MAX FAWCETT AND O. C. SMITH.
Max Fawcett was a well-known nurseryman in the State of Kansas in 1868. At that time he owned the Neosho Valley Nursery in Emporia.
In April 1870 the Emporia News announced that Max Fawcett had sold his nursery in Emporia and moved to Cresswell [which went through a name change to “Creswell” and then to “Arkansas City.”]
Mr. Fawcett wrote letters to the Emporia News from time to time, informing that paper of changes taking place in the future Arkansas City, and the establishment of his claim one-half mile west.
The April 22, 1870, issue of the Emporia News contained an article written by H. B. Norton describing Mr. Fawcett’s claim and other events taking place in “Creswell,” as Arkansas City was known at that time.
Max Fawcett’s Claim.
It is situated on the north bank of the Arkansas, here a noble stream forty rods in width. A bluff of magnesian limestone some thirty feet high here rises abruptly, washed by the river a part of the way, but bending in such a manner as to enclose a bottom of some thirty acres, covered with a splendid growth of timber and grape-vines. Out of this bluff pour three beautiful springs. One is received in a square cavity cut with a chisel in the soft magnesian stone. Another pours out of a pipe in such a manner as to form a miniature and fanciful cascade, showing some of the peculiar touches of the proprietor.
A few rods from this is a cave about ten feet wide and four feet high at the entrance, larger within, and passable to the depth of about one hundred feet; beyond that too small to conveniently penetrate, but of unknown extent. Here is a most perfect natural cellar for meat, fruit, and vegetables.
The cabin stands on the bank just above. It is not yet very thoroughly completed, and was, a few nights ago, invaded by a pack of prairie wolves, doubtless attracted by the scent of dried apples and graham crackers. One yell from under the blankets caused them to vanish more rapidly than they entered.
Just back of the house is Max’s garden. This is in a conical sink-hole, evidently connected with the cave below. He has shoveled this partly full of loose earth, and laid it off in garden beds with his own quaint taste. Various ornamental plants are also growing about the house.
The land is a warm, sandy loam, admirably adapted to the growth of corn, fruit, and nursery stock. The Chickasaw plum, now in full bloom, grows in thickets all over it. From the building site the scenery is truly magnificent, including many miles of the river, the town-site, and vast vistas of bottom, upland, and bluff. Here “Mac” has found a site exactly adapted to his genius. He seems perfectly happy here, and declares that nothing could induce him to return to dull, muddy, monotonous Emporia. His estate here will soon be the most beautiful in Kansas.
Creswell is founding. Dr. Woolsey, of Iowa, is here building a hotel. He is a man of means and energy, and intends business. He will become the most popular Boniface in the state.
C. R. Sipes, of Emporia, is erecting a building for his new hardware store.
Mr. Sleeth, of El Dorado, is to move his new sawmill hither on the 1st proximo.
A stage-route, a water-mill, a newspaper, two or three stores, a restaurant, a ferry, and many other improvements are in the near future.
Hundreds of excellent claims await the pioneer.
Dr. Kellogg will soon be ready to show these to all anxious inquirers.
Cowley County will be known as the garden of Kansas.
H. B. N. [NORTON]
The same issue of the Emporia News [April 22, 1870] also had a letter from Max Fawcett.
CRESWELL, April 9th, 1870.
EDITORS NEWS: We arrived home on the 2nd and found things as we wanted them. Messrs. Smith, Thompson, Cain, and Gibson came down with us. Mr. Smith drove his stake on the south side of the Arkansas, on a first class claim within two miles of town; the others preferred claims on this side, but not having corn enough for their team, they were compelled to return to Emporia without having time to look them up. They say they like the country and are coming back again. We hope they will. They are just the kind of men we want here.
Charley Sipes is here. He has bought John Strain’s share in Creswell. He is wide awake and energetic, and will do more than a full share toward making Creswell the important place it is destined to be. He is building a house and will soon bring down a first class stock of hardware and tinware.
We have had plenty of rain during the past week, as much as is needed at present. Emigration is coming in fast, and our county is settling up with as good a class of people as can be found in any part of Kansas, and all seem perfectly satisfied. Many who were here from Emporia last winter and this spring will remember a lame man named Rogers. He died two weeks ago. He was a whole-souled and generous-hearted fellow; we all liked him.
