AHGP Transcription Project

Atchison County

Atchison County, situated in the north-western corner of the State, is bounded north by Iowa, east by Nodaway County, south by Holt, and south-west and west by the Missouri River, which separates it from Nebraska, and has an area of 329,751 acres.

Population in 1850, 1,678; in 1860, 4,649; in 1870, 8,440; of whom 8,405 were white and 34 colored; 4,489 male, and 3951 female; 7,752 native (3,283 born in Missouri) and 728 foreign.

Atchison is a part of the celebrated Platte Purchase. The first settlement was made at Sonora, on the Missouri River by Callaway Millsaps and his family, who reached that point Nov. 11th, 1839. His son, Joseph, was the first white child born in what is now Atchison County. Both father and son are still (1874) living. The county was organized February 14th, 1845, from a part of Holt, and Linden was made the county seat. The early settlers were generally of that brave, resolute, but unsatisfied class of men who continually keep on the frontier and open the way for the less restless people who follow to make permanent homes.

Except the depression that was general in business throughout the State, this section was not greatly affected by the late Civil War, and since its close, it has rapidly increased in population and wealth.

Physical Features
Atchison is principally a prairie country, almost exclusively agricultural in its interests. It may be divided into three natural belts or districts: First, the Missouri bottom on the west side of the county; second, a bluff and timber district, lying between the bottom lands and the upland prairies; third, the prairie district, comprising nearly all of the east half of the county. The Missouri bottoms are exceedingly fertile, and produce good crops of wheat and smaller grains, though corn is the principal product. The whole bottom, except the timber skirting the Missouri River, is in cultivation, and is known as the "Egypt of the North-west."

The bluff and timber district lies immediately east of the Missouri bottom, and furnishes most of the native timber for fuel, posts and building material for other portions of the county. It is also the best adapted portion for fruits of the various kinds usually grown on similar latitudes. It is an average country for the production of corn, wheat, barley, etc.; somewhat better for the smaller grains than the Missouri Bottom.

The third district, consisting of about two hundred thousand acres or more, on the east side of the county, is almost wholly composed of rolling, upland prairies, diversified by numerous small but unfailing streams of pure water. Some of the larger ones, especially the Big Tarkio, have a limited amount of timber upon them.

Streams fed by springs are numerous, and furnish all the water necessary for stock purposes, while wells dug at a small expense give pure water in the greatest abundance for all domestic uses.

The Missouri River flows in a south-easterly course along the entire western border of the county, the other streams flowing south-westwardly into the Missouri. The Nishnabotna (Good Canoe) River enters the county on the north line and follows the bluffs in a south-easterly direction. Several years ago the stream cut its channel into the Missouri River at a point near the north line, and emptied its waters into the Missouri some 40 miles above its original mouth. The K. C., St. J. & C. B. R. R. Co. built a dam below its present mouth, and now most of its waters flow through the new channel. This old channel completely drains the "bottom" lands, rendering them the finest and richest in the county. Big Tarkio and West Fork, Middle Fork and East Fork of Big Tarkio, are in the north-eastern and central parts, and Little Tarkio, East Fork of Little Tarkio, and the head waters of Squaw Creek, are in the south-east.

The bluffs on the Missouri River are a striking feature in the topography of this county. They are steep, sloping or rounding in every direction, like miniature mountain peaks, from the tops of which the view is often beautiful and extensive. At a distance they apppear like walls of rock, but are "bluffs." These bluffs, extending one to two miles eastward from the river, are being cleared; orchards and vineyards taking the place of the original forests upon them.

Agricultural Productions
Corn is the principal crop, but all varieties of wheat, oats, barley and rye, are largely and profitably raised; also hemp and tobacco to some extent. But little attention has been given to cultivated grasses, the prairies furnishing all the pasture and hay heretofore needed. Where much pastured, the prairie grass is giving way to blue grass, which will eventually supersede the wild grasses.

Apples grow to a perfection seldom found in other places. Peaches, plums and cherries all do well. Berries of all kinds adapted to this climate, produce abundantly.

