Welcome to the Dr. Charles Strong Page
Dr. Charles Henry Strong: Born 28 February 1828, near Girard, Erie, PA; Died 3 July 1912, Girard, Crawford, KS; Married 30 April 1861 Loami, Sangamon, IL; Frances Fowler: Born 4 December 1836, Sangamon Co., IL; Died 20 July 1916, Girard, Crawford, KS. (See Strong) They had two children: Millicent Jane Strong (who died in infancy); and George Washington Strong Sr. Married Anna Kelly. Dr. Charles Henry Strong (one source called him Charles Hosea Strong) was born on a farm one mile east of Girard, Pennsylvania. He received his education in the public schools, and at the age of sixteen attended the academy at Springfield, Pennsylvania. Two years later he entered college at Girard, from which he was graduated in two years. He taught school in both Erie and Crawford County Pennsylvania for eight years, then taught three years in Madison and Painesville, Ohio. From there he moved westward and lived in Attica, Indiana, Belvedere, Illinois, and St. Joseph, Missouri before he again became a teacher, this time in New Berlin and Loami in Sangamon County Illinois. He taught the academy at Loami for two years, and in 1849 turned his attention to medicine. He studied under Professor J.W. Bishop, dean of the faculty in the Cleveland Eclectic Medical College, and later took the course of lectures and graduated in 1858. He was engaged in practice in Sangamon County, Illinois for about eight years. He married Frances Fowler Strong on April 31st 1861 in Loami. This may have been a second marriage. Mormon Temple records indicate that before 1854 he married Harriet Silverthorne-- a distant cousin. They may have had two children. (I, however, doubt the accuracy of this information.) They had two children, George Washington Sr. born in 1863, and an older daughter who died in infancy. He practiced medicine in Sangamon County, Illinois, until coming to Kansas. The only time he did not practice in Illinois was while he was in the army. During the Civil War Charles Strong was second assistant surgeon for the 130th Illinois Infantry. Unfortunately no record of Him in his unit can be found. A walk of the cemetery at Loami, where his Fowler kin are buried, revealed that most of the Civil War veterans buried in this cemetery were enlisted in the 30th Illinois. Thus records of his life may have mistakenly recorded his unit.
After the war Charles Strong returned to Illinois. "Dr. Strong's health failed while he was in Illinois, and he came out to Kansas in December, 1865, believing that he could hardly live three months. In his own words, `the gentle zephyrs and dry and healthy atmosphere of Kansas, the change of weather and diet, venison and prairie chicken, were a great help, in a month's time I began to gain strength and an appetite, and have not had a week's sickness since.'"
Dr. Strong taught a subscription school at Cato beginning in 1866. At this time there were no public schools and subscription schools were the only road to education for a prospective pupil. In October 1867 he was nominated and in November he was elected county superintendent of public instruction and clerk of the district court. He was appointed to three other positions as well -- deputy to county clerk, Henry Germain; deputy to the probate judge, Levi Hatch; and deputy to the register of deeds, H. T. Coffman who had been elected at the same time, and thus he held five different county offices at the same time--two by election and three by appointment. In 1867 Dr. Strong, with the help of Miss Wilcox (another teacher at the school) also started the first Sunday school in Crawford County. "It was held one-half mile west of Cato in a little log house [the subscription school] with a puncheon floor, split logs with wooden pegs for seats, and one window, made by sawing out part of a log and covering the opening with paper." (p.35)
The book The Genesis of Girard by William C. Cuthbertson describes the founding of Girard thusly:
"On the southwest corner of the courthouse lawn in Girard is the statue of a deer, and by it a plaque erected by the Major John Mason Chapter, Daughters of the American Colonists, bearing the following inscription:
`Girard, Kansas, Centennial Birthdate, February 28, 1868-1968. Dr Charles H. Strong was a native of Girard, Pennsylvania. Dr. Strong's dream came true when he decided to go deer hunting and possibly locate the geographical center of Crawford County, which had just been established in Southeast Kansas, February 13, 1867. While hunting, a deer jumped up out of the grass and was shot by Dr. Strong who drove a stake where the deer fell; on which he placed a card and a bunch of grass stating that he had taken the land and Girard was to be located thereon naming it in honor of his home town, Girard, Pennsylvania.'
