Wichita was named after the band of Indians called the Wichitas. They came into this valley in 1864 and settled along the Little Arkansas river, between the junction and the old fair grounds. Some of their tepees were still standing on the land formerly owned by William Greiffenstein, north of town, as late as 1871. A chartered company was formed at Topeka, in the summer of 1868, comprised of ex-Governor Crawford, J. R. Mead, W. W. Lawrence, E. P. Bancroft (of Emporia), A. F. Horner and D. S. Munger, the latter arriving here during the same year, when the survey and plat of the original town were made by Mr. Finn. William Greiffenstein soon afterwards bought Lank Moore’s claim. It now comprises Greiffenstein’s original addition, on which the main portion of Wichita now stands.
At that time the business and prospects were away north of the present business center. Henry Vigus ran the “Buckhorn Tavern.” where every class of frontiersman as well as border terror had a home. A music box was one of the features of the hotel, which was in itself most enlivening, often engaging the motley assemblies into a dirt floor dance. On one occasion it provoked the ire of Jack Ledford. While the Buckhorns were engaged at the evening repast he jerked a “Navy” from his belt and silenced it forever. Several of Wichita’s citizens still here left the table precipitately to get fresh air outside.
“Durfee’s Ranch” was the headquarters; Milo B. Kellogg was postmaster, clerk and bookkeeper, assisted by Charlie Hunter. Henry Vigus was doing the saddlery job work; Charley Garrison was mail rider, afterwards starting the first regular saddlery shop here. A long adobe south of Durfee’s Ranch was Jack Peyton’s saddle shop and “Dutch Tobe’s” shoe repair. John Gifford kept a saloon and refreshment stand in the log house, afterwards used as a stable by W. C. Woodman; he was the first man who died a natural death among the whites. A great many of the Wichita Indians died here during the cholera epidemic of 1866 and ’67. As late as 1870 many skulls and curiosities were to be found on the prairie north of town, many of which Henry Vigus labeled with outlandish names and sent to the Smithsonian Institution, at Washington, D. C. At that early day there was no lack of amusement, as the soldiers stationed here had formed a negro minstrel troupe out of their numbers, spoken of to this day as being equal to the best shows on the kerosene circuit. Their music also furnished the prime feature of frequent “adobe dances,” with no sleep until morning, while “chasing the hours with flying feet.”
Then D. S. Munger kept a hotel at which H. C. Sluss was a productive boarder. It has since been converted into a residence by W. C. Woodman. D. S. Munger was likewise postmaster and carried the mail in his hat. He used to empty the mail pouches on a bed and sort ’em over, putting enough in his hat for immediate delivery. He would then place one knee on the prairie and look them over; if he met the owner of one he would often call out to Mollie when his memory failed or a letter was floating around the house, or paper gone, if “she knew where Dan or Sam Hoover’s or Doc Fabriques’s paper was?” Whatever the response, he would look knowing, spit out some tobacco, readjust his cud, re-hat the mail, clinch it with his large red handkerchief, and lay plans for the future metropolis. He is gone, God bless him, to greater rest than he found here; but not without having Jived to see Wichita a thriving city and he its police magistrate.
Doc. Lewellen kept the first grocery in the log house just north of Woodman’s after Durfee’s retirement, afterwards at the extreme north end of Main street. His old, two story frame was afterwards the adjunct to one of our elevators. Lewellen hall was over the grocery, and it was in this stately edifice (then) that the court was held after its removal from the sunflower roofed abode of Jack Peyton and Dutch Tobe. It was in this hall that Uncle Jack Peyton delivered his celebrated lecture on “Theology and Theocracy.” Uncle Jack was a character as well as a saddler. Nature or an accident had shortened one of his limbs, otherwise he would have stood six feet and was built in proportion. But as he was he would oscillate six feet or four feet and would rise and fall at his will. He had a most stentorian gift of voice and could out swear a native Arizonian. He was pedantic and at times given heavily to grog. To these grog periods were we indebted for the first lecture course that ever attracted a Wichita audience. The subject. as above, was given to the public in a small wood type hand bill printed at the “Vidette” office, then boasting of only one wood font. The hall was brilliantly illuminated with six tallow candles held in their own grease, a store box the stand, and boards laid on nail kegs the seats. Quite a crowd of ladies and gentlemen were present; all kinds, and all expectant. Jim Vigus was present near the speaker’s stand. Jim was an uproarious but always repentant bummer, always “full,” and always ready to cry because of the lamentable fact, “cheeky.” loud and shrill voiced, a lightning talker himself, but a poor listener.
