History of the naming of Rooks County

Question and Answer

Q. What references were used to find information about Private John Calvin Rooks and the naming of Rooks County?
A. The information contained in this research was found in the 1976 Rooks County Record in continued articles entitled, Private John C. Rooks, by Francis W. Schruben, Professor of History, Los Angeles Pierce College, Woodland Hills, California. Other information was from talking with a worker at the Battle of Prairie Grove State Park. Also, information was gathered from an encyclopedia in reference to the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, Civil War, and President Abraham Lincoln.

Q. For whom was Rooks County named?
A. Rooks County was named for Private John Calvin Rooks. (He went by the name Calvin)

Q. In what war did Private Rooks serve?
A. Private Rooks served in the Civil War. The war was from April 1861 to April 1865.

Q. What did Private Rooks do in the Civil War?
A. Private Rooks was a member of the Company 1, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry, and gave the ultimate price–his life.

Q. When did Private Rooks sign up to join the Union army?
A. September 15, 1862 in Leavenworth, Kansas.

Q. How old was Rooks when he joined the Union?
A. Rooks was born in 1837, so he would have been 25 years old, or close to it.

Q. Where was Rooks born?
A. Rooks was born in Bingham, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

Q. When did Rooks come to Kansas?
A. Rooks came to Kansas in 1858 with his parents, John L. and Delilah, and several brothers and a sister. They were in Weller County (which became Osage County in 1859), Kansas Territory. Rooks took on working his slightly more than a quarter section of land near Burlingame, southwest of Topeka.

Q. Is there something significant about this time in Kansas history?
A. Yes. In 1854, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Bill. This bill made Kansas a territory. The bill also allowed that at which time Kansas became a state that Kansas could enter statehood as either a free state or a slave state. This would be determined by the people living there. Kansas became an intense place for anti-slave people and slaveholders to move into for dominancy of this highly passionate issue. They were bloody years for Kansas, and thus the nickname, “Bleeding Kansas.” Rooks had moved to Kansas during these extremely difficult and fever-pitched times of disagreement and bloodshed.

Q. How long was the Kansas Territory involved in turmoil?
A. The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854. Kansas became a state on January 29, 1861. Kansas entered the Union as a free state. Significant to the history of Rooks, it is notable that Arkansas succeeded from the Union in May of 1861.

Q. Why is there particular mention of Arkansas in the story of Private John Calvin Rooks?
A. Private John Calvin Rooks died in Arkansas. After Rooks joined Company 1, Eleventh Kansas Volunteer Cavalry on September 15, 1862, the Eleventh marched south from Fort Leavenworth on October 4, 1862.

Q. How far did the Eleventh walk each day?
A. Thirty miles but that was soon changed to be about half that.

Q. What artillery was carried by the Eleventh?
A. The Eleventh was armed with cumbersome .72 caliber “buck and ball” muskets, Prussian-made in 1818. These weapons that simultaneously fired three buckshot and one ball, were aptly called light artillery by the young union soldiers.

Q. What if a soldier couldn’t walk or became to weak to continue?
A. During the Eleventh march, wagons picked up the lame and exhausted at Paola, Kansas. Then at Mound City, Kansas, the arms were carried on to Fort Scott, Kansas. At Fort Scott, the arms were carried again. On October 19, 1862, the regiment reached Pea Ridge, Arkansas.

Q. Are there any physical descriptions of Private John Calvin Rooks?
A. Yes, Rooks’ service record reveals that he had dark hair, light gray eyes, and a fair complexion. He was slender and of medium height. His first lieutenant, J.B. McAfee, remembered the young private was called Calvin.

Q. What military efforts were made by the Eleventh before actual combat?
A. There followed a few weeks of requisitioning anything useful and destroying material that might aid the enemy. The regiment’s Major, Preston B. Plumb, commandeered wagons and sent pro-Federal black and white civilians to safety in Kansas. Rooks and his companions came under fire for the first time on November 20, 1862, at Cane Hill, twenty miles southwest of Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Q. What is known about the Battle of Cane Hill?
A. The furious and savage fighting at Cane Hill lasted nine hours. The battle was fought over crude roads, and icy creek, brush lands, deep valleys and rough, timbered hills. A large effort by the Southern forces had intentions to drive and separate Union forces from northwest Arkansas. This would allow the southern forces to invade Missouri and Kansas.

