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Kansas Heritage: Republic County

Aimed at preserving the heritage of central and western Kansas

Republic County Map 1899

Republic County map\

Prentis, Noble Lovely. "History of Kansas". Winfield, KS: E. P. Greer, 1899

Belleville and Scandia Townships: The "Scotch Plains"

"The members of the Excelsior Colony Number Two, or the David Bruce Colony, came a short time after those of the first Excelsior Colony. This group of sixteen Scotch families left New York on March, 1, 1870.

The second group settled in Belleville and Scandia Townships, some ten miles south and west of the first colony.

These people, too, were interested in the Kansas lands by the glowing accounts given in the town hall in New York City by McCliment and McKensie, as were members of the first Excelsior colony. They met at the home of William Bainbridge to organize their group which was composed of sixteen men, with the wives and small families of a greater part of them. Both McCliment and McKensie were members of this group, McKensie having sold the rights to the claim he had taken on Rose Creek, earlier in the year.

The personnel of the group included:
William Bainbridge, wife and children--George, Lizzie, James and John.
James Lowden.
Jack McKensie and wife.
James Duncan.
Peter Doctor.
Hugh Scott, wife and son--Robert.
Alexander "Sandy" Maxton, and wife.
Robert Curry, and wife.
John McCliment, and wife.
James Kelly, and wife.
Jimmy Kelly (nephew of the elder James Kelly).
Gilbert Rogers.
James Kenard.
George Baird, and wife.
Andrew Kerr, wife, son and daughter.
Holt, wife and son.

A Mr. Burant and his wife and daughter, Maggie, came at the same time but as they were not Scotch, they were not counted a part of the colony. . . .

The group was composed entirely of mechanics, there being not a single farmer in the lot. William Bainbridge was a carpenter and so were James Duncan and Hugh Scott. Alexander Maxton, George Curry and Peter Doctor were stone-cutters. Young Jimmy Kelly was a stone-cutter and Gilbert Rogers a jeweler. Andrew Kerr was a blacksmith, John McCliment a trusmith, and Jack McKensie a jeweler.

Joseph McGowan, who joined the group in April, was a miner. He came, with his family, from West Virginia where he had been employed in the mines for five years.

Most of the group had been in the United States for that long. Peter Doctor came in 1867 from Forfarshire, Scotland, and worked in Boston, Massachusetts and New York City before coming to Kansas. James Duncan came in the same year from the Isle of Buteshire, Scotland, and worked in new York City. Maxton had come in January just before coming out to Kansas. . . .

When the wages in New York, marvelous as they were, proved insufficient for the winter, Kansas offered a better opportunity---that of land, one hundred sixty acres, for the small cost of $14.50. It also offered a better place for the future of the children of the Scotch immigrant than did the life of the trades in the eastern states.

The claims were filed at Junction City. . . .

The region where these Scotch people settled in their rather compact group soon came to be known as 'Scotch Plains.' While the members did not at any time have a village of their own they have retained their identity. . . .

For a time some of the men worked at their trades in various cities, including St. Louis, and one, at least, worked for nearly a year in New York City (James Duncan). They knew very little of farming and had to get along as best as they could until they learned from experience and observation the things it is essential for a Kansas farmer to know.

Although little progress was made in the first five years, this group of mechanics started a colony that has developed into a community of good farmers and desirable citizens. The area containing their farms is still known as 'Scotch Plains'."*

Scotch Settlement

Sources

*Ida Lucretia Smith, “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas” (M. S. thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933), 40-42,47.

Smith, Ida Lucretia. “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas.” M. S. thesis., Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933.

Crainville

"The First Excelsior Colony reached Republic County early in the year of 1870. Their settlement was made on Rose Creek, in Liberty Township. This group was comprised of eight men, one woman and a six weeks' old baby. They were Andrew Glenn, Alex Monroe, Dan McKensie, Thomas Benson, J. J. Wilkes, Fred Thornton, Sidney E. Pearce, and Alfred burns. Andrew Glenn's wife, Elizabeth and their daughter, Jessie, completed the party.

They set out for Kansas from New York City on the last day of December, 1869. The group was not formed previous to starting, but on the first day on the train.

Two men, both Scotch, had been to Kansas as spies and were giving lectures in the City Hall on the opportunities afforded in the Kansas territory. These men, McCliment, a trusmith, and McKensie, a jeweler, told of the small cost of a homestead ($14.50), the amount of cane that could be grown on a quarter acre of land and the great quantity of molasses that could be made from this cane. The ease of growing the crops and the immensity of the harvests were also emphasized.

