Information pertaining to Scrafford and Lappin and
the school bond scandal in detail as prepared by Homer E. Socolofsky in 1876
and 77 . This started out as a history of buildings however as
more information interesting information is found on its
citizens it becomes almost a history of the Citizens of Seneca.. Where does
one stop. This gets very involved and I may have only touched
the surface. I believe this
will be of interesting to many and makes history as interesting any
detective story. This makes me appreciate the effort
the Courier-Tribune puts into their "News from years gone by "which is the
first page I read. Things from the past become very dear to you as
time goes by but soon it will pass from view and so will we. It will
be then that things that troubled you much will trouble you not and those
who come after will wish we had explained more. As some one told me only
recently: "your father will be gone only a day and there will be
question you will have wished you had asked him." So True.
The following information comes from Bob Strathman, Seneca, Ks. This following was not edited or added to. This must have been written or published again in 1976 as it speaks of 100 years ago today. This will change some of the other pages in this group. You all come back soon.
THE KANSAS HISTORICAL QUARTERLY
KANSAS had a separate building for its display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.
On September 14, 1876, this building had a special reopening, showing products of 1876. A hundred years ago today that Kansas exhibit at Philadelphia was halfway through the - final weeks of its new, improved display. when the six-months' exhibition period ended in November, 1876, leading Kansans expressed satisfaction with their presentation to the nation and to the world of the resources and promises of the future of the youthful state. Incoming Gov. George T. Anthony, who had a major role as president of the Kansas board of centennial managers for the world's fair, said to an unprecedented joint session of the Kansas state legislature in January, 1877:
It was not the cereals, the minerals and woods of Kansas that attracted the attention and excited the admiration of the representatives of all nations, making every American citizen feel that the victory of Kansas was a national honor. It was the boldness of conception, .the daring of purpose, the intelligent and artistic arrangement, which shed so broad a light upon the manhood and culture of Kansas, as to force a conviction upon all spectators, that a people whose representatives could provide for, and whose agents could execute, such an undertaking, owned a country wherein it was good to dwell.
That work will be felt for years, and need only be supplemented, on the part of the State, by an intelligent and exhaustive collection of current facts of interest to the home-seeking. "1
These remarks seemed to confirm voices heard in Kansas during the concluding days of the Centennial Exposition that credited this major state publicizing effort with at least a partial influence on the migration of numerous new settlers to the state. For example, most instances the losses fell upon those who were in no wise able to bear them. "17
In warm weather windows were opened to provide ventilation. Window screens were nonexistent and flying insects easily entered. Few Kansans in 1876 associated diseases with insect carriers. Fleas, flies, and mosquitoes gained easy access to primitive housing. True, insects were pests -but major efforts were not made to eliminate them from the home. Much time would go by before people, in general, would become aware of the germ "theory of disease."
(Following information pertains to Lappin and Scrafford.)
Politics was an overriding concern of the newspaper reading public in Kansas of 1876. In detail, Kansans learned of fraud and corruption in high places in the federal government and in New York City, Kansas found that it had its share of corrupt action on the part of some of its county and state elected officials.
Possibly more attention was directed to the crime of the Kansas state treasurer, Samuel Lappin, who was asked to resign on December 20, 1875, when forged school bonds were found in the permanent school fund. Because Lappin was the second state treasurer forced to resign in less than two years, 'the Junction City Union bitterly complained as the story unfolded that, "The State Treasurer's office has been rotten since the year one, with the exception of the few months John Francis was in it. .18
In his letter of resignation Lappin denied wrongdoing but acknowledged that he should have "exercised greater vigilance" in identifying the sellers of the bonds.19 Apparently, within six months of taking his oath as state treasurer in early 1875, Lappin, with his business partner and brother-in-law, Charles G. Scrafford of Seneca, initiated a plan to defraud the state. He obtained names of clerks of local school districts from the superintendent of public instruction, and then sent letters to various county treasurers requesting data on school district organization. In the meantime he chided the permanent school fund commissioners for permitting uninvited funds to accumulate. When Lappin was told there were "no desirable securities offered in which to invest, he informed them that there were bonds of school districts of northwestern counties, held by parties in St. Joseph, Mo., available for purchase.20
Then, using knowledge gained from county officials, Lappin forged school bonds which he sold to the permanent school fund in September, October, and November. These bonds, for which the state paid $17,848.74 came from various persons, actually aliases for Lappin, reputed to be residents of St. Joseph and Kansas City, Mo.21 Then in December when a new group of school district bonds were offered by J. S. Kibby of Kansas City, the uniformity of the signatures caused Secretary of State Thomas H. Cavanaugh to dig deeper into these and earlier bonds. In his investigation Cavanaugh spent four days in Kansas City, found no evidence of Kibby and became convinced "that the bonds were not executed in Kansas City, and were not offered for sale at Kansas City." 22 He told the governor of his suspicions, who asked for Lappin's resignation. Later Lappin was indicted, posted bond, and fled to Chicago, where he was apprehended On January 13, 1876, and returned to jail in Topeka,
Five months later Lappin's effort to break jail was frustrated by an alert guard, but on July 11 he succeeded in escaping to Chicago, then to Canada, and eventually to Peru where there was little chance of extradition. Scrafford followed Lappin where the two men soon had a falling out. A bounty hunter agreed to return the fugitives for the reward money, but he captured only Scrafford, who escaped before he could be brought back to the United States. Eventually, Scrafford came back to face minor charges.23 Eight years later Lappin was identified in Tacoma, Washington territory, and inquiries came to Kansas about the reward paid for his capture.24 He was arrested in Portland, Ore., and by late October, 1884, he was again lodged in a Topeka jail When Lappin's trial was finally brought into court, the state xx
attorney general on Christians eve, 1885, refused to prosecute on "the grounds that the forged bonds were missing, witnesses scattered, some of them dead; that the state had been fully reimbursed for the loss; that there was no chance of conviction, and that Lappin had been sufficiently punished."25 Lappin's subsequent life in Seneca and Lenora was filled with unhappiness.
