Thursday, April 14, 2011

Thomas County Kansas - March 12, 1885

A bit more NW Kansas history.  I ran across a copy of the March 12, 1885 edition of the Thomas County Cat - the first newspaper in the County, and incidentally, the first edition of the paper.  The County was created in 1873, but did not petition for County status until the Summer of 1885 when the population began to expand.  The January, 1885 population was 161 hearty folks. By October of the same year, the population was declared to be 1,900.  Based on this growth and positive future, the residents petitioned for a separate County organization and on October 8, 1885 Kansas Governor Martin proclaimed it official, Thomas County was established.  Back to the Cat.

The first edition of the Cat was published before it was an official County.  It reports that a townsite (that would likely become the County seat) was under planning near the center of the area and would be named Colby.  Oddly, this site was some 20 miles North of the established railroad at that time in Monument, Kansas.  In reading the paper, I was struck as to how many references there were to water, creeks and wells - at least 20 on the first page alone.  These words go to great length to describe every creek in the County, and most of the wells that already existed - by owner and depth to water.  In describing the future town site, it says:

...a townsite has been located 2 1/2 miles north of the Colby postoffice, on the Priaire Dog, and the name proposed for the new town is Colby. Water can be obtained on the new town site at a depth of 50 feet.
In reading the front page I also learn that M. Woodcock and his son-in-law are engaged in boring wells; the postmaster at Streator grows corn and has a fine well 80 feet deep; Charles Cooper and Almond Vincent are engaged in boring wells and are setting up to market windmills; Martin Williams' well is only 17 feet deep; William Reed's well is 110 feet deep; Charlie Coover's well is 66 feet deep; Henry Kneudsen raised 120 bushels of onions and 200 bushels of potatoes and only irrigated his garden twice from his windmill; The Bohemian John (can't read last name) has a well 66 feet deep; plenty of good water is available by digging from 40 to 140 feet deep; and stock of all kinds do fine, but have to be watered at a well.

Fair to say that water has always been pretty important in Thomas County, Kansas.  Oh, and if you're curious, a well today in Colby would find the water table somewhere near 140 feet deep.

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