The establishment of Fort Larned in 1859-60 along the banks of the Pawnee provided protection for travelers along the Santa Fe Trail, and perhaps equally important, provided an opportunity for settlement by whites in the wild, seemingly desolate lands of what would become Pawnee County. The tracks of the Santa Fe Railroad, dropping seeds of tiny, sprouting communities in its wake, wended its way across the prairie, reaching this area little more than a decade later.
As with similar towns, Larned, Kansas which sprang up near the fork of the Arkansas and Pawnee Rivers and named for the nearby fort, was birthed by a special kind of people: individuals that were venturesome, opportunistic, and above all, optimistic.
Although his role as a founding father of the town of Larned was played in civilian dress, Tim McCarthy was a military man thanks in part to his long service with the union army throughout the Civil War. Although he may never have seen Fort Larned as a soldier, his old unit the Third U. S. Infantry was stationed there, and no doubt he was well familiar with the fort. McCarthy's eventual association with "the little red house," one of the town's earliest buildings which was so well traced out, strengthens the ties between the man, the town, and the fort.
The exact date Tim McCarthy arrived at Larned is unknown. One source reported that the Irishman came to Larned in 1870, an unlikely account since the Larned Town Company was not organized until 1871. Jessie Bright Grove reported that McCarthy came in 1872 when the town was being laid out. The record is, however, clear that the Union veteran did file a 160-acre claim east of Larned in February 1872, and was one of the inhabitants who signed the title to the original townsite of Larned on December 2, 1873.
McCarthy was early recognized as one to Larned's leading citizens, serving as county commissioner, county clerk, mayor, and two terms as State Auditor. On three separate occasions, he was appointed postmaster. McCarthy also served on the Board of Directors of the Kansas State Historical Society.
In addition to his political career, McCarthy was active in a number of business affairs. In 1873, he opened a saloon and billiard hall. A stockholder in a Manhattan, Kansas bank, McCarthy was also one of the original stockholders in the old First National Bank, and was a principal stockholder and cashier in the First State Bank which he organized in 1896.
In spite of McCarthy's involvement in the political and business affairs of early Larned, his major identification was with the military. He had originally enlisted in the United States Army in 1854 and served intermittently for eleven years before being discharged at Fort Wallace, Kansas in 1867. McCarthy was deeply involved in the Grand Army of the Republic, serving as the Commander of the B. F. Larned Post No. 8 and as Department Commander of the Kansas GAR. In addition, McCarthy organized GAR posts at both Dodge City and Burdett. McCarthy was named Brigadier General of the sixty-man militia he organized at Larned in 1885, a position he prized and a title he claimed long after the militia was disbanded.
Some thirty-five years after his death, Jessie Bright Grove eulogized McCarthy as a "prominent and respected citizen." But, perhaps, he would have preferred the Characterization as written by a Dodge City visitor in 1885: "General T. McCarthy,…presides over the post office and…keeps the Grand Army boys as well as the state militia in constant line."
This brief account of McCarthy's life is contained in two short chapters: "The Sergeant", a brief discussion of his military career, and "The General". A delineation of his civilian life always under the influence of his early Army days.
Timothy McCarthy was born in Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland in 1835. At the age of sixteen, McCarthy immigrated to the United States, living at Boston some three years before he enlisted in the United States Army.
In August 1859, McCarthy was discharged at Fort Lancaster, Texas after serving in Company K, First United States Infantry at Fort Columbus, New York Harbor and Fort Duncan, Texas. McCarthy returned to New York where he reenlisted on March 11, 1861, and was selected as one of the two hundred troops sent to reinforce Fort Sumter. The following month, McCarthy returned to New York Harbor and was assigned once again to Company K, Third United States Infantry. With this regiment, McCarthy fought in many major battles of the Civil War: First Bull Run, Yorktown, Second Bull Run, Gaines Mills, Malvern Hills, Chancellorsville, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, and Rappahannock Station. McCarthy's regiment was ordered to Fort Columbus, New York Harbor, where he was discharged March 11, 1864 with the rank of Sergeant-Major.
