Sumner, Kansas Territory
Perhaps the most important, although not the oldest,
miles below Atchison, on the Missouri river.
Its founder was John P. Wheeler, a young man who came to the Territory when about twenty-one years of age, and who has been described as “a red-headed, blue-eyed, consumptive, slim, freckled enthusiast from Massachu-
Atchison at this time was a strong pro-slavery town, and no abolitionist was a welcome settler in her midst. For this
In 1856 the site was surveyed and platted, and the name “Sumner” given the new town, in honor of George Sumner, one of the original stockholders, and not for his brother, the Hon. Charles Sumner, United States senator, of
Massachusetts, as many people suppose.
To bring Sumner before the public Mr. Wheeler engaged an artist named Albert Conant to come out and make a drawing of it, and this was later taken to Cincinnati, and a colored lithograph made from it, which was widely
In the fall of
in the construction work came by steamboat from Pittsburgh, Pa. The hotel was completed in the summer of 1858, and at last
hotel were gathered and cleaned and hauled to Atchison and used the construction of a building owned by the late John J. Ingalls, located at 108-110 South Fourth street.
In the fall of 1857 Cone Brothers (John P. and D. D.) brought a printing outfit to Kansas, and were induced to locate in Sumner, where they shortly began the publication of The Sumner Gazette, the first issue of which appeared on
September 12. During the political canvass that fall they also issued a daily. The Gazette was issued until 1861 when it suspended, its publishers believing that it was the only paper in Kansas that outlived the town in which it
Among those engaged in business in Sumner on October 1, 1857, the Daily Gazette shows the following:
John P. Wheeler, attorney and counselor at law, commissioner of deeds, dealer in real estate, etc.
Kahn & Fassler, general store, on Front street, between Washington Avenue and Chestnut street.
Mayer & Rohrmann,
Barnard & Wheeler, proprietors of the Sumner Brick Yard.
Wm. M. Reed, contractor, Atchison and Sumner.
John Armor, steam saw mill, in the city.
Butcher & Brothers,
S. J. Bennett, boot and shoe store, corner of Washington Avenue and Fourth Street.
Arthur M. Claflin, general land agent,
J. P. Wheeler and A. M. Claflin, lumber, office with the Sumner Company.
H. S. Baker, proprietor of Baker’s Hotel, corner of Front and Olive Streets, near steamboat landing.
A. Barber, general merchandise. Front Street, between Washington Avenue and Olive Street.
Lietzenburger & Co., blacksmiths, wagon makers, etc.. Cedar Street, between Third and Fourth Streets.
D. Newcomb, M. D., office in postoffice building, corner of Third Street and Washington Avenue. Mr. Newcomb also dealt in lime, and on September 24, received a large and select stock of hardware, stoves, etc.
When the Territorial legislature of 1858 met, a bill was introduced, incorporating the Sumner Company, Cyrus F. Currier, Samuel F. Harsh, J. W. Morris, Isaac G. Losse and John P. Wheeler, their associates and successors,
constituting the company. The act also provided that the corporation should have the power to purchase and hold, and enter by preemption and otherwise, any quantity of land where the town of Sumner is now located, not to exceed one thousand acres, etc.
A firm at Sumner was also incorporated by the legislature of 185S, J. W. Morris. Cyrus F. Currier and Samuel Harsh being the incorporators. T his boat plied between Atchison and Sumner and the Missouri side.
In 1858 Samuel Hollister built a steam sawmill, adding a gristmill later.
By the end of
The decline of Sumner began with the drought which started in the fall of 1859 and prevailed through the year i860. In
followed in September by a visitation of grasshoppers, all of which were potent factors in wiping Sumner off the map. Some of the houses which could be moved were taken to Atchison, and some to farms in the immediate vicinity
One of the most interesting accounts that appeared about Sumner was written by H. Clay Park, an old citizen of Atchison, who for many years was
“the rise and fall of SUMNER.
“Three miles south of Atchison, Kansas, is the site of a dead city, whose streets once were filled with the clamor of busy traffic and echoed to the tread of thousands of oxen and mules that in the pioneer days of the Great West
transported the products of the East across the Great American Desert to the Rocky Mountains. It was a city in which for a few years twenty-five hundred men and women and children lived and labored and loved, in which many lofty aspirations were born, and in which several young men began careers that became historical.
