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Atchison County, Kansas

The Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery celebrated July 4, 1804, along Independence Creek. Atchison County was organized as one of the original thirty-three counties of Kansas created by the Territorial Legislature on September 17, 1855. Containing the cities of Atchison, Effingham, Huron, Lancaster and Muscotah, the county was named for Senator David R. Atchison, a native of Kentucky and president of the U. S. Senate from Missouri (1853), also founded the Kansas city bearing his name. The county was founded by Dr. J. H. Stringfellow; Ira North; Leonard Oldhaur; James B. Martin; and Neal Owens. Later members of the original town company that settled the county included David R. Atchison; Elisha Green; E. H. Norton; P. T. Abell; B. F. Stringfellow; Lewis Burnes; David Burnes; James Burnes; Calvin Burnes; and Stephen Johnston.

A Benedictine Order established a monastery and college in Atchison in 1858. The county was the center of much of the free-state, slave-state controversies from 1855-1857. The story is told of Judge Otis having a secret entrance to his basement built in the living room floor that was covered with a rug. The basement was used to hide runaway slaves on the underground railroad. In addition, an Elizabeth Kempton operated a "resort" at 1119 Clay Street in 1857, that had an underground tunnel to assist slaves to escape. The Atchison and Pike's Peak Railroad, a forerunner of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway was organized in Atchison in 1857.

The first church in the county was the Atchison Methodist organized in May 1857, under the Reverend James Shaw. The church used the offices of J. C. Pomeroy until the building was dedicated in 1859. The first fair was held September 6, 1880, in Atchison near Fairground School. The first schools in the county were private and flourished before the Civil War. The first public school was organized on August 5, 1858, and was held in two rooms over Bury's grocery store.

Local interesting Kansans include John J. Ingalls, a U. S. Senator (1873-1891) had a very gifted career. He is in the Hall of Fame in the National Capitol. Ed Howe, owner and publisher of the Atchison ”Daily Globe," (1877-1910) author of several books including the ”Story of a Country Town," and political commentator, was one of those described as belonging to Kansas' "golden age of journalism." Amelia Earhart, famed aviatrix, was born in Atchison. Others include Governors George W. Glick (1883-1885) and John A. Martin (1885-1889); U. S. Senators Samuel C. Pomeroy (1861-1873), Congressmen Chester Mize (1965), and Jim Jeffries (1979-1983); and Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justices Samuel Kingman (1867-1876), Albert Horton (1876-1895), and David Martin (1895-1897). A novel by Nateel Howe Farham titled Rebellion concerns a father and daughter relationship much like Farham's. (See pages 35-36 in Women Writers Along the Rivers, 1850-1950, by Jane Frick, 1982, Missouri Western University, St. Joseph, Missouri).

Atchison County contains the sites of the Atchison Post Office, Price Villa, the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Depot, the Amelia Earhart Home, the Ed Howe Home, the W. W. Hetherington Home and the Drury Tea Room.

For more information see the Atchison County website. The Atchison County Historical Society maintains an archives and research library in Atchison.

Entry: Atchison 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: October 2015

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