In 1855 the Kansas Territorial Legislature set the boundary for a portion of land west of Shawnee County and named it Richardson county after William P. Richardson, a strongly pro-slavery member of the Kansas Territorial Council in 1855. The county was attached to Shawnee County for business and judicial purposes and had no officers of record until 1859.
In the early days of the county, most settlements were in the present day Wilmington and Wabaunsee townships. In 1856, a colony of abolitionists from New Haven, Connecticut, known as the Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony, settled near the Kaw River where a town site called Wabaunsee had been previously laid out. Wabaunsee was the name of a famous Potawatomie Chief and meant “Dawn of Day” in the Indian language.
In 1859 residents from this area petitioned the Free State Legislature at Topeka to change the name of the county to Wabaunsee and they did so. That same year County officers were elected, commisioner districts were formed and Wabaunsee was designated the county seat. In 1866, after two elections the county seat was moved to Alma in January of 1867, and has remained there since.
Wabaunsee County currently has seven incorporated cities: Alma, Alta Vista, Eskridge, Harveyville, Maple Hill, McFarland and Paxico.
Download a copy of the Wabaunsee County Visitors Guide
-source: Wabaunsee Historical Society and Museum
Mount Mitchell Heritage Prairie is a 45-acre public park in Wabaunsee County given to the people of Kansas in 1953 as a memorial to the Free-state Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony and one of its leaders, Captain William Mitchell.
Ruts and swales from the territorial Topeka/Fort Riley Road, a military road called the “nearest and best route between Ft. Riley and the Eastern part of Kansas” descended from the Flint Hills uplands into the river valley on the east flank of Mount Mitchell. John Fremont used this route in his 1843 expedition to the west. Visitors to the park can walk in the swales of this trail in the northeast corner of the property. Between 1857 and 1860 fugitive slaves and locals helping them used this road on their journey to freedom in Canada. This 45-acre hilltop prairie is located three miles south of Wamego on Mitchell Prairie Lane, south of the junction of Highways K-18 and K-99. The property is a tall grass prairie remnant that was part of Mitchell’s farm. His son, William I. Mitchell, gave it to the state historical society, stipulating that it become a public park commemorating the memory and achievements of his father and the Beecher Colony.
The park is now operated by the Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards, a local non-profit grassroots group that had its origins in 2000 when it appeared that because of a lack of funding the property was going to be returned to the donor’s family. Members of the Prairie Guards participated in the formation of Freedom’s Frontier National Heritage Area and were instrumental in discovering the stories of the local Underground Railroad.
Mount Mitchell and the Topeka/Fort Riley Road have Heritage Area “Star Attraction” status and have been recognized by the National Park Service as authenticated Underground Railroad sites in its Network to Freedom program.
Mount Mitchell was turned over to Audubon of Kansas and the Prairie Guards in 2006. AOK helped the Prairie Guards purchase an additional 15 acres in 2007. Through donations and the efforts of many hours of Prairie Guards volunteer labor improving the park’s infrastructure, it has become a popular destination for residents of the local community and visitors from far and wide.
Open 365 days per year from dawn until dusk, Mount Mitchell is a place to go for a quiet walk surrounded by wildflowers, the sounds of the prairie and wind in the grass. Two miles of walking trails allow visitors to experience this tallgrass prairie remnant of remarkable biological diversity with its stunning views of the Kaw River valley. It is a place where school children and visitors can experience the prairie of territorial days and learn about the struggle to end slavery.
The Mount Mitchell Prairie Guards are a grassroots group of local residents and their supporters who have been responsible for all of the improvements to Mount Mitchell since the Kansas Historical Society relinquished ownership in 2006. They take their name from the Wabaunsee Prairie Guards, the famous Free-state militia formed by the Beecher Bible and Rifle Colony in 1856.
This beautiful stone structure was built in 1906 by the Feiden Brothers and houses many excellent exhibits.
The Wabaunsee County Historical Museum is located three miles South of I-70 on Highway 99 in downtown Alma, Kansas.
Museum Hours – March 1 to November 30
Tuesday – Saturday: 10:00 AM – 4:00 PM
(Closed Over the Noon Hour)
Closed Sundays, Mondays & Holidays
There is no charge, but a $2 donation is suggested.
The OZ Museum is dedicated to all things OZ, offering an experience that attracts visitors from around the globe. The OZ Museum is home to exclusive exhibits featuring the unimaginable, from the earliest Baum books and OZ Parker Brothers board games to today’s collectibles, which can be purchased from the Official OZ Museum Store. It is an enchanting experience appropriate for all ages.
Discover the natural beauty of the panoramic Native Stone Scenic Byway. Seen in everything from hillsides to courthouses, these amazing natural limestone formations and stonework used in architecture can be found along Hwy. K-4 and Hwy. K-99 in the Mission Creek and Mill Creek valleys, as well as through the stunning Flint Hills in Shawnee and Wabaunsee counties.
When harsh winter weather put a stop to the Wakarusa War in December of 1855, Free-state leaders returned to their previous homes to raise money and hold public meetings in support of their cause. The Wakarusa War had started when a Proslavery settler killed a Freestate neighbor near Lawrence. It escalated into violent actions on both sides and the eventual siege of Lawrence by 1,500 Proslavery Missourians. The conflict became known throughout the country as Bleeding Kansas, with newspaper headlines proclaiming WAR IN KANSAS. Read more….