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In the spring of 1855, a party of men from Fort Scott formed a town company and laid out a town on the land east of the Neosho River, the third largest river in the State. The town was named Cofachique. The first to settle on the new town site was James Barbee. The State Legislature in July 1855, passed an act incorporating the Cofachique Town Association. The Legislature also empowered the Association to locate and hold a tract of land not to exceed nine hundred acres around the proposed town site, and passed an act making Cofachique the permanent county seat of Allen County.
During the summer a 1855 the town was located and staked out. For about two years, Cofachique was the only town in the county, and as a new town, was for a time quite successful. Several stores had been opened and Cofachique was known far and near. There was heavy trade with the neighboring tribes of Indians, and for a time the town had good prospects. Until the summer of 1857 there was no post office nearer than Fort Scott, and all mail was brought over by a carrier employed by the citizens of Cofachique. The first mail route established by the government extended from Fort Scott to Cofachique, and regular mail service began July 1, 1857. Cofachique was established as a post office in the summer of 1857.
During the year 1857, there was quite a heavy immigration to the county. Most of the settlements were made along the valleys of the streams. The greater settlements formed that year were along and near the Neosho River and its tributaries. The town of Geneva was laid out in the northwestern part of the county and Humboldt in the southwestern part. Both of these towns prospered. Humboldt was located only about eight miles south of Cofachique. Cofachique began to decline due to the other towns starting up, in 1858 the county seat was moved to Humboldt, and the next year the greater part of the town was moved to Iola, having just been started. The old town site of Cofachique is now covered with farms and nothing remains to show that a town ever existed there.
Humboldt was founded in 1857. It was for the most part founded by a German Colony organized in Hartford, Conn., named in honor of Baron von Humboldt. Humboldt is a thriving business town, situated in the southwest part of the county, on level valley lands on both the east and west banks of the Neosho River. In 1861 the United States Land Office was moved to Humboldt from Fort Scott. Also in 1861, the war broke out and most of the able-bodied men having enlisted in the army, little building was done. Then in September, the town was robbed and about a month later was burned by rebel raiders. Only a few buildings were left, and until the end of the war few buildings sere replaced.
Geneva was also founded in 1857, located in the northwestern part of the county, just east of the Neosho River. A colony was formed in New York and originally was supposed to be settled by about 300 families. The site was chose for its fertile prairie land around, as well as the heavy timber along the banks of the streams. Though the settlement started with such brilliant prospects, the idea of building a large town was soon given up. Only about one-fourth of the projected colony of 300 families ever came, and those who did were rather poor. It was expected that a railroad would be built through that part of the county, and when the town failed to secure it, it began to go down. Today Geneva is a country village.
Carlyle was first settled by a small colony from Parke and Johnson Counties from Indiana. The Carlyle colony selected 320 acres for a town site in the north part of the county along Deer Creek and in 1858 Carlyle was founded. Though not successful in building a town, the colony prospered. A post office was secured and a postal route established from Leavenworth via Hyatt, in Anderson County, Carlyle and Cofachique to Humboldt. The L.L. & G. Railroad was established in 1870 and established a station there. A small business district developed. Later in a industrial frenzy that lifted Allen County into the ranks of the state's most rapidly growing regions, industry came to Carlyle when a Kansas City speculator built the Lumberman's Portland Cement Company, just to the northeast of the town. Many citizens of Carlyle bought stock in the concern and watched as Victor Broughtner not only built a cement plant but also added a brick plant. Between 1909 and 1913, Carlyle sprouted grocery stores, a pool hall, a drug store, a hotel and quite a few houses. Then the boom busted. The plants never made money.
By the time errors made in the purchase of equipment and in plant design were overcome and production finally began, the market for building materials in the area had soured. The plants closed and Carlyle's population, which had climbed to about 600, dropped back down to 75. During the boom, Carlyle built a combination elementary and high school, a handsome three-story brick building. High school classes were held until 1920. There were three students in the senior class that year. It was decided to send high school students to Iola, and in 1967 move the elementary students to Iola also, having only 35 students attending grades one through sixth. The school was torn down in 1968.
