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Edson Baxter. Now serving as clerk of the District Court at Marion, Captain Baxter is an old timer of Kansas and had lived in close touch with the developments of half a century and his own part therein allows him to speak with authority on the history of that period.
The Baxter family came to Kansas in territorial times and did their pioneering in Morris County. Edson Baxter was fifteen years of age when he accompanied the family caravan overland, and he was able to make himself useful from the very beginning of the settlement. He was born on a farm in Lasalle County, Illinois, October 8, 1842, a son of June and Elizabeth (Lenox) Baxter. He is a descendant of the noted English divine, Richard Baxter. June Baxter, his father, was born near West Point, New York, June 30, 1805. In early life he learned the trade of blacksmith, and from New York went to Illinois. In 1858 he brought his family with wagons and teams westward from Central Illinois and located on land which he pre-empted in Morris County, Kansas. The rest of his active years were spent there as a farmer, and he died May 20, 1890. When the Baxter family settled in Morris County the settlers lived chiefly along the creeks. Law and order were not securely established, and besides some Indian seares the population suffered to some extent from the civil warfare then raging in Kansas and afterward extended through the entire country. Not infrequently the Baxters lived on buffalo meat, since buffalo were still numerous in the country.
June Baxter was married in 1838 to Elizabeth Lenox, who was born in Chautauqua County, New York, in 1807. She died in Morris County, Kansas, in 1885. They became the parents of thirteen children, eleven sons and two daughters. Those still living are: Charles, of White City, Kansas; Edson; and Eliza, wife of F. M. Penland, a farmer of Marion County.
Edson Baxter had attended school three months each year in the winters in his rural community of Lasalle County, Illinois. While giving a hand to the improvement of his father’s pre-emption in Morris County he also attended school at Council Grove, Kansas, in the winter of 1860 for three months, and at Junction City, Kansas, in the winter of 1862 for three months. In 1859 he had the distinction of tesching the first school in Morris County outside of Council Grove. While attending school at Junction City Mr. Baxter worked every Saturday in the office of the Junction City Union, then owned by the late venerable George W. Martin. He learned something about printing and newspaper work, but he did not accept the opportunity as a means of a permanent career.
In 1862 Captain Baxter became a salesman in a store at Council Grove owned by U. Conn, and then from the spring of 1863 worked for G. U. Sincock until 1864. On the 16th of July of that year he enlisted in Company C of the Seventeenth Kansas Infantry. The service of this regiment while he was a member was on the plains, guarding mail coaches and other property against hostile Indians and outlaws. In December, 1864, Mr. Baxter became salesman in a general store at Salina, owned by H. L. Jones. He was elected register of deeds of Saline County at the November election in 1865, and filled that office two years, and subsequently one year by appointment. He was also subsequently appointed to fill a vacancy in the office of county treasurer for one year.
On March 10, 1869, Governor James M. Harvey appointed Mr. Baxter a commissioner to audit Indian claims. In 1870 he removed to Marion, and that city had been his home now for upwards of half a century. He exercised his right as a homesteader and developed a claim four miles northwest of Marion. During the years from 1885 to 1891 Captain Baxter was a justice of the peace, and for a time he was also deputy clerk of the District Court and deputy sheriff. In 1871 he assisted in organizing and was chairman of the Republican County Central Committee in Marion County.
While long a man of importance and leadership in Marion County, Captain Baxter had become widely known over the state. In 1901 he was doorkeeper at the session of the Kansas State Senate, and in 1903 served as bookkeeper for the Senate. In 1909 Governor W. R. Stubbs appointed him colonel and inspector general of the Kansas National Guard. This office he resigned to accept the appointment as captain and quartermaster of the National Guard, and he had charge of the state arsenal at Topeka until February 2, 1913.
