By this location its area was 864 square miles. Its present area is 954 square miles, having an increase by Township 22, of range 3, 4, and 5, and a decrease of the east tier of sections in Towns 20, 21, and 22, of Range 5, three sections having been attached to Chase County. Under this act, there was no organization for the population of the county in 1860 was but 74; in 1865 it was 162. It had then but 200 cultivated acres.
A special act of the Legislature February 22, 1865, extended the northern boundary of the county on the line between Townships 16 and 17 to the west of line of the State, making its west boundary identical with the State line, and also its southern to the west line of Butler county (then including Cowley). But Marion County comprised all Southeastern Kansas but a few months, for in June of the same year, in response to a petition from the inhabitants the Governor restored the boundaries previously established and ordered a separate organization of the county.
The face of the county here shows much variety -- valleys, bluffs, plains and wooded dells, alternating in a most picturesque degree, and rendering Marion County one of the most beautiful in the State. The average width of the bottom lands exceeds a mile; the surface of the country away from the streams is gently undulating for the most part, though apparently there are extensive level tracts. It may be classified as 15 per cent of bottom; 85 per cent upland; 3 percent timber; 97 per cent prairie.
The Cottonwood river rises in the northwest part of the county, and flows through it in a southeasterly direction. Its principal tributaries from the north are Mud, Clear, Martin's and Bruno Creeks; from the south, French, South Branch, Catlin, and Doyle Creeks. Three other large creeks have their headwaters in this county -- Middle, Lyons and Turkey Creeks. No county in the state has a more abundant water supply. Much timber grows along the valleys of the streams, mainly cottonwood, elm, hackberry, hickory, oak, sycamore and walnut trees. There is also much cultivated timber.
The soil in the bottom lands comprises a rich loam of from two to ten feet in depth, underlaid by a bed of sand, which acts as a natural sewer. The upland is a dark loam, on an average a foot in depth. Pure and strong salt water has been discovered at Peabody, at a depth of 640 feet. In this neighborhood, gypsum beds have been found, and hydraulic cement, mineral paint, fire, pottery and brick clay exist in very considerable quantities. Pure magnesian limestone of different shades in great quantity and of excellent quality abounds.
The first settlement made in the county was by an Irishman of the name of Moses Shane, who located at the spot where now stands Florence, early in the spring of 1858. He built a log house, broke several acres of ground, and resided there until his death, which occurred in 1859. Patrick Doyle, in the year 1859, located near Florence, on what is now called Doyle's Creek, but soon afterward returned to Leavenworth, from whence he came. In the lapse of a few years, he returned to the place, and lived where he first located.
In August, 1859, the first white child was born in the county, and was of Irish extraction, by the name of Welsh. The birth occurred on what is known as the Potter place, two miles from Florence. Its parents emigrated to Kansas from Wisconsin.
At Lost Springs, which is located on Section 21, Town 17, Range 4, Clear Creek Township, a trading post was established in the spring of 1859. It was located on the great thoroughfare from Independence, Mo., to New Mexico and the Territories, which was largely traveled by the emigrants in quest of gold, and by the freighters who took supplies to the Western forts. J. H. Costello was Postmaster at Lost Springs in 1861.
On July 4, 1862, Robert Bailey, on Clear Creek, was killed by the premature discharge of a gun. This was the first death among the settlers. Late in the year 1859, on his return from a Pike's Peak adventure, Thomas J. Wise, Sr., made a settlement on Clear Creek. December 28, 1862, the first marriage in the county occurred, that of J. H. Costello and Abigail Wise. Reuben Riggs and Mahlon Riggs settled on Clear Creek in 1864, but afterward removed to the Cottonwood, near Florence. In the spring of 1864, T. J. Wise, Sr., purchased a mower and reaper, at Lawrence, which was the first one brought into the county. On Clear Creek, in 1864, Miss Maggie H. Norris taught the first school that was organized in the county, having obtained her teacher's certificate in Chase County. She is now the wife of Mr. J. C. Rath, who is the Postmaster at Antelope.
