About Wyandotte County
From frontier adventures and bloody battles between pro-slavery and anti-slavery factions to bitter Civil War conflicts and achievements in aviation, some of America’s greatest moments in history have roots in Kansas and Wyandotte County. This Kansas Territory became the first battlefield in the conflict over slavery and southern secession that led to the American Civil War.
Wyandotte County is the smallest county in the state of Kansas, which lies mostly between the Kansas and Missouri Rivers. The county is named after the Wyandot Indians. They were called the Huron by the French in Canada and also known as the Wyandott or Wyandotte. The area today known as Wyandotte County was once part of Leavenworth and Johnson counties. Unfortunately, many of the people living on the land located at the mouth of the Kansas River had little input on shaping the affairs of government and politics due to the dominating influence of citizens living in Leavenworth and the Missourians, who often came over into Kansas territory. However, a series of events would soon forever change the political landscape for the people living in this area.
One of these significant events was the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention. It was from this Convention that Wyandotte County was created, Kansas became a state, and most importantly, a state that was free from slavery. But before the Wyandotte Constitution was drafted and passed, there were a number of events that preceded this document.
The first election in the county, aside from the elections held by the Indians themselves before the organization of the territory, was in June, 1857, to select a delegate to the Kansas Constitutional Convention. The Lecompton Constitution, a pro-slavery document, was drafted at this convention and became the second proposed constitution drafted for the state of Kansas; the Topeka Constitution was the first to be drafted in 1855. Both the Topeka and Lecompton constitutions were placed before the people of the Kansas Territory for a vote. The abolitionist forces boycotted the ratification of both votes because it failed to offer them a means to vote against slavery.
Kansas Territory Constitutional Covention
by Frank Leslie
Illustrated Newspaper 1855
Lecompton Constitution Hall
Lecompton, KS 1856
The Lecompton Constitution was accepted by the 15th President of the United States, James Buchanan who urged acceptance and statehood. Congress disagreed and ordered another election. In the second election the pro-slavery forces boycotted the process, allowing the anti-slavery forces to claim victory by defeating the document. In the end, the Lecompton Constitution died because it was not clear whether it represented the will of the majority.
In 1858, a third constitution would be drafted by a group of anti-slavery supporters. The Leavenworth Constitution was viewed as the most progressive of the three proposed constitutions. The most intriguing aspects of this Constitution were a Bill of Rights that referred to "all men" (making no distinction between the rights of white men and African-American men), the banning of slavery from the state, and a basic framework for the rights of women. The Leavenworth Constitution did not have a great impact on the history of Kansas as the United States Senate did not approve of the codified laws in the written document.
The Topeka constitution prohibited slavery. The Lecompton constitution sanctioned slavery. The Leavenworth advanced even farther than the Topeka constitution by leaving out the word "white." Three constitutions! And no statehood for Kansas in sight.
In 1859, the Wyandotte Constitution met in Wyandotte on July 5th and became the fourth constitution voted on by the people of Kansas Territory. The convention met was composed of thirty-five Republicans and seventeen Democrats. The Wyandotte Constitution settled the terms of Kansas’ admission into the Union and establishing that it would:
Wyandotte Constitutional Convention
The Wyandotte Constitution was approved in a referendum by a vote of 10,421 to 5,530 on October 4, 1859. In April, 1860, the United States House of Representatives voted 134 to 73 to admit Kansas under the Wyandotte Constitution. The admission of Kansas as a free state became effective January 29, 1861.
The Wyandotte Constitutional Convention was a key event in the creation of the present Constitution of the State of Kansas and Wyandotte County. The same legislators that approved the Wyandotte Constitutional Convention approved the creation of Wyandotte County.
On January 29, 1859, Samuel Medary, Governor of the Kansas Territory from December 1958 to December 1960, signed a piece of legislation that carved out one hundred and fifty-three square miles of land from the southeast corner of Leavenworth County and the north side of Johnson County. This Kansas Territory would become Wyandotte County. It was from this Convention that:
Kansas became a state
- A state that was free from slavery
- Women were given some rights in voting and holding property
- Wyandotte County was created and established as a free and independent political entity, capable of managing its own elections and governmental affairs without the aid or interference of its neighbors, and an important factor in the affairs of Kansas
This is what makes the citizens of Wyandotte County who we are and how we are important in the birth of our county, state and nation.
1899 Map of Wyandotte County
Construction of Current Courthouse
We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges, in order to insure the full enjoyment of our rights as American citizens, do ordain and establish the Constitution of the State of Kansas, with the following boundaries, to wit: Beginning at a point on the western boundary of the State of Missouri, where the thirty-seventh parallel of north latitude crosses the same; thence running west on said parallel to the twenty-fifth meridian of longitude west from Washington; thence north on said meridian to the fortieth parallel of north latitude; thence east on said parallel to the western boundary of the State of Missouri; thence south with the western boundary of said State to the place of beginning
In 1997, voters unanimously approved to consolidate the city and county governments into one jurisdiction. The county of Wyandotte – also affectionately known as “The Dot” – is also home to the cities of Bonner Springs and Edwardsville.
1859 Sesquicentennial Celebration
Wyandotte County recently held its Sesquicentennial celebration in 2009. The event commemorated the county’s long historical past and diverse cultural background with events and activities that were held for a six month period begining in January.
On June 6th and 7th of 2009, the Wyandotte County Historical Society and Museum held a two-day event that closed out the sesquicentennial activities. One of the programs was a special unveiling of a new monument to document the Sesquicentennial celebration and honor the ethnic communities present during the forming of Wyandotte County. There were 14 member ethnic communities, but the major groups were:
The granite obelisk shape memorial will forever document the 150th
Anniversary Celebration and be a symbol of the county’s long and rich history for future generations. For more information about the history of Wyandotte County, visit the Wyandotte County Historical Museum
or the Kansas State Historical Society