There are big shoes to fill with this column, and I will be doing my best to do so. Arnold Schofield is and was a historian to be contended with. Fort Scott’s long and illustrious history is filled with outlaws, soldiers, God fearing folk and the contentions that fueled a nation.
For the first of many articles I found the Early Days of Fort Scott printed in 1899 as the recollections of C.W. Goodlander, an invaluable resource. In 1858 “The politics of the inhabitants at that time was border ruffian, pro-slavery democrats, and free-state democrats. There were only two Republicans Tom Roberts and Old ROach. The free-state and pro-slavery democrats were equal in numbers. The border ruffian element some times here and some times away, we sBen. Hill, Brockett Hamilton, Roof Roach, and Joe Price. There were others, but I do not remember their names. Almost all the inhabitants live in the old fort building, the solider’s quarters on the south side of the square in the rear of Dilworth’s store. It was then called the Pro-slavery hotel and was kept by Jack Harris and Bill Linn. The forgoing comprise my recollections of Fort Scott and its inhabitants in 1859. “
CW Goodlander arrived in the town on what is now National after crossing what he called the “river bottom” via stagecoach. Goodlander soon met with George A. Crawford, who told him that he had to “pick out a claim, as all the boys have their claims.” The land here had not been surveyed yet, according to Goodlander that did not happen until 1860. “Some of the boys said they knew a claim that a party had taken, who had left the country. This claim was one half mile west of the present Harmon Catt farm. The manner of taking era claim was to lay four logs in the form of a square So I went out and moved the old logs some fifty feet and laid the new foundation, as we called it then, ‘a new right to the land.’ This foundation was supposed to hold the claim for a short time. And before this time run out, if you wanted to pre-empt the land you had to build a house or shanty some ten or twelve feet square and make it your home, or call it your home and live there for six months before you could use your pre-emption right. Before my foundations rights run out I had a load of lumber, mostly slabs, picked up at McDonald & Bowen’s mills, hauled them out and made a bargain with A.F. Bicking to come out and help me build.”
Claims in Fort Scott followed the same procedure that many other settlers were required to use. Many came to Kansas staked a claim and then went through the painstaking process of securing shelter without a mill while food was limited. The frontier was tense, and the politics were difficult to overcome. Fort Scott has it’s share of history and stories as well. The westward frontier has been written on the streets and ground go this town.