Wathena, Kansas Territory



Wathena perpetuates the name of a well-known chief of the Kickapoo Indians who owned the land in that vicinity up to the time of the treaty in 1854. The town stands on the site of the village over which Chief Wathena held sway, the flouring mills now occupying a place very near the site of the chief’s wigwam, which his squaw erected for him about the year 1852. In 1856, the town was laid out by Milton Bryan, P. Morse and W. Ritenbaugh, who bought the land of a man named Cox, paying him $750 in gold. The original townsite included 160 acres. Had the men, who located Roseport, or Elwood, located at Wathena, their town would now be as large as St. Joseph, and would have been the metropolis of the state.

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


Wathena is located on Peter’s Creek, four miles from the Missouri River and ten from Troy. At a point just north of the town commences one of the great bends which make the river boundary of Doniphan County so irregular. A short distance east of the town the river has cut through the famous stone road to St. Joseph, and threatens to, some day, meet the return curve, now only removed by half a mile of bottom land. Back of the town lie the wooded bluffs and upon them many of the finest residences of the city. The first settler on the town site was Peter Cadue, an interpreter of the Kickapoo Indians, who removed in 1847 to the Cadue Reserve. In 1852 Wathena, a Kickapoo Chief from whom the city takes its name, settled here. In 1856 the town was laid out by M. E. Bryan, P. Morse, and W. Ridenbaugh who bought the land of S. Cox for seven hundred and fifty dollars, paying Wathena a considerable sum for his improvements. At different times several additions have been made to the original one hundred and sixty acres of the town site. These are known as, North Wathena, Constantinople, Wilson’s, Seaman’s, and Smallwood’s additions; Douglass addition was also surveyed but never recorded.

The first building on the town site was a log cabin, begun by Mr. Cox and finished in 1854 by M. E. Bryan. Some time before this Benjamin Harding had a house in what is now North Wathena. The first general store was built in 1856, and occupied by Thompson Kemper. It is still standing, a little back from the main street, and bears the still legible sign, “St. Joe Store.” The first hotel was established by Albert Heath, who was also the first lawyer in the town. The first drug store was opened in 1863 by G. Miller, who still runs it. In 1865 H. D. Hunt started a hardware store. D. B. Jones opened the first stock of tinware. The first physicians of the town were Drs. Smith and Crossfield. A blacksmith shop was started in 1854 by F. Leber.

Wathena was incorporated as a city in 1873, when O. Craig was elected Mayor and James Mitchell City Clerk. Since that time the Mayors of successive years have been as follows: O. Craig, 1874; C. Nahrung, 1875-76; Reuben Knopp, 1877-78; A. E. Campbell, 1879-8o; Reuben Knopp, 1881; Robert Perigo, 1882. During this period the Clerks of the city have been E. F. Dixon, 1874; S. Gurney, 1875; J. S. Spaulding, 1876- 77; E. F. Dixon, 1878; J. P. Knopp, 1879; F. H. Drenning, 1880-81-82.

A postoffice was established in 1854, with M. B. Bryan as postmaster, and was called Bryan’s postoffice. The name was changed to Wathena on the laying out of the town. Since then the following have acted as agents of the postal service: P. Kemper, Albert Heath, M. E. Bryan, J. T. Braidy, Edward Downard, Aug. Miller, Aug. H. Fuelling, and W. W. Carter, who is now postmaster.

Wathena has possessed at various times three schoolhouses, of which the first and last are still standing and in use. A frame school was erected as early as 1857, and school taught in it for several years, but it has long since disappeared and its records, if it had any, have shared its fate. In 1867 the frame house now used by the colored school was built and in it were taught all the children of the neighborhood. In 1870 the fine brick structure now used for the white school was erected at a cost of $10,000, A. Larzelere being the contractor. The town has now ample accommodation for all its school children, and employs four teachers. If the young idea does not learn how best to shoot, it can be no fault of the town people or their provision for education.



The First Baptist Church of Wathena was organized in 1858 by Elder William Price and Rev. E. Alward, now of Leona. At that early day the society showed a membership of eight. The building of a house of worship was necessarily out of the question, and services were held in schoolhouses until 1871. At this date the society had become strong enough to bear the expense of their present church building. This is forty by sixty feet, of brick, and cost $5,000. Since the pastorate of Rev. Mr. Alward, the following pastors have been connected with the society: D. Waddell, T. J. Cook and E. Alward. The church now numbers forty-three members.

