Three “County Line” post offices
As Jewell County celebrates their 150th Sesquicentennial this year, so too they recognize three small, relatively short-lived post offices located on the Jewell/Mitchell County line around the 1870’s and 1880’s. The three, all thought to have been located in Prairie Township, were Goldie, Arastella and Aurora.
The Goldie Post Office, only active four months, was organized on May 7, 1883 and discontinued on September 4, 1883. Goldie is not found on any early map, mentioned in news clippings nor is it located in Melvin Bruntzel’s Quick Reference to Kansas – Lost, Found and Missing Towns and Places.
It is documented in postal records that Mrs. S. E. Seaton; Sarah Elizabeth Bartley Seaton was the only official appointed to serve the post office. Oren Andrew Seaton and Sarah Elizabeth Bartley were married in St. Joseph, Illinois on March 26, 1878. Less than a year later, Oren received the land patent to 160 acres in Section 33 in Prairie Township.
This land sits on the county line where present day Highway 14 turns south into Mitchell County. As early post offices were often in the home of the postmaster or postmistress, it is quite probable that the Goldie Post Office was located on the Seaton homestead. It is also probable the post office was named after their oldest daughter. The couple is found in Prairie Township in the 1880 census with a six-month old daughter, Goldie.
The Seaton family grew to include another daughter Gladys and sons, Roy, Guy and Fay. Goldie married John Shaefer and they moved to Colorado. After Gladys married Albert Stanley, they made their home in Mankato.
Son Fay was a vice-president of the Livestock State Bank in Kansas City, Guy the publisher of the Manhattan Mercury and Roy a Dean at Kansas State Agricultural College with Seaton Hall his namesake. Oren and Sarah are both buried in Sunset Cemetery in Manhattan, Kansas.
The second of the three post offices, the Arastella Post Office, is not located in Bruntzel’s book either. But it is noted in the 1880 Kansas Gazetteer as being “near the county line” and on the “C. B. U. P. R. R. (Central Branch Union Pacific Railroad.” Arastella is not on the CBUP 1888 map, but the map does show the Jamestown to Burr Oak segment called the “Jewell Branch.” Arastella would have been somewhere on that branch line.
Another clue to the location is the postmistress, Mrs. Sarah E. Johnson. Born Sarah Elizabeth Galyran in Indiana in 1855, she was in Belleville, Kansas by 1874. Her June 14, 1874 marriage to James Clark Johnson is on file in the Republic County Courthouse.
The Johnson homestead was in Section 31 of Prairie Township, just two miles west of the of the probable location of the Goldie Post Office. The patent was received in May of 1882. The Arastella Post Office was organized on Kansas Day, January 29, 1879. It was discontinued just a few days over two years later on February 8, 1881. Again, as early post offices were often in the home of the postmaster or postmistress, Section 31 is the likely location of Arastella. In another similarity to the Goldie Post Office, the Johnson’s first child was a daughter, Arastella. It is thought they named the post office after her.
James C. Johnson would become well-known in the area as a pioneer in both Jewell and Mitchell Counties. He was also known as Dr. J. C. Johnson the developer and manufacturer of a line of “Family Vegetable Medicines.” At various times he was noted as being from Arastella, Glenora (just two miles west of his homestead), Aurora (a little over two miles as the crow flies), Beloit and then Cawker City. It was in Cawker City that he built a building and had his own “drug store” and “ten-cent counter.”
A clipping from the January 5, 1878 Beloit Gazette calls one of his remedies “most excellent medicine.” Other clippings lauded his products also. He had salves for back aches and liquids for coughs and diphtheria, among other ailments.
According to the June 24, 1902 Jewell County Republican, J. C. Johnson went to medical schools “at Brooklyn and New York City, for four years.” Further the article states Johnson practiced in California, on a vessel at sea, in Oregon and Washington Territories and for 6 years in Iowa before coming to Republic, Kansas.
He was also known to be an “eccentric fellow” (July 9, 1889 Concordia Daylight) and “very peculiar” in the announcement of his death in the September 17, 1906 Beloit Gazette.