As might be expected in such a tangled web, actions taken by Lappin damaged not only his own life, but many around him. Friends in Seneca could not understand, it was not like the Lappin they respected. Nevertheless, the Nemaha county post office named Lappin, established on August 8, 1872, was abruptly renamed Oneida on January 19, 1876, less than a month after Lappin's resignation as treasurer.26 Through the many years of Lappin's absence his wife worked as a seamstress to hold the family together. Sometime in late May or early June, 1876, while Lappin was still in jail, his 12-year-old son, Grover, ran away from home. A short time later, 150 miles west of Topeka, at Beloit, a boy using the name George Edward Wilcox, rode into town on an old sorrel pony. He told a fine story of being lost from a train that was on its way to Oregon and that he had followed on in what he thought was the way the train would have gone. Ironically in view of what had transpired he was taken into the home of the county treasurer and in July his identity was discovered.27 Eight years later when Sam Lappin returned to Kansas, his son Grover was in the state penitentiary for robbery of a post office.28
If the Lappin bond frauds had been the only troubles for Kansas bonds in 1876, there would have been an easy solution. Governor Osbon received frequent complaint from bond holders in St. Louis, Jefferson City, New York, and elsewhere concerning bonds issued in Kansas.29 At the same time, inquiries came from bond merchants about bonds offered by newer counties, particularly Harper, Barbour, and Comanche. The New York Times commented in May that "Kansas bonds have recently fallen into deserved disrepute on account of the readiness of municipal
authorities in some parts of the State to refuse to honor their obligations, pleading informalities and illegalities of issue." 30 Many units of local government had grave difficulty collecting taxes during the panic years of the 1870's. From a compilation of Kansas state and municipal indebtedness it is obvious that 1876 was not a time to acquire new debt as most new obligations for the period were made before 1874 or after 1877. A large share of the municipal or county debt encumbered in 1876 was for funding old scrip, bonded debt, or outstanding obligations, and not for new enterprises.31
Criminal activity was no stranger to Kansas in 1876. In Parsons the authorities arrested the assistant postmaster for "abstracting money from registered letters," and the legislature expelled a member, by a two-thirds vote, because of his connection with the Comanche county bond fraud,32 Also in the year, 1876, federal indictments were brought against other postal employees, against a number of accused counterfeiters, against persons cutting timber on Indian lands, and against land claimants for perjury in their oaths rendered at the time the final certificate was obtained.
DH. HOMER E. SOCOLOFSICY, native of Marion county, is a professor of history at Kansas State University, Manhattan.
He has decrees from Kansas State University and the University of Missouri, Columbia. He is the author of a book, Arthur Capper (University of Kansas, Press, 1962), other books and many articles in historical journals.
This article is Dr.
Socolofsky's presidential address delivered before the annual meeting of the
Kansas State Historical Society in Topeka, October 19, 1976.
17. Inland Tribune, Great Bend, October 28, 1876.
18. Junction City Union in The Nationalist, January 7, 1876; Kansas Senate Journal, 1876, p. 17. Gov, Thomas B. Osborn asked for Lappin's resignation, "but without specific authority of law. . . ."
19. Kansas House Journal, 1878, p. 1091. Lappin came to Kansas with the opening of the territory and was register of deeds in Nemaha county throughout the territorial period-He was a founder of the town of Seneca, where he had a prosperous business, served in both houses of the state legislature, and was in the Union army for almost three years.
20. Sixteenth Annual Report of the Secretary of State of Kansas, p. 138.
21. Kansas House Journal, 1876, p. 1091.
22. Ibid., p. 1265.
23. Charles H. Landrum, "A History of the Kansas State School Fund," Kansas Hw-topical Collections, v. 12 (1911-1912), p. 210. Scrafford was convicted in a lower court, appealed his case "to a higher court where the decision was reversed and Scrafford given his liberty." The Leavenworth Weekly Times* reported on February 24,, 1876, that people in Topeka were grumbling about the burden of the cost of Lappin's trial required of the city rather than the state. Of course, Lappin was never tried in 1876.
24. 'Tapers of Governor G. W, Click," criminal mutters; general correspondence, including requests to offer rewards; the capture of Samuel Lappin, £ta, 1883-1884, archives, Kansas State Historical Society.
25. Landrum, "History of ... School Fund," p. 211.
28, Robert Baughmaa, Kansas Pew* Offices, p. 71; Frank Blackmar, Kansas; Cyclopedia of State History, v, 2, p. 392, the material on Oneida in this volume makes no mention of the Lappin post office, but professes that the office for Oneida began in 1872,
27. The Gazette, Beloit, July 13, 1876.
28. Landrum, "History of ... School Fund," p. 211.
29. 'Tapers of Gov. Thos. A. Osborn," Bow 1, archives, Kansas State Historical Society.
30. New York Times, May 10, 1878,
31. First Biennial Report of the Auditor of State and Register of State Land Office (Geo. W, Martin, Topeka, 1878). New limits on bonded indebtedness were permitted in 1878.
32. Leaven-worth Weekly Times, April 6, 1976; The Kansas Tribune, Lawrence, February 24, 1876, John Speer, the Tribune editor, proclaimed no sympathy for A. J. Mowry, the deposed legislator, but he felt "some regard for justice, and this is an act of injustice, unwarranted, either by law or sound precedent,"