Andrew Glenn and Thomas Benson had been friends and had worked together in the Jacques and Mooney Stone Yard in New York City, but the group as a whole met for the first time on that first day of the yard, bound for a new country. An oral agreement was made that they settle as a group. The trip out took nearly a week.

The farms were numbered and the numbers were drawn from a hat. Junction City was the nearest land office at the time. The first thing to be done was to file for the claims and take out the first naturalization papers, so Tom Riley of Riley Creek, was hired to take them in a wagon to attend to these matters.

On their return a dugout was started so that they might have some place to live for the rest of the winter. This was dug back into the bank and was on the Wilkes claim.

These men knew very little of farming. When a group of them purchased a team of oxen, none of them knew how to hitch it up. They were all tradesmen. Mr. Glenn was a stone-cutter and so were Mr. Wilkes and Mr. Benson. Pearce was a painter and had been a sailor for a number of years. McKensie was a jeweler and Fraser a bricklayer.

The group was evenly divided as to nationality. Glenn, McKensie, Burns, Fraser and Monroe were Scotch. Wilkie, Wilkes, Thornton, Pearce and Benson were English. Andrew Glenn was from Fifeshire, Scotland, and his wife from the north of Scotland. Fraser was from the north of Scotland and his wife from the lowlands. J. J. Wilkes and his wife were from Stowonthewold, Gloucester, England. Wilkie was from Wigan, Lancashire, England, and his wife, Elizabeth, from Airdrie, Scotland.

This group has not retained its identity as have the other group settlements, perhaps because it was so small. At one time a post office and store were in the community but were soon discontinued. This small village was known as Craineville.

The English community of today is north and west of this old Scotch-English settlement and is composed of people who came much later."*

Scotch-English colony

Sources

*Ida Lucretia Smith, “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas” (M.S. thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933), 28-29, 29-30, 31, 34, 38.

Smith, Ida Lucretia. “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas.” M.S. thesis., Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933.

Freedom Township

"The last of the early group settlements to be made in Republic County was that of the Polish, late in the year of 1870. These Poles, with the exception of one of their number, bought their land, for homesteads were no longer available.

The first group to come included:
Frank Uschler, wife and at least one son, Frank.
John Rost and family including two or three sons.
Michael Levondofsky and family.
John Shymanski and family.
John Kerstine and family,-five sons.
Lawrence Levondofski (son of Michael).
Wenzel Jehilik.
Casper Jehilik.
Frank Jehilik.

The three Jehiliks, who were brothers, were not Polish but Bohemian. They came with the group and settled with them, however.

These people, who came from St. Joe, [St. Joseph,] Missouri, settled in the northwest part of Freedom Township. Some of the older men drove out with teams but the younger ones came on the train.

The Rost, Shymanski and Uschler families came from the same part of Poland but the other families came from different places. They had met and formed their group in St. Joe where they worked in the rolling mills and packing houses. They had read of the land in Kansas in the papers.

The group was joined by other Poles in the course of a few years until it numbered twenty-five families. . . .

Some new members came directly from the old country. If a man here was in need of a [farmhand] he would write back to some of his family and friends, at his old home. These men who came would work as hands until they could pay or start to pay for a farm and so the settlement grew.

The part of Poland from which these people came was at that time under the government of Germany. The Poles were not [well-treated] and many of them came to the United States. Here they worked for a time in the mills and factories of the eastern cities and then went to farms farther west. Those who came to Republic County had, with a few exceptions, worked for a time in St. Joe, Missouri, where they read in the papers of the land to be had in Kansas. . . .

The group lived close together, in dugouts for a time. The men farmed in the summer but continued to go to St. Joe, Missouri, in the winter to work in the factories, leaving their families to tend the farms. . . .

Although but two of the early group are now living, the identity of the community is retained. It is still Polish. . . ."*

Polish Settlement

Sources

*Ida Lucretia Smith, “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas” (M. S. thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933), 63-65.

Smith, Ida Lucretia. “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas.” M. S. thesis., Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933.

Contact Us

Republic County Historical Museum
W. Hwy 36
P.O. Box 218
Belleville, KS 66935
(785) 527-5971

e-mail: repcomuse@nckcn.com
http://www.nckcn.com/homepage/repcomuse/home.htm

Homesteading in Republic County

Republic County, like many other counties of Kansas, has been settled by people of many nations. After being used as a pathway for many years it finally came to be of interest to homesteaders. Perhaps the fact that it was the seat of the old Pawnee capital had something to do with its long period of neglect for the Indians still opposed settlement west of the Republic River and made frequent raids east from that point.

