Living in Wamego
Wamego's success as a community can be attributed to many factors: strategic location, proximity to larger urban areas, and the quality of its citizens.
Heavy and light manufacturing form the core of the Wamego economy. This is bolstered by area agriculture, value-added ag product development and production, regional retail and financial services, an excellent health care, and educational system and continually developing arts, entertainment, and recreational attractions.
This vibrant, progressive small city in Northeast Kansas in Pottawatomie County takes advantage of its location located at the junction of US Highways 24 and Kansas Highway 99. Wamego lies only 15 minutes east of Manhattan and 35 minutes west of the state capital of Topeka. Wamego is located only a few minutes north of Interstate 70 along the banks of the Kansas River.
A beautiful downtown, historic landmarks, gorgeous city park, and many famous festivals and events are all the result of consistently strong and effective local leadership, partnered with great community spirit and participation.
History of Wamego
Our beautiful scenery and rich agricultural land are a legacy of the area's geologic history as part of the glaciated region of Kansas. Native Americans used the Kansas River as an area of settlement and avenue of transportation long before non-natives settled the area. The entire Kansas River valley was home to the Konza tribe until the 1840's. Beginning in the 1840's major portions of the Pottawatomie Tribe occupied the area just to the east of Wamego. The names of our city and county are derived from the Pottawatomie Tribe.
Early European explorers in what is now Kansas included Coronado (1540), Major Long (1819), and Fremont (1842). The doomed Donner Party traveled four miles north of town on the Oregon Trail on May 22, 1846, while Laura Ingalls Wilder and her husband traveled the reverse on August 11, 1894 on their journey from the family home in Walnut Grove, Minn. to Southern Missouri.
Early settlers were known to use keelboats on the river prior to the Civil War. 34 steam ships plied the waters of the Kansas River between 1854-1866, although river navigation soon ceased when the state legislature declared the river non-navigable in favor of the railroad and bridge companies.
In the early 1860's the discovery of gold near Denver brought many through Wamego on the Smoky Hill Trail. In 1863 the Kansas Pacific Railroad began building the main line for passengers and freight bound westward across the plains. Seizing this opportunity, The Wamego Town Company founded and laid out a new town site - Wamego - along the proposed route in 1866. Wamego was later incorporated in 1868.
The founders offered the railroad land and cash to locate the Kansas Pacific division headquarters in the town for a minimum of 20 years. A station, roundhouse, and shops evolved, which employed a considerable number of people. For a time, Wamego served as the rail yard for the larger town of Louisville four miles north, which was situated on the Oregon Trail. This situation soon changed, as did transportation techniques. By 1874 Wamego had 28 businesses as opposed to the 6 in Louisville. In 1890 the Kansas Pacific moved the division headquarters to Junction City.
Working in the rail yard machine shops was a man named Chrysler whose home was nearby. His son, Walter P. Chrysler, the founder of the Chrysler Corporation, was born in Wamego on April 2, 1875.
Numerous additions to the town were made early on. Several residential additions were added between 1870 and 1874. The first bridge across the Kansas River, replacing early ferry systems, was built in 1872. A seven span concrete bridge later replaced this bridge in 1928 (the current bridge was constructed in 1989). The first water system was installed in 1899, and electric lights in 1906. The city parklands were acquired in 1901.
Dutch Mill at City Park
Standing sentinel in the City Park is one of Wamego’s best known landmarks – the Schonhoff Dutch Mill. The mill, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, was originally located 12 miles north of Wamego. Built in the 1870s, a young immigrant named John Schonhoff used it to grind grain until the late 1880s. In 1924, the mill was dismantled, each stone was numbered, and it was all moved into town using 35 horse-drawn wagons, where it was reconstructed in the City Park. It is located next to the Historical Society Museum in City Park (4th St, 2 blocks east of downtown.)
For more information contact the Wamego Historical Society at (785) 456-2040.
Community Organizations & Resources
Schools, Colleges & Universities
Wamego is served by USD 320.
Wamego is home to a branch of Highland Community College which provides many of the core curriculum courses required by four-year universities, as well as adult continuing education and technical training.
In addition to the main campus in Manhattan, there is a Manhattan Area Technical College Center in Wamego. The Wamego Center began offering general education classes in 2020 and will soon offer Welding and other technical classes. Manhattan Area Technical College provides high-quality technical, general, and adult education. It offers 12 programs in trade and industry, as well as health care. The Associate Degree of Nursing program and the Construction program rank #1 in the state.
Kansas State University is only 15 miles west of Wamego, and offers BA, MA and Ph.D. programs in many disciplines. Washburn University in Topeka is only 43 miles east of Wamego and offers liberal arts BA, several masters programs and an outstanding law school. The University of Kansas is 70 miles east of Wamego via Interstate 70, in Lawrence, Kansas. It is noted as the premier public Liberal Arts University in Kansas. Emporia State University is 65 miles south of Wamego. The university offers degrees in more than 80 courses of study through four colleges and/or schools and has a NCAA division II athletic program.
Real Estate, Housing, Cost of Living, Sales Tax
Search for Wamego Realtors to learn more about housing and real estate opportunities. Or, download the Census Report to review area statistics. You can also learn about local sales tax rates.
Wamego is located at the intersection of U.S. Route 24 and Kansas Highway 99. It is about 15 miles east of Manhattan, home of Kansas State University; and about 35 miles west-northwest of Topeka, the state capital. The Kansas River flows along the southern edge of the city.
Airports, Highways, Bus & Public Transportation
Wamego is located at the junction of US Highway 24 (running east/west) and US Highway 99 (running north/south). Wamego is 9 miles north of Interstate 70.
For non-emergency medical, grocery, financial, social service, and recreation transportation services, hours and information, contact Pottawatomie County Transportation Services. Or, learn more about our local airports.