Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A few things on Saratoga, Kansas -a dead town in Pratt County

Source: Fort Hays State University

Saratoga, Kansas, once had aspirations to be the Pratt County seat.

Today, it is just a wheat field.

Here are a few things I've discovered while researching this story. I'll be heading to Saratoga Friday.

Click here for a link to whose buried in the little Saratoga Cemetery.

An excerpt from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / 

There were a few settlers (in Pratt County) in 1876, but in 1877 over 100 families came, many of them from Iowa. The county was attached to Reno that year as a municipal township. The bogus organization was set aside in the fall of 1878, and in the spring of 1879 the citizens petitioned the governor for organization. A census taker was appointed and upon receiving the returns Gov. St. John issued a proclamation organizing Pratt county, with Iuka as the temporary county seat and the following temporary officers: County clerk, L. C. Thompson; commissioners, John Sillin, Thomas Goodwin and L. H. Naron. The election was held on Sept. 2nd, when the following officers were elected: County clerk, L. C. Thompson; clerk of the district court, Samuel Brumsey; probate judge, James Neely; treasurer, R. T. Peak; sheriff, Samuel McAvoy; county attorney, M. G. Barney; superintendent of public instruction, A. H. Hubbs; register of deeds, Phillip Haines; surveyor, J. W. Ellis; coroner, P. Small; commissioners, John Sillin, L. H. Naron and Thomas Goodwin.

For county seat there were three candidates, Saratoga, Iuka and Anderson. In the count the commissioners threw out three townships on account of irregularities. This gave the election to Iuka, but caused so much dissatisfaction that a recount was taken, including the votes previously thrown out. No candidate then had the majority and a new election was ordered. Anderson withdrew. The election was held Aug. 19, 1880. An attempt on the part of Saratoga to buy votes became public before the election, Iuka received an overwhelming majority and was declared the permanent county seat.
The next year some of the county officials were found guilty of swindling the county by issuing scrip illegally, in the two years after the county was organized they had taken nearly $75,000 or about $40 for every man, woman and child in the county. They were prosecuted and new officers elected. In the fall of 1885 there was another county seat election. The candidates were Iuka, Saratoga and Pratt. It was one of the most bitterly contested county seat elections ever held in the state. Saratoga had 546 votes and Pratt 324.

As the total number of voters at Saratoga was but 200 fraud was charged, the commissioners sustained the charges and declared Pratt the county seat. The matter was taken into the courts, and pending the decision the feeling ran high. The Saratoga and Pratt partisans were all armed and trouble was hourly expected. The Pratt men went to Iuka and forcibly removed the county records. On the way back they were attacked by the Saratoga men, who succeeded in capturing the treasurer's safe, which they took to their town. The next day Saratoga made an attack on Pratt in a fruitless effort to get the other county property.

By this time the more peaceable citizens asked the governor to send militia to restore order. Gov. Martin sent Adjt.-Gen. Campbell and Col. W. F. Hutchinson to the county. They stationed guards at both towns and allowed no one to carry arms. Finally the supreme court handed down its decision and ordered the records taken back to Iuka. Matters quieted down, but the county seat contest was not yet forgotten, and in Feb., 1888, a petition was presented to the commissioners asking for a special election to relocate the county seat.

The election was held on Feb. 29 of that year, and Pratt was the winning candidate. The question was settled at last.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Johnstown, Kansas, a McPherson Co. Dead Town

I went to Johnstown in late March 2013 after a reader suggested the little McPherson County hamlet. Today, there's nothing left, but still, it's fascinating to see the location where a former village once existed.

The Johnstown post office was established in 1883, according to the Kansas State Historical Society.

Johnstown had a creamery and a Lutheran church. A school was located not far away, as well. There even was a store, operated by the Larson family, which stayed in business until the turn of the century. Even a train went through the area and stockyards were established along it at Johnstown.
Herman Johnson, Paul "Corky" Malm’s grandfather, bought the Johnstown town site around 1903 – roughly 20 acres he purchased for $500. He even bought the Larson store, which was closed.  

“He owned the land, raised watermelons and was a trapper,” Malm said. “He traveled in an old Model T.”
Herman Johnson wrote an article for a national publication called Camp and Trail, which had articles on trapping. Malm’s copy does not have a date.

“The only game left here now is skunk, mink, coon, civet cat, opossum, muskrat and a few badger and coyote but they are getting scarce except the coyote, which is holding its own,” he wrote. “The otter and beaver is a thing of the past, and so are our game birds a thing of the past if they don’t enforce stricter laws to protect them. There are a few quail and prairie chickens left but they are few.”

Johnson wrote that he used fish for bait, if he could get it, as well as frogs, chicken ad rabbit.

“It must be fresh bait,” he said.

Malm said he grandfather also bred skunks and the skunk dens are still visible along Indian Creek near Kola Johnson’s home. Malm said his grandfather earned enough to support his mother and grandmother.

Johnstown is located in McPherson County between Lindsborg and McPherson, just off 81 Highway.

Today, however, little is left of the little McPherson County village. Kola Johnson said. The skunk dens are still along the creek. A stone in front of her home marks the last remains of the old general store. The railroad bed is still visible, too, the tracks ripped up years ago.
And there is the home that Kola Johnson lives in, the one her father was raised in, she said. They’ve remodeled it and added on to it over the years.
Johnstown still makes television radar maps, on occasion. It still graces a few back road Gazetters, as well.

Kola Johnson thinks this might have been a town well at one time. Today it serves as the concrete that holds the Johnson mailbox.

Around 1919, Herman Johnson built the home Kola Johnson now lives in – an inscription in concrete where the old cistern once stood still marks the date.
Herman Johnson was progressive, Malm said. He built the home with running water and electrical hookups, even though the area didn’t’ receive electricity until 1946.

Kola Malm Johnson's home. Her great-grandfather, Herman Johnson, built it in 1919. Kola, whose husband's family is not related, said they have remodeled and added on to the structure.

A Hutch News article:
McPherson Farmer Served the Crimean War

April 7.—Olar Hawkinson, a Swedish farmer who liveds near Johnstown, has a rare record as a veteran. In fact, there are few who can rank with him.He was in the great Crimean war of 1854. During the progress ofthat war, he was part of the time, a sailor on a English transport that was the scene of the famous battle of Balaklva.