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Doniphan County

  • County Seat: Troy
  • County Code: DP
  • Established: August 25, 1855
  • Organized: September 18, 1855
  • Region in Kansas: Northeast

Origin of Name: Colonel Alexander W. Doniphan, of Missouri, who commanded a regiment of cavalry during the Mexican-American War and took a prominent part in the conquest of New Mexico.

Did you know?

  • Doniphan County was one of the 33 original Kansas Territory counties created by the first act to establish counties passed by the first Territorial Legislature of 1855.
  • Irvin Hall, on the campus of Highland Community College in Highland, is the oldest educational building in Kansas, dating from 1858.
  • The first railroad in Kansas, the Roseport and Palmetto, was established in Doniphan County in 1860.
  • On his only visit to Kansas, Abraham Lincoln spoke in Troy on December 1, 1859. It was reported that the speech was a trial run of his Cooper Union speech in New York, which propelled him to the Republican presidential nomination in 1860. A memorial to Lincoln's visit is to the west of the Nelson Roger home, the first house built and oldest house remaining in Troy.
  • Charles E. Whittaker, of Troy, served on the United States Supreme Court from 1957 to 1962. He is the only native Kansan to ever sit on the nation's highest court.
  • On the south lawn of the Doniphan County Courthouse in Troy is one man's homage to the American Indian. Standing 27 feet tall and carved from a 250-year-old burr oak tree 67 inches in diameter, the Tall Oak Monument is number 29 in a series of more than 60 such works by sculptor Peter Toth, who has gifted one monument in each of the 50 states to raise the nation's conscience to the plight of the American Indian.
  • The Four State Lookout resides in the town of White Cloud. The lookout is a high place where you can see Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa all at one glance.

Notable Residents:

Charles "Buffalo" Jones, Charles Evans Whittaker

Tall Oak Monument image
Tall Oak Monument by Peter Toth in Troy
Photo courtesy of Flickr

Douglas County

  • County Seat: Lawrence
  • County Code: DG
  • Established: August 25, 1855
  • Organized: September 24, 1855
  • Region in Kansas: Northeast

Origin of Name: Stephen A. Douglas, a U.S. senator from Illinois and candidate for president in 1860 who in 1854, while in the Senate, took a leading role in securing the adoption of the popular sovereignty principle in the act organizing the Kansas Territory.

Did you know?

  • Douglas County was one of the 33 original Kansas Territory counties created by the first act to establish counties passed by the first Territorial Legislature of 1855.
  • The Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence was the first church constructed in the entire Kansas Territory in 1854.
  • Baker University, in Baldwin City, is the oldest four-year university in Kansas. United Methodist ministers founded it in 1858. On the campus of Baker University is a small church that was originally constructed in Sproxton, England. It held services in England for 124 years but was relocated to the United States in 1995 with a ceremony attended by former British Prime Minister Lady Margaret Thatcher.
  • Lawrence was founded in 1854 by the New England Emigrant Aid Society in an effort to keep the territory free from slavery. It is said that Lawrence is one of the few cities in the U.S. founded strictly for political reasons.
  • In the small community of Lecompton is Constitution Hall, built in 1856 by Samuel Jones. It became the place where the Kansas territorial government convened and the 1857 proslavery Lecompton Constitution was drafted. The constitution was defeated at the national level and never went into effect. Many have come to call this small wooden structure the birthplace of the Civil War. Constitution Hall became a state historic site in 1986.
  • The Battle of Black Jack took place on June 2, 1856 a few miles east of Baldwin City. In the pre-dawn hours of June 2, a group of Kansas free-staters led by John Brown attacked a group of proslavery men led by Captain Henry C. Pate. The battle lasted for three hours with Brown capturing Pate and his men. The Battle of Black Jack was the first armed conflict in which forces of comparable strength fought over the issue of slavery, and a growing number of historians believe that this was the first battle of the Civil War. The Black Jack Battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark in 2012.
  • Lawrence is the boyhood home of writer and poet Langston Hughes, whose novel Not Without Laughter is said to be based on his life in Lawrence.
  • The Oregon and Santa Fe trails passed through Kansas just a few miles south of Eudora.

Notable Residents:

Forrest "Phog" Allen, Hugh Beaumont, Paul Endacott, Max Falkenstien, John Hadl, John G. Haskell, Ralph Houk, Langston Hughes, Danny Manning, Billy Mills, James Naismith, Bill Nieder, John H. Outland, Roy A. Roberts, Carl Bernhard Schmidt, Bill Self, George F. Sternberg

Edwards County

  • County Seat: Kinsley
  • County Code: ED
  • Established: March 18, 1874
  • Organized: April 1, 1874
  • Region in Kansas: South Central

Origin of Name: Possibly in honor of State Senator John H. Edwards of Ellis who pushed for creation of the county, or possibly for W.C. Edwards, a Reno County businessman who owned much land in the area and built the first brick building in Kinsley. According to an article in the Kinsley newspaper in 1879, he agreed to build that building and give it to the new county on condition the county bear his name.