On the east side of the Walnut, about a mile from town, in a rough, rocky ravine, there is a natural bridge; it is a perfect one, with not even the keystone lacking. The highest part of the arch is about ten feet above the bed of the ravine; it has about twenty feet span. The top of the bridge is level and just wide enough for teams to cross on; and if it had been made for that purpose, it could hardly have been made better than it is. The road to Grouse will probably pass over it.
A few feet above the bridge there is a round basin hollowed out of the solid rock; it is about twenty feet across and about three feet deep, and is filled with clear water that runs out of a little cave through a trough worn in the rock. On the side opposite the bridge the basin is half surrounded by a semi-circular rock ten or fifteen feet high, and a few rods further up the ravine there is a beautiful little cave, with a basin similar to the one I have tried to describe. It just fills the bottom of the cave. These were discovered by Captain Norton while looking for a route to the Grouse. Further up the ravine the geologist will find the book he likes to read.
On the third of this month I planted two weeping willow trees by my spring on the side of the hill by the river. I think I can safely claim the honor of planting the first tree in Cowley County. MAX FAWCETT.
[Note: The Smith referred to in Fawcett’s article was O. C. Smith. In his capacity as a carpenter, he helped to construct the first buildings in Arkansas City. He was referred to later as “Capt. Smith.”]
T. A. Wilkinson, who accompanied Captain Gould Hyde Norton to the future Arkansas City, and assisted with the first buildings erected on the townsite, corresponded with the editor of the Walnut Valley Times, located in El Dorado, Kansas. On June 3, 1870, he informed Editor Murdock that a brass band was being formed, and at the moment there were players: Messrs. Baker, Chapin, and Max Fawcett.
A week later Wilkinson informed people through the Walnut Valley Times that a grand Fourth of July Celebration would be held at Max Fawcett’s grove, and gave a programme, which stated that “J. O. Smith” would render the “Declaration of Independence” at the Arkansas City celebration and that Captain O. Smith would be the Marshall of the day.
Max Fawcett informed the Emporia News in early June 1870 of the pending celebration in Arkansas City. By this time the name “Creswell” had been changed to “Arkansas City.”
EDITORS NEWS: We have had more rain here this spring than we have needed, but of course it is all right—“better too much than too little”—but at times it makes things considerably juicy. Our gardens and unfenced small fields of corn are growing finely. The Arkansas River is rising gradually, caused by the snow melting at its sources in the Rocky Mountains, but it is still fordable. Things are livelier here now since the arrival of Sleeth & Co.’s mill. We will soon have one or two more mills to supply the increasing demand for lumber. There are six nearly finished houses on the town site now, and several others commenced, including Col. Woolsey’s hotel.
We are going to have a regular old-fashioned celebration here on the 4th of July, and we would like to see a number of familiar faces from Emporia on that occasion come down, and we’ll insure them a good time.
We have organized a brass band here numbering fourteen members, and propose to get a first class set of instruments. We also have a glee club of fifteen or twenty members.
There are a great many good prairie claims vacant yet within a few miles of town, and occasionally a good timber claim may be found that has been overlooked. There are very few persons who cannot find claims here to suit them, provided they take time to look them up; for in no part of Kansas is there a greater variety of soil, situation, and scenery than here. We occasionally hear rumors from the not far off North of deathly doings by the bloody Osages: Sometimes we are being driven from the “happy land of Canaan”; and at other times,
Our scalps, our sacred pelts,
Hang reeking, pendant
From the wampum belts
Of noble Ingins.
None of which we credit.
On June 14, 1870, Fawcett again wrote to the editor of the Emporia News relative to events taking place in Arkansas City. His letter appeared in the June 24th issue.
EDITORS NEWS: We are having frequent and terrific rains here now. Our town is improving rapidly, forty more houses are under contract, and are being built as fast as lumber can be obtained to build them with. Mr. W. H. Speers, of Peoria, Illinois, has a new thirty horse power stationary steam saw mill on the way, which will be here in a day or two. Mr. Speers has had a number of years of experience in the mill business, having run mills in Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Illinois. When his mill arrives we will have two mills. Mr. Woolsey has his shingle machine in operation and is turning out six or eight thousand first class shingles a day.
