City of Sabetha, Kansas


In the spring of the year 1857, the first party of sturdy New Yorkers came to the high hills of Albany.  William B. Slosson, one of the original settlers, wrote of his journey from New York to his adopted state of Kansas in a letter to George W. Martin of the Kansas State Historical Society:

 It was in the stirring political time of 1858 when the struggle was on as to whether the new Territory of Kansas should come into the nation as a slave state or free.  This was the era when Rev. Henry Ward Beecher took up collections in his Plymouth Church at Brookkin with which to buy “Sharp Rifles,” for young men to carry with a Bible to the scene of the conflict.  The impending conflict was heralded through the “New York Independent” to which Mr. Beecher was a valued contributor.  Horace Greeley of the “Tribune” also aided young men to go west, to aid the noble cause, and stop the encroachment of slavery on the free soil of Kansas.  I was a resident of Maine, Broome Co., New York at that time and would be 21 upon election day, Nov. 2, 1856.  As I left my house in the morning with my sister, Mr. John L. Graham, I cast my first vote for “The Pathfinder”, John C. Fremont;  then took the train for “the west”, the state of Illinois.  Here I was to meet three other young men who, with me, were to make our homes in the new Territory of Kansas in the early spring.  It was on March 25, 1857, that our party of four men, one woman and a little boy left Geneseo, Illinois for the “new west”.  The party consisted of two brothers, John L. and William G. Graham, of Steuben Co., N.Y., Edwin Miller and his wife, Fannie, sister of the Graham brothers, and their four year old son, Emmett, and myself;  six in all.  Edwin Miller was a genuine Yankee from Connecticut, formerly a jewelry dealer, a fluent talker and an enthusiast to make Kansas free and incidentally, to get for each of us a quarter section of land for a home. 

There was no railroad built to the territory then.  We took the Illinois Central to St. Louis and after two days wait, we embarked on a Missouri River packet (boat), the “Silver Heels”, bound up the Missouri River for the “Promised land”.  There were 520 passengers, mostly young men, though several families were taking their chances.  On the steamer were professional gamblers and the games often lasted all night.  One day William Graham was interested in watching one of these gamblers.  He said he could do a certain stunt with the cards.  William said, “I bet you can’t”.  The gambler asked him how much he would bet.  William said, “I’m too nice to bet”.  (He was in active service in a Kansas Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War.)  Our five days voyage up the Missouri River was full of interest to the more than 500 passengers from nearly every state in the Union.  On the fourth day we reached Kansas City, MO., and for the first time could see the opposite side of the Missouri River.  Our captain tied up to the landing.  We could see no city, but a delegation of men came and informed us that “this (Kansas City) was to be the great city of the west”, and we should stop off and locate there with them.  We respectfully declined with thanks, for we were going to Kansas.  Twenty-six years later I met one of the Kansas City, Missouri men who had become a millionaire by the rise in price, while we who declined the invitation are not millionaires but each has 160 acres of rich Kansas soil for which we paid the government $1.25 an acre now worth much more.

This company of five adults and little boy came up the Missouri River to Doniphan.  Here Edwin Miller left his wife and son while the four men traveled on foot to the northwest using a compass for direction.  Each carried a grip with a gun, an axe, tools, clothing, blankets, medicine and some food in search of good land with timber and water available to homestead.  At Hiawatha, there were only three houses.  After turning off the Overland Trail, they continued to Pony Creek.  They cut logs and hewed them for a log cabin for the Millers, the first cabin in the vicinity.  Edwin Miller and John L. Graham then returned on foot to Doniphan to bring Mrs. Miller and Emmett.  They bought a team and wagon and needed supplies.  Dr. Emily B. Slosson, in her 70-year manuscript history, wrote that Fannie Miller didn’t see another white woman for six months, but she was happy as a “lark”.

 In the fall of 1857, forty-six young people, some of them married, came and took claims in the vicinity.  Some came by steamboat from St. Louis.  “The Florida” brought the Elihu Whittenhall family to White Cloud, then a thriving town on the Missouri River.  Among other in this “colony” were Rev. Roswell Parker, Archibald Webb, and the third Graham brother, George.  The farm claims spread out for several miles from Albany.

A post office was established on August 5, 1858, with John Shumway serving as postmaster.  He was followed by George Graham on May 16, 1859.  The third incumbent was William B. Slosson on June 8, 1863, succeeded by Mrs. Caroline B. Stinson on Nov. 24, 1874.  The Albany post office was discounted on July 17, 1882.

Mr. Emery Lilly, a resident of Albany, picked up mail at Highland, Kansas and served Hiawatha, Hamlin, Morrill, Ft. Plymouth (now Sycamore Springs), Albany, Sabetha, Price and various other small settlements.  Mr. Lilly made deliveries by horseback.  At later dates, the mail was delivered by stagecoach.