The county was laid out and its boundaries defined by the state legislature in 1860.

An old military road ran through the county, following the [Republic River], and is often spoken of in early letters and accounts of travel through this region. After the southern route west from Fort Riley became crowded and Indian attacks became almost a certainty for any train using it, this road to the north was used by some of the Mormons and by settlers bound for Oregon.

With the passage of the Homestead Bill in 1862, settlement in northern Kansas was given a new stimulus and land seekers came, at first slowly and then more and more rapidly until by the early seventies all the free land was gone. People of many nations of the world were once more claiming this region for their own, this time for homes. Fast and faster they came---Swedes, Norwegians, Poles, Bohemians, Scotch, English, German, French, Scandinavians, with sprinklings of other nationalities---all seeking land.

Most of these groups were represented by settlements in Republic County. Only the Germans and French failed to establish colonies within its boundaries but they settled so near its borders that their settlements have gradually extended themselves into the county.

This was the background for the group settlements of particular nationalities which began in 1868 with the coming of a group of settlers sent out by the Scandinavian Agricultural Society to the little village of New Scandinavia, now Scandia, which had been laid out for the settlers of this company. Although this group was the first to come, it was followed so quickly by the others that the settlements seem almost simultaneous.”*

“As the western part of Republic County is Scandinavian, so the eastern part is Bohemian. The Bohemians have spread over the county probably more than any of the other groups, but the eastern part of the county still remains distinctly Bohemian.”+

Republic County Settlements

Sources

We thank Patricia Walker, Curator/Director of the Republic County Historical Society, for pointing us to information on Republic County.

*Ida Lucretia Smith, “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas” (M.S. thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933), 1, 2, 3-4, 5.
+Ida Lucretia Smith, “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas” (M.S. thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933), 61.

Smith, Ida Lucretia. “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas.” M.S. thesis., Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933.

Munden and Cuba: The Bohemian Colonies

The Bohemian settlement in Republic County was made in two parts. One group settled in Fairview and Rose Creek Townships. Munden was its center. The other group centered around Cuba, in Jefferson and Richland Townships.

In 1870, John Rechesky with his family and his father-in-law, Mr. Kornele, came in wagons from Muscady, Wisconsin, and took a homestead near the present site of Cuba. There were not many settlers near there at that time but they came in numbers during the next two years.

In the year of 1871 a large group came from Iowa. This wagon train contained about twenty families, most of them from Marshall County. Some of them had come from Cedar Springs. In Marshall County they organized, selecting John Kuchera from the leader of the trip.

The group was composed of young couples, most of them with small families. The wagons were drawn by oxen and the children walked, driving the cattle. It took about three weeks for the trip.

The following named families were in this group: Hanel, Brush, Vech, Sphlical, Drashner, Strnad, Barton, Rechesky, Sedlachek and Novak.

They came for better opportunities offered on the farms of the new land. Many of them had been employed in the stone quarries near Cedar Rapids; others had been shoemakers, day laborers and craftsmen of various sorts. Friends in Republic County had written of the land available in that county.

In 1872 another group of ten or eleven families came. They were from Wisconsin. There was quite a large settlement of Bohemians in Wisconsin at that time but it was [over-crowded], the farms were small, and by selling a [forty-acre] farm there one might buy a much larger farm in Kansas with the money received.

This contingent contained the families of Wesley Kaska, Shorney, Benyshek, John A. Kalivoda, Bart Shulda, Havel, Frank and Joe Kopsa, John Sedlachek, Hadechek, and Lethauchek. Lethauchek and John Shriva had come to the county the year before and Lethauchek went back for his family and guided the rest out. There were few homesteads available by this time.

These people did not drive through but came by train to Waterville.

In the fall of 1869, a young man by the same of John Stransky came out from Chicago where he had been engaged in the tailoring trade. This did not pay so he came west, to Marysville first, and then on to Republic County afoot. He picked out a homestead and went back to Marshall County, Kansas. The next spring he came back, this time with a group.

These people were from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and had been farming there for some time. The group was made up of Frank Janosek, his wife and three children, Jon Houdek, his wife and sixteen children, Mr. and Mrs. Stranskya and possibly others. They settled on Mill Creek, in Rose Creek Township. Houdek had four wagons, eight head of horses, twenty head of cattle, hogs, chickens and geese. He immediately built a rock house that became the home of the Bohemians that came to the community until they might construct homes of their own.

Colony House

"The first house built by the Bohemians who settled near Munden. This house was built by John Houdek in 1870. It did not then have the frame part that it now has and the roof was of grass. It housed the Houdek family of father, mother and eighteen children and was the temporary home of other Bohemian families coming to the community. It still serves as a home."

