Doniphan City, Kansas Territory

Doniphan City.

In 1852, Josephus Utt, agent for the Kickapoo Indians, erected a hut near the river bank on what now is the townsite of Doniphan. Two years later, on November 11, 1854, the organizers of the Doniphan Town Company met at St. Joseph, Mo., at which time and place officers of the company were elected. Early in the spring of the following year a townsite was surveyed by J. F. Forman, and building began at once.

One of the apparent advantages of the place as a townsite was the excellent steamboat landing, and the place was favorably known up and down the river by boatmen as the ideal place to land. The first wave of genuine prosperity to strike thenew town came early in 1857, when the government land office was located there; but the wave subsided a year later, when the land office was removed to Kickapoo. The removal of the land office was the beginning of the rapid decline of the town. Late in the ’60s the business men began to desert, one by one, many going to Atchison, whose star had been for some time in its ascendency, and the once prosperous town settled down to the quiet of a village. Later it was abandoned by the railroad, which was driven out by the washing of the river.

The following from Redpath’s Handbook to Kansas Territory, published in 1859, presents the optomistic view of the early prophet and citizen:

“Doniphan, it is admitted by every one, has the best rock-bound landing, and the best townsite on the Missouri river any where above St. Louis. It has running through it a fine stream of water, which by a trifling outlay which will soon be expended, can be made to flow through five of the principal streets. A wealthy company has been chartered for the construction of a railroad for St. Joseph, through Doniphan, for Topeka, connecting the Kansas and Missouri rivers. The stock is subscribed – ten per cent paid in. That part of it from St. Joseph to Doniphan will be completed as soon as the connection is made with Hannibal. Lots can be purchased at Doniphan on more liberal terms than at any other town on the Missouri. We say to the emigrant, come to Doniphan; believing as we do, that it is destined to be the great emporium of the upper Missouri. The population is about one thousand.”

Gray’s Doniphan County history: A record of the happenings of half a hundred years.


Doniphan takes its name from A. W. Doniphan, a Colonel in the Mexican War, who has the credit of fighting the last battle of the war, when, unknown to him, peace had already been made.

Doniphan stands where the corkscrew Missouri makes a sharp turn to the west, and is hurled back upon itself by a huge wooded bluff. To north and south rise heavily timbered bluffs, dipping to form the level bottom on which the town lies nestled from the prevailing storm-currents of winter. Behind it are fertile fields, magnificent vineyards and numerous farms in a high state of cultivation. Before it runs the Missouri River which seemed to the builders of the town the perpetual natural highway of all traffic, and to secure for the town an unfailing prosperity. To-day, with railways traversing the county in two directions, this natural highway rolls to its union with the Mississippi undisturbed save by occasional steamers which pass up to ply in its distant head-waters in Dakota, and Doniphan left one side by the railway and the river, presents but a faint semblance to the town of early times. Once it was the port of a large and rich farming region and trains of wagons were constantly passing in and out. Its day as a river town and a shipping point is past, but a new day has already dawned upon it in its extensive vineyard and wine producing industry. As a producer of rich wines, it bids fair to gain a new and better commercial reputation than it has ever enjoyed, and to become in the future of far more importance than in its first young growth.


The Doniphan Town Company was organized in November, 1854, the first regular meeting occurring at St. Joseph, Mo., on the 11th of that month, when a full set of officers were elected. These were as follows: T. H. Christopher, President; J. W. Foreman, Treasurer; Dr. J. H. Crane, Secretary; S. K. Miller, G. W. H. Landon, J. F. Forman, Dr. I. A. Chambers, and Felix Robidoux, Trustees. In February, 1855, the report of the committee on locating the town site was received and adopted, and J. F. Forman was appointed to survey the town. For this service he received $2.50 per block, payment being made in town lots. This may account for the humorous description of Mr. Forman as “the man who owns half the town.”