Did you know?

  • Vivian Irene Milner is said to be the first woman city manager in the United States, serving Kinsley from 1928 to 1932.
  • The Battle of Coon Creek was a major event in Edwards County history. Fought on June 18, 1848, between some 200 Comanche and Osage Indians and 140 soldiers on their way to fight in the Mexican War, this was the first battle to use breech-loading rifles.
  • Kinsley is nicknamed Midway USA for being 1,561 miles from San Francisco to the west and 1,561 miles from New York to the east. A park in the city still holds two cars bearing signs that say "World's Fair or Bust." In 1939 there were two World's Fairs, one in New York and the other in San Francisco, inspiring the sign held by the cars at the juncture of U.S. Highways 50 and 56. The two cars were featured on the cover of the April 22, 1939, issue of the Saturday Evening Post.
  • Near the town of Offerle there is a legendary pot of gold said to be buried in 1850. It is told that a caravan of people returning to Boston from the California gold rush were attacked by Indians along the way. Out of fear, people put their gold in an iron pot and buried it near Offerle for safe keeping. However, all of the individuals were killed except for one young girl who was taken captive. She eventually escaped and told her story, causing treasure hunters in Massachusetts to hunt the area for two months in 1888. The treasure was not found and remains a mystery today.
  • Edwards County was home to a great train robbery on January 27, 1878, when bandits attempted to loot the Santa Fe station's safe and the westbound Pueblo Express. The plot was foiled by a young telegrapher, Andrew Kinkade, and four members of the group were captured.
  • At various times from 1907 until the 1980s, Kinsley was home to six carnival companies. That rich carnival history inspired the establishment of the National Foundation for Carnival Heritage in 1991. In 1998, the Carnival Heritage Center was opened in downtown Kinsley.

Notable Residents:

Pete Mehringer

Saturday Evening Post Cover image
Kinsley, Kansas - Midway USA
Photo courtesy of the Saturday Evening Post - Illustration by John E. Sheridan

Elk County

  • County Seat: Howard
  • County Code: EK
  • Established: March 25, 1875
  • Organized: June 1, 1875
  • Region in Kansas: Southeast

Origin of name: Elk River, which originates in the county.

Did you know?

  • Elk County is home to the oldest swinging pedestrian bridge in Kansas. Built in 1904, the Moline Swinging Bridge crosses over Wildcat Creek in the small town of Moline.
  • Due to its declining population, Elk Falls touts itself as the World's Largest Living Ghost Town.
  • A long-running dispute over the county seat location of Howard County (established in 1867) led to a move to divide the county. The dispute between Elk Falls, Howard, Boston, Peru and Longton resulted in the use of Kansas militia to keep the peace. In 1875 Howard County divided into Elk and Chautauqua counties, primarily to settle the county seat feud.
  • The Elk River runs across Elk County from the northwest corner to the southeast corner. The Fall River drains the northeast corner of the county, and the southwest corner near Grenola has the beautiful Caney River Valley. These various waterways have carved the whole county with big valleys and small canyons. As you travel the county from west to east, you descend about 500 feet from the Flint Hills of Cowley County to the river bottoms of Montgomery County. The rugged terrain leads some to call this area the Kansas Ozarks.
  • Along Kansas Highway 99 in Howard is a display of public art by artist Jerry Hubbell. Named Hubbell's Rubble, it is a collection of more than a dozen sculptures that were created from welding discarded items.
  • Elk Falls is the self-proclaimed Outhouse Capital of Kansas. The tiny community has an outhouse tour and contest on the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving. Don't worry, the outhouses aren't used for their original purposes.

Ellis County

  • County Seat: Hays
  • County Code: EL
  • Established: February 26, 1867
  • Organized: October 28, 1867
  • Region in Kansas: North Central

Origin of name: Union 1st Lieutenant George Ellis of Company I, 12th Kansas Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Arkansas, on April 30, 1864.

Did you know?

