The founders of Garden City and the first to make settlement on homesteads in Finney county, were the Fulton brothers. They had ranged over this region for several years, following the business of hunting buffalo and wild horses before they ever thought of starting a town. William D. Fulton was born 1826 in Ohio. He died at the age of eighty-four years in Garden City, Kansas. James R. Fulton was born in 1829 in Ohio, and died suddenly at his home in Garden City in 1885.
In February, 1878, James R. Fulton, William D. Fulton and his son, L. W. Fulton, arrived at the present site of Garden City, bringing with them Chas. Van Trump, the county surveyor from Dodge City. Mr. Van Trump had previously surveyed as far as the Point of Rocks, nine miles east of Garden City. From there he started to find the center of old Sequoyah county. They drove up in their wagons and pitched camp not far from where the city pumping plant is now located. They were anxious to locate in the exact center of the county, and were afraid they had gone too far west. But when the engineer found the county lines, they discovered their camp was not one hundred yards from the center, east and west.
After completing the survey they went to Larned, Kansas, where the United States Land Office was then located, and on March 16, 1878, William D. Fulton filed on the southeast quarter section 18-24-32, and James R. Fulton filed on the southwest quarter of the same section. The other two quarters in the section were to have been taken by Chas. Van Trump and John A. Stevens, but by mistake their filings were both put on the northeast quarter. Van Trump did not discover the mistake until in the summer, and by that time, Stevens had built a house on the northwest quarter, and held it. A young man at Larned, seeing that the northwest quarter was still vacant, placed a timber claim filing on it, and Van Trump lost out in the townsite deal. Late in 1879, C. J. Jones found the young man who had filed on the northwest quarter and bought his relinquishment for $90 and a gold watch. In this way Mr. Jones became the owner of the northwest quarter of section 18, which is now Jones Addition of the town of Garden City.
The original townsite of Garden City was laid out on the south half of section 18 by engineer Chas. Van Trump. The land was a loose, sandy loam, and covered with sage brush and soap weeds, but there were no trees. Main street ran directly north and south, dividing Wm. D. and James R. Fulton's claims. As soon as they could get building material, they erected two frame houses. Wm. D. Fulton building on his land, on the east side of Main street, a house one story and a half high, with two rooms on the ground and two rooms above. This was called the Occidental Hotel. Wm. D. Fulton was proprietor. He often joked that it should have been called the Accidental Hotel, because it was an accident if you got anything to eat. James R. Fulton built a house of two rooms on his land, which joined Main street on the west. This house was sold to D. R. Menke in August, 1878, for a cash consideration and a one-sixteenth interest in the original townsite was given him to establish a store in the building. No other houses were built in Garden City until November, 1878, when James R. Fulton and Mr. L. T. Walker each put up a building. The Fultons tried to get others to settle here, but only a few came, and at the end of the first year there were only four buildings.
These first settlers lived a life of thrilling adventure, yet there were many lonely hours. Mrs. E. L. Wirt, daughter of Wm. D. Fulton, recalls that first year:
"There was not a sign of civilization on either side of the railroad. Just mile after mile of barren prairie. Frequently we would catch sight of a herd of wild horses or buffalo, and at night the antelope would come close to feed. The only sound was the howling of the coyotes and the fierce wind. I have seen Indians scouting along the river banks, hunting a place to cross, and one night a band passed not far from our house.The cattlemen did not want to see the settlers come in, and did a great many things to discourage them. But the Fultons were not bluffed by the rough manner and shooting around of the cowboys. Shortly after they arrived a cattleman came to the camp and said it was impossible to raise corn here and offered $50 a bushel for all they would grow. He urged them to leave, but they decided to stay anyway. And that summer of 1878, all crops planted produced bountifully, and there was an abundance of vegetables. The name of "Garden City" was suggested because of the fine garden in the Fulton yard.
