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Margrave Stories
Margrave GEDCOM Index

Margrave Family Papers, 1861 - 1961
Kansas State Historical Society

This collection consists of the papers of the Margrave family of southeastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas. The Margraves, a family of Sac and Fox Indian extraction, owned a great deal of land, which they used for cattle ranching. Most of the papers in this collection consist of business papers in connection with the Margrave's cattle ranching business, such as real estate papers, property tax receipts, account ledgers, stock certificates, and minutes of meetings of the board of directors. Other papers concern government relations with the Sac and Fox Indians, financial contributions to Baker University and the estates of William Addison Margrave and William Charles Margrave.

The Kansas State Historical Society also has photographic reproductions of 52 photos of the Margraves. The originals are in the hands of Suzanne Heck, who loaned the collection to the Kansas State Historical Society.

bullet Descriptive Identification
bullet Administrative Information
bullet Access Points
bullet Biographical Information
bullet Scope and Content Notes
bullet Microfilm Inventory List
bullet Additional Information

Descriptive Identification

Creator/Originator: Margrave family.

Title: Margrave family papers, 1861-1961.

Collection identification: Collection No. 5015/Microfilm MF 2680 - MF 2683.

Extent: 1.5 cubic feet.

Repository: Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka).

Abstract: This collection consists of the papers of the Margrave family of southeastern Nebraska and northeastern Kansas. The Margraves, a family of Sac and Fox Indian extraction, owned a great deal of land, which they used for cattle ranching. Most of the papers in this collection consist of business papers in connection with the Margrave's cattle ranching business, such as real estate papers, property tax receipts, account ledgers, stock certificates, and minutes of meetings of the board of directors. Other papers concern government relations with the Sac and Fox Indians, financial contributions to Baker University and the estates of William Addison Margrave and William Charles Margrave.

The Kansas State Historical Society also has photographic reproductions of 52 photos of the Margraves. The originals are in the hands of Suzanne Heck, who loaned the collection to the Kansas State Historical Society.

Administrative Information

Provenance: The Margrave family papers were loaned to the Kansas State Historical Society in 1999 for the purpose of arrangement and description and for microfilming.

Access: Unrestricted.

Usage restrictions: None.

Publication rights: The Kansas State Historical Society does not own literary property rights to these records.

Notice: This material may be protected by copyright law (title 17, U.S. Code). The user is cautioned that the publication of the contents of this microfilm may be construed as constituting a violation of literary property rights. These rights derive from the principle of common law, affirmed in the copyright law of 1976 as amended, that the writer of an unpublished letter or other manuscript has the sole right to publish the contents thereof unless he or she affirmatively parts with that right; the right descends to his or her legal heirs regardless of the ownership of the physical manuscript itself. It is the responsibility of a user or his or her publisher to secure the permission of the owner of literary property rights in unpublished writing.

Preferred citation: [identification of individual item and/or series], the Margrave family papers, 1861-1961, Ms. collection 5015/microfilm MF 2680-MF 2683, Library and Archives Division, Kansas State Historical Society, Topeka.

Acquisition information: Suzanne Heck, loan, 1999 (accession no. 1998-058.01); manuscript collection no. 5015.

Processing history: Processed by Robert A. McInnes in 1999. Microfilmed in 1999 by the Kansas State Historical Society (Topeka) (lab. no. 49434).

Access Points

1. Indians of North America -- Kansas.
2. Indians of North America -- Government Relations.
3. Ranches -- Kansas -- Brown County.
4. Ranches -- Nebraska -- Richardson County.
5. Fox Indians.
6. Sauk Indians.
7. Wills -- Nebraska -- Richardson Co.
8. Indians of North America -- Nebraska.
9. Indians -- Sac and Fox.
10. Brown Co. (Kan.) -- Ranches.
11. Richardson Co. (Neb.) -- Ranches.
12. W. A. Margrave Co. -- Kansas.
13. Margrave, William Addison, 1845-1906.
14. W. A. Margrave Company.

