History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Salina, Kansas

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Colonel William A. PhillipsIn the spring of 1857 Colonel William A. Phillips, who for sometime previously, had been traveling through the settled portions of Kansas, conceived the idea of making a tour on foot through a portion of the unsettled territory with the objective of selecting a town site. To accompany him on his tour he engaged the services of an Englishman named Smith. From the vicinity of Fort Riley, Kansas they stated out on foot, following the Smoky Hill River as far as the Saline River, the course of which they followed for a short distance when they crossed to the Solomon River. With their supplies becoming low, they made their way to Manhattan, where they renewed their stock of provisions and started out again, following up the Blue River until they came to the forks. Following the west branch of the Blue River they came to the Military Road, and turning into this, they followed it until they reached Marysville. From Marysville they struck out for Richmond, a distance of 51 miles, which they accomplished in one day. Their journey extended over a period of two weeks and the average distance traveled each day was 40 miles. To this trip is to be attributed the first permanent settlement in Saline County, because after thoroughly examining the grounds over which he traveled for a town site Colonel Phillips determined to locate on the banks of the Smoky Hill River.


In February, 1858 Colonel Phillips in company with A. M. Campbell and James Muir, returned to the area and drove their stakes where they wished to locate a town site, to which they gave the name of Salina. Beautifully located, the site was in the center of a rich and fertile valley, on the banks of the Smoky Hill River. It would be the first permanent settlement made in what would become Saline County. At that time, the region was officially unorganized territory known as the Arapaho District. However, in February 1858, the Kansas Legislature passed a bill organizing and defining the boundary lines of five new counties west of the 6th principal meridian, among them Saline County.


The first stock of goods that was ever brought to Saline County was brought by George Pickard in 1858. The great floods that occurred in that year, washed away all the Government bridges on the Smoky Hill, Saline and Solomon Rivers. On reaching the Solomon, Mr. Pickard found the bridge gone and in order to get his goods across the river he had to construct a raft of wood and buffalo robes, on which he succeeded in getting them over, but in a somewhat damaged condition. The washing out of the bridges necessitated the laying out of a road on the south side of the river from Salina to Kansas City, which was a very difficult and arduous task. Before starting for his stock of goods, which was not very large, Mr. Pickard had erected a small log house on property that would later become the town of Salina. Here, he deposited his stock and opened up for business.


In the meantime, Colonel William A. Phillips, having organized a Town Company, of which he was president, began to survey and plat the town in March, 1858, which continued at intervals, until March, 1862, when it was finally completed. George Pickard, had not been in the business but a few months when he sold out to Colonel W. A. Phillips, who increased the stock and established A. M. Campbell as salesman. Almost immediately quite a number of new settlers arrived, most of whom located in Salina or its immediate neighborhood.


On March 30, 1859, the town company was granted a charter by the Sixth Territorial Legislature of Kansas. That year saw a great stream of fortune seekers passing through Salina on their way to the newly discovered gold fields of Pike's Peak in present-day Colorado. Salina, at that time, was the westernmost station on the Smoky Hill Trail to the Far West. They passed through with every conceivable idea of conveyance. Some went on foot, some on horses, some on mules, some on ponies, some with hand-carts, and some were furnished with good teams and outfits. It was in that year that W A. Phillips built the first hotel in Salina, at the corner of Santa Fe and Iron Avenues, he having hauled the pine lumber, doors and windows from Kansas City. This building he afterwards sold to H. L. Jones, who occupied it as a store and hotel, Mr. Jones attending to the store part of the business, while Mrs. Jones, highly qualified by education and training, attended to the hotel part. Also that year, a man named Israel Markley built two or three houses. And, W.A. Phillips remained busy when he erected a sawmill, which was kept active providing building materials. A county board of commissioners was soon created and met for the first time in April, 1860.





When Kansas was admitted as a State into the Union, in January, 1861, the population of Saline County, all told, was less than 150 people, with all  located either in Salina or within a few miles of it. Just a few months later, the Civil War began and immigration to the county virtually stopped. Later that year, the first post office was established in November, 1861, with A. M. Campbell as Postmaster.


School was taught to area students as early as 1862, from a small frame house on Iron Avenue. That same year, the people of the town were thrown into a state of great consternation by a too well founded reports that hostile Indians were approaching from the west, massacring all the white people they found. Some were inclined to pooh-pooh the idea, but when the ranchmen came into the town, after several of their number had been butchered, and confirmed the report, they discovered that it was a matter that required immediate action. The consternation became general, and a regular panic seized the community. Those who had settled east of Salina made for Junction City and Fort Riley, and those west and in the immediate neighborhood of Salina hastened to town. Seeing the danger that threatened them, and knowing the terrible results of an Indian massacre, which was likely to take place, they immediately set to work and built a stockade 50x150 feet, on the north side of what is now Iron Avenue. These preparations were made none too soon; for the Indians meeting with no opposition on their way, came on with a whoop; but seeing that the people of Salina were prepared to give them a warm reception, they gave the place a wide berth; and thus Salina escaped a massacre.