The town of Albany was laid out in 1859 by Archibald Webb.  The townsite was at the meeting corners of the quarter section claims of Rev. Roswell Parker, Elihu Whittenhall, George Graham, and Archibald Webb.

The first thing attempted in the nature of a permanent improvement was the erection of a two-story clapboard home by Edwin Miller.  A one-room cottonwood schoolhouse was next built.  (More history regarding the school may be found in the Albany Museum History found later in this chapter.)   In 1860, a four-room residence of black walnut lumber was constructed by Elihu Whittenhall, replacing his log cabin.

The first store building was erected by Moses Stevens, a merchant of Brooklyn, New York in 1860.   He came to visit the Whittenhalls, found Albany very much to his liking, and decided to build a store to be patterned after plans of eastern architects.  It was afterward sold to William and Samuel Slosson.  The Slosson brothers began operating the store in December 1861, with a stock of goods bought from Free State men in Salem, Nebraska who thought the goods would be confiscated by border ruffians if left in Salem.  The store regularly employed five and six clerks.  It became a community center as well.  The Albany Store included a number of shops with several apartments in wings and a second story.   In 1870, the Slosson brothers packed up bag and baggage and moved the store minus its wings to Sabetha, building in the east part of the Red Front block.  And in Sabetha, the store was called “That Old House”.

Mrs. Aschsah Louise Lilly Slosson, (Mrs. William B.), wrote about the Albany Store in an article printed in the Sabetha “Herald” in 1908:

We last week built and filled the “Old Albany Store”;  now will follow its fortunes. Rev. Joseph Peart was the first Congregational minister settled in this vicinity, and perhaps the first so far west of St. Joseph.  The apology for a school house was too cold in winter for meetings on any kind, so all the church services for several winters were held in private homes, and after the “store” was inhabited, the meetings were there or at Mr. Whittenhall’s.  Thus from the first it was well dedicated, as daily prayer was offered at four family altars, besides prayer meetings, S.S. and all.   The machinery of the church, kept in motion by Rev. Peart, later by Rev. J.H. Ramsey and Rev. George C. Rice (whom we knew there in Pomona, who died at 101 or 102) as regular ministers.   R.D. Parker, editor of the “Telephone” visited and preached there and others.  Albany received a large share of public attention in those days.  Generals, congressmen, senators, and lesser political lights were entertained there, and during the first Equal Suffrage campaign many noted orators and singers (men and women) made the “store” and its dwellings headquarters.  Lucy Stone, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Rev. Olympien Brown, and the celebrated Hutchinsons perhaps the best known among the many that could be mentioned.   The “Home Militia” for some time weekly drilled there, and defended the women and children left alone on the farms.   There recruiting officers stayed (no drafts were necessary).  Capt. John L. Graham spent sick leave, 1862, there, and there his family received news of his death, at Chickamauga.  In ’63, Lieut. E.F. Bouton returned there to greet  the little son he had not seen before.  Officers were entertained at this store with a military air all about.  Several couples either spent their honeymoon there or lived there, Emery Lilly, Fred E. Niles, Prof. Vose (to whom Mrs. Sherwood used to recite), Chas. Hubbard, and William Graham.  Six children were born there:  Gertrude Sammons, now living in St. Joseph, Edwin E. Slosson, author and editor (now living), Edward Vose, and Mary Hubbard.  William and Samuel Slosson finally bought the “store” of Mr. Sammons and owned it for years.   They sold everything from threshing machines to a yard of lace and box of pills.  Once the amount for a year for goods bought reached $75,000.  Others who passed first weeks there were William West, Mr. McDeruroria, Rev. A.H. Lilly, Mrs. Stinson, E.F. Pugsley, Nathaniel Slosson, and G.H. Aderirs.  It was there the Albany University was founded and that built the “boarding house” ………………….

Although Albany was never incorporated, it became a flourishing trade and cultural center, the largest between Seneca and Hiawatha.  As settlers poured into Kansas after the Civil War, more natives of New York, relatives and friends of those already living in Albany, came to take claims in the vicinity.  Some of those were:  Mrs. William Graham, E.F. Pugsley and wife, Albert West and children, John Tyler and family, and George H. Adams and son, George Ira.

Underground Railroad

From the organization of the Underground Railroad in Topeka in 1857 until slavery was abolished, Albany served as a station on the Railroad line.  Fugitive slaves were secreted by day and taken by “conductors” at night to the next station.  It is said that slaves were hidden in the hay of the livery stables near the sawmill, in the woodshed behind the Albany store, or in a cave above the Pony Creek ford.  From Albany, they went north to Salem;  then to Fisher’s Mill on the Nemaha River;  and then to Nebraska City where they forded the river into the state of Iowa.