Other Correspondents

Charles Curtis
John Morehead
S. M. Brosius
Edwin Minor

Biographical Information

Recorded history concerning the Margrave family dates at least as far back as 1814, with the birth of James Willis Margrave in Kentucky on August 16th. In 1838, he married Elizabeth Hopkins in Putnam County, Illinois. The Margraves had eight children, including William Addison Margrave, born on May 1, 1845, near Peoria, Illinois. The family moved to the far southeastern tip of Nebraska, near Preston. It was in this area, extending into northeastern Kansas, where the Margraves bought extensive tracts of land for cattle ranching.

W. A. Margrave, who was the leading family member in the cattle business, married Margaret Rubeti. Margaret's father was Wah-se-con, a Sac and Fox Indian; her mother, Jean Rubeti, a French Canadian who lived near the Sac and Fox Reservation. After the death of her parents in 1851 (when Margaret was six years old), she and her sisters were raised by the Samuel Irvin family, missionaries to the Iowa and Sac and Fox Indians.

Over time, the Margrave Ranch became one of the largest ranching enterprises in either eastern Nebraska or Kansas. By 1920, the Margrave ranch was incorporated as the W. A. Margrave Company.

William A. and Margaret Margrave had five children: Julia, Margaret Lunette (who died at birth), William Charles, James Thomas, and Earl Irvin, all of whom were members of the Sac and Fox tribe.

After the death of William A. Margrave from a horse and buggy accident in 1906, William Charles Margrave became president of the W. A. Margrave Company. He married Mary Waller, of Padonia, Kansas, in 1897, and had four children: William (who died in 1899), Howard, Julia, and Martha. Mary died in 1908. Two years later, William married Ida E. Pribbeno of Preston, Nebraska. They had three children: Helen, William A. "Skeets," and Warren Robert (who died in 1924).

In addition to his ranching activities, William C. Margrave was an advocate for Indian rights and represented the Sac and Fox on business and government matters. He was also a member of the Indian Rights Association.

A dramatic and tragic event in the history of the Margrave family occurred on November 11, 1933, when Sam Martin entered Margrave property and incited a gun fight. James Margrave (William Charles' brother) was killed, as well as James' two sons, William and Stuart. James' wife, Mary, was wounded, but survived. Martin was subsequently found guilty of murder and served a life sentence in the Nebraska State Prison. Mary and her daughter Margaret, sold their home in Nebraska, moved to the east coast, and never returned.

William C. Margrave died in 1942 of diabetes.

Scope and Content Notes

This collection consists primarily of the papers of the W. A. Margrave Company from the 1890s to the 1930s (actually, the financial ledgers date as early as 1861, and span to 1961). The W. A. Margrave Company was a cattle ranching enterprise located in northeastern Kansas and southeastern Nebraska. As with all manuscript collections, there is always material outside of the main series. The seven series in this collection are arranged alphabetically according to the first word of the series. That being the case, the W. A. Margrave Co. series appears last of the seven.

In addition to this manuscript collection, the Kansas State Historical Society has reproduc-tions of fifty two Margrave photographs. See the Photograph Catalogue for more details.

Series 1: Baker University, Endowment subscription, and scholarship investment, 1914-18.

Although the biographical records of the members of the Margrave family do not reveal that any of the Margraves attended Baker University, the Margraves did believe in higher education and contributed generously to the Baker University endowment fund. In 1914, the W. A. Margrave Co. contributed one thousand dollars, and in 1918, the company donated another one thousand dollars for the establishment of the W. A. Margrave Scholarship Fund.

Series 2: In re: Estate of William Addison Margrave, deceased, 1919.

When William Addison Margrave befell a horse and buggy accident on July 31, 1906, he died intestate, meaning, he died without a will. Series 2 contains the court transcripts of the Richardson County (Nebraska) District Court, which determined the allocation of the Margrave property. Oddly enough, the District Court did not issue a decree on the fate of the estate until 1919, thirteen years after Margrave's death. One of the most significant features of the six transcripts in this series is that they give a complete legal description of all of the parcels of the Margrave property.

There are six transcripts on the Margrave property because the family owned property in five different counties.

These five court decrees, plus a petition for the determination of heirship for a total of six sets of transcripts.

Series 3: Irvin Memorial Chapel, dedication bulletin, 1916 March 12.

