Billy Brown (at left) and Roy Platt, on their horses at Evansville, Kansas.
At the time this picture was taken, circa 1910, this property was owned by Mortimor R. Platt.
Photo courtesy of Phyllis Scherich.
The Merrill Ranch in the news, April 27, 2003: On the wide-open prairie, it's still a cowboy's life
"The Medicine Lodge Cresset says Jesse Evans has completed the erection of a large store room 24x50 on Indian creek, in the southwestern part of Comanche county, and has purchased an $8,000 stock of goods to commence business with." -- The Dodge City Times, Dodge City, Kansas, Aug. 14, 1880. (Reference courtesy of Evelyn Reed.)
The beginning of Evansville likely dates from between 1878 and 1880 when the Comanche Cattle Pool was formed. Jessie Evans, one of the pool's founders, owned a ranch in the southeastern part of the county. HIs headquarters, located on the line between sections 33 and 34 in T33-R 16, became the main headquarters of the pool. On the site, fifteen miles east and nine and one-half miles south of Coldwater, a warehouse was built to store supplies for the large operation.
The first legitimate post office in the county was established there in April 1882. Fred Flats, Jr. served as postmaster. The office was closed in January of 1883 when the only buildings known to have been there were used in conjunction with the Comanche Pool.
Evansville's growth as a town apparently started when the post office at the nearly settlement of Rumsey relocated there in August 1885. Wesley Grant was placed in charge of the second Evansville office. Grant had purchased the land surrounding Evansville two months earlier, when the cattle pool sold its holdings in Kansas. A real estate agent's promotional booklet described the town in late 1885 as being under the shade of towering trees, and by the running waters of a mighty spring. The location is a most pleasant one; selected years ago as the headdquarters of the Comanche Cattle Pool, and recently bought for a town site. The town started with a large hotel, capacious store building, and a stable with stall-room for 100 horses. In the storeroom, W.M. Grant put a stock of groceries; a half-interest in the same he has recently sold to Mr. A.B. Poole... Dr. G.K. Rumsey, in general merchandise, is a pioneer settler; and with the whole territory to choose from, selected this part of the county...
The Comanche Pool lands, embracing some 11,000 acres -- the first claims taken, preempted by cow-boys and bought up by [Veatch and Curran, real estate agents] -- have recently been thrown upon the market at $6.00 per acre."
The Evansville Hearld began publishing in October, 1885, and listed several businessmen, including Curran Hackney's general merchandise store, Rumsey's Pioneer Store, and the Evansville Hotel, with "easy access to all cattle camps in the Territory" and managed by Sam Wagner. Also mentioned were a blacksmith and the Evansville Stables. Kendall and Sexton were surveyors and land agents; Gooch and Chink were contractors and builders. The Osius Vinyards, a mile southeast of town, advertised some seventy-five varieties of grape vines.
According to the Hearld, 1886 was an active year for the town. A "drug store" was closed by Sheriff Bowers in early January. Charles Lovejoy opened a general merchandise store at that time and in February, the editor proposed changing Evansville's name to Lovejoy Springs. He mentioned that the springs were near the town in a natural park of elms "at a sufficent elevation to carry, by the aid of pipes, an abundant supply of pure, cold spring water to any part of town." It is said Johnny Shimer and his brother Bent played for dances held on a platform built near the spring.
In April 1886, T.M. Smith completed a blacksmith shop and several stores and residences were listed in the newspaper as being under construction. It is not known how many were actually built. A school building was constructed in May, and in June, a Mr. Johnston was teaching several students. One source estimated Evansville's population at that time as forty.
The Hearld ceased operations in early 1887, but like other towns, Evansville still held out hope for a railroad. An estimated thirty persons were living in the town in 1888, only fifteen in 1891, and no populations was listed when the post office was closed in September 1893. An office restablished there from April 1895 to August 1896 was probably located in the postmaster's home.
