Territorial Capital Museum
640 E. Woodson, Lecompton, KS 66050
Lecompton was founded in 1854 on a bluff along the south bank of the Kansas River. It was originally called “Bald Eagle,” but then later changed to Lecompton in honor of Samuel D. Lecompte, the chief justice of the territorial Supreme Court. In 1855, the town became the permanent and only official capital of the Kansas Territory. President James Buchanan appointed a governor and officials to establish government offices in Lecompton. Construction on the capitol building began with an appropriation of $50,000 from the United States Congress.
In the fall of 1857, a convention met in Constitution Hall and drafted the famous Lecompton Constitution, which would have admitted Kansas as a slave state. The Constitution met opposition in the Senate and House and was eventually defeated by only eight votes in the House of Representatives. The Constitution’s defeat meant Lecompton would not become capital of Kansas. By this time, the foundation for the capitol’s three wings were laid, but only the only the first floor of the capitol’s center section was built. All the materials needed to complete the section, including four pillars, were laid on the ground as construction ceased. The building was finally completed in 1882, and dedicated as Lane University on June 21. The building had a self-supporting roof, which was architecturally unique in the area at that time.
The capitol building has served as a historical focal point for Lecompton throughout its existence. In 1856, the shell of the first floor, still under construction, served as a defensive position for the people of Lecompton and Camp Sackett’s Cavalry as they repelled James Lane’s assault on the town. Lane attempted to rescue the “to be” Governor, Charles Robinson from jail, as he had recently been tried for treason. David J. Eisenhower and Ida Stover met at Lane University and were married in the building in 1885. They later became the parents of Dwight D. Eisenhower, America’s 34th President. Today the building houses three floors of artifacts representing the history of pre-Civil War Kansas through the Lane University period.
The Museum is open: Wednesday – Saturday 11-4 and Sunday 1-5