Although this town company laid out the present town, there had for two years previous been a trading post under Joseph Utt at this point. His cabin stood, like many of the earlier buildings of the town, close to the riverbank, and some fifteen years ago fell a prey to the constantly increasing bend in the river at this point.

The first building erected in the town, after it was surveyed and laid off in lots, was the dwelling of James F. Forman. The second, the Doniphan House run by B. O’Driscoll. The first store was that of Forman Bros., who kept a general stock. This was followed by the dry goods store of Allen B. Lyon, now a resident of Atchison. Bowdell & Drury operated the first drug store and Dr. Sommers the second. George A. Cutler was the first physician; the second, James L. Datus. The first lawyer was Col. D. M. Johnson, who after a short time formed a partnership with Albert Perry; both gentlemen are now residents of Troy. I. N. Smallwood was the first wagon maker; Patrick Laughlin the first tinner, and William Beauchamp the first blacksmith.

In 1855 an association was formed by certain disaffected parties in Doniphan for the purpose of opposing obnoxious laws. This body was known as the Danites; Patrick Laughlin, a tinsmith of the town, joined this Society, but on becoming aware of its full purpose became disgusted and openly proclaimed all of its secrets. For this the Danites vowed vengeance, and Samuel Collins, who was the owner of a saw-mill on the river declared that Laughlin should confess that his revelations were lies or die. On the evening of November 28, 1855, Collins met Laughlin but was unarmed, and after repeating his threats said that he ‘would come around in the morning and one o them would breakfast in h–l.’ The next day, after waiting some time, Laughlin concluded that Collins had forgotten the matter and started to cross the street to his boarding house; in the middle of the street he was met by Collins who at once attempted to shoot him but failed through his weapon missing fire, Collins then drew a knife and stabbed Laughlin so severely, as to bring him to his knees. Before he could proceed further a friend of Laughlin, named Lynch, stepped from the side-walk and fired a “yager” at Collins. Although mortally wounded, Collins clubbed his gun and struck his assailant a terrible blow on the head felling him to the ground. Collins was then picked up by his friends and died in a short time; Laughlin and Lynch, although both badly hurt, recovered. This was the end of the Danites.


Doniphan was incorporated as a town on February 11, 1869, and trustees appointed by the probate Judge of the County. These were E. W. Stratton, I. N. Smallwood, Thomas H. Franklin, Adam Brenner and A. C. Low. The Council was organized with E. W. Stratton presiding, L. A. Hoffman, Town Clerk, and T. H. Franklin, Treasurer. This Council was re-elected in 1870, the only change being the appointment of C. H. Phillips as Clerk. In 1871, H. W. Hudnall presided, E. Floerkey was Clerk, and G. M. Waller, Treasurer. In 1872 the town became, by an act of the Legislature, a city of the third class, and the following officers were elected: W. H. Stephens, Mayor; James F. Forman, Police Judge; Thomas Stivers, Clerk; A. Low, Treasurer; L. M. Rector, Marshall. In 1873 W. W. Crook was Mayor. Those who succeeded him in this office are as follows: Adam Brenner, 1874-75; W. H. Nesbit, 1876; J. F. Meyer, 1877; Joseph McCrum, 1878; James F. Forman, 1879; J. H. Sawyer, 1880-81; George Brenner, 1882. The Clerks of the city during this time have been: George W. Baker, 1873; M. T. Landon, 1874-79; Joseph Schletzbaum, 1880-82.


The first paper in Doniphan was the Doniphan Constitutionalist, which was established in 1856 by Thomas J. Key. This was a strong Pro-slavery sheet, and declined in strength as the principles it advocated became unpopular. It was discontinued in 1858, and its material transferred to Iowa Point, where it was used in the publication of the Inquirer.

The Crusader of Freedom was started early in 1858 by James Redpath. In politics it was the exact opposite of its predecessor, being as violently Free-state as the former had been Pro-slavery. General J. H. Lane was a large owner in this paper, and it was mainly used as his organ in his struggle for presidential honors. The publisher and owner had a bitter quarrel in May, 1858, and the paper went out of existence.