  • Ellis County is the largest oil-producing county in the state of Kansas.
  • Victoria is home to St. Fidelis Church, one of the original Eight Wonders of Kansas. Also known as The Cathedral of the Plains, the church was built from 1908 to 1911 out of native limestone.
  • Fort Hays was an important frontier outpost of the U.S. Army between 1865 and 1889 and housed several well-known Indian wars regiments including the 7th and 10th U.S. Cavalry and the 5th U.S. Infantry.
  • The grasshopper scourge of 1874 caused a large number of settlers to leave the county. However, a large number of Russian immigrants soon came to take the place of those who had left. Between 1875 and 1877, these Russian immigrants established five main settlements in the county: Catherine, Munjor, Pfeifer, Schoenchen and Victoria (or Herzog), which was regarded as the capital of these Russian settlements.
  • Several notable figures of the Old West lived in Hays at various points, including George Armstrong Custer, Calamity Jane and Wild Bill Hickok, who served a brief term as sheriff in 1869.
  • Walter P. Chrysler, who established the Chrysler Corporation in 1925, grew up in Ellis. Chrysler's boyhood home in Ellis officially opened as a museum in 1954, and a new building was erected behind the home in 1994 to display Chrysler's personal items.
  • Hays artist Pete Felten sculpted the four statues in the rotunda of the Kansas Capitol in Topeka. They are of four famous Kansans: Dwight D. Eisenhower, Amelia Earhart, William Allen White and Arthur Capper.
  • Fort Hays State University's Sternberg Museum of Natural History features extensive collections and exhibits of fossil specimens found in and around Kansas. The museum is home to the famous Cretaceous fossil Gillicus in Xiphactinus, better known as the "fish within a fish," which shows a small fossil fish inside the stomach of a larger fossil fish.

Notable Residents:

Walter P. Chrysler, George Armstrong Custer, Pete Felten

St. Fidelis Church image
Cathedral of the Plains in Victoria
Photo courtesy of Todd Caywood

Ellsworth County

  • County Seat: Ellsworth
  • County Code: EW
  • Established: February 26, 1867
  • Organized: August 24, 1867
  • Region in Kansas: North Central

Origin of name: Fort Ellsworth, a military post built on the bank of the Smoky Hill River, which was named in honor of 2nd Lieutenant Allen Ellsworth of the 7th Iowa Cavalry (Company H), who supervised construction of the fort in 1864.

Did you know?

  • Fort Ellsworth was the first frontier fort established in the area that was to be Ellsworth County. The U.S. Army built the fort in August 1864. Within two years of its creation, the fort had grown in importance as a military staging post and supply depot for forts further west. In November 1866 the army ordered the construction of Fort Harker about one mile northeast of Fort Ellsworth, which was closed in early 1867. The town of Ellsworth was founded in its place.
  • Due to the number of Czech immigrants who settled in the area in the 1870s, Wison was nicknamed the Czech Capital of Kansas in 1974. To celebrate this heritage, the city holds an annual After Harvest Czech Festival on the last Saturday in July.
  • Many famous generals and individuals were often located at Fort Harker, including General George Armstrong Custer, General Nelson Appleton Miles, General Winfield Scott Hancock and General Philip Sheridan. Buffalo Bill Cody and Wild Bill Hickok were also stationed at the fort either as scouts or briefly living there.
  • John Kuck, gold-medal winner in the shot put at the 1928 Summer Olympics in Amsterdam, was from Wilson.
  • In 2008 TradeWind Energy and Enel North America made Ellsworth and Lincoln counties home to the Smoky Hill Wind Farm. Its 155 wind turbines have a total capacity of 250 megawatts and cover approximately 20,000 acres of land. The wind farm generates enough power to satisfy energy consumption requirements for 85,000 homes.
  • Ellsworth County is home to Mushroom Rock State Park that contains mushroom shaped rocks.

Notable Residents:

John Kuck

Mushroom Rock image
Mushroom Rock at Mushroom Rock State Park
Photo courtesy of Becky Caywood

Finney County

  • County Seat: Garden City
  • County Code: FI
  • Established: February 22, 1883
  • Organized: October 1, 1884
  • Region in Kansas: Southwest

Origin of name: Tenth Kansas Lieutenant Governor David W. Finney.

Did you know?

  • Finney County was formed from four counties in 1883: Arapaho, Grant, Kearney and Sequoyah.
  • Finney County started as a rectangular county, but got its current shape in 1893 when the Kansas Supreme Court decided that neighboring Garfield County had been illegally organized and annexed it into Finney County.
  • The Big Pool in Garden City is the world's largest outdoor municipal concrete swimming pool. It is larger than a football field, holds 2.2 million gallons of water, has been known to hold 2,000 people at one time and is big enough for water skiing. It was originally hand-dug in 1922, and during the Great Depression farmers used horse-drawn scrapers to enlarge the pool.
  • The town of Holcomb was thrust into national headlines on November 15, 1959, when four members of the prominent Clutter family were found bound and shot to death in various rooms of their home. Two ex-convicts, Richard Eugene Hickock and Perry Edward Smith, were later arrested in Las Vegas, Nevada. The murders and the arrests and convictions of Hickock and Smith were the basis for author Truman Capote's acclaimed book In Cold Blood, published in 1966.
  • Charles "Buffalo" Jones, one of the founders of Garden City, was known for his efforts to save the buffalo species from extinction.
  • The beef industry is a major economic provider in southwestern Kansas, and Garden City has hosted the annual Beef Empire Days festival since 1968. The festival aims to promote and educate people on the merits of beef and the cattle-feeding industry.

Notable Residents:

Charles "Buffalo" Jones, Victor Ortiz, Harold Patterson, John Zook