VOICES, THE KANSAS COLLECTION ONLINE MAGAZINE


Forgotten Counties of Kansas

(Adapted from An Article in the Kingman Journal)


     Ever hear of Arapahoe County, Kansas, or of Peketon County?

     Arapahoe comprised territory that isn't even now in Kansas. It was the full width of the state from north to south and, starting a short distance west of the present state line, extended clear to the Rocky Mountain divide, then the western boundary of the Kansas territory.

     Peketon county included about one-fourth of the present area of the state. It was created by the territorial legislature of 1860 and embraced all of what is now the seventh congressional district and most of the fifth district. It was split up by the Legislature of 1867.

     It would appear that the favorite pastime of the early settlers was organizing new counties and changing the names of those already organized. More than a score of Kansas counties now bear names different from those origanilly applied to them. The boundaries of others have been materially altered from their original outline and have experienced three or four changes in name.

     The first pioneers in Kansas were largely pro-slavery men, coming from Missouri, Kentucky and other southern states. The names given to different counties reflected their views. Subsequently, when the free-state forces gained contol there was a wholesale changing of county names.

     As they exist today Kansas counties take their names principally from Indian tribes, from revolutionary heroes and from individuals who attained fame in the struggle over slavery.


     Examples of Indian origin are Comanche, Cheyenne, Ottawa, Pawnee, Wichita, Shawnee and Wyandotte. The Civil War influence is indicated by the names applied to Douglas, Grant, Sherman, Sheridan and Stanton counties. A number of counties bear the names of Kansans who were kiilled in that conflict, examples being, Rooks, Stafford, Rush, Rice, Reno, Pratt, Ness and Mitchell.

     Barton county is named after a woman -- Miss Clara Barton of Massachussetts who won distinction during the Civil War for her work in the sanitary department of the army.

     Bourbon county received its name from Bourbon county, Kentucky, which, in turn, was named as a compliment to the Bourbon dynasty in France for the aid given the colonies in the War for Independence. Another county with a name of French origin is Labette, properly spelled La Bette, signifying "the beet."

     Finney county was originally Sequoyah, from the celebrated Cherokee Indian of that name who invented the alphabet of his language. It was changed in 1883 and renamed for D. W. Finney, then lieutenant governor of the state.

     Jefferson county, honoring Thomas Jefferson, came very nearly being called Sauterelle, the French word for grasshopper. Dr. William H. Tebbs, the local member in the first legisalture, vigorously contended for it but was defeated.

     The name of Hodgeman county should be spelled without the "e". It was named after Amos Hodgman, a Kansan who died of wounds in the Civil War. It was misspelled in the statute books and, so the"e" is legally correct.


     Neosho county was once Dorn after Andrew J. Dorn, an Indian agent of the Neosho agency. Lykins county was changed to Miaimi, the first name having honored David Lykins, a superintendent of some Indian tribes and active in early Democratic politics in the state.

     Godfrey county was changed to Seward county in 1861. Later it became Howard county and still later along with Hayes county was changed to the present counties of Elk and Chautaqua.

     Otoe county was created by the last territorial legislature but was never organized. It is now in the limits of Marion, Butler and Harvey counties.

     Davis county was named in 1855 for Jefferson Davis, secretary of war at the time and later president of the Confederate states. Beginning with the first state legislature, repeated attempts were made to change it but the name persisted until 1889 when it was changed to Geary county in honor of J. W. Geary, third territorial governor of Kansas.

     There was a Wise county. It was named for Henry Wise, governor of Virginia when John Brown was hanged at Harper's Ferry. It was changed to Morris, after a United States senator from Ohio who opposed slavery.

     Western Kansas had a number of counties which disappeared when the venturesome pioneers deserted the country. Foote county was changed to Gray. St. John county, after Governor John P. St. John, withered and died. Buffalo county followed its namesake into oblivion and was added to Lane and Gray.

     Marshall county takes its name from Frank J. Marshall, who operated a ferry on the Big Blue at the crossing of the Oregon Trail. He was a member of the first legislature and had his own name appled to the county. Marysville, the county seat, he named for his wife.


More Forgotten Counties . . . .

Kansas counties which have long since disappeared are shown on an early-day map of what was then the Territory of Kansas, owned by J. M. Harris, Burlington. The map was printed by a New York concern in 1857 on data secured in 1856. It shows the Sac and Fox agency in Osage county, but the latter was then known as Weller county. Lyon county was Breckenridge. The north half of Woodson county and the lands east and west of it are shown as "New York Lands." Other counties in the region were Hunter, Godfrey, Dorn, McGee, Wise and Richardson, none of which are recognizable under those names today. The Neosho river is represented as disappearing in the neighborhood of the Breckenridge (Lyon) county line and the Cottonwood river does not appear at all.



Return to article     Voices 'Contents'     KanColl