A BRIEF HISTORY
The Shawnee County Historical Society formed in 1946. It's founders recognized the need to preserve the facts and legends of the early days of our county up to more recent times. In December of that year, the young organization published its first Bulletin. The SCHS Bulletins are well-researched softbound book-length publications written by local scholars, educators, and historians Since then, the Society has published 85 Bulletins on the history, culture, and heritage of Topeka and Shawnee County. Copies of the Bulletins are available for purchase through the Society. See the Archives tab for a few of the available titles or contact us by phone or email to inquire about available subjects, titles, and prices. The Bulletin has been replaced by the Historical Highlights newsletter which is sent to members quarterly. Historical Highlights continues the tradition of the Bulletin by featuring articles of historical interest, still written with the same level of research and scholarship.
In 1995 the Society acquired the house located at 1116 SE Madison Ave in Topeka. The core home was built in 1856 by John and Mary Jane Ritchie, two abolitionists who had come to Kansas Territory from Indiana in 1855 to join the fight to bring Kansas into the Union as a Free State. The Ritchie's turned their home into a haven for freedoms seekers, becoming a station on the Underground Railroad. The home had gone through different occupancies and living configurations since 1856 and had been extensively modified. The research was conducted, a capital campaign was begun, and an extensive restoration was undertaken to return the home to its 1856 appearance. The home is now on the Kansas Register of Historic Places, the National Register of Historic Places, and is open for tours. The home is also an integral part of the SCHS education program. Individual and group tours are available. Contact us to schedule a special tour for your group or organization.
In January 2003 the Shawnee County Historical Society absorbed the assets of Historic Topeka.
In 2011 we opened the Cox Communications Heritage Education Center to the public. The purpose was to offer area schools a chance to experience a deeper understanding of Shawnee County culture and history.
Since its inception in 1855 Shawnee County's history has been the history of America and we strive to preserve that history for future generations as a flame, lighting the way to a better America
The Guiding Flame of History
A heritage literate community.
To promote greater awareness of the history of Shawnee County, Kansas, and its place in the national struggle for freedom through preservation, interpretation, education and citizen engagement.
SCHS, as a non-profit corporation, intends to preserve and interpret the history of Shawnee County, Kansas. These objectives shall include, but not be limited to:
Promoting public participation in local historical preservation and heritage commemoration;
Recognizing exceptional historic preservation;
Publishing materials on Shawnee County, Kansas history;
Preserving and interpreting selected historic landmarks;
Providing community education in areas of local history and culture; and;
Collaborating with relevant heritage organizations.