Travel and transportation could almost be called themes for the year. At least, they were increasingly at the forefront of the world’s consciousness. It was the year of the first bicycle race and the great international university boat race. The year brought the invention of the rickshaw, the opening of the Suez Canal, and the exploration of the Colorado River. It was the year that Sir Henry M. Stanley first was asked to mount an expedition in search of Dr. Livingstone. And on one spring day at Promontory Summit, Utah, Leland Stanford drove the golden spike to complete the first transcontinental railroad.
|By Centpacrr at en.wikipedia [Public domain, Public domain or Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons|
The year was 1869, and in the U.S., trains had become a popular mode of travel. All over the nation thousands of men toiled daily, untold miles of shining steel track marking their progress. Most large cities already had the train, or were making plans to get it. Even many smaller communities, such as Meadville in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, had a line. Making connections along the way, people could travel almost anywhere in the country in the merest fraction of the time it would have taken by wagon or boat only a few years before.
It was probably by train that a certain John Rodgers took his family the thousand or so miles from their home in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, to Fort Scott, Kansas. The time frame is narrow enough to suggest speedy travel: his stepdaughter Mary Brosius was married in Crawford county on 10 May 1869 and the name John Rodgers appears on a land patent near Fort Scott on 20 July 1869. Of course, this time frame makes two assumptions: first, that John Rodgers was present at Mary Brosius’ wedding, which cannot be proved at this time, and second, that the entire family unit (except Mary, who stayed in Pennsylvania) traveled together to Kansas, which is equally uncertain. It is possible that John Rodgers left earlier for Kansas, missing Mary’s wedding, and it is possible that the rest of his family stayed behind in Pennsylvania, joining him in Kansas later. However, accepting the aforesaid assumptions gives an approximate travel date of June 1869. John Rodgers, his wife, children, and stepchildren had been residing in the township of South Shenango, not far from the city of Meadville. They could have caught a train at Meadville and made connections where necessary, bringing them well into eastern Kansas. Fort Scott is in Bourbon county, on the eastern border of the state, but far to the south. Tracks did not reach Fort Scott itself until December of that year, but the family could have taken the train to within a couple dozen miles of their destination, depending on the actual travel date. From there, they might have crowded into a stagecoach or purchased a wagon for the rest of the trip.
Where they lodged when they first arrived in the Fort Scott area is unknown. Perhaps they had friends in town with whom they could stay until they were able to build a house, or perhaps they stayed in a hotel or camped out. The only solid information is that John Rodgers purchased 40 acres to the west of town on 20 July 1869, and it is doubtful that they stayed there from the day of their arrival. One expects that John would have done a little looking around before he decided which land to buy. Additionally, the land office was in Humboldt, Kansas, a distance of about 40 miles, a distance which had not yet been shortened by train. It seems probable that John would have chosen his property before making the trip to the land office, a trip that would require at least a day’s ride if he went on horseback, and then another day to return.
Fort Scott was, at this time, a thriving and growing city. After the railroad arrived, the city would vie for years against Kansas City as the largest railroad center west of the Mississippi. But the railroad brought problems, as well. As the line pressed southward from town, it met with resistance from squatters who considered the land theirs. Legally the land, formerly known as the Cherokee Neutral Lands, and later sold by the Cherokee Nation to the Federal Government, had been bought up by the railroad. But squatters had been settling there even before the Cherokee Nation gave up its title in 1866. They did not want to lose the land they had already been working for a few years, and they saw the railroad’s coming as a threat to their own rights. As early as May of 1869, months before actual rails would arrive, they began assaults on the survey crews and graders who worked in advance of the track layers.
The troubles became so serious that the military brought in troops to protect the railroad workers. This infuriated the squatters, who had originally requested troops for their own protection and found it outrageous that a nation would take up arms against her own citizens in order to protect her commercial interests, but it did help to keep the violence down.
It is not known on which side the sentiments of the Rodgers family lay, but it is certain that they were present during this period of high tension. The entire family appears in Mill Creek Township, adjoining Fort Scott, in the 1870 U.S. census, enumerated 17 June of that year. John Rodgers, his real estate valued at $9,000 and his personal estate at $500, is the head of the household and a farmer. His wife (relationships are not recorded on this census, but we know the relationships of those in this family from other sources) Margaret’s occupation is identified as “Housekeeper,” and her place of birth is a ditto to her husband’s “Ireland.” Perhaps she really was Irish, or perhaps it is an assumption on the part of the informant. The next two lines give weight to the notion that the informant was not in possession of all the facts. They are the lines recording the children from Margaret’s previous marriage, John and Rebecca Brosius, however this census makes no mention of their alternate last name and includes them under the “Rodgers” umbrella. It is unlikely they were actually going by the name of Rodgers as this is the only document found which identifies them as such. It does manage to place their births in Pennsylvania, though. The other two children, Elizabeth and James, really are Rodgerses as recorded, but their birth places are identified as Kansas when research shows that they were likely born in Crawford county, Pennsylvania, as well.
Despite the purchase of the 40 acres outside Fort Scott, the family did not remain in Bourbon county for long. By 1873, and perhaps even sooner, they had moved to Howard county.
(Continues with “Brosius family in Howard county, Kansas, 1873ish-1875.”)
(Continues with “Brosius family in Howard county, Kansas, 1873ish-1875.”)
1870 U.S. Federal Census, Schedule 1, Kansas, Bourbon County, Mill Creek Township, page 12, dwelling 88, family 88, lines 4-9, John Rodgers household. Digital images, Ancestry. Accessed 18 May 2011.
Bureau of Land Management. Accession Nr: KS1230__.411; “Land Patents,” database and images, General Land Office Records (http://www.glorecords.blm.gov : accessed 18 Dec 2013).
“Historical Events for Year 1869.” HistoryOrb. Web. Accessed 25 Jan 2014.
“Soldier vs.Settler.” Fort Scott National Historic Site Kansas. National Park Service, Web. Accessed 25 Jan 2014.
Springirth, Ken. “Erie Railroad's Historic Journey.” The Meadville Tribune 5 Nov 2012: Web. Accessed 25 Jan 2014.
“Marriages.” Unknown newspaper article May 1869: unknown page. Print. Xerox copy sent to the author by Gloria Brosius, along with family group sheets recording the marriage date and place.