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Bourbon County, Kansas

Bourbon County was organized on April 14, 1874, amidst "bond fraud" issues and padded census returns, by Samuel A. Williams; William Barbee; H. T. Wilson; Charles B. Wingfield; B. F. Hill; J.J. Farley; John F. Cattrell and Thomas Watkins. It was named for Bourbon County, Kentucky. The name was proposed by Samuel A. Williams and William Barbee, early settlers who came from Kentucky. It contains the cities of Bronson, Fort Scott, Fulton, Mapleton, Redfield and Union Town.

Bourbon County Courthouse, between 1892 and 1900The Denver Peace Treaty of 1858, promulgated by Territorial Governor James Denver, was an important part of county history. It was created in an attempt to end the long period of hostilities between the pro-slave element of Fort Scott and the free-state supporters of the Marmaton and Little Osage River communities. On December 15, 1858, "Jayhawkers" attacked Fort Scott resulting in the shooting of Marshal John Little. The Marmaton Massacre of October 22, 1864, involved approximately 60 rebels from Missouri attacking the town, and Marmaton, and the subsequent capture and execution of six townsmen. The town was also burned.

The first church was the Episcopal church of Fort Scott, founded in September, 1859. The first county fair was held October 24-25 in Marmaton. The first school district was No. 10, founded December 10, 1859, in Marmaton.

Important figures from the county include Hiero T. Wilson, the post sutler at Fort Scott, was one of the founders of the county and the city of Fort Scott. Eugene F. Ware, Civil War veteran, legislator, lawyer, and poet, settled in Fort Scott in 1867. Albert Bigelow Paine, a painter and poet, and the personal secretary to Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain) was a native of the county.

In 1860 a young schoolteacher by the name of Guthrie was accused of horse stealing by a posse of pro-slavers. He was caught with a horse supposedly stolen but if so, he did not know it. A kangaroo court met on top of a mound near the city of Mapleton and sentenced him to hang. Before dying he placed a curse upon his killers that each would die a violent death with their boots on, which they did. Today the hill is named Guthrie's Mound and is purportedly haunted by the martyred schoolteacher's ghost.

Gordon Parks' book The Learning Tree is fictional autobiography about his early childhood in Fort Scott. It was also made into a movie. James C. Malin wrote about the county in, The Doctors Devils and the Woman—Fort Scott, Kansas, 1870-1890.

Interesting sites in the county include the Moodie Building, Union Block, Historic Fort Scott, Bourbon County Military Bridge, the Old Congregational Church and National Cemetery No. 1.

For more information see the Bourbon County website. The Fort Scott National Historic Site library has a bookstore that contains several publications relating to the fort and the area. The Bourbon County Historical Society maintains an archives at Fort Scott.

Entry: Bourbon 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: January 2014

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