Douglas County, Kansas

Douglas County (county code DG) is a county located in the U.S. state of Kansas. As of the 2010 census, the county population was 110,826,[1] making it the fifth-most populous county in Kansas. Its county seat and most populous city is Lawrence.[2]

Douglas County
Douglas County Courthouse in Lawrence
Location within the U.S. state of Kansas

Kansas's location within the U.S.
Country United States
State Kansas
FoundedAugust 25, 1855
Named forStephen Douglas
Largest cityLawrence
  Total475 sq mi (1,230 km2)
  Land456 sq mi (1,180 km2)
  Water19 sq mi (50 km2)  4.0%%
  Density243/sq mi (94/km2)
Time zoneUTC−6 (Central)
  Summer (DST)UTC−5 (CDT)
Area code785
Congressional district2nd


Early history

For 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 via the Third Treaty of San Ildefonso, although the former country kept title to about 7,500 square miles. 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.

19th century

In 1854, the Kansas Territory was organized, then in 1861 Kansas became the 34th U.S. state. In 1855, Douglas County was established. Douglas County was opened for settlement on May 15, 1854, and was named for Stephen A. Douglas,[3] a senator from Illinois. The county was practically at the center of the Bleeding Kansas years as leaders in Lecompton (the territorial capital) wanted Kansas to be a slave state, whereas leaders in Lawrence wanted Kansas to be a free state. The pro- and anti-slavery settlers held great animosity towards one another, leading to many events, such as the drafting of the Lecompton Constitution (which would have admitted Kansas into the Union as a slave state), the Wakarusa War (1855), the Sack of Lawrence (1856), Battle of Black Jack (1856), and the Lawrence Massacre (1863).

The first railroad in Douglas County, the Kansas Pacific, was built through that territory in 1864.[4]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 475 square miles (1,230 km2), of which 456 square miles (1,180 km2) is land and 19 square miles (49 km2) (4.0%) is water.[5] It is the fifth-smallest county in Kansas by land area. Much of its northern boundary is defined by the Kansas River, which flows through Lawrence and provides hydropower at the Bowersock Dam.


Adjacent counties


Historical population
Est. 2017120,793[6]9.0%
U.S. Decennial Census[7]
1790-1960[8] 1900-1990[9]
1990-2000[10] 2010-2016[1]

Douglas County comprises the Lawrence, KS Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is also included in the Kansas City-Overland Park-Kansas City, MO-KS Combined Statistical Area.

As of the 2000 census,[11] there were 99,962 people, 38,486 households, and 21,167 families residing in the county. The population density was 219 people per square mile (84/km²). There were 40,250 housing units at an average density of 88 per square mile (34/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 86.1% White, 4.2% Black or African American, 2.6% Native American, 3.1% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 1.2% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.3% of the population.

There were 38,486 households out of which 27.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 43.1% were married couples living together, 8.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 45.0% were non-families. 28.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.97.

In the county, the population was spread out with 20.4% under the age of 18, 26.4% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 16.9% from 45 to 64, and 7.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 27 years. For every 100 females there were 98.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 97.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $37,547, and the median income for a family was $53,991. Males had a median income of $35,577 versus $27,225 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,952. About 6.2% of families and 15.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.0% of those under age 18 and 7.3% of those age 65 or over.



In recent years, the Democratic Party has been dominant in Douglas County. Democrats control all County-wide offices in the County, except for the position of Sheriff. Douglas County is currently served by county commissioners Mike Gaughan, Nancy Thellman, and Michelle Derusseau. Gaughan and Thellman are Democrats, while Derusseau is the lone Republican on the commission.