The Doniphan Post – In the fall of 1860 the Doniphan Post was produced. On the title page appeared the names of George and William Reese, but only the latter was connected with the paper. In politics the new paper hoisted the Democratic flag, but its course was practically neutral. It passed out of existence after a year’s publication. Its material was purchased the following year by Dr. Grant, and taken to Troy to do duty on the Doniphan County Patriot.

The Doniphan Democrat was launched in May, 1871, by J. J. Ricketts, who employed Thomas Stivers as editor. In politics it was Democratic. It was a quasi “patent outside,” the inner pages only being printed at home, the outside at the Patriot office at Atchison. It ran something less than a year.

The Doniphan Herald was merely a renewal of the Democratby J. J. and W. W. Cook. It was published a few weeks in the summer of 1872, and then discontinued, the material going to Leavenworth, where it was used on the Kansas Herald.

The Doniphan County Weekly News was started on March 10, 1882, by Welsh & Son. It is a three-column four page sheet of small size, and devoted purely to local affairs. It reserves the right of opposing any scheme disadvantageous to the town, but remains strictly neutral in political matters. Mr. John Welsh, the editor, was, prior to the publication of the News, a correspondent of the Chief, of Troy. He is physician in large practice, which he still finds time to attend to. The paper appears each Friday.

The Bible Investigator is published by William Kirby, who lives a short distance from Doniphan. It is a three-column eight-page sheet, and as its name implies, a strongly religious paper. It was started on January 1, 1881.

Prior to 1873 there had been no regular public school in Doniphan. As early as 1856, Mrs. D. Frank taught a subscription school, and three or four years later Miss Sarah M. Walker, now Mrs. Philbrick, held a similar one. This lady was a pupil of “Zach” Chandler, and has recently been embalmed in history as the one who, in his boyish days, spanked into obedience Hon. Robert Stevens, the orator of the great G. A. R. meeting at Bedford, N. H.

In l873, the school building now in use was built by James F. Forman at a cost to the town of about $8.000. This structure is 65×38 feet, two stories in height, and has four rooms, exclusive of those in the basement. Its first principal was J. A. Sea, who was followed by D. D. Rose, now of Troy, David Muir, H. Ward, D. D. Rose, a second time, and Charles H. Floyd, who taught in 1882. The number of scholars has varied greatly, and is now about sixty.

The first religious services in Doniphan were held by Father Alderson, a Baptist minister, who preached at different times In 1855. The first church organization was that of the Presbyterians, who formed a society in 1856. A church building was begun as a Baptist project but changed to a Union one, and finally fell into the hands of the Presbyterians. By them it was occupied until about two years ago, when the death of several prominent members and the removal of others caused the death of the society. The building is now tenantless and in bad repair.

The Methodist Episcopal Church South – The Southern Methodists organized at Doniphan in 1856 while the state and county were still in the hands of the Pro-slavery party. No church edifice was ever built, but services were held at different points in town for a number of years. Revs. Messrs. Wallace, Hedgepeth, Howell, Arrington, King and Thorp, have at different times preached to the society at this place. For a number of years there has been no society of this denomination in the town.

The First Methodist Episcopal Church of Doniphan was organized on May 10, 1857, with the following members: James W. Snow, Rebecca Snow, Joseph McCrum, Melissa McCrum, and Hannah McCrum. The church was supplied by Rev. B. F. Bowman. In the year 1864, the project of building a house of worship for the Methodist Episcopal Church and congregation was started, a site for that purpose was selected, and the lot was deeded as a gift from Mr. Adam Brenner. A subscription was circulated, and in 1865 the building was completed and dedicated. Rev. Mr. Houts, being pastor of the Methodist Episcopal Church at Doniphan at that time, the whole debt of the church was assumed and paid by the members of the society and citizens of Doniphan and its vicinity. The following ministers have successively occupied the pulpit (as conference appointees) from 1865, to 1882: Revs. Messrs. Houts, Shimp, Shaw, Cooke, Leak, Hoffman, Bowman, and Otto. At this date, the Methodists have no organized society in Doniphan, and the pulpit is alternately supplied by the circuit preachers, and W. L. Leak, preacher for the Doniphan congregation. Doniphan has a comfortable parsonage, but is not now the head of a circuit.

