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The first attempt to secure a railroad through Bates County was made before the war, undercharge of Colonel Tutt, father of Ex-Probate Judge H. Clay Tutt, who at that time resided at Clinton, Henry County, Missouri. It is reported that a survey was made east and west through the county, by way of Butler, and it was the intention to extend it to Santa Fe. When the engineer corps arrived at the state line between Kansas and Missouri, there was a "grand flourish of trumpets," and Colonel Tutt, with one foot on Kansas soil and the other in Missouri, "broke ground." Mayor Leffler, of Butler, was one of the surveying party. The project seems to have soon been abandoned.
War coming on, the next account of any efforts being made to secure a railroad in this county is not recorded until nearly ten years later, when, on September 10, 1866, notice was given that a railroad meeting would be held at the court house (12x20 frame shanty at one corner of the public square), to take the initiatory steps whereby the county will be called on to vote upon giving $200,000 to the Tebo & Fort Scott Railroad, on condition of the road passing through the county. The meeting adjourned without any definite determination. The bonds were not issued, but efforts were made to take a large amount of private subscriptions in the southern portion of the county without success. Consequently the Tebo & Neosho was the first railroad project subsequent to the war.
Nothing farther was said until January 28, 1867, when it appears that Judge John D. Myers had received, in the previous July, a letter from J. H. Baker, president of the Osage Valley & Southern Kansas Railroad Company, and by him laid before the county court, who treated the matter with indifference. This was a project from Boonville to Fort Scott, and $100,000 was asked in bonds, together with the right of way and such private subscriptions as could be raised. In March, 1867, Captain Donohue received a letter from President Baker, dated Boonville, December 10, to the effect, to "Keep alive the interest you now manifest, for we expect to be among you very soon with a practical proposition, offering to you a great through trunk line from Chicago to Fort Scott, on quite an air line." However, no action was taken.
On Monday, April 22, 1867, pursuant to notice, a meeting was held in this city, in the interest of the Tebo & Neosho railroad. D. McGaughey called the meeting- to order, Preston Denton, of Papinville, was made president, and Dr. N. L. Whipple, of Pleasant Gap, secretary. P. A. Ladue, of Clinton, addressed the meeting and was followed by Major Wilson, president of the company. Captain Weaver, of Clinton, and Sheriff Atkison, of Butler. All favored the road and an appropriation of $200,000 in bonds by the county court. On motion of Ex-Judge, Charles T. Robards, it was resolved, that the county court at its next session order an election to be held that the citizens may decide for or against an appropriation of $200,000, to build the Tebo & Neosho railroad through the southeastern portion of the county. The road was to pass through Hudson and Papinville. Judge McGaughey was appointed to present the matter to the county court. Court convened on Monday May 6, 1867, and a very strenuous effort was made to induce that body to order said special election, but it absolutely refused. In July, 1867, there was still some agitation concerning the Sedalia & Fort Scott road ; also another project was sprung from Chillicothe, in North Missouri, to cross the Missouri River at Lexington and to proceed south through Johnson and Bates Counties to Fort Scott. Considerable excitement all along the line was manifested, and railroad meetings were held at various points. On August 5, 1867, a railroad meeting in the interest of that enterprise, was held in Hannah & Minturn's Hall, in Butler. Dr. A. L. Betz was made president, and D. McGaughey, secretary. Dr. J. H. Frizell, S. W. Horton, E. P. Henry, and V. B. Vandyke, of Butler, and D. Native, of Holden, addressed the meeting. Adjourned to meet on the following day. It was resolved to hold a grand mass meeting on August 27, 1867, to take preliminary steps for the formation of a company to construct a railroad from Chillicothe, via Lexington, Holden, Butler and Fort Scott. At said mass meeting, John Atkison was made chairman, and R. G. Hartwell, secretary. A committee on resolutions, consisting of William Page, Dr. Frizell, C. C. Bassett, E. P. Henry, and Colonel Shuman, was appointed. It was resolved that the road was an imperative necessity; that it would be to the interest of Bates County to subscribe $300,000 in bonds to said road ; that five delegates, consisting of L. Harper, J. S. Shuman, A. L. Betz, William Page, and John Atkison, be appointed to confer with delegates from other counties along the line and proceed to the formation of a company.
