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Kansas Counties » Ford - Gray

Ford County

  • County Seat: Dodge City
  • County Code: FO
  • Established: February 26, 1867
  • Organized: April 5, 1873
  • Region in Kansas: Southwest

Origin of name: Colonel James Hobart Ford of the 2nd Colorado Cavalry and brevet brigadier-general of the United States Volunteers during the American Civil War, and in charge of the construction of Fort Dodge, Kansas, after the Civil War.

Did you know?

  • Dodge City is the windiest city in the United States, with an average wind speed of 14 mph.
  • The first state-owned casino was opened in Dodge City in 2009. Since then, two other casinos have opened in Mulvane and Kansas City.
  • In 1865 the U.S. Army constructed Fort Dodge to protect travelers on the Santa Fe Trail. It remained in operation until 1882.
  • Dodge City was established in 1872, just before the arrival of the Santa Fe Railroad. From 1875 to 1885 it was known as the Cowboy Capital of the World and the Queen of the Cowtowns.
  • Dodge City was served by more top-notch lawmen and gunfighters than any other cattle town. Bat, Ed and Jim Masterson, Ben and Billy Thompson, William Tilghman, Clay Allison, Charlie Bassett, James, Virgil and Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday and many others spent time in Dodge City.
  • Actor Dennis Hopper was born in Dodge City.
  • College basketball coach Eddie Sutton was born in Bucklin. He amassed more than 800 career wins and was the first coach to take four different schools to the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) tournament.
  • Dodge City is home to the famous Boot Hill Museum, which replicates and preserves the Old Western culture of the region. Visitors can see gunfight re-enactments, variety shows in the Long Branch Saloon and experience county-style dinners. It was built upon the infamous Boot Hill Cemetery, which functioned as the only cemetery in Dodge City from 1872 to 1878. Most of the people buried there still had boots on their feet.
  • The famous television series Gunsmoke was set in Dodge City.

Notable Residents:

Samuel Crumbine, Wyatt Earp, John E. Gingrich, Dennis Hopper, Bat Masterson, Eddie Sutton

Boot Hill Museum image
Entrance to the Boot Hill Museum and Front Street in Dodge City
Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Franklin County

  • County Seat: Ottawa
  • County Code: FR
  • Established: August 25, 1855
  • Organized: August 25, 1855
  • Region in Kansas: East Central

Origin of name: Benjamin Franklin, one of the founding fathers of the United States.

Did you know?

  • Franklin 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.
  • Franklin County's development was highly influenced by the Indian tribes native to the area as well as those brought there by government treaties. The area that became Franklin County had the most immigrant Indians of all counties in Kansas. Franklin County was home to the Pawnee, Missouri, Muncie, Osage, Ottawa, Kansa, Teton, Chippewa, Shawnee, Sac, Fox, and several smaller tribes. These tribes were given grants and reservations out of land of the Louisiana Purchase.
  • Lane was the site of the Pottawatomie Massacre in May 1856. In response to the sacking of Lawrence by proslavery forces, abolitionist John Brown and four of his followers hacked three proslavery men to death with broadswords near Pottawatomie Creek.
  • Country music star Chely Wright grew up in Wellsville.
  • Steve Grogan, a star quarterback at Kansas State University and with the New England Patriots, grew up in Ottawa.
  • The operation of an experimental French silk-producing commune called "Silkville" brought considerable attention to the area. Located just to the southwest of Williamsburg, the commune attempted to produce silk and silk materials in the 1870s and 1880s.
  • The 51-mile Prairie Spirit Rail Trail, a converted railroad, begins in Ottawa and heads south through Franklin and Anderson counties and ends in Iola in Allen County. Hikers, joggers and cyclists enjoy this Kansas state park from sunrise to sunset year-round.
  • The Midland Historic Railroad is an excursion train that operates on a 20-mile round-trip track from Baldwin City to Ottawa. The railroad runs mostly on weekends and features special events such as mock train robberies, haunted train rides around Halloween and a Santa Express around Christmas. The trains operate on track that was laid in 1867.
  • An episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition was filmed in Ottawa in 2011.