The First Methodist Church of Wathena was organized in the summer of 1858 by T. McK. Munhall, and D. H. May was appointed its pastor. On his special request he was allowed to resign, and Rev. Mr. Blake, of Iowa, accepted the pastorate for a short time. In 1860, O. B. Gardner was assigned to the charge, which he held for two years in spite of vigorous opposition growing out of the slavery question. It is related of this stalwart Christian, that in his second year, while residing at Elwood, he discovered near his house a rebel flag, with the curt notice that death would reward the man who removed it. Nothing daunted, Mr. Gardner climbed the staff and tore down the flag. In 1862, H. F. Bowman supplied the pulpit, remaining through 1863. In 1864 and 1865, Rev. James Lawrence was pastor, and in 1866 Rev. J. Paulson entered the field. It was during his service that the present church was erected. This edifice is forty by sixty feet, and both substantial and commodious. The exodus from Wathena, which is the result of the rapid settlement of lands further west, has operated most unfavorably on this society, and it became badly in debt. During 1881 this state of affairs was partly remedied by the energy of Rev. F. M. Pickles; the building was repaired and the debt provided for. Under the present pastor, Rev. J. Biddison, this good work bids fair to be continued. The society now numbers something over twenty.

The Roman Catholic Church at Wathena was organized in 1869 by Father Thomas, O. S. B. The same year a church edifice was built at a cost of $5,500. This structure is thirty-five by sixty-five feet and of brick. At this time the membership of the church was not far from one hundred. At the present time this number has increased to five times that number. In 1880 a building was erected by the church for the Benedictine Sisters, who have a parochial school of about fifty scholars. In the latter part of this year a parsonage was built, at a cost of $1,500. It is twenty-four by thirty-six feet. All these buildings stand on the wooded slope west of the town and beyond the railway, and from the tower of the church the hours of morning, noon and evening are sounded to mark the beginning and closing of the hours of labor. From its organization, until 1878, the church was in charge of the Benedictine Fathers. From 1878 till the appointment of the present priest, J. H. H. Timppans, it was in charge of Rev. L. Shreiner.

The German Methodist-Episcopal Church – This society was organized in October, 1867, by Rev. H. M. Meniger who after a service of three years, was succeeded by Rev. G. J. Shultz. In 1871, Rev. J. G. Kost accepted the pastorate, which he held until 1872, when Rev. J. P. Hanst had charge of the society for one year. He was succeeded by Rev J. A. Reitz, who remained two years, Rev. C. Hawnns, three years, Rev. C. Ott, three years, and Rev. C. Stuckeman, who came to the church in 1882, and is still its pastor. The church has had, since 1868, two missions, supplied by the Wathena resident pastors, one on Section 26, Township 3, Range 21, and the other on Section 29, Township 2, Range 22.

The Second Colored Baptist Church of Wathena was organized in September, 1873, by a council composed of Revs. D. Lee, of Lawrence, John Bourn, of Fort Scott, Williams and Clarkson, of Elwood, and S. Jackson, of Wathena. A church building was erected the same year, the members of the society doing most of the work. It is valued at between four and five hundred dollars. The society now has a membership of seventy, and is in charge of Rev. S. Jackson.

Wathena Lodge, No. 64, A. F. & A. M. was organized on January 27, 1868, with the following charter members: T. Higgins, C. Nahring, C. C. Carson, W. B. Craig, W. P. Black, C. Poirier, H. S. Creal, W. H. Wilson, J. Suter, J. Brown and J. Grady. The first officers of the lodge were as follows: S. Hatch, W. M.; W. H. Smallwood, S. W.; O. Craig, J. W.; A. E. Campbell, secretary; M. E. Bryan, treasurer. The lodge now has twenty-four members. Its present officers are: S. Hatch, W. M.; W. W. Carter. S. W.; R. H. Larzelere, J. W.; C. Poirier, secretary; A. E. Campbell, treasurer.