Om 1980, the Merrill Ranch headquarters was located on the Evansville site. A log building, thought to be the town's hotel, was still standing, and several graves on a hill south of the location were said to date back to the early town. Some livestock on the ranch were watered from the spring which was still flowing.
-- by Dave Webb and Alzina Baker, Comanche County History, pages 26 & 27.
WEST OF KIOWA
Evansville already has the Largest and Best appointed Feed and Sale Stable, the finest Store House, a First-class Hotel, Real Estate office, Drug Store, Blacksmith Shop, Newspaper, &c., and still there is room
We need another general supply store, dry goods, hardware, lumber yard, besides other branches of business more largely represented.
Lane & Vautier's line of stages leave Kiowa direct for Evansville daily, arriving in time for dinner.
The Town Company are donating lots to those wishing to build where there is a certainty of a railroad. It is a sure thing so come and settle with us.
Do not fail to visit Evansville and drink of her famous spring.
(A facsimile copy of the original advertisement is on page 27 Comanche County History)
Map at left: 1936 Phillips Petroleum map of Kansas, detail showing Comanche County.
Collection of Phyllis Scherich.
Note by Phyllis Scherich, 2004: "This is the first map that had this location labeled "Arrington" that I have seen. The location was the camp of Jesse Evans, then the site of the headquarters of the Comanche Pool from 1878 to 1886. After the Pool was dissolved it remained as the small town of Evansville, named after Jesse Evans, one of the organizers and large owners in the Pool. Later it ceased to exist as a town, but served as headquarters for Mortimor Plattís Ranch, the Arrington Ranch, then the West Ranch of Davis, Nolan, & Merrill Grain Company. Since the early 50ís it has been the Merrill Ranch headquarters. There are currently three occupied homes at the site, with a population of 8."
Aetna Items -- Jno. Arrington & brother are at the ranch this week. He is moving a family on the Evansville ranch. -- -- The Hardtner Press, Friday, January 15, 1915.
CARL DOYLE DIES -- Word was received here last week of the death of Carl Doyle, who several years ago was a resident of this county, living on the former Arrington ranch. Mr. and Mrs. Doyle moved from here to Kansas City, Mo., and were living there at the time of his death. -- The Wilmore News, January 30, 1940.
Quote from Wilbur Olson: "My Uncle Bill Wheat had a ranch about three miles up Sand Creek from Uncle Charley's that bordered Arrington (Motz Ranch) on the east and his daughter Helen told me when Uncle Bill would work calves Mr. Arrington would rope and drag calves to the fire. She said he was an expert roper. Several years ago in the Stockade Museum at Medicine Lodge I saw an old newspaper that gave an account of a steer roping at The Cattleman's Picnic at Kingman, Kansas many years ago. There was a picture of all the ropers lined up and their names. Two names I knew were John Arrington and J. O. Selman. Both of these men were big ranchers during the time I was growing up. John Arrington in Comanche and Barber Counties, Kansas, and J. O. Selman in Woodward and Harper Counties, Oklahoma."
"As we passed through the county from Mule Creek we saw vast herds of cattle belonging to the Comanche Pool, of which Dick Phillips was a member and manager at that time, with headquarters at old Evansville in the southeastern part of this county. The north fence which enclosed the company's big pasture ran in a somewhat northwesterly direction, the northwestern corner being 6 or 8 miles northwest of the present town site of Coldwater. The fence then ran to the southwest, almost to where Protection now stands, and then turned in an easterly direction and extended for many miles through the southern part of this county into Barber-co. The big pasture thus comprised many thousand acres." -- Hiram O. Holderby, The Western Star, April 8, 1921.
Evansville: The Rest of the Storyby Phyllis Scherich, June 2004.
After the Comanche Pool was dissolved (about 1885-86), the headquarters remained as the small town of Evansville, becoming a supply point for settlers moving in. At that time it was titled to Wesley Grant of Boston.
