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Many forts were established in early Kansas; a few by the fur companies, some by the War Department, some by state troops, a number by settlers as a place of refuge from the Indians, and a few by free-state and proslavery forces during the Territorial struggle. Some of them consisted merely of a wall of earth thrown up, others of a strongly built log cabin within a line of earthworks or line of palisades. Many of them were more pretentious, and were built of logs, adobe, or stone. Some of the forts established by the National Government cost many thousands of dollars and most of them had large land reserves. As the settlements moved westward the necessity for the forts no longer existed, and with the exception of Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley, which are still maintained by the National Government as army posts, they fell into disuse.


The principal early forts were:

  • Fort Kanzas, established by the French fur traders in the early part of the eighteenth century, was located in what is now Atchison County. It is mentioned in the journal of Lewis and Clark as an abandoned fort.
  • Fort Lyon, earlier called Bent's Fort, was built in 1826 for a fur-trading post. It occupied several different sites on the Arkansas River, all of them within the present bounds of Colorado, the last one being within Territorial Kansas. It was opened to settlement in 1890.
  • Fort Leavenworth was established in 1827 by Col. Henry Leavenworth of the United States army. It has from its beginning been an important military post. More than $2,000,000 has been expended on it, and it now ranks among the first of the military posts of the United States.
  • Fort Riley was established in 1852 by the United States. It has been enlarged and improved from time to time until it is now an important military center. Fort Riley is near the junction of the Republican and Smoky Hill rivers, and is very near the geographical center of the United States.
  • Fort Atkinson, one of the early forts erected along the Santa Fe Trail, was located on the Arkansas River about six miles above the present site of Dodge City. This fort was built in 1850 and abandoned in 1854. It was known for a few months as Fort Mackey, when the name was changed to Fort Atkinson.
  • Fort Mann was probably erected about 1845 on or near the site on which Fort Atkinson was later built.
  • Fort Scott was built in 1842 on the site of the present city of Fort Scott. In 1853 it ceased to be used as a military post, and in 1855 the buildings were sold. This fort had no reservation. Fort Lamed was located in 1859 on Pawnee Fork, about eight miles above the mouth of that stream. It was for a number of years an important post, but was later abandoned as a fort, and in 1882 the reservation was opened for sale to settlers.
  • Fort Saunders was a proslavery stronghold about twelve miles southwest of Lawrence in 1856. It was destroyed by a body of freestate settlers the same year.
  • Fort Titus, located about two miles south of Lecompton, was a log house used as a proslavery fortification. It was captured and destroyed by free-state forces shortly after the destruction of Fort Saunders.
  • Fort Wakarusa was a free-state fortification on the Wakarusa River, about five miles from Lawrence.
  • Fort Bain was a log cabin in the northern part of Bourbon County which served as a retreat for John Brown and James Montgomery in 1857 and 1858.
  • Fort Baxter, a military post, was established by General Blunt in 1863. It was the scene of an attack by Quantrill, known as the Baxter Springs massacre. After the war the town of Baxter Springs grew up on the site.
  • Fort Dodge was one of the most important forts on the western frontier. It was located to the east of The Caches, near Dodge City, in 1864. The first buildings were of adobe, but in 1867 good buildings were erected. Fort Dodge was not abandoned until 1882. The Soldiers' Home at Fort Dodge was later established on a part of this military reservation.
  • Fort Downer was located on Downer's Creek, about fifty miles west of Fort Hays. It was in existence between 1863 and 1868.
  • Fort Harker was established in 1864, near the present site of Ellsworth, with the name Fort Ellsworth. Two years later the name was changed to Fort Harker and the site moved about a mile northeast. This fort was for a long time the shipping point for freight bound for New Mexico. Fort Harker was abandoned in 1872 and the reservation opened to settlement in 1880.
  • Fort Wallace was established near the present town of Wallace in 1865. This was an important post during the building of the Union Pacific railroad. It was abandoned as a fort in 1882, and in 1888 the land was ordered sold.
  • Fort Zarah was established in 1864, about four miles east of the present city of Great Bend. It was dismantled in 1869, and the reservation was later sold.
  • Fort Hays was established by the National Government, in 1865, about fourteen miles southeast of the present Hays City, and was for a year known as Fort Fletcher. In 1867 a new site, about threefourths mile from Hays City, was selected. The reservation consisted of 7500 acres. General Sheridan used Fort Hays for headquarters during the Black Kettle raid in 1868. It continued to be used as a military post until 1889. In 1900 Kansas secured the land and buildings for educational purposes. The Fort Hays Kansas Normal School and an experiment station for the Agricultural College are now located there.
  • Fort Henning, Fort Blair, and Fort Insley were three blockhouses erected at Fort Scott in 1861 for the purpose of guarding military stores from the Confederate forces.
  • Fort Lincoln was built by Lane in 1861, about twelve miles north-west of Fort Scott, for protection from the Confederate forces. It was abandoned in 1864.
  • Fort Aubrey was one of the forts established in 1865 by the soldiers sent to quell the Indian uprisings. It was located near the present village of Mayline in Hamilton County. It was abandoned the following year.
  • Fort Jewell was erected in 1870 on the site of Jewell City for the protection of the settlers against the Cheyennes who were then on the warpath. It consisted of a wall of earth around a fifty-yard square. After the Indian troubles were over Fort Jewell was abandoned.

Source: A History of Kansas / Anna E. Arnold. pp.227-229