Yvonne Dalluge
Kathleen Jacobitz
Marcia Borcher
Sandi Corbitt-Sears
Dick Taylor

Summerfield: Mustering Momentum

In Marshall county, Kan., Judge Hutchinson appointed John Balderson, D. W. Acker, and Marysville implement dealer L. W. Libby to a committee charged with laying out the route of the new rail line and appraising damages for the right-of way. Surveyors started full field activity from Seneca to Beatrice, Neb., on Tuesday, September 4, 1888. By month-end, the KC W & NW had contracted almost enough iron to lay rails from Seneca to the state line, and Abijah Wells, an attorney for the railroad in Seneca, announced at Axtell on Thursday, September 27, that plans were to proceed.

A completed railroad to the Nebraska state line was promised by the first of December and Kansas City had committed to give $75,000 to the railroad company when the extension was finished. On the first of October, voters from St. Bridget petitioned the Marshall county board of commissioners to call a bond election in their township for the amount of $15,000. A lesser sum of $12,000 was expected from the adjacent Murray township, where the city of Axtell was located.

For the previous six years, John and Mary Smiley and a number of their seven children had lived on 530 acres of farmland northwest of Manley in St. Bridget township. John S. Smiley was born in Ohio in 1833, one of twelve children. When he was very young, his parents, John and Hannah Smiley, brought him to Monmouth, Ill., where he was educated, and where he helped on his father's farm until age 27. John married a doctor's daughter, Mary McDill, in 1860 and farmed for himself in Illinois and Missouri before coming to Kansas in 1882.

Smiley was at Axtell in early October, 1888, discussing the railroad plans while John P. Taylor of Seneca had come to Marshall county contracting right-of-way for the railroad company. By mid-October it was revealed the right-of-way had been purchased to Barneston, Neb., and Smiley had sold land on which to locate a new town in the northwest corner of St. Bridget township. Taylor also bought land at the townsite from C. F. McCulloch, who had come from Low Point, Ill., seven years earlier, from W. H. Joseph in Kansas, and from G. W. Randall in Nebraska. The track would reach Nebraska precisely on a north-south high point between river basins. Precipitation from storm clouds and melting snows on the west side of the proposed depot drained to the Big Blue River; the flow of excess moisture on the east side of the future station was oriented toward the Nemaha.

The railroad company's superintendent, 44-year-old bachelor Elias Summerfield, would furnish his own name to designate the town. At various times in the company's history, board members were honored by having towns or stopping points along the line named for them. W. D. Bethel, O. H. P. Piper, H. M. Neeley, W. P. Dunavant, Elias Summerfield, K. B. Armour, and Samuel Tate, Jr., are indirectly acknowledged by these existing landmark names.

The Prussian native, Elias Summerfield, was known prominently as a "Capitalist" around his current hometown of Lawrence, where most of his American relatives remained. His 66-year-old mother, Hannah, had been a widow for the past eight years in that city. His only brother was practicing medicine and law at Lawrence. And his only sister was probably living in nearby Eudora as Mrs. Minnie Jacobs. Solon Summerfield, Elias' young nephew, was growing up in Lawrence and would later follow his father's path in the study of law.

Way back in 1850, the Summerfield family had emigrated to America from what is modern-day Poland, and they settled in Douglas county seven years later. At Eudora, the father, Abraham, held a partnership in the mercantile firm of Summerfield & Jacobs while serving on the city council and performing as postmaster. Near the end of the Civil War, in 1864, the youngster Elias reportedly returned after completing a three-year enlistment with the 24th Infantry, while his brother, Marcus, left for New York City to study medicine at Belleview Medical College. In 1874, when Abraham and Hannah Summerfield were both in their early 50's, they relocated to Lawrence after spending seventeen years at Eudora. The next year, their elder son, 33-year-old Dr. Marcus Summerfield, and his new bride, Sara, also moved to Lawrence. And in 1880, 59-year-old Abraham Summerfield passed away.