Captain Baxter resigned from the state office to accept appointment as elerk of the District Court of Marion County to fill a vacancy. In 1914 he was regularly elected to that office, with a plurality of 1,046 votes, and in 1916 was again the choice of the people by a majority of 1,924. It is said that Captain Baxter is the most painstaking official ever elected in Marion County. The same reputation follows him from his work as a state official. Secretary of State Sessions wrote at the time Captain Baxter was a candidate for election as clerk of the District Court:”I have been reasonably well posted on the affairs around the state house for twenty years, and I desire to say that there never was a more efficient and competent official in the state house than Captain Baxter. He had thousands of dollars worth of property under his care, and when he left the office to take the position of clerk of the District Court of Marion County everything checked out to a cent. Not only was he accurate in his accounts and dealings, but he was neat in his work and the quartermaster’s department became one of the show places in the state house on account of the neat manner in which it was kept.”
Captain Baxter is a member and the present adjutant of Pollock Post No. 42, Grand Army of the Republic, at Marion.
FIRST SCHOOL HOUSE IN MARION COUNTY, KANSAS
Built in the spring of 1864. Rebecca A. Shreve was the first teacher.
On May 20, 1865, Captain Baxter married Rebecca A. Shreve. Mrs. Baxter was born in the State of Michigan December 4, 1844, a daughter of William P. Shreve, who came to Kansas in 1860 and was one of the first to locate in Marion County. Mrs. Baxter is one of the few survivors of the original settlers of Marion County, and she had among numerous other distinctions as an old settler the honor of having taught the first school in Marion County. Photographs of this pioneer schoolhouse are still extant. They represent an old log building covered with sod, with a door at one end, a small window in the side and a rough chimney sticking up at one corner. The building was constructed in the spring of 1864. Perhaps there never was a larger school district in all Kansas, since it contained an area of over thirty-one thousand square miles. To maintain the school taxes were collected at Fort Dodge, 175 miles away, and at intermediate points along the old Santa Fe Trail.
At the old settlers’ picnic of Marion held in 1912 Mrs. Baxter was called upon to read an article on the settlement of Marion County, and some extracts from that article have special reference and pertinence to this sketch and this publication. Mrs. Baxter was about sixteen years of age when she came to Kansas and was well qualified to tell the story. She was a member of a party that left New Paris, Indiana, on May 1, 1860. The families consisted of William P. and Charity T. Shreve and their seven children, named Rebecca A., Sarah E., Benjamin E., Mary L., Samuel H., George F. and Emile A.; George and Betsy Griffith and their three children, named Mary A., Joey and Alexander, and George Griffith’s two brothers, John and Edward, then unmarried; William Billings and his wife Keziah, and their three children, Hattie, Hannah and Charles Butterfield; Benjamin Frazier and Henry Blanchord, single men. The journey was made overland, and the party camped by the roadsides and cooked their meals on the ground. They crossed the Mississippi River at Quiney and had great difficulty in securing water while they crossed Missouri, that being a time of great drouth. Their destination was Coffey County, Kansas, but failing to find timber there they went on to Marion County, arriving about the last of June or the first of July. Mrs. Baxter recalled many interesting experiences with the Indians, chiefly the Kaws, but the Indians were almost without exception peaceable and made no trouble for the pioneers. The chief Indian scare came in 1854, while Mrs. Baxter was teaching the school above mentioned. There was abundance of opportunity to secure wild game, turkey, antelope, deer and buffalo, and one time, during a severe winter, Mrs. Baxter recalls the fact of an immense herd of buffalo covering the entire site of the present city of Marion and being only with difficulty restrained from eating the hay of the settlers. The pioneer home of the Shreve family was a log house near Walnut Creek, with a stone wall around the south and part way around the west for protection from the Indians. Mr. Shreve plowed two deep furrows in the fall of 1861 and planted walnuts in them, and some of those walnut trees still mark the furrow on the east side of Walnut Creek in the City of Marion. The old school house where Mrs. Baxter taught was on the east side of Muddy Creek, a little northeast of the Shreve home and not far from the old waterworks plant.
Captain and Mrs. Baxter had eight children, three sons and five daughters. Florence was born December 11, 1866. Alvin was born September 4, 1868. William June was born April 8, 1870. Carrie Alma was born March 14, 1873. Mary, born August 10, 1874, died in infancy. Ambrose Centennial was born July 4, 1876. Lorena was born April 28, 1879. Elizabeth was born July 28, 1881.