One of the buildings on Margrave property was a Methodist Episcopal Church, which they had built in 1916. Series 4 is a photocopy of the bulletin for the dedication service of the church at Margrave's ranch, on March 12, 1916. This chapel was named after Rev. Samuel Irwin, one of the first missionaries to the region.

Series 4: Last Will and Testament of William C. Margrave, 1923 August 24.

Documents such as wills are revealing in that they show what people owned, valued, and how they really felt about their family members. Not surprisingly, W. C. Margrave allotted a third of his estate to his second wife, Ida, and the remaining two thirds to his six children, following the settlement of his debts. He also intended that his heirs continue raising livestock, if they possibly could.

Series 5: Power of Attorney (Thomas L. Sloan c/o David and Lucy Green), 1895.

Except for the fact that David and Lucy Green were Sac and Fox Indians, there is little that links these two individuals, or their attorney Thomas L. Sloane, to the Margraves. It seems that W. C. Margrave may have been involved in mediating the interests of the Greens in the latter part of their lives.

Series 6: Sac and Fox Papers, 1894-1953.

An area of great concern to William C. Margrave was the status and well being of Native Americans, the Sac and Fox, in particular. This series contains a wide variety of materials concerning this tribe, namely a petition to the Secretary of the Interior to liquidate the trust fund maintained by the federal government. The petitioners wanted the fund to be disbursed equally to the individual members of the Sac and Fox. Other items include newspaper clippings, depositions, and correspondence with the Indian Rights Association and the Department of the Interior concerning the Sac and Fox. Also found among the correspondence are two letters from Vice President Charles Curtis (of the Kansa tribe). This series also contains farming and grazing leases between the federal government and the Sac and Fox, and a numerical and alphabetical index of original allottees of the Sac and Fox land. The items in this series are arranged chronologically.

Series 7: W. A. Margrave Co.

As substantiated by the documented evidence in series seven, the Margraves, William C. Margrave, in particular, were astute and careful businessmen. The last series, which is by far the largest and most substantial, contains a wide variety of papers concerning the ranch, started by William Addison Margrave in the late nineteenth century. This series holds material on all aspects of the business of ranching, such as: articles of incorporation, minutes of the meetings of the Board of Directors, general correspondence, insurance records, plat maps of Margrave property, promissary notes, bulletins and ledgers from the ranch store, papers for the purchase, lease and mortgage of land, secretarial reports, stock certificates, and of course, property tax receipts. The fact that the Margraves kept important legal and business papers is a tribute to their careful and attentive business practices and their success as ranchers.




H. REEDER, the first Governor of Kansas Territory, arrived at Fort Leavenworth, and assumed the executive office October 7th, 1854. Soon after, with a party of other officials, he made a somewhat extended tour of observation through the eastern part of the Territory, and on his return that portion was divided into "Election Districts." The district which included Fort Scott was denominated the Sixth District, and the metes and bounds were described as follows:

"Commencing on the Missouri State line in Little Osage river; thence up the same to the line of the Reserve for the New York Indians, or the nearest point thereto; thence to and by the north line of said Reserve to the Neosho river, and up said river to and along south branch thereof to the head; and thence by a due south line to the southern line of the Territory; thence by the southern and eastern line of said Territory to the place of beginning."


On November 10th, Governor Reeder issued a proclamation for an election to be held in the Territory the 29th day of November for the election of a Delegate to Congress. Fort Scott was designated as the place for holding the election for the Sixth District. The house of H. T. Wilson was named as the polling place, and the judges appointed were Thomas B. Arnett, H. T. Wilson and William Godfrey. J. W. Whitfield was the Pro-slavery candidate for Delegate, R. P. Finnekin, Independent, and John A. Wakefield Free State. In this district Whitfied received the entire vote cast, 105. Whitfield resided in Missouri at this time and made no pretense of being a citizen of the Territory.

