Article taken from "A Centennial History of Morland and Community"
February 24, 1881 to February 24, 1981


Early History of Morland
by O. A. Hunsicker


     Some early history of Freemont, now called the city of Morland, Kansas, as told to Owen A. Hunsicker by some of the early settlers, and from the records and early pictures.

     Graham County was designated in 1867. No habitation existed except a few marauding Indians who preyed on the few travelers who were traveling west in covered wagons across the plains, checker-boarded by herds of buffalo that had crossed and recrossed in herds to the watering holes and migrating south in the winter hunting for buffalo grass, the only food available. This was the situation that existed when Capt. R. G. Hubbard and Major John Anderson, with a few soldiers, engaged a band of Indians in a battle on the Solomon River at the place that was to become the townsite of Freemont. This battle took place in 1868. Major Anderson was the grandfather of Mrs. Dice M. Seltzer. Inez Rudy (Nee Prout) says she remembers vividly of Mrs. Seltzer telling her of the report Major Anderson sent to Washington, D.C. stating that "This vast desert, no trees with plenty of sand and loose soil, with only a river winding through it, was completely unfit for habitation."

     Just five years after the county was designated, the first homestead was filed on by Willima E. Ridgely in 1872. It was the SE 1/4 of Section 1, Township 6, Range 21, in the northeast part of the county.

     Little is known of the events pertaining to this area until 1881, except that several homesteads were taken as the population began moving through the county from the east to the west and small towns sprang up, mostly in the center of the county near the Solomon river.

     The postal directory shows that the first post office of Freemont was established in 1881 and was moved from Beach Grove to Freemont. The first postmaster was Chas. Morgan. He was very active in trying to get a town started on the north side of the river which is now the north side of Morland. This land was evidently open range still owned by the Government.

     In 1883 an effort was made to organize the town of Freemont as a government townsite. The officers were: Charles Morgan, President; a Mr. McFadden, secretary; Amos A. Brown, treasurer; a Mr. Bishop,  surveyor; Isaac Covalt and John Williams as directors. The requirements however could not be met, so the townsite company was abandoned. A Mr. Hiram Bundy filed a contest and asked the Government the right to file on the land as a Timber Claim, but his petition was denied.

     The town of Freemont was struggling along and was further hampered by a rival town being started by (Doc) Edward Atkin, a mile west and a little north of Freemont. James Prout, who had a store in Millbrook, moved to Atkin and started a store. A newspaper, the Atkin Sun, was started, and the Atkin post office was established in 1887 but closed in 1889. The postmaster was Edward Atkin. As soon as it was known that the depot was to be located in Freemont, the town of Atkin was abandoned.

     Very little information is available for the period between 1881 until 1885, except the movement of trying to get the government townsite located in Freemont. Charles Morgan continued to promote the town of Freemont and in 1885 induced his brother, Henry Morgan, and family to come to Freemont. Ralph Morgan, his son, was nine years old at the time, and remembers very well the progress of the little town. A good deal of information was obtained form Ralph, as he is the oldest person now alive who lived in Freemont when it was struggling along to become a town. He said there were no living quarters available, except a small house, located just south of the Carl Goodrow residence, which was their home until Henry could build a dug-out and stone house just north of the river, south of the present home of Edward Dinkel. This was their home and they had a few groceries and supplies for sale. The town began to grow and several business establishments soon opened up. Homesteads were being taken up fast and homes were being built, mostly sod houses or some stone houses where the stone was available. Lumber had to be hauled from either Wakeeney or Lenora, which made it more expensive than sod. The sod houses were very comfortable, more so than the frame houses; cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

     The town of Freemont was named after General John C. Freemont, an American General and Explorer. Dal Jamison came to Freemont in 1887 at the edge of seven with his grandfather, John G. Thompson, with whom he lived as his father was dead. They lived on a homestead about a mile east of the graveyard. Mr. Thompson was a Methodist preacher and one of the first preachers to enter Freemont. A good deal of the information about the early days was also given by Dal as he lived in or near Freemont, or Morland as it is now called, until he passed away in the summer of 1967. He said that when he came here there were no buildings on the south side of the river, except the house and stone barn now standing just east of the present high school, now owned by Bob and Catherine Culley. This site was owned by Snyder Horton, who was prominent in starting the town of Freemont. He built the stone house just south of the Carl Goodrow residence, which was used as a store and post office.

     From 1885 to 1888 Freemont grew very fast. Most of the buildings were on the block where the Carl Goodrow residence is now standing. Freemont Avenue was the main street running east and west a block south of the north side of town. Grover Walker, who lived at Bull City, now called Alton, established the Bank of Freemont. He later moved it to the south side to the lot where the present Darrell Minium residence. He had become acquainted with D. C. Kay who worked in the hotel in Kansas City where Mr. Walker often stayed on his visits to Kansas City, and induced Mr. Kay to open up a hotel which was called the Kay House. Dave Wiggins opened a drug store and a newspaper, The Freemont Star, started up in the rear of the drug store. He also came from Alton. Other stores were run by G. W. Stober, a Mr. Garvey, and a Mr. Reasoner.

     To further hamper the little town, in 1886 or 1887, a cyclone struck and destroyed or damaged most of the buildings. It did not damage the hotel and the Kays took in all the people that they could until the damaged buildings were rebuilt or repaired. On the day the cyclone struck, G. W. Stober had just traded a team of horses and wagon to Mr. Garvey for a store building and the building blew down and killed the team of horses.

      The troubles of the little town were being multiplied by just where the railroad was going to build their line and locate the depot. The townships were asked to vote bonds to assist in financing the railroad. Solomon township, which was on the south side of the river, voted for the bonds, and Gettysburg township did not vote for them, so the railroad came on the south side. This was also the reason the railroad came on the north side of the river at Hill City. Hill City Township voted for bonds and Millbrook Township did not.

     The railroad came through in 1888 and built the depot on the south side of the river. As they had a Freemont on their system in Nebraska, they did not want to have two towns on their system with the same name, so they had to have another name. Mr. Kay wanted to have the name Kay, but the railroad named the new station Kalula. For some time the town post office was Freemont and the depot Kalula, but after the town had moved mostly to the south side of the river, the people decided that they wanted to name the town Morland, but this did not take place until 1892 with A. T. Mitchell as postmaster.

     As the townsite organization in 1883 failed to get the Government townsite approved, the movement was again organized in 1886. Chas. Morgan platted the townsite which covered 320 acres. The requirements were at least 100 residents and $20,000.00 worth of improvements. This created quite a problem, and a number of people were induced to temporarily move in to town until the proper papers could be presented to the land office, which was located at Oberlin, Kansas.

     They did not get the townsite designated as a Government townsite until March 7, 1890. The land office at Oberlin, Kansas issued a receipt to the probate judge of Graham County, Kansas, in trust for the benefit of the inhabitants of the townsite of Freemont covering 320 acres of land: The Southeast quarter of Section 14, Township 8, Range 25 and the Northeast quarter of Section 23, Township 8, Range 25. All conditions were not met for the final papers to be issued until August 16, 1895, when President Grover Cleveland issued a patent to Stephen Van Wyck, probate judge of Graham County, Kansas, in trust for the benefit of the occupants of the townsite to Freemont, Kansas.


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