Sunday, April 29, 2012

History of Anderson County

I believe that William L. Webster, his wife Julia, and two or three year old daughter Martha, arrived In Garnett, Kansas from California 1857. If so, this was just after the first sacking of  Lawrence Kansas in the Spring of 1856, and at a time in Kansas history known as Bleeding Kansas.

William Webster and his family settled on a large farm, just to the north of Garnett, on modern day Highway 169. The US Census of 1860 records that it was 4,000 acres, but county land records do not reflect as large a number.

William was a Free Stater and involved in the movement to establish a Free State Constitution. From a History of Anderson County, from Its First Settlement to July 1876, by W. A. Johnson

November 16, 1857 

M. T. Williams was appointed county clerk by the board of county commissioners.

A mass meeting of the citizens of Anderson county was held in the timber near the residence of A. Simons, on the 15th of August, 1857. Wm. Puett was elected chairman, and J. G. Reese, secretary. The meeting was addressed by Dr. J. G. Blunt, who stated the object of the meeting; also, W. F. M. Arny, Dr. Rufus Gilpatrick, D. B. Jackman and William Spriggs made addresses.

A committee of nine was appointed to report candidates for county offices; also, for representatives to the Territorial Legislature, on motion of Dr. Gilpatrick; and on the adoption of this motion, Judge Arny and others withdrew from the meeting a short distance, across a ravine, and organized another meeting. Arny and his friends were opposed to the meeting doing any act that would recognize the bogus laws, or yield obedience thereto.

The committee reported the names for candidates, as follows:

Samuel Anderson, for probate judge;
G. A. Cook, for sheriff:
James Fitten, for coroner;
A. Simons, for clerk;
 Isaac Hiner, for treasurer;
William Puett, for assessor;
B. F. Ridgeway, for surveyor;
for justices of the peace, James Sutton, Samuel Mack, William Smith and Rezin Porter;
for constables, John Anderson, Oliver Rand, William H. Ambrose and Benjamin Clark.

The following persons were chosen delegates to the district convention, to be held at the house of Mr. Grant:

James Hanway, James Snodgrass, W. O. Cloud, Samuel Anderson, Dr. Thos. Lindsay, Isaac Hiner, John B. Stitt, Darius Frankenberger and W. L. Webster.

John B. Stitt was nominated as a candidate for representative to the Territorial Legislature.

The following gentlemen were appointed to confer with other county delegations of this district, in regard to the nomination of candidates for representatives: Samuel Anderson, Dr. Lindsay, D. Frankenberger, John Pryor and G. A. Cook.

January 4, 1858

A second election was held, under the act of Congress of the 17th of December, 1857, on the adoption of the Lecompton constitution. The results in Anderson County, 177 votes against and none for.

March 9, 1858

Three delegates from Anderson County were elected to a constitutional convention to frame a State constitution and State government. The delegates elected were W. F. M. Arny, William Spriggs and W. L. Webster. The convention met, on the 13th of March, 1858, at Minneola, and elected James H. Lane as president, and then adjourned to Leavenworth to reassemble on the 25th of March.

(Id. chapter 61.)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Early Kansas History

Early Kansas history impacted both the Miles and Van Huss families. William L. Webster, and his wife Julia arrived in Anderson County, Kansas near Garnett in 1857. William was great grandfather to May Miles, my wife's mother. Valentine Worley Van Huss and several of his sons arrived in Butler County, Kansas near Beaumont after the Civil War. Valentine was great grandfather to Robert Van Huss. Bob married Mary in 1954.

Kansas Territory

Kansas Territory was officially established in 1854 with the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. The law repealed the Missouri Compromise which prohibited slavery in unorganized territories north of  the southern boundary of Missouri, excepting Missouri itself. It left the determination whether or not slavery would be allowed to expand into newly opened territories up to popular sovereignty. The result was that Pro-slavery settlers came to Kansas from neighboring Missouri, solely to influence territorial elections in favor of slavery. Free-State settlers, "Jayhawkers", were organized and moved from the East with express purpose of making Kansas a free state. William L. Webster, born in New York, but lately from California, was one of the Free-State settlers.

Image from Territorial Kansas online

Read more about Early Kansas History.

The Land Act of 1820

To foster emigration to the west, Congress passed the Land Act of 1820. For a down payment of $100 and at a reduced the price from $1.65 to $1.25 per acre, land located in Kansas territory, then part of the Missouri Territory (the Northwest Territories were also included), was opened to settlement.