After some delay Uncle Jack got up, six feet high, standing on one pin, announced his subject in a way down voice, started out deep and clear. but drunk and misty in ideas. He said: “Ladies and gentlemen, theology is religion as taught to the ministerial profession, theocracy is the – is the – well, anyhow (getting down to four feet). she defies the moral world.” At this point up jumps Jim Vigus and rattled on like a buzzard clock: “Boys, old Jack Peyton don’t know what he is talking about. I want to tell you the cause of getting drunk.” Here Uncle Jack would rattle the windows with “Set down! Who paid for these candles. who rented this hall?”
In this strain for nearly an hour the lecture continued until nothing but shrieks of laughter and the occasional popping of a revolver through one of the open windows could be heard. In the midst of it all the lecture closed. Uncle Jack went to his shop and bottle, after a promise of what he would do in the same line ” ‘t show em soon.” Shortly after he and Jim both disappeared. But what they left behind them on this occasion will be remembered to the death hour of those who were fortunate enough to be present. Many other amusing incidents occurred that limited space will not admit of repeating. So we will narrow down to succinct history.
William Mathewson was here at an early date. freighting through Wichita as early as 1860 His wife was the first white woman that crossed the Arkansas river at this point (so far as known), date 1865. The first sermon was preached in Durfrees Ranch in 1868 by Rev. Mr. Saxley, a Baptist, and the only hymn the boys knew was “Old John Brown.” Mrs. Vigus was the first white woman that made Wichita her home, a most estimable and gentle natured lady who died in 1871. Mrs. D. S. Munger, who died in 1893, was the hostess of the Munger house. Mrs. Waterman, Mrs. N. A. English, Mrs. Everts, Mrs. Sayles, Mrs. Haunter, Mrs. Hall, Mrs. J. P. Allen, Mrs. H. H. Allen, Mrs. Abraham Smith and Mrs. Meagher were among the earlier settlers and all possessed of qualities that so distinguishes the unselfish sacrifices of the true pioneer women over all others. The first child born in the county, so far as known, was Sam Hoover’s son. Sedgwick, born December 25, 1869, and named after his native county. The first child born in Wichita village was Frank H., son of Joseph P. Allen, druggist, July 3, 1870, surviving only about two months. Maud Teeter was born a few months prior, March 8th, but in the country adjacent to Wichita. The first marriage was that of Perry Eaton in the winter of 1869. Reuben Riggs opened the first law office during the winter of 1869, and H. C. Sluss in the spring. Steele, Bright & Roe the first real estate office, north of the Ida May house on Main street. Joe Allen opened the first drug store on North Main street; Aldrich & Simmons still further north and near the corner of Main and Pine streets. John Dickey, now of Newton, was postmaster then, and the office was in Aldrich & Simmons’ drug store. Jack Ledford traded Hubbard out of his interest with Matsill in the general merchandise business, getting also the Grand Hotel, then being built (afterwards the rear part of the Tremont). The store stood in an old two story frame on the corner of Third and Main streets, where the first numbers of the “Eagle” were printed in 1872. Jack Ledford named the hotel the “Harris” House, to honor the maiden name of his wife. The hotel was not run by him over a month before he was killed in a street fight, almost in front of his hotel, late in February, 1871, by a company of United States soldiers and a band of government scouts who sought to arrest him for one of his past pleasantries (robbing a government train of fifty wagons and running off the stock, besides killing several of the drivers).
