Emporia, Kansas: From the Beginning
Feb 25, 2013
Photograph of a map of the city of Emporia, Kansas, 1878.
The Walter M. Andersen Collection
Emporia, Kansas, was founded on February 20, 1857, by The Emporia Town Company. Emporia was named after an ancient Greek market center located south of Carthage, in North Africa, in hopes that the town would become a thriving business community. Emporia was part of Breckinridge County (Kansas Territory) before becoming the seat of the newly established Lyon County in 1860.
Mail for the area was put into a hollow tree near the Neosho River. A post office was established in Emporia after the postmaster in Columbia, Kansas, a town 3 miles south of Emporia, resigned in the fall of 1857.
Preston B. Plumb was the only member of The Emporia Town Company to make his home in Emporia. The other members consisted of George W. Brown, president, General George W. Deitzler, secretary, Lyman Allen and Columbus Hornsby, all from Lawrence, Kansas. The Emporia Town Company purchased land in Section 10, Township 19, Range 11 for $5000.
Originally, the town site was between what is currently Sixth & 18th Avenues and East & West Streets. In 1858 the southern boundary was extended to South Avenue.
Rail service was an early topic of conversation for Emporians, with the first meeting on the issue held in July 1857. A railroad line was built through the town in 1869.
Industries in early Emporia included grist mills, sawmills, and furniture stores. Stores and hotels also provided services to the young community. The first issue of the Kansas News newspaper was published July 6, 1857.
A water well was dug on the town site in 1858 and the first school opened on October 11, 1858. Kansas State Normal School was established February 15, 1863. The first bank opened in March 1865.
Emporia, Kansas, Commemorative Handkerchief, circa 1954-1964.
These highlights of the development of Emporia, Kansas, are courtesy of multiple collections located in Emporia State University’s Special Collections and Archives. The Walter M. Andersen Collection contains approximately 12,000 photographs and 20,000 negatives created or collected by Walter M. Andersen from circa 1950-1990. A History of the Early Settlers of Emporia (NAxxxx.0024) consists of a speech given by Judge Roscoe Graves to the Emporia Forum Club and the Emporia Rotary Club in 1961 and 1964, respectively. The Emporia, Kansas, Commemorative Handkerchief (2007.0005) was created by the Franshaw company circa 1954-1964 and highlights many Emporia landmarks of that time period. The Virginia Welch Forbeck Papers (NA1997.0001) consists of research materials and a thesis titled The Early History of Emporia, Kansas.
Additional materials relating to the history of Emporia and Lyon County, Kansas, are available at Special Collections and Archives in room 119 of the William Allen White Library. If you are interested in accessing our resources, our reading room is open Monday-Friday from 11-3 p.m. Special Collections and Archives staff may also be reached via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or telephone (620-341-6431).