On the 2d of September, 1867, the county court made an order submitting to a vote of the people whether or not $150,000 in bonds should be subscribed to the capital stock of the Tebo & Neosho on condition that that road should be constructed through the southeastern portion of Bates County, bonds to be issued when cars were running through said section. The election was set for the first Tuesday in November following. The proposition was defeated by a large majority-fifty-three for and two hundred and thirty-nine against.
On April 4, 1868, it was made known to the citizens of Bates County that M. W. Mize, then of Holden, but now of Butler, had been informed by D. R. Garrison, of St. Louis, vice president of the Missouri Pacific, that, if the counties along the line from Holden via Butler to Fort Scott would grade the road and get it ready for the ties the Pacific would tie, run and equip it. It was to be called the Holden, Butler & Fort Scott road. A meeting was held in Butler on April 25, 1868, and S. C. Minturn, Dr. Frizell and A. L. Betz were appointed a committee to confer with the officers of that company. The committee visited St. Louis and afterwards reported to a mass meeting in Butler on May 4, 1868. "They had exceeded their most sanguine expectations and the road was a fixed fact." The conference at St. Louis had resulted in a quasi promise on the part of the officers of the Pacific for a preliminary survey. A. L Betz, H,. P. Henry, T. J. Howell, John Atkison and D. S. Fairchild were appointed a committee to visit Fort Scott and ascertain what tlie citizens of that city and Bourbon County would do in the premises. They of course, reported favorably. At a meeting on May 16, 1868, A. Henry, T. J. Howell and R. G. Hartwell were appointed to petition the county court to order an election to ascertain the wishes of the people whether or not $200,000 in bonds should be subscribed to the project. On June 19, 1868, W. B. Nichols, of Holden, wrote to S. C. Minturn, that a delegation from Holden would visit Butler; that it was proposed to organize a company and that five citizens of Bates should be selected as members of the organization ; also that the preliminary survey had been ordered immediately by the Pacific. S. L. Manker wrote from Holden June 25, 1868, to Minturn that the engineer corps was there and would at once commence the survey. Meetings were held, at one of which 0. D. Austin, T. J. Hornell and E. P. Henry were selected as a committee to ascertain what amount of money could be raised in the interest of the project. Dr. Hill, M. S. Cowles, William Page and A. Henry were designated to proceed to Fort Scott to urge its citizens to immediate action, and they returned with a flattering report. The surveying party arrived in Butler July 7, 1868. In the meantime citizens of Pleasant Hill made herculean efforts to divert the line so as to pass by the way of that city instead of Holden, and after the engineers had completed their survey to Fort Scott, they returned immediately to Butler, and on July 29, 1868, they began a preliminary survey from Butler to Pleasant Hill, as Cass County people proposed to subscribe $250,000 to a road from that city via Harrisonville, Butler and Nevada in a southerly direction to the coal mines. The surveys completed, all excitement subsided.
Alex. Patterson received a letter from D. R. Gunnison, of St. Louis, on September 4, 1868, stating he was well pleased with the survey and that the Pacific was ready to co-operate with the people.
On Saturday, November 28, 1868, a special election was held in Prairie City Township, Bates County, to subscribe $50,000 to the Tebo & Neosho in pursuance of an order of the county court on petition of ninety five tax-payers of said township. The bonds were to be issued on condition that the road would run through that township, and to bear interest at the rate of ten per cent from the first day of January. It was defeated by a small majority.
On December 15, 1868, Col. A. C. Marvin, of the Tebo & Neosho railroad, wrote to J. D. Myers, concerning a proposition to build a line from Emporia, Kansas, via Mound City and Butler to Clinton. He invited attention to the project. It was to be called the Sedalia, Butler and Emporia railroad.
