History of Holton

The Kansas - Nebraska Bill introduced by Stephen A. Douglas and passed by Congress on May 30, 1854, was the impetus which turned Kansas into bleeding Kansas. Pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces merged upon the state to promote their causes and insure the popular decision in their own favor. At Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in May, 1856, a train of six covered wagons, each drawn by two yoke of oxen, started the long trek to join those who were coming from the North and East to insure another free state for the union. They were financed by the Kansas Society of Milwaukee which was headed by E. D. Holton, who had raised several hundred dollars for the expedition. E. G. Ross, later senator from Kansas, was the captain of the band, with six in his family. Others were the J. B. Coffin family of four, J. B. Hutte family of four, Mr. Lathrop and family of six, six unmarried men and eight unidentified persons. At Janesville, Wisconsin, they were joined by the Andrew Smith family of five, Mr. Lyme's party of five, another family of Ross consisting of five, making a party of forty-nine persons. They met General James H. Lane with two hundred men at Nebraska City, Nebraska, a rendezvous for Free State men. They followed the Jim Lane Road into Kansas approximately thirty miles. They came to Elk Creek, 2 1/2 miles west of Holton, where they cut timbers to make a bridge, crossed it and made camp where Central School now stands, between 4th and 5th, New Jersey and Ohio Streets. They liked the two streams (later named Banner Creek and Elk Creek) and the pleasant grassy hills, so they decided to stay. A company was organized and a civil engineer who was with them commenced the survey. They named the new town honoring Mr. Holton, the Milwaukee abolitionist, whose only visit to Holton was in 1880 with his wife and son. He died at Savannah, Georgia, in 1892 leaving a $2,000 bequest to Holton.

A log house 20 by 30 feet was erected; it was so planned that is could be used for a fort and was known as Jim Lane's Fort until it was torn down. (This spot is now marked with a commemorative plaque and stone dedicated by the Catholic parish in 1970). The party feared to spend the winter here. They had been warned of the coming of the Kickapoo Rangers. Lane felt it was unsafe for families so they moved to Topeka for the winter. A man named Wheeler was engaged to make a plot of the town, and a committee was selected to visit the site in December to see if anyone had jumped the townsite. They found everything as they had left it. They soon filed at the Lecompton Land Office. 


Holton is located in Jackson County. The county lies 39 degrees 30 minutes north latitude, 94 degrees 40 minutes west longitude, sea level 1,172 feet. Area of the county is 650 square miles or 419,840 acres. Holton's altitude is 1,094 feet. Jackson County had been originally named Calhoun County, honoring John Calhoun, Secretary of War under President Monroe, until 1859, then the name was changed to honor Andrew Jackson. In the spring of 1857, J. B. Ingerson surveyed the townsite lots. The town is in Franklin Township, whose area is six miles by six miles. The township was named for Benjamin Franklin. The people came mainly from Western Pennsylvania, Southern Ohio, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, New England, New York, and the so-called western states of that era. Next is the German element and the natives of the British Isles. 


W.F. Creitz and brother built the first building, a grocery store, on Park Lot No. 1, now 101 West Fourth. During the summer, T. B. Waters built the first hotel, the Holton House, which stood in the center of the block of 400 New York Avenue. Later E. M. Parks put up a house named the Banner Hotel on the corner of 5th and New York Avenue. In 1859 Holton had seven dwellings, one store, a blacksmith shop and a steam saw mill. The census taken in April, 1857, gave Holton 291 people; in 1860 the population was 1,936. Supplies in early years were purchased in Leavenworth and Topeka. Teams of oxen or horses brought the supplies. The first mail came from Grasshopper Falls (Valley Falls) and later from Topeka. N. D. Lewis was the first settler in Franklin township, 4 1/4 miles east of the present Holton.  

City Government 

In 1859 the city was incorporated by Probate Judge Major Anderson. Dr. James Waters was mayor and George L. Hamm, city clerk. The city was incorporated as a city of the third class on July 30, 1870. The first officials included Mayor T.J. Adamson; councilmen, Ira.I. Taber, Ed Vetter, J. T. Scott and H. P. Bishop; Marshal, R. J. Waterhouse; Police Judge, J. H. Lowell; Attorney, Charles Hayden. It became a second class city by proclamation of the governor on February 3, 1888. The mayor and council form of government continued until 1911 when it was decided to elect the council members instead of appointing them. In 1912 the first election of mayor and commissioners was held. Dr. E. W. Reed served as the first mayor under the mayor-commissioner type government. The first elected commissioner of Public Utilities was A. E. Hosmer, 1912-14, succeeded by Dr. C. W. Thompson. C. D. Bateman was elected first commissioner of Finance, followed by W. V. Baskett. F. H. Woodworth was the second mayor. In 1948 the city adopted the city manager form of government with Virgil Knowles as the first city manager.


Holton was chosen as the county seat in 1858. A frame building served as the first courthouse on the east side of the square, near the middle of the block. The first courthouse built in the center of the square in 1872 cost $23,000, and the present courthouse completed in 1921 cost $300,000. 