William B. Slosson was among the prominent organizers of Union League No. 40, formed on July 22, 1863, for the purpose of protecting runaway slaves.  Mr. Slosson, William B. Lawrence, John, George, and William Graham, and others of the community assisted many a runaway black to his freedom, even though under the Fugitive Slave Act, severe penalties could be meted out for aiding fugitives.  One time in Nebraska City, Mr. Slosson barely escaped an armed and angry mob by persuading the ferryman, who maintained pro-slavery feelings, to take him and his party, including three slaves, across the Missouri.

One of the fugitive slaves, “Aunt Rachel” Holden, with her family of five children, escaped as far as Albany in 1862 and decided to remain.  A small house was built for them, and they were guarded by a patrol until the end of the Civil War.  Her oldest son fought in the Union Army and was killed.  The others went to the Albany School and were members of the Congregational Church until 1865, when they moved to White Cloud.

Moving to Sabetha

Officials of the St. Joseph and Denver Railroad spent weeks in Albany surveying a possible route through the hills and heavily timbered valleys.  Feasible grades could not be made, so the railroad went to Sabetha in 1870.  Most of Albany, but not all, moved to Sabetha, and the history of the two towns became interwoven.

The first home to be moved into Sabetha from Albany in 1859 was the Edwin Miller two-story cottonwood structure, when he feared the title to his land was not clear.  In the middle of the winter, it was placed on long logs to be used as a sled.  The need for oxen was made known, and men with 40 yoke of oxen came early one morning.  They were hitched to the logs.  The house was pulled west on the ridge to where the present golf grounds are located to avoid the creek and timber;  then to the present location of the Bryan Fulton home on East Main Street and located there.  It was a trip of five miles to get two in one day.  After the railroad came through Sabetha, many of the houses and business places were moved by this method into Sabetha.

First Congregational Church

The First Congregational Church of Albany was organized on September 25 and 26, 1858, under the guidance of Rev. R.D. Parker of Leavenworth.  On September 26, being a Sunday, families who had taken claims near Pony Creek and settlers from Sabetha and the Rock Creek area took part in the “gathering” of the newly assembled church.  These first services were held under a great tree near Edwin Miller’s house, seating provided by stumps of cut down trees.  The sermon was preached by Rev. Parker and according to the oft-repeated story, the improvised pulpit used on that day was a flour barrel in which supplies had been hauled from White Cloud.

The charter membership of eighteen included:  Elihu Whittenhall and family, Mr. and Mrs. George Graham, Mr. and Mrs. John L. Graham, Mrs. Noble Rising, Mrs. Elsemena Archer, Mr. Thomas Robbins, Mr. Thomas L. Jobe, Mr. William B. Slosson, Mr. John P. Shumway, Mr. and Mrs. John Van Tuyl and Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Miller.

The Whittenhall piano, the first piano in this county, and most probably the first in the State, was used in all the church meetings held in the Whittenhall’s cabin home.  According to Tennal’s HISTORY OF NEMAHA COUNTY, the piano was brought by steamboat and then by mule team to Albany in 1857 by Elihu Whittenhall for the pleasure of his wife and the musical education of his four daughters.  The piano nearly filled their cabin.  When the Indians came through on their hunting trips, they were fascinated by the strange and beautiful music and would dance around the cabin.

The Pastors of the church, succeeding Rev. R.D. Parker, were Rev. George Rice, Rev. Joseph Peart, Rev. O.A. Thomas, and Rev. H.W. Shaw.  It was during the incumbency of the last mentioned on September 23, 1873, that the Albany church moved to Sabetha, and its members were received into the First Congregational Church of Sabetha which had been organized a year before.

Albany (Montrose) Cemetery

by Faye Minton

The original owners of this land, of which Montrose Cemetery is a part, were the Pottawatomie Indians.   Their lands were taken by the United States when they were removed farther south in the state, and the lands were offered for sale by the government to white settlers.  In October 1858, Rev. Roswell D. Parker filed his claim upon the Northwest Quarter of Section 25, Township 1, Range 14, Nemaha County, Kansas, and obtained his title granted by the United States in 1860.  In 1865, forty acres of this land was transferred from Parker to I.D. Sammons and his wife to the First Congregational Church of Albany, Kansas, for cemetery purposes only.  The cemetery has been used for burials since 1862.  On September 20, 1879, the title was transferred to the First Congregational Church of Sabetha, Kansas.  On April 17, 1882, at the request of the First Congregational Church of Sabetha, the Montrose Cemetery Association was organized and a State Charter obtained.  The trustees elected under the charter were:  Eli F. Bouton, S. Slosson, John Van Tuyl, C.J. Holdren, and C.T. Whittenhall.

A survey of the land was made August 14, 1882, by the county surveyor.  A plat made of the lots and grounds and some additional ground was added by the surrounding owners of the cemetery grounds.  To complete the plat the exact record was not preserved.  The survey and plat was filed for record on April 20, 1883.  Officers were elected to a term of five years.  Edmond Williams was the first caretaker and kept the grounds in excellent condition.  A beautiful gate was placed at the north entrance by Edmond Williams and many concerned people.