On December 21, 1868, James D. Snoddy, of Mound City, Kansas,. sent word to announce that a public meeting would be held in Butler, on December 30, 1868, at which the president and secretary of the Jefferson City, Osage and Neosho Valley Railroad Company, would be present and address the people. This was another east and west project., At said meeting, D. S. P'airchild was made chairman, and M. S. Cowles, secretary. The usual resolutions of approval and promises of co-operation were adopted. The Pleasant Hill, Butler & Fort Scott Railroad Company was organized in St. Louis, on January 13, 1869, with John R. Walker, as the first director from Bates County.
In March, 1869, Prairie City Township, by an almost unanimous vote, appropriated $25,000 to the Tebo & Neosho road, bonds to be issued when cars were running through said township. Said road was constructed through the utmost southeast corner of said township, and application made for the issue of the bonds. Suit was commenced, a change of venue taken to another county and decided against the township. An appeal was taken, but after the decision in the lower court, Ladue proceeded forthwith to Butler, and the bonds were delivered to him by the court. There has been considerable litigation over the bonds ever since, in which the citizens of the township have met with no success. At the same time these bonds were voted, propositions for $20,000, in Pleasant Gap, and $15,000 in Lone Oak Township, were submitted and defeated.
On April 17, 1869, a mass meeting was held at Austin, Cass County, Missouri, in the interest, of the Pleasant Hill, Butler & Fort Scott road, which was attended by many leading citzens of Butler. It was resolved to build the road by organizing at (c)nce. D. S. Fairchild, John R. Walker, R. J. DeJarnett, G. J. Dembaugh, and A. L. Betz, were recommended as directors for Bates County. The directors were requested to meet at Butler on May 3, 1869, for the purpose of affecting permanent organization. The meeting was held, and WesleyT. Smith made chairman, and 0. D. Austin, secretary. The usual resolutions were adopted. Meeting adjourned until May 22. At that meeting D. S. Fairchild was elected president of the board of directors, and A. L. Betz, secretary. Messrs. Fairchild and DeJarnett, of Bates, together with three persons from other counties, were selected to visit St. Louis, and confer with thr managers of the Pacific.
In June, 1869, James K. Farr, of Warrensburg, wrote to John D Myers, concerning the feasibility of a road to Fort Scott from that place.
On June 17, 1869, a meeting was held in Butler in the interest of the Chillicothe, Lexington & Gulf. John Atkison was made chairman, and William Borchert, secretary. J. Nichols and A. B. Crane, of Holden, addressed the meeting. John Atkison, T. J. Howell, A. M. Christian, George J. Dembaugh, and M. M. Tucker, were chosen to confer with directors of the road at Holden on June 29.
A meeting was held about the same time in the interest oftheWar-rensburg & P'ort Scott road. A. Harper was made chairman, and S. A. Rigs, secretary. Adjourned to meet July 10.
A. M. Heath, of Paola, was in Butler on June 24, 1869, and stated that the Fort Scott & Gulf was anxious to build a branch road from LaCygne to Butler in order to obtain coal and to proceed from this place to Clinton.
On July 10, 1869, another mass meeting was held in Butler and a Holden delegation was present in the interest of the Chillicothe, Lexington & Gulf; also a Mound City delegation in the interest of the Clinton and Butler branch of the Tebo & Neosho.
There was also a meeting in Butler on July 24. W. T. Smith was chairman and M. S. Cowles secretary. A resolution was adopted requesting the county court to subscribe $200,000 to the Butler branch of the Tebo & Neosho and $100,000 to the main line.
About this time A. L. Betz, R. J. DeJarnett, John Atkison, John R, Walker and Andrew Ritchey were selected as directors of the Holden line from Bates; also M. W. Mize, now of Butler, from Johnson.
On August 17, 1869, Messrs. Cowles, A. H. Humphrey, Atkinson, Dr. Pyle and Bassett were appointed a committee to correspond with Joy with reference to the LaCygne branch.
On August 25, a meeting was held in Butler in the interest of the Holden road, at the close of which three deafening cheers were given for the Holden route.
In September, 1869, a letter was received from Colonel J. D. Williams, of the Kansas City Bulletin, with reference to the Kansas City and Memphis road.
