Boston, Kansas – Extinct in Chautauqua County

Chautauqua County, Kansas Map by L.H. Everts & Co, 1887.

Chautauqua County, Kansas Map by L.H. Everts & Co, 1887.

Boston, Kansas, is an extinct town in Chautauqua County.

At the time of Howard County’s organization, the county seat was located at Elk Falls by the governor’s appointment. The question of its relocation was agitated by parties at other points.

A petition was presented to the County Commissioners in the fall of 1870, asking for an election to be called to relocate the county seat. The petition was granted, and an election was held to remove the county seat from Elk Falls to Peru. However, many people were dissatisfied with this change. Some felt it was inconvenient for certain parts of the county, while others simply did not agree with the decision.

So great became the disaffection that it was deemed advisable to hold another election for a second relocation. In the meantime, a group of young men from the Osage Mission in Neosho County established the new town of Boston, which gained a post office on August 28, 1871.

The election for relocation of the county seat was held in September 1872, and the places voted for were Longton, Peru, Elk Falls, and now Boston. On September 14, the County Commissioners met in Peru to canvass the vote, and upon opening the returns from Boston, Elk Falls, and Peru, they met such unmistakable evidence of fraud that they refused to canvass the vote and declared no election. But the matter was by no means over. It was again debated and re-argued by perhaps what might be termed “would-be politicians,” who found no other “political provender” to feed upon.

Voting in Kansas

Voting in Kansas

An election was held on November 11, 1873, to determine whether Elk Falls or Boston should be the county seat. This resulted in favor of Elk Falls by a majority of 232 votes. Although it was legally determined that a majority of the votes had been cast for Elk Falls as the county seat, the friends of Boston thought it ought not to be and were by no means to be robbed of what they deemed their just and legally acquired spoil. The attempt of the Bostonians to redress their injuries in the matter gave rise to what was known as the “Boston War.” The county officers had taken up their quarters at Elk Falls, where they were fixed by injunction. But the brave men of Boston, fearing neither law, legal process, nor man, became bold in asserting their rights and maintaining justice. A resort to physical force was deemed necessary for this. On January 19, 1874, a posse comprising 24 wagons and 150 armed Boston men entered the town of Elk Falls and, amid the consternation, threats, and tears of the inhabitants, began loading the records and county property upon their wagons, and then started for Boston.

Attempts to rescue the stolen property were hastily made. Appeals for aid were addressed to the Kansas Governor, Legislature, and the Adjutant General. Three militia companies were organized in the county to recover possession of the records and apprehend the possessors, but all to no purpose. The county seat was gone, and for some time, enjoyed a migratory existence, having been trailed on the wagons through the Flint Hills.

The time for the convening of the District Court arrived. Honorable W. P. Campbell was the judge of the district and was on hand, but the books and records were gone, and the action of justice was defeated. The Judge, however, set about to recover possession of them and began by placing several parties under arrest who had been engaged in the removal, for contempt of court. This began to put a more serious aspect upon things, and the plotters began to weaken.

The release of those under arrest was promised, provided an unconditional surrender of the records and other county property, which was speedily done. Thus, it practically terminated the warfare without bloodshed, and the county seat was allowed to remain at Elk Falls until the division of the county in 1875.

Boston Cemetery

Soon, along came the railroad and the creation of Moline, two miles to the north, which spelled the end of Boston, Kansas. Its post office closed on September 1, 1879, and was moved to Moline. All that is left of Boston today is the old Boston Cemetery.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of Kansas, December 2023.

Also See:

Chautauqua County Photo Gallery

Every Place in Kansas

Kansas Destinations

Kansas Ghost Towns


Blackmar, Frank W.; Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Vol I; Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, IL 1912.
Cutler, William G; History of Kansas; A. T. Andreas, Chicago, IL, 1883.