July 17, 2017
You are listening to “Our Past Is Present” from the Geary County Historical Society.
Besides visits to our Museum and attending our fundraisers, a way to support the Geary County Historical Society is through a membership. We have a wide range of annual memberships that range from $10.00 a year for Senior Citizens to Individual Memberships for $15.00 and family memberships for $25.00 per year. The membership of your choice will get you special notices of upcoming events, our newsletter and you will be showing your support of our mission to preserver and educate about the history of Geary County. Contact one of the staff at 238-1666 or just stop by the Museum at the corner of Sixth and Adams Streets between the hours of 1 and 4:00 PM Tuesdays through Sundays.
Now for today’s story…
In September of 1854, the Pawnee Town Association was formed to establish a town near the new Army post at Fort Riley. The Association was composed totally of military officers and territorial officials, including Major W.R. Montgomery, the commander of the Post and the first Territorial Governor, Andrew H. Reeder of Pennsylvania. Governor Reeder assured the Association of his intent to convene the first Territorial Legislature at Pawnee if proper buildings could be constructed and Major Montgomery agreed to exclude the town site from the first survey of the fort reserve.
Pawnee was soon a booming town of a dozen or so dwellings with a two-story capitol and a large hotel under construction. By May, the hotel could boast of about 500 residents. Two sawmills were operating there and three saloons catered to the workmen and soldiers, who were building the nearby fort. In April of 1855, Governor Reeder called the first legislature to convene at Pawnee on July 2nd. However, the legislators were mostly pro-slavery Missourians, while Reeder and the Pawnee citizens were predominately Free-stators. This “Bogus” Legislature met at Pawnee July 2nd through 6th in 1855 in the unfinished Capitol Building. The main acts of the session were to expel the two free-state members and to vote to remove the seat of the governor to Shawnee Mission, a few miles from the Missouri line. Though Governor Reeder vetoed this bill, he had no choice but to join the body when they reconvened in Shawnee Mission on July 16th.
Later that summer, Jefferson Davis, the Secretary of War, in Frank Pierce’s cabinet, expanded the boundaries of the fort to include the Pawnee town-site. The citizens were ordered out and in October of 1855, soldiers used grappling hooks and rode in and pulled the houses and buildings down. This left only the old stone Capitol Building as a mute testimonial of the little settlement that was to have been the Capitol City of Kansas.
The building can still be seen on Fort Riley and is open by appointment.