In the late autumn of 1859, A. A. Moore established a trading post at what was called Cottonwood Crossing, and later known as Moore's Ranche. In the spring of 1861, Mr. Moore was made Postmaster at this place; and in the month of April there was an attempt made to organize Marion County, under and by virtue of the Territorial law of Kansas. A meeting of the settlers was called and a proclamation was issued for an election to be held at this place. The polls having been opened on the day set apart for the election, an Election Board was organized, a few ballots were cast by those present, when the fact presented itself that there were not enough men in the county qualified to fill all the offices of honor, profit and trust.
Early in 1860, W. H. Billings, George Griffith and William Shreve settled at or near Marion Center; C. R. Roberts, an Episcopalian, from Rutland, Vt., came October 1, 1861, and Nelson Miller established a hotel north of Marion center on the east side of Muddy in 1862, which for years was the main objective point for food and shelter for the traveler, after leaving Council Grove, as he wended his way across the plains in a west southwesterly course, on the great Sante Fe trail.
The post office at Marion Center was established in 1862, W. H. Billings, Postmaster. This place was on a mail route from Cottonwood Falls to Moore's Ranche. A store was started here by Mr. Billings and A. A. Moore in 1861; a schoolhouse was erected in 1862; here was the first Methodist Episcopal Church building of the county, and on July 4, 1863, there was a patriotic celebration of the ninety persons of the county at Billings Park, where the feathered songsters united their songs of rejoicing with those of the hardy pioneers.
Wilson Campbell was the first settler in Wilson Township. He located in 1870. The first birth in this township was that of Hans Olsen, in March, 1871.
In October, 1872, the first water grist mill erected in the county was put in operation by Messrs. Moore & Fuller, on the Cottonwood, nearly two miles west of Marion Center. Its site is in the southeast part of Gale Township. If ever the grasshopper was specially a burden to any people, the early settlers of Marion so realized in August, 1874, as they came swooping in like the rushing of mighty waters, with the bosom of destruction, destroying the vegetation of the county, and causing destitution terrible in the extreme. County Relief Bonds to the amount of $10,000 were issued March 13, 1875, as a partial mitigation of the loss of crops.
In the summer of 1868, the Cheyenne Indians committed depredations in the northern portion of the county, many of the settlers losing cattle and horses, though it may be said that during that period many horses were taken by white thieves assuming the dress and appearance of the wild Indian. Many of the settlers came to Marion Center and sought refuge in the stone building used as a store by J. H. Costello, which stands on the southeast corner of Main and Fifth streets. Mr. David Lucas, a former county commissioner, in some indirect manner, learned of the intended line of pursuit of the Indians, and he lost no time in riding his horse with the utmost speed to Council Grove, to inform Maj. E. S. Stover, the Kaw Indian agent, of the probable Indian attack, and this warning served to avert the possible disaster that might have ensued but for the thwarting of the plans of the barbarous foe. Often has the head of a family gathered his loved ones about him at night and found refuge in a cornfield, for fear of an Indian raid upon the house.
Marion County has a funded indebtedness for bonds issued to the Kansas & Nebraska railroad, a line surveyed from the northeastern to the southwestern portion of the county. The proposition was for the sum of $200,000, one-half to be paid in thirty-year bonds with interest, when the grading was completed to Marion Center from the north line of the county. The grade has been made, but it is not known when there will be a road, as per expectation. This is the main financial burden resting on the county.
The county has had a conviction for murder, and it has sent a prisoner to the State Penitentiary for twenty-one years. It was for cold-blooded murder committed at Peabody, February 14, 1872, by Lewis Crawford upon the esteemed citizen Mr. C. H. Davenport. The county, aside from these instances, may be said to have been measurably free from debt and crime.
In 1870, the municipal townships of the county were Center, Clear Creek and Doyle; in 1875, the additional ones were Branch, Grant, Peabody, Risley, Summit and Wilson; in 1880, the additional ones were Catlin, Fairplay, Gale and Liberty; in 1882, Durham Park, East branch and West branch, which are two townships created from "Branch." Peabody is the most densely settled township, having forty-four people to the square mile; Durham Park the least densely settled, having about two to the square mile.
Marion County has three good towns -- Peabody, in the southwest in the central part of Range 3; Marion Center, centrally located from north to south, in the west part of Range 4; Florence, near the southeast part of the county in the west part of Range 5, and the east part of Range 4.