In March, 1928, the Citizens State Bank of Sabetha closed.  This was a terrible loss to the Montrose Cemetery, and during the season of 1928, the cemetery was uncared for except by owners and friends.  Robert Montgomery was instrumental in much of the cleaning up of the cemetery, keeping records, and being overseer of the work to be done.

Because of lack of funds, the Albany Cemetery was taken over by the Sabetha Cemetery Association and is being cared for by the Sabetha Cemetery Association in later years.

History preserved indicates that there was much hard work done by many friends and relatives to beautify Montrose Cemetery and because of the weeds and shrubs that had grown there, many contracted heavy cases of poison ivy, but were determined to keep this cemetery as a beautiful memorial to the soldiers and loved ones buried there.

A record of this historical adventure is kept with the secretary of the Sabetha Cemetery and is open for anyone who is interested to read.

Albany History Museum

By Elmer Snyder

In the late 1850’s, a small settlement was being formed.  For a while the settlement went without a name, but many people were from the state of New York and named the village after the capital of New York state, Albany.   Up to this time, children attended school at various homes.  In 1858, a small frame school house was erected.  Seven years later a permanent two-story building was constructed.  Native limestone was quarried nearby and used throughout the construction.   The building became famous as “The Albany School”.  Members of the Congregational Church entered into an agreement with the builders, that they would pay for a second floor, if they could hold church there on Sundays and Wednesday evenings.  Some of the original pews are still on the second floor.

The first floor was used as a grammar school and provided space for 60 students and their teacher.  The second floor was used as an academy and an average of seventy students from Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri were in attendance.  A hotel and boarding house were opened to accommodate the students.  At this time the area was known as Albany, Montrose, Territory of Kansas.

School continued in Albany until 1962, when the students were furnished transportation to the Sabetha schools.  In July 1965, the school and grounds were acquired by the newly formed “Albany Historical Society”.   Members donated most of the labor in restoring the building.  First floor displays consist of students’ and teacher’s desks, black boards, two pianos with a divider down the center of the large room.  On the other part of the room are many items, not connected with the school, but many with a historical value.

The second floor displays the original church pews, along with a pump organ, an old time kitchen, bedroom, parlor and bath, and a country store portrays most of the displays, although there are several glass display cases, crammed with many items of interest.   The Rock Island Railroad lines donated the depot from Bern, Kansas to the Museum.  The depot through the courtesy and help of the Rock Island lines is completely equipped as an operating station.  The society acquired enough trackage to build an oval track in front of the depot.  A motorized patrol car, pulling three workmen’s cars, is in operation during the summer months, to give children rides.  The waiting room has two original benches, 1887 vintage.  The Union Pacific donated a pot belly stove and a weigh car caboose No. 25061.  The Will Most home, along with an acre of ground was donated to the Museum, by their son, Kenneth Most, in December 1969.  The house is over 100 years old, and was in use when Albany was a thriving settlement.  Some of the original furniture is on display, and many more pieces of that period have been added.

The Berwick school building was acquired, and moved to the present site in 1966.  The Sabetha High School awards and trophies, from 1914 until the unification of district 441, are on display along with many pictures of graduations classes, and victorious football and basketball teams.  Displayed on the walls are name plates of many rural schools that fell victim to progress.  Another section of the school displays military items from a revolutionary bayonet, to uniforms from World War I, World War II, and some items from the Civil war.

Postal service was inaugurated in Albany in 1858.  A replica of an old time post office was completed in 1975.  A blacksmith shop over 75 years old was donated by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. Sam Payne, of Capioma in 1975.  Many blacksmith tools, along with a forge, were also donated by Mr. and Mrs. Payne, at that time.

The Ackerman building erected in 1972 measures 54 ft. by 108 ft., and houses a display of a steam engine, Rumley Oil Pull tractor, an Avery oil burning tractor, along with several grain separators, two buggies, a family carriage, several other tractors, and old time grain wagon, and many more items of interest.  Another display that merits special attention is a boy and girl statue and fountain that dates back to 1878.  Mr. C.L. Sherwood purchased the fountain and statue before Sabetha had a water system.  A deep well was drilled at his home, topped by a wooden water tank, for pressure, and powered by a wind-mill furnished water for his home and the statue.  Mrs. Carrie (Sherwood) Phipps, his daughter was the donor.

Another large metal building, measuring 45 ft. wide and 122 ft. long, with a black top floor, houses antique cars.  This building was erected in 1974.

A shelter house, along with a snack shack, and a mobile home, used by the caretakers, completes our buildings.  Around 25 acres of land used for our annual jubilee and threshing bee completes our holdings.

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