"Storms were not uncommon, and while they raged we would be buried deep in the darkness on a bleak prairie. The wind with sand beat against the house like a heavy hail, until every part seemed to groan and surge like a tempest-tossed wreck on the sea. Then my father would get up and change the props on the house to keep it from blowing away. Sometimes he would have to put a rope around his waist and tie it on the inside of the house, and then we would all hang onto the rope and pull him safely back.
"There were no side tracks, no depot, and the nearest post office was at Dodge City. The trains did not stop at Garden City, and there was only one way to get our letters mailed. I would fasten them to the end of a stick, and when the train came through I would hold them up so one of the train men could reach it and he would snatch them off and mail them for us."
The Occidental Hotel, operated by the Fultons, was visited by a tramp one day. He inquired of Mrs. Fulton:"What do you call this place?"Mr. and Mrs. D. R. Menke and three children, Olivia, Harry and George, arrived from Farmington, Illinois, and established a residence in Garden City August 20, 1878. Garden City was not recognized by the Santa Fe railroad as a station, but the conductor was kind enough to slow the train down and let them off about a half mile up the track, and they walked back to the little village of fifteen people. There were five in the Wm. D. Fulton family, and two in the James R. Fulton family. Five in the family of Rev. Michael Turner lived on a claim just east of Finnup park. John A. Stevens and Emanuel Schnars, young men who had been with the Fultons for several years in the business of hunting wild horses and buffalo, and a hired man who worked for the Fultons that summer.
"It has been called Fulton by the railroad men," she answered, "but we are still debating on a permanent name, and I have been selected to decide on something appropriate."
"Why don't you call it Garden City?" said the tramp, glancing out over her lovely garden. The name came into instant favor and has since been retained.
Mr. Menke states: "I would have been here sooner, if it hadn't been that the Indians were on the war path, and soldiers were stationed along the line warning people to stay out until the trouble was settled." Very soon after his arrival, Mr. Menke opened the first store in Garden City. He was not a man of wealth, but had ambition, and realized the opportunities of a new country. He had been a cigar salesman before coming to Kansas, and used to go into the stores back east to sell the merchants, along with Mr. Heinz of pickle fame. Mr. Heinz at that time was peddling his wares from a basket on his arm. Those tempting bottles still lingered in the memory of Mr. Menke and he determined to place on the shelves of his own store in Garden City, a high-grade line of canned and bottled goods. He also added a shipment of boots and shoes to the general stock. After arranging his merchandise to his own satisfaction, and he had artistic ability, he stepped back to admire the effect. It was a keen little store, and he knew it. He then went outside to look around, and for the first time it came over him that no one lived in the whole surrounding country to buy his fancy groceries and boots. The few living in Garden City could afford only flour, dried beans, coffee and work shoes.
Money was pretty scarce among the settlers, and times were hard. Mr. Menke could not sell his canned goods, so he served them on his own table, not because he could afford to eat such food, but the family had to be fed, and they ate what could not be sold. His boots did not sell very fast either, but one day some cowboys were driving cattle along the river trail and they stopped at the store. One of the boys took a fancy to a pair of the boots, and gave Mr. Menke a ten-dollar bill to pay for them. Mr. Menke did not have the change. He stepped across to the Occidental Hotel to see if W. D. Fulton could change it. Uncle Billy could not. He went around to the other men of the settlement, and tried to raise the amount, but there was not enough cash among the bunch to change a ten-dollar bill, and they were grieved because Mr. Menke would have to miss a sale. However, when the cowboys learned of their predicament, they handed over the exact price asked for the boots.
Mrs. E. L. Wirt recalls the first death in Garden City. She says: "The first to die in Garden City was a man named Brown. He was travelling through the country with his wife and baby, and died in his wagon of a fever after being sick only a short time. My father made his coffin out of rough pine boards and we blacked it with shoe polish. He was the first to be buried on the hill, near where the cemetery is now located."
About the first of October, 1878, Joseph W. Weeks, N. F. Weeks, W. L. Williams, W. B. Wheeler, and D. W. Smith made actual settlement on land near Garden City.
