History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Neosho Falls


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Situated along the Neosho River in northeast Woodson County, Neosho Falls is the oldest town in the county. A semi-ghost town today, this small town of less than 200 people, was once the county seat of Woodson County and described as the most important city in the area.

Its name was taken from the nearby Neosho River, coupled with “Falls,” when one of the first works of early settlers was to build a dam across the rapids, creating the small torrent of water over the dam that still exists today. The settlers who would establish the city were Colonel National S. Goss and Isaac W. Dow, who arrived in the area on April 6, 1857 from Iowa. In a one-horse rig, the two skirted the Coffey County line and just west of where Neosho Falls would be built, found the cabin of Judge John Woolman. The only other person living in the area at the time was a man named John Chapman, who resided on Spring Creek, just north of the Falls.


Neosho River and power house at Neosho Falls

Neosho River and power house at Neosho Falls, Kathy Weiser, June, 2009.

At that time, Woodson County was the reserve of the New York Indians and not open to official settlement. This; however, did not stop more settlers from coming to the area. In August, another settler named E, Fender built a cabin on the north bank of the river, and the area’s first physician, Dr. A. McCartney, and others came in the Fall. That same year, a post office was established and National Goss became the postmaster, a position he held for two years.


Ever the entrepreneur, National S. Goss, along with T. L. Clark, B. F. Goss and William Brown, built a sawmill on the north side of the river in 1857. Soon after it was built, National S. Goss and T. L. Clark would become its sole owners and would expand it two years later.

In the Spring of 1858, more settlers arrived, including two men by the names of Ruggles and Stevens, who built a cabin on the south bank of the Neosho River and began to sell goods. Later in the year, the two built a frame store building as well as the Falls House Hotel. Before long, another store building was erected by J. Fisher, who put in a stock of drugs.

Though the land was still part of the New York Indian Reserve, it was never occupied by any of the New York tribes, their only settlement being a temporary one near Fort Scott. Finding that the Indians would not settle on the reserve, the Woodson Board of County Supervisors began to organize the county in May, 1858. On May 22nd, the men met at Neosho Falls and passed an order for the conduct of all county business in that settlement. That same month National S. Goss & Co. donated a jail building to the county to use for as long a time as Neosho Falls should remain the county seat. In August, the Board of County Supervisors again met at Neosho Falls and proceeded to lay off the county into the townships of Neosho Falls, Liberty, Owl Creek, Belmont and Verdigris. That same year, the first school was taught in the private property of E. H. Curtis, who afterward figured in the war as the Colonel of a African-American regiment.


In 1860, the U.S. Government put up for sale and homesteading, all the lands that had been part of the New York Indian Reserve. News of this movement quickly circulated throughout the county and the squatter settlers hastened to the land office to make the appropriate entries.

On November 5, 1867 an election was held to permanently locate the county seat. The vote resulted in 129 for Neosho Falls, two for Center, and two for Coloma, giving Neosho Falls a landslide victory. As in many other Kansas counties; however, not everyone was happy with the placement of the county seat, and less than a year later, another election was held on September 21, 1868, which pitted Neosho Falls against Chellis. Neosho Falls won again, but the county seat “fights” would last for the next eight years, ultimately leaving Neosho Falls out in the cold.


Neosho Falls Methodist Church

Though there were once several churches in Neosho Falls, the only one

 left today is the Methodist Church, Kathy Weiser, June, 2009.

The first newspaper in the county was the Frontier Democrat, which was started in October, 1869 by Isaac Boyle, who published the paper at Neosho Falls until January, 1870, when it was sold to William H. Slavens, who changed the name to the Neosho Falls Advertiser.

A public schoolhouse was built in 1869, and the first classes taught in 1870 by teacher, I. S. Jones, who would later become a Probate Judge of Woodson County.

The year 1870 was a busy one for Neosho Falls, as the town was incorporated, a bank was started by Isaac W. Dow, and the Union Pacific Railroad pushed through town, establishing a depot and a large storehouse in the southern part of the town. It later became the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway. That same year, the Falls House, the only hotel in town, was practically rebuilt and enlarged dramatically, and the first churches were built in the city.


Elections for city officers were held in the early part of 1871. By this time, the school building erected just two years early had already proved inadequate and a large addition was made to it at a cost of $500. The following year another building was also added.

In the meantime, the newspaper, changed hands and management a number of times and became the Woodson County Post in January, 1873. That same year, the sawmill, which had since passed into the hands of Cobert & Cozine, was sold to W. L. Parsons. Another mill – a woolen manufacturer was built the same year on the south side of the Neosho River by the Hillings Brothers. That year, Isaac Dow’s bank failed, leaving the town without one for the next several years.

Later in 1873, yet another county seat election was held on November 3rd, in which the county seat was moved to Kalida, a town that was located about two miles southeast of Yates Center. Just a few months later, on February 23, 1874, Kalida would lose its short lived county seat status to Defiance. The following year, yet another election was held between Defiance, Neosho Falls and Yates Center. The tally was so close between Neosho Falls and Yates Center, that a second election was held for the final decision. The hotly contested race culminated in a vote on September 12, 1876 that resulted with Yates Center having 488 and Neosho Falls having 426. The county seat question was never again revived.



Continued Next Page


Abandoned gas station in Neosho Falls

This old gas station hasn't seen a customer in many years, Kathy Weiser, June, 2009.


Abandoned business in Neosho Falls, Kansas

Once a prospering business, this abandoned building can barely be seen behind the trees and vines, Kathy Weiser, June, 2009.


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