Two months later, he reenlisted in Company E of his old regiment and served with General Grant until Lee's surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1868. At the close of the war, McCarthy was sent to Washington, D. C. before being ordered to St. Louis, Missouri and thence to Jefferson Barracks before moving to Fort Riley, Kansas in 1866. The following year, McCarthy was discharged on May 12 at Fort Wallace, Kansas.
Larned was nothing more than an uninhabited townsite on the Santa Fe Trail when Tim McCarthy arrived in the Pawnee Valley and filed one of the first two claims in the county in February 1872. The homestead was located in section six, across the Pawnee River east of the Larned townsite. Even though McCarthy had served in the United States Army for over a decade, he was still, by law, an alien. Consequently, he was required to become a naturalized citizen before he could prove up the claim. McCarthy did receive his naturalization certificate in 1875, the first issued in Pawnee County. A patent to his claim was recorded on March 21, 1876. Oddly enough he had already served as county commissioner and county clerk without the blessing of American citizenship. In order to prove up the claim, several other criteria had to be met including the construction of a house. To accommodate this requirement, McCarthy built a makeshift structure Isabelle Worrell Ball described as "an architectural curiosity in the shape of a house composed of four logs hewn from the timber on the Pawnee." McCarthy was not the only homesteader to supplant homestead regulations. Early accounts indicated that a number of hoaxed were employed by prairie pioneers to prove up claims. One strategy involved the building of a house on skids which then could be easily pulled across the prairie from one claim to another. One ingenious homesteader even crated a miniature house which measured ten inches by twelve inches in an effort to circumvent the regulation that a house be constructed with the minimum dimensions described simply as "ten by twelve."
McCarthy did little, if any, farming on the claim. Ball indicated that he proved up the homestead at the "expense of considerable shoe leather", surely a reference to the many trips McCarthy made from his Larned residence to the homestead site. There is no record of McCarthy ever maintaining a domicile on the claim, and he was listed among the twenty-nine adults residing in Larned on December 2, 1873 who signed the title of the original townsite. Other signers included Henry Booth, a close friend and political ally who, along with McCarthy, filed the first two claims in the county. Both men served together in the newly formed county government, Booth as Superintendent of Schools and McCarthy as County Commissioner and County Clerk.
In April of 1872, Booth, one of the original members of the Larned Town Company and post trader at Fort Larned, positioned wheels under one of the sutler's buildings at the fort and transported it to a location near Schnack Park in present-day Larned, Kansas. The building was floated across the swollen Pawnee River behind a team of swimming horses and established at a spot variously described as "below the hill" or in the "lower part of town." Other accounts depicted the buildings to have been situated somewhere near the sites where the old quarry and Schnack's brick kiln were later located. Still other descriptions written by early Larned residents confirmed the site to be in the lower part of town where other buildings were constructed in 1872 and 1873. Such was the origin of Larned's first building.
The original function of the building has not been positively identified, but descriptions and dimensions written at later dates strongly suggest that the building in question began its existence at Fort Larned as he sutler's mess house, a civilian restaurant on the military post. This frame building, built in 1863 at a cost of $1,700.00, was described as twenty-one and a half feet wide by thirty-four and a half feet deep, fourteen feet high. Containing three rooms with floors and partitions of pine, the structure was equipped with four windows and two flues. The front room was papered. A sketch of the mess house shows the front of the building with two large windows, one situated on either side of a transomed double door. Such details are in keeping with Inman's 1893 account which described the building as being jointly occupied as residence and schoolroom, the latter being twenty feet square. The schoolroom, papered in a gaudy flowered pattern, possessed two large windows, one on each side of the wide door. Ball's report indicated the building contained three small rooms in back and one big room in front. Ball also recalled this room as being "hung with wallpaper of fantastic figures." Undoubtedly, this was the same building sold to John Foster of Barton County by John Murrary of Barton County for the sum of $700. The building was thus described:
"One story frame house 20' X 40' in Larned, Pawnee County and now occupied by me as a saloon, etc. Subject to a lien for material furnished by G. L. Brinkman for $65. One small frame dwelling house, heating stove, furniture, bedding, tableware, cutlery, hardware, queensware. Also the Bar, bar fixtures, liquor, cigars and stock…on lots in Larned."