The college town of Lawrence, Kan., was where Solon was born to Marcus and Sara Summerfield. Decades later, after graduating from the University of Kansas, Solon would realize financial success in the early 20th-century hosiery trade in New York City, the town to which his parents would also have relocated. And Uncle Elias himself would wind up in the silk business in that same huge metropolis. Solon would be remembered in the latter 20th-century as the benefactor of the Summerfield scholarships for Kansas college students.

In the early fall season of 1888, it was reported that $12,000 asked from the Axtell community had been raised. Grading began between Axtell and Seneca. Elias Summerfield and company general manager Newman Erb arrived in Axtell on October 22 to examine the route of the new road. John Bookwalter came down from Pawnee county, Neb., and met with railroad representatives in Axtell on Wednesday, October 24, for negotiations.

Initial road work started before the end of October and was going full force in early November with hundreds of laborers, horses, and equipment. Four gangs were busy grading, building bridges and laying track between Seneca and the state line. Sherman Lord, Charles Vannosdoll, and O. Kingman from Beattie, and William Smiley and William A. Houston of the Summerfield vicinity were in St. Bridget township to work on the railroad.

On Tuesday, November 20, John J. McLennan and John Smiley's son Ed opened the Pioneer Store in Smiley's cellar at "Summerfield," and conducted trade by lamplight two months before any other store did business. Ed Smiley purchased a stock of groceries at Beattie to sell in their new shop, the first outlet in the proposed village at a time when no new buildings had yet been constructed.

The following Friday, probably in New York City, a Jewish entertainer named Minnie gave birth to another baby boy and named him Adolph; and years later he would be known as "Harpo." His only sibling, Leonard "Chico" Marx, had reached 20 months of age the previous day.

One week after the grand opening of the Pioneer Store, on November 27, McLennan turned 28 years of age. Just before the Civil War, the New York native was born to Finley and Isabell McLennan, 1857 immigrants from Rosshire, Scotland. They moved from Livingston county, New York, to an Ontario, Canada, farm when John was seven. Starting at age 18, he worked as a carpenter and brick maker at locations from Chippewa Falls, Wisc., to Minnesota and the Dakotas before coming to Marshall county, Kan., in 1883.

Graders started work on Smiley's and McCulloch's farms making the road bed for the railroad. Frank Thomann of Beattie announced his personal intention of moving to Summerfield to open a drugstore. Several parties were patiently awaiting the town to be platted in order to buy lots and commence building their businesses. More plans were announced in November to build two grain elevators, a brick store, and several other buildings.

Two Seneca men, Festus Newton, who was an Illinois native, and George Hibbard, erected three cribs and bins, 150 by 18 by 12 ft. high, in Summerfield, and commenced buying locally-grown corn around the end of November. Good weather permitted planters to harvest the largest corn crop the area had ever produced, with many farmers selling more than a thousand bushels. Hibbard contracted 60,000 bushels before the end of 1888. Festus Newton's father, James L. Newton, born in Kentucky, was farming near Seneca. Reverend Thomas Newton, Festus' Virginia-born grandfather, was the first preacher to move into Nemaha county, Kan.

The railroad company modified their plan for the extension's other end, which originated at Seneca down in Nemaha county. Newman Erb, Elias Summerfield, Colonel W. P. Dunavant, and O. H. Piper, who were members of the railroad company; Simon Conwell and Abijah Wells, being attorneys for the railroad; and John P. Taylor, an entrepreneur from Seneca, were all gathered in Axtell on Tuesday, November 27, announcing an agreement for co-ownership of an existing rail line already running between Axtell and Seneca.

Buying half-interest from the St. Joe & Grand Island eliminated any need for a separate duplicate track in that same area. All further efforts were then concentrated on construction in Marshall county, where the first mile of rails starting south from the state line was solidly in place at the end of November.

In November, 1888, H. H. Lourey, merchandiser, real estate dealer, and former mayor of Frankfort, and his wife, Mary, had one son, Frank H. Lourey, 28. Back in 1852, when H. H. Lourey journeyed down to Akron, Ohio, he was a 27-year-old Canadian native. After spending four years at Hillsdale, Mich., he joined the army in 1862 to serve in the quartermasters corps during the Civil War. At the war's end, he stayed four more years at Hillsdale before coming to Marshall county. Lourey reported considerable excitement and stir in the new town so very confident of prosperity.