Q. What happened after the Battle of Cane Hill?
A. After Cane Hill, another battle took place at Reed’s Mountain (southeast of Cane Hill) on December 6, 1862. Two fellow captains in the Second Kansas Cavalry, Samuel J. Crawford and Avra P. Russell, were riding back from the field when Russell told Crawford about his premonition of death.

Q. When was the next battle after Reed’s Mountain?
A. The next day, December 7, 1862, was the Battle of Prairie Grove. It was a savage battle with the Kansas Eleventh in the very center of the long Union line. The Second Kansas, dismounted, was on the Eleventh’s left. The Second and the Eleventh were assigned to protecting Union batteries, but they took some parts in the assaults.

Q. What prompted the Battle of Prairie Grove?
A. At the Battle of Cane Hill the Confederate and Union fighting was intense. While the battle was in heated engagement, the Confederates slipped by the Union to the right of the major contest. The Confederates had fortified along the wooded ridge at Prairie Grove. The Union expected to clash with the Confederates’ principal army and then realized the Confederates were fortified at Prairie Grove in a large way. The Union forces and the Confederate forces converged for the Battle of Prairie Grove.

Q. How large was the Battle of Prairie Grove?
A. The Battle of Prairie Grove was fought on 2500 acres. Of the 2500 acres, 830 acres are an Arkansas state park. For more information about the Battle of Prairie Grove, go to www.arkansasstateparks.com, click on State Parks, then Historic Parks, then click on Prairie Grove Battle.

Q. How was Private Rooks killed?
A. At the end of the day, December 7, 1862, Private Rooks fell, a gunshot wound to his lungs. Rooks was taken to a Fayetteville hospital, where he died on December 11, 1862.

Q. Are there any words or quotes from Private Rooks that have been recorded?
A. Yes, Rooks soon knew he couldn’t live. At the Fayetteville hospital, Rooks was asked by First Lieutenant J. B. McAfee if he feared death. Rooks replied, “I have served my Redeemer in life and I know he will save me in death.”

Q. How many were lost at the Battle of Prairie Grove?
A. Confederate losses were set at 164 killed, 817 wounded and 336 missing. For the Union, losses were set at 175 killed, 813 wounded, and 263 missing.

Q. Where is Private John Calvin Rooks buried?
A. Private John Calvin Rooks was first buried at Cane Hill, according to the research of the late Professor W.J. Lemke. Rooks was later interred in the National Cemetery, established in Fayetteville in 1867.

Q. Is there any information about the gravesite of Private Rooks in Fayetteville in the National Cemetery?
A. Yes, the gravesite scene of Private Rooks has been described as: Along the old brick fence. In the same row to the left of Rooks’ grave lie twenty-one known dead, thirteen from Kansas. To the right are twenty-nine known dead, twenty-four from Kansas.

Q. Are there other historic facts for consideration in connecting time frames of this era?
A. President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation January 1, 1863. This historic proclamation was signed approximately three weeks after Rooks’ death.

Q. How long did the Civil War last?
A. The Civil War lasted almost four years from April 12, 1861 to April 9, 1865. The Union won the war and the states were preserved.

Q. When was Rooks County named for–and in honor of–Private John Calvin Rooks?
A. Rooks County was named on February 13, 1867.

Q. Where did the naming of Rooks County take place?
A. The naming of Rooks County took place at the State Capital in Topeka, Kansas when House Bill 91 became law.

Q. What was House Bill 91?
A. HB 91 was to name 26 counties in Kansas. Rooks County was number 24 of the 26. Rooks County was named after Private Rooks and is the only county in the state of Kansas named after a private.

Q. How did the legacy of Private John Calvin Rooks come to be remembered by the Kansas State Legislature?
A. The veterans of the Civil War came to Topeka, mostly as members of the legislature. The veterans had come to the Kansas Legislature for the passage of HB 91. The veterans witnessed and supported the naming of the 26 counties. Many of the counties were named as personal memorials to fallen comrades. At that time, Samuel Crawford was Governor, B. Plumb was Speaker of the House, and J.B. McAfee was Adjutant General.

Q. Are there any records of the commemoration of Private Rooks by the naming of Rooks County, that were conveyed to Rooks County residents?
A. Yes, in the October 18, 1877 issue of the Stockton News, J.B. McAfee, Adjutant General of Kansas, took credit, declaring “County #24 in the bill was named by the writer.” McAfee, who had been a Lutheran minister before turning to military and public life, extolled the young private as a “noble patriot, beloved comrade, devoted Christian. Beloved and respected by every member of his company, who appeared to have all friends and no enemies.”