While some inconsistencies are apparent among the four descriptions, the general agreement as to the dimensions, floor plan, and other details as recalled by the various authors would seem to indicate that the building in question was originally the Fort Larned mess house which eventually became a post office, saloon, residence,hotel, brothel, dance hall and school.
Booth's building was first occupied by Mr. and Mrs. George B. Cox who used a portion of the structure to operate a saloon and restaurant. Hotel accommodations were also available. Cox, a Confederate veteran from Butts, County, Georgia, was appointed Postmaster in June of 1872, and so the building took on the added function of post office. During the same month, the building assumed another distinction. The first sermon to be preached in Larned was delivered in the saloon-post office by C. H. Smith from Wyandotte, Kansas. Booth reported that both the attendance and the sermon were slim.
Shortly there after, Cox and Al Boyd constructed a hotel in the same general area, and the Cox's took up quarters in the new establishment. Booth's building continued to function as a saloon and dancehouse, under the proprietorship of Murray and Young, through the following year, culminating in Larned's first murder on January 1, 1873. Some unknown gunman, firing through the saloon window, shot John Morris and a woman named Beck. Morris died instantly, and the Beck women was taken to Sisters' Hospital in Leavenworth where she succumbed. Booth opined that "a woman was at the bottom of the fracas." No graveyard being available, Morris' body was taken to the top of the hill for burial. Samuel Coppenger suggested that since the ground was frozen hard and no shovels were available, the body could be interred in a nearby Indian grave. The soft earth of the Indian's resting place was easily removed, and his skeletal remains were replaced by those of Mr. Morris. Someone carried off the Indian's skull as a macabre momento of Larned's first murder.
Booth's family occupied the converted mess house in April of 1873 when Booth gave up his position as post trader and moved to Larned. Ball asserted that legend once was that no one could qualify as a settler of 1873 who had not at some time lived in what she called "the little red house." The legend was interesting but hardly feasible. One hundred and thirty-two heads of family were counted among the 1873 settlers in Pawnee County. Nevertheless, the claims that the building was busy twenty-four hours a day is hardly an exaggeration. During one period, Booth rented the house to Georgie O'Dell. In the fall of 1873, Booth was forced to sue O'Dell for payment of rent in the first Justice of Peace court conducted in the county. Chief Justice J. C. Fousley ruled in the favor of the plaintiff. The defendant was identified in the 1875 U. S. Census as a German immigrant, twenty-five years of age, formerly of Ohio. Her occupation was listed as "prostitute." Booth's building was, indeed, a busy place.
Captain James P. Worrell, an attorney from Illinois, accompanied by his son George and a partner, Archibald Bracken, arrived at Larned by team and wagon on June 14, 1873. Worrell and Bracken immediately invested in a herd of Texas cattle and Bracken opened a butcher shop to process and sell the stringy longhorn beef. On August 20, Bracken's family arrived in Larned, and eight days later Mrs. Worrell and three daughters joined the attorney and brother George. The family took up residence in the "little red house" recently vacated by the Booths. Worrell's daughter, Isabelle, seeking employment as a teacher, approached Henry Booth, Pawnee County Superintendent of Schools. The school district had been organized June 16 with W. R. Adams as director, C. F. Leicham as treasurer, and Daniel A. Bright as clerk. However, the first class was yet to be conducted. Miss Worrell recalled the meeting with an august Captain Booth (who) "nearly frightened the senses out of me when I appeared before him to answer as to my capabilities for the onerous and honorable position." After a brief discussion, the Superintendent responded to the candidate that he supposed she "would do" and instructed her to "hunt up a schoolroom and go to work." Miss Worrell chose the front room of her family's residence and promptly initiated a thorough cleansing with broom and concentrated lye. The resourceful Miss Worrell borrowed the last two available scrub brushes in town from Mrs. Frank Elliot and attacked the boot-blackened floor, but even her most industrious efforts failed to remove the stains of Larned's first murder victim, which remained to meet the thirteen pupils who attended the first day of school on September 23, 1873. The two large windows of the schoolroom were printed in red and yellow letters, some nine inches tall, proclaiming the building's former function, SALOON.
