Eustis and Goodland square off in a fight for county supremacy
Temporary Sherman County seat Eustis was determined to keep the county title. They intended to fight and had used extra-legal means to do so. But that armed confrontation in front of the Old First National Bank Building gave Goodland the upper hand. Goodland wrested control of county records from Eustis.
Sherman County was organized Sept. 20, 1886, with Eustis as the temporary county seat. To become permanent county seat, a town had to receive an absolute majority in a county seat election. Upstart Goodland offered Sherman County residents the sweetest deal in the sweepstakes. Eustis offered the third-best deal.
In the Nov. 8, 1887, regular election, the slate of candidates from Goodland won nearly every seat. The special county seat election was up two weeks later.
On Nov. 22, Goodland won 872 of 1,495 votes, a 58 percent majority. When the County Commissioners canvassed (or certified) the votes, Goodland would become the legal, permanent county seat. But the commissioners, who were from Eustis, refused to canvass.
The case went to the Kansas Supreme Court, which ruled that the votes should be canvassed. Kansas Attorney General Simeon Bradford wrote that Goodland was the legal permanent county seat and that Eustis had no right to keep county records.
Eustis ignored them.
Finally, on Jan. 9, 1888, the commissioners declared the Goodland candidates’ Certificates of Election vacant and reappointed the previous county officers. The new officers refused to be set aside. They opened their offices in Goodland on the same day.
HUA members take the situation into their hands
Four days later, a group took matters into its own hands. The thermometer stood 25 degrees below zero when 85 members of the Homesteaders Union Association (HUA) marched from Goodland to Eustis. They were determined to forcibly remove county records. The homesteaders were armed with Winchester rifles and highly flammable turpentine balls.
The HUA men went to the Sherman County Bank Building where the records were kept. Eustis men were stationed in the second story of Allen’s Hall, across from the bank. A shoot-out seemed imminent. Eustis Maj. L.R. Dayton was supposed to give the signal for the Eustis men to begin firing. Instead, the marchers seized Dayton as hostage. Some reports also state that they threatened to burn Eustis to the ground. Dayton led the marchers upstairs to the records, which they loaded into wagons and took with them to Goodland. Not a shot was fired.
Now without the county records, resistance in Eustis collapsed and, eventually, its citizens and buildings moved to Goodland.
Former towns have Sherman County townships named for them, but Eustis, which was located at the current intersection of Roads 13 and 65 (Eighth Street Road), survives only as a street name on the eastern edge of Goodland.
Record seizure diorama is in the High Plains Museum. An HUA plaque hangs in the County Commissioners’ Room in the Sherman County Courthouse. Future sheriff William Walker owned a business in Eustis. Later he would be the sheriff during the Great Train Robbery’s final acts.
The bank building stands one block south of “History of the Opera House” mural, the Art Deco splendor of United Telephone Building. It stands one block north of the Sherman Theatre and its unmasked treasures. Goodland Post Office, which is on the National Historic Register, and its mural, “Rural Free Delivery”, is one block east. Bank’s intersection is on Goodland’s brick streets.by