Most of the Bohemian settlers in Republic County came from near Prague in Czechoslovakia. Living was a difficult matter in that country then. Farms were very small and the young people could not hope to stay on the farm but must learn a trade of some sort or become day laborers. Children would be sent to different communities and apprenticed to learn the trades of that community or of a particular family.

Other reasons for leaving Czechoslovakia to come to America were the conscription and military training to which young men were subject and the accounts that came to them from friends in the United States of the size of the farms available here.

The group settling in Republic County came here either from Wisconsin or Iowa. Kansas offered larger farms at a lower price than either of these states and also offered free land for a time. Not many of them could afford to buy land at the prices in either of those states and had to work in quarries and as laborers. Those that had farms could sell them and buy much larger ones---large enough that their sons might have land---for the price they received.

Cuba was laid out in the spring of 1884 and Munden in September of 1887 but the Bohemians had a store before that at Tabor, a small village no longer existent."*

Sources

*Ida Lucretia Smith, “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas” (M. S. thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933), 48-49, 51-52, 53-54, 61.

Smith, Ida Lucretia. “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County,  Kansas.” M. S. thesis., Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933.

Scandia: The Scandinavian Colony

The Scandinavian Agricultural Society purchased twelve of the best sections of land in Republic County in 1867. It was purchased in trust for the company by Englebreth H. Hanson, and was not in one tract but was scattered up and down the Republic River from the most southern part of the county to the most northern part.

This Scandinavian Agricultural Society had been organized by Scandinavian workmen in Chicago sometime in 1867. Buffalo hunters had told of the wonders of northern Kansas and it was decided to form a company to colonize there. Agents were sent out to locate land, and in October of 1868 a group of thirty of the members set out from Chicago. They came to Junction City by train. There three hundred farms of one hundred sixty acres each had been laid out from Lake Sibley, in Cloud County, to the north of Scandia. These were numbered, the numbers were placed in a hat and a girl drew a number for each man. Part of the party remained in Junction City for a time; the rest set out for the land of the colony afoot except for one or two men in charge of a load of provisions belonging to the company and hauled in an oxen-drawn wagon.

This group included M. Johnson, Charles Lesom, P. Walin, John Lundin, O. G. Strom, R. Granstadt, A. Bergren, A. Erickson, J. R. Sandell, John Holstrom, Peter Johnson and Andrew Johnson Floodberg.

In early November, they came to a place on the Republican River that they named New Scandinavia (later Scandia). The men lived in dugouts while they built the colony house. This house, which was to serve as a temporary home for the men and as a block house in time of Indian danger, was frame, and was walled up on the inside with stone. The windows were equipped with four-inch oak shutters that were put in place only when rumors of Indian attacks came. Each shutter had four portholes for guns.

Colony House

The houses in New Scandinavia were of log and built end to end so that the end of one was also the end of another. Out on the farms, there were sod houses or dugouts.

In the spring and summer of 1870 they started going out to the claims in crews, working one claim a day. Later this same summer they moved out to the farms. These men knew very little of farming because they were nearly all tradesmen. Most of them were Swedes although some of them called themselves Norwegians because they had gone to the capital of Norway to be graduated in their trades.

The colonists had homesteaded about this land to make the colony unbroken by other nationalities. The company land had been divided into seventeen plots so that no one man would have all his land from the best or from the worst. The village had been laid out in lots that were also divided in proportion to the money invested by each man.

New Scandinavia became Scandia in 1876. It was incorporated as a city of the third class on March 28, 1879. The growth of the town was slow until it got a railroad. The first train came into the town over the Atchison, Republic Valley and Pacific Railroad (later the Missouri Pacific) on December 24, 1878. This was the first road into the county and Scandia boomed for a time.

The first post office was opened in the colony house on July 1, 1869, with Englebreth H. Hanson as postmaster.

The first store was built in the fall of 1869 by J. A. Sandell. It was eight feet square and the first stock of goods invoiced at $125. The first hotel in the village as well as the first in the county was opened by L. C. Hanson in the spring of 1870 and was known as the Hanson House.

The first bank was opened in February 1879. The first church to be organized by the Scandinavians was the Swedish Lutheran in June of 1873.

Scandia today is a prosperous town, second in size in the county. It is still the center of the Swedish settlement.”*

Sources

*Ida Lucretia Smith, “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas” (M. S. thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933), 7, 8-9, 11, 14, 23-24, 25.

Smith, Ida Lucretia. “A History of the National Group Settlements in Republic County, Kansas.” M. S. thesis., Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1933.