Joseph W. Weeks enlisted in the Union army, August 4, 1862, in Company K, 18th Iowa Infantry. He took part in a number of engagements and was wounded in the battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas. After his return from the battlefield he lived in Iowa until 1878. Leaving his family with his parents in Iowa he started in company with his younger brother, N. F. Weeks, in a covered wagon for Kansas. They arrived at Garden City May 5, 1878, and soon afterward both filed on homesteads north of town. In the early fall the family of J. W. Weeks came to Sterling, Kansas, by train, and he met them there at the home of his wife's father, J. W. Smith. They continued the journey in the covered wagon which Mr. Weeks had left at Sterling. The wagon contained the family and all their possessions. When they arrived at Garden City the town consisted of three houses. The children of J. W. and Elizabeth Weeks were: Elmer A., David F., Olive E., Eugene S. and Charles L. The first-named four made the trip to Garden City in the covered wagon. The Weeks brothers employed themselves the first years in picking up buffalo bones and in catching up wild horses.
D. R. Menke was appointed as the first postmaster of Garden City October 8, 1878. After the post office was established, he thought the mail should be thrown off at Garden City, so he stopped the trains about a dozen times, but the railroad reported him to the post office department. He received a notice to quit flagging the trains, and to go to Sherlock for his mail pouches, and he did so for the next five or six months. About all the men in town were sworn in as carriers and each took his turn, without pay, in going for the mail, which was carried daily. Mr. Menke usually gave the carrier an order for the mail, but one time he forgot it. He says:"The carriers were all known to the acting post master at Sherlock, and I thought he would let them have it without an order, but he refused, and the carrier, N. F. Weeks, came back without it. There was a very bitter feeling between the people of Garden City and Sherlock at that time, and Weeks and I went back for the mail with the expectation of having a scrap. I was mad enough to do the scrapping myself, but I changed my mind when I saw the big, six-foot postmaster for the first time. But we had no trouble in getting the mail after that."
C. J. Jones came to Garden City for an antelope hunt, about the middle of January, 1879, from Sterling, Kansas. Before returning to his home, the Fulton brothers arranged with him for his services to assist in the promotion of Garden City, and especially in trying to influence the Santa Fe railroad to put in a switch and station.
Parties interested in the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad had organized the Arkansas Valley Town Company for the purpose of promoting townsites along the line of the railroad. This company had located Sherlock on section 7-24-33 about six miles west of the Fulton settlement, and planned to make it the principal town and county seat of the new county to be organized. Considerable rivalry arose, not all good natured. The Fultons realized the effort and sacrifice it would require if they succeeded in planting a town between the sites first selected by the railroad. They were fortunate in securing the service of C. J. Jones. He went with whole soul into the work of laying the foundation of a city. His ear, trained to catch the first rumble of the thundering herds of buffalo, now seemed to detect as easily the rumble of the wagons of approaching settlers. He met them far out on the prairie and guided them into Garden City. He went up and down the railroad to meet homeseekers, and would induce them to stop and look over this beautiful country.
Finally C. J. Jones made an agreement with the Santa Fe railroad early in 1879, and the Fulton location at Garden City was agreed upon as the town-to-be. It became necessary for the Fultons to immediately acquire title to their lands. To save the time and expense necessary to make commutation proof, they relinquished their filings, and title to the land was acquired by placing thereon, Land Script (additional homesteads) in the names of Edmund Guy, John Welch, John N. Baughn and A. R. Clark, each of whom were veterans of the Civil War. These four men to whom patents were issued for eighty acres each, conveyed to William D. Fulton the southeast quarter of section 18 and the southwest quarter to James R. Fulton. The Fultons in turn conveyed to the Garden City Town Company about 51 percent and received a minority interest in the town company in consideration of the conveyance.
ContinueNote: Text taken from "Conquest of Southwest Kansas" by Leola Howard Blanchard, which can be ordered through the Finney County Historical Museum.
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