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Marshall County, Kansas

The Oregon, California, and Mormon trails passed through Marshall County. Alcove Springs was a common campsite and was visited by the Donner-Reed Party for several days as they waited for flooding to recede. Although short-lived the Pony Express was an important part of the history of Marshall county, as the town of Marysville was a stop along the way.

Marshall County, Kansas, established in 1855 as one of the original 33 counties, was named after territorial legislature member and ferry boat owner, Francis J. Marshall. In the 1840’s the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails were established and passed through Marshall County. The well-known Donner Reed party camped in the county for several days due to flooding. The Pacha Ruts, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was part of the St. Joe Road, a branch of the Oregon and California Trail. Its traffic was most active during the years of 1849-1852. It was used, however, prior to its years as an immigration trail, when Major Clifton Wharton on a military expedition to deal with issues between the Pawnee and Sioux Indian tribes.

Marysville was the original county seat established, and despite efforts by free-staters to change the county seat away from the supposedly proslavery town, they failed. An effort was once again made in 1871, but Marysville remained the winner. During the Bleeding Kansas years voter fraud was a problem in the territory, including Marshall County. During an election in 1857 over the Lecompton Constitution, there was open voter fraud. One individual allegedly bragged to vote 25 times and said he would vote even more. As the territorial days of Kansas turned into the Civil War years, numerous Marshall county men fought in the war. 

The Pony Express, a short-lived venture lasting less than two years 1860-1861, in the fast delivery of mail, passed through the county seat of Marysville. Marysville was also a stop along the Pony Express route.

The county and surrounding areas experienced Indian attacks and panics. One such attack in Washington County sent refugees escaping to Marysville for safety.

In 1867, and again in 1874, the county suffered from the invasion of grasshoppers, which caused damage to farmer’s crops. Farming continues to be important to the county, which is among the state’s leading sorghum and soybean producers. In 1879, the “Irving Tornado” caused much devastation and even deaths in the county.

Marshall County possesses many properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Alcove Springs was an Oregon and California Trail campsite. The Donner-Reed Party camped here, as did the Bidwell-Bartleson Party. It was used by frontiersman as well prior to its Oregon and California Trail. The Marysville Pony Express Barn saw its first Pony Express stop in April of 1860. The Marshall County Courthouse finished in 1892, the Transue Brothers Blacksmith and Wagon Shop built in 1898, The Weaver Hotel built in 1905-1906, and the 1904 Waterville Opera House which has been used for numerous community needs including school plays and in 1914 contained a library in its basement.

There are several interesting figures with connections to Marshall County. Kenneth Dam a native of Marysville. Dam was a U.S. Deputy Secretary of State until his resignation in 1987. Congressmen Guy Helvering helped write the income tax act and was appointed the U. S. Collector of Internal Revenue by President Franklin Roosevelt. He was later appointed a federal judge. William Calderhead and James Strong were Congressmen. 

Quick Facts

Date Established: August 25, 1855
County Seat: Marysville
Kansas Region: North Central
Physiographic Region: Glacial Hills
Courthouse: 1979


1840 - Beginnings of the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails.
1855 - Marshall County is established.
1860 - 1861-The Pony Express runs through Marshall County
1879 - “Irving Tornado” causes devastation parts of the county. 

More on Marshall County


Entry: Marshall 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.