Edward W. Smith had a grocery and general outfitting store in a frame building on Main street, afterwards owned by W. C. Woodman and next door south of his bank. J. H. Black and Lee Nixon were his clerks. J. M. Johnson opened the first exclusive grocery stock on North Main street. Arthur Allen, clerk. Arthur has since died. Bailey’s was the first hardware store, kept in a little frame building located about where J. A. Black’s diamond front grocery was. Mike Zimmerly started a hardware store and tin shop nearly opposite, and Schattner & Short kept a saloon in a frame building that stood upon the lot owned by Deacon Smith. H. H. Allen, Arthur’s father, ran the first boarding house (a story and half) on the corner opposite Ford’s grocery on upper Main street. John Martin ran a restaurant north of Steele’s office, then north of Pine street, and just opposite was the Bismark saloon. “Doc.” Oatley had a story and half residence where the Occidental now stands, and just north E. H. Nugent started the first bakery in a one story frame, and sunk the first drive well on the premises ever operated in Wichita. Hills & Kramer opened the first regular dry goods store on the corner just south of the Occidental Hotel. Although Mr. Hughes kept a small stock of dry goods and clothing prior in the building still standing on the west side of Main street between Second and Third. The “Vidette” building stood a few blocks further north. The “Vidette” was the first newspaper printed in the Arkansas valley for its entire length, and was founded by Fred A. Sowers.
Charley Hill opened a drug store in a small frame building near what was then Kimmerle & Adams’ tombstone shop, afterwards building a few doors further south. In the meantime Sol. Kohn came down from Hays and rented a frame storeroom south of the Lynch building on upper Main street, due south of the Occidental, now called the Baltimore Hotel, where he opened out in dry goods, groceries, clothing, boots and shoes, etc. He soon built lower down and next door north to Charley Hill, both then north of the old court house. The first church edifice was an adobe with a dirt roof that stood a half block north of Third street on the east side of Main street. It was built by the Episcopalians, under guidance of the then pastor. Rev. J. P. Hilton. It was unique, to say the least, as we recall it now. A rude board cross was nailed up in front of the entrance; the light was admitted through two small apertures cut up high in the mud and secured by wooden shutters; the roof waved in summer with highly colored prairie flowers and a luxuriant growth of tall grass, and rattled in winter time with the wind whistling through the naked sunflower stalks that grew up there also. The church was officered by such eminent moralists as Bill Hutchinson and Charley Schattner, who ran the Bonton saloon; George Richards, a traveling printer; Bill Dow (Rattlesnake Bill”), a Cincinnati gambler, and John Edward Martin, whose chief anxiety in life was to get somewhere where he could not be found by the citizens of the place he last emigrated from. The above named were vestrymen. They sang in the choir, assisted in the sacrament, all wearing the robes of the church.
It was about this time that J. R. Mead, who had donated the church its ground, proposed to swap for another site further away, and some of the officers thought it an inferior location. The result was a Sunday after service meeting, with all present, when the matter was fully discussed, and upon which occasion, as it waxed warm, William Bloomfield Hutchinson, a fully inducted vestryman, arose radiant in his vestry clothes and remarked in his usual smooth, bland and childlike manner, that “he didn’t care a cuss what the other officers of the church done, but he was in emphatic opposition to seeing any citizen cheat Jesus Christ out of a foot of ground so long as he had power to interpose.” The rest sedately fell into “Hutch’s” opinion, so the matter quietly dropped and church was out for another holy Sabbath day.
