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Marion County, Kansas

The Santa Fe Trail ran through Marion County. The French Frank segment and Donahue Segment, along with trail stop Lost Springs are all on the National Register of Historic Places. Throughout its history, Marion County has seen the rise of the oil industry, railroads, and the rise of automobile traffic.

Marion County, Kansas, established in 1855, after Revolutionary War veteran and hero, Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion. Fighting on the side of the Americans, he did much to harm the efforts of the British during the war. Cheyenne Indians were believed to attack some areas in the county for a time, as settlers experienced a loss property such as animals. It is also believed that thieves dressed as Indians were also to blame.

The Santa Fe Trail ran through the county. The French Frank’s Santa Fe Trail Segment, near which Claude Frances “French Frank” Laloge built a road ranch in 1861 called Cottonwood Holes. This was located along the Santa Fe Trail. The trail shifted and was not active in the area as it once was after 1866. Donahue’s Santa Fe Trail Segment is another portion of Santa Fe Trail, and Lost Springs was believed to be a stop along the trail. These Santa Fe Trail locations are on the National Register of Historic Places.

The railroads entered the county as the second half of the 19th Century progressed. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad was among the railroads to run through the county.

Around 1910, the automobile industry was becoming more and more important. The Santa Fe Trail Highway, now known as U.S. Highway 50 South, ran through main street of Peabody. Peabody rose to meet the needs of the industry, and a garage and service stations were built. With the rise of automobiles, the petroleum industry also became important to the town. 

Large purchases of land by William Scully, of Illinois, between 1870 and 1885 and his introduction of the Scully land system which included tenant farming and drain tiling the fields, both helped the early settlement and development of the county. The Scully estate still owned over 53,000 acres as late as 1942.

The oil industry in Marion County starting in 1918 and lasted into the early 1920’s. The “boom,” while just a few years, was important to the town of Peabody. Drilling did happen as late as the early 1930’s, but the height of the industry was only a few years.

During the hard times of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps and Kansas Emergency Relief Committee built the Marion County Park and Lake. The project was built by African American veterans of war and Junior African American Civilian Conservation Corps members. The lake was created in as part of flood control along the Cottonwood River. Construction was completed in 1937. A larger reservoir was completed in 1968. The lake also helps provides recreational uses.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Eleanor Roosevelt came to visit the area and attended an event held for them. The park and lake is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

During World War II a prisoner-of-war camp was located in Marion County. The camp housed German prisoners from 1943 to 1945.

In 2010, despite numerous concerns, a portion of the Keystone Pipeline (Phase II) was built through the county.

In addition to the Marion County Lake and Park and Santa Fe Trail sites, there are other important properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Peabody Downtown Historic District, Florence Water Tower was built in 1887 with a capacity of 85,000 gallons. A Harvey House, previously the Clifton Hotel, was the first Harvey house with a place for travelers to sleep. Marion County courthouse was built in in Marion in 1906. The location of county seat was contested over time. An election settled the issue in 1881. The Marion Poor House, which helped people such as orphans, and “destitute” people among other groups. Peter Loewen’s Adobe House, one of the sod houses built by German-Russian Mennonite immigrants who came to the county in the 1870’s. The immigration of the Mennonites from Russia resulted in them purchasing vast acreages of government and railroad land.

Interesting figures with connections to Marion County include A. E. Case, an early day settler who was influential in organizing the schools, churches, and severed in many public offices also established the land office, a bank and an insurance office. Homer Hoch and Randolph Carpenter were Congressmen from the county.

Quick Facts

Date Established: August 30, 1855
Date Organized: July 6, 1865
County Seat: Marion
Kansas Region: South Central
Physiographic Region: Flint Hills Uplands and Smoky Hills
Courthouse: 1906


1855 - Marion County is established
1910 - The Santa Fe Trail Highway, now called U.S. Highway 50 South, was built and ran through Peabody, providing much business.
1918 - 1922- “Oil boom” around Peabody.
1930 - The Great Depression hits the nation and affects
1943 - 1945-German Prisoners of War are kept around Peabody.
2010 - Keystone Pipeline (Phase II) is built through Marion County. 

More on Marion County


Entry: Marion 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.