Of course, opening up and organizing Kansas territory meant the displacement of the many Indian tribes who had lived in Kansas for millennia or who had been moved by the Federal Government to Kansas territory by treaty. Both the Shawnee Reserve and the Osage Reserve figured prominently in the histories of Anderson and Butler Kansas. At the time of early settlement in Anderson county, the Sac and Fox Indian Nation was located on a reservation in nearby Franklin and Osage counties. They were officially removed to Reserve, Kansas in 1869.

William L. Webster received such a grant from President Buchanan in 1860 on the NE 1/4 of NE 1/4 of Section 15, Township 20, Range 20. He was similarly assigned an additional grant to Private John Pigg, who had served in the War of 1812, on adjoining acreage. These records can be viewed in the county courthouse in Garnett, Kansas.

Many early settlers arrived and settled in Kansas without clear title. (The family of Laura Ingalls Wilder, which settled south of Independence on the Osage Reserve, was one of these.) Some purchased their titles from the Indians. In many cases, titles would only be cleared after years of legally wrangling.

The Homestead Act of 1862 was another way settlers acquired law in Kansas. It was signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln on May 20, 1862, and, under its provisions, settlers could claim 160 acres of public land.

Both William Webster and Valentine Worley Van Huss recived patents from the federal government. Webster's patent, filed in 1860 in the county courthouse in Garnett, was from President Buchanan.  One of Valentine Worley's sons received a similar grant of federal land at a later date. And, of course, many purchases were made directly form other grantors.

Read about early Kansas settlers in Kansapedia.


There are multiple records of land transfers by and to William L. Webster or his wife Julia. I would need another visit to the courthouse to try and make sense of it all.

Interestingly, in 1860, William transferred to his wife Juliette K. Webster 400 acres comprising 400 acres from sections 14 and 15 of Monroe Township (20). Juliette sold the property to Belinda Masterson the following year.

There are earlier transfers, 1858, and transfers as late as 1865, but nothing later. Nor can I reconcile yet the census statement of 4,000 acres and the actual land records.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

William L. Webster

William L. Webster is my wife's great-great-grandfather on her mother's side. Neither my wife nor anyone else in her family had ever heard of him until I found the connection.

One of William Shakespeare's most quoted passages is uttered by the chronically melancholy Jacques De Bois in As You Like It,  Act II Scene VII.
 All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, ...

William L. Webster's time on the stage of Kansas history was brief, from 1857 until sometime shortly after 1860. During that time he participated in the Free State Movement, joined in the Constitutional Convention, farmed, fathered, and survived a violent time. Then, his trail goes cold. I can not find any records of William or his family, until his daughter Fannie marries Charles Miles many years later.

William L, Webster

William L. Webster was originally from New York. The 1860 census tells us that. (Page 27, entries 7 through 12.) He was 41 years of age at the time of the census and married to Julia, who was 13 years his junior. He must have lived in California at or near the time of the California Gold Rush, for a daughter Martha was born there. In all, there were three daughters living at the time of the census, Martha, Fannie, and Josephine, ages 5, 3, and 1. (Fannie is my wife's ancestor.) The census tells us that too.

From California, we can surmise, he and his young family moved to Kansas. For in 1857, he appears in Anderson County, Kansas near Garnett. Anderson county is undulating, farmland, divided into bottom land, timber and rolling upland, bordered by the branches of Pottawatomie Creek.

The census of 1860 records that he owned 4,000 acres, although the county records can confirm only 640 acres. The exact location of his homestead is just to the north of Garnett, along Highway 169 on the way to Osawatomee. (Between roads 1900 and 2000). In the Spring of 2012, the fields are green with new wheat. The corn crop has yet to be planted. Small gatherings of cattle graze the grass. The Pottawatomie Creek runs full, and along the banks walnut, cottonwood, oak, hickory, hack-berry, elm, sycamore, and maples trees are plentiful. The presence of deer is evident today and in 1857, game would have been bountiful.

William Webster figured prominently in the settlement of Anderson County. At one time or another he was a delegate to the Free-State Convention, County Treasurer, and Supervisor of Buildings.

In 1857 or 1859, a daughter, Fannie was born, and two years later another daughter Josephine. Fannie and her two sisters would survive the Indians, the Ruffians, the sickness and disease that took far too many lives. Fannie would later marry my wife's great grandfather, Charles Dallas Miles. This Charles Dallas Miles had a son named Frank Ottley Miles. He, in turn, had three children, one of whom was Mary Miles. She married Robert Van Huss, and from this union was born by wife, Robin.