Horses, mules, cattle and hogs are raised, the first principally for home use, the others for market. Stock-raising and feeding is by far the most important interest in the county. For a few years past sheep-raising has received considerable attention.

The land in cultivation approximates to only one-fourth of the entire area. The great depth of the soil and its ready absorption of water, peculiarly adapts it to agriculture; even after heavy rains plowing can be done, and the retention of moisture prevents dry weather from cutting off the growing crops.

The Manufacturing Interests have not been very much developed, although some very desirable locations for mills and manufactories can be had upon the smaller streams. Prominent among those needed are woolen mills, agricultural machinery manufactories, and a number of flouring mills.

Valuation of the county per census of 1870, $5,000,000.*

The Kansas City, St. Joseph & Council Bluffs Rail Road runs through the county from north to south, having 26 miles of track. The Quincy, Missouri & Pacific Rail Road is projected through Atchison; and the Burlington & Missouri River Rail Road connects with the K. C., St. J. & C. B. R. R. at Hamburg, Iowa, near the northern line of the county, affording with the river, excellent facilities for transportation.

The Exports are corn, wheat, cattle, hogs, fruit and flour.

The county has made great progress under the public school system, being well supplied in all its sub-districts with good schools and competent teachers. Many of the buildings are of brick, handsome, substantial, and well furnished. The county has a school fund of $125,000.

Atchison County Places in 1875

Homer, is a post office 12 miles east of Rockport.

Irish Grove (Milton), 5 miles north of Corning, has a public school, 3 stores, 1 wagon shop, a large saw and gristmill, etc.

London is a post office 18 miles east north east of Rockport.

Milton, See Irish Grove.

Nishnabotna, on the K. C., St. J. & C. B. R. R., 127 miles north of Kansas City; has 1 general store.

North Star (Scott City), 2 miles west of Phelps and 8 miles west of Rockport, is on the Missouri River. It has a population of about 200, and contains an M. E. Church, a public school house, 2 flouring mills, a hotel, warehouse, stock yard, and 3 general stores. There is a ferry at this place to Brownsville, just opposite in Nebraska.

Phelps City, on the K. C., St. J. & C. B. R. R., 135 miles north of Kansas City, is located in a rich agricultural region. It is a favorite resort for stock dealers and shippers. The facilities for grazing and feeding are so good in this neighborhood, that thousands of cattle and hogs are driven here, fattened and shipped. It has about 250 inhabitants, 4 stores and a lumber yard.

Rich (Sonora) is a post office on the Missouri River, 2 miles west of Watson.

ROCKPORT, the county seat, 5 miles east of Phelps City, is situated on Rock Creek, near the center of the county. It was laid out and the records removed thither from Linden, the old county seat, in 1856. The place grew slowly at first, but since 1870 its progress has been steady and its population is now about 800. The business houses are mostly substantial brick buildings. Two new school buildings, costing $16,000, afford ample educational facilities. There are 3 churches, M. E. Ch., Baptist and German Lutheran, aggregate value, $12,000, and 1 Masonic and 1 I. 0. 0. F. Lodge. The town has about 20 stores, 2 wagon shops, 1 brewery, 1 bank, 2 hotels, and 2 newspapers, The Atchison County Journal, published by Dopf & McCreary, and The Granger's Advocate, by Hassners & Willard. There is a large flouring mill on Rock Creek, within the limits of the town, and 2 other grist mills on the same creek, within 2 miles of the town.

Scott City, See North Star.

Sonora, See Rich.

Watson, on the K. C., St. J. & C. B. R. R., 141 miles north of Kansas City, situated in the centre of a fine farming district, is a good trading and shipping point. It has a population of about 200, and contains 5 general stores, 1 church, Cumberland Presbyterian, also used by other denominations, and a school house.

Union City, 3 miles east of Phelps, has a church, store, etc.

*Assessed valuation in 1873, $3,494,838. Taxation, $0.45 per $100. No county debt.

Source: Campbell's Gazetteer of Missouri, Revised Edition, by R. A. Campbell, Published by R. A. Campbell,
St. Louis, Missouri, 1875

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