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Douglas County, Kansas

Douglas County contains the cities of Eudora, Lawrence, Lecompton and Baldwin City. It was one of the original 33 counties organized by the Territorial Legislature in 1855 and was organized on September 24, 1855, by Frederick Chouteau; F. W. Lunkins; A. R. Harper; Dr. Abram Still; L. B. Wallace; Clark Stearns; A. B. and N. E. Wade; Joseph J. Eberhart; Napoleon N. Blanton; A. W. and A. C. Glenn; M. S. Winter; George Cutler; F. B. Varnum; Robert and Richard Pierson; and William Harper. The First Territorial Legislature named the county for Stephen A. Douglas, the U. S. Senator from Illinois responsible for the Kansas-Nebraska Bill in 1854.

The first church in the county was the Lawrence Plymouth Congregational Church founded in 1854. The first county fair was held in 1858, and the fair continues. The first school district was founded in Lawrence, in July, 1855. The first school was opened in Lawrence on January 16, 1855.

Two interesting Kansans hail from the county. George Docking, a former Lawrence banker, became the first Democrat to serve two terms as Kansas governor (1957-1961). Justin DeWitt Bowersock was the top-ranking industrialist in Lawrence for four decades. He owned and controlled the Bowersock Dam, flour mill, and a bank. He served in the Kansas legislature in 1886, and was a Congressman from 1899 to 1907, and mayor of Lawrence.

The legend of "The Devil of Stull Cemetery" says that each year at the times of the Spring Equinox, and at Halloween, the devil visits Stull Cemetery, 15 miles west of Lawrence, to bring order to the life of all the people who died violent deaths. There is also a rumor that a witch is buried in the cemetery.

Many other legends are told of the county, including one story of a large quantity of gold buried near Big Springs that has never been found. These legends can be read in Lawrence, an Informal History, by David Dary.

Not Without Laughter, by Langston Hughes (autobiographical); Certain Rich Man (based on J. D. Bowersock's life), by William Allen White; Life in Laurel Town, by Kate Stephens are all based on Douglas County. There are many movies made about Lawrence, Quantrill's raid, and border warfare, including Dark Command, and more recent films such as the 1985 TV production of The Day After.


For more information see the Douglas County website. Watkins Community Museum, Lawrence; Kansas Collection, University of Kansas; Watson Library, University of Kansas; Lawrence Public Library; Max Kade Center for German-American Studies, Lawrence; Douglas County Genealogical Society, Lawrence Public Library; and government documents, civil and criminal records, and records of births and deaths are all available in the Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas.

Entry: Douglas County, Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: October 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.