TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Kansas Legislature begins the 164th session on Monday at the State Capitol. Monday marks 164 years since Kansas has had a formal governing body.
Tim Rues, Lecompton Hall Site Administrator, “164 years ago the first House of Representatives met in this very room, Constitution Hall, Lecompton, Ks.”
Tim Nedeau, Washburn Rural Middle School History teacher, found an original poster of a group of men that comprised the first House of Representatives in Kansas in 1855. The poster was originally printed in 1907 with the portraits of all members of the House of Representatives of that first Legislative session. The poster dates back to 1907. “I found this original poster at an auction in Strong City. When I saw it at the sale I knew it had some significance.”
Bill Mcfarland, Washburn Rural Middle School History teacher, ” Somebody way back when, wrote down the names and where they were from of each person in the poster. Once you have a name that allows you to do research on each person.”
There were several direct descendants from the first House of Representatives present at Friday’s presentation, including Rod Spencer, great, great, great grandson of George W. Zinn, Tim Graham, great, (x7) grandson of Asa Reynard, Sherri Neill and Barbara Dark, great, great, great granddaughter of George W. Zinn, all who still live in the Lecompton area.
The first organized Legislative assembly was formed in 1855 and is referred to as Kansas Territory’s first governing body. Free-Soil and antislavery supporters in the area provided widespread accounts of fraudulent voting in the March 30, 1855, election that selected the assembly’s initial members.
Members elected to this first legislature were expected to determine whether Kansas would enter the Union as a free or slave state. Slaveholding and proslavery Missourians, were worried about the fate of their own state’s institution due to sharing a border with two states that prohibited slavery: Illinois and Iowa.
The first meeting of this legislature was in Lecompton, Ks. Lecompton was founded in 1854 on 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, and construction began on an elegant capitol building.
In 1860 Abraham Lincoln captured the presidency with just 39% of the popular vote. The election of Lincoln and the secession of the southern states opened the door for Kansas’ admission as a free state on January 29, 1861.
In 1869, while construction was still underway, state offices were moved to the new Capitol building in Topeka from the Old Constitution Hall. The legislature first met in the new Capitol in 1870.