A separate article about Dr. Strong tells of his life in Crawford County, but here in his own words is the story he wrote about the founding of Girard. At the time he told the story he was 74 years of age and living in retirement in Girard. `While at Crawfordsville I applied to the town company for a lot, by purchase or otherwise, on which to put my drug store, which was then at Cato, but I was put off. Knowing the voice of the people of the county as to the county seat, I mounted my horse Bob on the 28th day of February 1868, my birthday, and shouldered my old carbine. I told John Voss [John T. Foss in another version] and J. T. Bridgens I was going to hunt for a deer and the county seat. I got the deer and dressed him near the southwest corner where the courthouse now stands. I have his horns now. While the deer was struggling after being shot, I hunted a sprig about four feet long, pulled up some grass, tied it to the top, and wrote the name 'Girard' for my home in Pennsylvania. There was but one log house to be seen, there being no trees or anything else but tall grass and the raw prairie. I took a quarter of the venison and returned to Crawfordsville. W.W. Jones, postmaster, Henry Shoen [Schoen in another version], and H. Brown were in the post office at the time. I said to them I did not want a lot as I had named and started a town of my own.' (p.14-15)
Dr. Strong then rode alone on horseback to Topeka, Kansas to apply to the Secretary of State for a charter for Girard. Dr. Strong continues in his own words, "I qualified with Mr. McIntosh before H. Martin Justice of the peace and applied to the Secretary of State for a charter for Girard City, and got it. I organized a town company, and we gave each person applying for the same a bond for a deed for a fifty by two hundred feet lot, and now you all see the result. I am proud of Girard and its people, and I bespeaks for it prosperity and growth in the future." (Crawford p.425)
It is a well-known fact that Dr. Strong figured prominently in the founding of Girard, giving the new town its name and performing many useful services for the community. He even provided Girard with its first romantic adventure story, the shooting of the deer, which may have taken on greater significance with the years than the doctor could have imagined. Most of the settlers at that time depended upon their hunting skills to put meat on the table, so it was hardly an unusual incident which occurred while he was traveling through the area known to be the center of the county. By his own account, no one else witnessed the shooting or had any part in it, and none of the other settlers who were in favor of a centrally-located county seat was involved with it in any way. The new village could and would undoubtedly have started at that time and place had the deer escaped its fate. This was Dr. Strong's personal recollection many years later, and it hardly seems of much importance alongside his other accomplishments. Two other references to the founding of Girard appeared in the Girard Press many years before Dr. Strong's deer story and neither mentioned the shooting of a deer. The first, printed in February 1870, fewer than two years after the town started stated that John Lash, `Zeek Boerning,' and Charles Strong selected the spot where Girard now stands as the future seat of government for the county. John Lash is remembered in a separate story. `Zeek Boerning' was Ezekiel John Boring, who died at age 63 in 1880 at his residence northeast of Cato in Bourbon County, in the section east of the one where the Large Cemetery is located. He also owned a farm three miles east of Farmington. His obituary says he was one of the original founders of Girard. None of these three men received land patents in his own name. On May 15th, 1868 Dr. Strong erected the first building in the new town. It was the drugstore and was at the north end of the street on the West side of the town square. Other records show that it was the fourth to be erected. In all likelihood, though it physically was the first building to be raised in the new town it was probably the fourth building to open for business. It was owned and operated by Dr. Strong and Mr. Hatch. They "kept a general assortment of all things necessary to combat the ills of suffering humanity" (Genesis p.22)
In 1868 he also laid out the new city's cemetery. As previously stated at this time there were no organized public schools in the new county. There was not one single public school house or school district. Dr. Strong was re-elected to the office of county superintendent of schools in 1868, and with much aid from the citizens of the county organized in the next two years 103 separate school districts and thereby established public education on a firm and permanent basis. In this capacity he accomplished "a most praiseworthy achievement for the future welfare of the county and made a record that is perhaps unsurpassed in the history of the state's education." This was far more districts than any other County in the state of Kansas. Mr. McVicar, the state superintendent of schools, reported that no other county could show a larger number of school districts organized in a similar amount of time.
In 1869 the little town of Girard really began to take shape. There were 800 residents in the town and new settlers were arriving every day. Among the new settlers to arrive in Girard in 1869 was Dr. Strong's wife, Frances Fowler Strong. They had been apart for four years. John Hamilton, the first representative to the state legislature from the district was anxious to get new settlers to come and live in Crawford County and in June of 1869 he wrote an article for The Fort Scott Press singing the praises of the district:
"As Crawford County is known to be one of the best counties in the state for agricultural purposes as well as stock raising, I wish to say to immigrants, come to Crawford County and enquire for Hamilton's crossing on Lightning Creek, and I will assist you to locate on the best land in the west, 'without charge' between Lightning and Hickory Creek, near saw mills, one at Crawfordville, where any amount of sawed lumber can be had; and one near Jacksonville. Any amount of building stone of the best quality nearby, and the best neighbors in the world. Our excellent Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. C. H. Strong, has laid the county off in school districts, and schools are in running order in most of the districts; Sunday Schools in every neighborhood, and meeting every Sabbath by Universalists, Methodists, Baptists, Christians, &c., and strange to tell, not a drop of whiskey sold in Sheridan, Osage, or Grant townships, I say come on, I want to locate 100 families.
