In 1802, Spain returned most of the land to France, but
keeping title to about 7,500 square miles. In 1803, most of the land for modern
day Kansas was acquired by the United States from France as part of the
828,000 square mile Louisiana Purchase for 2.83 cents per acre.
In 1854, the Kansas Territory was organized. Allen County is one
of the 33 counties established by the first territorial legislature in August
1855, six years before Kansas statehood in 1861. It was named in honor of William
Allen, a United States senator from Ohio. At the time of its creation,
Charles Passmore was appointed probate judge; B.W. Cowden and Barnett Owen were
appointed county commissioners, and William Godfrey was appointed sheriff. The
appointments were temporary until the general election in 1857. The four men
were authorized to appoint the county clerk and treasurer thus completing the
Richard J. Fuqua and his family are considered the first white settlers in
the county, arriving in the valley of the Neosho River January 1855.
Fuqua established a post for trading with the neighboring Indian tribes which
became quite popular with the Sac and Fox Indians. B.W. Cowden and H.D. Parsons
arrived in March of the same year and selected claims in the valley of the
Neosho River, near the mouth of Elm Creek. The next settlement was made near
the mouth of Deer Creek (so named for the abundance of deer in the area) by
Major James Parsons, and his two sons, Jesse and James, and a Mr. Duncan. The population
grew rapidly through the spring and summer of 1855, most of it located on or
near the Neosho River.
Many of the early settlers were pro-slavery, but few slaves were actually
brought into the county. The anti-slavery population expressed such antipathy
toward their pro-slavery neighbors that slaves within the county there were
either freed or taken elsewhere in Kansas by their masters. Immigration
continued during the summer and fall of 1856, though in reduced numbers.
The first town and county seat was Cofachique. In the
spring of 1855 pro-slavery settlers from Fort Scott laid out the town
in a hilly area east of the Neosho River and south of the mouth of Elm Creek.
The territorial legislature passed an act in July 1855 incorporating the
Cofachique Town Association. It was the only town in Allen County for nearly
two years and as such was quite successful; but in 1857 other towns were
constructed and Cofachique began to decline almost immediately. One of the
reasons for decline was accessibility; the other was a lack of good well water.
Another possible contribution to the town's decline involved tensions between
the pro and anti-slavery settlers. With the development of neighboring
towns Humboldt and Iola the town of Cofachique all but
disappeared by 1859. The county seat went briefly to Humboldt in 1857
where it remained until 1865, but with the election of that year Iola took the
county seat and has retained this designation to the present.
After a series of disputes between residents in the county over where a
county jail should be located, Allen County's first jail was
constructed in Iola in 1869 at a cost of $8,400. It operated until a
replacement jail house was opened in 1959. Since that time the original jail
has been run as a museum.
The last year of the territorial period (1860) was one of the most
difficult years since the initial settlement of the county. Periods of drought
beginning as early as 1854 had plagued all of Kansas and though 1859 had seen a
reprieve, by the end of 1859 and into 1860 the drought worsened. The St.
Laurence newspaper reported: "No rain, no snow, and much open, thawing,
mild weather, alternated with sharp, though brief [cold] snaps. . . ." Most
of the people who had moved to the county in the previous two years were still
trying to establish their farms. With the prospect of starvation and hardship
before them, many decided to return to the east.