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Records from Riley County

Creator: Riley County (Kan.)

Date: 1856 - 1993

Level of Description: Coll./Record Group

Material Type: Government record

Call Number: Unavailable

Unit ID: 216902

Abstract: The majority of the records from Riley County at the State Archives come from the probate and district courts, the register of deeds, and the county superintendent of public instruction. Records include case files and individual documents for administering decedents' estates, guardianship cases, and divorce cases; marriage records; deeds, mortgages, and other land ownership documents; and a variety of school reports, school district boundary change information, and other related records. The State Archives also holds records from Manhattan's government, particularly concerning the expansion and economic development of the city in the late 20th century with developing a downtown mall and creating a southern arterial street to connect major thoroughfares in the city. There are also City Council and Planning Board minutes from this same period, and municipal ordinances & resolutions from throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. The State Archives also has copies of vital statistics' registers from both the County and Manhattan city clerks. The majority of the records from Riley County are on microfilm available in the reference room at the Center for Historical Research, and most of the rest of the records are in volumes.

Space Required/Quantity: Microfilm + circa 9.5 cubic feet.

Title (Main title): Records from Riley County

Administrative History

Administrative History: The area now comprising Riley County was part of the Kansa Indian reservation. Increased settlement and travel disrupted the lives of Native Americans living in today's Kansas, and conflicts developed. The federal government decided a military fort was needed further west than Leavenworth to maintain order and guard the Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. Thus Fort Riley was located at the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers in 1853. Originally named Camp Center, the fort was quickly renamed in honor of the recently deceased Major General Bennet C. Riley, former Commander of Ft. Leavenworth, a Mexican War Veteran and last territorial Governor of California.

Establishment of the fort encouraged settlement in the vicinity. The town of Pawnee, intended to be the Kansas Territorial capital, sprang up in the fall of 1854 beside the new fort, only to be declared illegally placed on reservation land and closed down in August 1855. The Kansas Territorial Legislature organized Riley County as one of the first thirty-six counties in the state on March 8, 1855.

During the first few years of Riley County's existence, a number of towns developed. Juniata, or Dyer's Crossing, on the east side of the Blue River, north of present Manhattan, was the first. This settlement was at the crossing of the Fort Leavenworth to Fort Riley road. A number of other towns also quickly developed. Ogden received settlers from the defunct Pawnee, and the first Riley County Commission moved from Pawnee to Ogden. In 1858, after a vote and a dispute, the county seat moved from Ogden to Manhattan. Ogden held the Federal Land Office from 1857 to 1859, when it moved to Junction City in Geary County.

The Ogden settlement contained pro-slavery sentiment, as did the original town of Randolph. These two towns excepted, all the other locations settled in Riley County during the territorial years had decided free state leanings, if they were not outright free state advocates. Ashland, originally in Davis (later renamed Geary) County, was settled by the Cincinnati and Kansas Land Company in 1855. Ashland was the Davis County seat from 1857 to 1860 and hoped to attract a railroad connection. Failing to do so, the town declined and was vacated in 1873, the year it became part of Riley County.

The Cincinnati and Kansas Land Company also played a part in the founding of Manhattan. This town developed through the efforts of four separate town-founding groups. In the fall of 1854, George Park founded the town of Poleska along the Kansas River; in the fall of 1855, Samuel Dexter Houston and four others founded the town of Canton at the foot of Bluemont Hill. These two settlements were in place when Isaac Goodnow and the New England Emigrant Aid Colony settled at the confluence of the Blue and Kansas Rivers in the spring of 1855. By April, these three joined to form the town of Boston. In June 1855 the Cincinnati and Kansas Land Company steamboat Hartford became stuck near Boston. The Boston group asked the Ohio emigrants to join their effort and with certain concessions, including renaming the town Manhattan to please a financier, they stayed. Thus Manhattan was born.

Shortly after organizing the town, a college was founded and a charter obtained from the Territorial Legislature for the Bluemont Central College Association. This school opened in 1860 under the supervision of the Methodist Church. Efforts were made to have the school declared the State University. Failing that, and with the Morrill Act approved by Congress, the school became one of the first land grant colleges in the United States in 1863 as the Kansas State Agricultural College. Today the school is known as Kansas State University.

The county seat for Riley County continues to be Manhattan. Townships still located in the county include Ashland, Bala, Center, Fancy Creek, Grant, Jackson, Madison, Manhattan, May Day, Ogden, Sherman, Swede Creek, Wildcat, and Zeandale Township. Fort Riley and Seven Mile Townships are now defunct.

[Kansas State Historical Society. "Kansas Counties -- Riley County." http://www.kshs.org/genealogists/places/counties.php?county=RL (accessed 11 June 2009).]

[Riley County. "History of Riley County." http://www.rileycountyks.gov/index.aspx?NID=441 (accessed 11 June 2009).]


No Locators Identified

Index Terms


    Manhattan (Kan.) -- History
    Riley County (Kan.) -- Genealogy
    Riley County (Kan.) -- History
    District courts -- Kansas -- Riley County
    Probate courts -- Kansas -- Riley County
    Probate records -- Kansas -- Riley County
    School districts -- Kansas -- Riley County

Creators and Contributors

Agency Classification:

    Local Government Agencies. Riley County.