County Organization, Elections, and Officers
In June, 1865, Gov. Samuel J. Crawford received a petition forwarded to him by citizens of Marion County, praying for the detachment of Marion from Chase County, and that the same be organized into a separate government. The petition was granted, and in July, 1865, William H. Billings, Thomas J. Wise, Sr., and Levi Billings were appointed the first Board of County commissioners. Their first meeting was held at the house of W. H. Billings, Marion Center. There were present, W. H. Billings and Mr. Wise, and they appointed R. C. Coble County Clerk. The county was formed into three municipal townships -- Marion, the north; Cedar, in the southeast; Santa Fe in the southwest.
The first election of county officers was held August 7, and the vote was canvassed August 10, 1865. There were twenty-three votes polled. W. H. Billings was elected County Commissioner and Probate Judge; T. J. Wise; Commissioner and County Treasurer; Levi Billings, Commissioner; R. C. Coble, County Clerk and Register of Deeds; John C. Snow, Sheriff; W. P. Shreve, County Surveyor; Mr. Wise, being ineligible to the office of Treasurer, the Board appointed A. A. Moore. Reuben Riggs was elected County Attorney. The first county seat was established at the northeast quarter of Section 6, Town 20, Range 4.
At the annual election in November, 1865, Reuben Riggs was chosen Senator, receiving twenty-five votes in the county and 230 votes in the senatorial district, having a majority of sixty-five in a vote of 395. A. A. Moore was elected Representative and County Treasurer, Reuben Riggs, County Attorney; R. C. Coble, County Clerk; G. C. Coble, Sheriff; C. R. Roberts, Surveyor and Coroner; E. Hoops, Register of Deeds; Assessor, B. Gibson; Superintendent of Public Instruction, Levi Billings; County Commissioners, W. H. Billings, Charles O. Fuller, William Renfro. Newton Rodgers was afterward appointed to the positions of Assessor and County Superintendent, the persons elected declining to qualify. In August, 1865, it was found that Chase County owed Marion County $85.49 and $25.40 was paid Chase County for the assessment of Marion and $22.95 for record books obtained of John S. Doolittle.
At an election held December 29, 1866, the county seat was located on the public square at Marion Center. The name of the county and the shire town perpetuates the memory of General Francis Marion, a South Carolina patriot of the Revolutionary period, whose valorous deeds and devotion to the principles of universal liberty have made his name famous in story and song.
The court house and school building at Marion Center were one and the same and on December 19, 1867, the county appropriated for this building the sum of $999. The building is in the rear part of the present courthouse which was completed in 1881. A county seat election was held April 27, 1881 and the vote cast for Marion Center was 1,165; for Hillsboro, 745. June 14, 1881, on a proposition to vote $5,000 to aid in building a court house, the vote was 790 for; 520 against. The building is made of the Marion Center magnesian limestone, and the new front is an attractive, convenient structure of two stories. The whole upper story is in the District Court room, the east side of which enters into the jail, which has been remodeled from the original court house, and is very substantial, having good cells, like those of the county of Chase.
The court room is admirably and conveniently arranged for the officers of the court, the jurors and the spectators, its dimensions being 32 x 54 feet. In the lower story on the north side of the hallway are the offices of the Register of Deeds, Probate Judge, Superintendent of Public Instruction; on the south side are the offices of County Clerk, County Treasurer and Surveyor. The building is well arranged and is a monumental evidence of the economy and good sense of the people of the county.
The Senatorial district of which Marion County has been a part, has been represented by Marion County men as follows: in 1866 by Reuben Riggs; 1868, A. W. Moore; 1875, Samuel R. Peters; 1881 and 1883, R. M. Crane. In the House of representation of the county has been as follows: 1866, 1867 and 1871, A. A. Moore; 1868, C. O. Fuller; 1869, A. E. Case; 1870, Levi Billings; 1872, Frank Dostler; 1873, J. K. McLean, 1874, B. Pinkney, 1875, R. C. Bates, 1876, G. W. Campbell, 1877, J. N. Rodgers, 1879, F. H. Kollock, 1881, W. W. Waring, 1883, J. Ware Butterfield.
S. N. Wood, the first Judge of the Ninth Judicial District, was the first attorney to practice law in the county in an action of replevin, July 10, 1865, at Marion Center, which was the first law-suit in the county. The first papers filed in the office of the Clerk, of the District Court were by Isaac Sharp, Esq., of Council Grove, Morris County, October 5, 1867, who appeared as an attorney for the plaintiff in the case, S. N. Wood was then Judge. Judge W. R. Brown presided over the first term of the District Court, and it commenced Tuesday, May 5, 1858. There was a summary disposition of many cases at this term of the court.