The following letter was written by Dr. Charles H. Strong himself to the editor of The Girard Press. It describes in detail the farming and living conditions in the region that he was so proud of:
Editor, Girard Press
Girard, July 22nd, 1872
Dear Sir:--Inasmuch as my relatives, acquaintances and correspondents are numerous throughout the eastern and middle states, I know of no better way to answer their many queries than to give them a few items through the Press. I have lived in this county about seven years; in fact, was here nearly two years before the county was organized. All the improvements and growth it has, has been made within the last four years. Instead of the low, humble cabin, and, perhaps, a garden, and from one to five acres of corn, and a few head of cattle, that each pioneer had when I came here, behold! how changed. Nearly all have their farms under a good state of cultivation, good buildings, young and fruitful orchards, vineyards, &c. As we have a herd law, the people are improving their little spare time, hedging. As to crops, I never saw better-and I have lived and traveled over several of the middle and western states. Wheat soil yields from ten to thirty bushels per acre, except in the northern part of the county it is much lighter. I shipped from this county last year over 42,000 bushels of wheat. Two other buyers about the same each. This year, I expect to do equally as much. Take all in all, the people are making a good living and becoming wealthy and happy, and I trust, all will soon be able to pay the appraised prices of land, vis., from two to twenty dollars per acre. Just think, two crops of wheat will pay for the land, and all expenses. I often wonder why men who pay high rent for land in the eastern and middle states, don' t come and buy land here where it is so cheap, with all the advantages of any country. With their industry and economy they could soon have a farm of their own. The land is black, loamy, deep, and interspersed with a reddish strata! Well watered with beautiful streams; sufficiency of timber for all practical use. As to coal, it is plenty and inexhaustible. There is hardly a quarter of section of land but has a good strata of bitumous coal (yes, and there is lead, and will be developed in proper time). I say to all northern and eastern people who are desirous of coming west, 'You can't do better than to come to the famous Neutral Lands. You will never regret it.'
"For schools and churches we have as good and better facilities and a more progressive people than I have seen east. I predict in the short future of the great wealth and prosperity of this country, when it shall be more fully developed. The health of this county is good. People who come here sickly, emaciated, with different diseases, soon become rugged. Very little chills; water of a clear, sulphury nature, and, therefore, healthy; climate good, and nights cool. More anon.
(Genesis pp. 173-174)
The life and times of Dr. Strong in the town of Girard are well documented and his founding of the town has become the stuff of legends but few people know that he later tried to start another town in the same region of the state as Girard.
It is not so well remembered that he lived elsewhere for a number of years during Girard's early development. Nearly forgotten is Strongtown, located to the northwest of the intersection five miles north of Fourth and Broadway, Pittsburgh. Dr. Strong was the first postmaster of the Strongtown post office, established March 26, 1873. The post office was discontinued Jan. 21, 1876, in favor of Lacoy, which continued until Jan. 5, 1883. Lacoy had been started six miles northeast of Pittsburgh but moved to a new site at the time its post office opened, on the same quarter section as Strongtown. It is known that Dr. Strong still resided at Strongtown in 1887, but the exact date of his return to Girard in not known.
Dr. Strong also owned a 180-acre farm about three miles west of Girard on the banks of Lightning Creek, in the next mile south of Crawfordsville. His only son, George, lived on this farm for many years. George was the father of eleven children who grew to adulthood, two sons and nine daughters. Jean Grund, a teacher in Girard for many years, told one of the Strong girls that she could name all eleven children in order, and did so, quickly and correctly. When asked how she could possibly do that, she replied that as a child, when she couldn't go to sleep, she would count Strongs instead of sheep. (Genesis p.154)
In 1878 or 1879, Charles took the medical examination at Girard, and began to practice medicine again with success in that city. Numerous stories and anecdotes surround Dr. Charles H. Strong, his family and his life in Crawford County. Two of them relate to the Indians who were present in the area at that time:
One of Dr. Strong's granddaughters, living in Girard in 1984, recalled that Dr. Strong's drugstore was on the present location of the Matthews Drug Store at the northwest corner of the square. His home, Girard's first cabin, was on the West side of Summit Avenue about one and a half blocks north of the store, where the W. D. Smith Funeral Home now stands, which property was owned by the Strongs until 1893. One day an Indian came to the door of their "little house on the prairie," and Mrs. Strong became frightened. She grabbed up their only son, George, and covering him with her apron, ran as fast as she could to the drugstore. It was not known if the Indian meant any harm.
