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Linn County, Kansas

Linn County, Kansas, with its location right along the border with Missouri, experienced violence and tension during the Bleeding Kansas years and the Civil War. The Marais des Cygnes Massacre and Battle of Mine Creek are two of the more significant events to occur within the first ten years of Linn County.

Linn County Kansas, established in 1855, is named after Lewis Field Linn, a popular Senator from Missouri. Girard and Chouteau come to Linn County and chose a spot near the Marais des Cygnes River. They established a trading post where they were traded with local Indians.

Before Kansas became a territory and later a state, tribes such as the New York Indians, Miami Indians, and Osage Indians. In 1838, the Potawatomi Trail of Death ended in Kansas. The long trip had caused much harm to the Potawatomie. They were starving and had been exposed to typhoid. The Sugar Creek Mission was established in Linn County, and some settled there. In 1848, the mission was moved to Pottawatomie County.

Located along the border of Kansas and Missouri, Linn County experienced border warfare during Kansas’s Territorial period and during the Civil War. As people came into the county, some of the settlers came with the goal to make Kansas a slave state. Both Free states and proslavery settlers were present in the county, although places were clearly on the side of proslavery. Mound City, which would eventually become the county seat, was a pro-slavery town. The August of 1856, the Battle of Middle Creek occurred when Texas Rangers from Fort Scott attempted to capture John Brown. On May 19, 1858, Charles Hamilton, a previous proslavery resident of Linn County who had been forced out of the county by free states, which were becoming the dominate cause in Kansas, captured 11 men. His group and he shot the captives at a ravine. Five were killed, five injured, and one made it out unharmed. Sarah Read, who had heard her husband had been captured, was able to go for help when she arrived on the scene after the massacre. The Marais des Cygnes massacre was just one piece the type of border warfare Kansas experienced in those years. The massacre displays the type of warfare the territory experienced in those years where hatred was common and communities were divided on the issue. One side would view an act as murder while the other would view it as justice. When John Brown crossed the border and “freed” eleven slaves, he took refuge with Augustus Waters who resided in Linn County. 

There were less well-known acts such as George Washington Clarke burning Free-state buildings. After Marais des Cygnes, John Brown built a fort which was never attacked near the location of the Massacre. Late in 1860, C.R. Jennison and several men with him, hung Russell Hinds for “man stealing,” the act of taking a slave across the border so that an award can be collected.

As the territorial years turned into the Civil War years, raids were common on the border, originating on both sides. In 1864, the only significant battle of the Civil War to be fought in Kansas occurred in Linn County. Major General Sterling Price entered Missouri in September. The Kansas Governor had alerted the state militia on the border. Over 12,000 members of the militia gathered. Price made his way to Kansas, and on October 25, he was forced to fight Union troops. His supply train had slowed him down and blocked troop movements. The Confederates suffered losses as many died or were captured. After the loss to Union troops, he was eventually forced to destroy his supply train and he never carried out his plan to attack Fort Scott.

The county seat of Linn County was also a point of contention. In 1859, an election made Mound City the county seat over the standing county seat of Paris. In December of 1859, armed men entered Paris to obtain the county records which Paris was refusing to move to Mound City. The county records were successfully taken, and the Battle of Paris did not destroy the town. Elections in the 1860’s and into the 1870’s moved the county seat around to different locations, eventually ending up again in Mound City.

Linn County possesses properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places such as the Linn County Courthouse, built in the 1880’s, and the Mine Creek Battlefield site. The Marais des Cygnes Massacre Site is a National Historic Landmark.

There are many interesting figures with connections to Linn County. Charles Jenison was a strong anti-slavery supporter and Civil War Soldier and often used his beliefs against slavery to commit crimes. James Montgomery was another anti-slavery leader from the county. Richard Blue served as a Congressman from Linn, Miami, and Johnson Counties. D. A. N. Chase was Lieutenant Governor of Kansas. Stephen Allen served as a Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court in the 1890s.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867
Date Organized: August 25, 1855
County Seat: Mound City
Kansas Region: Southeast
Physiographic Region: Osage Cuestas 
Scenic Byways: Frontier Military
Courthouse: January 1, 1887


1834 - Girard and Chouteau come to area of Linn County and the Marais des Cygnes River and established a trading post.
1838 - The Pottawatomi Trail of Death ends in Kansas and the Sugar Creak Mission is started in Linn County.
1855 - Linn county is organized.
1858 - Marais des Cygnes Massacre occurs on May 19.
1864 - Battle of Mine Creek occurs on October 25. 

More on Linn County


Entry: Linn County, Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: August 2023

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.