Crawford County, Kansas



Cato was the first permanent settlement in what is current Crawford County, when it was founded in 1854 by E. J. Boring. It was named after Sterling Cato, an Alabama lawyer, who had been appointed as Territorial Judge of the newly created Territory of Kansas. Cato missed its chance to become a major city when the railroads bypassed it and went a few miles west to Arcadia
Cato was full of firsts though. It was here that the first white child was born in Crawford County, the first fraternal organization was formed, the first school was located, the first church was founded and the first Sunday School was organizes. It was also the home to Nels Smith, Crawford County's first millionaire.
E. J. Boring established a postoffice about a days ride south of Fort Scott and called it Cato. The location at that time was part of Bourbon County, but in 1866 when Crawford County was formed, the location became inside the county lines of Crawford. Boring sold his postoffice to Captain John Rogers. E. J. Boring went on to be part of the group that organized the Girard Twon Company. Rogers was later killed by bushwackers and Captain Peter Smith inherited Rogers' property by marriage and became postmaster.
The first white person born at Cato and in Crawford County was Elijah "Lish" Black, born 26 April 1857, to Elijah and Martha Black. He died 16 December 1936 in Englevale. The first schoolhouse was built on the farm of Chad Brown, and was opened on 27 April 1857. The first teacher was Emery Conditt. His salary came from his pupils parents who paid $1.50 a month per child. That would be equivelent to $29.33 today.
Cato had the first church in Crawford County which was built of logs was the Baptist Church and used until 1868 when services were moved to the schoolhouse. The church was moved once again in 1871, when a new building was built with Israel Harris as pastor. Peter Smith, in 1868, built the second mill in Kansas and the first in the state south of Fort Scott. It was both a saw mill and grist mill.
Other early settlers to the Cato area and their contributions include: Andy Linthicum-first shoe shop, William Shamblin-first blacksmith shop, William Telcamp-first harness shop. In 1865 the following settlers arrived: George Fowler, Peter Fowler, Hugh Portwood, William Ewing and Sam Endicott. J. S. Evans came in 1866 with his parents and settled in the house that Lish Black was born in . His father kept the stage horses on the stage line that ran between Ft. Scott and Girard. Others early settlers were: John Hale Sr., Jacob Workman, Ezekiel Brown and his two sones I. K. and Chad, Levi and Sam Jones, James Odom, Crede Barton, Elihu Talcott, Riley and William Pearson, Levi Hatch, N. Sawyer, James Elliott, William and Jerry Franklin, Spencer Reynolds and Riley Dalton

Cato School
- photo late 1960's
Peter Smith Store and Residence
- photo (courtesy Crawford County Genealogical Society, Dorothy Benskin)

More About Cato

"Cato is the oldest town in the county, but it is quite small. It is located in Lincoln Township, it contains a store, blacksmith shop, flouring and saw mill and a church." - History of the State of Kansas, William G. Cutler, 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL
"On the north line in Lincoln township is one of the oldest towns in the county. As early as 1866 there was a store kept by Peter Smith, who also sold some drugs. A postoffice was also established in the same year. In 1867 a saw-mill was built, where corn was also ground. About this time a blacksmith located in the village. Then came George and Robert Fowler. They put up a good mill and built a store-room and filled it with goods. The farms of Isaac K. and Chad Brown adjoin the town. These men lived here with their father before the war, and both went into the Union army, serving in a Kansas regiment. Many of their neighbors were in the Confederate army, and during the war life and property were not safe in and around Cato. But all that is changed, and those who wore the blue and those who wore the gray live side by side in peace, enjoying the blessings of a stable government. - A Twentiety Century History and Biographical Record of Crawford County, KS, Home Authors, 1905 by Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago, IL
"A village in Crawford county, is located in the northeastern part, about 12 miles from Girard, the county seat, and 3 miles northwest of Drywood, which is the nearest railroad station. Mail is received by rural delivery from Arcadia. The population was 112 in 1910." - Kansas - A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Person, Etc., Frank W. Blackmar, editor, copyright 1912.
Related Links:
Cato Historical Preservation