Fancy Creek, Kansas

by Neal Danielson, Editor

A small settlement in Clay County, is located about 13 miles northeast of Clay Center, the County seat. In 1857 Clay County was created and named in honor of the great compromise statesman, Henry Clay from Kentucky, who was chosen U. S. Senator in 1806 and was a candidate for President in opposition to James K. Polk. Initially Clay was attached to Riley County then Geary Country before becoming independent in 1866. The Republican River transverses the County from the extreme northwest corner to the southeast corner. Fancy Creek is located in the northeastern portion of the County. The township of Fancy Creek was named for the creek that flows through it. The Randolph family named the creek, and it is said, that whoever has wondered up and down its charming valley, or has enjoyed a look down upon the picturesque panorama spread out at its feet from an adjacent bluff, will exclaim, "A singularly appropriate name", Fancy.

Prior to the township being named, Solomon Secrest, one of Riley County's pioneer settlers and most respected citizens, first surveyed with wonder and admiration, the beautiful, peaceful valley of Fancy Creek, sleeping quiet and practically unknown within the enfolding hills. In November, 1856, with his brother Edward and Henry Shellenbaum, who were returning from a buffalo hunt in the Saline River, wither they had accompanied a band of Wyandotte Indians or alone, they journeyed up the Blue River in search of Henry Coundry, an old acquaintance, who had settled the previous year near the mouth of Mill Creek. In their search they came into the fertile valley of Fancy Creek and all were so charmed with Nature's beauty and lavishness here that they resolved to secure permanent homes here. All three subsequently became pioneer settlers in Riley County and prominent citizens and prosperous farmers.

The opening of Kansas Territory in 1854 put the spotlight on the territory, but most of the pro-slavery and anti-slavery movement took place farther east towards the Missouri border, giving those who settled in the area time to acquire the land and to build businesses. For example August Winkler built the first permanent grist-mill in the county. He was a very successful miller and farmer, and owned the largest flock of sheep in the county. The Secrest family were owners of the best farms in Kansas. In 1864 he built a large stone dwelling-house, the first one built on the creek, hauling the lumber, shingles, etc., from the Missouri River. He later opened a general store in Randolph, where he was ably assisted by his son, John. Secrest didn't marry until 1861 and to this marriage were born six children. They were members of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the neat little church adjoining his farm was built largely by his aid and influence. In 1872, Richard Bork established a general store in Fancy Creek and in 1880, following the establishment of the Fancy Creek Township in 1879, a Baptist Church was erected in the town at a cost of $1,500.

The first mail route in Clay County was established in 1862. The route ran from Manhattan to Clifton along the river valleys. The first post office was on Mill Creek, and the first postmaster was Lorenzo Gates. The second post office was at Clay center, with Orville Huntress as postmaster, and the third at Clifton, near the Northern boundary, was kept by James Fox. The first carrier was James Parkinson, who made his initial trip on July 1, 1862. At first the service was weekly but soon changed to tri-weekly, and Junction City became the southern terminus. Fancy Creek post office was established December 9, 1870 and closed April 15, 1901.

The Postal Card (Scott #UX14, issued Dec 1, 1897), shown below, is postmarked Fancy Creek, Kans., March 1, 1899 with a received postmark, Topeka, Kans. Rec'd Mar 2, 1899, at Station a. The postal card is addressed to a Mrs. F. A. Root and talks about an apparent epidemic of mumps and is signed 'Father', which I take to mean Mr. Root.

Postal Card-Fancy Creek, Kansas-March 1, 1899

Frank A. Root, was an author and publisher, born in Binghampton, NY, July 3, 1837. At the age of 20 he came to Kansas, where he worked first in the office of the Herald of Freedom at Lawrence, and in the latter 1850's was local editor on the Quindaro Chindowan. When the Civil War broke out he was assistant postmaster at Atchison, Kansas, and was prevented from enlisting by his resignation not being accepted. Early in 1863 he went on the overland stage line at Atchison as a messenger; later was local agent in charge of the California mail at Latham Station. Then he became the traveling mail agent on the stage line, and made trips across the plains between the Missouri River and the Rocky Mountains. On October 21, 1864, he married Miss Emma Clark of Atchison, Kansas. The postal card greeting is noted 'Dear Em'.

Mr. Root become part owner of the Daily and Weekly Free-Press in Atchison form 1865 to 1869; part owner of the Waterville Telegraph in 1870-1871, and one of the owners of the Seneca Courier 1871-1872. In the latter year he became proprietor of the Holton Express. Frank was postmaster at Holton. They moved to Topeka where he was publisher of the Topeka Argus in 1876; of the North Topeka Times from 1876 to 1880, and was postmaster in North Topeka Station in the latter 1870s. He was one of the owners of the Review and the Review Press at Gunnison, Colorado from 1880 till 1886, and then was publisher of the Topeka Mail until 1893. Frank A. Root was author of The Overland Stage to California, published in 1901.

Since no verification can be made that the author of the postal card was indeed Frank A. Root, the only thing that can be assured is that it was indeed sent from Fancy Creek on a specific date. However, all evidence leads to Mr. Root as the author.

References:
Kansas,F. W., Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1912.
Kansas and Kansans, Connelley, W. E., Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL, 1919.
Website: Kansas Counties
Website: William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas

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Posted January, 2005 RR