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The Early History of Scott County

One of the most important archaeological relics of early life in Kansas is the ruins of an old pueblo north of Scott City in the Scott county state park. Scientists have agreed that these ruins are the long lost remnants of the pueblo El Quartelejo, which was established about 1702 by some adventurous Pueblo Indians from the town of Picuries in New Mexico. Originally it was a stone and adobe building of 32 by 50 feet, and was divided into seven rooms.

Probably this was the first walled house constructed within the present borders of Kansas. The ruins were visited in 1898 by Profs. S.J. Willston and H.T. Martin of the Kansas University, who derived many interesting facts and recovered numerous relics. In it were found stone, flint and bone implements, mealing stones, pots-herds, a quantity of charred corn and other things used and found in an Indian pueblo of the Rio grande, New Mexican type. There is no record or evidence that Spaniards or other white had anything to do with its construction or ever lived there, and it seems that the Pueblo Indian owners of El Quartelejo were soon persuaded by the Governor of New Mexico to return to their former home.

A few nomadic stockmen held their herds along the Beaver and White Woman creeks at an earlier date, but civilization began when the first permanent settlement was made in Scott county in October, 1884 by Mrs. M.E. De Geer and her daughter, Mrs. I.L. Eastman (later Mrs. Frank H. Miller). These brave women from Chicago, Illinois, selected and filed on claims where Scott City now stands, and built a cabin which was shared with many newcomers the following severe winter. Frank H. Miller also came from Chicago in October, 1884, for the improvement of his broken health. He hauled lumber from Garden City to construct Mrs. De Geer's cabin, and remained through the winter of 1884-85. Charley Waite came in February , 1885, and a month later was followed by John Keeve. These Chicago boys came for a broader field of enterprise and to enjoy the fine climate of the plains. They were brave, self-helpful young men, well reared, but equally well suited to the rough work of pioneering. Hon. S.W. Case came in October, 1884, and located his clain on a part of the present town-site of Scott City, and in the early spring of 1885 opened the pioneer store of the county. In March, 1885, Mrs. De Geer began the publication of the "Western Times" and from this time the county filled up rapidly.

Scott county was created by an act of legislature in 1873, and named in honor of General Winfield Scott. For several years it had no population, and so needed no local form of government, but it was attached to Ford county for judicial purposes. Very soon after people began to settle there, a petition signed by the required number of citizens was presented to the board of county commissioners of Finney county requesting that Scott county be organized as a municipal township and attached to Finney county for judicial purposes. Scott county was organized as a township of Finney county, and Scott Center (the present Scott City) was designated as the place of transacting public business. A township election was held in Scott Center July 7,1885, and the following officers were electected: Trustee, Charley L. Waite; Treasurer, C.R. Swan; Clerk, M.H. Bailey; Road Overseer, W.E. McLain; Justice of Peace, S.W. Case and Joseph Hollister; Constable Ira J. WoIf.

In June, 1886, Charles Reed was appointed enumerator of Scott county by the governor, and after taking the census, it was found that it had the required number of inhabitants (1,500) to proceed with a county organization. Eugene McDaniel, A.H. Kilpatric, and M. Cunningham were appointed commissioners, and Charles Reed county clerk. The county was declared organized July 5, 1886, and that day the appointed commissioners and county clerk met in special session with Eugene Mcdaniel, chairman. An election was called to be held August 10, 1886, and at that time the following officers were elected: Charles Reed, County Clerk, W.R. Hadley, Treasurer; B.F. Griffith, Register of Deeds; S.T. Burgess, Clerk of the District Court; J.F. Daniels, Sherriff; Lulu Boling, County Superintendent; Dr. J.F. Bond, Coroner; Eugene McDaniel, Commision of 1st District; H.M. Connor, Commissioner of 2nd District; C. Garrett, Commissioner of 3rd District. The county seat was located at Scott Center by unanimous vote.

The county has an area of 720 square miles and 460,800 acres, with an elevation of 3,000 feet. Four-fifths of the county is smooth, and reaches away before the vision like the placid surface of a waveless sea. Here and there are fine reaches of billowy prairie, with long graceful slopes dipping gently into valleys; long reaches of low-laying bottom lands skirt the clear-winding streams, which are generally flanked by low hills and occasional picturesque bluffs. In the center of the county a few miles to the south of Scott City, is the famous White Woman basin, a tract of low, bottom land, 25,000 acres in extent. It is a black alluvial deposit of great depth. In this basin the White Woman suddenly sinks into the earth and takes its subterranean course along and beneath the basin where it is forever lost to sight. The annual overflow of the river, which has its source in the foothills of Colorado, floods the basin with its surplus waters which quickly sink again into the bed of the lost stream. It is claimed that so strong is the current of this subterranean river, at flood time, that the sound of its swift waters can be heard distinctly some distance from the mouth of several of these sink holes, and the listener is left to wonder when and where these wild waters shall again see the light of day.

