One of the oldest settlements in Kansas, Baldwin
City is located about 15 miles south
Lawrence and got its start
during the opening days of Kansas
Territory when it was little more than a trail stop on the
Santa Fe Trail. The first settlement near the present town site, was made in
1854, by Robert and Richard Pierson. In June, 1854, a town site consisting of
320 acres, was platted by the Palmyra Town Company, which was composed of the
following men: James Blood, Robert Pierson, the Baricklaw brothers, James B. Abbott, Captain Saunders, Amasa Soule, L.F. and D.F. Green, Dr. A.T.
Still and D. Fry. They named the town Palmyra, and the first building was soon
erected and used for a dwelling by J. Cantrell.
W. Westfall next built a second cabin and opened a
store and the town company also erected a building known as the old barracks, which
became the second store. A hotel was also built by the company and was called
the Santa Fe House. Dr. Simmons and Dr.
Pierson were the first physicians, as they opened offices in Palmyra in 1856, at
which time the town had a harness shop, a blacksmith, lawyer, drug store, a
tavern, several stores, a good hotel for the period, and a number
of dwellings. The Palmyra post office was
established in 1856, with N. Blood as postmaster. Religious services were first
held at residences
by the Methodist Church in 1855. Before the
Baldwin City was situated in the midst of several events the
Kansas-Missouri Border War,
including the Battle of Black Jack about three miles east of Baldwin on June 2,
In 1858, the town company purchased a section of land adjoining Palmyra on
the north and donated it to the Kansas Educational Association of the Methodist
Episcopal Church on the condition that they locate an college
known as Baker University on the site. The section of land was surveyed into
lots and sold, the proceeds being used to erect the college building. As the work on the university building progressed,
a number of houses were erected in the area, which soon became known as Baldwin, in honor of John Baldwin of Berea, Ohio,
who was the primary benefactor of the college.
Business buildings were also erected and one by one the business enterprises of
Palmyra moved to Baldwin. That same year, the Methodist Church built a chapel
that was used by the congregation. Baker University is the oldest oldest four-year college in the state of
and four of its buildings are now listed on the National Register of Historic
John Baldwin erected a saw and grist mill at the present-day site
of Fifth and Indiana Streets, and inaugurated other commercial enterprises, which
proved the death blows to the old town of Palmyra, which later was abandoned.
The post office was moved and the name officially changed from Palmyra to
Baldwin City on May 22, 1862.
In the midst of the
Raiders passed within three miles of Baldwin after the
in August, 1863.
the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Fort Gibson Railroad laid tracks and became the
railroad south of the Kansas River. The city continued to grow and by the turn
of the century it boasted a number of beautiful homes, churches, retail stores of all kinds, a fine public school, water and
lighting systems, a money order post office, and a telegraph.
In 1906, the Santa Fe
Depot was built and today is the only remaining depot of Kansas'
first railroad south of the Kansas River. Today the
Midland Railway offers excursion rides to Ottawa via "Nowhere" and Norwood. By
1910, Baldwin City boasted some 1,265 residents and had become one of the
leading education centers of the state.