On March 8, 1855, a proclamation was issued by Gov. Reeder, ordering an election for members of the Territorial Council and House of Representatives, to he held on Friday the 30th day of March, 1855. There were to be thirteen members of the Council and twenty-six Representatives, to constitute the "Legislative Assembly" of the Territory. The vote was to be by ballot. As there were yet no county or ether municipal organizations, the election districts were provided for in the proclamation. The Sixth District remained the same as in the election of November 10, 1854. The place designated for holding the polls was the hospital building on the Plaza, and the judges of election appointed were James Ray, William Painter and William Godfrey. The proclamation also provided:

"That the Sixth Election District, containing two hundred and fifty-three votes, will constitute the Fifth Council District, and elect one member of the Council. Also, that the Sixth Election District shall be the Sixth Representative District and elect two members."

The result of this election was as follows: For Council Fifth District, William Barbee, 343 Votes. For Representatives Sixth District, Joseph C. Anderson, 315, S. A. Williams 313, John Hamilton 36, William Margrave 16. And the returns being in due form and no protest filed, William Barbee for the Council, and Joseph C. Anderson and S. A. Williams for the House of Representatives, were by the Governor declared duly elected.

Nevertheless this election was grossly fraudulent, not only in this district, but in all others. It will be remembered that the district was nearly 50 by 100 miles square. William Barbee, mentioned above, had been appointed the January before to take the census of the district, and about March 1, thirty days before the election, filed his report giving the number of legal voters as 253. Many of these voters would have had to travel forty and fifty miles to the polling place. It is not reasonable to suppose that they took such a journey to vote. Most of the votes cast came from covered wagons camped on the Marmaton bottom, "for 1 one day only," which Judge Margrave said, "just swarmed over from Missouri." But there was no protest in this district, and the men took their seats in the Legislature.

Barbee had no opposition. He and Anderson and Williams were voted for by the Pro-slavery men. Hamilton and Margrave received the feeble showing of the opposition.

William Barbee came here from Kentucky at the age of 29. He was a very fair man, and lived here several years. Barbee street in Fort Scott was named for him.

Joseph C. Anderson was never a resident of the district from first to last. He was the author of the "Black Laws" passed by this Legislature.

Samuel A. Williams was originally from Kentucky. He came here first in 1854, and afterwards brought his family, about six months before election, from Polk County, Missouri, driving an ox cart, containing his family, his chickens and two "cheers." He was no "voter." He had come to stay. He was a good man, a good citizen, and held many important positions. He died at his home in Fort Scott, August 13, 1873.

John Hamilton was "left over" from the regular army. He lived here in the town and in the county until after the war, as has been stated.

William Margrave was born in Missouri, February 17 1818. He came here in the fall of 1854, and was appointed one of the first Justices of the Peace in the Territory, and the very first one appointed in this district. His commission bears date of December 5, 1854. He has lived here continuously ever since that time, and he is Justice of the Peace "till yet." The Judge, in his quiet way, has always performed the duties of a good citizen, and always stood in the highest estimation in this community. Margrave street in the city of Fort Scott was named for him.


The first Legislature convened by order of the Governor at Pawnee, near Fort Riley, on the 2nd of July, 1855. Pawnee was 100 miles west of the Missouri State line at Westport. Governor Reeder said he took it out there to get it out of the way of political influence and to keep the legislators unspotted from the world. That was certainly the right idea and the right place if he could have made them stay there, but he couldn't do it. The statesmen said it was too dry, and too far from their base of supplies; and besides, as there were no houses in Pawnee, or in forty miles of it, they had to sleep in their wagons, or under them; and then again they had nothing to eat but jerked buffalo and Pawnee macaroni. This latter was a very succulent dish much sought after by the Pawnee Indians. It was made from the small entrails of antelope and fish-worms. The origin of this war-like tribe arose from this dish. Most any body would. The statesmen arose from it. Said they liked the legislature business all right enough but this wasn't an adjourned session of the Diet of Worms; they were not elected on that ticket. Said they didn't know what other Kansas Legislatures might do - No man in his right mind could tell, but as for their part they could not entertain such a diet, anyway, without something to go with it, and they didn't even have Bourbon County corn bread. Besides, they wanted to be nearer home where they could hear the honest coon-dog's deep-mouthed bay. So next morning they hitched up and drove down to Shawnee Mission, near Westport. That was as near home as they could get without going "plum over" into Missouri. Reeder could do nothing but set around and scratch his head and pawnee. He finally followed them down to Shawnee Mission. He told them they could not legally move, and could pass no valid laws if they did. They told him to be quiet or they would pass him down the Missouri river on a raft. That made him madder than ever and he called them a lot of Border Ruffians. Then Stringfellow smote him hip and thigh, "and they wrote a letter unto the king," saying what a bad man this Reeder was, "and the king dismissed him with contumely." But the name give to them by Governor Reeder of Border Ruffian stuck to those fellows, and their kind, even to the third generation.


