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Pottawatomie County, Kansas

Pottawatomie County was organized on February 20, 1857, by Michael Floersch; Jacob Henry Haid; Andrew Noll, Michael Repp; Emil Ebert; Franz Anton Dekat; and Gabriel Zoeller. Named for the Pottawatomie Indians, this county contains the cities of Westmoreland, Olsburg, Belvue, Emmett, Havensville, Wheaton, Louisville, Manhattan (part), Onaga, St. George, St. Marys and Wamego.

Pottawatomie County was one of the early sites of the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1867, and saw the building of Tuttle Creek Reservoir in the 1950s. In 1961 the proposal of the National Prarie Park was given. Even though the park did not gain approval, the lands still exist. The building of the Jeffrey Energy Center, commencing in 1974, has increased the valuation of the county from less than $50 million to a quarter billion dollars.

The first church was the St. Marys Mission founded in 1848. The next church was probably the Catholic church in Flush which served as a station for the mission. The first county fair was held in 1907, probably at Onaga. The fair is now combined with the 4-H fair. The first schools were at St. Marys Mission. The first public school district was organized in Louisville Township but the date is uncertain.

St. Mary's was established as a girls academy in 1869 after American Indians were moved out of the area. The college was chartered in 1870. The boys school opened in the 1880s and granted its first degrees to three young men in 1882. Among the well known students to attend St. Mary’s was Spencer Tracy. The future movie star lived at the boarding school after his father was transferred to the Kansas City area from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The college closed its doors in 1931 during the Great Depression. It became a seminary in the 1930s.

Pottawatomie has been home to many interesting public figures. Jess Willard, heavyweight boxing champion of the world (1915-1919), was raised at Emmett and operated a livery stable there. He was known as the "Pottawatomie Giant." Walter Chrysler was born in Wamego while his father was employed as a machinist for the railroad. Wiley Taylor, originally of Louisville, and Frank Bushey, of Wheaton, were early big league ball players. Ernie Quigley, St. Marys, was a noted sports official both in college and major league baseball in the 1940s and 1950s. Robert Kaul, who practiced law in Wamego, served as a district judge and a Kansas Supreme Court Justice (1965-1977). Delmas C. "Buzz" Hill, of Wamego served as a federal judge. Richard Rogers, born and raised in Wamego, currently (1987) serves as a federal judge.

The Oregon Trail, one of the biggest westward trail routes, runs through Pottawatomie County. Numerous movies and books have been made about the trail.

The county holds such interesting sites as the Indian Pay Station, the Old Dutch Mill, Wamego, the Coffey Archeological Site on Tuttle Creek, the Vermillion Archeological District, and St. Joseph's Church, known as the "Pearl of the Prairies".

For more information see the  website.The various county offices all have their original records. Files of many of the county newspapers are available at the libraries in Onaga and St. Marys.

Entry: Pottawatomie 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.