbuildings, and the Kalida Castle/Cave. The Kalida Cemetery is a “working” cemetery located a short distance northwest from the farm. The Kalida Castle/Cave and the old Davidson farm are both privately owned.
12. Original Courthouse at Defiance
The townsite of Defiance was eastablished in 1873 during the heated battle over a county seat to be located closer to the center of the county than Neosho Falls. Defiance was organized after Chellis and Kalida, both of which were located closer to the center of the county. In the county seat election of February, 1874, Defiance won over Kalida. Kalida had been the county seat just over 3 months! Defiance and Kalida were only about 3 miles apart. In the summer of 1875 another election was called. This would be a three-cornered race between Defiance, Neosho Falls and the location known as Yates. Yates received 335 votes, Neosho Falls – 301, and Defiance – 235. This was the beginning of the end for Defiance. The townsite was vacated in August of 1878. The Courthouse and most of houses were moved to the new townsite of Yates Center. The townsite of Defiance was located five miles east and three quarters of a mile south on the east side of the road. Today nothing survives at this location.
13. Chief Opothleyahola
One of, if not the first settlement in Woodson County, Belmont was located four miles south and two mile west of Yates Center. Founding of the town is attributed to Joel Moody prior to 1857. The town was built south of the old wagon trail known as the “Humboldt-Belmont-Eureka Road”. Belmont was the main stop between Humboldt and Eureka during this period. The first Post Office was established at Belmont September 23, 1857At one time, Belmont had a general store, post office, hotel, stagecoach barn, blacksmith shop, tavern, and Indian Agency with a population of 600. Belmont was named the first County Seat of Woodson County in 1858 by virtue of legislative action in Sect 13 of Bill 203, 1858. It was named for Belmont County, Ohio. Controversy still reigns as to whether Belmont was sacked and burned by Confederate rebels in the early years of the Civil War. Quantrell’s raiders have been implicated in this. There are several written first-hand accounts of this happening which have been countered by researchers stating that Quantrell and his men did not come this far west into Kansas. Today there is nothing left of this little town.
Fort Belmont, in southern Woodson County, was built about 1860 near the town of Belmont. It was to protect the settlers from attacks by Border Ruffians and Indians. The fort consisted of 3-4 officer cabins, a redoubt about a quarter of a mile to the north and a parade ground a mile to the east. The redoubt was an earthwork and log structure, rectangular in shape and 150 feet by 60 feet across. The earthwork was the base of the structure. On top of the earthworks were four layers of longs. The wall was said to be fairly tall and a house was built in the center of the redoubt.
The Fort was manned by local militia led by Capt. Joseph Gumby. A Federal agency for the Osage and Creek Indians was located at Fort Belmont until 1864. The Creek Indian leader, Opothleyahola led about 10,000 of his followers to Kansas to escape the pursuit of Confederate soldiers and sympathetic Indians in present-day Oklahoma. More than 240 refugees died during the winter of 1861/1862 when the Union Army was unable to provide adequate food and shelter. Those who died including Opothleyahola and his daughter are buried near here in unmarked graves. The escape from Oklahoma was called the Trail of Blood on Ice as it was in the middle of winter with many of those being pursued barefoot and starving. There was also an outbreak of smallpox in the town of Belmont. This also contributed to the deathrate. In October of 1864, the Kansas governor relieved the militia from duty and Fort Belmont was permanently closed. The nearby town of Belmont was abandoned soon afterward.
There are no records at the National Archives concerning Fort Belmont. All the information found has come from local sources.
Opothleyahola (1798-1863) was a Muscogee Creek Indian chief, noted as a brilliant orator and spokesperson of the Upper Creek Council. He fought against the United States government during the first two Seminole Wars, and then for the Union during the American Civil War. He swore his allegiance to never again bear arms against the Federal Government.
During the early 1830’s, there were multiple treaties being signed in Georgia and Alabama that ceded considerable lands to the two states including lands belonging to the Upper Creek and Lower Creek. These treaties were protested but even when the were overturned by the Federal Government, the states began forcibly removing the Indians.
In 1834, Opothleyahola traveled to Nacogdoches, TX, in an attempt to purchase land to accommodate his people. After paying $20,000, pressure from both the Mexican and American governments forced him to abandon the idea. In 1836, he was commissioned as a colonel by the U.S. government, led 1,500 of his warriors against rebellious Lower Creek and Seminoles in fighting the white occupation. Soon after, Federal authorities forced the emigration of many of the tribes to the West, an exile known as the “Trail of Tears”. In 1837, Opothleyahola led 8,000 of his people from Alabama to lands north of the Canadian River in Indian Territory, now Oklahoma.
