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K-State Today

September 29, 2023

Installation of interpretive marker at Marlatt homestead coincides with 165th anniversary of Bluemont Central College founding

Submitted by Gloria Freeland

An interpretive marker explaining the importance of the Washington and Julia (Bailey) Marlatt homestead, located on the east side of College Avenue just south of the K-State soccer stadium, was installed at the property in July, thanks to the efforts of the Riley County Historical Society, the Manhattan/Riley County Preservation Alliance, and the Facilities Department of Campus Planning and Project Management at Kansas State University.

Its installation coincides with the 165th anniversary of the founding in 1858 of Bluemont Central College, a private institution that opened in 1860 and was a predecessor of Kansas State University.

The Marlatt homestead was the residence of the initial educators for the college. It was constructed around 1856 by Davies Wilson of local limestone in colonial American style, and it is considered the oldest standing stone home in Riley County.

Washington came to Kansas in 1856, motivated by a desire to ensure the territory would be free from the institution of slavery. He chose Manhattan because there was talk of establishing a college in the town. Julia came in 1859, and they worked together as principal and assistant at the college. They married at the college building in 1861, the same year Kansas became a state. Soon after, efforts began to establish a state university, and Bluemont Central College became Kansas State Agricultural College, or KSAC, in 1863. It was the nation's first operational land-grant institution established after the passage of the 1862 Morrill Act.

The Marlatts were prominent members of the community and played a significant role in developing the area. Washington was integral to Bluemont's transition to Kansas State Agricultural College — today's Kansas State University — and was president of the Manhattan Town Association. The Marlatts had five children, three of whom graduated from KSAC. Their son Charles became a world-renowned entomologist. Another son, Frederick, taught entomology at KSAC.

The original Bluemont Central College building, located on the northwest corner of Claflin Road and College Avenue, was deconstructed in 1883-84 with plans to resell and rebuild using the stone and timbers. Washington Marlatt purchased the materials and constructed a bank-style barn on the property. The carved stone "Bluemont College" blocks were installed above the barn's west entrance. They were moved to the campus library in 1926-27 and are now above the fireplace at the K-State Alumni Center.

The homestead was primarily a family residence and is currently owned by Kansas State University. The property is on the Register of Historic Kansas Places.

As the first land-grant institution, K-State acknowledges that the state of Kansas is historically home to many Native nations, including the Kaw, Osage and Pawnee, among others. Kansas is currently home to four federally recognized Native nations: the Prairie Band Potawatomi, the Kickapoo Tribe of Kansas, the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska, and the Sac and Fox Nation of Missouri in Kansas and Nebraska. The recognition that K-State's history begins and continues through Indigenous contexts is essential.