In July, 1870, Wichita was incorporated as a town, with the following officers: C. A. Stafford and Chris T. Pierce, who kept a small grocery at the north end of town, Edward Smith, John Peyton (Uncle Jack) and Morgan Cox (afterwards landlord of the Avenue House) were the trustees; W. E. Van Trees, police magistrate; Ike Walker, marshal. April, 1871, the town was merged into a city of the third class, with Dr. E. B. Allen, mayor. Councilmen W. B. Hutchinson, S. C. Johnson, Charles Schattner, Dr. Fabrique, George Schlichiter and George Vantileburgh. D. C. Hackett was appointed city attorney, H. E. Van Trees police judge and Mike Meagher harshal. W. C. Woodman & Son opened the first moneyed institution in 1871, as a loaning office, afterwards merged into the Arkansas Valley Bank. The Wichita Bank was opened in 1871, with C. Fraker, president; J. R. Mead, vice president, and A. H. Gossard, cashier. It started as a national bank and was closed shortly after the closing up of a cattle drive here in 1875. The Wichita Savings Bank was organized in 1872, with A. E. Clark, of Leavenworth, president; Sol. H. Kohn, vice president, and A. A. Hyde, formerly of Leavenworth, cashier. It was incorporated in the fall of 1882 as a national bank.
In 1872 Wichita, through the efforts of our representatives at Topeka, was made a city of the second class, and out of a total vote of 479 elected E B Allen mayor for a second time; Mike Meagher, marshal; William Baldwin, city attorney; Charles A. Phillip, treasurer, and J. M. Atwood, police judge. During this year the big bridge spanning the Arkansas river, at the west end of Douglas avenue, was erected at a cost of $27,000. The bridge was built by W. J. Hobson, contractor, and paid for by a joint stock company organized for that purpose. It nearly paid for itself in tolls the first year and would have made the company rich had it not been for the pluck of Lank Moore, Hills & Kramer, J. C. Fraker and other “north-enders,” who forced it to be sold by starting a free bridge near the junction of the two rivers, where the park now is. The county then bought it and abolished tolls. The “drive” came in hot about this period in 1872. Wichita was the thriftiest and most uproarious town between the two seas. Large sign boards were posted up at the four conspicuous entrances into town (James G. Hope was then mayor), bearing the strange device: “Everything goes in Wichita; leave your revolvers at police headquarters and get a check; carrying concealed weapons strictly forbidden.” Everything did go in Wichita; there was not a gambling device known to the world that was not in full operation openly. A variety theater nightly gave exhibitions in the old building then south of what was called the Hills & Kramer corner on Main street. It was, in fact, more of a free and easy than a theater. Then the streets just changed with the noisy spurs of Texas cowboys and Mexican ranchmen, while the crowds that pushed along the resounding board sidewalks were as motley as one could expect if suddenly transported where there was a delegation from every nationality, hastily brought together, at a vanity fair to vie in oddity with each other. Whimsical and eccentric were our citizens of ’72, with a constant nervous suppressed something in their expression that you never could quite fathom until there was a chance for a fight or a foot race. Then you would see the glad change sweep over their brow, dispelling the somber shadows, and lending a glad sparkle to the eye, as they went for the belt that held up their jeans and two navies and began to toy with the triggers, while a sweet, expectant smile lit their sad looking countenances. Texas sombreros and leather Jeggins, the brigandisli looking jackets with bright buttons close together of the Mexicans, the buckskin outfit of the frontiersman and the highly colored blanket representatives from a half dozen different tribes of “Poor Lo,” all alike fantastic, but all fantastically different, mingled with noisy shouting, was a familiar street scene of early ’72 at Wichita. Then add to this a brass band brought down from Kansas City by the gamblers, on a year’s engagement, that played from morning until far into the night, on a two story platform raised over the sidewalk against a large frame building that stood where the Kansas National Bank now is.
Steele & Smith’s real estate office, a one story frame with a wooden porch, occupied the New York store corner, and in the rear of it was pitched throughout the entire season of the drive a large tent, in which was given the exhibtion of Prof. Gessley, the armless wonder. The street blew white with his progressive poem, “writ by hisself.” It went on to say: “With the reigns between his toes, he loads, primes, puts on a cap and fires off a gun, and often goes to shoot wild game for want of better fun. He handles the pen with the ease of any in the land; in fact, his foot is turned into a hand.” Connected therewith under one pavilion (in show parlance) was also the child wonder, born alive (but awfully dead at the time), with two heads, four arms, two feet and one perfect body; also a pig with two bodies and eight legs, to attract the crowd. A hand organ filled with doleful and disjointed tunes ground unceasingly, while at ten minute interludes, all day long, would ring out the sharp report of the gun the professor fired with his toes, followed by the deep Pennsylvania Dutch accent of the professor, yelling in his hilarity until it could be heard above the organ and band over the way, “Dere she goes agin; kick like a mool!”
