History of Riley County

Compiled by the staff of the Riley County Historical Museum.

  1. Riley County
  2. Fort Riley
  3. Manhattan
  4. Railroads
  5. Flooding

Founding of Riley County

Riley County's  founding occurred during the exciting, volatile years shortly before the Civil War. The Indian lands of Kansas Territory were opened to legal  settlement after 1854. Land hungry immigrants poured into the Territory, most motivated by a combination of reasons, ideological with the fight  to make Kansas a free state, and financial with the prospect of fortune  making in the new territory. The area now comprising Riley County was  part of the Kansa Indian reservation, though by 1854 the Kansa Indians  no longer lived in the Riley County area. Increased settlement and  travel disrupted the lives of Indians living in today's Kansas and  conflicts developed. The Federal Government decided a military fort was  needed further west than Leavenworth to maintain order and guard the  Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. Thus Fort Riley was located at the junction  of the Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers in 1853. Originally named Camp  Center, the fort was renamed in June 1853 in honor of the recently  deceased Major General Bennet C. Riley, former Commander of Ft.  Leavenworth, Mexican War Veteran, and last territorial Governor of  California.