Zip Code:


Latitude / Longitude:

39°5’6″N 96°45’42″W


1,053 ft (321 m)

Time Zone:

Central (CST) (UTC-6)


Pawnee is a ghost town in Geary County, Kansas, United States, which briefly served as the first official capital of the Kansas Territory in 1855. Pawnee was the territorial capital for exactly five days – the legislature met there from July 2 to July 6 – before legislators voted to move the capital to Shawnee Mission, which is located in present-day Fairway. It may be the shortest-lived capital of any U.S. state or territory (Colorado City also served as the capital of the newly established Colorado Territory for five days in 1862 but was not federally recognized).


For many millennia, the Great Plains of North America was inhabited by nomadic Native Americans. From the 16th century to 18th century, the Kingdom of France claimed ownership of large parts of North America. In 1762, after the French and Indian War, France secretly ceded New France to Spain, per the Treaty of Fontainebleau. In 1802, Spain returned most of the land to France. In 1803, most of the land for modern day Kansas was acquired by the United States from France as part of the 828,000 square mile Louisiana Purchase for 2.83 cents per acre. In 1854, the Kansas Territory was organized.





Current Status:

Today the museum features exhibits on Kansas Territory, rail and river travel in the region, and the history of Pawnee. Because it is now part of a military installation, arrangements must be made in advance for the general public to visit the museum. A driving tour of the base is available, featuring several historic sites, including the First Territorial Capitol.


Many residents left town with the legislators immediately after their adjournment on July 6. Those who did not were faced with a cholera outbreak in August. Fort Riley was also affected. Union Pacific Railroad lines reached the abandoned town in 1866 – as part of a transcontinental route approved by the Pawnee legislature – passing just yards away from the north side of the capitol. Its passage through Pawnee was due in part to the unreliability of the nearby river for navigation.