During the winter of 1868-1869, while counter jumping in the store of H. L. Hunt & Co., at Cottonwood Falls, Chase County, Kansas, I accidentally overheard a conversation between James Renfro and Frank Hunt concerning a beautiful country way down the walnut river in a wild Indian country near the Indian Territory, known on the map as Cowley County. My curiosity was somewhat excited and I at once determined to investigate and explore for myself. I went directly to a friend of mine, U. B. Warren, then a prosperous hardware merchant, doing business in the same town, and told him what I had heard. We both at once resolved to make the trip, and about the first day of April, joined team to a spring wagon and started up the south fork of the Cottonwood river, thence down the Walnut to El Dorado, then a small village, and the county seat of Butler County, where we stopped for the night.
According to Wood’s account, he and U. B. Warren left Cottonwood Falls in Chase County circa April 1, 1869, on their journey to the future Cowley County.
They met the following people [either alone or with their families].
2. Eli Sayles.
3. John Jones.
4. John Watson.
5. James Renfro. [Also: John and Firman Renfro, sons.]
Renfro, Warren, and Wood continued southward...
6. Judge T. B. Ross.
On this trip when reaching near Winfield, Cliff Wood marked claim spot...
The next day we came on down the river as far as Muddy creek, at the north end of Cowley County, where we stayed all night with a cattle man by the name of Turner, the first habitation we came to in the county. Next morning we pulled out to explore the then forbidden ground we found below Turner’s ranch. First came Eli Sayles’, about two miles; next came John Jones’ cattle ranch near the mouth of Rock creek; below him John Watson; after him we found no habitation or sign of civilization except signs of claim taking, until we reached James Renfro’s claim, known now as the Gilleland or Taylor farm, where he had a neat little hewed log house erected with a good roof without doors, windows, or chinking. We stopped for information and something to eat. After dinner Mr. Renfro, Warren, and myself mounted our horses to explore the situation and condition of things at the mouth of Dutch creek (now Timber creek). About three-quarters of a mile below Renfro’s, we came to Judge T. B. Ross’ cabin, where his son John and mother now live. Mr. Ross had only a square pen of logs without a roof, doors, or windows. We then came on to Dutch creek and crossed at the ford just above where the bridge now stands. Upon reaching the top of the bank and coming out on the little prairie, I remarked, full of enthusiasm, “Gentlemen, there is my peach orchard and yonder on that elevated piece of ground is or will be the county seat of the county.” The other men agreed with me after examining the mill site where Bliss & Wood’s mill now stands. I proceeded to take a claim by blazing an oak tree yet standing on the ravine northwest of the depot, writing with lead pencil, “this claim taken by C. M. Wood.” We then went back to Mr. Renfro’s, from where we started back to Cottonwood Falls fully satisfied that we had found what we were looking for. Upon our return to Cottonwood, we told the people of this beautiful country, which to them seemed incredulous.
Wood states later that he established claim between June 16 and June 22, 1869.
According to his account E. C. Manning showed up circa June 20. Manning did not stay.
Wood’s party consisted of:
1. C. M. Wood.
2. Patterson and son.
3. Two other men (names he could not remember), who were hunting for claims.
I at once arranged my affairs and came down with goods for trade, such as flour, coffee, sugar, and in fact, quite a stock of general merchandise, with some building material, and commenced at once the erection of a house on the high ground about 25 rods southeast of where Bliss & Wood’s mill now stands. This building was 18 x 26 feet, 10 feet high, made by cutting logs of uniform size about 14 inches in diameter, splitting them in two, hewing the flat sides, and taking off the bark, as it would peel off smooth, then these slabs were set upright in the ground two feet deep, batted on the inside with shaved “stakes,” and made quite an imposing house with open front. When the house was not yet finished and when I was at work on it, a stranger came to me and introduced himself to me as E. C. Manning, from Manhattan, Kansas, who said he was looking up the country, and wanted to know if I wanted any help. “What kind of help?” (Noticing that he was not a laboring man.) He said, “With your town site.” I told him I did, and after some talk he went away very much undecided as to the venture; was doubtful about the land coming into market.
