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Republic County, Kansas

This land where Republic County, Kansas, was established was once home to thousands of Pawnee Indians. At least three villages spanned the area. By the 1830s they primary lived in what is now southern Nebraska. The Pawnees and other Plains Indian tribes hunted in this area when the last opened to settlement.

Republic County, named for the Republican River associated with the Republican or Kitkahahki band of Pawnees, was organized in 1868. The county’s early years were rough ones. Indian attacks were common. Even before its 1860 establishment as a county, there was travelers who passed through such as wagon trains. The land was inhabited by the Pawnee Indians, specifically the Pawnee Republic, a division of the tribe, although they were not the only Indians to come into the area. The military road between Fort Kearney and Fort Riley passed through the county.

The early years of the county were hard one for those wishing to settle in the county, or even those just passing through. Acts of violence, thievery, and murder were committed by the Indians. The first settlers arrived in 1861. Around 1869 the troubles came to an end but not before many terrible acts plagued the county. At one time a wagon train was attacked, four were killed in addition to some wounded. The travelers were left destitute until help came days later. A militia was organized in 1864, and again in 1868. At one-point settlers left the county because of the hostilities. It is believed that one group of Mormons that were passing through the area, were killed. The death toll was believed to be 19. In 1869, some hunters shot at Indians, not with malicious intent, but rather for fun. Despite being warned by one in their group, they did not take head of his advice. The next day they were all killed except for one who escaped. The White Rock Valley was considered quite good by settlers but during the years of Indian troubles, immigration was harmed due to the threat. 

Pleasant Hill was the first county seat of Republic County. In 1869, it was changed to Belleville. A new election was held in 1870, and despite illegal votes being cast that had to be thrown out, Belleville was once again the winner.

Post-Civil War, the area began to experience immigration of peoples with Scandinavian ancestry. Present day Scandia is one such community established by these immigrants. Republic County became home to particularly those of Swedish and Norwegian decent.

The Grasshopper Invasion of 1874, hit the county and caused damage. Farming continues to be important to the county, which is among the state’s leading soybean producers.

In 1909 an orphan train stopped in the county, and many came out to find a child to adopt. Orphan trains were a way to find homes in the west for the homeless children fending for themselves in the New York City area.

Republic County properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places include Pawnee Indian Museum State Historic Site was a Pawnee village from around the 1770s to 1830s. Visitors can see the archeological remains of one of the lodges at this museum. The Republic County Courthouse, built in 1939-1940, was a project of architect Arthur Mann. The Cuba Blacksmith Shop, built in 1884, is now used for demonstrations.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 27, 1860
Date Organized: September 7, 1868
County Seat: Belleville
Kansas Region: North Central
Physiographic Region: Smoky Hills
Courthouse: December 18, 1939


1770 - 1830 - Pawnee Indian Village site is a Pawnee village.
1860 - Republic County is established.
1860 - Indian troubles are a very real problem in the county.
1868 - Republic County is organized.
1909 - Orphan train stops in Belleville, and the attendance is high. 

More on Republic County


Entry: Republic 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.