“This city was located on what the early French voyagers called the ‘Grand Detour’ of the Missouri River. No more rugged and picturesque site for a city or one more inaccessible and with more unpropitious environments could have been selected. It was literally built in and on the everlasting hills, covered with a primeval forest so dense that the shadows chased the sunbeams away. It sprang into existence so suddenly and imperceptibly it might almost have been considered a creation of the magician’s wand. It was named Sumner in honor of the great Massachusetts senator. Its official motto was ‘Pro lege et
“Sumner’s first citizens came mostly from
political and military battlefield, upon which the question of the institution of slavery was to be settled for all time.
“The growth of Sumner was phenomenal. A lithograph printed in 1857 shows streets of stately buildings, imposing seats of learning, church spires that pierced the clouds, elegant hotels and theaters, the river full of floating palaces, its levee lined with bales and barrels of merchandise, and the white smoke from numerous factories hanging over the city like a banner of peace and prosperity. To one who in that day approached Sumner from the east
saw it across the river, which like a burnished mirror, reflected its glories, it did indeed present an imposing aspect.
“One day the steamboat Duncan S. Carter landed at Sumner. On its hurricane deck was John J. Ingalls, then only twenty-four years old. As his eye swept the horizon his prophetic soul uttered these words: ‘Behold the home
of the future senator from Kansas.’ Here the young college graduate, who since that day became the senator from Kansas, lived and dreamed until Sumner’s star had set and Atchison’s sun had risen, and then he moved to Atchison, bringing with him Sumner’s official seal and the key to his hotel.
“Here lived that
“Here lived the nine-year-old Minnie Hank, who was one day to become a renowned prima donna and charm two continents with her voice, and who was
“Here lived John E. Remsburg, the now noted author,
“Here Walter A. Wood, the big manufacturer of agricultural implements, lived and made and mended wagons. Here Lovejoy, ‘the Yankee preacher,’ preached and prayed. Here lived ‘Brother’ and ‘Sister’ Newcomb, from whom has descended a long line of zealous and eminent Methodists. Here was born Paul Hull, the
“And Sumner was the city that the Rev. Pardee Butler lifted up his hands and blessed and prophesied would grow and wax fat when the ‘upper landing’ would sleep in a dishonored and forgotten grave, as he floated by it on his raft, clad in tar and feathers. The ‘upper landing’ was the opprobrious title conferred by Sumner upon Atchison. The two towns were bitter enemies. Sumner was ‘abolitionist;’ Atchison was ‘border ruffian.’ In Atchison the ‘nigger’ was a
“Jonathan Lang, alias ‘Shang,’ the hero of Senator Ingalls” ‘Catfish Aristocracy,’ and the ‘last mayor of Sumner,’ lived and died in Sumner. When all his lovely companions had faded and gone ‘Shang’ still
” ‘To the most minute
the heads of two snakes of a novel species and uncommon fetor. This princely phenomenon was topped with a hat which had neither band nor brim nor crown :
” If that could shape be called which shape has none.
” ‘His voice was high, shrill and querulous, and his manner an odd mixture of fawning servility and apprehensive effrontery at the sight of a “damned Yankee abolitionist,” whom he hated and feared next to a negro who was
not a slave.’
“The only error in the senator’s description of ‘Shang’ is that ‘Shang’ was ‘abolitionist’ himself, and ‘fit to free the nigger.’
‘Shang’ continued to live in Sumner until every house, save his miserable hut, had vanished like the baseless fabric of a vision. He claimed and was proud of the title, ‘the last mayor of Sumner.’ He died a few years ago, and a little later lightning struck his cabin and it was devoured by flames. And thus passed away the last relic of Sumner.