Our four merchants are doing a staying business. C. R. Sipes tells me that he sells four times as much as he expected when he commenced, and our other merchants, Norton, Bowen, and Goodrich, are not behind him in sales, and all sell at reasonable rates, nearly or quite, and sometimes below, El Dorado prices. Our carpenters are all busy. Messrs. Channell, Smith, and Thomson, carpenters, have just finished a neat, roomy cabinet shop, and are running a lumber yard in connection with their other business. Channell starts for Emporia tomorrow for the purpose of bringing back his better half.
Tomorrow we are going to commence tracing the southern boundary of Kansas from where it crosses the Arkansas River to a point directly south of Arkansas City, and then measure the distance from Arkansas City to the line. There are a great many first-class claims vacant down there. I will write you a description of that part of our county when we return.
We are preparing for a grand time on the Fourth, and expect to see a number of familiar and welcome faces from the North on that day. MAX FAWCETT.
In the same edition of the Emporia News, there were two other articles.
Emporia News, June 24, 1870.
Capt. Smith, of Gen. Custer’s staff, called on us on Wednesday last, being on his way to the Osage country to get scouts to use on the plains. He says the Indians are quite troublesome on the plains. Gen. Custer received a telegram from Kit Carson the morning Capt. Smith left Fort Hays, saying that about 20 Indians had just been captured who had made a raid on a Texan train, killing six or seven men.
Emporia News, June 24, 1870.
The excursion to Arkansas City (Creswell) will start on Wednesday morning, 29th, instead of Thursday, 30th. Those interested should make preparations accordingly.
H. B. Norton.
From the foregoing, the question arises: Was “Capt. Smith” mentioned in the June 24th issue of the Emporia News a participant at the Arkansas City Fourth of July celebration or was it the other Smith (O. C. Smith), mentioned as a carpenter living in the vicinity of Arkansas City and later referred to as “Capt. Smith?”
The July 8, 1870, issue of the Emporia News contained an article from a correspondent in Arkansas City, who signed his article as “WEC.”
Need I premise by telling where and what Arkansas City is? I think not, though three months ago, Arkansas City had neither name nor existence, and none save the Osage Indians had traversed its site. Yet, on the Fourth, it had denizens enough to celebrate, and being patriotic, as all American citizens are, they did celebrate. They did it after this wise. At ten o’clock the citizens and residents of surrounding country were formed in procession in front of the Woolsey House by Capt. Smith, and proceeded to Max. Fawcett’s grove, on the banks of the Arkansas. This grove, beautiful by nature, has been rendered more so by Max’s artistic hand. Arriving there, strolls and chats were indulged in until the dinner hour, when the crowd crystallized around different points of gastronomic interest, and proceeded to discuss, with much interest and apparent satisfaction, the contents of diverse and sundry baskets, buckets, and boxes. To our certain knowledge the Arkansas City people have good things to eat. The city takes pattern of its Godmother, Emporia, and discourages the sale and consumption of intoxicating drinks; but the oldest soaker would have gotten his “red eye” in the presence of the bountiful supplies of pure cold water flowing from Max’s springs.
Dinner dismissed and the crowd settled, a selection of vocal music was finely rendered by a number of ladies and gentlemen. I may say of all the music, both vocal and instrumental, that it was creditable, not only to a town not yet six months old, and standing as an out-post on the borders of civilization, but would have been considered highly meritorious in any place. After prayer by Rev. Swarts, and another piece of music, Prof. Norton, the orator of the day, was introduced, and for about three quarters of an hour, addressed the people in a most interesting manner.
Dismissing the past and matters of more general importance with a few eloquent remarks, he directed attention to things of the present and future of great local importance. He appealed to the people to plant trees, and urged the necessity of it, because of the climatic influence they would exercise; because they would afford homes for birds, the sworn enemies of all noxious insects; in order to supply the demands of the future; and in order that town and country might be made attractive and pleasant. He directed attention to the importance of railroads to their country. Spoke of the wonderful agricultural resources that would be opened up thereby; and of the cheapening of all foreign imports by means of a railroad that must soon be built to tide water, down the Arkansas Valley. He urged upon all the vast importance of the Common School System as an element of permanent future prosperity, and expressed a hope that that place would never exist a starveling college, with its wise looking and pretentious professors, and its conceited students pouring over the foolish fables of a long since dead language, while the living, scientific truths of a living age should go unstudied, but that in the place thereof should be the well regulated public school, full of the life and spirit of the age.