Another family recollection was a story Dr. Strong told about being captured by Indians. He was kept tied to a tree, probably for about six days, and fed `dog soup,' which was standard Indian fare. Otherwise, he was not mistreated. He finally escaped and the Indians were captured. The family still has a picture of those Indians. (Genesis p.154)
A letter from Charles' grandson, George Washington Strong Jr., to his niece tells the story of both the capture and the picture:
And this year they established a memorial statue of a deer with inscription in the south-west corner of the court house yard at Girard to commemorate to founding of Girard, Kansas in honor of grandfather Strong. Terrific blowout. There were a great many there including myself. My participation included telling an audience a few things about father Strong (we always called him father, not grandfather) so, among other things, I told the gathering about the time when father was captured by the Indians, how he escaped, and how years later five members of the band of Indians who captured him came through Girard with some horse traders and recognized father. Through an interpreter they told father who they were. Well, to make a long story short, father got hold of a photographer and with difficulty persuaded the five to pose for a picture. They thought they were going to be shot - they didn't know what a camera was. Well, anyway, Nell [George's sister] gave me the one remaining, faded, blurred copy of the photograph and I have an artist now at work on It to redo and enlarge the image. Of course, as you will surmise, this Indian affair happened before I was born. But it did happen and if my artist can dig out enough detail I should end up with a picture of the five with buckskin trousers, blankets, bows and arrows posed around a round table.
"Dr. C. H. Strong is one of the oldest citizens, both in point of years and length of residence, of Crawford County, and the county is proud to do honor to such a pioneer and energetic and public-spirited citizen, who at the age of seventy-four still does manual labor every day, is a hearty and well-preserved citizen, and secure in the possession of hosts of friends and, better still, an honored name and a past filled with usefulness and good to himself and his fellow-men. As the history of any community, or state, or nation, consists mainly of the deeds of its principal men, for this reason a history of Crawford County would have several serious gaps and omissions should it not record the part Dr. Strong has taken in its early development and progress. In particular does the county seat of Girard owe to him what a child does to its father, and he is indeed held in this venerable relationship by the citizens of that town. . . He is approaching the seventy-fifth turn on life's race course. That his elemental vigor is yet unimpaired by time, it is only necessary to recall to the citizens how in the fall of 1903, he won the premium offered by the Girard Press to the exhibitor of the largest pumpkin grown on any individual's patch, and the large plat of ground which he devotes to gardening and light farming, doing most of the work himself, is evidence of his energy and activity." (pp.422-423)
"One of the earliest workers in the Democrat ranks, and who is still `in business at the old stand,' is Dr. C. H. Strong. Although somewhat intimately acquainted with him I have not yet been able to discover wherein lies the secret of his strength and influence as a politician, although it cannot be denied that he possesses these qualities to a considerable extent. He is not noisy, never boisterous, but in a quiet, gentle way he moves along in a well-beaten track which he has traveled often enough to be perfectly familiar with it and to have all the brush and rock moved out of the way, except such as have been recently thrown in, some by his own friends and some by his opponents, the latter just for the fun of seeing how quietly and easily he will clear them out, and go on his way rejoicing. But age is telling on him, and it is evident to all who see him that his race, whether in politics or otherwise, is nearly run, and soon he will be numbered among the men of the past." (p.83)
He lived another 7 years after the publication of this article. Dr. Strong's move to Kansas in 1865 was made in an attempt to regain his health. He doubted that he would live three months when he came to this area, but the change of climate was of benefit, and he lived until 1912, raising a large garden every year and enjoying good health in his old age." (p.153) " After Dr. Strong moved back to Girard, his granddaughter can remember, he sat in his favorite swing rocker, holding a pan on his knees, shelling corn for his chickens. She and her sisters stood around him helping him shell the ears of corn using corncobs for shelling tools." (Genesis p.154) He passed away on July 3rd 1912, at the age of 84, and was buried in the Girard cemetery. There is a family headstone and a small and simple marker, which records another of his accomplishments:
"Charles H. Strong 1828-1912.
Cemetery laid out by Dr. C. H. Strong 1868."
The facts of Dr. Strong's life are well recorded in a variety of places. At least three books were written about the people, history and families of Crawford County and Girard, Kansas. The Girard newspapers have been filled with articles and stories mentioning him from the time he arrived in the area until the present day. There is a photographic portrait of Dr. Strong and one of his wife, Frances Fowler Strong, hanging in the Carnegie Library in Girard. He was selected as an outstanding pioneer and there is a photograph and a biography of him hanging in the Hall of Fame at Friends University in Wichita, Kansas. Not to mention the Statue of a deer and commemorative plaque on the southwest corner of the square in Girard!
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