September 25, the county court was requested to order a special election on the propositions of subscribing $100,000 to the main line of the Tebo & Neosho, $100,000 to the Butler branch of the same, and $100,000 to the Lexington, Holden & Butler roads. The court refused to make the order, as Judge Hull was absent.
On October 16, a meeting was held at the court house in the interest of the Kansas City, Springfield & Memphis. At a meeting held in Kansas City on October 19, A. H. Humphrey was elected director for Bates County.
October 29th, engineer corps, under Major Morris, passed through Butler on the Lexington, Holden and Butler route to Fort Scott. A meeting was held in Atkison's Hall, about this time, to harmonize railroad matters, especially between the Chillicothe, Lexington and Gulf and the Tebo & Neosho. John Atkison was made chairman and J. M. Laughlin, secretary. It was resolved that the county court be requested to subscribe $100,000 to the Tebo & Neosho, running seventeen miles through the southeast corner of Bates, and the same amount to the Chillicothe, Lexington & Gulf, provided the people at a special election, ordered for that purpose, should approve it. The court changed the order by giving $75,000 to the former and $125,000 to the latter, and set the special election for the first Tuesday in January, 1870. This order for a special election was rescinded on December 20, 1869. At this term elections were ordered in Mount Pleasant, to vote $65,000 to the Chillicothe, Lexington & Gulf, and in Mingo Township to vote $40,000 to the same road, to be held on January 25, 1870. The directors of the latter project at this time were, John Atkison, A. Ritchey, A. K. Owen and M. Pickett, from Bates. Capt. F. J. Tygard, then of Holden, but now of Butler, was secretary. The bonds were defeated in both townships. In Mount Pleasant-yes, 187; no, 104. In Mingo-yes, 29; no, 36-it requiring a two-thirds vote.
A meeting of the friends of the Tebo & Neosho was held at Prairie City on February 5, 1870, to select a suitable site for a depot.
On February 12, 1870, the county court ordered a special election in Hudson Township, to be held on March 8, 1870, to vote for or against subscribing $20,000 to the Tebo & Neosho. It was defeated ; no 84, yes 2.
In February Messrs. Humphrey, Cowles, Christian and S. H. Geisel visited Kansas City in the interest of the Kansas City & Memphis and made a very favorable report on their return.
March, 1870, two railroad meetings were held in Butler, one in behalf of the Kansas City, Springfield & Memphis, and the other of the Chillicothe, Lexington & Gulf, and at these meetings conference committees were appointed to effect a compromise of the different railroad interests. The result of the conference was that at the beginning of April petitions were in circulation asking the court to subscribe $400,000 in bonds to the Memphis road, half to be issued when road reached the northern limits of the county, the other half when the cars were running to Butler; also asking the court to order special elections to be held in Mount Pleasant and Grand River Townships (the latter having recently been formed from portions of Mingo and Deer Creek), the former to appropriate $90,000 and the latter $40,000 to the Lexington, Chillicothe & Gulf. 1,240 names were signed to the Memphis road petitions, and a remonstrance was signed by 502 names. The court made both orders appropriating $400,000 to the Memphis road and ordered the above special elections in said townships to be held on May 3, following. Carried in both townships. 219 yes, 50 no, in Mount Pleasant ; and 62 yes, 15 no, in Grand River,
On May 2, 1870, a petition was presented to the court, asking that body to rescind their order appropriating the above $400,000. No action was taken by the court.
A. L. Betz was appointed at the June term of that year as the agent of the county to subscribe the stock of Mt. Pleasant and Grand River Townships to the capital stock of the Lexington, Chillicothe & Gulf. The contract for the first twenty miles of this road was let on June 11, 1870.
A special term of the county court was held on June 25,1870, to consider the propriety of subscribing $50,000 to the Tebo & Neosho for the purpose of securing that road through the town of Hudson and Pleasant Gap Township, Bates County. The court refused to make such order. At this term, the court, on representations from Jefferson City that the Kansas City, Springfield & Memphis had no regular organization, rescinded its order appropriating $400,000 to the enterprise. These representations turned out afterwards to be incorrect.
