Name Origin

[Winfield Scott, D. D.]




A Letter From Winfield Scott, D. D.

Winfield Courier, Thursday, April 15, 1886


ED. COURIER: In your journal of March 24th, just received by me, is copied a little private note I wrote the Rev. Mr. Reider. It was written with no idea of publication, or of giving any matter of historical interest of your place. It has led me to wonder whether the pioneers and old settlers of Kansas are as greatly interested in the rise and progress of your State as I have been. I was not a pioneer and do not claim any of the honor and glory that attaches to the grand characters that made history when Kansas fought her way through fire and blood to freedom. Going onto her soil in January, 1865, I was in time to see the development of a great State, in a most wonderful manner. At that date Weston was the western terminus of the H & St. Joe railroad and we rode in a coach from there to Leavenworth. I resided in Kansas until January, 1872, and saw the building of the Kansas Pacific, the L. L. & G., Missouri River, Ft. Scott & Gulf, and Neosho Valley railroad, and have ridden over those lines when towns along them containing from 500 to 1,000 inhabitants each had risen like magic from the prairie sod, and in so short a time that not an old shingle could be seen upon a single roof.

It was during the latter part of December, 1870, that I visited Walnut Valley. A few months before this a Leavenworth man had gone there. Among my friends were the families of Messrs. Andrews, Hickok, and Rev. O. W. Tousey. They sent me an invitation to visit them, telling me of the new country and of the name of the new town after myself, and that they expected it would be the county seat. I had known of many prophetic towns of euphonious and high sounding names that never existed except in imagination, or in a glowing letter of an enthusiastic squatter, or worse than that, only on a highly embellished and carefully platted card board, that I was not especially influenced by the town or the promise to immortalize my name, but I did want to see what was then known as the great “southwest” that was booming from the rushing tide of immigrants all going thither. I knew of the warm welcome, too, I should receive from the large hearted old friends then on the ground. Accompanied by my old college chum, Prof. D. H. Robinson, of the State University, we went to Emporia by car and took a team and drove to Eureka, where we were joined by my brother, S. Scott, now of Clay Center. From there we went west to Butler County, through El Dorado, Augusta, and Douglass, all rival towns, each full of prophecy and prophets, of their own success and the other failures.

Augusta was named after Mrs. Augusta James, the wife of Mr. C. N. James, my parishioner. I spent a day or two at Augusta, preaching evenings. I remember well the afternoon when we forded a stream, passed through a strip of timber, and drove over the gently sloping ridge, when we had the first view of the town of Winfield. The Main street was laid out and enough stores and houses rudely built, with foundations of other buildings laid to define where the intended main street was to be. The record I made in writing to an eastern journal was this: “On the center of a beautiful plateau of land, in the very heart of the valley, is rising a splendid town. Four months ago two or three houses marked the place where it was to be. Today there are twenty-seven buildings, twenty more are rising, and about thirty more lots have been secured.” I met there, besides the friends mentioned, D. A. Millington, an enterprising businessman, whom I had known in Leavenworth, and he believed in the town, and met me with cordiality and championed with liberality and enthusiasm my proposition to raise money for a Baptist church in Winfield. I preached every evening while there and hunted deer in the day time. The first day I killed three, just across the creek west of the town site. I borrowed and used a rickety old shotgun, with stock tied up with strings to hold things together. My luck as a hunter all came the first day, and that, too, in the forenoon.

The record of the Sabbath service is as follows: I preached in a store not completed. The front end of the building being out, we had for the congregation a wide open door. My pulpit was the end of a work bench with my overcoat doubled up for a desk. The seats were 2 x 8 scantling resting on nail kegs and boxes, and yet the entire room 20 x 36 was full morning and evening with an appreciative audience. We had a good choir and an organ. At the close of the morning sermon, a church was organized with twelve members. During the evening and the next day a subscription of $400 was secured, which was increased to about $700, sufficient to enclose a stone building 24 x 40 with 14 ft. walls of your stone quarry. This is the record: “I have never seen in the west as pure white magnitia [magnesia] limestone as these quarries afford. It can be laid in the wall for $2.25 per perch, thus furnishing durable and very cheap building material for the poor as well as the rich. It seems a little unique to think of a very poor man living in a magnificent limestone house roofed, shingled, finished, and furnished throughout with the best quality of grained black walnut, all this because it was so cheap—the difference between the dwellings of the poor and the rich being in the cut of the stone and the carve of the wood.” In returning home I volunteered to drive somebody’s team for them and made the trip alone. From a point north of Chelsea, I struck out across the Flint hills to go to headquarters of the east branch of Fall river, traveling by compass. This is the record. “For the first time in Kansas, I laid out upon the prairie, supperless and alone. With oats and hay for the horses, a robe blanket with God’s moon and stars in the heavens over me, and the precious spirit of Jesus in the heart, a happy night was spent while joy came in the morning. I know now why Abraham in journeying, rejoiced in setting by his altar and I can see how happy spirits can be inspired to make heaven resound with hallelujah.”

Thus was the publication of the little items of history, which seem to interest you, have tempted me to give you a few more items of history on more general matters which may awaken in others old memories and reveal to the younger generation what a luxury it was to live and work when the foundations of enterprises were being laid, which now add so much to the thrift, stability, and peace of a great state. I was always proud of Kansas. I proclaimed it east and west as “the poor man’s paradise, where continuous quarter sections could have more bona fide settlers on them than any western state.” My interest and pride in the state has never waned.

Cowley County Historical Museum Photo Archives
Mary Ann Wortman's Home Page
Bill Bottorff's Home Page