Spring Hill, Kansas


In 1915, Spring Hill is one of the best trading points on the Frisco railroad in eastern Kansas. The Spring Hill Cooperative Association, organized in 1877 have the largest store in the city and owns its building, 80×100 feet, with an opera house in the second story. It carries an excellent line of merchandise, has a very fine trade, and is one of the solid financial institutions of the town.

J. R. Lemen is its efficient manager. Hunger Nelson also carry a general stock of merchandise in the Odd Fellows building and are progressive merchants, building up a permanent trade. E. Davis & Son have a model furniture store and undertaking parlors and are competing with the larger towns in their line . Georg j Ellis carries a full line of  hardware and is doing a good business. H. H. Neff, druggist, is an up -to -date man in his line. C. E. Baily is one of the pioneers in the drug business, having been here for about 30 years. Other well conducted lines are harness, M. E. Black ; meat shop, Ralph Hines ; barber shops, E. A. Roofe and Jack Burns; R. E. Harbison’s tin shop ; Allen’s jewelry store ; Frank B. Jamison, hay and feed and extensive buyer and shipper of stock ; W. F. Ilunter and A. H. Starbuck each run blacksmith shops ; Mrs. M. E. Baily, millinery. The Eagan restaurant and bakery is an up -to – date shop. The Spring Hill elevator, of which J. S. Null is manager, does an extensive grain business, and the City Hotel, under the management of James llykoff, gives fine service to the traveling public. Phvsicians are : Dr. R. E. Eagan, Dr. O. C. Thomas, Or. H. M.Beaver. Dr. S. G. W. Stevens, and L. V. Gast. dentist. The Spring Flill Lumber Company, under the management of G. A. Simpson carries a complete line of building materials.

Mellor and Rose are contractors ; John Lambert, carpenter and plumber ; W. M. Mollison, livery ; Roy Payne, pantatorium ; George S. Sowers, 20011 Century stationary ; J. L. Todd , Spring Hill creamery ; W. E. Tisdale, real estate ; W. F. Wilkerson, insurance ; G. W. Moore, garage ; C. W. Dunn,drayage and veterinary ; Dr. Pearson, fancy poultry ; C. D. auctioneer ;  Bush Newton, Overland dealer; Fred Kicketts. postmaster; W. W. Wickens, Mi- Jo. Telephone Company; Clyde Elliot, manager of the municipal lighting plant.

The city a few years ago, voted for $6,000 bonds and installed a municipal light plant, and the streets are well-lighted. The engines and dynamo are in a neat concrete building, the property of the the city. The merchants’ association also keeps an excellent band. The Spring Hill Grange Fair, which this year will give its eleventh annual exhibit, began in 1904 as a stock and farm exhibit on the street and, the second year, leased two acres of ground from Mrs! Mathews, adjoining the city on the south. These two fairs being so successful, the fair board the next year leased 15 acres of ground, fenced it and erected a floral hall, put up stables and pens for stock, and each year since additions have been made till now, the fair is one of the best attractions in eastern Kansas, to those interested in fine stock and farm products, this too without horse racing, considered as one of the great drawing features of a fair in the years past.

The Spring Hill High School stands high as an educational institution of the county and is an accredited school at the State University. A parent- teachers association has been organized recently, and its meetings add much to the real worth of the school. The Spring Hill ” New Era” was established in 1880 by J. W. Sowers. W. F. Wilkerson, editor and owner at the present time, is an excellent country newspaper and covers the field adjacent to Spring Hill completely. Mr.  Wilkerson is a practical and thorough newspaperman, and his untiring work and straight business methods are appreciated by the town’s businessmen substantially. The ” new Era ” articles written by Mr. Wilkerson are widely copied by the press. Its newspaper’s progressive features often measure the average town’s worth as a place of residence. Spring Hill owes much of its advancement in the past ten years to the aggressive fight of the ” New Era ” for better things, and the wide-awake citizens of this thriving little city have begun to appreciate this fact.

of Kansas and should be preserved as a historical museum of the border. It was the first building of Spring Hill, built in 1857. and the old stage line ran by its door. It was built on the northeast corner of the square in what is now called Old Town. The building of the Frisco railroad caused the present business district to be removed a half mile east of the old town site. The building is a two-story and its framework is made from native lumber. It has four rooms, 15×18 below and two above, with a seven-foot hallway built by a three-foot stairway. The stairway is boxed up underneath, and recently a trap door was discovered inside of this, which, no doubt, had been made to be used as a hiding place during the border warfare. While there was no cellar underneath the building, the floor was high enough to admit a man’s body, and a score of persons could have been secreted there with no danger of discovery. On the north side, a kitchen, 12 feet wide, extends the full length of the building. Everything about the building, from the heavy oak sills, the old-style hardwood flooring, the doors, windows, and the general construction style, suggest the pioneer days.