Several stories have been told as to why this basin was called the White Woman, and perhaps all are wrong, but the following story is a favorite. The towns of Friend and Shallow Water lie close together in the basin of White Woman river and people living there say this is how the basin got its name. "The family settling at Shallow Water and the lone man who settled at Friend were neighbors for that day. And the daughter of Shallow Water meant to marry the bachelor of Friend. The level Navajo, twelve miles north to south and less than 100 miles east to west, was ordinarily a dry-bed stream, and the lovers were wont to meet midway between their homes. But when the snow melted and came down from the mountain ranges far to the west the stream became a raging torrent. On a lonely night the waters came down with a rush and the man was swept away in the swirling torrent. The girl's mind was weakened by her loss, and every night she walked along the basin, looking for her lover. The wraith is seen there now, it is said, and those who in an older day met the white-robed `something' presumed to be the spirit of the lady in search of her lover, christened it, `the Valley of the White Woman'."

The Beaver and the White Woman, both clear streams, with numerous spring brook tributaries reaching out in different directions, have always supplied pure water for the stockman. The county also embraces many fine flowing springs, and wells of both hard and soft water are easily obtained at fifteen to fifty feet depth for irrigation purposes. Quarries of building stones are found in certain sections of the county, including the white-, gray- and cream-colored magnesian Iimestones. Native timber was limited to small belts and groves along the streams.

Scott City is the county seat and chief town in the county. It was founded in September, 1885, by the Scott City Town Company, composed of Dr. Hall, F.A. Parsons, S.W. Case, Mrs. M.E. De Geer, Mrs. F.A. Parsons, Mrs. I.L. Eastman, W.E. McLain, Mrs. D.F. Hall and Messrs, Sangster and Swan, who filed their charter in that month and soon after laid out the town. They changed the name from Scott Center to Scott City at this time. There was never any county seat fight in Scott county, as Scott City was located in the geographical center of the county and from the very first held the key to the situation. The spirit of clique and discord and division that ruined many Western Kansas towns, never entered Scott county.

In 1886 the town had three weekly newspapers, four banks, a board of trade, two hotels and fifty other business concerns. The Masonic, Odd Fellows and Good Templers' lodges, and a post of the Grand Army of the Republic, the A.K.W.R. society and the Women's Christian Temperance Union had flourishing organizations. The ladies of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union erected a two-story building in 1886. The lower story was leased to the county for official and clerical uses, and the hall above was used for literary and social gatherings. They also provided a free library and reading room for the public. The officers of the W.C.T.U. were : Mrs. M.L. Parsons, president; Mrs. Mary E. Clark, secretary, and Mrs. I.L. Eastman, treasurer. The Methodist church was the first edifice of worship erected.

Scott City had many land and loan men in 1886. Dr. D.F. Hall laid out a 104-acre addition to the northeast division of the original townsite and sold many business and residence sites. Frank H. Miller became largely interested in both city and country property, and in 1886 established the Traders' Bank. Mr. Miller made a handsome fortune in handling Scott City property. The Scott City Real Estate Company with Frank A. Capps, president, and Charles Clark, secretary, opened a land and loan office. Thompson , McNabb & Landis, real estate and loan agents, did a large business. The Western Kansas Land and Loan Company was organized by James H. Camfill, but in 1887, sold his interests to Tom Kennedy of Harper, Kansas. The land department of the company was conducted by Messrs. S.L. Hughes and P.H. O'Gara. Smith, McLain & Company, land and loan agents and land attorneys, with W.O. Bourne as junior member of the firm. Mr. Bourne had a fine suburban claim. Morse & Perry, real estate and loan firm, began business in 1887. Kelley & Fitts also did a capital business in real estate and farm loans.

Johnson Brothers & Service, whose bank was founded in February, 1886, by Johnson Bros., was the pioneer banking house of the county and was a strong, well-organized concern. The Scott County Bank was incorporated in 1886 by Samuel M. Jarvis, R.R. Conklin, C.G. Larned, H.J. Hunt, F.A. Parsons and J.D. Jarvis, and opened its doors with a capital of $50,000. The Traders Bank was organized in 1886 by Frank N. Miller and friends, was shortly re-organized, the new incorporators being ex-Governor George W. Glick and S. B. Glazier, of Atchison, W.L.C. Beard, M.J. Keys and Frank H. Miller. The fourth bank was opened in 1887 under the firm name of McKnight & Nicholson.

Prominent among the professional men were Traverse Morse, attorney; Messrs. Hadley and Hubbell, the former attorney for the county, the latter county superintendent of schools. The medical profession was finely represented by Dr. J.F. Bond, who was the first doctor to settle in Scott county Dr. Ira W. Bouldin, and Dr. Arbuthnot, physician and druggist, whose partner in the drug business was Mr. Eggleston, a breeder of thoroughbred horses, and farmer.

A Meteor hit Scott City?

Note: Text taken from "Conquest of Southwest Kansas" by Leola Howard Blanchard, which can be ordered through the Finney County Historical Museum.

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