An abstract cannot do justice to the professor’s speech; it was eloquent, applicable, and well received. After the speaking and singing the crowd dispersed, some to their homes, some to the river to sail and fish, and all ready to declare that the first Fourth of July celebration in Arkansas City was a success.
There were well attended celebrations at three points in this county, in which county, one year ago, there were not a half dozen white men’s homes. The change is marvelous, and what is better, the people are happy and contented, and sanguine of the future. Of course, not very much of a crop will be raised this year on the sod freshly turned over, but next year the lower Walnut and Arkansas valleys will laugh with such a harvest as will surprise even Kansas.
A correspondent from the Emporia News took in the grand celebration at Arkansas City, and submitted a report that appeared in the July 15, 1870, issue on his trip.
The place is growing just as rapidly as it can, with the present facilities for getting lumber. Two large steam saw mills are now at work and the supply cannot keep pace with the demand. Here, also, we find several of our former townsmen. In fact, the majority of the citizens came from Emporia. Prof. Norton of the State Normal School is the leading spirit. He is full of energy and enterprise, and is determined that the new town shall grow and the country develop. Max. Fawcett is laboring with a zeal that is truly commendable. The stranger has not been in town one hour before the question is asked him, “Have you seen Max Fawcett’s claim?” If not, you must go at once. When you get there, you are glad you came. With Mr. A. C. Wilkinson as our guide, we visit it early Sabbath morning. We reach it at a distance of one and one-half miles west of the town. It lies along the banks of the Arkansas. We first hasten toward the spring for we are thirsting for a drink of pure, cold water. A strip of timber lines the bank of the river ten or fifteen rods in width. We reach the edge of this timber and find ourselves on the brink of a precipitous bluff. Our guide directs our attention to a path that leads down the hill through the trees. Our eyes follow it gladly down farther and farther until they behold away down ever so far the most beautiful stream of pure, cold water flowing from out the hillside that it was ever our good fortune to see. The path has steps of stone carefully adjusted by the hand of Max. himself. Descending we find that an artificial reservoir made of stone receives the water to which it is conducted by means of wooden troughs extending back to the hillside. From this reservoir another trough carries the water eight or ten feet and precipitates it down a descent of three or four feet, where another smaller basin carved out of the rock receives it. A cup attached to a chain hangs by the side of a tree near the main basin. While you are drinking you look eastward and a few rods in front of you, carved on a big rock, you read:
“Stranger, you are welcome here.”
You look southward and on another rock you read:
“Better than gold
Is water cold,
From crystal fountains flowing.”
You turn to the west and a few feet from you, you find two natural chairs formed of rock. On one is written “easy chair”; on the other, “hard chair.” You sit down on the easy chair and sure enough you sit as comfortably as on the softest easy chair in your parlor at home. A path leads you along the foot of the bluff in a westerly direction until you come to the mouth of a great cave whose inner chambers have not yet been wholly explored. We wish we had time and space to tell about this cave, other springs, and other pleasant retreats.
But we must say farewell to Max and his beautiful claim, with the advice to everyone who goes to Arkansas City to be sure to go and see Max.’s fountains, springs, and caves.
Two days after the Fourth or July celebration at Arkansas City, Mr. Fawcett wrote a long letter to the Emporia News. The following are some of the comments made by him.
Our celebration on the Fourth was a success; weather cool, no mosquitos, large attendance, and much applauded; instructive and entertaining orations, delivered by Prof. Norton, of Arkansas City, and Mr. Cunningham, of Emporia. A number of Emporians were present. The programme was carried out to the letter, and all were “gay and happy.” In the evening a large number repaired to Col. Woolsey’s commodious hotel, where many feet kept time to enchanting music till late in the evening, when supper was announced by Col. Woolsey, and all sat down to one of the best suppers ever gotten up in Southern Kansas. The Colonel is one of our most enterprising and accommodating men.
Prof. Norton (who is the mainspring of Arkansas City’s prosperity) and lady arrived home on the 2nd.
We had another splendid rain last evening, and the weather is now delightfully cool.
There is little or no sickness here now, not a case of ague in this vicinity. Our doctors and lawyers are the only men that look downcast and discouraged.