Up the old stairway, you will want to go sure when you visit the place, and there you will find two big rooms, big enough for four beds each, yet how many were accommodated at a time few know at this time. The bridal chamber above the approach to the stairway is 612X 712 feet in size and suggests the only privacy in the building. The building cost $ 3,000, and the lumber used , except for the frame, was hauled from Leavenworth . At the time of the hotel building, some maple trees were set out, and two of these are still growing, the largest, standing south of the door, being nine and one-half feet in circumference. A well dug at the same time just north of the building is twenty – five feet deep; it has never been dry and still furnishes water to many in this part of town. One hundred feet north of the hotel a stage barn was erected where eight head of horses were kept and cared for.


The drivers on the stage line changed horses here, and it was the duty of the stage barn owner to have these horses ready to hitch up as soon as the stage arrived. These stage barns were erected about every ten miles along the route, and but a few minutes was ever lost in changing horses. Four horses were driven at a time. Pat Murphy came to Johnson county with Jared L. Sanderson, who was interested in carrying mail and operating stage lines. Sanderson first established a stage line from Sedalia, Missouri, to Warrensburg; then later, in 1863-64, a line from Kansas City, Missouri to Ft. Scott, Kans., making a contract to carry the mail for four years at one cent per year. Mr. Sanderson figured that the passenger traffic, freight, and express would make him a nice profit, and he could afford to carry the mail, as by doing so, he would keep competitors out, proving a profitable venture. lie also operated a line from Kansas City to Santa Fe, a distance of 700 miles. A daily mail and express from Kansas City to Ft. Scott, with stations ten to fourteen miles apart where horses were changed, was kept until the Missouri River, and Fort Scott & Golf road was built in 1869 and 1870. The first station was at  Gum Springs, followed in regular order by Beattie Mahaffies, northeast of Olathe; Squiresville, Spring Hill, Paola. Twin Springs, Moneka, north of  Mound City; Ft. Lincoln and Fort Scott.

Eight horses were kept at each barn, and a telegraph line was established along the route. Two changes of horses were made each day, one in the forenoon and one in the afternoon, and Mr. Murphy had charge of the stable at Spring Hill. When Pat first came, George Sprague kept the Farmer’s Hotel, now the residence of James Cuddeback, and the stage barn was located near, under the charge of Mr. Sprague. He moved to the Old Hotel, where the stage barn was built just north of it. Here later, William Sowers conducted the hotel and had charge of the barn.

The location of the different buildings around the square at the time Mr. Murphy came was as follows: W. G. Davidson’s general store was located on the site of U. S. Curtis’s residence at the southwest corner of the square. This was the only building on the west side. Rankin & Steel had a general store near the southeast corner, west of Mrs. Hattie Skinner’s residence. On the east side, where George Reeder lives at present, stood the store of Brown & Willis. Willis was a brother-in-law of Eliphalet Newton, and south of this store was a hardware store owned by W. Day. Alexander Davis and William Nichols ran a blacksmith shop on the east side, also located on the lot where the residence of C. G. Wilson now stands. The first store building was on the northeast corner, opposite the Old Hotel. A store was opened here in the winter of 1857-58 by W. G. Davidson. Afterward, Mr. Johnson kept a general store here and kept a barrel of liquor on tap also .


David Sprong had a residence near where the residence of J. W. Janes now stands. A Mr. Lindsay built the residence now occupied by Mrs. L. J. Holdren. The stone houses now owned by J. A. Hopkins and W. C. Graves were built before Mr. Murphy came to Spring Hill , and, having been remodeled and replastered, are as substantial as the day they were built.

The building, now known as Cook’s Hall on south Main Street, was originally the Odd Fellows Hall and stood on the site now occupied by the residence of Mrs. Hattie Skinner at the southeast corner of the square. The Ancient Free and Accepted Masons also had a hall on the southwest corner of the square, which was moved when the railroad was built to the lot now owned by Mrs. Null on Main Street. The building was later burned down, and a brick store stands there, now occupied as a bakery and restaurant. Mr. Murphy moved his building now northeast of the depot from the north side of the square west of the Old Hotel. Mr. Murphy has transacted business in this building for 42 years.