Small as it was, the Carlyle community produced several of Allen County's more notable citizens, including General Frederick Funston. Funston rose to national fame by capturing the Philippine guerilla leader, Aquinaldo. He later was put in charge of the city of San Francisco when martial law was declared there after the great earthquake and commanded U.S. Troops in the action against Mexican outlaw bands in 1916.
J.W. Scott, one of the original settlers, served as state senator, was a delegate to one of the constitutional conventions and served as the first president of the railroad built from Fort Scott west through Iola that later was purchased by the Missouri Pacific. One of Scott's sons, Angelo, moved to Oklahoma when the Cherokee Strip opened and became a president of Oklahoma State University. Another, Charles F., became publisher of The Iola Register and served in Congress for five terms. J.W. Scott followed his son, Angelo to Oklahoma and was elected to a seat in the first Oklahoma Legislature.
Florence was the name of a town site which was projected in the year 1858. Its location was east of Carlyle and north of Deer Creek. It was started as rival to Carlyle and it was expected that it would some time secure a railroad. As a town the project was a failure and the site is now covered with farms, while the name of Florence lives only in history.
Iola was founded in 1859, located on level valley land east of the Neosho River and north of Elm Creek where it runs into the Neosho River. After the location of the county seat at Humboldt, by the State 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 seat.
On January 1, 1859, a large meeting of the northern and central portions of the county was held at the Deer Creek schoolhouse. They formed a town company numbering between fifty and sixty members. The officers of the company after due consideration of different points selected a site for the proposed town, about two miles north of Cofachique.
The county seat was moved to Iola in 1865 by the state legislature. Iola has the largest town square in the United States. Today Iola rests at the crossroads of U.S. Highway 54 running east and west, and U.S. Highway 169 running north and south.
Savonburg is located in the extreme southeast corner of Allen County, one mile north of Neosho County and four miles west of Bourbon County, just east of U.S. Highway 59. Founded in 1879, at which time the post-office was established. However it was operated as an unincorporated town for 23 years until residents found it advantages to become a city under state law. It achieved that distinction in 1902. Twenty-five acres of land was purchased by the Savonburg Town & Improvement Company and money was raised to erect three business rooms.
As a characteristic of most new towns, Savonburg experienced many set-backs. The principal difficulty experienced at the beginning was the lack of a depot and other railroad facilities, without which business was paralyzed and progression greatly handicapped. In 1890 the M.K.&T. Railroad erected a depot and stock yards. Savonburg advanced from a insignificant hamlet to a substantial country town. Savonburg was one of the most profitable shipping points the railroad had in the region. The combination of rich farm land and hard-working, thrifty, Swedish farmers built the community into busting retail centers.
Large-scale fairs were held at Savonburg, complete with harness races before a grandstand, which drew crowds from over the region and were so successful that the Fair Association bought the fairgrounds and formed an operating company. But no industrials located in Savonburg, it began to dwindle when the automobile made travel to larger communities for employment, shopping and entertainment practical. One by one, businesses burned down or failed and were not replaced.
As the population declined, the high school closed and students were bussed to larger centers. Savonburg residents must now go elsewhere for their needs, but do remain. Savonburg boast a few dozen solid dwellings that offer their occupants economy, the peace of living in the country and the companionship of neighbors.
La Harpe began as a railway stop and rural service center in 1881 but became an industrial town in 1897. When the Fort Scott, Wichita and Western tracks were laid through Allen County depots were built at Moran, La Harpe and Iola, but only Iola was a town at the time. Moran and La Harpe grew around their depots and the business the railroad made possible. La Harpe is situated near the geographical center of Allen County. The town grew modestly to serve farmers until the Lanyon Smelting Company built a zinc smelter there, creating hundreds of jobs. The town grew like a weed.
By the end of 1898, La Harpe had built a school providing education through high school. Presbyterian, Episcopal and Methodist churches were built. La Harpe became a Third Class city in 1899. The town was setting on what was judged the largest deposit of natural gas in Allen County. The Cockerell Company moved in and built a smelter beside Lanyon's. A zinc rolling mill was constructed and by 1902 was producing 20 tons of sheet zinc every 24 hours.