Around 1900 Mortimer R. Platt purchased the headquarters area, along with other acreage in Comanche (about 25 sections) & Barber Counties (I donít know how much he purchased in Barber County). He brought his nephew, J. W. Platt, from New York to operate the part that remains today as the Platt Ranch. The other property was transferred to Platt Land and Cattle Company with Virgil Platt in charge about 1912.
John Arrington purchased these holdings in Comanche and Barber Counties from Platt Land and Cattle Company in 1918. Arrington added several additional parcels to Platt's holdings to "square it off" and "fill it in. It was known as the Arrington Ranch until Mr. Arrington lost it to a mortgage company in the early 30's.
By 1934 George Davis, Harold Merrill (President of the Kansas City Board of Trade), and _____ Nolan Grain Company had purchased about 60,000 acres in Comanche and Barber County from the Phoenix Joint Stock Land Bank for less than $5 an acre, including all of Arrington's holdings and additional parcels to continue "to square it off" and "fill it in, and another 27,000 acres in the Flint Hills. The first purchase was the Temple Ranch (formerly Jim Holmes ranch) in the late 20ís or early 30ís, followed by the Temple Ranch, and the Arrington Ranch.
Lester Alley became the foreman for the West Ranch (later Merrill Ranch). J. P. Lynn was the overseer. Lesterís brother, Orville Alley became foreman for the East Ranch (later Davis Ranch) and moved from the Temple Ranch to the headquarters at the Hodge Ranch. At one time there was a Cliff Anderson who lived on and operated the Hodge Ranch for a time. (Yes, this is the Cliff Anderson, son of John & Nancy Anderson, who lived north of Wilmore in Kiowa County. Remember Nancy (Stewart) Anderson, his mother, was my great grandfatherís sister! -- Phyllis)
In 1949 or 1950 the two remaining partners in the grain business, Davis and Merrill, split their holdings with Davis taking the Barber County land (later becoming the Z-Bar Cattle Co.) and Merrill the Comanche County holdings, then to be known as the Merrill Ranch. The same thing happened to the Flint Hills land with Davis taking the holdings on the west side of the highway (US 177) and Merrill the holdings on the east side.
Virgil & Mildred Scherich and sons, Hank & Dee moved to the West Ranch about 1945 working for Lester Alley, then Virgil became work foreman about 1948 when Lester left, (moving from the East Ranch where he had worked for Orville Alley.) J. P. Lynn remained as overseer until his retirement in the early 60ís. From that time Virgil worked as manager directly for Harold Merrill. Mr. Merrill died in 1965, and Virgil continued to manage it for his Trust and widow, Catherine Merrill. In 1976, Larry (Dee) Scherich, Virgilís son, took over the management and is still in that position in 2004.
"In 1987, the cattle and all the equipment for the Z-Bar in Barber County were sold at aution. From the acres of pickups and trailers and the throngs of people who came, and the amount of food they bought from concessioners, it was probably the largest auction this country had ever seen!" -- Quoted from Wilbur Olson. (We were there and I would have to agree with his comments. -- Phyllis)
In December of 1999, Ted Turner purchased the Davis Ranch in Barber County. It was then leased to John Cromer, then in 1990 to the Brass Cattle Company. Keith and Eva Yearout manage it as a bison ranch for Ted Turner.
