Wabaunsee County, Kansas

by Neal Danielson, Editor

Maple Hill is located in Wabaunsee County (Figure 1) midway between the north and south lines of the State (Figure 2), and about 75 miles west of the Missouri River. The first settlement of which there is any authenticated account, is that made in Wabaunsee Township in 1854, although there were a few settlers in other portions of the county whose advent dates as far back. Several families settled in the County during those first couple of years following the Kansas/Nebraska Act. In April 1856, the "Beecher Rifle Company," or "New Haven Colony" as described by some, settled in the County. The "Beecher Rifle Company" was formed in New Haven Connecticut on February 17, 1856, when C. B. Lines announced at a public meeting in New Haven his intention to organize a colony and at an early day start for Kansas to help make it a Free State. Books were open the next day to receive the signatures of those wishing to enroll, and in less than a week 85 names were subscribed. By March 7, 1856 this number increased to 90 . A meeting was held in the North Church where they listened to a speech given by Rev. H. W. Beecher and on March 31, 1856 they started from New Haven amidst many handshakings, farewell greetings, and an oft-repeated "God bless you," and "God speed you," each man having a rifle on his shoulder and a Bible in his pocket.At this time the colony was composed of preachers, teachers, doctors, merchants, mechanics, and laborers. Upon arrival in St. Louis the colony boarded the steamer "Clara" bound for Kansas City, where they purchased oxen, wagons, cows, etc., for the settlement in Wabaunsee County.

The County is bounded on the north by the Kansas River, on the south by Lyon County, east by Shawnee County, and west by Morris County. As the County was originally established, it embraced, in addition to its present territory, a portion of what is now Riley and Morris Counties. The topography of the County is very much broken and uneven, but much more in the central than in any other portion and the only word to reflect this is 'bluffy', as it is one continuous chain of bluffs, some higher than the others.

Numerous creeks abound in the County with Mill Creek being the largest, with an East, West and South Branch, feeding into, along with the Illinois Creek and Spring Creek. Other Creeks include Henry's Creek, Mulberry Creek, Snokomo Creek, Dragoon Creek, Elm Creek, Rock Creek, Antelope Creek, Wells Creek, and Mission Creek. The Township of Maple Hill helps to swell the current with Dry Creek.

The products of the County are, mainly, agricultural, and consist of wheat, oats, corn, rye, flax and barley. Millet, timothy, Hungarian and clover are also extensively cultivated, while from the soil, in its primitive and natural state, a superabundance of rich and nutritious grasses grow in great luxuriance. Fruits and vegetables are grown in abundant crops annually, some sold on the open market while others are used for stock-feeding.

In 1875 several families arrived in Maple Hill, Kansas following the purchase of four sections of land in 1873. Each family built homes of fine stone, one home, that of Dura Warren was burned in 1875 but was not replaced until 1890 when a dwelling was built by William Cocks of Long Island, New York for raising racing horses at Maple Hill. The house was first occupied by the Hamilton Family and was later purchased by the Grant Romig family. Figure 3 is a cover from the Long Island Farm, so named by W. W. Cocks, and is apparently from a member of the Hamilton family to Mr. Cocks. The names listed as Home of-Zeta, King Ninus, Diomed Wilkes, and Young Zeta are thoroughbred racing horses.

Figure 3 - Cover from Long Island Farm, Maple Hill, Kansas to W. W. Cocks Esquire 1893

The cover is addressed to W. W. Cocks Esqs., Old Westbury, Long Island, New York. William Willets Cocks, of Westbury in Nassau County, Long Island, New York was born in Old Westbury July 24, 1861. He attended private schools and Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. His main focus in life was in agricultural endeavor. He was elected commissioner of Highway in North Hemstead in 1894 and reelected in 1896 & 1898; served in the State Senate in 1901 & 1902. He was elected to represent New York's 1st District, in the US House of Representatives, from March 4, 1905 to March 3, 1911. He served as a member of the board of managers of Swarthmore College; President of the Friends Academy, Locust Valley, Nassau County; Vice President of the Roslyn Savings Bank; a director of the Bank of Westbury and the Bank of Hicksville; elected Mayor of the village of Old Westbury, Long Island, New York, in 1924 and served until his death on May 24, 1932.

As for the Thoroughbreds listed on the cover, the name 'Diomed Wilkes' has a bloodline dating back to the 18th Century and is one of the most noteworthy horses on both sides of the Atlantic. 'Diomed' (Figure 4) was the winner of the very first Epsom Derby in 1780; later in life he was exported to America to become the premier sire. 'Wilkes' is another with a Thoroughbred hertitage. The names of the other Thoroughbreds, Zeta and King Ninus, are also found among the Historic Sires and Dams. As to when Mr. Cocks acquired the Thoroughbreds, is not known, but were probably put out to pasture at the Long Island Farm in Maple Hill following a racing career on the east coast.

The Maple Hill Post Office was first opened on May 1, 1862 and would close briefly on April 1, 1868 and reopened June 21, 1871 until May 14, 1894 when the town changes the name to Maplehill. On June1, 1950 the name changed back to Maple Hill and remains so today. The first postmaster in Maple Hill Township, Mr. Waterman, who owned and ran a saw-mill at a point on Mill Creek, near where the government grist mill once stood, was murdered by White and Frego over some trifling matter in the settlement. White was a white man and Frego was half white half American Indian. They ambushed Waterman and a hired hand on their way back from Topeka along Mission Creek, Waterman was killed and the hired hand wounded, the two managed to elude their pursuers, and made their escape.

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Posted Nov, 2005 RR