Kennekuk

Although Kansas territory wasn’t opened up for settlement until 1854 that did mean that Atchison County was devoid of population. The Kansa Indians had been living there for 400 years. Many Indian mounds were discovered along the river in Atchison County according to George Remsburg. The 1830 Congress passed a law designating Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and the Dakotas as permanent Indian territory. In this manner the Kickapoo Indians were squeezed out of the of the Great Lakes area. On October 24th, 1832. The Kickapoo Indians were assigned to a reservation in Northeast Kansas which included most of Atchison County.

Later in 1854,Congress passed a law reducing the size of the Indian reservation to cover the state of Oklahoma and to create the territories of Kansas and Nebraska open to settlement. Some of the Kickapoo Indians were moved to the western part of Atchison County where both an agency and a school were set up. They gave it the name Kennekuk after a Kickapoo chieftain Kennekuk, the best known of the Kickapoo Chiefs. George Caitlin painted a portrait of him that hangs in the Smithsonian.

The settlement of Kennekuk was established to take advantage of the passing commerce at a spot where the California and Oregon Trail connected with the Fort Leavenworth-Fort Kearney Military Road. Many businesses opened up benefited from the passing stage traffic. Thomas Perry opened up a well-known tavern in Sept. of 1857. The tavern served several famous people such as Mark Twain, Horace Greeley, George Custer and Kit Carson. Kenneduk was not only the first home station for the Overland Stage route from Atchison but also became a station on the Pony Express.

The town plat reveals the plans for the town to become an important stop on the gateway to the West. There were 10 streets with additional blocks designated for a market house and park for religious and educational purposes. By 1863, the little town had about a dozen houses with a store, blacksmith shop and the Indian agency. The building of the Rock Island Railroad destroyed the town as the rival town of Horton was started two miles away on the railroad. On Dec. 15, 1871 the County Commissioners vacated the town site but not the post office which lasted until Oct. 20, 1900. The historic town of Kennekuk by 1980 still contained about 12 residences along with the thriving Gaskell Bolt and Nut Company, which was actually 1 mile south of the town site. As of 2020 there are 8 houses standing and Gaskell Machine and Metal (now the current name owned by Kirk Gaskell) has moved to Horton. The old buildings of the company still exist but are rented out for other uses.

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