Shawnee County (county code SN) is a county in northeast Kansas, in the central United States of America. As of the 2010 census, the population was 177,934 making it the third-most populous county in Kansas. Its most populous city, Topeka, is the state capital and county seat. The county was one of the original 33 counties created by the first territorial legislature in 1855, and it was named for the Shawnee tribe of Native Americans.
Shawnee County is in the northeastern part of Kansas, in the third tier of counties west of the Missouri River and about fifty-four miles south of Nebraska. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has an area of 556 square miles (1,440 km), of which 544 square miles (1,410 km) is land and 12 square miles (31 km) (2.1%) is water. It is bordered by Jackson County on the north, Jefferson County on the north and east, Douglas County on the east, Osage County on the south, Wabaunsee County on the west, and Pottawatomie County on the west. Its extent in either direction is not more than twenty-four miles. The second standard parallel south passes through the county’s northern half.
When the county was formed in 1855, it was bounded by the Kansas River on the north, and the southern boundary was nine miles (14 km) further south. On February 23, 1860, the legislature changed the boundaries with the southern portion being granted to Osage County, and the northern boundary was moved a few miles north of the river (to the second standard parallel). The present northern line (six miles north of the second standard parallel) was established in 1868.
The Kansas River runs east across the county, just north of the center, being bordered on its north bank by the townships of Rossville, Silver Lake, Menoken, and Soldier, and on its south bank by the townships of Dover, Mission, and Tecumseh. The city of Topeka primarily lies to the south of the river. There is little or no current major river traffic, but it is used extensively for irrigation in the county. Major creeks emptying into the Kansas River include Cross, Soldier, Mission, Indian, and Shunganunga Creeks. The Wakarusa River, which, flowing east and northeast, empties into the Kansas River in the northeastern part of Douglas County. It has its sources in the township of Auburn, and waters the southern sections of Auburn, Williamsport and Monmouth—the tributary creeks flowing into it on either side forming the drainage and water system of the three townships.
The soil is a rich dark loam, varying from fifteen feet in some parts of the bottoms, to a uniform surface covering the upland prairie from one to three feet. The underlying formation is limestone. Beds of clay, are well distributed. Coal is found in detached and non-continuous beds, and is mined in a small way for local purposes in Topeka, Soldier and Menoken.
Along the western border the landscape is hilly with the Flint Hills a few miles further west in Wabaunsee County. Burnett’s Mound, the highest point in the county, is in the southwest part of Topeka. Government and county surveys described the land as “bottom land, 31%; upland, 69%; forest 8%; prairie, 92%.” Wooded areas are mainly found along rivers and creeks with no true forests. The growth consists of elm, cottonwood, black walnut, oak, sycamore, box elder, hickory and ash.
Shawnee County is included in the Topeka Metropolitan Statistical Area, which had an estimated population of 232,594 in 2018.
As of the 2000 census, there were 169,871 people, 68,920 households, and 44,660 families residing in the county. The population density was 309 people per square mile (119/km). There were 73,768 housing units at an average density of 134 per square mile (52/km). The county’s racial makeup was 82.89% White, 9.03% Black or African American, 1.17% Native American, 0.95% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 3.20% from other races, and 2.72% from two or more races. 7.26% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 68,920 households, of which 30.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.60% were married couples living together, 11.60% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.20% were non-families. 29.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.39 and the average family size was 2.98.
25.30% of the county’s residents were under the age of 18, 8.80% were from 18 to 24, 28.40% were from 25 to 44, 23.70% were from 45 to 64, and 13.70% were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.00 males.
The county’s median household income was $40,988, and the median family income was $51,464. Males had a median income of $35,586 versus $26,491 for females. The county’s per capita income was $20,904. About 6.30% of families and 9.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.30% of those under age 18 and 7.10% of those age 65 or over.