Mix this all with the motley caravan that thronged the streets, the fighting, yelling, swearing, and too often the ring of the revolver that carried death with it, the night scenes of dance houses, painted courtesans and drunken brawls, and you have the Wichita of 1871-72 and ’73.
So Wichita began, a town at the junction of the two rivers, the early gathering point of the Osages, their favorite camping ground; all of the surrounding country abounded in game; the home of the buffalo, and their favorite feeding ground; abundant waters, succulent grasses, delightful climate. A border town, a frontier trading post, a good town from the very first, full of traditions, full of history, full of energy and push, the future is full and promising for Wichita, and her destiny is to make a great city. That she will fill the promise of her founders, no one can doubt.
FIRST CITY OFFICERS OF WICHITA.
Mayor-E. B. Allen.
Police Judge-J. M. Atwood.
City Treasurer-Charles A. Phillip.
City Attorney-M. Baldwin.
City Clerk-George S. Henry.
Justices of the Peace-William H. Roarke, H. E. Van Trees.
Constables-S. K. Ohmert, George De Amour.
Council-First ward, Dr. Owens, Charles Shattner; second ward, James A. Stevenson, C. A. Bayley; third ward, J. M. Martin, A. J. Langsdorf; fourth ward, J. C. Fraker, William Smith.
Board of Education-First ward, N. A. English, Nelson McClees; second ward, E. P. Waterman, W. C. Woodman; third ward, G. W. Reeves, R. S. West; fourth ward, A. H. Fabrique, Fred A. Sowers.
FIRST COUNTY OFFICERS OF SEDGWICK.
Judge Thirteenth District-W. P. Campbell.
Board of County Commissioners-H. C. Ramlow, R. N. Neeley, Sol. H. Kohn, chairman.
County Treasurer-S. S. Johnson.
County Clerk-Fred Schattner.
Clerk District Court-John McIvor.
Probate Judge-William Baldwin.
Superintendent Public Instruction-W. C. Little.
Register of Deeds-John Mclvor.
County Attorney-H. C. Sluss.
County Surveyor-John A. Sroufe.
THIRTEEN MAYORS IN THIRTY NINE YEARS.
During its thirty nine years’ existence as a city, Wichita has had thirteen mayors. Of this number seven are dead and the other six reside here. Following is a list of the mayors in succession from first to last: E. B. Allen, 1871-72; James G. Hope, 1873-74 and 1871-72; George E. Harris, 1875; William Greiffenstein, 1878 and part of 1879, 1880-84; Sol. H. Kohn, 1879; B. W. Aldrich, 1885-86; J. P. Allen, 1887-88; George W. Clement, 1889-90; John B. Carey, 1891-92; L. M. Cox, 1893-96; Finlay Ross, 1897-1900 and 1905-6; B. F. McLean, 1901-4; John H. Graham, 1907-8; Charles L. Davidson, 1909-10.
William Greiffenstein occupied the major’s chair in Wichita longer than any other man, having held the position about six years and a half. James G. Hope was elected to the office of mayor four times, but that was when mayors were elected every year. Next to Greiffenstein, Finlay Ross, who was elected three times and served six full years, has held the office longest. L. M. Cox was twice elected to the office and so was J. K. McLean, both of whom served four years.
The five living ex-mayors of Wichita are George E. Harris, of 224 South Lawrence avenue; Finlay Ross, of 821 North Waco avenue; L. M. Cox, of 529 North Waco avenue; B. F. McLean, of 313 North Seneca street, and John H. Graham, of 825 Wiley avenue.
FRED A. SOWERS