The Iola Electric Railroad Company built tracks along what is now U.S. 54 to bring workers to La Harpe from Iola, which had a much larger residential area, and vice versa. The cars ran 24 hours a day for a few hectic years and had a huge two-way traffic. By 1909 La Harpe had a population of 3,000 and seemed destined to become the largest city in the county.
Then the supply of gas began to fall, along with the world demand for zinc. When the jobs disappeared the population dispersed and La Harpe retreated to its pre-boom status as a rural service center and as a quiet, inexpensive place to live for those who are retired or have work elsewhere. A new elementary school was built in 1977.
Moran was founded in 1881 when the Missouri Pacific Railroad came through. The railroad survey crew called it Moran City, when a post-office was established it was called Morantown, and in 1900 became Moran. Several families settled in Marmaton Township in the late 1850's and the community steadily increased in population, but it was not until the railroad came through, it became a town. The railroad decided where the town would be built by determining where it would build its depot and loading docks. Within a year the new town could boast of a lumber yard, general store, restaurant, blacksmith shop and livery stable.
A post-office was added when it was decided to close the office at Fair Lawn nearby and move it to Moran. Throughout its 100 plus year history, Moran has served as a retail and social center for the rural area which surrounds it and has maintained a small, but viable core of retail businesses. The population has remained rather constant for the last decades. A rural high school district was organized in the area after World War II and a new high school was built in 1952. A new sewer system for the town was built about the same time.
Moran made headlines around the world in 1968 when Debbie Barnes was crowned Miss America and proudly proclaimed Moran as her hometown in the thousands of public appearances she made during the year of her reign. The community was also strengthened greatly when the Klein Tool Company of Chicago chose Moran as the site for a drop forge plant where parts for many of its famous small hand tools are manufactured. The company is located a mile north of town and is far and away the largest employer that ever called Moran home.
Elsmore was founded in 1888. Like its twin community, Savonburg, Elsmore owes its existence to the railroad. Both were populated to a substantial extent by immigrant families from Sweden. Like Savonburg, Elsmore prospered in the horse and buggy days and began to fade when the automobile came on the scene. Elsmore was only open prairie until the railroad built a depot in the center of Elsmore Township in 1888 and established a telegraph office and stock yards. The town grew around the railroad depot. A grain elevator, a lumber company, drug store, hardware store, and dealers in coal, furniture, buggies, farm implements, millinery, a laundry, blacksmith and hotel were established. Schools and churches followed.
Eventually the population declined, the high school closed and students were bussed to larger centers. Elsmore=s elementary school is the only one that remains. Downtown Elsmore has faded to almost nothing, the only business remaining is the Elsmore Grain Elevator and the post- office. Like Savonburg, Elsmore boast a few dozen houses and offers its residents the peace of living in the country and good neighbors.
Gas got it's name from the natural gas fields here. " Founded upon Natural Resources that will erect and maintain a City as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar"; E.K. Taylor, Gas Founder.
December 24, 1893 - the drillers who were hunting for natural gas had only enough coal on hand to run another twelve hours when they struck gas. It turned out to be a good strike. At open flow, production reached up to 4,000,000 cubic feet per day.
November 1, 1898 - Allen County is to have a new town. It is located on the Missouri Pacific Railroad midway between Iola and La Harpe and will be known as Gas City. E.K. Taylor platted 100 acres into 50' X 140' residential lots with 15 foot alleys and 25' X 140' business lots with 15 foot alleys. The streets are nearly all graded and everything is ready for the erection of buildings. December 10, 1898 - The first day on which the lots started selling. The lots will continue to sale for one week, after which none will be sold again for thirty days. Terms of sale: One-half cash, and the balance at 8 per cent.
July 31, 1899 - Application for a post office returned with the request from the Department that the "city" part of the name be dropped. E.K. Taylor reluctantly agreed, thus becoming just "Gas". The following June, the Palmer Oil and Gas Company of Fostoria, Ohio leased several thousand acres, sank a number of wells and produced up to 14 million cubic feet per day. This field developed rapidly, finally measuring roughly eight miles long by four miles wide.