The first white citizen of Spring Hill township was James B. Hovey. In a letter from him to Mr. Oliver Gregg in 1874, he gave the following excellent sketch of the early days of Spring Hill and Spring Hill township: ” About the middle of March, ’57, I started for Leavenworth intending to locate there, but the enormous value put upon property there, at that time, led me to abandon that point. I then proceeded to Kansas City, where I heard such glowing accounts of the ” Shawnee Lands ” in  Johnson county that I decided to see these lands and locate them there if they answered the description given them. In the latter part of March, I went to Olathe. There I found Dr. Barton, a clever genial gentleman, who took pains to show me the vacant claims about Olathe, but the fact is, I was frightened at seeing so much prairie with no timber near. So the good Doctor told me about the land around the head of East Bull creek, where there was a lively country and good timber. After spending the night with him in his cabin (which was the only  house there then ), where some eight or ten of us, all strangers to each other, slept in a row on the floor, with a blanket apiece under us for a feather  bed, and one over us for covering. It was the fashion then to carry a pair of blankets because one hardly knew where the night would overtake him or what he would find in the way of sleeping accommodations. Having breakfasted with the Doctor on the plain fare of the day, cornbread and bacon, I started, under his directions, to find the head of East Bull creek. There were no roads, not even a trail to guide one. I was on horseback, and went, with the help of a pocket compass, to find a certain quarter section. I have forgotten its number, with its township and range on a memorandum, nine miles south of Olathe, which I found without difficulty. I was then to go down Bull creek one mile and a half to find the cabin of a Shawnee Indian, who bore the name of George Washington, whom I found to be a good sort of an Indian, or as he would say: ” Me good Shawnee man.

You will recollect that among the provisions of the Lecompton constitution was one allowing all the Kansas Indians to vote ” who had adopted the manners and customs of the white man .” That meant the manners and customs of the average border ruffian of that date. The Indians who chewed tobacco, smoked, drank whiskey, and cursed the ” d — d abolitionists ” was entitled to vote, so they nearly all voted.

George Washington, though he smoked and chewed, seldom drank and was a very good Indian. His dress consisted of a broad-rimmed hat, a red calico shirt, and a pair of moccasins, which , of course, entitled him to vote. His family consisted of a wife and two children, and with them, I made it home for some few weeks , there being no white folks anywhere near there . The nearest place to a white man was seven miles south of me, near Ten Mile creek in Lykin county, now Miami county, where there was a small settlement of Missourians which they called St. Marysville.
On the east there was not a habitation till we reached the State line .

On the north , Olathe was the nearest place , and on the west at the junc tion of Santa Fe and Little Santa Fe roads, where Gardner now stands. Mr. O. B. Gardner and some others were getting out material on Bull creek to put up cabins. Bill McCamish, who had married a Shawnee woman , was living on Bull creek , at the crossing of the Santa Fe road , which was then a camp ing place for Santa Fe trains , but was afterwards laid out for a town and called after its owner, McCamish.

The east fork of Bull creek was known as Little Bull. At the time of my entry on Little Bull as an actual settler in March, 1857 , there were four Shawnee families living there, nestled out of sight in the timber of the creek. They were George Washington and family , Solomon Madder and family, Black Wolf and family, and one other fam ily whose name I have forgotten . They were all peaceable and quiet sort of  Indians who minded their own business and kept pretty much away from the whites.


On going to the place where Spring Hill is located , I was struck with the natural beauty of the place . The view from the elevated point selected for the public square was grand, and the distance one could see was wonderful. After the town of Aubry was built, twelve miles east of Spring Hill , we could see the houses there every clear day, and the timber adjoining the town of Ossowatomie, eighteen miles southwest of Spring Hill, could be distinctly seen . I settled on the southeast quarter of section  15 . township 15 , range 23. From my Shawnee landlord I bought some timber and alone, with the aid of my horse, commenced to build a cabin . This was the first claim occupied in that part of Johnson county or in  Spring Hill township. Being so well pleased with the local ity and being somewhat enthusiastic in my estimation of its future, it having all advantages of timber and water, and on a line that must be traveled between Olathe and Paola , I concluded , to myself, you know , as there was no one else to conclude with , that this was a good place for a town . So singly I set the ball in motion and stuck my stakes, the  northwest and southwest quarters of section 14, township 15 , range 23, for a townsite. It was an easy thing to stake a town site , but the next thing was to keep it , especially when there was no town company, nor any sign of one, but I trusted to luck and the Squatters’ Association .

