Articles Tagged ‘Kansas History’

Franklin County Courthouse

Franklin County Courthouse MapBuilt in 1893, the Franklin County Courthouse is one of thirteen Kansas Courthouses designed by George P. Washburn of Ottawa, Kansas.  Mr. Washburn was one of the best known Kansas architects of the 19th Century. The Franklin County Courthouse was the second courthouse he designed and is the oldest one still in use. Franklin County was organized in 1855 as one of the original 36 counties of Kansas. As with many counties in their early stages of growth the county seat moved among some of the early settlements in Franklin County until an election in August 1864 and the voters selected Ottawa as the offical county seat.

Once it was established that Ottawa would be the county seat, the county offices and court were housed in a variety of buildings along main street for the next several years. Finally in 1884 residents began to seek a permanent building for the county court and county offices. However it was not until 1891 when plans and funding would come together to build the much needed courthouse. After a special election in March of 1891 authorizing a 3 mill levy passed by a two to one margin, planning began for what would be one grand courthouse. County Commissioners chose local architect George P. Washburn to design the new courthouse after visiting the just completed Johnson County Courthouse that Mr. Washburn had designed. Soon afterwards L.W. Divelbliss of Olathe, Kansas was chosen as the low bidder on the project with a bid of $45,939 for the building. Once extra costs were included  for vault doors, lighting rods, light fixtures, plumbing and heating and costs the total came to $66,939.25.

With Mr. Washburn serving as the building supervisor and using many local craftsmen and workers work soon began on the massive structure. The limestone used for the basement walls was shipped in from the Rettiger Quarry in Strong City, Kansas. The red brick was made by the Ottawa Brick and Tile Company and sandstone was shipped from as far as Warrensburg, MO. The interior trim was Oak with a hand rubbed oil finish and bronze hardware and fittings.

The courthouse measures 73 feet by 112 feet and includes a full basement, three floors of offices and an intricate roof design, making it a impressive site rising from the Kansas prairie. From the laying of the cornerstone on July 4, 1892 to the dedication ceremony on October 3, 1893, it took less than two years to complete the massive structure. Completing such as large building in that time frame is a testimony to the hard work and determination that is such a part of the Kansas work ethic.

Described as a "Romanesque Revival" style of architecture, the Franklin County Courthouse features stone arches above the  second story windows along with a continuous stone band around the building. There are large porches on the east and west sides that feature balconies with wrought iron railings supported by large brick pillars. Finely carved figures of angels, demons, flowers, fruit and insects are an integral part of the sandstone trim. The courthouse features a hip roof with gables at the center of all four sides. It also has two cupolas with a four sided clock on the west cupola and a open bell in the east cupola. There is also a "Statue of Justice" on top of the west gable. Including a "Statue of Justice" in the design is a common theme of many of the courthouses designed by George P. Washburn. 

The courthouse has been beautifully maintained and bot the exterior and interior spaces remain much the same as they did when it was built. The courthouse was used in the making of the 1989 movie "Cross of Fire" with both the courtroom as well as the exterior of the building being used.

"Into these ample halls, all shall invite our friends, and let the beauty and solidity of the structure speak of the social harmony and material prosperity of Franklin County"  ~Judge A.W. Benson at the Dedication Address on October 3, 1893

Franklin County Courthouse Image Gallery



Grinter Place State Historic Site

Grinter House

Grinter House

Built in 1857 the Grinter House is the oldest home in Wyandotte County, Kansas. Located near the historic Delaware Crossing, (also known as the “Military Crossing”) on the Kansas River the historic home was built by Moses and Annie Grinter who were some of the first settlers in the area.

Kansas Flag

The Kansas State Flag was designed in 1925 but it was not until 1927 that it was offically adopted by the Kansas State Legislature as the offical state flag. The flag is a shade of blue called "azure" which is said to represent the color of the sky. On the flag are the State Seal and a Sunflower. Later in 1961 the word "Kansas" was added below the seal. The flag was first flown in 1927 at Fort Riley by Governor Benjamin S. Paulen. Prior to the flag Kansas used a state banner instead of a flag. The banner was designed to be hung from a horizontal bar rather than being flown as are typical flags. For more information on the Kansas Banner check out the KansaPeadia website.

Flag of Kansas.svg

Kansas State Seal

The Kansas State Seal was adopted by the Kansas Legislature on May 25, 1861. It is based on a heavily modified design submitted by John J. Ingalls who was a state senator from Atchison. He also proposed the state motto, "Ad astra per aspera", which is a latin phrase meaning "To the Stars through Difficulties."