While in Cawker City, Johnson acquired what he claimed to be orange groves in Florida. He spent much time in Florida managing them, leaving Sarah in charge of the store. According to various newspapers, she did quite well. At one-point James was gone two and a half years. Much ado was made in the newspapers about his return. Then, he disappeared – for six years.
His youngest daughter, Alberta, was a "trained” nurse in Topeka. She put together clues from letters written by her father using the alias Frank Jacobs to himself, J. C. Johnson in Cawker City. Other aliases were also used. Her investigation determined that a suicide victim, Frank Jacobs of Kansas City, was in reality her father. The body was exhumed and Alberta positively identified it as James C. Johnson.
After her husband’s death, Sarah Johnson moved to Topeka. In due time she married John Cordts. She died in October of 1925 in Carbondale, Kansas.
The third of the post offices on “the county line” was Aurora. The Jewell County Monitor on June 24, 1880 mentions Arastella and Aurora in an item discussing the dry conditions in southern Jewell County. “The neighborhood of the Arastella and Aurora post offices, on the county line, is in a suffering condition for want of rain.”
The 1878 map of Jewell County locates Aurora in the SW 1/4 of Section 28 of Prairie Township. This is just one mile off the county line and one mile north of Goldie. It is also just two miles east and one mile north of Arastella. The Aurora Post Office is said to be named for Aurora, Greece. The name means “Dawn.”
The community of Aurora was organized in October of 1871. The post office was organized previously, on July 3, 1871. Under four postmasters, the office remained open for eleven years until July 5, 1882. It was reported in Bruntzel’s book that there were a “few” families but “daily” mail service. Stagecoaches ran to Jewell, Jewell Centre and Beloit.
The community was on the C.B.U.P Railroad, the Jewell Branch. Though there were no mentions of stores, the community had three carpenters, two masons, a justice of the peace and the postmaster according to the 1880 Kansas Gazetteer.
The first postmaster appointed was William W. McCracken. He and his wife Mary were originally from New York. They homesteaded the SE 1/4 of Section 28 of Prairie Township. This is the quarter next to the location of Aurora on the 1878 map. However, Perry McCracken, William W. McCracken’s father homestead the SW 1/4, the purported location of Aurora.
The McCracken’s lived only about nine years in Jewell County. They were in Mitchell County, in Asherville in 1880. Eventually they lived in Beloit. Both are buried in Elmwood Cemetery.
Francis M. Ginn was appointed postmaster on July 27, 1875. Ginn, a bachelor, was a veteran of the Civil War. Though born in Ohio, he served with the 46 th Indiana Infantry. His homestead was a couple of miles east of Aurora on the NW 1/4 of Prairie Township’s Section 35. Ginn died on November 8, 1881 and is buried near Randall in the Pleasant Prairie Cemetery.
Alexander G. Storrs, or A.G. Storrs, was the third and then the last man to serve as postmaster at Aurora. He took over on the 19th of February of 1879 serving until January 4, 1881. His final stint as postmaster was from July 27, 1881 to July 5, 1882 when the post office discontinued.
Storrs was also “prepared to loan money” on real estate according to his ad in the August 11, 1881 Jewell County Review. The 1880 Gazetteer also noted that A. G. Storrs was a carpenter.
Alexander and Betsy A. Hickock Storrs were from Pennsylvania. A. G. was a Civil War veteran having served in the 35th Pennsylvania Militia. The couple’s first move west was to Michigan. After leaving Michigan, they came to Kansas, where they homesteaded on the NE 1/4 of Section 32 in Prairie Township. Jewell County. This quarter is catty-corner across the intersection from the site of Aurora.
The Storrs, like the McCracken’s did not stay in Prairie Township. They too moved to Asherville but then on further west to Canon City and Denver, Colorado.
The fourth postmaster was Stephen Kilgore. He came to Jewell County in 1872, filing on a homestead in Prairie Township but sold his rights to Jacob Zumwalt. It was Zumwalt who got the land patent. Kilgore was the postmaster only from January 4, 1881 to July 27, 1881. He died in October of 1883 and is buried in the Atkins Cemetery.
Today there is no indication in Prairie Township that any of the three post offices ever existed. They organized, served the public and have moved into the crevices of history.