The first woman city official was Mrs. Ella Brown, attorney, from the faculty of Campbell College, serving as city attorney form 1893 to 1895. The Hook and Ladder Company was organized in 1875. The fire department building in the 200 block of West Fifth was built in 1898. The company is still a volunteer group with three engines for town and country use. In 1872 the dog tax was first levied. The city ordinance in 1876 required the walks around the square to be of pine lumber 4 foot wide, to be paid for by owners around the square. Later in 1897 all sidewalks were to be of brick or iron. In 1908 drinking fountains were placed on each corner of the square for man and beast. House numbers were required at this time. In October, 1909, the first sewers were built, and in 1915 the first paved street was started. 



1872 F. F. Perley 1873 E. D. Rose
1874 Case Broderick 1875 E. D. Rose
1876 Martin Anderson 1877 A. D. Walker
1878 Martin Anderson 1879 M. B. Smythe
1881 A. L. Williams
1882 T. P. Moore 1884 Ed. F. Jones
1885 James H. Lowell 1887 John S. Hopkins
1888 John S. Hopkins 1889  Henry Keller, Jr.
1891 E. E. Rafter 1893 J. Irwin Gabel
1895 A. W. Davis, M.D. 1897 J. F. Pomeroy
1899 Albert Sarbach 1901 S. H. Woods
1903 W. H. Webster 1905 W. D. Kuhn
1909 E. E. McCorkle 1912 Dr. E. W. Reed
1919 F. H. Woodworth   (resigned)
1919 James S. Naylor 1925 Jesse D. Bender
  (resigned) 1926 James S. Naylor
1928 James S. Naylor 1931 G. H. Brown
1932 L. H. Carnahan 1933 Chester C. Bidwell
1940  J. B. Bennett 1948 William G. Pfeiffer
1949 Roy Eubanks 1950 A. A. Deeter
1951 William G. Pfeiffer 1952 Roy Eubanks
1953 A. A. Deeter 1954 William G. Pfeiffer
1955 Ora Morgan 1956 A. A. Deeter
1957 William G. Pfeiffer 1958 Ora Morgan
1959 Eugene Durham 1960 John G. Logan, Jr.
1961 Ora Morgan 1962 Eugene Durham
1963 John G. Logan, Jr. 1964 Vic Symons
1965 Eugene Durham 1966 Robert Dannenberg
1967 Vic Symons 1968 Thomas W. Shupe
1969 Robert Dannenberg 1970  M. D. Tillotson
1971 Thomas W. Shupe 1972 Robert Dannenberg
1973 M.D. Tillotson 1974 Wayne Ogilvie
1975 Robert Dannenberg 1976 M.D. Tillotson
1977 Wayne Ogilvie 1978 Marvin L. Bengtson
1979 Wayne Marshall 1980 Harold Hodge
1981 Marvin L. Bengtson 1982 Wayne Marshall
1983 Keith B. Wagoner 1984 David A. Fiedler
1985 Wayne Marshall 1986 Keith B. Wagoner
1987 David Fiedler 1988 Willard Wilson
1989 Keith B. Wagoner 1990 Tim Schlodder
1991 Robert J. Haire 1992 James D. Ketron
1993 Thelma Brown* * First Woman Mayor
1994 Steve Stenger 1995 Rich Mulroy
1996 Rich Mulroy 1997 Rich Mulroy
1998 Rich Mulroy 1999 Janet Zwonitzer
2000 Janet Zwonitzer 2001 Janet Zwonitzer
2002 Rich Mulroy 2003 Rich Mulroy
2004 Janet Zwonitzer 2005 Janet Zwonitzer
2006 Janet Zwonitzer 2007 Janet Zwonitzer
2008 Janet Zwonitzer 2009 Janet Zwonitzer
2010 Rich Mulroy 2011

Rich Mulroy

2012 Rich Mulroy  2013  Robert W. Dieckmann 
2014-2015 Robert W. Dieckmann  2016-2017  Robert W. Dieckmann 
2018-2019 Robert W. Dieckmann 2020-2021 Robert W. Dieckmann 
Virgil Knowles June 21, 1948
James W. Bibb, Jr. June 19, 1950
Stanley D. Fisher July 20, 1953
(resigned June 1, 1957)
Don Sands June 1 to July 15, 1957
(acting city manager)  
Gorton Jim Boyd July 18, 1957
Chris Cherches February 1, 1960 to December 1, 1963
James Parmiter acting city manager
James D. Rauch January 2, 1964 to September 4, 1965
James Parmiter acting city manager September 4, 1965
John F. Mercer December 1, 1965 to May 1, 1967
J. M. Whitehead May 15, 1967 to June 30, 1982
C. E. Williams July 1, 1982 to July 31, 1992 
Bradley J. Mears August 1, 1992 to July 31, 2007
Kerwin L. McKee Acting City Manager July 31, 2007
Glenn Rodden November 1, 2007 to March 23, 2009
Kerwin L. McKee Acting City Manager March 23, 2009
Bret Bauer July 1, 2010 to June 16, 2016
Kerwin L. McKee August 1, 2016 to Present

Some Information for this page is excerpted from a booklet entitled Holton, Kansas, 1856 - 1970, 114 YEARS OF GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT Sponsored by THE BOOKMAN CLUB Author; Mary Margaret Allard, 1970