History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Atchison County, Kansas

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Atchison County, Kansas map 


Towns & Places

Border Ruffian Warfare in Atchison

Extinct Towns of Atchison County

Haunted Atchison - The Most Ghostly Town in Kansas

Atchison County Photo Gallery




Atchison County, Kansas, 1899

Atchison County map, 1899.





Situated on the Missouri River in northeastern Kansas, Atchison County was created by the first territorial legislature in 1855 and named in honor of David R. Atchison, a United States Senator from Missouri.


The first white men to visit the area were French fur traders, who passed up the Missouri River during the first quarter of the 18th century. By 1764 French trade was well established upon the Missouri River and the eastern part of present-day Atchison County was well known to them.


Lewis and Clark passed along the eastern boundary on their expedition in 1804 and spent some time in exploring the banks of the Missouri River. In 1818 the first military post established by the United States government in what is now Kansas was built on the Isle au Vache, or Cow island. It was known as Cantonment Martin.


In 1833 the Kickapoo Indians entered into a treaty with the federal government and the Kickapoo Reserve was established most of the county, with the exception of the southwest corner which was a part of the Delaware Reserve, established by a treaty in  1831.


In 1833, the Methodist Episcopal Church established a mission among the Kickapoo Tribe located in what is now the northwestern corner of the county near Kennekuk. The first white man to locate permanently and erect a home was a Frenchman named Pensoneau, who married a Kickapoo Indian and settled on the banks of Stranger Creek in 1839. Later; however, the Indians were forced to cede their lands to the federal government and in 1854, the land was opened to settlement.


As soon as it was definitely known that Kansas Territory would be opened to settlement, a pro-slavery party in Missouri began to make plans to settle the area with other like-minded individuals. Some of the first settlers were a party from Iatan, Missouri, who took claims in the vicinity of Oak Mills in June, 1854, but the actual settlers and the real founders of the county and city of Atchison did not enter the territory until the next month. Some of the first settlers of Atchison County in 1854 were James T. Darnall, Thomas Duncan, Robert Kelly, B. F. Wilson, Henry Cline and Archibald Elliott. At this time, the dissention between Free-State advocates and pro-slavery supporters was great and the champions of slavery determined to make Atchison County their own, in opposition to Lawrence, the Free-State champion, in nearby Douglas County.


Atchison, Kansas around 1860In July, 1854, the town of Atchison was founded by pro-slavery settlers and named for David R. Atchison, who was then President of the Senate and acting Vice-President of the United States.


He was also an ardent advocate of the repeal of the Missouri Compromise, a champion of Popular Sovereignty and the Kansas-Nebraska Bill, and a resident of Missouri. As he looked across the broad Missouri River he saw all kinds of opportunities, including rich farmland, commercial opportunities on the Missouri River, and a broad domain that could have a positive influence of his political party.


Senator Atchison selected the site of the new town at a on the direct line of travel to New Mexico, Utah and California, and was already a favorite stopping place for the weary emigrants bound for those far-off regions.


The outfitting points for the immense traffic on the California, Oregon, Mormon, and Santa Fe Trails, previous to 1854, were at Independence, Weston and Westport, Missouri. Senator Atchison saw great opportunity for a new town in Kansas to become a new jumping off point for the many pioneers heading westward.


Soon, the town of Atchison was founded by several men, including Dr. John H. Stringfellow, Ira Norris, Leonidas Oldham, James B. Martin and Neal Owens, who, with the exception of Dr. Stringfellow, had all taken claims in Walnut Creek Valley, four miles west of the present City of Atchison.


One of the earliest, and practically the only Free-State settlement in what would become Atchison County, was started in October, 1854, by Caleb May. The town, located in Center Township, was called Pardee.



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