Democratic state representatives representing portions of the county include John Wilson (10th District), Barbara Ballard (44th District), and Dennis Highberger (46th District); Republican state representatives include Jim Karleskint (42nd District), Tom Sloan (45th District) and Ken Corbet (54th District). The three state senators representing the county, Marci Francisco (2nd District), Tom Holland (3rd District), and Anthony Hensley (19th District), are all Democrats.[12]

Presidential elections

Presidential election results
Presidential election results[13]
Year Republican Democratic Third Parties
2016 29.3% 14,688 62.3% 31,195 8.4% 4,204
2012 35.9% 17,401 60.4% 29,267 3.7% 1,796
2008 33.4% 17,929 64.1% 34,398 2.5% 1,314
2004 41.0% 20,544 57.1% 28,634 1.9% 933
2000 42.8% 17,062 45.8% 18,249 11.4% 4,527
1996 42.6% 16,116 47.9% 18,116 9.4% 3,568
1992 30.6% 12,949 46.0% 19,439 23.4% 9,877
1988 49.9% 16,149 48.7% 15,752 1.4% 460
1984 58.9% 18,975 40.0% 12,880 1.2% 378
1980 49.0% 14,106 32.5% 9,360 18.5% 5,318
1976 51.3% 14,277 42.8% 11,922 5.9% 1,643
1972 55.6% 15,316 42.3% 11,646 2.1% 565
1968 53.8% 10,533 35.4% 6,936 10.8% 2,114
1964 45.1% 7,825 54.3% 9,416 0.7% 112
1960 66.4% 11,337 33.3% 5,690 0.2% 38
1956 71.9% 11,029 27.9% 4,283 0.3% 39
1952 74.3% 11,095 25.2% 3,765 0.4% 64
1948 64.3% 9,287 33.1% 4,778 2.7% 389
1944 67.5% 8,224 31.9% 3,886 0.7% 79
1940 70.3% 9,146 28.6% 3,727 1.1% 141
1936 62.2% 8,324 37.1% 4,961 0.7% 96
1932 58.7% 7,346 38.6% 4,833 2.7% 342
1928 78.7% 8,887 20.3% 2,297 1.0% 108
1924 75.3% 8,052 18.0% 1,922 6.8% 726
1920 73.2% 6,266 25.7% 2,197 1.1% 94
1916 53.9% 4,975 41.5% 3,834 4.6% 426
1912 21.8% 1,133 36.3% 1,888 41.9% 2,182
1908 60.6% 3,279 37.2% 2,010 2.2% 119
1904 74.3% 3,574 20.6% 989 5.2% 249
1900 58.6% 3,453 39.6% 2,333 1.9% 111
1896 57.4% 3,582 41.2% 2,573 1.4% 85
1892 57.3% 3,114 42.7% 2,320
1888 60.0% 3,189 31.4% 1,669 8.6% 455

Douglas County has a political history more typical of the Yankee Northeast than of the Great Plains, as can be seen from its voting history, exactly paralleling that of Vermont or Cheshire County, New Hampshire (excepting only the 1912 presidential election). This is due to the county's strong New England heritage, and its status as Kansas' leading academic center. Douglas County voted for the Republican candidate in every Presidential election between 1864 and 1960, except in 1912 when it supported Progressive Theodore Roosevelt. The Republican presidential nominee obtained over sixty percent of Douglas County's vote in every election between 1920 and 1960 (except 1932 when Herbert Hoover received 58.7 percent). As a measure of how deeply the county's Republican roots ran, even when Kansas was swept up in Franklin D. Roosevelt's landslide victories of 1932 and 1936, Republican candidates carried the county easily.

This tradition was broken in 1964, when the anti-Yankee sentiment and Southern leanings of Barry Goldwater drove the county into Lyndon B. Johnson's hands, making Johnson the first Democrat ever to carry the county. With more moderate GOP candidates, the GOP carried the county in every election between 1968 and 1988. However, the growing transformation of Lawrence into a liberal academic bastion pulled the county into the Democratic column from 1992 onwards. This was typical of many counties around the country dominated by college towns. Since the 2004 election, Douglas County has been one of the strongest Democratic bastions in Kansas, second only to Wyandotte County (Although in the 2018 governor's race - Douglas County was Democratic nominee Laura Kelly's strongest county). Often, Douglas and Wyandotte are the only two counties in the state to vote for Democratic presidential candidates.


Unified school districts

Douglas County is served by seven school districts.

Universities and colleges

The University of Kansas's main campus is located in Lawrence as is Haskell Indian Nations University. Baker University, the state's oldest university, is located in Baldwin City.


