FOUNDING OF A COMMUNITY
Kiowa County was established by an act of the Kansas State Legislature in 1867, and was named from the Kiowa Indians. Two tiers of townships from Edwards County and the northern ones from Comanche County formed the new county. The first recorded settlement of a white man was a Mr. Jordan in 1868, near the present town of Belvidere, in the southeastern part of the county. In the late 1870's, large cattle ranches were formed.
According to the Homestead Law a man could have a hundred and sixty acres after a settlement of three years, and the paying of $1.25 per acre at the end of this period. Among the pioneers who staked claims in northeast Kiowa County were those who envisioned a townsite along the railroad survey line. The first claims were established in 1884. By 1885, almost fifty families were settled on or near the present site of the City of Haviland. Family names were: B. H. Albertson, Lindley Pitts, Jabez Hall, James Gulley, Josiah Binford, Margaret Binford, I. H. Woodward, R. D. Woodward, Isaac Futhey, Charles Dowell, Vern Parnell, J. A. Harmon, Henry Hart, William Wilson, Alfred Cox, Nathan Brown, F. D. Kimberley, M. C. Shuck, Charley Hodgin, Luther Hadley, Charley Ishum, David Burns, Cordelia Mills, Gurney Mills, Zimri Thompson, Ruben Eaton, Caleb Davis, A. K. Kemp, Stanton Woodard, Verlin Pickett, Miles Woodard, William Woodard, Daton Pickett, Alva Gulley, Paris Newlin, P. M. May, Colonel Dean, E. M. Pyle, Francis McGraw, George Green, James Evans, H. J. Siler, J. A. Lucas, Andrew Amick, David Bevan, Barney Corrigan, James H. Scott and Carm Cooke.
In 1886, R. D. Woodward, A. K. Kemp and John Falter each donated ten acres of land for a new town site. The life and influence of an outstanding woman, Laura S. Haviland, of another state prompted the choice of Haviland as the name for this new Kansas town in Kiowa County. The Haviland Town Company was formed in May, 1886 and the charter filed July 12, 1886. The City was incorporated April 3, 1906.
CHARTER OF HAVILAND TOWN COMPANY
We, the undersigned citizens of Kansas, hereby voluntarily associate ourselves together and do hereby organize the HAVILAND TOWN COMPANY OF HAVILAND, KANSAS.
This association is formed for the purpose of purchasing, location, and laying out of the Haviland Town Site, and the conveyance of the same in lots, subdivisions and otherwise, and the erection of buildings. Capital Stock, $700.
Josiah Binford, R. D. Woodward, H. F. Siler, John Falter
I. H. Woodward, B. H. Albertson, A. K. Kemp
The town grew rapidly. Building material and food supplies were freighted by teams of oxen, horses or mules from the nearest railroad points of Larned or Kinsley. Soon homes, a school and businesses houses were built. In the early days water was hauled from Dowell (Wellsford), four miles east. A town well was dug in 1886 in the center of the crossroads on Main Street, which later had to be filled when the Rock Island track was laid. Another well, thirty-six inches across, was then dug a block north in 1887. Water was drawn with ropes and buckets and emptied into a trough. Jugs were filled and livestock watered for travelers. For many years Haviland was known as the "City of Windmills", because of having more according to its population than any other town in Kansas. When the City water system was installed in 1925, the windmills began disappearing from the town's skyline.
Worship and education were inseparable parts of community life and not dependent on the construction of a church or school building. As pioneer families arrived, Sunday Schools were organized and a school established. The Quakers (Friends) began meeting in homes in 1884. That same year, a school was started and classes met in a 10' x 14' dugout shed. The Methodist class (United Methodist) began meeting in a small frame schoolhouse in 1888.
The homesteader rush for land on west brought as many as one hundred wagons a day along the Cannonball Trail. The infamous Colonel "Cannonball" Green stopped his stagecoach, carrying mail and settlers in search of claims, at Haviland for dinner and a change of horses.
The Santa Fe and Rock Island railroads arrived in 1887.
There was a close fellowship among the early settlers. Each person was ready to share with and help others. When a child was expected, neighbor women delivered the baby into the world. When there was a death, the body was dressed and laid out by friends. The casket was built by relatives or neighbors. Burial usually was in the family yard or on a nearby hill. The cost of living and dying on the frontier was practically without need of cash. Common fare was corn mush and side meat, with sand hill plums for dessert. Fuel was buffalo chips spoken of as "prairie coal."
These early pioneers faced difficult and frightening experiences. While earlier Pilgrims in America had taken guns to church for protection against Indians, Kansas pioneers took hoes with them for protection against rattlesnakes. They were in constant fear of them, and many snakes were killed daily. The story is told that on one particular day, Adelbert Albertson was hauling water from Wellsford, located four miles east of Haviland, and killed 22 rattlesnakes on his way home.
Prairie fires were a constant danger in the early years. In the autumn of 1885, a prairie fire swept from Dodge City into Pratt County, burning a strip 10 to 15 miles wide. The bluestem grass was as high as a horse's back and very little natural sod had been broken out. The flames, which were many feet high, swept from the northwest over the prairie and easily jumped a 100' fire guard. The smoke was so thick that breathing was almost impossible. The people were saved only by backfiring the grass and by wrapping themselves in quilts.
An interesting experience happened in 1885. It was reported that Indians in Indian Territory were on the warpath and were coming from Sedgwick County west to Meade County, destroying property and slaying settlers as they came. A great many people left their homes and congregated in nearby towns, remaining until they thought it was safe to return. It was soon learned that the truth about the scare was that a tribe was moving their summer camp in southwest Nebraska, and the false report was the cattlemen's method of chasing out the settlers.
The fall of 1885 and the early winter of 1886, the weather was extremely mild. On Christmas day of 1885 it was so warm that doors were left open. The people concluded that there was little need for coal or wood. They were using stacked ramrod hay, bluestem and bunch grass in hay burners. Ira Woodward explained that "the burner was constructed similar to a wash boiler, only much deeper. All you had to do was to take the boiler out to the hay stack and fill it with hay, taking care to tromp it in good and tight. then you took the lids off the cook stove, turned the burner upside down, stuck a lighted match to the hay, and you had a factory for cooking and heating." Mr. Woodward described the day and night of January 6, 1986: "It was warm and fine. When we awoke on the morning of the seventh, the thermometer was down to 10 below zero and at times it was as dark as night. Snow as fine as flour filled the air and the wind was blowing a terrific gale. A great deal of livestock perished in the storm and some people lost their lives farther west. our turkeys were blown off the stable where they roosted, and were frozen to death." This proved to be the worst blizzard these people had ever known.