Humboldt History


The German settlement of Humboldt, Kansas, was founding 1857 on the bluffs of the Neosho River. Log houses and stores were soon erected in the woods and prairie adjacent to the river.

The first pro-slavery legislature of the Kansas Territory in 1855 designated Cofachique, a pro-slavery town, as the county seat. Humboldt was founded by Free Sate advocates, and in 1858 the county seat was relocated to Humboldt.

With the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, guerrilla warfare broke out between the slave state of Missouri and the mostly anti-slavery settlers in Territorial Kansas. Controversy revolved around whether Kansas would enter the Union as a slave state or a free state. Because of its isolated location, Humboldt escaped active involvement with the Border Wars; however, it was near Osage Indian land and was vulnerable to attack from guerrillas and hostile Indians who favored the Confederacy.

On January 29, 1861, Kansas was admitted into the Union as a free state. Fighting continued between Kansas and Missouri over the issue of slavery, and in April, the Civil War officially began. That summer an infantry company was organized at Humboldt and ordered to duty in Missouri leaving the women, children, and older men in the town vulnerable to attack.

With the men away, a band of Cherokee and Osage Indians and guerrillas seeking runaway slaves attacked Humboldt on September 8, 1861, under the command of Captains Mathews and Livingston. Mathews, a trader among the Osage, was married to an Osage woman and had recruited many of the Osage tribe for the Confederacy.

Humboldt, with a population of 100 families, was raided, with stores and homes robbed of any money and valuables the raiders could find. With the men absent, there was little resistance.

Hearing of the raid, General Jim Lane sent a column of cavalry under Col. Blunt to chastise the raiders. Mathews was hunted down near Chetopa and shot as he ran for his horse.

Soon afterward, the Home Guard was formed of old men, boys, and a few of the militia who returned after learning of the raid.

At about 4 pm on October 14, 1861, a Confederate cavalry suddenly invaded Humboldt. The Home Guard were caught by surprise at O'Brien's Mill where they were quartered.

Most of the buildings were set afire after the women and children were allowed to remove valuable possessions and household goods. Rebels moved through the town, setting torches to homes and businesses.

The night was illuminated by the flames of the burning town. The roaring of the fire and the crashing of the buildings could be heard for miles around. Nearly the whole town lay in ashes and ruin.

The invading troops were made to think that a defending force was on its way, so they did not remain. The captives, who had been taken a short distance from town, were released.

As a result of the raid and the burning of the town, a Union battalion was stationed at Camp Hunter, Humboldt. The troops were housed in Log Town, about 12 to 15 houses built by soldiers in the scrub oaks along the Neosho River.

An active garrison was stationed at Camp Hunter for the duration of the war.

After the Civil War was over, Humboldt prospered.