“In the flood tide of Sumner’s prosperity, 1856 to 1859—-for before that it was nothing, after that nothing—-it had
Sumner Town Company, was a member of the ‘lower house of the Territorial legislature, and he ‘logrolled’ a bill through that body conferring upon Sumner the title of
“About this time Atchison secured its first railroad. The smoke from the locomotive engines drifted to Sumner and enveloped it like a pall. The decadence was at hand, and Sumner’s race to extinction and oblivion was rapid. One day there was an exodus of
In the above article, reference is made by Mr. Park to Jonathan Lang, and it is important in this connection to print herewith an excerpt from the Atchison Daily Globe,
“The reunion of the Thirteenth Kansas infantry at Hiawatha Tuesday recalls that the late Jonathan G. Lang, self-styled ‘Mayor of Old Sumner,’ and hero of John J. Ingalls’ ‘Catfish Aristocracy,’ was a soldier in this regiment, and was the butt of many jokes on the part of his comrades in camp as he was in the days of civil life at old- Sumner. Thomas J. Payne, a sergeant in the Thirteenth, now living in California, relates an amusing story of ‘Old Shang,’ as Lang was generally called by his comrades : When the regiment was mustered into service on September 28, 1862, and the newly assigned officers were reviewing their troops at Camp Stanton, in Atchison, the tall, gaunt form of Lang (for he was nearly seven feet tall and very angular) towered above the rest of the men like the stately Cottonwood above the
Another article relating to Old Sumner, which is entertaining and instructive, was written by E. W. Howe, and is taken from the Historical Edition of the Atchison Daily Globe, issued July 16, 1894:
“The founder of Sumner was John P. Wheeler, a red-headed, blue-eyed, consumptive, slim, freckled enthusiast from Massachusetts. He was a surveyor by profession, and also founded the town of Hiawatha. He was one of the adventurers who came to Kansas as a result of the excitement of
“The town was not named for Charles Sumner, as is generally supposed, but for his brother, George Sumner, one of the original stockholders. At that time Atchison was controlled by Southern sympathizers—-P. T. Abell, the Stringfellows, the McVeys, A. J. Westbrook and others—-and abolitionists were not welcome in the town. It was believed that a city would be built within a few miles of this point, as it was favorable for overland freighting,
“Being a violent abolitionist, John P. Wheeler determined to establish a town where abolitionists would be welcome, and Sumner was the result. The town was laid out in 1856, and the next year Wheeler had a lithograph made, which he took East for use in booming his town.
“Among others captured by means of this lithograph was John J. Ingalls. Wheeler and Ingalls were both acquainted with a Boston man of means named Samuel A. Walker. Wheeler wanted Walker to invest in Sumner, and as Walker knew that Ingalls was anxious to go West, he asked him to stop at Sumner and report upon it as a point for the investment of Boston money.
“Mr. Ingalls arrived in Sumner on the 4th of October, 1858, on the steamer Duncan S. Carter, which left St. Louis four days before. The town then contained about two thousand people, five hundred more than
“A hotel building costing $16,000.00, had been built by Samuel Hollister. A famous steamboat cook had charge of the kitchen in the old days, and the stages running between Jefferson City and St. Joe stopped there every day
“Albert R. Richardson was a citizen of
“When John J. Ingalls went to Sumner, a young man of twenty-four, he took great interest in such characters as Archie Boler and Jonathan Grander Lang. Lang was a jug fisherman in the river, melon raiser, truck patch
“When the war broke out the Atchison men who objected to abolitionists settling in their town were driven out of the country, and this attracted a good many of the citizens of Sumner. But its death blow came in June, 1860 when nearly every house in the place was either blown down or badly damaged by a tornado. This was the first and only tornado in the history of this immediate section.”
Reference is made in both of these articles to John J. Ingalls, who arrived in Sumner from Boston, Mass., October 4, 1858. Mr. Ingalls was a graduate of Williams College a short time before, and at the time he decided to go West he was a student in a law office in Boston, where his attention was first called to Sumner by an elaborate lithograph of the town displayed by Mr. Wheeler, the promoter. The impressions of Mr. Ingalls upon his arrival in Sumner are, therefore, pertinent and convey some idea of the shock he received when he landed at the Sumner levee. In a letter which he subsequently wrote describing the event, he said :
“That chromatic triumph of lithographed mendacity, supplemented by the loquacious embellishments of a lively adventurer who has been laying out town sites and staking off corner lots for some years past in Tophet, exhibited a scene in which the attractions of art, nature, science,
moving toward the mysterious region of the Farther West.”