History of Smith County.
LOCATION OF SMITH COUNTY
Smith County, named in honor of Major Nathan Smith, of the Second Colorado Cavalry,who was killed at the battle of the Blue, is on the northern tier of counties,bordering on Nebraska on the north, and is the sixth east of the Colorado and Kansas dividing lines.
FIRST SETTLERS OF SMITH COUNTY
The first settlers of Smith County were John Rhodes, J. K. Belk, Ambrose Oldaker,and B. R. Myers, J. H. Johnson, J. C. Morrison, who came in the fall of 1870. The following season they were followed by Thomas Lane and Anthony Robertson, who brought their families; H. H. Granholz, H. Menshoff, L. Binman,J. Rider, J. Eldredge, Thomas Decker, James H. Decker, T. J. Burrow, H. F. Albright, Charles Stewart, T. J. Tompkins, W. M. George, Fred W. Wagner. The first stone house was built in 1877, by Colonel Campbell. The first woman to settle in Smith County was Mrs. Mary Peebles, who became a resident of Lincoln Township in the fall of 1870. Ambrose Oldaker made a home on Oak Creek, twelve miles north of Cawker City. The first homesteader in the county was Christopher Noggels, who took a claim on the Beaver Creek in June of 1871. The first marriage in the county was T. J. Burrow and Miss R. J.Dunlap. The ceremony was performed in Smith Center Township, October 16,1872, by Rev. H. F. Albright.
THE FIRST STORES
The first grocery store was established in Houston Township in the spring of 1871, by D. P. Newell. Fred W. Wagner, of Germantown, opened a general merchandise store in April, 1871. The following year he became the first Postmaster at Germantown. The first post office established in Smith County was at Cedarville, in July, 1871. John Johnson was the first Postmaster.
Mrs. W. M. Skinner taught the first school in the county at Gaylord in the fall and winter of 1871. E. M. Burr, who was the first attorney located in the county, taught school in Smith Center in the fall of 1872. After teaching a few weeks his law practice claimed his full time, and Miss Alice Campbell was engaged and finished the school term for him. She occupied the building known as the old courthouse.
COUNTY ORGANIZATION AND ELECTIONS
Smith County was organized in 1872, with a population of 3,876. The county seat was first located in Cedarville, in the southeastern portion of the county. The first Commissioners appointed by the Governor of the State were George Marshall and Fred W. Wagner. James H. Johnston was the first County Clerk. The first meeting of the board was held at Cedarville, March 9, 1872. At the April meeting the county was laid off into six townships, to wit: Pawnee, Higley, German, Cedar (soon changed to Harvey ), Houston and Holland.
At the first county election, held June 25, 1872, for county officers and to locate the seat of justice, the votes of four townships were thrown out for illegality. The two townships where the law was complied with polled 154 votes. The newly-elected officers were: W. S. Angell, W. D. Covington, L.R. Hibbard, Commissioners; W. R. Allen, County Clerk. They were sworn in July 12, 1872. Edmund Hall was appointed Superintendent of Public Instruction; B. Higley, Register of Deeds.
In November, 1872, the county seat was removed to Smith Center by a vote of 275 for that place, 92 for Cedarville and 81 for Gaylord. At the same election J. T. Morrison was chosen Representative; V. Payne, M. E. Wells and Jesse Stranathan, Commissioners; W. M. Skinner, County Clerk and Register of Deeds; J. C. Harlan, Probate Judge; Nick Clemens, Sheriff; W. M. George,Treasurer; Ed Hall Superintendent of Public Instruction; N. H. Withington, Surveyor; Levi Morrill, Attorney; T. J. Burrow, District Clerk; J. N. Stephen,Coroner. From this point on elections were held every November.
The Smith County Pioneer, the oldest paper in the county, was started at Cedarville in November, 1872, by Dr.W. D. Jenkins, and was edited successively by Dr.Jenkins, Lew Plummer and Mark J. Kelley. The office was sold to Levi Morrill in 1873 and moved to Smith Center who continued its publication until October, 1874 when it was sold to W. D. Jenkins, Jr., who continued its publication several years. In 1878 the paper was enlarged and the name changed to the Kansas Pioneer. In 1880 the Pioneer and Press were consolidated, and Dr. Neely Thompson became the manager, the paper being Republican. It has now passed into the hands of R. D. Bowen and its politics changed to Democratic.
The Cedarville Democrat was started in August, 1881 as a Democratic paper, by M. M. Wachter. F. E. Baker purchased a half interest and the Democrat was then published as a half Greenback and half Democratic journal. Baker soon bought out his partner's interest and moved the material to Smith Center and changed the name to the Record. It was run as a Greenback organ until January 20, 1882 when E. M. Burr became sole owner and changed it to a Republican journal. Early in February, 1882, G. L. Burr purchased the establishment and continued publication as a Republican paper.
The Gaylord Herald was established by J. W. McBride in August 1879. April 28,1880 Webb McNall became the proprietor and has published a bright, newsy Republican journal. The Herald has a large circulation and is one of the official organs of Smith County.
The Harlan Advance, established in the spring of 1882, principally to advance the interest of Gould College, located in the same village, has outgrown the intentions of its founder and become, under the local management of W. D. Lane,an excellent home and newspaper. The Advance is now a twenty-column paper and its subscription price is $1.25 per annum.