Soon after the Kansas-Nebraska Act was signed in 1854, Leavenworth became the first city of Kansas and the great jumping off place for western travelers. Located immediately west, across the river from Missouri, it was then the westernmost edge of the United States. The rapidly growing town represented hope and promise to many pioneers and in numerous ways, characterized the people who would eventually explore and settle in the West. Few had a realistic idea of the trials that the Great Plains presented. Nevertheless, they saw Leavenworth, the budding river city, everything that beckoned them to an unknown future.
Leavenworth grew rapidly and by the 1880s and 1890s, it became the most important manufacturing city in Kansas and one of the largest in the entire United States. Boasting sixty-seven prosperous and growing industries, it was third in furniture production in the United States, had the second largest mill-machinery plant in the country, led in the manufacture of stoves, and produced over 250,000 tons of coal per year withing the city limits. Although it appeared Leavenworth was destined to become a major transportation center, it lost out when a bridge across the Missouri River was built at Kansas City thereby making it the terminus of major railroads and major business center instead of Leavenworth.
Although known today for its correctional facilities, Leavenworth boasts many "firsts" for Kansas and has welcomed a wide variety of immigrants, southern Exodusters, and many nationally recognized figures in history. Leavenworth played a significant role in early Kansas history....from Bleeding Kansas days, the Civil War, and the development of manufacturing and industry. Leavenworth is recognized for its annual Veteran's Day and St. Patrick's Day parades, Buffalo Bill and History Festivals, Women's Suffrage, and being adjacent to Fort Leavenworth, a wide range of military figures and the wars they fought.
The Leavenworth County Historical Society
When the City of Leavenworth began planning the Centennial celebration of its founding in 1954, the thought of forming a historical society emerged. Interested citizens realized a rapid destruction of significant Leavenworth landmarks. The Kiwanis Club, then headed by James Fussell, promoted the idea and by the fall of 1954, the sponsorship of an “Historic Essay Contest” was announced to motivate public interest. Consequently the Leavenworth Historical Society was organized by 147 charter members, in December 1954. The original mission statement was: To discover and preserve for posterity as much accurate information as possible about Leavenworth City and County, to encourage pride in the achievements of Leavenworth pioneers who made significant contributions to the conquest of the west and the building of a united nation, to stimulate loyalty on the part of present citizens of the community and its potential progress, and to advertise the City and County of Leavenworth in such a way as to create national and international interest in the most historical region of Kansas.
Society charter member, Miss Ella Carroll, donated her Victorian home in 1964 to the Society for use as a museum. As the main repository of the Leavenworth County legacy of history, the Society has continued its mission of discovering, preserving and sharing that history. The Carroll House serves not only as a house museum of Leavenworth artifacts, but also as an archive and research center of that history.
The Society currently houses a reference library of local and state history, archives containing unpublished historical materials, family histories, police records from the early years, business records, school yearbooks, city directories, etc., and thousands of photos of early Leavenworth street scenes, studio portraits, parades, farming and manufacturing. Visitors are offered an insight to and appreciation of the pioneering spirit of our early settlers, their hardships through slavery, Indian attacks, Kansas climate, and war, as well as the sacrifices made before Kansas became a state. In addition to museum tours with an overview of Leavenworth and early Kansas history, the Society also offers research of local history utilizing a research committee for assistance in locating materials and conducting independent research for genealogists, students, and historians. Information has been provided to such organizations as the National Geographic Magazine, Time-Life Books, The Jeopardy Game Show, PBS and the History Channel documentaries, the Smithsonian, U.S. Congress, National Archives in Kansas City, other museums in the U.S. and Canada , and numerous free-lance writers for their published articles and books. Locally the Society contributes information to the City, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Main Street, Chamber of Commerce, Leavenworth County Bar Association, and other museums.
The Carroll Mansion Museum
Donated to the Society ten years after its founding the museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once the home of four prominent families, the museum today is much like it appeared after a major renovation in the mid 1880s.
History: John McCullough Foster came to Leavenworth, Kansas Territory in 1857, less than three years after the establishment of the town. Twenty-four year old Foster and his wife, Letitia purchased lots 8,9, and 10 on the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and Middle street from William and Abby Marshall for $900. A carpenter by trade, Foster built the original four room frame house with a one-story rear kitchen wing on the property. Ten years later, in 1867, Foster added to the original house, creating a brick Italianate. As a result of the real estate panic of the 1870s, Foster sold the house in August 1876 to Major David Taylor, a United States Army paymaster. Following Taylor’s death shortly thereafter, his widow eventually sold the property to Lucien and Julia Scott for $5,200 in August 1882.
Considered then the richest man in Kansas, Lucien Scott was the president of the First National Bank of Leavenworth, the president of the Leavenworth Coal Company, and the vice-president of the Kansas Central Railroad. He hired local carpenter George McKenna to expand the house into a the sixteen-room Queen Anne Victorian mansion seen today. The interior received elaborately embellished woodwork and plumbing and gas lighting were installed, which had become available in Leavenworth. The Scotts’ lavish entertaining made the home one of the city’s social gathering places in the 1880s.
In December 1887, Lucien and Julia Scott sold the property for $20,000 to Edward Carroll, of the Leavenworth National Bank. Mr. Carroll and his wife, Mary Ellen Hunt Carroll and their six children resided here, with Miss Ella being its final resident. Following 77 years of Carroll family ownership, Miss Ella donated the home, which had been lovingly maintained and minimally modernized during their ownership, to the Historical Society.
Today, a visit to the Carroll Mansion allows visitors to “step back in time” where the Victorian era in Leavenworth County can be experienced. Featuring elaborately hand-carved woodwork, stained glass windows, parquet floors, and a myriad of unique architectural details, the home is filled with furniture, portraiture, and artifacts, all with a Leavenworth provenance. Decorative features installed by George McKenna are the highlights of the house. Most rooms have combination gas and electric light fixtures dating from the 1880s. The total square footage of the mansion is 6,131 square feet with the living space divided into sixteen rooms. On the first floor, the parlor, hall, library, drawing room, and dining room have individual parquet floor inlays of maple, oak, walnut, and mahogany. A grand staircase leads to bedrooms, two bathrooms, and ladies parlor on the second floor.
A Carroll Mansion Video
Leavenworth County Historical Society
1128 5th Ave, Leavenworth, KS 66048