BOUNDARIES AND NATURAL FEATURES.
Leavenworth County was one of those originally erected by the First Territorial Legislature of 1855. Its boundaries, as first defined in the Territorial act, Section 27, were as follows:
The boundaries, as then defined, embraced essentially the present county and the county of Wyandotte, lying south of it. Wyandotte was detached and erected into a separate county, by act of the Territorial Legislature, January 29, 1859. The part of the new county detached from Leavenworth, is described in the act as follows:
The County of Leavenworth was thus diminished to essentially its present proportions, which are defined in the compiled statutes of 1881, thus:
It is bounded: North, by Atchison County; east, by the Missouri River; south, by Wyandotte County and Kansas River; and west, by Jefferson County.
The present subdivisions are as follows: Towns – Easton, Kickapoo, Alexandria, High Prairie, Delaware, Tonganoxie, Stranger, Fairmount, Reno, Sherman; City of Leavenworth; and the United States Military Reservation of Fort Leavenworth.
As originally formed, Leavenworth County was a purely river district. By the creation of Wyandotte County, its southeastern portion was cut off, leaving the Missouri River for its northeastern boundary merely. Leavenworth is one of the flourishing northeastern counties of Kansas, and has an area of 455 square miles. There is an abundance of timber and rolling prairie land, and the whole surface of the county is well watered by streams or living springs. Good well water is obtained at a depth of from fifteen to twenty-five feet. Stranger Creek enters the county of way of Easton Township, flows in a generally southerly direction through Alexandria, the southwest corner of High Prairie, through Stranger and Sherman townships, and empties into the Kansas River. Its tributaries, the Little Stranger, Tonganoxie, Nine Mile creeks, drain much of the territory further east and southwest. Kickapoo, High Prairie, Leavenworth and Delaware townships, in the northeastern part of the county, are also drained by multitudes of smaller streams flowing into the Missouri River.
The face of the country is thus divided: Bottom land, 20 per cent; upland, 80 per cent; forest, 10 per cent; prairie, 90 per cent. the general surface is undulating, with bluffs near the Missouri River. The bottom lands average from one to one and a half miles in width, the timber belts being about the same. White oak, walnut, burr oak, cottonwood and hickory are the natural varieties of wood, and in districts not well wooded the cultivation of timber is rapidly progressing.
The surface of the country, away from the river bottoms, which are level alluvial prairie, is undulating, being broken into mounds and detached elevations of considerable altitude along the Missouri River, and declining into a continuous rolling prairie a few miles inland. It is somewhat sparsely wooded.
The timber belts extend up and down the Stranger and along the river bottoms of the Kansas and Missouri, and average a mile in width. The principal varieties are white oak, burr oak, walnut, cottonwood, hickory, elm and hackberry.
The soil is, throughout the uplands where no croppings of rock appear, a rich loam of somewhat reddish color, owing to its admixture with the “bluff” or “loess” deposit of the Missouri. The bottoms are the thick black alluvium deposits so common in the Western States as to need no further description. The soil for several feet from the surface is so rich in vegetable matter as to render its fertility well nigh inexhaustible. The whole surface of the county is arable land, capable of producing large and reliable crops of all cereals and other agricultural products common to the latitude or climate. Wheat, corn and flax are the leading staple products.
Blue limestone, of a hard, durable texture is found underlying nearly the whole of the county, it being extensively quarried at the penitentiary, near Leavenworth. Sandstone is also found in the southern part of the county, while traces of hydraulic cement and fire-clay have been discovered in Reno Township, in the southwestern part. But the great geological blessing for which Leavenworth County is truly thankful is her coal, which underlies about seven per cent. of her area. It is found at a depth of from fifty to 700 feet, and the mines which have been in operation near Leavenworth City since 1870, are pronounced by experts to be among the most valuable and extensive west of Ohio. This coal contains 56 per cent carbon, while the best bituminous deposits of Pennsylvania contain but 64 per cent. It is pronounced by railways and manufacturers as far superior to all other Western coal for steam making, and is becoming a powerful natural agent in the development of the manufacturing industries of Leavenworth County.
The true Coal Measures which appear in the southeastern area of the State extend persistently north, being found along the towns bordering the Missouri River, in a vein averaging twenty-eight inches in thickness, at a depth of 500 to 700 feet. Less persistent and broken veins have been struck within a depth of 100 feet. Shafts to the lower beds are now being successfully worked at Leavenworth and the State penitentiary, further accounts of which appear elsewhere.
For picturesque beauty the county is unexcelled by any other section of the State. The rough and broken scenery along the banks of the Missouri – the rounded hills, further inland, so regular in form as to seem the work of man instead of the hand-work of nature, robed to the top with the verdure of the green pastures – further still, stretches the great sea of rolling prairie fringed with woodland along the creeks and streams, and along the banks of the Kansas the broad green meadows, shaded with the thick growth of elm and cottonwood – all combined present such varied and lovely types of rural scenery as are rarely found within the restricted area of a single county.
THE OLDEST COUNTY.
The county of Leavenworth is, as the abode of white men, the oldest region of the State. The first fort within the limits of Kansas was there established, and the first farm was there tilled by white men. The first postoffice on the upper Missouri was there. The first squatters who came into the Territory after the passage of the Territorial act, drove their stakes in Leavenworth County. The first town organization completed was that of Leavenworth, where the first Kansas paper was printed – The Kansas Herald,, September 15, 1854. The first Territorial Governor, Andrew H. Reeder, first set foot in the Territory in Leavenworth County. The other first Territorial officers: Judges, Surveyors, Secretaries, etc., all made their first official bows to the Delaware Indians, who at that time owned the county, or to their white brethren, who, as citizens of the yet unborn commonwealth, had squatted on the domains of the dusky proprietors, in anxious waiting for whatever might turn up. It is more than likely, although it cannot be proven, that the first stationary steam engine was set to running in Leavenworth, and if so, the first lumber was sawed there. It is certain the first political caucus was held there, as well as the first criminal trial under the Territorial laws. What other first events transpired there will appear in the course of history. Enough have been noted to mark Leavenworth County as one of leading historical importance in the chronicles of the Territory and State.