W. A. Willis had workers engaged in building stores at Summerfield, and the O'Neil brothers of Beattie secured a lease to erect a large elevator. Beattie was expected to be well represented in forming the new town. On Patrick Hughes' farm two miles east of the Manley post office, a quarry was opened where the railroad contractors obtained much of their stone. A large group of workers from Beattie came to quarry rock for the railroad in early December. The road bed was expected to be ready by Christmas and track-laying completed early in the new year.

Fever of relocating to the new town captured the fancy of a great number of people in Beattie, but the unruffled merchant L. N. Campbell stolidly advertised he would stay and serve the good people remaining there. The John Crabb family moved from Beattie just in time to spend a white Christmas in Summerfield with the ground covered by the first snowfall. Frank Thomann, Con O'Neil, and August Weuster went from Beattie to Summerfield on New Year's Day and bought lots. In Beattie on Wednesday, January 2, 1889, Charles A. Shank, travelling freight and passenger agent for the KC W & NW, promised the road would be running to Summerfield within twenty or thirty days.

During their off-hours, railroad workers looking for a good time in Axtell became excessively frolicsome with booze and had to be restrained by the city marshal.

Michael Murray, 62, had come to New York from his native Ireland when he was sixteen, at the time of the 1842 Irish potato famine, and ten years later he married Catherine Coghan at Verplanck's Point, N. Y. In 1857, they came west and the next year moved to St. Bridget township where he combined the occupation of farming with his previous vocation of laboring as a merchant. The Murray couple, who were parents of three adolescent daughters in 1875, opened a store in Axtell that year exhibiting a large stock of merchandise. Michael Murray also shipped livestock from the Axtell depot.

The firm of Murray & Ragan organized and made plans to locate at the new town to sell hardware, farm implements and coal, with Murray handling the Summerfield operation and Ragan remaining in Axtell. The pair intended to purchase stock and set up their weight scales near the Summerfield depot, just under construction in December of 1888.

Sylvester Creevan planned for a general store. W. A. Miller expected to open a carpenter shop and do a large part of the building of Summerfield. C. D. Russell and W. H. Shutt were to supply the lumber from their place of business in Summerfield. All these individuals were considered to be some of Axtell's first-class businessmen.

20 to 35 railcars of new lumber arrived each week in Axtell for the current construction in progress to the northwest, with some of the wood going to build corncribs. At the new townsite, business was proceeding very well with grain bought as fast as it could be handled, the Pioneer Store operated by Smiley and McLennan was doing a "rushing" business, Frank Hord had erected the first new store building, a butcher shop was being built, and lumber was ready for construction of a livery stable. Before the end of 1888, H. H. Lourey of Frankfort purchased ground in Summerfield with plans to immediately build a general merchandise store. Lourey later hired Flag Passage of Axtell to operate the store.

Hulbert and Moore of Waterville were already building a general store. The Summerfield Loan Company purchased land east of the city from Theodore Allen of Little York, Ill. John Smiley, who was operating the Metropolitan Hotel with thoughts of changing the name to Grand Pacific Hotel, decided to take a trip to his old home of Monmouth, Ill., declaring he deserved a rest after all his worthy efforts toward the enormous success of recent months.

Through the winter, the crews of S. L. Davis from Seneca were busy building new bridges and part of the rail line to Summerfield. Along with being in the grain business, Davis also had contracted 3/4 mile of stone work at Ft. Leavenworth at this time. Seven gangs were at work on the construction between Axtell and Summerfield, but dimming prospects of the railroad company completely finishing the project before the coming spring were underscored with a report of wages being cut. Will Houston and his crew had completed the first mile and a half of track south from the state line by noon Christmas Eve. Kansas had built 523 miles of railroads in 1888 according to a published report, laying more iron than any other state.

Table of Contents

Part 4: Platting & Plotting


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