Dr. Barton was my friend and the leading spirit in the association . There was an understanding that if an actual settler, relative of a mem ber of the association , thought of coming to Kansas, such a member might take a claim adjoining his own for the benefit of his relative and hold it thirty days. Well,, II took t the th chances chances that way , for my brother in – law, to hold one quarter, the other I had to watch , and whenever I found settlers searching for claims, I would volunteer to show them good claims, and in that way I got a good number of settlers around me, and saved the town site . The first man that come along was Will iam Mavity. In about two weeks after I landed there I put him on the southeast quarter of section 14, township 15 , range 23. He was unable to improve his claim at that time, and I kept him in my employ all that season . Then S. B. Myrick and E. F. Davis came together and took claims adjoining each other, Myrick taking the northeast quarter of section 15 , township 15 , range 23 , directly north of my own and adjoin ing the town site on the west , and Davis taking the quarter adjoining Myrick on the north , but both soon found that their claims were on Indian head rights, and Myrick went to Olathe, but Davis stayed and took another, which joined the town site on the north and I took him as a partner to hold half the town site . We two then held it till we got it platted and surveyed, which was completed May 18, 1857. It devolved upon  me to give it a name, which duty I fulfilled, calling it Spring Hill , after one of the most beautiful places I had ever seen — the suburban town near Mobile, Ala . , Spring Hill, a most charming spot surrounded by beautiful groves, and flower gardens in endless variety . It occurred to me  that the surroundings of the new town were capable of being made, by culture , as beautiful as the older one for which it was named .

” In the fall of ’57 Mr. Davis sold his interest in the town to A. B. Sim mons, William Jenkinson and J. P. Lockey, and soon afterwards I sold shares to James McKoin , Edwin Walker and H. E. Brown . On the first Monday in January, 1858, a town company was organized in conformity with the legal requirements for preempting town sites. J. B. Hovey was elected president and A. B. Simmons secretary . The town made but little progress during the first few years of its existence, but the members of the town company were anxious to have the surrounding country settled with a good class of settlers and took more pains to get the county settled up than the town, well knowing that if they would have a flourishing town they must have a flourishing country to support it .

The first house built in the town was the Spring Hill Hotel . It was built in the summer of 1857, by J. B. Hovey, and stands on the north east corner of  the public square, a two -story frame buiuding, the ground floor occupying forty feet front by thirty feet depth. It stands on the highest elevation in the town, the view from its upper story windows being very extensive and one of rare beauty.


The oldest farmer in Spring Hill township is George Sprague . His claim joins the north half of the town on the east , and he made the first improvements and his farm shows what a practical industrious man can do. Mr. Sprague put up the first substantial board fence in that vicinity,
also raised the first Osage orange for hedge and built a large frame barn, such as was seldom seen in any part of the State at that day. He was one of the first farmers to build a good dwelling in the township . Among other parties that came to Spring Hill about this time were D. F. Dayton, James Sweeting, B. H. Stiles, and all made substantial im provements, so we had one of the best improved settlements to be found in the county . On the fifth day of October, 1857, occurred the first election for del egate to Congress, member of legislature, justice of peace, etc. At this first election, if I remember rightly, sixteen votes were polled . M. J. Parrott received a majority for delegate to Congress, Edwin S. Nash for member of State Senate ; J. B. Hovey and H. H. Wilcox were the first justices of peace.

During this fall the department at Washington granted a postoffice at Spring Hill, and appointed J. B. Hovey postmaster. But the receipts at the office had to pay for carrying the mail , and as they were next to nothing at all , the carrying had to be done just the same. Under these circumstances it was undertaken as a labor of love and was actually carried on foot during the winter of ’57 and 58 to Olathe, and back once a week, over that bleak prairie , sometimes through the snow, and there was no beaten road to guide one most of the time, by A. B. Simmons and W. R. Rutter, though occasionally by Jonathan Gore and W. A. Jenkin son. They went two at a time for safety, as there was no road to fol low. In 1858 our mail route was changed . We got it through the distributing office at Westport, and J. H. Jackson, of Spring Hill, got the contract to carry it weekly . In 1860 A. B. Squires took a contract to deliver it to us tri-weekly. In 1862 we got mail daily , on the regular Kansas City and Fort Scott mail route, which had been changed so as to come by way of Olathe.

During 1859 it was thought advisable to effect a regular organization of a Republican club. In pursuance of that plan Gen. J. H. Lane spoke at Spring Hill to a large crowd, and the club was organized with J. B. Hovey , president , and A. B. Simmons, secretary. Early in 1858 A. D. Richardson, then a regular correspondent of the Boston ” Journal,” since then attached to the New York ” Tribune.” became much attached to eastern Kansas. In going to Osowatomie he stopped at Spring Hill, and was so highly pleased with everything there that he at once proposed to become interested in the town . The writer sold him an interest and he was admitted into the town company on the footing of an original member. Mr. Richardson evinced a lively interest in the affairs of the town and always used his influence for its welfare.