The Ninth District, composed of the counties of Butler, Chase and Marion, polled at the election in 1867, 431 votes of which Marion cast 73. The counties of Greenwood, Elk, Chautauqua, Cowley, Sumner, Sedgwick and Reno had been at first attached to Butler County for judicial purposes; McPherson, Rice, Stafford and Pratt to Marion. In 1872, the counties of Butler, Greenwood, Elk, Chautauqua, Cowley, Sumner and Sedgwick made up the Thirteenth Judicial District, which cast 10,230 votes; McPherson was in the Fourteenth Judicial District and cast 481 votes, while the Ninth was made up of the counties of Chase, Marion, Harvey, Reno and Rice, polling 2,747 votes; Marion casting 819.
Judge Brown was re-elected in 1872 and in 1874 was elected to congress. Samuel R. Peters, of Marion, succeeded Judge Brown on the bench of the Ninth Judicial District. Judge Peters was last elected to the position in 1879, having then the nine additional counties of Barton, Pawnee, Stafford, Pratt, Kingman, Barbour, Edwards, Ford and Rush. The Legislature of 1881 reconstructed judicial districts and eliminated one-half of the counties of the Ninth District, leaving therein Chase, Marion, Harvey, Rice, Reno, Kingman and Harper. The terms of court for Marion commence the first Tuesday of May and the second Tuesday of November. The court officers in the year 1883 are Thomas Jefferson Smith, Sheriff; Samuel Bowen, Clerk; T. A. Bogle, County Attorney. The attorneys of the county are C. Reed, retiring County Attorney, L. F. Keller, former County Attorney; C. W. Keller, Frank Doster, T. A. Bogle, R. M. Crane, A. E. Case and C. H. Frybarger, of Marion Center; J. Ware Butterfield, J. B. Crouch and A. M. White, of Florence; G. W. Camp, J. M. Holcomb, A. B. Knowlton, F. H. Kollock, J. Hudson Morse and James Hamilton, of Peabody.
The county officers not above named in office January 1883, are as follows: Commissioner of First District, J. N. Rodgers; second District, D. J. Frazier; Third District, Thomas Osborn; County Clerk, W. H. Hamilton; County Treasurer, F. L. Frazier; Judge of Ninth Judicial District, L. Houk; Register of Deeds, T. L. Fife; Probate Judge, B. F. Brockett; Superintendent of Public Instruction, W. B. Zercher; County Surveyor, W. C. Nye; Corner, T. J. Conroy. Samuel T. Howe was elected Clerk of the District Court in 1874, 1876 and in 1878. In 1879 and in 1881, he was elected County Treasurer and soon after entering upon his second term in October, 1882, he was elected to the office of Treasurer of the State of Kansas, his vote on the 7th of November in Marion County being 1,314; that of C. E. Gifford, Democrat, was 348; J. H. Ludlow, Nation, 133; in a vote of 1,795, Howe received a majority of 833.
Center, Wilson, Gale, Risley and Durham Park Townships form the First District; Clear Creek, Grant, Doyle, Summit and Fairplay, the Second; Peabody, Catlin, Wilson, East Branch and West branch in the Third.
The Presidential vote of Marion County has been as follows: 1868, Grant 52, Seymour, 47; 1872, Grant 676, Greeley 148; 1876, Hayes 860, Tilden 369, Cooper 224; 1880, Garfield, 1,239, Hancock 539, Weaver 271. In 1876, Green Clay Smith received twelve votes. The vote on the prohibition amendment to the State Constitution, November 2, 1880, was 1,020 for; 825 against. Frank Doster, as the National candidate for Congress in 1878, received in Marion County 595 out of 1,577 votes. In 1872, he received in the county 579 out of 812 votes, for Judge of the Ninth Judicial District.
School and Other Statistics
Marion County, "a howling wilderness" in 1865, had in the centennial year, 74 organized school districts, though in 1871 it had but three schoolhouses. It has eighty in 1882, of which there is one joint district with Chase, one with Dickinson and one with Harvey. In 1882, it had four teachers of grade one; sixty-two of grade two; thirty-five of grade three. The number of children of school age is 4,359; number of male teachers, forty-two; female, fifty-four; average age of teachers, twenty-two. The average monthly pay of male teachers is $36.73; of female $32.43.