On the first day of school, Director Adams and Superintendent Booth arrived to inspect the new school and to commend Miss Worrell for her ingenuity in supplying the furniture for the school. The big boys, two or three larger and older than the teacher, were assigned to beer kegs. The younger children sat on a board supported by flat rocks obtained from the nearby hill. Miss Worrell's desk was what had been the bar, a plank placed over two barrels' her chair, a beer keg. Over her desk hung a breechloading rifle and a belt of cartridges, precaution against the Indians who never came. The exception was Modoc, and Indian lad who came to Larned with Dr. and Mrs. William Wampler. Modoc proved to be an excellent student. Miss Worrell spoke of him as "a tower of strength to me when he was my pupil." In October, Dr. Wampler donated some benches which he had brought from a dismantled church in Illinois. Someone else donated a bell. With such equipment, Miss Worrell taught the first three-month term of school in Pawnee County for $33.33 per month.
Before that first term had ended, the original enrollment of thirteen had increased to thirty-two. Miss Worrell recalled a number of the original thirteen: Tillie Leicham, whose father was Larned's new grocer; Booth's son, Fred; Laura Elliot, whose mother loaned the scrub brushes to ready the room for school; Willie Bracken, whose father ran the butcher shop; and a Poorman child. Also in attendance were three or four garrison's and a like number of Harnes children. The Harnes family, enroute to Syracuse, had been persuaded to stay in Larned, the number of their school age children being enough to help secure a school district in the county.
The structure Booth brought from the fort and established as Larned's first building changed hands a number of times. Seven days following the school's opening, Booth bought at sheriff's sale the building then being used as the Worrell residence and schoolroom. Earlier in the summer, Booth had won a judgement in the amount of $76.67 against Murray and Young, and Judge D. A. Bright put the property on the auction block to satisfy that judgement. Booth placed the high bid of $100.00 and the following month sold the property to Tim McCarthy for $100.15. McCarthy received two monthly payments of $30.00 each for rent on the building to the school district in 1874.
In the same year, the building was moved to a new location near the present Fifth and Main intersection where it continued to serve a number of junctions. Originally used as a carpenter shop, the building later housed two newspapers, the Larned Republican, and The Chronoscope. All the while, Colonel Inman served as the Chronoscope editor, he kept the Indian skull, retrieved from Larned's first burial site, on his desk as a grisly reminder of frontier days. Following, the building was used by the Larned Land Office, and eventually became a blacksmith shop. Nevertheless, McCarthy's investment of $100.15 in Larned's first building appears to have been precursory to his many business ventures, including a saloon established in 1873. In 1874, McCarthy was granted a permit to sell liquor. Fifty-two persons signed the petition requesting the permit. The license was renewed the following year, and the Larned Press printed an advertisement on New Year's Day of 1875 proclaiming "Tim McCarthy as the proprietor of a billiard hall and saloon with the best of liquors and cigars always on hand."
McCarthy's investments must have been quite profitable. In 1875, only two years following the founding of Larned with its nine crude buildings perched on the bank of the Pawnee, McCarthy built a grand Victorian home, complete with cupola and widow's walk at the southeast corner of Fourth and State Streets, an area later known as "Quality Hill." In the same year, McCarthy married Julia Seely of Knoxville, Pennsylvania. One year later, their daughter was born, the second white child to be born in Pawnee County. The McCarthy family enjoyed a high standard of living in their luxurious home as evidence by the 1885 announcement in a local paper that "Miss Nora McCarthy is the proud possessor of a tricycle, the second in the city."