Bill, if I may call him that, I suppose his wife Julia called him by that name, fought against the Border Ruffians from Missouri who terrorized the Free-Staters. He must have been an acquaintance of John Brown, who fought against the Missourians, with whom he shared the stage. He was steadfast in his views of a Free Kansas. He was County Treasurer, delegate to the Free State Convention, farmer, father of three young girls.

And then, after the U.S. Census of 1860, he again disappears from the stage of history. There is no record of him, either before or after.

Back to Shakespeare's As You Like It. There are seven stages to this life.

          [The seven parts are listed. Read it you wish to find your stage in life.]
Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.
At one time or another, I suppose we have all felt like a bit player in a stage show . So, Bill was pretty much spot on in looking at life as a progression from mewling and suckling infant to doddering fool, sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything, with a moment or two center stage. I am writing this as American Idol plays in the background. Somebody is saved, to go on another day. Somebody is singing to be saved, not knowing if his day in the sun is done. "One save", if it were only so easy to keep our hopes and dreams alive.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Departures and Arrivals

Remember 1954 - Hoop skirts, Sock Hops, and Hula Hoops. Many rock fans claim Rock Around The Clock (1954) by Bill Haley And The Comets as the first rock and roll song. Gas was 22 cents a gallon and a new car cost $1,700. The average cost of a new house, just over $10,000.

It was a Summer of lasts and firsts. The last time Mary Miles was single, the last time she would travel by ship across the Atlantic, the last time she would visit relatives in Algeria. But, the same could be said for firsts, for it was also the first time Mary had done any of these things. And years later, she would come to Europe again, this time by plane, to visit her daughter, and revisit some of those experiences. On this second occasion, I was in the Army, stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany. Mary, my wife Robin and I would take a two week trip through France, Spain, and Italy. But this story is not about that time, it is about the first and last time Mary went away from Kansas, a trip with her mother to visit relatives in Paris, France and Bonne, Algeria.

Mary kept a diary of her experiences.

July 21, 1954.

Left Union Station at 9:15 p.m. Charlie, Eleanor & the kids, Joan & Delbert, Dad & Bonnie & Velma saw us off.

In this day of airplane travel everything is rushed. But travel in the 1950's was at a slower pace. It was one of train schedules and waiting rooms, of time to read, and time to sight-see along the way.

Union Station in Wichita is still there. It is an empty relic of another time, awaiting a new life and a new use. But then, it was the center of travel. Of course there was airplane travel, but this was still the early day of the airline industry. Travel by plane was new and expensive.

The railroad was the Atchinson, Topeka, and Santa Fe, more popularly known as the Santa Fe. This amalgam of names was what was left of a thousand start up railroads, of consolidations and bankruptcies. The railroads had opened up western America to homesteaders and made possible the transportation of goods back to the more populous east coast. The name Santa Fe was a misnomer, as the train never made it that far, the tracks ending at the Kansas Colorado border.

View the Passenger Train, 1954 on Youtube.

July 22, 1954.

Arrived in Chicago, 9:00 a.m.. Had to wait 'til 3:00 p.m. to catch the N. Y. Central. Visited Marshall Fields, slept on the train all the way to NYC.

Mary and her mother Maria were traveling to France and Algeria to visit Maria's French relatives. Maria was born Maria Llabres. She was born in 1895. She and her family lived in the small village of Soller, Majorca, where her parents ran a small hotel. Later, the family moved to French Algeria where they farmed. It was in 1920 in Algeria that Maria Llabres would meet a young oilman from El Dorado by the name of Frank Ottley Miles. They were married overseas. Mary's older brother Charlie was, in fact, born in Algeria.  In 1925 the family would return to El Dorado. A daughter Joan would be born nine years after Charlie, and, one year later, Mary.

July 23, 1954

Arrived in New York City at 9:00 a.m.. Had a big day, did lots of sight-seeing. Visited the Empire State Building, Radio City, Chinatown, Wall Street, Skid-row, Saw the Rockettes in a stage show. By evening we were quite tired. Stayed at the Hotel Commodore adjacent to Grand Central Station.
Grand Central Station was and is the largest train station in the world by number of platforms - 44 with 67 tracks alongside. In 1954, the nearby Commodore Hotel was the place to stay. Named for "Commodore" Cornelius Vanderbilt, the founder of the New York Central Railroad the hotel opened its doors in 1918 and contained 2000 rooms. Called the "Most Beautiful Lobby in The World", it was the single largest room of the day with modern low ceilings and a waterfall designed by John B. Smeraldi.