The Catholic Church of St. John the Baptist – The first Catholic Church in the city of Doniphan was built in the year 1857, and was under the pastoral charge of the Rev. Father Augustine Wirth. This church was a frame structure, and was destroyed by fire in 1864. In the year 1867 the members of the Catholic Church in Doniphan built a handsome brick structure in the western part of the city, adjoining the comfortable residence of Jacob Brenner, Esq., under the supervision of Rev. Father Timothy M. Suber. Its dimensions are 26 x 50 ft., with a stately bell tower, and a fine toned bell weighing nearly half a ton. It is not entirely finished, but is designed in the near future to be, with its stained windows, one of the handsomest chapels in Kansas. Rev. Father Boniface, O. S. B., is the present pastor. Jacob Brenner, Esq., is the Church-warden, and Thomas Sanger, George Brenner, Esq., and James Burke, are the Trustees. The whole block of ground on which the church stands, comprising about two acres, and one of the finest sites n the city, was donated to St. John’s by the Hon. Adam Brenner, of the city of Doniphan.

Arcana Lodge, No. 31, A. F. & A. M., was organized under a dispensation on December 29, 1858 at 3 p. m., with the following officers: A. R. Foreman, W. M.; J. W. Sheppard, S. W.; J. F. Forman, J. W. The charter was granted by the Grand Lodge of the State on October 17, 1860, on the application of A. R. Forman, J. F. Forman, J. W. Sheppard, B. S. Wharton, A. Brenner, J. A. Vanosdale, G. M, Waller, Oscar Brown, and H. W. Hansen. The officers at this time were: A. R. Forman W. M.; J. W. Sheppard, S. W.; J. F. Forman, J. W. The Lodge has now a membership of fifty and the following officers: W. H. Nesbit, W. M.; B. T. Curtis, S. W.; A. B. Smith, J. W.; James Schlitzbaum, secretary; A. Windsor, treasurer,

Doniphan Chapter No. 13, R. A. M., was organized on October 17, 1869, with the following charter members: J. L. Thompson, J. Smallwood, J. F. Forman, J. L. Philbrick, P. J. Vanderslice, C. C. Camp. The first officers of the society were: J. L. Thompson, H. P.; I. Smallwood, K.; J. F. Forman, scribe. The chapter has now eighteen members. Its officers are: J. L. Philbrick, H. P.; E. W. Stratton, K.; L. A. Messenger, scribe; J. F. Forman, secretary; A. Windsor, treasurer. Meetings are held.

The Doniphan Dramatic Club. – This club was founded in November, 1880, the officers for the first year being W. H. H. Curtis, president; W. H. Nesbit, vice- president; J. G. Brownlee, secretary; N. G. Brenner, treasurer; A. Low, acting and stage manager, The object of the society is to afford instruction and recreation for its members and amusement to the public. They have leased Brenner’s Hall for a term of years, and under the efficient management of Mr. Low have erected a neat and comfortable stage. The scenery was painted by Mr. A. Low, and would do credit to a much larger place. During the season they give, about once a month, an entertainment, which is always well attended. The present membership comprises twenty of Doniphan’s best young ladies and gentlemen.

Young Folks Literary Society. – This society was organized in June, 1882, for the purpose of mutual improvement and literary recreation. Its exercises are much like those of other similar organizations, and embrace recitations, music and debates. The officers of the society are as follows: J. K. Welsh, president; Miss Lizzie Litner, vice-president; Miss Emma Hahn, treasurer; Miss Etta Earhart, secretary.