Opothleyahola joined the Freemasons and became a Baptist. He became a wealthy trader and owned a 2,000-acre plantation near North Fork Town, with labor from a number of enslaved persons.
With the outbreak of the American Civil War, Opothleyahola refused to form an alliance with the Confederacy, unlike many other tribes. Runaway slaves, free blacks, Chickasaw and Seminole Indians began gathering at his plantation, hoping to remain neutral in the conflict between the North and the South. In September of 1861 they received a positive response from the Federal government stating that the Federal Government would help them. They directed Opothleyahola to move his people to Fort Row in Wilson County, KS, where they would receive asylum and aid.
On November 15, 1861, they were engaged in battle with 1,400 men, including blacks and pro-Confederate Indians led by Confederate Col. Douglas H. Cooper, a former Federal Indian Agent. Believing the promise of assistance by the Federal Government, Opothleyahola led his people toward Kansas, fighting three battles against their pursuers. At Round Mountain he was able to drive back the Confederates. However, in December suffered a tactical defeat and then a crushing defeat at the other two battles. 2,000 of his 9,000 followers did not survive the battles, disease, and bitter winter weather during their ill-fated walk to Ft. Row. This portion of their journey was called the Trail of Blood on Ice. When they arrived, they soon found that there were not adequate supplies, clothing or food. They moved on to Ft. Belmont in Woodson County, KS, where conditions were still intolerable. The majority of Indian refugees had only the clothes on their backs, no shoes or shelter. Many more perished in the ensuing months from disease, exposure and starvation including Opothleyahola’s daughter. Opothleyahola continued to press the Federal Government for assistance which was not forthcoming.
Opothleyahola died in the Creek refugee camp near the Sac and Fox Agency at Quenemo in Osage County, Kansas. He was buried beside his daughter near Ft. Belmont.
14. Rose Schoolhouse
Rose -A Railroad Siding Community
Rose, KS is located six miles south on U.S. Hwy 75 and two- and one-half miles east of Yates Center. In June of 1870 a post office was established in the home of George Trimble. When a town sprung up near this post office, it was named Rose after the daughter of the first Postmaster. The town developed with the hay business that began with the shipping of hay on the railroad. A depot and loading siding were built and it was referred to as the Rose siding. Rose School District No. 17 was organized in 1867 before there was much of a town. As the town grew the school moved several times to be closer to the children. In 1937 the frame schoolhouse in town was struck by lightning and burned to the ground. It was replaced that same year by a new brick schoolhouse. The last school term was 1959-60. The school building was sold to an individual for a private home. During the 1890’s and for a number of years after the turn of the century, the town of Rose was a major prairie hay shipping hub. There were a number of large hay barns in and around the town. The population of the little town would increase dramatically during hay season. It was an established fact that more baled, native prairie hay was shipped out of Rose station than anywhere in the world. It is thought that the last carload of prairie hay shipped out of Rose was in December 1972 and for the Cantrell Hay Company. It was shipped to a hay and grain company in Florida for horse feed at the racetracks. Rose has come and gone as a town. A few homes remain with a few families living in the town area.
15. Osage Territory
Native Americans in Woodson County
The Native Americans were the first settlers of the land that became Kansas. The Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kanza, Kiowa, Osage, Pawnee and Wichita tribes were considered native to present-day Kansas. The area was also inhabited by many emigrant tribes. Those were tribes that had been relocated by Federal Government treaties because land west of the Mississippi had been deemed unfit for Euro-American settlers but suitable for relocated Indian tribes.
The Delawares were the first Native Americans to sign a treaty giving them land in what is now Kansas. By 1830 nearly thirty tribes were given land in Kansas receiving assurances from the Federal Government that they would not be moved again. The Kansas Territory was opened to settlement by white settlers in 1854 and once again there was forced removal of the Native Americans. At this time, Woodson County was entirely in the New York Indian Reservation. Because the New York Indians never settled in Woodson County, the Government sold the land in 1860.
Both native and emigrant Native Americans were “managed” by Indian Agents, men who were appointed by the Federal Government. There was an Agent in Neosho Falls whose primary responsibility was the Osage who were “native” to the area in Perry township. His responsibilities increased when Indians following Opothleyahola spread out from the Belmont/Ft. Belmont area to settle temporarily on Turkey Creek and near the Neosho River. There was an Agent stationed at Ft. Belmont whose primary responsibility was the survivors who walked the Trail of Blood on Ice into Woodson County. When the Fort was disbanded, the Agent went to Coffey County.
From what records exist from Woodson County, the Native Americans and settlers maintained a peaceful existence.