Phoenix Lodge No. 41, I. O. O. F., was organized under a dispensation on February 26, 1869, with the following officers: J. T. Wheeler, N. G.; J. C. Gordon, V. G.; W. H. Wilson, R. S.; J. Robertson, P. S.; P. M. Sturgis, treasurer. A charter was granted the lodge in October, of the same year, the members making application being D. B. Welding, H. A. Dempsey, J. C. Gordon, J. T. Wheeler, E. Moedinger, J. A. Hackley, H. H. Frazer, B. Harding, P. Higgins, P. M. Sturgis, J. G. Robertson, A. Straub, W. H. Witting, J. W. Noe and J. Wynkoop. The society now numbers twenty-six members. Meetings are held every Wednesday in Odd Fellows’ Hall. This hall is a two-story brick, used on the ground floor as a store and above as a lodge room, and with three town lots constitutes the property of the lodge, all together valued at $1,000. It was purchased of T. M. Hamilton. The present officers of the society are: Peter Berger, N. G.; J. Davis, V. G.; B. Harding, secretary; Aug. Miller, treasurer.



The mill now owned and operated by Snively & Hedges was built in 1860 at a cost of about ten thousand dollars. After running ten years it was purchased of Barr, Craig & Co. by its present owners for ten thousand five hundred dollars. The building is forty by fifty feet, and has three stories and a basement. Three run of buhr stones are used, two on wheat and one on corn. Power is furnished by an engine of seventy-horse power. Under this arrangement a capacity of sixty barrels daily is secured. It is proposed, however, to change the machinery to a full-roller mill, when a capacity of one hundred and twenty-five barrels per day is expected.

The Wathena water mill was built on Peters’ Creek, by S. Cox, in 1862. It had two run of buhr stones and cost, with its machinery, about two thousand five hundred dollars. It was burned in March, 1881, while the property of J. W. Johnson, of Iowa, The present mill was built in 1881, at a cost of three thousand dollars, by J. W. Cook, who still operates it. The building is two stories in height and twenty by fifty-four feet. It has one buhr stone, used on corn only. Power is furnished by a thirty-inch turbine wheel.

In 1881 Chili & Perigo started a small corn mill, having one buhr stone. This mill, which with its fixtures cost not far from $1,000, is located near the railway.

Wathena has, in 1882, the following business establishments and professions represented: Dry-goods stores, four; grocery stores, six; hardware and tinware store, one; furniture store, one; billiard halls, three; hotel, one; feed stable, one; millinery and dressmaking establishments, four; tailor shop, one; meat-market, one; drug stores, two; restaurant, one; barber shop, one; boot and shoe shops, two; wagon and carriage shop, one; blacksmith shop, one; harness shop, one; grist mills, four; paint shop, one; carpenter shop, one; physicians, four; lawyers, two.

A grain elevator was built at this point in 1877 by Snively & Hedges, and operated until 1880, when it was destroyed by fire. The present elevator was built in 1880.

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

Wathena, one of the principal towns of Doniphan county, is located on Peter’s creek, 4 miles from the Missouri river on the St. Joseph & Grand Island and the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific railroads. It is 10 miles from Troy, the county seat, and 5 miles from St. Joseph, Mo. It is a well improved little city with electric lights and pavements, public library, excellent schools and an annual Chautauqua. All lines of business are well represented. There are 2 banks, 2 newspapers, a washing machine factory, feed mill, and a creamery. Fruit-growing is an important industry and there is a fruit growers’ association which attends to the marketing of the fruits grown by its members. Poultry is another leading product. There are telegraph and express offices and an international money order postoffice with five rural routes. The population in 1910 was 761.

The earliest settler was Peter Cadue, an interpreter for the Kickapoo Indians, who came not later than 1840 and left in 1847, going to the Cadue reserve. The Kickapoo chief Wathena located on the spot which afterward became the town site, and in 1852 his squaw built him a wigwam where the flour mills were afterward built. The land was sold in 1856 by S. Cox to Milton Bryan, P. Morse and W. Ritenbaugh, promoters of the town, for $750. Wathena was well paid for his improvements. The first building was a log house erected in 1854 by Cox and M. E. Bryan. The first general store was opened by Thompson Kemper in 1856 and was called “The St. Joe Store.” The first hotel was established by Albert Heath, who was also the first lawyer. The first druggist was G. Miller; the first hardware man, H. D. Hunt; the first tinner, D. B. Jones; the first blacksmith, F. Leber, and the first physicians were Drs. Smith and Crossfield. From the time the postoffice was established in 1854 with M. E. Bryan as postmaster, until the incorporation of the town in 1873 the place was called Bryan’s postoffice. O. Craig was the first mayor and James Mitchell, city clerk. The first school house was built in 1857.

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