The Legislature then went to work to pass laws for Kansas. It was now the 16th of July. By the 1st of September they had finished their labors which resulted in the preparation of an immense code of "laws," which have always been called and known as the "Bogus Statute of 1855." This Statute was called bogus principally because many of the members were not residents of the Territory, and they were themselves bogus; the elections were fraudulent in nearly every case, consequently their office was bogus. The sessions were held at Shawnee Mission against the will, order and veto of the Governor who had the only legal right to decide that point, as he claimed, consequently the whole business really had no legal status or right to be. But it was the prologue of the opening drama. The Pro-slavery men here showed their hand and the true spirit and intent of their party. They at once became blustering, arrogant, defiant and overbearing, and continually sought to pick quarrels with, and embroil every man into difficulties who opposed them. The few scattering and unorganized Free State men, in contemplation of such acts and such men, stood with raised and outstretched hands as if warding off a blow.


The Legislature did more by its drastic, ill-tempered and senseless legislation to destroy the prospect of making Kansas a slave State than did all the Emigrant Aid Societies, John Brown and other Nortbern fanatics put together. As a sample of their legislation and to show the spirit which controlled the Pro-slavery side on the threshold of the struggle, the following section of their laws is quoted:

"SEC. 12. If any person, by speaking or by writing, assert or maintain that persons have not the right to hold slaves in the Territory, or shall introduce into Kansas, print, publish, write, circulate, or cause to be introduced into the Territory, any book, paper, magazine, pamphlet or circular containing any denial of the rights of persons to hold slaves in this Territory, such person shall be deemed guilty of a felony, and punished by imprisonment at hard labor for a term not less than two years."

This made it a penitentiary offense for a person to take a Free-State paper, or to argue the question with a aeighbor, even at his own fireside. The present generation cannot conceive that a body of educated and intelligent American men could have seriously placed such a law, and a hundred of similar tenor and import on the statute books of a State. But the indescribable fanaticism on the question of human slavery had made them, as a people, just that intolerant.

On the other hand the Northern people, as a people, said to the South exactly this: We have made a constant, consistent and honest effort to restrict slavery to its present limits, and although the sacred compact which has stood for a third of a century is broken down, let us peacefully abide the provisions of the squatter sovereign principle. And we now say to you Southern people, and you may be fully assured that, although we shall not desist from those open, honest efforts which we have constantly made for restriction and which efforts will be vigorously continued to make Kansas a Free State, we shall neither openly or secretly resort to any measures which can tend to disturb the tranquillity of the slave States, or thereby to affect the prosperity of the Nation. And thus at the commencement of that most momentous era was the virgin Territory of Kansas handed over to those two contending sections, who had "come to ope the purple testament of bleeding war."

It looked dark for the side of Freedom. Its enemies controlled the Administration; they controlled all the branches of the Territorial Government and they controlled the front door through which emigration must enter.


The buildings erected and the improvements made by the Government at Fort Scott were estimated to have cost $200,000. They were sold at public auction on the 16th day of May, 1855, by Major Howe, Assistant Quartermaster of the U. S. Army, for less than $5,000 for the whole business. The officers quarters the four principal blocks of buildings, were disposed of as follows: A. Hornbeck bought the first block, on the west corner of the Plaza for $500. H. T. Wilson the next for $300, B. Greenwood the next for $505, and J. Mitchell bought the next building on the east for $450. The other buildings were sold to different parties for nominal sums. Of course, this not being a Government Reservation, the title to the land on which these buildings stood did not pass by this transaction, and it was so understood by the purchasers. But they concluded to "let the hide go with the tallow," and take their chances of acquiring title either from the Government as preemptors, or, that some time in the future when the town shall have been surveyed and platted, and a legally incorporated town company organized, they could obtain deeds. This plan was agreed on and was afterwards carried out.