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Kansas Counties
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Kansas Counties

Kansas has one hundred and five counties. Originally 33 counties were organized by the Territorial Legislature in 1855. The Chase County Courthouse in Cottonwood Falls, Kansas was built in 1873 and is the oldest operating courthouse in Kansas. As of January 1, 2009 Greeley County and the city of Tribune unified to form the Unified Government of Greeley County..

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Shawnee County, Kansas

Shawnee County Education, Geography, and HistoryShawnee County, Kansas Courthouse

Shawnee County is a county located in northeast Kansas, in the central United States of America. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 177,934.  Shawnee County was created on August 25, 1855. Topeka is the county seat. The county is named for the Shawnee Native Americans, who lived in the area.

Shawnee County is included in the Topeka, KS Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated population of 234,203 in 2013.

Etymology - Origin of Shawnee County Name

The county was carved out of what was, before the treaty of 1854, Shawnee Indian lands--hence the name. General H. J. Strickler, of Tecumseh, who was a member of the council in 1855, and also of the joint committee on Counties, claimed Shawnee for the name of his county, a preference stoutly contended for by the Reverend Thomas Johnson for the county in which the legislature was sitting, but the committee yielded to General Strickler, and, without solicitation, complimented Mr. Johnson by conferring his own name upon his county.


County QuickFacts: Census Bureau Quick Facts

Shawnee County History

Before the treaty of 1854, the area now known as Shawnee County was inhabited by Shawnee, Kansas, and Pottowatomie Indian tribes. Westward expansion brought the country its first white settler in 1830 when Frederick Choteau opened a trading post on American Chief (now Mission) Creek. In 1855, Shawnee became one of the first counties established by the Kansas territorial legislature with a population of 250. General H. J. Strickler, of Tecumseh, who was a member of the council in 1855, and also of the joint committee on Counties, claimed Shawnee for the name of his county. At that time, Shawnee County borders were entirely south of the Kansas River and extended south to include Osage City and Carbondale. The legislature later desired to make Topeka the county seat and moved the borders of the county to their present locations to make Topeka centrally located in the county.

1855 also saw the first ever meeting of the Shawnee County Board of Commissioners. Tecumseh was the first county seat, and the first county courthouse was opened there in 1856. The building was 40x50 feet but was never finished. Topeka was made the county seat by popular vote in 1858, and a new courthouse was built at 4th Street and Kansas Avenue in 1867. In 1896, a new larger courthouse was constructed at 5th and Van Buren, with more than 50,000 residents then living in the county. That building remained in use until the current courthouse at 7th and Quincy opened in 1965.

The county is bordered by Jackson County on the north, Jefferson County on the north and east, Douglas County on the east, Osage County on the south, Wabaunsee County on the west, and Pottawatomie County on the west. Its extent in either direction is not more than twenty-four miles. The second standard parallel south passes through the northern half of the county.

When the county was originally formed in 1855, it was bounded by the Kansas River on the north, and the southern boundary was nine miles further south. But on February 23, 1860, the legislature changed the boundaries with the southern portion being granted to Osage County, and the northern boundary was moved a few miles north of the river (to the second standard parallel). The present northern line (six miles north of the second standard parallel) was established in 1868.

Geography: Land and Water

Shawnee County is located in the northeastern part of Kansas, in the third tier of counties west of the Missouri River and about fifty-four miles south of Nebraska. As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 556 square miles (1,440 km2), of which 544 square miles (1,410 km2) is land and 12 square miles (31 km2) (2.1%) is water.

Shawnee County is located in the northeastern part of Kansas. The  county is rolling prairie with a few hills and bluffs along the streams. The bottom lands along the Kansas and Wakarusa rivers, these together with the creek valleys comprise about one-third of the area of the county.

The Kansas river, which is the largest in the state, flows across the county from west to east, just north of the center. Among its branches are Soldier creek from the north and Mission from the south. The Wakarusa enters on the south line in the west part and flows east across the county into Douglas. Blue and gray limestone is found in the bluffs and along the banks of the streams. Clay for brick is abundant. Coal has been mined to a limited extent. Sand of a excellent quality is dredged from the Kansas river and shipped in large quantities.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Jackson County on the north
  • Jefferson County on the north and east
  • Douglas County on the east
  • Osage County on the south
  • Wabaunsee County on the west
  • Pottawatomie County on the west.


Unified School Districts

Kaw Valley USD 321 - Serving Willard and Rossville.
Wabaunsee East USD 330 - Serving Dover
Jefferson West USD 340
Seaman USD 345 - Serving Elmont and North Topeka.
Silver Lake USD 372 - Serving Silver Lake
Santa Fe Trail USD 434
Auburn-Washburn USD 437 - Serving Auburn, Wakarusa, Pauline, and Western and Southwestern Topeka.
Shawnee Heights USD 450 - Serving Tecumseh, Berryton and Eastern and Southeastern Topeka.
Topeka Public Schools USD 501 - Serving Central Topeka

Colleges and universities

Washburn University
Bethel Bible College closed
College of the Sisters of Bethany closed

Vocational/technical schools

Washburn Institute of Technology formerly Kaw Area Technical School

Kansas Colleges, Universities, & Schools
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