In the summer of 1855 Samuel Collins erected a saw-mill near the river. This was a very complete affair for the times and cost not far from ten thousand dollars. After Collins’ death, in November, 1859, the mill was sold to other parties, who the following year removed it from the town.

In April, 1857, James F. Forman purchased a saw-mill valued at two thousand five hundred dollars and set it up on the bank of the river, near the Collins mill. In the summer of 1858 this mill was destroyed by fire, A new mill of about the same capacity was at once erected and put in operation, but this also was burned in 1861. Mr. Forman then retired from this branch of business.

In the years of 1856-57, J. W. Forman built a flouring mill near Spring Creek. ~ This building, which was the only one ever in the town, was erected at a cost of thirteen hundred dollars. Two years after its completion, and while Doniphan was at the height of its prosperity, the mill was burned. This was in the winter of 1869, and the St. Joseph & Western Railway going through the county soon after, it was deemed best not to rebuild the mill.

The first hotel in this place was built by Forman Brothers, and called the Doniphan House. It was opened B. O’Driscoll, who ran it some time and was followed by A. Low and Captain Dix. The latter occupied it at the time of its destruction by fire in the fall of 1868. It was valued at four thousand dollars.

The St. Charles Hotel was built in 1857, and was burned in 1860. There is now no hotel building in the city.

In 1867 a large elevator, the first in the State, was built at this place by Adam Brenner. It had a capacity of 40,000 bushels of grain, and cost $16,000. It was burned in 1872 with a large amount of grain stored in it, and was an almost total loss, but $3,000 of insurance being collected.

On Main Street stands a large two-story brick building bearing the sign “Brenner Vineyard.” This building was erected in 1869 by Adam Brenner to accommodate his large and increasing wine business. It is sixty-five by forty-four feet and two stories in height with ample cellars beneath. There is storage for 90,000 gallons of wine, and there is now on hand upward of 30,000 gallons. This is the product of the vineyard, occupying over fifty acres and located a short distance from the city. These wines are among the finest in the county, and command high prices from those who desire a strictly pure article for medicinal purposes.

William G. Cutler’s History of the State of Kansas

Doniphan, one of the older villages of Doniphan county, is located in Wayne township on the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy R. R., 10 miles south of Troy, the county seat, and 7 miles from Atchison. It has express and telegraph offices and a money order postoffice with one rural route. The town is on the old site of the Kansas Indian village where Bourgmont established his headquarters in 1724. The Doniphan town company was organized in 1854, with T. H. Christopher as president; J. W. Foreman, treasurer; Dr. J. H. Crane, secretary; and S. K. Miller, G. W. H. Langdon, J. F. Foreman, Dr. L. A. Chambers and Felix Robidoux, trustees. The survey was made by J. F. Foreman in 1855 and the lots were put on sale. Previous to this a trading post under Joseph Utt had been maintained. The first building erected in the new town was the dwelling of James F. Foreman, the second a hotel known as the Doniphan House, kept by B. O’Driscoll. The first general store was opened by the Foreman Bros., the first drug store by Bowdell & Drury. George A. Cutler was the first physician and Col. D. M. Johnson the first lawyer. The postoffice was established in 1855 and at the first election, which was held that year, J. A. Vanarsdale and William Shaw were elected justices, and Joshua Saunders was elected constable. Samuel Collins, who set up the first sawmill in the spring of 1855, was killed that fall in a political quarrel by Patrick Laughlin.

In 1857 James H. Lane was made the president of the Doniphan town company. The government land office was located here in that year, but was subsequently taken to Kickapoo. At this time there were about 1,000 inhabitants in the town and it was an important political and commercial center.

The town was incorporated in 1869, and the following trustees appointed by the probate judge of the county: E. W. Stratton, I. N. Smallwood, Thomas H. Franklin, Adam Brenner and A. C. Low. The first council was organized with E. W. Stratton as presiding officer, L. A. Hoffman, town clerk, and T. H. Franklin, treasurer. The first school was taught in 1856 by Mrs. D. Frank. The population in 1910 was only 178.

Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc.