Executive Director/Curator

France initially owned the lands that are now Brown County and then later owned by Spain. The United States purchased the area in 1800. On May 30, 1854, with the signing of the Kansas –Nebraska bill, Kansas was made an independent state. It would be almost impossible to state who was the first to stake a claim in Kansas. Still, the closest approximation of the first to lay claim were Thurston Chase and his companion, James Gibbons. These two travelers arrived in the area now known as Robinson on May 25, 1854.

Brown County organized in 1855. Hiawatha was incorporated in 1857 and became the Brown County seat in 1858. February 1857, Claytonville held the county seat of Brown County. In August 1857, the courthouse was built, which was a 20 by 30 building. The once established courthouse of Claytonville will later be repurposed as a schoolhouse until torn down in 1917. Later that year, on December 28, 1857, the county seat relocated to Carson. On April 12, 1858, Carson’s county seat term ended. The courthouse of Carson was repurposed and used as a farm building.

The county seat will then come to Hiawatha, where it remains to this day. On April 19, 1858, the county commissioners met at the newly appointed county seat for the first time in Hiawatha. The first courthouse building was 30-foot square, it had four rooms, and a hall on the lower and upper levels was a courtroom and jury room. The courthouse cost $2,000, and the first grand jury, appointed in the fall of 1858. The first probate judge was assigned duties in 1859 with an annual salary of $150. By November 14, 1872, the present courthouse was deemed unsuitable, and the inhabitants temporarily relocated to various shops throughout the town.

In 1873, Judge Hubbard appealed for a new courthouse building. Many appeals for a new courthouse building met opposition due to the multiple calamities that the new town encounters, from fire and weather disasters to annoying pests. Some of the hardships included an infestation of black rattlesnakes and yellow prairie rattlesnakes. Repeated grasshopper plagues occurring in 1874 and 1875.

On April 16, 1878, the new courthouse’s cornerstones found the ground, and the new courthouse, constructed at the cost of $20,000. On December 11, 1879, the commissioners accepted the new courthouse building. In 1925, Hiawatha will commission a new courthouse at the cost of $350,000. This courthouse stands as initially erected in 1925, an architectural masterpiece for the townspeople of Hiawatha to enjoy.

In the later years of the 1800s, the township will experience several weather-related events. On Aug. 12, 1870, Reverend Henry Anderson’s home located four miles North of Hiawatha was swept away by a tornado. May 17, 1896, a highly destructive tornado swept through Reserve. April 12, 1911, the most damaging of these storms will complete its path a few miles east of Hiawatha. As always, there is so much more to every story. Find it, be sure to reach out, and let me know what you discover! #HistoryMysteries

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