During the winter of ’57 and ’58 , the first store was opened at Spring Hill by W. G. Dividson . He did a very fair business for the amount of stock he kept. In 1860 Mr. Prunty came from Parksville, Missouri, built a commodious store and dwelling, put in a complete stock and did a splendid business.

On the twenty -second day of March , 1858 , an election was held for the election of township officers when H. H. Wilcox and J. B. Hovey were  elected justices ; A. B. Squires and Mr. Wilcox, supervisors, and J. B. Hovey, chairman of supervisors, William Mavity and Robert Victor, constables .
In 1859 Spring Hill thought she had enough talent within her border to start a literary society , so a call was made for that purpose, and the Spring Hill Literary Society was started with about twenty members.

J. B. Hovey was elected president, Mrs. Charles Spanlding secretary , and Miss Emma Gustin critic. It flourished for a season then quietly gave
up the ghost .

It was during this year, 1858, the great rivalry sprang up between Gardner and Olathe on the county seat question. Gardner was not satisfied with the way Olathe had secured it , and wanted further action on it by the next legislature. At that period in the history of Kansas it was believed that corner lots , when judiciously applied, had great weight in the location of county seats, especially with the previous legislature, whose uneviable name has passed into history, and which is known as the ” bogus legislature” of Kansas, though I am not aware that Olathe was ever suspected of using any such appliances in her interest. Gardner’s hope was in getting her candidates nominated for the legislature, through whose influence, if elected, they hoped to secure the desired change by legislative enactment. Messrs. Lockhart and Hovey were elected by large majorities. That election was really a test on the county seat question, and Olathe won . The legislature wisely refrained from  meddling with it , and in Johnson county it never came up afterwards. In 1860, the year of the great drouth in Kansas. Spring Hill town ship suffered but little in comparison with other parts of the State . Though there was great scarcity, and but little of anything raised , the calls for aid from our township were very few and easily supplied. During the  summer the writer had frequently to shut all the doors and win dows in the house to keep out as much hot burning air as possible that came from the south ; we had never experienced anything like it before . In breathing it , it really seemed that we were breathing hot air from an Animals suffered dreadfully, and its blighting effects were felt by everything animate and inanimate.


Spring Hill raised two companies for home protection a , one mounted company , commanded by Capt. James Duff, and one infantry company commanded by Captain Hovey. One or the other of these companies was frequently requested to stand guard over some weak neighboring settlement, that had been threatened with fire and sword by some of the Missouri bushwhackers that infested the border that sea son. This kind of irregular service did not suit our men , it was not either soldiering or farming, though it partook of the hardships of both . Fre quently we had to sleep with our guns in reach and perhaps with ou clothes on, ready to start up with the first note of alarm . During the same season Captain Hill, of Olathe, commenced recruiting for active service in the field and quite a number of our men went into his com pany and with their regiment, Col. R. B. Mitchell’s, participated in the battle of Wilson Creek, under General Lyon. Captain Duff, together with such of the men that remained , held himselfready for home service.

In October, 1864, we had our last and biggest scare . Price was coming upon us like a volcano, with an army big enough to swallow us all down together. Our situation was critical. General Curtis at once issued an order putting the State under martial law , and ordered every man to report for duty, had the stores all closed, and squads of patrol men bringing in delinquents, not only in cities and towns, but through the country . In many instances men were taken from their fields while at work and some were not allowed to go home for a change of clothing.

The legislature of 1858-59 passed an act opening a State road from Leavenworth via Olathe. Spring Hill, Paola, and Mound City to Ft. Scott. A military telegraph line was placed on the road during the war. In due season parties interested , including the writer, began to agitate the question of a railroad.

One looks back on those days of trial , when the wolves came howling around our cabin in the night , and the rabbits used to eat all our young trees in the winter, the Indian hogs ate up our corn in the summer, and the  cattle broke down our fences at all seasons of the year. And when we used to haul all the water we used from a spring half a mile away and g  – five miles to Westport to mill ; yet after a lapse of sixteen or seventeen years, it is rather pleasant to look back and reflect on the good those early efforts have accomplished.


Blair, Ed; History of Johnson County Kansas; Standard Publishing Company, Lawrence, Ks; 1915.