Early Vital Records of Dragoon Creek

Early births in our settlement were Samuel M., son of Isaiah and Nancy J. Harris, born August 11, 1858; Frank L., son of Jehu and Mary A. Hodgson; Mary E., daughter of Samuel and Dency E. Woods: Lincoln, son of Allen and Joanna Hodgson.

Early marriages as I remember them were Edward B. Murrell and Mary J. Harris, married by Allen Hodgson, justice of the peace, January 26, 1860; Burgess Vanness and Eliza Spencer; Ephraim (?) Jellison and Eliza Bailey.

After the rejection of the Lecompton constitution, as previously mentioned, the legislature of 1859 provided for the framing of another constitution and formation of a state government. All formalities having been gone through with, and elections held, the delegates met in constitutional convention at Wyandotte on July 5. On July 29 the constitution framed by them was signed, and on October 4, following, was submitted to the voters of the territory. It was adopted by a vote of 10,421 for the constitution, 5530 votes against it, giving a majority for the constitution of 4891.

The members of Congress from the southern states had been desirous of admitting Kansas as a slave state, and they were supported by President Buchanan, who in a message to Congress on February 2, 1858, said: ” Kansas is therefore at this moment as much a slave state as Georgia or South Carolina.” 1 Thus it was not until after long debates that Kansas was finally admitted into the Union under the Wyandotte constitution, January 29, 1861.

There were no schoolhouses or church buildings in the Dragoon creek settlement until 1862, but the church missionary society occasionally sent representatives there to preach. The appointments were four weeks or more apart, and the services were held in the homes of settlers. Sunday-schools were held when there was no preaching. In the fall and winter evenings weekly spelling schools, or “spellings bees,” were held at different homes in the settlement. As the homes of the settlers were too far from each other for those attending spelling schools to walk, and the settlers had no buggies or automobiles, the principal mode of conveyance was the farm wagon drawn by a yoke of oxen.

During the fall and winter of 1859 scarcely any rain or snow fell, and during the spring of 1860 barely enough fell to sprout and l)ring up the crops. No rain fell during the summer, but the hot winds blew and the grasshoppers came in swarms from the southwest and devoured what little vegetation there was. The settlers discovered that by cutting and drying their corn-stalks – no ears of corn had started – the grasshoppers would not trouble them. This sort of forage, when cured and stacked in the cribs, did not equal in bulk the amount of corn in the ear raised on the same land the previous year – 1859. The drought was so severe that the streams stopped running, and most of the pools in the creek beds went dry. The prairie grass was short and eaten close to the ground by the milk cows and young stock. An occasional shower fell in the vicinity of the Marias des Cygnes, twenty-five or thirty miles southeast from the settlement, but the country thereabouts was Sac and Fox Indian land, and no cattle could range there. However, neighbors having cattle united, and going there with scythes, cut and stacked hay. Later members from the different families took the stock over to winter in the timber where the hay had been stacked, and making a camp there remained through the winter to look after the stock.

Money at this time was very scarce; but few of the settlers had any, and it was only the timely help of friends and the eastern public generally which served to tide us over this hard season. At Atchison the State Aid Society had headquarters, with Samuel C. Pomeroy as chairman. There was no railroad then, and Atchison was distant more than eighty miles from our settlement, but those owning oxen, even though their animals were poor in flesh, used them for hauling supplies. The principal bread in most of the families was made from corn meal, while dried buffalo meat constituted almost the sole source of the meat supply.

About Christmas, 1860, a snow of more than two feet in depth fell, which did not melt until the early spring of 1861. That spring and summer sufficient rain fell to soak the ground, and good crops were raised. No wheat was sown that fall, however, as seed could not be procured. The prairie grass made a vigorous growth in 1861, and fire-breaks were again burned around cultivated tracts to save the hay, fences and other property from destruction through prairie fires. Notwithstanding these precautions much damage was done. While the crops of 1861 were good there was no cash market for any produce nearer than the Missouri river points, and corn hauled there by teams of two or more yoke of oxen, would only fetch fifteen cents per bushel.

Miss Eliza Spencer taught a private school on Dragoon creek during the summer of 1861, holding sessions in a log cabin. Sometime later she married Burgess Vanness.

A few families were added to the settlement that year, among whom were John Garinger and family of fourteen persons, including his niece and nephew, Susan and William Andree. Dr. Calkins, who came from Illinois with Henry Easter’s family in 1858, and brought his family of six persons in 1860. Paul Bryan, an unmarried man, came that year.

Morris Walton came from Ohio in 1857 and located on the Wakarusa. In 1862 he bought Samuel B. Harvey’s claim on Dragoon creek, and with his family of eight persons settled there. Robert J. Marrs and family of six persons came from Missouri in 1862. George Wood, a colored man, with family, came in 1862 or ’63.


Spear, Stephen Jackson. Reminiscences of the early settlement of Dragoon Creek, Wabaunsee County. Reprinted from Vol. XIII, Collections Kansas State Historical Society. 1915.

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  1. Richardson’s “Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897,” vol. 5, p. 479.[]

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