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List of Kansas Counties

Arkalon | Fargo Springs | Liberal  | Springfield

Homesteading in Seward County

 

Springfield

This town site was chartered on September 18, 1885, and platted the following spring. Located just north of Fargo Springs, Springfield soon became a bustling town with a school, two hotels, and businesses that were placed around the public square. Many of its first residents moved here from Carthage, a town in Meade County that was abandoned in the spring of 1886.

Governor John Martin named Springfield the temporary county seat in June 1886. However, Fargo Springs wanted the county seat, which set things in motion for what was eventually a six year county seat war.

Commissioners arranged an election that was held on August 5, 1886 to determine which town would be the county seat. The election board was in a closed-off room in a building in Fargo Springs, and the ballots were passed from the outside through a raised window. The Springfield folks didn't like that method, so a wagon with a soapbox was put in front of the voting place. They placed their ballots in the soap box, but the next day those ballots were not counted when the county commissioners met to canvass the votes. Only the ballots cast through the window were claimed to be legal.

The citizens of Springfield took the case to the Kansas Supreme Court and after ten months of litigation, the court declared that the "soapbox" ballots were the legal ones. Springfield won the right to be the county seat.

Even though the county seat war appeared to end peacefully, there was still bitterness in Springfield because of the county seat conflict and court decisions in Seward and its neighboring counties. On February 18, 1888, suits were filed in the Kansas Supreme Court against Seward County officials allegedly involved in fraudulent claims, receiving bribes, and robbing the people of the county.

In neighboring Stevens County, the bitter county seat war between Hugoton and Woodsdale had resulted in dissenting factions, as well. Theodosious Botkin was a district judge who had been involved in a lot of disputes in southwest Kansas. In Seward County, his rulings had been primarily in the favor of Fargo Springs which made some Springfield citizens so angry that they plotted to ambush and kill him in January 1892.

However, one of the plotters told the undersheriff, H. P. Larrabee, a few hours before the plot was to be carried out in the early morning hours of January 3rd. Sheriff Samuel Dunn and six other men left Springfield the night before and walked to the Cimarron canyons where they waited for the would-be assassins near where the plot was going to take place. When the men who had planned the assassination and interested bystanders came to the area several hours later, the sheriff told one group to disperse and leave. The rest of the sheriff's group went to warn the judge, and they came upon the second group of troublemakers. When one of the sheriff's men, Sid Nixon, turned and began to run after a period of shouting between the group and the sheriff's men, the gang started firing. The men who were still talking to Sheriff Dunn heard the shooting and fired upon the sheriff who was fatally wounded. No one was ever convicted for the murder of Sheriff Dunn.

In 1887, the county commissioners purchased $100,000 in stock in the Kansas Southern Railroad, using bonds that were voted for the purpose of getting a railroad to the town. However, the railroad bypassed Springfield and built its tracks to Liberal. The end result was a decline in the businesses of the town, and by 1893, the county seat was moved to Liberal. There are no buildings of the town remaining today.

The ethnicity of its settlers is unknown.

Sources

Seward County Historical Society, Inc. "Seward County Kansas". Liberal, KS: K.C. Printers, 1979.

Fitzgerald, Daniel. "Ghost Towns of Kansas". Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1988.

"6-Year War in Kansas: Bloody 6-Year Ghost Towns Feud Recalled." The Denver Post, 28 December 1958, pg. 2A.


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