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Manhattan City

Manhattan City Hall is located at 1101 Poyntz Avenue, Manhattan, KS 66502; phone: 785-587-2489.

Beginnings [1]

The community of Manhattan is located in Riley County Kansas, the westernmost county organized by the Territorial Legislature of 1855. At the time of its designation as a county, the Kansas River formed its southern boundary, Marshall County formed its northern boundary, and Calhoun County was its eastern boundary. Its comparatively irregular shape today is due to boundary changes that occurred between 1857 and 1873.

Located on a level plain near the juncture of the two rivers, Manhattan became a strategic river landing during the territorial days when steamboats came up the river and traveled as far west as Junction City. The area around Manhattan included river bluffs and the river and creek upland divides that provided excellent crop and pastureland. The temperate climate, particularly the absence of early and late frosts, encouraged agricultural pursuits, particularly in the high prairie areas. The presence of good quality clay for bricks in the bottomlands and limestone deposits led to the development of large quarries and brickyards near Manhattan and determined the predominant building materials of the town. The wide variety of timber utilized by the first settlers for their homes and business houses included oak, elm, and black walnut.

The settlement of what would become Manhattan followed typical town building patterns in territorial Kansas. An organization of investors formed a town company and obtained a charter from the Territorial Legislature to plat a town. The federal Townsite Preemption Act permitted a town company to purchase up to 320 acres. Adjacent surrounding land could be added to the original plats. The first choice of a group of investors was land along or near main overland trails, river junctures, and in fertile river valleys. Manhattan's location met all of these criteria.

The first settlers in the Manhattan area formed the community of Juniata located approximately five miles north of the present downtown area. The village served as a ferry landing on the Fort Leavenworth-Fort Riley military road. Samuel P. Houston constructed the first residence in 1853 when he built a log house and cleared thirty-five acres for crops.

In September 1857, the county established four election precincts — Randolph, Manhattan, Ogden, and Montague — in preparation for an election to decide the permanent location of the county government. In an election held on October 5, Manhattan and Ogden received the highest number of votes, with Ogden beating Manhattan by 31 votes. The belief that fraud occurred at the Ogden polling places led the citizens of Manhattan to seek the intercession of the Territorial Governor. When he refused to act, they requested a review of the tally sheet. The refusal of the Ogden officials to release the tally sheets led to a court hearing. Testimony identifying the names of minors and soldiers at Fort Riley on the list revealed over 50 illegal votes. Manhattan became the county seat.

  1. Manhattan Kansas Cultural Resources Survey, Historic Contexts 2003, www.ci.manhattan.ks.us, accessed June, 2011.
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