Mrs. J. M. Sharon held the position of County Superintendent of Public Instruction for the term January, 1875-1877. The average school district tax levy for 1882 was fifteen mills. The bonded indebtedness for schoolhouses is about $35,000. Hillsboro employs two teachers; Florence and Peabody four each; Marion Center, five; the other districts one each. There are ninety-seven rooms used for school purposes.
The following is the statement of the acreage in different grains in 1877; Winter wheat, 18,141; rye, 1,222; corn, 26,769; oats, 7,264; Irish potatoes, 571; sorghum, 199; flax, 264; broom corn, 21; Hungarian and millet, 1,306; timothy, 94; clover, 14; prairie hay, 2,159. Acreage in the same grains in 1880 was as follows: Winter wheat, 48,790; rye, 1,869; corn, 54,557; oats, 10,371; Irish potatoes, 751; sorghum, 373; flax, 314; broom corn, 64; Hungarian and millet, 2,454; timothy, 170; clover, 53; prairie hay, 10,877.
In 1882, Marion County is the eighth in rank in the production of winter wheat, its crop being reported 1,219,750 bushels. Its preferred varieties are Fultz, May, Odessa and Russia. Isaac Kuhn, Marion P. O. reports twenty-five acres of wheat; yield, sixty-two bushels per acre; George Overholtzer, Peabody, forty acres, forty bushels per acre, for the year 1882. The herd law is in operation in this county; about one-fourth of the land is open range. Prairie hay is secured at $2.50 per ton; the cost per head of grazing cattle is $1.50 for the season. Besides Crane's ranch, which comprises 10,000 acres of land, there is Hon. David Christie, a member of the Canadian Parliament, has a ranche three miles square, about a dozen miles northwest of Marion Center, which is managed by his sons.
Mr. Abram Williams, near Lincolnville, has some 3,500 acres of land, which is mostly fenced with hedge. His specialty has been high grade beef stock, but in 1882 he raised about 10,000 bushels of wheat. In the county there is much available cheap land; of unsold school lands, 13,500 acres, in the Wichita Land district. Of lands located in Townships 21 and 22 in Harvey county, there are upwards of 7,000 acres; on October 1, 1882, there were 32,187 acres; 178,664 acres having been sold within the last ten years. In 1877, there were 2,664 horses; in 1882, 5,607. Milch cows in 1877, 1,836; in 1882, 4,444. Other cattle in 1877, 4,162; in 1882, 10,245. Sheep in 1877, 2,980; in 1882, 12,709. Swine in 1877, 5,811; in 1882, 11,354.
In 1867, the assessed valuation of the county was $106,447; in 1870, $640,320; in 1873, $987,702; in 1875, $1,499,128; in 1876, $1,499,128; in 1880, $2,112,247.45; in 1882, $2,292,776.38. Of the 610,560 acres of land in the county, about 150,000 are under cultivation, and in 1880, 561,720 were taxable. The percentage of increase in population in the county from 1870 to 1875 is 555; from 1875 to 1880 it is 142; from 1870 to 1880, 1,522 per cent. In 1880, Marion Center had a population of 857, Florence 954, Peabody 1,087.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,470 km² (954 mi²). 2,443 km² (943 mi²) of it is land and 27 km² (10 mi²) of it (1.09%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 13,361 people, 5,114 households, and 3,687 families residing in the county. The population density was 5/km² (14/mi²). There were 5,882 housing units at an average density of 2/km² (6/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.06% White, 0.47% Black or African American, 0.59% Native American, 0.19% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.55% from other races, and 1.14% from two or more races. 1.92% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 5,114 households out of which 30.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 63.80% were married couples living together, 5.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.90% were non-families. 25.20% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.20% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.94.
In the county the population was spread out with 24.80% under the age of 18, 7.90% from 18 to 24, 23.50% from 25 to 44, 22.70% from 45 to 64, and 21.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 95.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.20 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $34,500, and the median income for a family was $41,386. Males had a median income of $30,236 versus $21,119 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,100. About 4.80% of families and 8.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.50% of those under age 18 and 9.70% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Lost Springs, 69