I disposed of the most of my goods to the Osage Indians, who were on the way to their annual spring hunt and were water bound, the streams all being full of water from the numerous heavy storms that spring. The Indians were in camp on the ground where now stands the cemetery, northeast of town; some 2,000 strong, where they remained for some days, giving no great amount of trouble to the few squatters, but with a threatening, gloomy look, would point with finger to the north and say: “You, pucachee.”
Yes, it was about sixteen and a half years ago that I was trading with the Osage Indians in the house spoken of, from the 16th to 22nd of June, 1869. The first two days they seemed quite civil, but asked many questions. They wanted to know what we were going to do here; (there being with me at that time a Mr. Patterson and son, a lad of 12 or 14 years, William Stansbury, and two other young men, claim hunters—I do not recollect their names.)
It appears that C. M. Wood had to leave circa June 22, 1869...
Then Mr. Renfro’s boys, John and Firman, put me across the raging Walnut in a boat. I mounted my horse and went directly back to Cottonwood Falls, where I was several days buying goods and arranging to come back. This was about the 22nd to 25th of June, for on the 26th day of June, I was married to Miss Melinda Jones, from Springfield, Ohio, at the residence of Judge W. R. Brown, at Cottonwood Falls.
According to Wood, he had teamsters haul supplies for him from Cottonwood Falls circa June 25, 1869, to Douglass. He then took supplies himself to Winfield and built second cabin by June 31, 1869. This is a wee bit hard to believe!
“Centennial Issue” states:
Sometime in the month of June, 1869, C. M. Wood brought some flour, bacon, and groceries down to sell to Indians and settlers. He left his goods at the house of James Renfro’s and erected on the rise of ground a few rods east of where Bliss & Co.’s grist mill now stands, a small building by setting puncheons in the ground and covering them. He moved his goods into it in July following. The Osage Indians attempted to take some of his goods away from him shortly after and he drove them away, but concluded to return his goods to Renfro’s for safety. Soon after the goods were moved, the Indians burned the house down.
According to Wood, he was joined soon after in the latter part of June when second house was being built by W. W. Andrews...
Because they felt threatened by Indians, he and Andrews returned to the Renfro cabin...Patterson went back with Wood to cabin, which they were able to save once Chief Chetopa showed up...
And now, after the second house had been fired by the Indians, who had ordered James Renfro to pack up and leave their reserve, and who had shown their hostility in other ways (stealing Judge T. B. Ross’ horses and ordering him to leave), a council was held by the squatters in which it was decided to move north to or near the Reserve line and await developments. Renfro moved up near Muddy creek with cattle, horses, and family. W. W. Andrews, Mr. Patterson, and myself formed a company for putting up prairie hay. I went to Cottonwood Falls, bought a mowing machine and other tools, laid in a quantity of provisions, and returned about the 10th of July to Douglass. Mr. Andrews and Mr. Patterson meanwhile had selected hay grounds about four miles southwest of Douglass, on what is known as Eight Mile creek, and between Eight Mile and the Walnut river, where lay a fine piece of bottom land and upon which grew as fine blue stem prairie grass as anyone could wish to see. The land is now owned by a Mr. Osborne and sons. We at once struck camp, made what the boys called a go-devil for dragging hay to the rick, started the machine, and started stacking as fast as the weather would permit, as 1869 was the wettest year that I have ever experienced since coming to this State. We continued work for about three weeks, getting up a large amount of hay, when I went back to Cottonwood Falls, bought a tent, some cooking utensils, and such articles as were necessary for the comfort of Mrs. Wood, who came back with me.
Wood’s account does not agree with what was later written in “Centennial Issue” about a number of events. Wood states that he returned much earlier, as noted above. He and Mrs. Wood were accompanied by W. W. Andrews [not mentioned in the “Centennial Issue.”] Also, Wood states Graham and family arrived earlier than October.]
