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Jefferson County, Kansas

The early years of Jefferson County were dangerous times where it was not safe to be without a form of protection, such as being armed. A cycle of retaliations and violence was the world that the free-state and proslavery settlers lived in. Individuals from other parts of the state and from nearby Missouri contributed to the dangerous atmosphere.

Jefferson County, Kansas, established in 1855 as one of the original 33 counties, was named for Thomas Jefferson. In 1819, an expedition of Professor Say came through the area. It was once home to Kaw and Delaware Indian tribes. Around 1828, Daniel Morgan Boone lived in the area and educated Indians on agriculture. He has been called “Farmer of the Kansan Indians.”

Jefferson County was part of the long struggle during the free-state controversies because of its location. After a series of raids, and “squatter” Settlements, Missouri proslavery supporters forced voters from the polls during the first county elections. It was dangerous to be unarmed. One election was invaded by people from outside the county and even the state wanting to vote. A cycle of violence and retaliations on both sides of the slavery issue was common. When freestates retaliated with murder, the proslavery men came back with an attack on Grasshopper Falls, now known as Valley Falls. The attack caused much destruction. Both sides didn’t follow laws and the courts were serving out one-sided justice. The courts were controlled by proslavery men, so the only group to receive punishment for actions was the free-state side. The trouble culminated in the Battle of Hickory Point, a confrontation between both sides. By 1857, the political climate had seemed to calm down, and the ballot was becoming much more the weapon of choice for citizens of Jefferson County.

Jefferson County ? Kansas County Treasurers AssociationDuring the Civil War, men served in the militia and Kansas Regiments. The Jefferson Rifles was formed, but when men were sent home to take care of families, there small number forced dissolution. The remainders were included by the First Kansas Regiment. Those with sentiments towards the Confederacy, were not allowed to speak about these beliefs. Throughout the Civil War years, jayhawkers were a problem in the county, causing harm to citizens.

Ozawkie had been the original county seat, but through elections held in 1858, Oskaloosa became the county seat. This was confirmed, once again in 1864.

Jefferson County has a number of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places and Register of Historic Kansas Places. The John Steuart Curry Boyhood Home is listed in the state register.

Curry was born on a farm near Dunavant. Growing up he was expected to feed the livestock as part of his daily chores. His parents encouraged an appreciation of art. He couldn’t recall a time when he didn’t draw. When the weather threatened on the farm, they sought shelter in the fruit cellar. After high school Curry attended art school and was hired to illustrate for national magazines. His art often depicted the hard-working people of Kansas amid the backdrop of the prairie. When he had gained national prominence, a group of Kansans asked him to create artwork for the Kansas State Capitol. Curry’s murals in the rotunda are among the most highly regarded public art in the nation.

Quick Facts

Date Established: August 25, 1855
Date Organized: March 27, 1856
County Seat: Oskaloosa
Kansas Region: Northeast
Courthouse: 1962


1828 - Daniel Morgan Boone is in the future county to educate Indians on agriculture.
1855 - Jefferson County is organized.
1856 - Proslavery and free-state men fight throughout the county and state.
1858 - County seat location elections are held. Oskaloosa becomes the county seat.
1864 - Another county seat election which, once again results in favor of Oskaloosa.
1874 - 1875 - Grasshopper invasion, which causes much destruction to crops.

More on Jefferson County


Entry: Jefferson 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: August 2023

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