Confederate GuerillasThat very same year, the fledgling settlement met with another foe -- Confederate guerillas. Early in the morning of September 17, 1862, while most of the town folk were still in bed, they were awakened by a group of about 20 Confederate bushwhackers. So suddenly was the dash made into Salina, and so unexpectedly, that the people were altogether unprepared to meet it, and from the very moment the gang entered, the town was at its mercy. Meeting with no resistance, they attempted no personal injury, but houses were entered, stores ransacked, and wherever any powder, ammunition, arms or tobacco were found, the marauders appropriated it. The firearms they could not carry off with them, they destroyed, as well as everything thought to be of service to the people in case of pursuit. On leaving they took with them 25 horses and six mules, most of which was the property of the Kansas Stage Company. After they had gone, it was discovered that they had overlooked one horse, and this was mounted by R. H. Bishop, who rode to Fort Riley, covering the distance of 50 miles in five hours. A party of soldiers was sent from the fort, but, of course, the bushwhackers had long gone. Though no one was hurt, it was a great loss in a frontier community to lose their means of protection and travel.

After the Civil War was over, Salina would get a boost when news that the Kansas Pacific Railroad would build its line through the town. With the coming of the railroad came a stream of immigration and Salina pushed rapidly ahead. Prior to the advent of the railroad there was neither a schoolhouse nor a church in the town, although there were several church organizations. Anticipating the railroad, which was then being pushed towards Salina as rapidly as possible, W. A. Phillips, in December, 1866, surveyed and laid off lots in the new "Phillips' Addition to Salina." 


Hotel and Depot in Salina, Kansas, 1867Joseph G. McCoy, the alert livestock dealer who made Abilene the "Queen of the Cowtowns", visited Salina in 1867, proposing that it become the terminus of the cattle drives. However, the few residents that lived there at the time feared that the "Texers" and their droves of "mossy horns" would disorganize their community, so the citizens rejected his offer. McCoy thereupon departed in a pique to Abilene, a dreary cluster of huts which he subsequently transformed into one of the great western "cow towns." In commenting on Salina, McCoy declared that it was "a very small dead place, consisting of about one dozen log huts, low small, rude affairs, four-fifths of which were covered with dirt for roofing. . . . The business of the burg was conducted in two small rooms, mere log huts."


McCoy may have been correct at the time, but, Salina's condition would change quickly. That same year, the town's first newspaper, the Salina Herald, was established by J.F. Hanna. Several other new additions were also added to the city as well as a two- story frame schoolhouse on the corner of Santa Fe Avenue and Ash Street. Churches soon followed, with the Methodist Church being the first, which built a small frame building on Ash Street. That same year C.R. Underwood built a grist mill on the Smoky Hill River, which was operated by both steam and water power.


The development of Salina was thereafter greatly accelerated by the railroad. Josiah Copley, a correspondent for the Gazette of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, visited the settlement several months after Joseph G. McCoy and reported that the population had increased to almost 2,000 people. Large groups of settlers would soon begin to enter Saline County including a colony of 60 Swedes from Galesburg, Illinois who arrived in 1868; 200 homesteaders from Ohio came in 1869; and 75 ex-residents of Henry County, Illinois, arrived in 1870.


In 1868 mounted messengers came dashing into Salina with the alarming news' that the Indians were up on the Republican River, perpetrating terrible deeds, outraging women, killing children, and murdering and scalping every white man they found. The people became greatly excited, and telegraphed the facts to Governor Crawford at Topeka. The first train from Topeka west brought the Governor to Salina, where he instantly called for volunteers to go out to the scene of the troubles. A company of 60 men was quickly raised and with the Governor in the lead the men rode as far as Churchill, in the southwest corner of Ottawa County. Learning there that there were no Indians between the Saline and the Solomon Rivers, they rode as far as Minneapolis. and from there they pushed on to Delphos, on the northern boundary line of Ottawa County. At that point they camped for the night, and a party of six was sent out to scout as far north as Lake Sibley, in Republic County. The next day the scouting party, though had seen no Indians, came upon several dead bodies near Asherville —some men, some women, and some children. The men had all been scalped, the women outraged, and the children fastened to the ground with arrows. The dead were buried, and, after performing this painful duty, the company returned to Salina, where it disbanded.



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