Friday, January 13, 2006

History of Riley County Part 2

Of its nearly 400,000 acres of land, about 20 per cent are bottom-lands, 80 per cent uplands, and 6 per cent forest, according to government survey; 95 per cent prairie. The eastern and southern portions of the county are quite bluffy and furnish some most picturesque scenery; the western and northern are for the most part gently undulating, the rolling prairie being most beautiful in Its waving swells and varied slopes. On the small creeks the strips of bottom are quite narrow; the belts of alluvial lands along the Kansas, Big Blue, Fancy, Mill, and Wild Cat vary from one-half to four miles in width.

The composition of the soil is so varied in its chemical elements that nearly almost everything in the nature of grasses, grains, fruits and vegetables can be produced from it. The dark, easily-worked soil of the bottom-lands is very productive. Its depth, ranging from two to fifteen feet, comparatively makes its fertility inexhaustible. Sand largely predominates over the cIayey element, and it very readily admits of drainage, so that it may be said there is next to nothing of stagnation in these bottom-lands of large expanse. The uplands, less sandy than the bottoms, are fully as certain of bountiful crops, except in the occasional periods when burning drouths prevail. The almost total exemption from early and late frosts, of the crops on the high prairie, and the salubrity of the climate, causes the settlement of the uplands with great rapidity as compared with the early days. The bluffs, though presenting something of an appearance of barrenness, are exceedingly valuable for pastoral purposes, supplied, as their sides are so often, with excellent springs of living water; and the contiguous ravines, with their shady nooks, make most excellent ranges for neat cattle and sheep. Good brick-clay is found in the bottom-lands and a beautiful magnesian limestone is distributed over the county, immense quarries being in the vicinity of Manhattan.

A large part of the Kansas River between the Big Blue and the Republican rivers is in Riley County, and on it are some of the garden-lands of the State. During the territorial days of Kansas steamboats came up the river to Manhattan and as far as Junction City; and should the Mississippi Missouri, and Kansas rivers, under the fostering care of the General Government, receive bountiful appropriations, the bulky products of the soil are likely to be transported in floating barges down these improved navigable streams to the Gulf of Mexico, where they may be readily shipped to the Old World. The Kaw, this noblest of Kansas rivers, is on the north line of Zeandale Township; it runs very irregularly through Manhattan and forms considerable of the north and the northwestern boundary of Ashland, and the southwestern boundary of Ogden Township.

The Big Blue, forming the larger portion of the eastern boundary of the county, has fewer sharp bends than the Kaw, into which it flows at the east of Manhattan, and it is so bountifully furnished with water-power as to cause it to be designated the "Merrimac" of Kansas. It is dammed at Rocky Ford, some three miles above Manhattan; the fall is ten feet, and the dam 342 feet in length, is built of heavy oak timbers bolted into the solid rock foundation. The Rocky Ford mill was built here in 1866. It is a four-story stone building, 40x60 feet. Its foundations are laid on the solid rock, and its walls, laid in cement, are four feet thick from the bottom of the river to the second floor. The river can be dammed below at Manhattan and above at Stockdale, Randolph, and Mariadahl. Swede Creek, Jackson, Grant and Manhattan townships are the Riley County townships bordering on the Big Blue. Fancy and Mill creeks, flowing southeast into the Kan- sas, water the center of the county, and Madison, Timber and Three Mile creeks running west into the Republican, water the western portion; while south of the Kansas, McDowell, Deep and School creeks, traverse the southern part, the two latter in Zeandale Township. The "Zeandale Bottoms" are regarded as the choice bottom-lands of the county. Besides these there are other small creeks, which, with their branches, give the county a most bountiful water-supply.

There are quite a variety of kinds of timber of which the most abundant are cottonwood several kinds of oak and elm, black walnut, soft maple hackberry, hickory, locust, ash, linden, sycamore, mulberry, box elder, and coffee-bean. Of the cultivated groves, soft maple predominates, though black walnut, locust and cottonwood are quite common. Out on the high prairies, the groves of forest-trees, and the cultivated orchards which now bear in copious quantities some of the choicest of apples, pears and peaches, all attest to the assiduous care of the lover of horticulture, and the most excellent climate for various fruits.

More to come..... :)

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