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Territorial Capital Museum

Tour Stop

Directions: The Territorial Capital Museum [ Waypoint = N39 02.694 W95 23.528 ] is located in back of the buildings at 640 E. Woodson Avenue in Lecompton, Kansas 66050.

  • From the Lecompton Historical Marker, proceed north on E 600th Road. You will go under the Kansas Turnpike (I-70).
  • After about 0.6 miles, turn left (north) onto County Road 1029.
  • After about 2.8 miles, turn left (west) onto E Woodson Avenue (County Road 1023).
  • The museum building is located just ahead on the right.
Historic Lecompton Interpretive Sign

Description: Near the street in front of the museum building, is a Historic Lecompton interpretive sign [ Waypoint = N39 02.650 W95 23.502 ]. Its text reads as follows:

In 1855, the new town of Lecompton was named the capital of Kansas Territory. President James Buchanan appointed a governor and officials to establish government offices in Lecompton, and construction began on an elegant capitol building. In the fall of 1857 a convention met in Constitution Hall and drafted the famous Lecompton Constitution, which would have admitted Kansas as a slave state. The constitution was rejected after intense national debate and was one of the prime topics of the Lincoln-Douglas debates. The controversy contributed to the growing dispute soon to erupt in civil war. The Lecompton Constitution failed, in part, because the antislavery party won control of the territorial legislature in the election of 1857. The new legislature met in Constitution Hall, now a National Historic Landmark, and immediately began to abolish the proslavery laws. The victorious free-state leaders chose Topeka as capital when Kansas became a state in 1861.

Constitution Hall, a National Historic Landmark, still stands in Lecompton and is a State Historic Site. Part of the never-completed capitol was later rebuilt as Lane University. President Dwight Eisenhower's parents met while attending Lane University and were married in Lecompton in 1885. The building now is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a museum of territorial history.

Territorial Capital Museum in Lecompton

The museum is operated by the Lecompton Historical Society. The current building was restored to it current condition in 1982. Originally, this site was to be the location of the Kansas Territorial Capitol building. Congress appropriated $50,000 for the capitol and work began in 1855. Only the basement and foundation were ever completed. By 1857, the money had run out and worked on the capitol stopped. Also, by that time free-state supporters had taken control of the territorial legislature in recent elections. In 1882, the building was finished becoming part of Lane University.

Inside of the Territorial Capital Museum you can find some artifacts found around Lecompton from the Bleeding Kansas period. In particular there are numerous artifacts found at the site of the Battle of Fort Titus and the site of Camp Sackett.

Camp Sackett was a Federal cantonment used in 1856 by the United States First Cavalry Regiment operating out of Fort Leavenworth. The camp was located a few miles southwest of Lecompton along Coon Creek. It was named after the regiment's commander, Captain Delos B. Sackett. The objective of the federal troops was to act as a buffer between the pro-slavery territorial government in Lecompton and the free-state stronghold of Lawrence. Following their arrest by the territorial government for “high treason”, seven free-state leaders were held captive at Camp Sackett. They included Charles Robinson, George Deitzler, Gaius Jenkins, George W. Brown, and John Brown, Jr.

First Democratic Headquarters in Lecompton

Located three blocks north of the museum is the First Democratic Headquarters building [ Waypoint = N39 02.906 W95 23.475 ] in Kansas. One of the earliest built in Lecompton, this stone building was used by Democratic politicians for meetings during the Bleeding Kansas period. It has been restored to it current condition by the Lecompton Historical Society.

This stone building was the headquarters of the Democratic Party during the Kansas Territorial period (1854-61). The cabin was used during a time when Lecompton, known as "The Birthplace of the Kansas Democratic Party," was the territorial capital and stood at the center of national attention. Within these walls ambitious and influential men gathered to discuss issues, plot strategies, and make decisions that helped to shape the destiny of Kansas politics and government.

First Democratic Headquarters Historical Marker

Built in the 1850s by Italian stonemason Mark Migliario, this structure was attached to a log cabin that has since disappeared. It may have been the residence of William Simmons and his son Thomas. In 1853 the Simmons traveled from Indiana to this place where they "squatted" a year before Kansas Territory legally was open for settlement. The Simmons made their living on the Kaw River, where they fished and operated the Fairy Queen, a twenty-foot ferry made from hollowed-out sycamore logs.

Later this building's function changed from politics to commerce when it was acquired by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, which for many years used the building as a pay station.

In 1997 Pat and Aurelia Istas purchased the property and began a reclamation of the building and grounds. In 1998 the site was acquired by the Lecompton Historical Society. With the assistance of many generous individuals, businesses, and organizations, the Lecompton Historical Society has restored the building and established the Historic Lecompton River View Park.

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