The Kansas Daily Commonwealth, July 22, 1870, 2/3-4



Cowley, Howard and Wilson committee–

Fredonia–  Railroad meeting and prospects.

Special correspondence of the Commonwealth.


FREDONIA, July 18, 1870.                   

The layer of white magnesian limestone which has made Junction City so famous is not a monopoly of that promising and ambitious city.  It constitutes an almost mountainous range crossing the state from north to south, intersecting Davis [Geary], Riley, Morris, Chase, Butler, Greenwood, Howard and Cowley counties.  It has certain peculiar features, readily recognizable by the geologist, the truncated pyramid being a marked and invariable element in its landscape.  So wonderfully regular and perfect are these mounds, that it is often hard to believe them the unassisted handiwork of nature.  From the Cottonwood south, this formation is known as the Flint Hills or mountains.  I do not see why this adjective is applied to them.

The good people of Arkansas City were lately delighted by receiving posters announcing the contemplated formation of the Humboldt, Fredonia and Arkansas City railroad company, to be organized at Fredonia on the 16th of July, and inviting all points interested to send delegates.  It was on this account that we made our journey across the Flint Hills.

The Walnut flows along their western edge.  Some five or six miles above town we climb the bluff, take a last look at our young city on its verdant height beside the river, and start eastward across the plateau.  Along the edge it is excessively rugged, everywhere intersected by deep gorges with vertical walls, through which spring brooks are flowing.  Among the rocks we see deer and antelopes grazing, and sometimes a coyote watching us at long range.

The soil is thin and often unfit for tillage, but is covered with a surprising growth of grass.  This region, abounding in grass and water, promises to be a most important one for cattle-growing.  This must be its specialty.

Winding down through the usual ranges of mounds and cliffs, we enter the Grouse valley.  This stream divides the range longitudinally from north to south.  The town site of Dexter lies here, not far from the geographical center of the county.  It was being surveyed, as we passed.  The valley is narrow and lightly timbered, but very beautiful and fertile.  Below its junction with the Wolf or Silver creek, the Grouse has probably sufficient volume for a reliable mill stream.  For ten miles above Dexter the road follows the Grouse valley in a northeasterly direction, and then crosses the divide, here less rocky and rugged, to the Cana or Canaan creek.  We had often heard of the marvelous beauty of this valley, but the fact is above all reports.  Springs and brooks everywhere abound; the soil is fertile, timber abundant, the landscape wonderful, and the settlements, as in the case of the Grouse and Walnut, are dense.  The valley lies almost wholly in Howard county.

East of the Canaan the magnesian limestone dwindles into a thin layer on the tops of the mounds, and finally comes to an abrupt end.  The road drops down nearly a hundred feet, and passes on over a vast, gently undulating prairie, constituting the valley of the Elk and its tributaries.  The view from this bluff is wonderful in extent and beauty.  A great pile of stones have here been raised by passing travelers, apparently as a tribute of admiration.

Eastward of this point the rock is a dark brown sandstone, the soil good, timber scanty, coal abundant.  Great breadths of valuable unclaimed lands here await the pioneer.  Town sites are, as usual, numerous, Union Center and Howard being especially noteworthy. 

We leave the Elk valley and the Osage nation, at last, cross the line into Wilson county, and find ourselves in a comparatively old, settled country.  The road winds down Indian creek and Fall river through a rich, beautiful country.  The timber is heavy and the grain crops abundant, wheat being just harvested and the corn standing twelve feet high, in full ear.

Passing through the little town of New Albany, we are directed down the valley to two remarkable twin mounds, rising abruptly two hundred feet or more from an immense level plain, at the foot of which stands the new town of Fredonia.

This village is a remarkable specimen of Kansas enterprise.  It is scarcely a year old; but has already some forty places of business, and is the seat of great intellectual activity.  Messrs. Miller, Peffer, Oberlander, Don Carlos, and Hadden behave like live men, thoroughly awake to the business interests of their town and county, and showing a remarkable degree of intelligence and experience in their work.  The delegates from the various counties were received with the most unbounded hospitality.

I will spare your readers the petty details of organization, which have only a local interest.  The company was fully organized upon the basis as first proposed.  Humboldt and Arkansas City being the two termini.  It is a most important route, being on an air line from the cattle trails of Texas toward Chicago.  Mr. Joy’s failure in attempting to penetrate the Cherokee Nation will render a passage round its western extremity necessary, and this will be the line.  Before another year passes the iron horse will be sweeping from Humboldt towards the south west.

One word to settlers looking for original claims on the Osage lands.  Good timbered and watered claims are not to be found, in any amount, east of the Arkansas, and in the southwestern part of Cowley and in Sumner they are being rapidly occupied.  The Elk and Canaan valleys offer to the pioneer large amounts of excellent prairie, and the peninsula between the lower Walnut and Arkansas is still, to a great extent, unoccupied.  The Arkansas Valley is here several miles in breadth, and unsurpassed for agricultural purposes.

It is possible that a journey further to the south would somewhat modify these statements, adding other tracts to the catalogue.  I only tell what I have seen.

We turn our faces homeward with new ideas of the wealth and future greatness of Southern Kansas.  The immense resources of this region are hardly pictured as yet in the boldest imaginations of the most enthusiastic real estate agent.

H. B. N.

[Henry B. Norton]