In 1877, McCarthy served as Larned's mayor, and in the following year, he was appointed to the office of Postmaster, and reappointed in 1879. In 1883, he was appointed to the postmaster's position for the third time. However, the tide of political favor turned, and McCarthy, the staunch Republican, found his last months in office to be tenuous, at best. The first issue of the Garfield Letter, July 23, 1885, reported McCarthy's situation:
T. McCarthy, Postmaster at Larned, has been suspended and Frank E. Martin appointed in his place. This waiting six months for a republican senate to confirm a democratic appointment must be agonizing.
Regardless of national trends, the old guard Republicans still held sway in Kansas. Consequently, McCarthy ran for the office of State Auditor and was elected in 1885, a position which he held for two terms. When McCarthy began his campaign for State Auditor, a number of Larned friends, including the Edwards brothers, accompanied to Topeka where they sang at a political meeting. One of Topeka's newspapers reported that McCarthy had brought with him a lot of Coyotes from western Kansas to help him campaign. Such was the genesis of the Coyote Club, a vocal society which continued in Larned for a number of years.
Following the Civil War, Union veterans, in large numbers, were lured to the Kansas prairies in search of a new beginning and virgin soil. An 1889 survey indicated a total of 549 veterans who had lived in Pawnee County since its 1872 inception. The same report suggested that the list was not complete, but that probably it came "within a hundred of that number." Consequently, things military were held in high esteem, and former officers perpetuated their army titles into civilian life. Early newspaper accounts spoke often of Captain Booth, Colonel Inman, and Colonel Ballinger. Consequently, the Grand Army of the Republic was a significant social force in Pawnee County. GAR posts were active in Larned and Garfield. Veterans' funerals were invariably conducted under the auspices of the Grand Army. McCarthy, a leading figure in GAR circles, not only served as Post Commander for the B. F. Larned Post, but also organized posts at both Dodge City and Burdett, the latter being named in his honor. So strong was McCarthy's influence, at his suggestion, the name of the Rozel post office, in 1880, was changed to Ben Wade in honor of a Civil War veteran. In 1881 McCarthy became department Commander of the Kansas GAR, a position held the previous year by Captain Henry Booth.
McCarthy was appointed Brigadier General of the militia he organized at Larned on July 10, 1885. This force, consisting of sixty men, remained under General McCarthy's command for the following two years, but his military designation of General was kept intact through the remainder of his life.
An ardent support of the Kansas Historical Society, McCarthy donated to the Society's collection an antique Colt revolver found on his Larned farm in 1877. In the same year, he also donated fifty-seven books to the Society's library, and with nine others presented the Society an oil portrait of Governor John A. Martin. McCarthy was elected to the Society's board of directors for a three-year term. Other Larned citizens who also served in this capacity at different dates were W.C. Edwards, Henry Inman, and an old political friend, Henry Booth.
McCarthy, a stockholder in a Manhattan Bank, was also one of the original stockholders in the old First National Bank of Larned. When the First State Bank was organized in 1886, McCarthy, the principal stockholder, became cashier, a position which he held until his death.
McCarthy died June 12, 1890 following surgery for an abscess on his right lung three weeks previously. When the news of his death was announced at 4:00 p.m. on that date, flags were immediately lowered to half mast at Dewey Square, the city hall, county courthouse, and public schools; and bells were tolled at the city hall and churches throughout the city. All major businesses were closed for McCarthy's funeral conducted at his home on June 14 by Arch Deacon Watkins of Salina under the auspices of the B. F. Larned Post No. 8, Grand Army of the Republic. In attendance were Commander Miller and other officers of the Department of Kansas GAR. In addition, many local GAR posts were also represented. Body guard and escort were provided by Company F, Kansas National Guard. The obituary titled "Death of General McCarthy" extolled McCarthy's virtues as soldier and patriot. Only in passing was mention make that McCarthy, at the time of his death, was serving his second term as mayor.
