A few weeks ago, we got a more personal look at B. R. Scott. His personality, character and business endeavors. This week I’d like to tell you about his brother James P. Scott. J.P. and B.R. came to Kansas in 1869, and the two of them engaged in the building business in Council Grove.
When the Scott brothers came here in 1869, there were still a few buffalo roaming the prairie. J.P. had a hankering to exercise his sportsmanship with such big game. He went on a buffalo hunt and succeeded in bringing one down west of town on Canning creek. His brother B.R. had the Kaw Indians tan the hide for him for a total of $5.00. That winter J.P. returned to his home in Ohio to pack up his family and bring them back to Kansas. He presented the buffalo robe to his father.
J.P. headed back to Kansas with his family in the early part of March 1870. They left from New Matamoras and traveled by steam boat down the Ohio River to St. Louis Missouri. From there they took the train to Council Grove, Kansas, arriving about 6 p.m. on April the 1st, 1870. They were a dirty tired lot when they came into town. On their arrival, they stayed with brother B.R. and his family for about a week while J.P. made arrangements for their new home on Short Creek. A team of ponies was purchase for $90, a new wagon for $110, and a harness for $50. The Scott family loaded up the wagon and headed for their new farm.
They settled on a 40 acre plot on Short Creek, about 6 miles north and one mile west of Council Grove. J.P. paid $1000 in cash for it, and discovered later he could have bought a whole section for that. It didn’t get him down though, he was a hard worker and made improvements to his property over the years. Starting out, all they lived in was a sixteen by twenty foot log shack with a fireplace, a ladder leading to the garret and a full basement lined with native stone. This cabin was one of those erected in the 1850s when folks started settling in the Neosho Valley. The property also came with a log stable, smoke house, rail fence and a hand dug well. All these amenities attracted J.P. In the fall of 1880 J.P. began building a new home for his family on Short Creek. The house was built of “magnesia rock” quarried on the Scott farm. J.P.’s son, Preston and a bachelor by the name of Jack Springer, dug the cellar, cut and hauled the rock all that fall and winter. The stone was piled to a height of ten feet around the building site. A German by the name of Henry Holthouse did the mason work. The house was finished in 1881 and said to be the finest house on the creek. By the time J.P. died in 1888, his farm had grown to 240 acres.
Of the many buildings that remained to J.P.’s memory after he died, we have a list of a few of them. He built the Robert McPherson house which was owned by R.M. Collier in 1928. The Scott brothers built the Saunders Mill, which was located about where Williams Fertilizer is. They also built the M.B. Nicholson residence, which burned down long ago. J.P.’s son, S.C. Scott tells “How one of the big barns my father built 55 years ago (1873) is still in fine repair. Some of the features of the buildings is the fact that no nails were used in the construction, and all the frame timber was native stuff, sawed and hewed out on the farm. Soon after that my father built a flour mill. We called it the “Bradford” mill. It was located some 300 yards south and east of where Mr. A.J. Bell now resides.” According to Ken McClintock, the Bradford Mill, otherwise known as “Peerless Mill,” was located about where Eric Nelson lived north of Council Grove.
In the Snodgrass-Scott family history, it is stated that J.P. built the Lull schoolhouse, and later when their needs had outgrown the first, he contracted to build another. Here’s an excerpt from the book. “J.P. Scott built the schoolhouse, District 14, Neosho township, in 1871. He was a member of the school board and was class leader and Sunday school superintendent there. A preacher by the name of Whooten of Christian Disciple faith preached there. People came for miles to hear him, some coming as far as 20 miles to church. They rode in an old lumber wagon on a board. A son, S.C. Scott, was the last person to conduct Sunday school service in the district. In another school building, some quarter mile north of the old one, also built by his father, J.P. Scott, that last service was in 1900…” J.P.’s oldest son Preston shared some of his recollections of his early school days. “My first term of school in Kansas (four months) was in an old log shack, now district fourteen, Neosho Township, Morris County, Kansas. The seats were slabs with legs bored in, rough and hard. There were no desks. An old maid by the name of Victory Downing was my first teacher, followed up by Jim Rinard (a cousin of my father’s) and a “dumb-dory” we called Jim Hadley.”
While I was doing some research at the Historical Society I found the first record from the Lull schoolhouse. Dated August 16th, 1881, it shows James P. Scott as the director, F. Doran was the treasurer and William P. Snodgrass the director. Fifty-eight students were listed as attendants for that year. The teachers were J.W. Collier and V. Downing. Both teachers were employed for twelve weeks, Collier receiving $30 and Downing only getting $28. According to the documents I found, the name Lull was first used in 1892, and it seems to have stuck ever since. Lull Meadows that we know today is the second Lull schoolhouse. It was moved to its present location before the reservoir was built to prevent it from resting in a watery grave.
The Scott brothers have contributed a great deal to our town from the beginning and some of their work is still with us today. So let us appreciate and do our part to maintain it so that later generations can enjoy it. After all, builders like these will be no more and work such as theirs cannot be reproduced, except at great expense. Their work is the face of Council Grove.