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Lyon County, Kansas


Lyon County Government Offices are located at 430 Commercial Street, Emporia KS 66801; phone: 620-341-3243.

Beginnings [1]

Lyon County, created as Breckenridge county by the first territorial legislature, was not organized until 1858, and did not assume its present boundaries until 1864. These boundaries are as follows : Wabaunsee county on the north; Osage and Coffey on the east; Greenwood on the south, and Chase and Morris on the west. In 1862, the former vice-president Breckenridge having become a secessionist, the patriotic anti-slavery legislature changed the name of the county to Lyon, in honor of Nathaniel Lyon, the Union general who had lost his life at Wilson's creek the previous August.

The first settler was Charles H. Withington, who located in the extreme northern part of the county on the Santa Fe Trail, a short distance south of the present town of Allen, in 1846. He opened a store in 1854, which was the first one in the county, and also the only one in southern Kansas outside of the regular Indian posts. His store was a hotel as well as a supply station. Mr. Withington was influential in the settlement of the county and prominent in all public affairs. In April, 1855, Oliver Phillips located on One Hundred and Forty-Second creek. He was elected to the legislature in 1859; was a delegate to the Osawatomie convention, and repeatedly held county offices. Chris Ward and J. S. Pigman came about the same time. Others who came during the same year were: Charles Johnson, James Pheanis, David Vangundy, John Rosenquist, Joseph Moon, Rev. Thomas J. Addis (at that time the only free-state man), Lorenzo Dow, R. H. Abraham. William Grimsley, Thomas Shockley, Joseph Hadley, William H. Eikenbery, Joel Halworth, Dr. Gregg, Mr. Carver, James Hendricks, Albert Watkins, John Fowler, G. D. Humphreys and L. H. Johnson. These, with very few exceptions, settled along the creeks in the northern half of the county.

A number of new settlers came in 1856, and a much larger number in 1857. The problem of securing mail now became a serious one. Previous to this time the mail for the settlements had been thrown off the Santa Fe coaches at Mr. Withington's place and was distributed by a horseman at private expense. When the government began giving them their mail by way of Jefferson City and Council Grove and established a post office at Columbia, there was a great deal of dissatisfaction, as the settlers did not wish to trust the pro-slavery men who handled it. Finally they secured a box at Lawrence, where all mail was sent, and thence brought by private conveyance to the hotel at Emporia. John Fowler, the postmaster at Columbia in the fall of 1857, resigned and the office was moved to Emporia, where W. H. Fick became postmaster. In August hack lines were established to Topeka and to Lawrence. A great deal of the mail was lost, there being about three bushels of mail belonging to Emporia lying at Osawatomie in Jan., 1858. The next year regular mail routes were established from Council Grove to Fort Scott by way of Emporia, and from Lawrence to Emporia. In Aug., 1860, there were tri-weekly coaches from Lawrence. By March, 1861, Emporia was receiving ten mails per week from different points.

The first school was established in 1858 and taught by Rev. G. W. Torrence. The first newspaper was the Emporia News, founded in 1857 by Hon. P. B. Plumb under the name of the Ivansas News. The first sawmill was built by G. D. Humphreys on the Cottonwood river in 1857. The first marriage was between Charles Carver and Sarah Vangundy in Jan., 1856. The first birth was in 1856 in a family by the name of Hennick. The first assessment of property was made in 1858, but was of little value, as the assessor is said to have been prejudiced.

Nearly all authorities give 1858 as the date of organization of the county, although an election for county officers was held on Oct. 6, 1857, which resulted in the election of the Americus ticket as follows: Probate judge, A. I. Baker; sheriff, E. Goddard; treasurer, N. S. Storrs; clerk and recorder, C. V. Eskridge; surveyor, Mr. Voke; coroner, W. B. Swisher; commissioners, H. W. Fick and William Grimsley. Prior to Oct., 1858, the county seat was at Agnes City, which was the residence of Arthur I. Baker, whom the legislature had appointed probate judge. The first term of district court was held on Dec. 20 at Americus, Judge Elmore presiding. At the general election of 1860 Emporia was chosen as the permanent county seat. Other early towns which figured in the contest were: Fremont, 8 miles north of Emporia, founded in 1857; Waterloo, on the State road 15 miles north of Emporia, laid off in 1858; and Forest Hill, east of the Neosho river opposite the junction, founded in 1858.

  1. Frank W. Blackmar, A.M., Ph.D., Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc., Volume II, Standard Publishing Company, Chicago, 1912.