The key elements of the seal are:

  1. A landscape with a rising sun which represents the east.
  2. A river and steamboat which represents commerce.
  3. A settler's cabin and a man plowing a field which respresents agriculture as the basis of the future prosperity of the state.
  4. A wagon train heading west which represents westard expansion and pioneer life.
  5. Two indians pursuing a buffalo, symbollic of the native american heritage of Kansas.
  6. A cluster of thirty-four stars identifying Kansas as the 34th state.
  7. The state motto "Ad Astra per Aspera".


Silkville, Kansas….”The Silk Capital of America.

Silkville, Kansas…The Silk Capital of America.

Silkville, Kansas was started in 1868 by Frenchman Ernest Valeton De Boissiere after he purchased around 3,500 acres of land in Franklin County with the idea of creating a socialistic, utopian community, based on communal living.  Silkville was never a real town although many people refer to it today as a “ghost town.” It was a privately owned commune based on socialistic principles. Workers would be paid according to their productivity and each one had to put down a $100 deposit, provide for their own needs and pay rent for their rooms two months in advance in order to be part of the commune.

Silkville SchoolMr. Boissiere was a native of Bordeaux, France and believed that the climate in Kansas was perfect for growing mulberry trees, whose leaves are the food of choice for silkworms. After being banished from France by Napolean III, the wealthy De Boissiere wanted to build his idea of the ideal community and ended up purchasing land just outside of Williamsburg, Kansas, Mr. De Bossiere planted thousands of white mulberry trees on 70 acres of his land and imported silkworms being determined to make Silkville the “Silk Capital of America”.  He also built a large chateau that had 60 rooms including several dining rooms, 40 family rooms and a large library containing around 2,500 books. This "chateau” was the center piece of Silkville and was used to house the workers and be heart of his commune.  Close to the chateau he also erected several other stone buildings including a silk barn where cocoons could be cared for as well as buildings where looms could be used for weaving the silk. Many other improvements and buildings were built on the large acreage, including a stone school house which still stands today as well 15 miles of stone fence, some of which remains today.

The idea of producing silk in Kansas was not unique to Mr. De Boissiere. In fact several counties in Kansas at that time promoted the planting of mulberry trees to be used for raising silkworms. The idea was popular enough that a Silk Commission was formed to encourage the growth of this new industry.


Estimates differ as to how many people lived at Silkville. Some say it never had more than 40-50 workers, many of which came from France and whom were skilled silk dyers and weavers. Others say the Chateau housed upwards of 100 people. The workers lived in the large three story stone “chateau” in a sort of communal arrangement. Mr. De Bossiere strongly disapproved of any type of religion and was against marriage to the point that either one would be grounds to be expelled from the commune. Most of the surrounding area was settled by Methodist’s or Baptist’s and there were rumors that the residents of Silkville practiced “free love” and stories of wild sex orgies in Silkville were widely spread, even if unproven. During its heyday Silkville had workers from all over the world with the majority being from France and Sweden. Many of the workers did not stay long at the commune, instead preferring to invest in their own private property rather than communal living.

Before long the land at Silkville was producing a very high quality silk and by 1872 Silkville had three looms operating that were capable of producing 224 yards of silk ribbon a day. In 1876 the silk won prizes at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition being judged superior to silk samples from France and Japan. Thus Silkville earned the title of the “The Silk Producing Capital of America”.

Besides silk, Silkville also produced cheese, wine and other dairy products. By 1871 there were some 8,000 mulberry trees growing as well as some 2,000 peach trees and 1,000 grape vines. Eventually the onslaught of cheaper foreign silk signaled the end to the silk production and the commune began to decline in the mid 1880’s. Most of the workers moved on to other higher paying jobs elsewhere and in 1892 De Boissiere turned the estate over to the Odd Fellows Lodge and moved back to France, where he died in 1894.

Silkville Stone Wall

The “chateau” was used for a short time as an orphanage but a fire in 1916 gutted the inside. Today a much smaller white, hip-roofed farm house is all that is left of the “chateau” along with some of the original stone buildings, including two that were thought to be the original “silk barns”. Other remnants of Silkville still left are the Silkville School and some of the old stone fences that surrounded the area. The original tract of land was later sold and became a private farm with close to 3,000 acres remaining under one ownership. Today it is a working ranch named the Silkville Ranch.

The success of silk production in Silkville led to the Kansas Legislature appropriating $13,000 to establish a silk station. The first location was at Larned, Kansas in 1887. Later it was changed to Peabody, Kansas. By 1888 Kansas was producing about one-fifth of the silk cocoons in America. After that silk production began to decline to low profits and in 1897 the Kansas Legislature discontinued the silk culture promotions.

Enough remains of Silkville today to make it worth seeing. It is private property so be respectful and enjoy imagining what it would have like during its heyday.

Resources and Additional Information:

Silkville Kansas

Silkville Kansas Map

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