Vicksburg Township Post Offices reflect the past
Vicksburgh Township is on the Jewell/Republic County line, just north of Allen Township and south of Grant Township. “Vicksburgh” was the spelling of the township in the early history of Jewell County just as it was the spelling of the early town of Vicksburgh. The town of Vicksburgh was not in Vicksburgh Township but rather was in Allen Township. Now the township’s name is Vicksburg and the town no longer exists.
Early maps show Johnsonville, Marsh Valley, and Omio being in Vicksburg Township. The plat of the town of Omio is even included in the 1884 Jewell County Atlas. Omio, a vibrant community during the late 1870’s and 1880’s, had a post office from July 5, 1877 until June 20, 1895. The Omio Post Office will have its own article at later time.
Each of the other two locations also had post offices. Early United States Postmaster Appointment records also show there was also a post office named Branch in Vickburg township. Omio, Branch, Johnsonville and Marsh Valley, all early post offices, all discontinued before 1895.
Branch was not located on the 1878, 1880 or 1884 maps nor was it mentioned in Polk’s 1880 Kansas Gazetteer. It was noted as “unfound” by Bruntzel’s Quick Reference to Kansas. Branch, to date, has been found only in U. S. Post Office Records. Those records show it existed as a post office from November 13, 1889 to January 30, 1892. The only postmaster was Abraham Alsdurf.
Because Alsdurf’s homestead was the SW 1/4 of Section 21 (the intersection of today’s I Road and 280 Road) it is reasonable to think the Branch Post Office was located there. This is the location of Alsdurf Cemetery (also called Hill Grove). Why the name “Branch” was used is a mystery.
Alsdurf was born in 1820 in New York. He moved from New York to Pennsylvania. There, around 1850, he married Nancy Manning. They moved to Minnesota and lived there with their five children before making the trek to Vicksburg Township in the early 1870’s.
One of the earliest settlers in Vicksburg Township, Abraham Alsdurf was elected Justice of the Peace for the township on April 3, 1871. This was the first election in the township.
Nancy Alsdurf was described as “a very early settler” in her death notice in the January 8, 1892 Randall Exponent. Both Abraham and Nancy left Jewell County and moved to California to be with a daughter, “for their health.” Nancy died there in 1892 and Abraham in 1898.
The Johnsonville Post Office was Vicksburg Township’s first post office and only the fourth post established in Jewell County. With the county’s population burgeoning, it was one of twelve post offices to be established in 1871. The post office served patrons from January 24, 1871 to December 16, 1885.
The location of the Johnsonville Post Office, according to the Jewell County 1884 Atlas, was in the SW 1/4 of the SW 1/4 Section 16. This is at the intersection of today’s J Road and 270 Road.
When the 1884 atlas was published, Samuel Brown owned that piece of property and was the Johnsonville postmaster. Brown was the last postmaster, serving from January 9, 1884 to December 16, 1885. When the Johnsonville Post Office was discontinued, the Omio Post Office began serving the area.
Though it seems very likely that in 1884 the post office was in Section 16, it might not have always been located there. The 1878 map of Jewell County shows Johnsonville in the SE 1/ 4 of Section 21. This location is at the intersection of today’s I Road and 280 Road. But, according to Bruntzel’s Quick Reference to Kansas, it was located in Section 13.
The 1878 History of Kansas indicates states “Johnsonville, named in honor of Captain O. F. Johnson, is a post office near the center of the Township.” Appropriately, O. F. Johnson or Oley F. Johnson was the first postmaster at the Johnsonville Post Office. He served from the organization of the post office on January 24, 1871 until March 2, 1874.
Not only did Johnson have the Johnsonville Post Office named after him, he and his bride, Elizabeth Zimmer, were the first couple married in Jewell County. They were married on June 17, 1871. The newly elected Justice of the Peace, Abraham Alsdurf officiated at the ceremony. The groom was from Norway, the bride was from Germany. According to Palmer’s The Old Home Town, they courted “in three languages.”
Johnson was born in Norway in 1838 and came to the United States in 1850. He lived in Wisconsin and Minnesota before enlisting in the 46th Illinois Volunteer Infantry where he served as the Captain of Company K. After the Civil War was over, he returned to Illinois but came on west to Kansas in 1870.