In 1904, a new field was discovered to the north and in 1906 a third was discovered to the west of the north field, the biggest of all. In 1907, the boom was at it's height, and a total of nine smelters had been induced to move here. One of them was the biggest in the United States, producing 60% of the nation's Zinc, and 40% of the world's Zinc. It processed the only Zinc rolling mill and Sulfuric Acid plant west of the Mississippi River. The Zinc industry centered in Allen County and employed 2,300 men with an annual payroll of $1,500,000. Today we still have waste land scarred by the Sulfuric Acid plant. Some vegetation is just beginning to be seen on this land.
An inexhaustible supply: The gas supply was thought to be inexhaustible. Rates were:
Cook Stove in Private Home - $1.00 per month.
Heating Stoves (winter only) - $1.00 per month.
First 2 gas lights in a home, the rate was $.05 cents per month, and $.05 cents for each additional light in the same house.
Production of natural gas finally worked up to an incredible amount of a billion feet per day. Late in 1907, the pressure began to fall. By the end of 1910, six of the nine smelters had shut down, two of the three brick plants had also closed as well as one of the cement plants. The inexhaustible natural gas supply was exhausted. Today Gas is a third class city of 532 people. All of these people derive their income from sources other than natural gas.
Bassett was founded in 1903. Bassett was a company town, in 1900 Iola Portland Cement Company was built. It was the largest cement plant in the United States. It hired 900 men at it peak and created its own town for its employees. In 1917 the plant was sold to Lehigh Portland Cement Company and provided Iola's largest industrial payroll until it ceased in 1970. Part of the Lehigh grounds is now occupied by the Gates Rubber Company. Most of the houses have been either moved or torn down. The lake that was formed by the former Lehigh quarry is now used as a recreational center by the Iola Elks Club. Other buildings now are occupied by D & K Vaults, which makes concrete vaults, and T & E Company, which makes industrial pallets.
Mildred was a company town, born and bred. In the spring of 1907 Sam T. McDermott of Kansas City found what he was looking for in Allen County. An ideal site for another cement plant. He bought 260 acres just west of the Katy Railroad tracks from John Winterbottom and Hiram Lieurance in the northeast corner of town and it was then announced that the Great Western Portland Cement Company would build a $2,000,000 plant there. The company then built Mildred to house the plant's workers. Coal Creek was dammed to provide a water supply. A 40 acre townsite was platted. By the end of that first year a school was under construction. Twenty months later 300 men were hard at work making cement from the limestone and shale mined from the quarries.
Mildred was named after J.W. Wagner's, company president of the Great Western, daughter. Retail stores sprang up. Dr. R.R. Nevitt established his practice and opened a drug store. The Mildred Ledger reported community events each week. At its peak, Mildred had a population of 2,000. There were two hotels, two barbershops, an elementary school, a motion picture theater and a high school. The Great Western plant grew to employ 375.
Then a slump hit the cement business about 1917. Perhaps because building slowed during World War I; perhaps because the industry had over-expanded, particularly in Southeast Kansas. In Allen County alone there had been cement production in Humboldt, Iola, Concreto and Carlyle in addition to the full-scale operation at Mildred. To make things worse, the supply of virtually free natural gas sank drastically and fuel costs to the energy-intensive industry rose. Whatever the proximate cause, the Great Western closed down in 1917. It reopened in the 1920's but never operated at full production again. It was sold to Consolidated Cement Company and some of the machinery was shipped to another Consolidated plant in Fredonia, Kansas.
Mildred shriveled quickly when the job drought hit since the community was a one-plant town. Families moved to find work elsewhere. Businesses went broke or pulled up stakes and moved. In 1944 the last high school class was graduated. The area is now part of the Marmaton Valley District. Throughout much of Mildred's modern history, Charlie Brown's grocery and general store has served the community, which it still does, and those residents who remained gather there to spin tales of its brief time at center stage as a boom town.
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