Pittsburg, Kansas Early History

updated April 5, 2008  
  Early History Articles

Pittsburg’s Foundation and Early Growth
By R. E. Carlton

The writer in coming to Kansas, settled on his present farm at the southeast corner of what is now the city limits of Pittsburg in March, 1872.
Knowing of the vast beds of coal underlying this part of the county I could see its future as a manufacturing and mining center. The municipal township of Baker was composed of parts of four congressional townships eight by nine miles square. Through the development of the mines it was apparent that the railroads would soon come. It would then be but a question of time before a city would be located somewhere within the township.

In the early winter of 1875-6, Ed Brown, of Carthage, Mo., and Col. Budlong of Joplin, railroad promoters, presented to me, as trustee of Baker township, a plan to build a road from Joplin to Girard, the route to be through our township. Their plans necessitated the raising by bond of $7,500 by Baker and $12,500 by Crawford township, to aid in the construction of the road. Under the law at that time only five per cent of the taxable property could be voted for such purposes. There was also a provision which allowed all of the county and township taxes collected from the railroads to be paid to the county treasurer. This money to be used in the payment of interest and in taking up of the principal of bonds issued for railroads.

Because of this the proposition met with my immediate approval. I then presented the plans to J. H. Rodenburg, John Schnackenburg and A. J. Georgia, after which we made a thorough canvass of citizens in the township. This work was necessary at the time as a majority of our people known as Leaguers were prejudiced against the railroads. The Leaguers of the county had gone through a long fight with the government over the ownership of the neutral strip of land consisting of Cherokee, Crawford and the south ten miles of Bourbon counties also known as the Cherokee ceded lands. James Joy claimed ownership of the land by purchase from the Indians through the secretary of the interior. The Leaguers claimed that the land could be claimed only through preemption or homesteading as it was government land. Because of the ill felling created by this dispute it was necessary to pave the way to successful carrying of our bond by personal canvass.

We succeeded in convincing a majority of our people that the proposition was for the best interests of the township at large. The promoters were then given this information, a petition drawn up by them was presented to me by E. W. Majors and E. R. Ridgley, their representatives. The petition stated that a station would be built and maintained somewhere within the township. As the coal operators were then being pushed only in the northeast corner it was evident that the company’s intention was to build there. The writer thought that in justice to balance of the people it should be required that the station be located near the center of the township. A petition was then drawn up by the promoters agreeing that the station be located within one mile of the center of the township. This petition received the hearty support of the majority, after which an election was called. The bonds carried by a large majority. The road and station were built and trains were running by September, 1876. The bonds and interest were paid for entirely by the taxes paid by the railroad company.

The town of Pittsburg was incorporated in 1880. As there was another Pittsburg in Kansas the postoffice was first known as New Pittsburg. By a steady and prosperous growth the town soon became a city. The development of our various natural resources attracted capital and enterprise. The growth acquired through the coming of more railroads, zinc smelters, railroad shops, foundries, the manufacturing of clay products, etc., is now history. That the forethought and enterprise of Pittsburg’s early citizens has been taken up and carried on by the later generation is apparent by the prosperous Pittsburg of today.
"Prosperous Pittsburg Pictorially Portrayed," published by The Pittsburg Publicity Company, 1915

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