In October 1870 the U.S. Land Office for all southern Kansas was moved from Humboldt, Kan. to Augusta. The opening of much of the Osage Indian land came in early 1870 and Humboldt was too far east (nearly to Missouri) to make it easy for those settling the new western open lands to travel. At 20 miles a day in a horse- drawn (or ox-drawn) wagons, it took19 days each way to file a claim and then return back to the claim to ward off claim jumpers. So in 1870 Augusta became the center of all the land claims south of Harvey County from Missouri to Colorado.
But in February 1872 without warning the Land Office was moved to Wichita. The President of the United States could make the changes without any approvals. The establishment in and its removal from Augusta was the result of extensive behind the scenes political effort, much of which will never be explained. But some of it has been located and published in LaRoux Gillespie's latest publication, The Augusta Land Office: 1870-1872.
Until this year the location of the Land Office and its appearance had never been understood by researchers. With the help of Rachelle Meinecke at the museum, old newspapers, a search of land records, and a study of the merchants of Augusta its appearance and location has been determined. The Land Office was built by banker Charles W. Brown right next to his first bank building. The Land Office was located on the corner of State St. and Fifth as part of a two story building. The bank at that time was a single story building. The land office building burnt down in 1884, long after the land office had moved to Wichita.
The movement to Wichita is involved with a grand jury indictment, political intrigue, false settler claims, perhaps some under the table transactions and a further need to make the filing of claims easier on the setters of far west Kansas.
This is Gillespie's fifth book this year about Augusta or Butler County history. It can be seen at the Augusta Historical Museum.
Previous books include John Waters 1842-1924, The Merchants of Augusta, Landowners in the Original Augusta, Kansas Site: 1870-1880, and Indianola: Butler County, Kansas.