On account of the failure of some townships in Johnson County, to vote bonds to the Chillicothe, Lexington & Gulf, a public meeting was held in Butler, on August 24, which was addressed by Messrs Reid, Davis, Ewing, and Dr. Atkison, of Lafayette, wherein they endeavored to convince the people of the townships that had voted bonds in Bates, that, in order to secure the road to Butler, the Chillicothe, Lexington & Gulf, should consolidate with the Pleasant Hill division, which had been organized. The contract for grading from Lafayette County via Holden to Butler, was to have been let on August 25, 1870, but on account of the above townships failing to vote bonds, it was deferred. A meeting was held in Atkison's hall on the 26th, with A. Patterson, president, and A. Henry, secretary. A request was made to change bonds of Mount Pleasant and Grand River Townships to the Lexington, Lake & Gulf, which was the name of the road after the consolidation of the Chillicothe & Gulf road, with the Pleasant Hill division. The people refused to so instruct. There was considerable confusion. A meeting of the stockholders was held the same day, with A. Ritchey as chairman and F. J. Tygard, as secretary. Strong resolutions were adopted in opposition to changing the line of road from Holden to Pleasant Hill. These resolutions were signed by the following directors: A. Ritchey, M. Pickett, A. K. Owen, J. Atkison, F. J. Tygard, M. W. Mize, and R. J. DeJarnett, Afterwards Reid and Davis called a meeting of stockholders, a majority of directors were elected in Lafayette County, a consolidation was affected and the road diverted to Pleasant Hill. The consolidated company made application for the bonds, and the court issued them to the Lexington, Lake & Gulf Railroad Company, as it was then called.
In October and November, 1870, the Tebo & Neosho was completed through the southeastern portion of the county.
In October, the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston completed another survey from Pleasant Hill to Butler. The contract for grading from Lafayette County to Butler via Pleasant Hill, was let to M. S. Hall, on November 21, 1870. The first ground broke in Bates County was on D. S. Fairchild's land, on December 26, 1870.
About this time the Mound City branch was broached again. Afterwards, in March, 1871, an organization was effected, with R. S. Stevens, of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas, as one of the directors.
Colonel J. D. Williams sprung into the arena about the same time with the Kansas City, Arkansas & Gulf, having separated from the Kansas City & Memphis.
March 9, 1871, C. C. Bassett and A. H. Humphrey, were named as directors of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston.
In March and April, 1871, a branch of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas from Montrose via Butler to Wichita, was loudly talked of. R. S. Stevens was director. It was called the St. Louis & New Mexico road. At a meeting held in Butler, Mr. Page, C. C. Bassett and E. P. Henry were appointed a committee to confer with the managers of the enterprise.
On August 9, 1871, the Kansas City & Memphis Company made formal application for the $400,000 subscription, which they claimed was still valid and binding. The court, after considering the matter, effected a compromise by subscribing $125,000, $65,000 to be issued when the cars be running to Butler, on or before August I, 1872, and the remaining $60,000 when completed through the county.
In January, 1872, the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston Railroad was leased and released to the Linneus branch of the Burlington & Southwestern, on condition that that road would be ironed and equipped within a year. In the same month the county court subscribed $250,000 to the Butler branch of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway. This caused considerable excitement in the county, and was almost made an issue in the subsequent political campaign. This order was afterwards rescinded.
Nothing more was done in the interest of railroads for many years, except an occasional meeting now and then, until there was created a great demand for coal. In the meantime, J. L. Pace, recorder of Bates County, had been interesting himself in railroad projects, and had been corresponding with numerous parties to induce the building of roads to the extensive coal fields of the county. In 1876, J. D. Bancroft, C. E. Robinson, and others, secured an option in the old Kansas City & Memphis bed to Harrisonville and the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston from Harrisonville south to the end of the line. They made their appearance in Bates County, and asked for $100,000. Meetings were held and committees appointed to raise the required amount. The soliciting committee, consisting of J. L. Pace, N. A. Wade, A. T. Holcomb, A. Henry, and others, devoted their time and attention to the work, and by the most vigorous and untiring efforts succeeded in raising $75,000, The managers failed to secure the necessary backing, and the project failed.
