Wednesday, July 4, 2018

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Garfield County, Kansas was organized in March of 1887. Organizing counties could be a lucrative operation as you just had to show that you had the population, send off paperwork to the legislature, and they'd give you $10,000 to help build a courthouse. Swindlers, bilking money off the state, would then abscond with the money and when the legislature would finally get around to auditing the county, would find the perpetrators long gone. These type of swindles happened in Barber, Harper, and Ness counties. When a county was organized in Kansas a lot of times there were a couple contenders for county seat, where the central government would be. For the most part, county seats remained the same even if the county seat would end up being smaller in size than other towns. Some county seats have changed over the years. Shawnee County's county seat changed from Tecumseh to Topeka and Douglas County's changed from Lecompton to Lawrence. There were two fierce candidates for county seat of Garfield County. Eminence and Ravanna.

The post office for Eminence was started in 1883 under the name Cuyler. It was then moved a couple miles east and renamed Eminence which became official in 1887. Seeing potential, some men from Garden City arrived in Eminence and began constructing some buildings in the area. By the summer, Eminence had a population of around 300 and boasted three hotels and three general stores.

Ravanna was founded in 1882 under the name Bulltown. It was then renamed Cowland and, after complaints from residents and merchants, finally Ravanna. When Garfield County was organized in 1887, Ravanna was a flourishing trade center and was made the temporary county seat. When an election was formally called, factions divided the county. Half the county wanted Ravanna and the other half wanted Eminence. When the election occurred, Eminence had 432 votes and Ravanna had 467. When Ravanna won, the city boomed. New businesses opened, several new stores, a couple new hotels, Ravanna even voted to build a courthouse to the tune of $10,000 in bonds but the building, dubbed The Great White Elephant, cost $2,000 more than they expected.

The Garfield County Courthouse in Ravanna, circa 1899
Eminence, meanwhile, began investigating the election and discovered that a construction crew, who didn't live in the county, were allowed to vote using the names of dead men. After an order from the Attorney General, 60 votes were removed from Ravanna and Eminence became the new county seat. Ravanna refused to move the county records so men from Eminence rode into Ravanna, broke into the courthouse and stole the records. The state sent someone to Eminence to keep the peace until the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that Eminence was the county seat of Garfield County. But Ravanna kept fighting.

In 1892, Ravanna hired a surveyor to map out Garfield County and it was discovered that Garfield County was smaller than the constitutionally-mandated size counties had to be. Ravanna chose mutually-assured destruction than risk losing out to Eminence. In January 1893, the county commissioners were sworn in but in March, the Kansas legislature annexed Garfield County to Finney County.

Neither Eminence nor Ravanna were to be the county seat anymore and people moved away. Ravanna's post office, the last business in town, closed in 1922. Eminence lost the post office in 1942. The Garfield County Courthouse in Ravanna burned down around 1900. All that remains of Ravanna are a few stone foundations and ruins. All that remains of Eminence is a small country cemetery.
The last remains of Ravanna, circa 1935.
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By the time fireworks in most places start, most people will have already read this. I guess in a way, you can imagine that The Born Loser is being run in reverse today. That's fun, right? I know this commentary may not be funny, clever, or even good in any way but it is taking all my strength not to figure out some way of jumping into this comic strip and slapping Wilberforce around.

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