By 1976, the hotel was in decline. Donald Trump bought it for 10 million dollars, restored it, and began his climb to the top.

See what Mary and Maria saw on a Tour of NYC in 1954 via Youtube.

July 24, 1954

Sailed at noon. The ship is rally big. Looked ship over, went to the movies in the evening, then to bed. Really tired.

Mary does not mention the name of the ship, but it is likely that it was one of the sailing ships for the Cunard line which traveled the Atlantic between New York and LeHarve. Today, we know the Cunard Line by the name Carnival.

The unnamed ship could have been the Saxonia, which was launched that same year in February of 1954.

Saxonia, image from Wikipedia.

To be cont'd.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Fannie Webster Miles

Fannie Webster Miles born 1857 in Bleeding Kansas. Fannie would eventually grow up and marry Charles Dallas Miles.

But, before that, ... Fannie was the second daughter of William and Julia Webster, who had lived in California long enough for Fannie's older sister Martha to be born. Fannie's parents, William and Julia farmed 4,000 acres near Garnett in Anderson County, Kansas. Fannie and Martha would be joined by another sister Josephine, who was born in 1859.

What was life like for these three little girls?

Kansas in 1857 was in the midst of the Border War between Pro-Slavery advocates from Missouri and Free-State settlers. In May of 1856, a group of Border Ruffians entered the Free-State stronghold of Lawrence, burned the Free State Hotel, destroyed newspaper offices, and ransacked homes and stores. That same month, John Brown attacked at a pro-slavery settlement on Pottawatomie Creek. Brown and his group, which included four of Brown's sons, led five pro-slavery men from their homes and hacked them to death with broadswords.

In August, thousands of pro-slavery men from Missouri marched into Kansas. That same month, Brown engaged 400 pro-slavery soldiers at the "Battle of Osawatomie." Hostilities raged for another two months until Brown departed Kansas Territory.

In 1857, differing Kansas constitutional conventions were convened, with the opposing sides sparring over which was legitimate. One last outbreak of violence was touched off by the Marais des Cygnes massacre in 1858, where Border Ruffians killed five Free State men.

If border ruffians weren't bad enough, in 1860 there was a terrible drought.  No appreciable rain fell the entire Spring and Summer. Pottawatomie Creek ran dry. One family of ten survived on wild plums and the milk from one cow. In July hot winds blew from the southwest, drying the earth and opening cracks that horses and cows would step into. Half the population of the territory left.

When the 1860 U.S. Census was taken, it was recorded that 466 families and 2,398 souls remained in Anderson County. In Monroe Township, just outside the city of Garnett where the Websters farmed, approximately 240 individuals are listed.

From the 1860 U.S. Census for Anderson County, Monroe Township, Kansas, page 27.

Webster Wm. T. 41 M farmer 4,000 1,000 N.Y. REMARKS: middle initial could be "F."
(My note. Could it be William L. Webster? See a History of Anderson County, Kansas below.)
Webster Julia 28 F Mich
Webster Martha 5 F California
Webster Fanny 3 F Kansas
Webster Josephine 1 Kansas
*unkly Frank 24 M Servant 1,000 New Hamp.
Read the History of Anderson County, Kansas online.

From that history at page 72 is a description of a meeting held on the 15th of August, 1857 in the timber near the home of A. Simons. Nominated as delegates to the district convention include William L. Webster. This was part of the Free State Convention.

At page 87, it is noted that on March 9, 1858, William L. Webster and two others were nominated as delegates to the Free State Convention.

The 1870 U.S. Census for the state of Kansas, Monroe Township does not include William Webster or any Websters.


From William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas online.

February 27, 1860, was chartered the State Line, Osawatomie and Fort Union Railroad Company. The road was to commence at some point of Lykins County, and run southwesterly to the south boundary of the Territory, in the direction of Fort Union. Corporators: E. W. Robinson, John B. Schofield, A. Hunt, R. Gilpatrick, W. F. M. Arny, John T. Cox, O. E. Learnard, G. W. Nelson, J. C. Lambden, Dr. Ashmore, Thomas Lindsey, William L. Webster, Penrose Johnston and P. G. D. Morton.

From The History of Anderson County, by W. A. Johnson, online, page 81.

On the 22nd of December, 1857, W.L. Webster was appointed superintendent of public buildings in Anderson county.

The year 1859, County Treasurer, William Webster, page 149.