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And a (Republican) River Runs Through It

Courtland, Kansas , United States
April 12, 2022
89 mi




ft elev +


The Republican River was named after a branch of Pawnee Indians the Kitkehahkis known as "the Republicans". They were believed to have a republic form of governance by French fur traders and explorers before the Lousianna Purchase. This gravel route will take you by the Pawnee Indian Village Museum near Republic, Kansas. This is the oldest state owned historic site in Kansas and was donated in 1901 with a monument claiming Zebulon had visited and lowered the Spanish flag in place of the US flag. However experts later agreed that Zebulon Pike visited another Pawnee Village at Guide Rock, Nebraska up stream 50 miles. Thanks to the fortunate mistaken identification this site was preserved for archealogical digs and an amazing museum built atop a former lodge. The Nebraska site has little more than a plaque.  (More background from a previous curator of the museum on the confusion - 

Around the Courtland and Republic areas you will see surface water canals full of water from June - September watering fields mostly through pivots. This is Republican River water that was diverted near Guide Rock, Nebraska into canals then to Lovewell Lake in Jewell County then delivered through the Kansas Bostwick Irrigation District canal system to area farmers by "ditch riders". Behind Pawnee Indian Village Museum river water actually crosses it's self with a pipe that carries river water over the river to fill canals near Republic and north of Scandia. This unique agricultural asset and it's impact on the river valley today lead to the naming of Irrigation Ales brewery in downtown Courtland.

In 1857  the Ft. Riley to Ft. Kearney military road opened along the east side of the Republican River that aided pioneers off-shooting nearby Oregon or California Trails. Settlers began establishing communities in the area around 1860's. There is a marker near the American Legion in Scandia talking about it's history and the map. In 1868, Scandinavian Agricultural Society of Chicago purchased 12 sections of land along the Republican River and formed a colony made up of many Swedish immigrants. 

In the 1930's  gold prospectors pursued finding gold in the fine flour gold form in the river and looked at smelting near Hardy, NE, Republic, and Scandia. 

The village of Norway, Kansas was settled by surpsrisingly... Norwegians. The first bridge over the Republican in the county was built west of Norway by a bond and petition of early villagers in 1887.  Scandia was and still is a much larger town that fought with Belleville for the county seat at the time so this was a good leap for a smaller sattelite village. This excerpt shows how settlers dreams were often brief in the early development of the area:

"Our dreams as to a thriving city at Norway are not, as yet, fully realized, although it is a busy place where much stock and grain is bought and many goods are sold.

Shortly after building the bridge the Santa Fe road was built near the west line of the township and the town of Kackley, as it were, was built almost in our door yard, with the station of Courtland and Oneonta to the north and south of it, thus cutting off a great trade that would have come to us, so that our visions of the paved streets, brick blocks, shining minarets and golden towers, (and how mad we would get because people would continue to put Republic county on our letters) were but the empty fabric of a dream." - IO Savage's A History of Republic County, Kansas.

Now imagine the flurry of people back in that time and these gravel roads driving by many many homesteaders with nearly 20,000 people in 1890!

Populatin of Republic County:
1870	1,281		—
1880	14,913		1,064.2%
1890	19,002		27.4%
1900	18,248		−4.0%
1910	17,447		−4.4%
1920	15,855		−9.1%
1930	14,745		−7.0%
1940	13,124		−11.0%
1950	11,478		−12.5%
1960	9,768		−14.9%
1970	8,498		−13.0%
1980	7,569		−10.9%
1990	6,482		−14.4%
2000	5,835		−10.0%
2010	4,980		−14.7%
2020	4,674		−6.1%
Mural in Irrigation Ales brewery.
Pawnee Indian Village Museum
Aerial drone video of Pawnee -




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