Johnson served the township and county in several capacities other than postmaster. He was Vicksburg Township trustee and justice of the peace. In 1881 he was elected Jewell County Sheriff.
The Johnson’s first homestead, granted on June 1, 1872, was the SW 1/4 of Section 22, just east of the 1878 location of Johnsonville in the SE 1/4 of Section 21. Johnson was granted a total of three land patents, with all the parcels either in Section 21 or Section 22.
The second postmaster at Johnsonville was Abraham Alsdurf. As was noted before, Alsdurf’s homestead was in the SW 1/4 of Section 21, just next to the location of Johnsonville on the 1878 map.
This appointment to the Johnsonville Post Office was his first appointment as a postmaster. His term was from March 2, 1874 until June 10, 1878. A year later, he was again appointed postmaster, serving from June 10, 1879 until November 5, 1883. These appointments were both before his stint as postmaster at the short-lived Branch Post Office.
Sandwiched between Alsdurf’s two terms as postmaster was the year-long appointment of Addison A. Andrews. Andrews was a veteran of the Civil War having served with Company E of the 29th Ohio Infantry. He went into the war as a Sergeant and was discharged as a Lieutenant.
Originally from Ohio, he moved to Dolphin County, Kansas before his November 16, 1869 marriage to Lucretia Elizabeth Hamilton. They moved their family to Vicksburg Township sometime in the late 1870’s. His appointment as the Johnsonville postmaster was from June 10, 1878 to June 10, 1879.
The 1895 Kansas Census finds the Andrews family, parents and eight children, living in Emporia, Kansas. Addison and Lucretia moved again, this time to Yuma County, Colorado. They lived the remainder of their lives there. Addison died in 1915 and Lucretia in 1917,
After Alsdurf’s second stint as Johnsonville postmaster (June 10, 1879 to November 5, 1883), George F. Johnson was appointed and served from November 5, 1883 to January 9, 1884. His homestead, the patent granted on August 1, 1873, was in the NW 1/4 of Section 7. Not particularly close to any of the noted locations of Johnsonville.
There was more than one George Johnson in Jewell County in the 1870’s and 1880’s. It is believed that George F. Johnson, the Johnsonville Postmaster, was born in Norway. Nothing else is known for certain.
Samuel H. Brown was the final postmaster. He served from January 9, 1884 until the post office was discontinued on December 16, 1885. Samuel, his wife Julia and daughter Lanora, were living in Vicksburg Township in 1880. They, like George F. Johnson, left little permanent trace in Jewell County.
The relatively short-lived Marsh Valley Post Office was in existence between June 7, 1872 and May 6, 1875. Named for its location, it is shown to be in the NW 1/4 of Section 31 of Vicksburg Township on the 1878 map. This is also the homestead of the only postmaster at Marsh Valley, James C. Christie. This location is at the southeast corner of the intersection of Highway 148 and Highway 28 north of Randall.
Though Marsh Valley was not a town as such, it was a community. There was a Marsh Valley School in the SW 1/4 of Section 29, some over a mile as the bird flies from the post office. There was also the Marsh Valley Anti-Horse Thief Society actively meeting in 1880.
The March 16, 1878 Jewell County Diamond noted that S. Githens had the largest stock of plows in the county for sale “at his residence in Marsh Valley.” An item in the Jewell County Republican of January 9, 1880 announced that “nearly all the farmers of Marsh Valley have come out of their dugouts and are living in neat comfortable farm-houses.”
There was a “flourishing Union Sunday School” in Marsh Valley with James A. Bailey as Superintendent according to a June 1876 issue of the Jewell County Diamond. The Jewell County Republican reported in January, 1880 “Marsh Valley has a telephone.” The Marsh Valley Community existed far longer than the post office.
The only postmaster, James C. Christie, was from Indiana. He and Cynthia Stewart were married there in 1851. They lived in Iowa before finding a claim in Vicksburg Township in October of 1871. They, like many others, didn’t stay in Jewell County. Around 1900 they moved to southeast Kansas and both are buried in the Cloverdale Cemetery in Chautauqua County.
Today there is no evidence of Johnsonville, Marsh Valley or Branch in Vicksburg Township. As for Omio, that is another story for another day.