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MEMORIES IN FOCUS: Helping Marion get 'settled up' years ago

MARION HISTORICAL MUSEUM PHOTO

Even before the first settlers arrived in Marion, Abraham Atlantic “Lank” Moore was in love with what eventually would become his home.

Two years before Marion’s founding, Lank, an Ohio native who grew up in Illinois and Wisconsin, found work with his brother driving government ambulance wagons on the Santa Fe Trail.

Returning from their first trip from Kansas City to Santa Fe in 1858, they arrived at Cottonwood Crossing, near present-day Durham.

Enthralled by the region and tired from their arduous journey, Lank, then 24, and his brother purchased a small trading ranch George Smith had established there only a year earlier.

Moore’s Ranch, as their outpost became known, soon developed into a key link to civilization, selling hay, corn, and provisions to travelers and eventually offering a post office and a rallying point for cavalry troops protecting travelers from Indians.

That same year, Moore recalled in a letter written shortly before his death in 1916, he discovered a place even better.

“My brother Ira and I started out for a horseback ride,” he wrote, “and rode down the Cottonwood to the point of the high hill west of the junction of Muddy Creek with the river. There we stopped and sat on our horses and looked the country over.

“I said to Ira, ‘Is it not beautiful?’

“He replied, ‘Yes, but you and I will never live to see it settled up.”

In fact, both did.

Two years later, the first settlers arrived in Marion. Four years after that, Lank left his ranch and moved to the town he had thought would be so beautiful.

Moore didn’t just live in Marion. He helped settle it.

He built the town’s first store, which he operated along with pioneer Levi Billings on the south side of Main St. between 1st and 2nd Sts. The building survived from 1864 until 1921.

With other community founders, he helped lay out the plat for the original town.

He also built and lived in the city’s first stone house, located in what at the time was the southern half of Central Park.

Like his business building, his home also survived until 1921, when it was demolished to make way for the present-day channel of Luta Creek, replacing a curving stream that had veered east from its current path to the historic springs in Central Park.

In the early years, Moore’s house served a gathering spot for settlers.

Pioneer Lewis Riggs recalled that in 1864, his family lived on Moore’s homestead.

“I was sent after the cows up near the big timber on Mud Creek,” he recalled. “While I was gone, there was a band of Kaw Indians came and camped in the bend north, and as I came back I passed their ponies, which they had turned out to grass.

“There was a big Indian herding them with a red blanket around him. As I came near with the cows, he came rushing to me, grabbed me by the shoulder, and gave me a shake.

“Scared! I felt the hair on my head raising my hat up. He took a red bandanna handkerchief out of my pocket. I thought then he wanted to rob me, so I gave him my pocket knife that Father had given me, a spool I made a top of, and a string of buttons.

“He put them in his blanket then handed them back to me and gave a hearty laugh and rode away. I was not long getting the cows home. It might have been fun for him but not for me, as I was only 9 years old.”

The next year, when Marion County officially was organized, Moore became its first county treasurer and first state representative. Re-elected twice, he later was elected to the state senate before in 1874 moving to Wichita, to run a hotel, and shortly thereafter to Arizona Territory, where he also served as a legislator.

Moore’s most enduring legacy, other than namesake Moore Township, west of Durham, is one of Marion’s most enduring icons — the Hill School building, built largely at his urging a year before his departure for Wichita.

He kept in touch over the years, writing to fellow pioneer A.E. Case in 1916: “Remember me kindly to all the old timers.”

Last modified Aug. 15, 2019

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