(This article was transcribed Aug 10, 2004 from an article submitted
for print in the Burden Times as follows)
THE BURDEN TIMES, BURDEN, KANSAS
September 14, 1939
John Harris came to Kansas at the age of 19 in the fall of 1867, a single man. He landed near Paola and while there helped to build the first railroad completed in the state of Kansas. It was known as the Kansas City, Fort Scott and Gulf road. He stayed until May, 1868, then went back to northern Indiana near South Bend, where he had been raised.
On March 28, 1870 Mr. Harris was married. Up to this time he had worked at carpentering but then went on a farm. Having had no experience he says he made one miserable failure.
In 1870, in company with another family the Harris family came to Kansas, "dead broke," according to Hr. Harris, and stopped on land not surveyed yet. This land was being disputed over by government and railroad companies everyone was leaving there that could leave and coming to the Osage Territory.
Leaving their families they took one team and started west following a pony trail all the way to Grouse Creek. They had a map that showed them where the streams were but they had no idea how far it was. One night they camped about three miles east of the Little Caney River. When they came to the river they found a man in a shack who had just come there. He came from Emporia, and that place where they were camped, today is known as Peru. He knew nothing about the country but while they were there the soldiers came along moving the Indians to Grayhorse, Oklahoma. It was a sight worth going to see. There were 2,800 Indians strung out for some miles.
On each site of the line were soldiers keeping them going. They were the dirtiest, filthiest pieces of humanity Mr. Harris ever saw. Mr. Harris came on as far as Grouse Creek and camped on the east side some place near where Dexter is now. He thought this the roughest country he ever saw.
After going back Mr. Harris traded his old team of ponies for a claim with a shanty on it. He says he didn't have a dollar to his name, didn't think anyone else had. The hardest time in his life he saw there. While there he would go 50 to 75 miles to get work.
He stayed on that claim until the fall of 1872. In the meantime his father and brother, Amos, who wasn't of age, came to Kansas from Indiana. Amos and another man were the first ones to settle Cedarvale. He took a claim two times before it was surveyed but he couldn't hold it because he wasn't of age. He came to Otter Creek then and took a claim on the land that is the site for the proposed Reidy Lake. Mr. Harris's father had come and taken a claim here too. In the meantime, Mr. Harris had gotten a pony team worth about $75 and drove through from Crawford County. He traded his team to H. U. Mills for 80 acres north of his brother. Mills thought this country would never be settled so he took a lot of this region for a cattle range, but when settlers began to come he sold out and left. This piece of land was the first in the country to be deeded. He took Mr. Harris' team in at $200 and his note for $200 payable in 2 years without interest. Mr. Harris says the note wasn't worth 10 cents for he had no horse, cow, pig or dog. He went back and traded his shanty for a yoke of oxen and moved out here in the spring of 1872. He planted twenty acres of crops of corn with a hand planter and didn't tend it. He couldn't sell it for more than 10 cents had anyone wanted it.
He said they lived but doesn't know how. He planted his corn in the spring of 1874 but the grasshoppers took all of it. Everyone was leaving that could get away
Mr. John Harris moved on the place north of town in 1876 and lived there until l900. He sold this and bought the Harris and Lauppe farms southwest of Burden. In 1901 he lived on the Harris place. He moved back to Burden and lived there until his wife died in 1918.
Some of the enterprises Mr. Harris helped institute in Burden were the rural telephone system, city water works, city scales, and cement block factory, where he made many of the cement blocks used in buildings and foundations in the town.
The Burden rural telephone system was one of the first ones built this side of the Mississippi River. Mr. Harris and a cousin attended the World's Fair in St. Louis and there was the rural telephone system demonstrated. Mr. Harris became interested and thought nearly all who lived nearby should have telephones. He started the rural exchange and at one time there were 19 lines running into the office. It was the best exchange in the state for a town this size.
Mr. Harris advocated rocking of Main street. He made the first cement blocks used in Burden in his cement plant. Because he had so much use for scales and because farmers living near needed to use scales after 5 o'clock, the time other business owning scales closed, Mr. Harris bought scales and gave to the city the 10 cent load for weighing. One-half the proceeds went to the man who weighted and the other half to the city.
For years the city realized from $3 to $10 per month from the scales. Burden was the driest town in the state of Kansas in the way of water. There were no good wells in the town. While Mr. Harris was mayor he conceived the idea of a city water system for the town. He worked and studied about the idea and went miles to see systems that had been installed. The last trip he made before mentioning his idea was to Frederick, Texas. Mr. Harris made his plans then told some of the leading citizens, such as Mr. Hooker, Luther Brooks, and others, and they thought the idea was a good one if it could be worked out. Several meetings were called to discuss the proposition and it was finally decided to build the city water system. Mr. Harris built the tower foundation, saving the city $350.
Why did Mr. Harris do this for the town? Because all he had was in and near the town. Nearly all his family lived around here and he wanted to live in a progressive community.
Why did he leave Burden? After his wife died in 1918 he expected to room and board the rest of his life. He traveled, going to Florida, Cuba, Bermuda Islands, Canada and nearly all the large cities and states in the United States. He says he soon saw he was spending too much money and learned there was no place like home. He came back to Burden with the intentions of building a nice home here. He had his plans all drawn for a large brick house but could not buy a suitable location so he went to Winfield and bought his home at 319 Best 7th Street.
Mr. Harris says he will always have a good feeling for Burden and community and that he learned there is no better or more prosperous community in the country than in the Burden Community.
Hr. Harris sends to the people of Burden and community his best wishes for the best of' fairs. If he is able he expects to come over a short time during the fair, possibly Thursday afternoon.