In the month of November, 1869, several families crept down along the valley and settled on claims in the vicinity of where Winfield now stands. These settlers each paid the Osage chief $5 for the privilege of remaining in peace. These early pioneers were W. G. Graham and family, who came the last of October, and whose wife was the first white woman that settled on Timber (then known as Dutch) Creek. During the next week P. Knowles, J. H. Land, J. C. Monforte, and C. M. Wood came with their families.
In November and December of 1869, E. C. Manning erected a small log building on the claim south of C. M. Wood. It was designed for a claim house and store. During the winter of 1869 and 1870 Baker & Manning kept a small stock of goods therein for trade with settlers and Indians. At that time there was no land surveyed in the county and the settlers marked the boundaries of their claims with stakes driven at the corners, and claim disputes were settled by tribunals, called settlers’ unions, or by public meetings before whom the respective claimants presented their cases. C. M. Wood had taken the claim immediately north of where Winfield now stands, which he occupied until he left the county last fall.
[According to Wood’s account, he built Manning’s cabin.]
An account given about Dr. Graham and family does not agree with Wood as to the time when the Graham family arrived in Winfield...giving excerpts only.
During the Cowley County Old Settlers’ Association meeting in Dexter on Wednesday, August 26, 1903, H. E. Silliman gave the following report. It was printed in the September 3, 1903, issue of the Winfield Free Press.
“Dr. W. G. Graham came to Winfield for the purpose of burying his wife, and as that was in 1869 and he has not yet succeeded in doing so, and those who know the Dr. know his disposition to accomplish what he undertakes, so will all watch the result with interest, hoping that many years yet will be required to do it.
“Near Cottonwood Falls the ox yoke broke and Mrs. Graham and the child were left on the prairie while Dr. Graham took a log he had cut from a tree back to town and had another yoke fashioned from it.
“The experience proved to be the very thing needed. Mrs. Graham begun to improve at once and soon they spread their bedding on the prairie with the blue canopy of the heavens above. It was not long until she would walk a mile ahead of the slow plodding oxen and by the time they arrived in Winfield, about October 31, she would walk four or five miles a day.
“They arrived in Augusta October 30 and as the next day was Sunday, the Grahams, who were strict Methodists, so they remained over in that little town which consisted of a sawmill and one dwelling.
“Starting from Augusta early Monday morning the little family spent two days on the way from Augusta to Winfield although the distance is only 36 miles.
“The 300 mile trip from Leavenworth was made in about 30 days. It is now made in less than half as many hours. They camped the first night on the poetic Lagonda, now degenerated into the more practical Timber creek, moved into Cliff Wood’s house the next day to keep the Osages from burning it, while Mr. Wood went to Cottonwood Falls for his new bride, and their lives have since been a part of Winfield’s history.”
The following statements taken from Kansas History, 1883, do not agree with Wood’s Reminiscences...it states that he settled in the future Winfield in April 1869; further, it has him getting married on June 28, 1869, whereas he states he was married June 26, 1869.
“In 1868, he came to Kansas and located at Cottonwood Falls. In April, 1869, he settled where Winfield now is, and built a house, which he intended for a store. It was the first building built in Winfield and he was the first settler.
“After completing his house he returned to Cottonwood Falls, for the purpose of getting goods. Soon after his departure the Indians burnt his house, which proved a severe loss to him, as he had expended $500 of his scanty means to build it. On his return to Cottonwood Falls, Mr. Wood was married June 28, 1869, to Miss Malinda Jones, who was at that time engaged in teaching school near that place. Mr. Wood, on hearing of the misfortune that had overtaken him in the loss of his house, was nothing daunted, but changed his purpose about taking his goods; but with his wife and household effects returned, reaching Winfield on the 14th of August, 1869, Mrs. Wood thus being the first white woman and bride of Winfield.
[Only by studying these items (newspaper files in C. M. Wood file and his “Reminiscences” and the account of the arrival of Dr. Graham and family) can one begin to understand somewhat events as they really happened. Memory can really be a faulty instrument to determine facts.]