In the meantime, numerous projects were broached. Meetings were held frequently in the interest of the Clinton & Mound City branch, north and south roads, and other railroad enterprises, until in the winter and spring of 1879, Col. Ed. H. Brown and one Brooks endeavored to secure options on the Kansas City & Memphis and Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad beds. The latter was so hedged in and wrapped up with mortgages and conflicting titles that it seemed to be an utter impossibility to secure it under any circumstances. Brown abandoned the idea of obtaining the roadbed, and made application personally to Gould, president of the Missouri Pacific, to build a direct and independent line from Pleasant Hill to the extensive coal fields south of us. Twenty thousand dollars, through the efforts of Cowles, Pace, Wade, Hannah and others, were subscribed by the citizens of Butler. M. S. Cowles was one of the directors of the road.
At the same time a branch of the Chicago & Alton via Warrensburg and Butler to Fort Scott was contemplated. The counties along the line subscribed over $2,000 for a preliminary survey. Butler appointed Pace and Wade a soliciting committee and they secured a subscription of $600 for that purpose. The Chicago & Alton company was well pleased with the report of the survey but as the price of steel had risen to such enormous figures the company decided not to build at that time.
The Lexington & Southern was completed to Butler and the Rich Hill coal fields in 1879.
It was well known that the Fort Scott & Gulf would also build a branch directly east from their main line to these coal fields as soon as the Lexington & Southern or Gould's line would be begun, and- that road was also completed during the same year.
In 1881 Colonel B. J. Waters, of Fort Scott, revived the project of a branch of the Chicago & Alton to that city. He organized the Chicago, St. Louis & Fort Scott Company. Bates County had subscribed nearly $60,000 to said project, Butler alone, through the assiduous labors of Lefker, Pace, Dr. Pyle, Henry, Hannah, Wade and others, having subscribed $33,000. It is supposed that work will commence in early spring and that it will start at Odessa on the Chicago & Alton and be built via Altona to Butler and extended through the coal fields to Fort Scott.
The Emporia & St. Louis is also another railroad project which shows every promise of being built in 1883. It will pass through Mound City and Pleasanton, Kansas, through the Walnut and Papinville coal fields direct to St. Louis. The company has recently purchased $40,000 worth of coal lands near Papinville. The Emporia road is said to be backed by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad. The latter road also contemplates a short line from Kansas City to the Papinville coal fields.
What became of the Mount Pleasant, Grand River & Prairie City bonds will be seen in chapter on finances.
The Fort Scott & Gulf are engaged in making a preliminary survey from Rich Hill in the direction of Schell City and it is thought it will be extended and tap the main line of the Fort Scott & Memphis at some point to the southeast.
Colonel J. L. Pace has contracted to purchase several thousand acres of coal lands in Walnut Township and it is thought by a great many that he is working in the interest of the Chicago & Alton.
Thus it will be seen that the history of railroad building in Bates County is an extended account of one long struggle, full of disappointments, but at last ending in partial success. It seems to have been the custom in early days to hold public meetings, adopt resolutions, adjourn and pay no further attention to the different enterprises that. were suggested.
There are a large number of names which we might here insert, of citizens of Bates County who have been chiefly instrumental in working up railroad enterprises, but that number is legion. The press of the county has done a wonderful amount of good in the same direction. The Bates County Record in early days devoted considerable attention to the subject and was soon joined by the Bates County Democrat, which has never seemed to tire in the cause. And these papers have been ably supplemented by the Times and Republican.
The numerous coal fields of Bates County are destined to secure many more roads, as the demand for coal is very extensive and its transportation profitable. But it was not our purpose to portray future prospects, but merely to record facts as they now exist. Future historians will publish what may be done in behalf of railroads after this work is issued. What has been done, as stated in the foregoing, shows that the determination, energy and enterprising spirit of the people of Bates have always been equal to every emergency.