Clinton Lake, completed in 1980, offers boating, fishing and other water sports and various parks surrounding the lake provides camping and trails for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding.[14]

Lone Star Lake is a small country lake to the southwest of Lawrence offers fishing, boating and camping. Just northwest of Baldwin City is Douglas State Fishing Lake which provides hunting, fishing and limited camping. Other parks around the county include Black Jack Park which includes the Ivan Boyd Prairie Preserve and Robert Hall Pearson Memorial Park, Broken Arrow Park in Lawrence and Wells Overlook Park just south of Lawrence.[15]


Major events in the county include the Maple Leaf Festival in Baldwin City every third full weekend in October.[16] Lecompton's Territorial Days take place every year in June[17] and Lawrence has many parades throughout the year including Christmas and St. Patrick's Day.[18][19]


Major highways

  • I-70 / Kansas Turnpike, runs east to west just north of Lawrence.
  • US-59 runs north to south through the middle of the county and the middle of Lawrence.
  • US-40 virtually follows the Oregon Trail heading west out of Lawrence.
  • US-56 runs east to west in the southern half of the county, going through Baldwin City and skirts the Santa Fe Trail.
  • K-10 runs from the I-70 Lecompton Exchange along the south and west border of Lawrence to US-59 then north until 23rd Street where it heads east out of town into Johnson County.

Other major highways include:

  • US-24 which is in Grant township leading from Leavenworth to Jefferson County.
  • K-32 starts just outside Lawrence and leads into Leavenworth County.
  • K-33 is in extreme southeast Douglas County and leads into Franklin County.

County Highways

Douglas County also maintains an extensive network of county highways to serve the rural areas of the county. None of these county highways is in the Lawrence city limits.


Incorporated cities

Unincorporated communities


Douglas County is divided into nine townships. The city of Lawrence is considered governmentally independent and is excluded from the census figures for the townships. In the following table, the population center is the largest city (or cities) of significant size included in that township's population total.

/km² (/sq mi)
Land area
km² (sq mi)
Water area
km² (sq mi)
Water % Geographic coordinates
Clinton143255317 (17)80 (31)26 (10)24.41%38°54′18″N 95°24′20″W
Eudora21700Eudora5,57143 (113)128 (49)2 (1)1.57%38°55′42″N 95°6′15″W
Grant2765044210 (27)43 (16)0 (0)0.74%39°0′8″N 95°13′19″W
Kanwaka360751,31712 (30)114 (44)8 (3)6.69%38°57′37″N 95°23′16″W
Lecompton39175Lecompton1,76120 (51)90 (35)2 (1)2.45%39°2′31″N 95°24′27″W
Marion447008365 (12)185 (72)1 (0)0.52%38°49′4″N 95°24′35″W
Palmyra54225Baldwin City5,76027 (70)212 (82)2 (1)0.79%38°47′0″N 95°10′40″W
Wakarusa744002,23719 (49)119 (46)2 (1)1.81%38°55′49″N 95°14′43″W
Willow Springs795001,40910 (26)141 (54)1 (0)0.54%38°47′23″N 95°18′17″W
Sources: "Census 2000 U.S. Gazetteer Files". U.S. Census Bureau, Geography Division. Archived from the original on 2002-08-02.

Historic Townships

The county originally had only four townships. Lecompton comprised the area of Lecompton, Kanwaka, and Clinton townships; Washington took the place of Marion and Willow Springs townships; Wakarusa comprised both Wakarusa and Eudora townships; and Calhoun was the original name of Palmyra township. Grant township was annexed from Jefferson County in 1874.

Notable people

  • Isaac F. Hughes, Douglas County commissioner and City Council member in both Lawrence, Kansas, and Los Angeles, California.

See also


  1. "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on August 6, 2011. Retrieved June 16, 2015.
  2. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  3. Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 108.
  4. Blackmar, Frank Wilson (1912). Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc. Standard Publishing Company. p. 539.
  5. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  6. "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved March 8, 2019.
  7. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  8. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  9. "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  10. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 24, 2014.
  11. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  12. Douglas County - State Officials Archived August 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  14. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-15. Retrieved 2012-02-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  16. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-03-27. Retrieved 2012-02-11.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

Further reading

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