This brief volume is the third in a series devoted to pioneers of Pawnee County, the other two figures being A. H. Boyd and Henry Booth. While each of these men made distinct contributions to the 1872 organization of Pawnee County and the founding of Larned in the following year, all three shared many of the same characteristics. All three were born within a six-year span: (1835, 1838, and 1841), and each was of Anglo stock: Booth, born in England; McCarthy, his father being Scottish and his mother, Irish. Furthermore, all three found their American roots in New England: Booth, Rhode Island; McCarthy, Massachusetts; and Boyd, Vermont.
The similarities continued into their adult lives in an uncanny fashion. All three men served in the U. S. Army during the Civil War, each with considerable distinction. Booth was Chief of the Kansas Calvary and Inspection officer of the District of the Arkansas. McCarthy fought in the major battles of the War, rising to the rank of Sergeant Major Boyd served under a number of Union generals before being detailed to headquarters as Chief of Scouts. All three men arrived in the Pawnee Valley within three years of each other: Boyd in 1867; Booth in 1869; and McCarthy in 1870. Both Boyd and Booth narrowly escaped death from Indian attack. McCarthy, discharged from military service at Fort Wallace, likely saw action against the hostiles as well.
All three of the man filed homestead claims in Pawnee County: Booth and McCarthy in 1872 and Boyd in 1874. Each of the three was elected to county office when Pawnee County was officially organized in November of 1872; Booth, Superintendent of Schools; Boyd, County Commissioner; and McCarthy, County Clerk. Booth and McCarthy, later were elected to state offices: Booth, House of Representatives and McCarthy, State Auditor.
Their business lives were also paralleled in several ways. McCarthy and Boyd both owned saloons, and Boyd and Booth were both hotel proprietors. McCarthy and Booth served as bank directors, and both Boyd and Booth engaged in farming.
Although their religious and fraternal affiliations were dissimilar, all three were members of the Grand Army of the Republic, and both Booth and McCarthy served as Department Commander of the Kansas Grand Army of the Republic. Both men were also elected to the Board of Directors, Kansas State Historical Society.
A composite of these three men providers a portrait of the type of man who came to the Pawnee Valley with courage and resourcefulness and stayed to carve out a civilization on the Kansas Frontier.
Andreas, A. T., History of the State of Kansas, A. T. Andreas, Chicago, 1883.
Progress in Pawnee County, Supplement to the Tiller and Toiler, Larned, Kansas, 1952.
Transactions of the Kansas Historical Collections, Vol. 8, 9, and 16, Topeka, State Printing Office, 1904.
Zook, Paul W. (ed.) Panorama of Progress, Tiller and Toiler, Larned, Kansas, 1972.
Area History Scrapbook *
Ball, Isabelle Worrell, Early Pawnee History, (as read before the Pawnee County Old Settlers' Association in 1893).
Booth, Henry, Centennial History of Pawnee County, (as read at the celebration of the fourth of July, 1876, at Larned, Kansas).
Diagram (1886) of Fort Larned, including sketches and written descriptions, National Archives
Grove, Jessie Bright, "Timothy McCarthy," American Guide Series, updated.
History of Pawnee County as Told By Her Pioneer Families* Pawnee County Pioneer Scrapbook*
Garfield Letter: July 23, 1885.
Larned Chronoscope: May 24, 1934.
Larned News: August 20, 1931.
Larned Press: September 17, 1873.
Larned Weekly Eagle-Optic: June 12, 1885; June 20, 1885.
Tiller and Toiler: June 15, 1900; November 25, 1926.
Commissioners Journal "A", 1883-1879, Office of the County Clerk, Pawnee County, Kansas.
Homestead Patent Deed Book A, Pawnee County Courthouse, Larned, Kansas.
Naturalization Records, Pawnee County Courthouse, Larned, Kansas.
Pawnee County Deed Record, Book A, Register of Deeds Office, Pawnee County Courthouse, Larned, Kansas.
*These references are compilations of newspaper clippings, some of which are updated, Santa Fe Trail Center Library, Larned, Kansas.
Used With Permission of the Author:
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St. John, Ks.