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Wyandotte County, Kansas

Wyandotte County, Kansas, has a long history going back to long before Kansas was even a territory. In 1859, the free-state Wyandotte Constitution was voted on, and was the constitution that was used when Kansas was finally admitted to the Union. From the struggles of Kansas’ early years to the local communities that hold on tight to their history even today, Wyandotte County has a rich and eventful history.

Wyandotte County, Kansas, established in 1859, was named for the Indian tribe of the same name. As part of the Indian Removal Act the Wyandots were forced to sell their lands in Ohio and move to Kansas in 1843. Their new reservation was purchased from the Delaware tribe who had been removed to the area between 1829 and 1831. Many members of the tribe suffered illness as a result the move. The survivors buried their dead in what is now the Huron Cemetery in present-day Kansas City, Kansas. These Wyandots were removed to Indian Territory, present-day Oklahoma, in 1855. Their former reservation in Wyandotte County was opened to settlement in 1855.

When Lewis and Clark were on their well-known expedition, they camped at Kaw Point in what is now Wyandotte County.

The Wyandotte Constitutional Convention was held in 1859. With this came the Wyandotte Constitution, which was the constitution in which Kansas was admitted to the Union under in 1861. 

During the Civil War, the county was plagued by groups such as the “Red Legs” which were for the Union, but essentially guerillas, “bushwhackers,” and people who would commit the crimes of thievery, robbery and even murder. These threats lasted even past the end of the war.

Quindaro was a town that existed for just a few years. It was established in late 1850s and lasted into the early 1860s. It was in a good location for freestaters as it was a “port of entry” for them. Clarina Nichols lived in the town and helped slaves escape, as did other residents. The town didn’t last long to economic factors, no railroad, and then many men left to fight in the Civil War. After the war, African Americans settled in the area. The Freedman’s University, later changed to Western University, was established there. An archaeological investigation has been done of the area. There were some who wanted the area to become a landfill at one time, and the idea was not popular. NedRa Bonds, who is a native of the area, worked hard to make sure the landfill didn’t happen. She used her skills as a mixed fiber artist to create history-telling quilts.

In the 1880s, people of Southern Slavic ethnicity settled in Kansas City due to the meat packing industry. Strawberry Hill was established close to their area of the Bottoms and neighborhood of the Patch. Some established individuals of the area moved to Strawberry Hill. Marijana Grisnik is a native of Strawberry Hill and is an artist who draws her inspiration for her works from the Strawberry Hill life and history. Music of the area combines Slovenian and Croatian music together.

In 1879 Exodusters were leaving the south. The migrating blacks were sometimes caught at St. Louis, finding themselves in need of help to get further. Many of these Exodusters came to Kansas, and naturally found themselves coming into Wyandotte County. There was many who were not happy about the many individuals coming into the county in need of help.

In the early part of the 20th century a civil rights issue was fought out in Wyandotte County. In Kansas, segregation was allowed in elementary schools in first class cities. Segregation was not allowed, however in high schools. In 1904, a white male student was killed by an 18-year-old black man. This caused a stir, and white students blocked the entrance of black students into the high school. The issue of their being a different high school for blacks was pushed by school board and the leaders, even when the public wasn’t pushing the issue. Eventually the issue went to the legislature, and was eventually passed and signed by the governor, despite him not agreeing with the legislation. The 1905 legislation allowed for a separate high school in that localized instance, not statewide. Sumner High School was built for the black students, and was considered a very good school.

The Wyandotte County lake was a project with ties to the Works Progress Administration. Work began in the mid 1930s when the dam was nearly finished, something terrible happened. The dam collapsed. The WPA ended their association with the project in 1942, and the lake was filled two years later. The Lake of the Forest was created in the 1860s, but in 1910 a club was founded. Many activities were established there for the families residing there.

Sweeney Airport was established in 1925, and eventually renamed to Fairfax. The Fairfax Industrial District, was important to World War II. The Fairfax Hills Historic District was a housing area developed as a housing shortage became a problem and was located close to the industrial area.

Wyandotte County Courthouse - WikipediaThe Rosedale Arch, although located on the Missouri side of Kansas City, is a memorial for World War I and the areas veterans, is a project of Rosedale and the metro area of Kansas City. A plaque was eventually added to honor the lives of those who died in other wars.

The Argentine Neighborhood is a Mexican American area. They have a mural there which tells history. Hispanic students once faced a situation where they had no high school of their own. Students decided to “test” this and were admitted in the 1920s to Argentine High School.

Wyandotte County properties listed in the National Registers of Historic Places include the Quindaro Townsite, Fairfax Hills Historic District, and the Argentine Carnegie Library. Built between 1916-1917, the library was created with support from Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation. The Granada Theater was built around 1929, a project of the well-known Boller Brothers. The Wyandotte County courthouse, built in the 1920s, replaced a previous structure. Grinter Place was the home of Annie and Moses Grinter. Annie (Marshall) Grinter was a Delaware (Lenapi) who owned lands on the reservation. She married Moses Grinter who established a ferry, which was useful to many people over the years such as the military and sometimes travelers on the Oregon and California trail. The Huron Cemetery, which was once a burial area of the Wyandotte Indians, had many attempts to be sold throughout the years. People like the Conley sisters were not for this. One of the sisters, Lyda was admitted to the Kansas board. They fought for many years, even occupying the cemetery. Kansas City agreed to its upkeep, but the issue still came up throughout the years. The cemetery, also called the Wyandotte National Burying Ground (Eliza Burton Conley Burial Site) is now a National Historic Landmark.

William Walker, was a Wyandotte Leader and later served as the provisional governor of the Nebraska Territory. There are many Kansas Governors, U.S. Senators, Congressmen, and Justices of the Kansas Supreme Court from the county.  

Quick Facts

Date Established: January 29, 1859
County Seat: Kansas City
Kansas Region: Northwest
Physiographic Region: Glaciated Region
Courthouse: 1925-1927


1804 - Lewis and Clark’s Corps of Discovery camps at Kaw Point
1826 - Shawnee Prophet establishes village near river
1830 - Delaware forced to move from Missouri
1831 - Moses and Annie Grinter begin ferry across Kansas River
1843 - Wyandots forced to move from Ohio
1856 - Quindaro townsite established
1859 - Wyandotte County organizes
1865 - First African American school west of Mississippi opens
1880 - Croatians and Slovenians arrive to work in meatpacking plants
1900 - Mexicans arrive to work in the railroad industry
1925 - Mexican American students fight to attend Argentine High School
1936 - Construction begins on Wyandotte County Lake
1941 - B-25 production begins at Fairfax Field
1944 - Housing built to serve aviation production workers

More on Wyandotte County


Entry: Wyandotte 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.