The Arkansas River is rising, and is nearly or quite past fording.
We were unsuccessful in finding the State line when we went to look for it a week or two ago. We are going down again this week to try to find the marks on the east side of the Arkansas. We found plenty of mounds while on our last trip, but they had “dead Ingins in ‘em.”
On July 22, 1870, Fawcett reported on a hunt for the south line of Kansas made by himself and others. This was printed in the July 29, 1870, issue of the Emporia News.
[This report appears in Volume II of the Cowley County History book covering the “Indians.” I failed to note that Max Fawcett wrote it.]
Mr. Fawcett and company had a difficult time determining where the mounds were located marking the state line. At one point he complained about a camp of mosquitos, commenting that the party were “Chawed all night, Till broad daylight, And then chased in the morning.” The party determined that the State line had to be eight or ten miles south of Arkansas City.
Max Fawcett left Arkansas City in 1877.
More Information about O. C. Smith.
On July 31, 1870, T. A. Wilkinson wrote a long letter, addressed to the editors of the Emporia News, which was finally printed in the September 2, 1870, issue, in which he referred to Smith as “Capt. Smith.” The following is an excerpt of this letter.
“Messrs. Channell and Thompson are still pushing the work they so nobly began, as architects and builders. To the three Thompson brothers, Channell, and Capt. Smith, belongs the credit and honor of building the first several buildings on the town site, and like the first volunteers who went into the army without bounty as an inducement, they should properly be regarded as the veterans of the cause.”
On November 7, 1871, O. C. Smith, from Bolton Township, was made a Cowley County Commissioner. His term expired on January 11, 1874.
The June 12, 1874, issue of the Winfield Courier informed its readers that O. C. Smith, late county commissioner of Cowley County, was now a boat captain on Lake Erie.
The April 25, 1877, issue of the Arkansas City Traveler stated that Capt. O. C. Smith, who left this place about three years ago to accept a position on a Lake Erie boat, returned last week. The Captain is an old-time resident of Cowley County.
Arkansas City Traveler, June 20, 1877.
On the fourth of July the citizens of Bolton will have a celebration at Captain Smith’s grove and spring, west of the Arkansas, about a mile south of the bridge.
Arkansas City Traveler, June 27, 1877.
We learn the wife of Capt. Smith is lying ill from a stroke of paralysis.
Arkansas City Traveler, June 27, 1877.
The committee appointed to arrange for some kind of an entertainment on the Fourth, after consulting with the friends of the different schools, have decided to join with the good people of Bolton in a general celebration. The place of meeting, in Capt. Smith’s grove, just west of the Arkansas. The facilities for crossing the river afforded by the new ferry, just west of the city, have removed all objections to going to the west side, and for this reason the committee unanimously recommend that we avail ourselves of this opportunity of meeting our friends in Bolton. By order of committee.
Arkansas City Traveler, July 4, 1877.
DIED. On Wednesday, June 27th, of paralysis, Mrs. Smith, wife of Capt. O. C. Smith, of Bolton Township. The afflicted brother has our heartfelt sympathies.
Arkansas City Traveler, March 20, 1878.
DIED. On Saturday morning of last week, the sad intelligence was received of the death of Capt. O. C. Smith, a resident of Bolton township, this county, for many years past, and a citizen much respected and honored for the noble principles of manhood he bore. Capt. Smith came to this place in the summer of 1869, from Ohio, where he had been engaged in ship carpentering. He was generally a hardy man enjoying good health. A few days before his death he became over-heated while sowing oats, and to cool off divested himself of his clothing; and as a result, took a cold from which he never recovered. Every effort was made to save him, but his disease had reached a point beyond the skill of man, and all were of no avail.
As a man and a Mason, Capt. O. C. Smith occupied a high position. He was the first Master of the lodge at this place, and at the time of his death was Senior Warden of the Order. The Masons took charge of the body, and interred it under their usual custom in the cemetery adjoining the town. He was 46 years of age.
Arkansas City Traveler, March 20, 1878.
The funeral procession of Capt. Smith was one of the largest we have seen at this place. It was formed of Masons on foot preceding the remains, followed by vehicles and horsemen. Mr. S. P. Channell was master of ceremonies, with Mr. John T. Grimes as marshal. The procession and funeral ceremonies were very imposing.