Saturday, February 16, 2013

A Visit to a Land Office in Augusta 1871

Land Office Augusta, Kansas

The Kansas Public Survey map of 1866 identifies three land offices in Kansas. The southernmost land office was then located at Humboldt, Kansas.

Kansas Public Survey 1866

In 1863 and in 1870, treaties between the United States and the Osage Indians provided for the purchase of the Osage Indian Reserve that stretched across southern Kansas. Afterwards, settlers poured in to the area. In 1868, at the confluence of the Walnut and Whitewater rivers, C.N. James and Shamlefer built a log cabin of cottonwood timber. The cabin would serve as a trading post for the soon to be town of Augusta.

C.N. James Trading Post
In March of 1870, the Augusta Town Company was chartered and, in October of 1870, the Humboldt office was removed to Augusta. While I haven't come across an image of the land office in Augusta, it is not unreasonable to assume that it was at the C.N. Trading Post. Its tenure there was brief. In 1874, the land office moved to the next boom town, Wichita.

A visit to the land office

I have often wondered what it was like in the early days of settlement. So, it was interesting to come across a recollection by Civil War veteran, George C. Anderson of an early visit to the Augusta land office in 1871. Anderson and a company of Civil War veterans from Ohio were scouting land for settlement by veterans of the war from Ohio. The resident land agent in Augusta would politely suggest to Anderson and his party that land near there was already spoken for, and they should direct their attention further west.

Anderson was a delegate of the Ohio Soldiers Colony. The group met at Columbus, Ohio, in April, 1871, and selected five members to go west to find lands for settlement. Anderson was one of the five chosen. There is not much information on the Ohio Soldiers Colony, but presumably, they were Union soldiers looking to take advantage of the Homestead Act, which originally gave any man or woman 160 acres of land free, providing they settled, built a shelter, and improved the land. Later a price was placed on the land - the price ranging from $1.25 to $2,50 an acre.

George C. Anderson took notes, which were later published. What follows are his recollections of  going to the land office in Augusta, Kansas. The group began its tour of Kansas and Colorado in Cincinnati, traveling to St. Louis, Kansas City, and Topeka, before heading  south to Florence and then on to Towanda, and Augusta.

Anderson and his party would follow their visit to the land office with a buffalo hunt in Reno County before going on further west.

From the Journal of George C. Anderson, Touring Kansas and Colorado 1871. (from the Kansas Historical Quarterly, Autumn 1956, Transcribed by Barbara Hutchins and Lynn Nelson.)

Resuming our journey, we arrived at Augusta at 3 o'clock P. M.  Here we find a town of some three hundred inhabitants, nearly all of which are land agents or sharks. We find men from every direction, race and color, taking claims, buying and selling land or trying to take advantage of some impecunious Preemptor. We are immediately surrounded on our arrival, and interviewed, as only people in this country know how to interview. However we are not easily frightened, as our party are well armed. Messrs. Huffman and McKittrick are armed with breach loading Ballard rifles, Navy revolvers and knives, Maj Bostwick with a common hunting rifle, revolver and knife, Capt Ferrell with revolver and knife, Young with rifle and revolver and Anderson with Spencer rifle, revolver and knife and to guard against certain kinds of trouble, two or three of the party had an additional armament of bottles, our only remedy against snake bites.

There was a suit before the Land Agent at the time we were there, between a squatter and an actual settler, for a certain piece of land. At one time it looked as though there would be a general fight. Some of the parties placed their hands upon their revolvers, to draw them, but did not. After examining the maps, we were informed by the Ag't that the largest and best body of lands yet unoccupied, were in Sedgewick and Reno Counties, and that we had better examine them.

Read more.

No comments:

Post a Comment