From the RootsWeb Message Board, posted 23 Feb 2000:
My greatgrandfather, Wiley Hugh Cowan, and his associates in the Eagle Chief and Comanche Pool Cattle Company, founded a "city", Evansville (for Evans, one of the partners), at a year-round spring south of Coldwater. They hoped the railroad would move west to Evansville from its terminus in Hardtner. They had seen it move from Caldwell to Coffeyville to Harper to Kiowa, but they hoped in vain. Evansville is only a single derelict building at the HDQs of the Merrill ranch. The Merrill Ranch is the smaller western portion of the former Davis Ranch. The eastern portion, the Z-Bar Ranch, was recently bought by Ted Turner. My grandmother's sister, Opal Cowan-Nighswonger, was born in "Evansville". My mother, Opal's neice, taught at the one-room Aetna School on the Salt Fork in the middle of the Z-Bar. I was raised in Hardtner and search for anyone with memories or evidence of Evansville. -- Tony Smith, Carmel, CA
From the Comanche County, Kansas, Guest Book, posted 18 March 2003:
You made my day! My grandfather, Gerard C Rumsey was born in Evansville Sept 22 1888. His father , my great grandfather, was Dr. Gerard K Rumsey mentioned in your story. Priceless story for my family and our future generations. Thank You! -- Teresa Chapman (Rumsey)
The Evansville Hearld was published from 01 October 1885 to 28 January 1887. Copies of the newspaper are available on Microfilm # P 810 through interlibrary loan from the The Kansas State Historical Society.
Jessie Evans of Evansville, Comanche County, Kansas Notes from the research of Phyllis Scherich.
The Comanche Pool, Comanche County, Kansas by Mary Einsel, from Kansas: The Priceless Prairie.
James W. Dappert: "Reminiscences of Early Days in Comanche-co.", The Western Star, January 15, 1926.
Pioneer surveyor in Comanche County, describes staying in Evansville circa 1885, lists many early residents of Evansville at that time.
Perils of the Plains An account of pioneer life as experienced by Will and Hattie Wimmer, how they met, married, and lived within the boundaries of the vast Comanche Cattle Pool of South Central Kansas in the late nineteenth century. Written by Hattie Pierce Wimmer in 1929.
Bill Hill, The Comanche Pool's Bronc Buster
Mary Josephine (Sunderland) Smith "Another Pioneer Taken in Death"
John and Lizzie Platt John Platt and his Uncle came to Comanche County in 1884, buying shares in the old Comanche Pool.
John W. Platt and the Platt Ranch A history by Mike Platt and Joyce Reed, Chosen Land: Barber County, Kansas, p. 368..
Obituary of John W. Platt Published in The Western Star, 6 August 1920. Transcribed by Shirley Brier.
Obituary of Colonel Dick Phillips, an organizer of The Comanche Pool From The Western Star, published Coldwater, Comanche County, Kansas, 30 June 1916.
Frank & Almada (Parker) King Frank King was the last foreman of the Comanche Pool.
Almada (Parker) King "Mrs. Frank King Is Another Pioneer"
Christopher Carson "Cap" PEPPERD Born in Ireland. Confederate Civil War veteran, cowboy, bronc buster, cattle trail driver & early (1874) Comanche County rancher. His ranch foreman, Tommy Wilmore, was a Union veteran of the Civil War.
Charles F. Colcord One of the organizers of the Comanche Pool.
A List of Recent Hotel Guests In Evansville, The Evansville Hearld, December 3, 1885.
Obituary: Infant of Mr. & Mrs. F. Kendall, The Evansville Hearld, October 22, 1885.
Comanche Pool Reunion. The Western Star, October 5, 1951.
J.M. Curran. The Sun City Union, February 5, 1886.
C.F. Spicer: An account of pioneer days in Comanche County, Kansas -- The Western Star, June 10, 1921.
Memoirs of Wilbur Olson: Ranches in the Comanche County, Kansas, area Written in 1991.
John Arrington Bitten By Mule, The Western Star, 18 April 1922.
Letter from Mira A. Bruner to Mr. Williams Regarding the Carnifax Family. Dated February 7, 1887, Evansville, Kansas; written to a Mr. Williams "back east", presumably in West Virginia.
Obituary: Paul Schwartz, The Western Star, 11 February 1893. He lived near Evansville, Rumsey Township, and was buried in an apparently unmarked grave in Aetna Cemetery, Barber County, Kansas.
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