Notable Residents:

Steve Grogan, Steve Hawley, Elizabeth "Grandma" Layton, Lloyd Stearman, Chely Wright

Geary County

  • County Seat: Junction City
  • County Code: GE
  • Established: August 25, 1855
  • Organized: August 25, 1855
  • Region in Kansas: Northeast

Origin of name: John White Geary, a Union general in the Civil War and later an early governor of the Kansas Territory.

Did you know?

  • Geary 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.
  • Geary County was originally named Davis County after Jefferson Davis, a U.S. senator and secretary of war. After Davis became president of the Southern Confederacy, the Legislature changed the county name to Geary in 1889.
  • Junction City hosts the Sundown Salute every year on the Fourth of July. It is the largest free Independence Day fireworks display and celebration in the state of Kansas.
  • Milford Lake is the largest lake in Kansas with 163 miles of shoreline and is known as The Fishing Capital of Kansas.
  • At a public park in Junction City is the nation's largest atomic cannon. This cannon, along with 19 others, was manufactured and put into service in 1952 but deactivated in 1963. These cannons were capable of throwing a shell 20 miles, but only a single shell was ever fired at a Nevada test site on May 25, 1953.
  • The First Territorial Capitol is located on the grounds of Fort Riley and was the Capitol for only four days in 1855. There the Legislature chose a permanent seat of government, created a constitution and decided if Kansas would be a free or slave state.
  • In 1923 John R. Brinkley, of Milford, established Radio Station KFKB (which stood for Kansas First, Kansas Best) using a 1 kW transmitter. It is one of the first (if not the very first) radio stations in Kansas. Brinkley used the station to espouse his belief that goat testicles could be implanted in men to enhance their virility.
  • Fort Riley was established in 1853. There the famed 7th Cavalry Regiment was formed in 1866 and led by Major-General George Armstrong Custer. In 1887 it became the site of the U.S. Cavalry School. Today the Fort Riley Military Reservation covers 100,656 acres of land and is home to the U.S. Army 1st Infantry Division known as the Big Red One.
  • Fort Riley was ground zero for the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic that killed 20-50 million people worldwide. The flu was first reported in Haskell County, but Fort Riley is where it really spread.

Notable Residents:

George Armstrong Custer, Walter D. Ehlers, George W. Wallace

Gove County

  • County Seat: Gove
  • County Code: GO
  • Established: March 11, 1868
  • Organized: September 2, 1886
  • Region in Kansas: Northwest

Origin of name: Captain Grenville L. Gove of the 11th Kansas Cavalry during the Civil War, who died in 1864.

Did you know?

  • Monument Rocks is a series of large chalk formations that reach as high as 70 feet and are rich in shells and fossils. The chalk formations were formed when Kansas was part of a vast inland sea. Monument Rocks was the first landmark chosen by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a national natural landmark.
  • Castle Rock, another large chalk formation, was used as a landmark for travelers on the Smoky Hill Trail, which passed just a few hundred yards north of the formation. Castle Rock is slowly eroding as the tallest spire fell during a thunderstorm in 2001. Castle Rock and Monument Rocks were jointly named as one of the original Eight Wonders of Kansas.
  • Gove County is famous for the reptile fossils found in its chalk beds. The "fish within a fish," on display in the Sternberg Museum of Natural History in Hays, was found in Gove County in 1952.
  • Gove County has the smallest county seat in Kansas with a population of approximately 80 people as of the 2010 census.
  • The Sacred Heart Catholic Church in Park is known as the Cathedral of the West.
Monument Rocks image
Monument Rocks
Photo courtesy of Todd Caywood

Graham County

  • County Seat: Hill City
  • County Code: GH
  • Established: February 26, 1867
  • Organized: April 1, 1880
  • Region in Kansas: Northwest

Origin of name: Union captain and Civil War hero John L. Graham of the 8th Regiment, Kansas Infantry, who was killed in action in Chickamauga, Tennessee, on September 19, 1863.

Did you know?

  • Nicodemus, a small community in Graham County, was the first town established by former slaves who left Kentucky in 1877. This was also the largest community established by freed slaves following the Civil War. Although a majority of the population no longer resides in the town, the National Park Service chose to preserve the town because it is the oldest and only remaining freed slave town west of the Mississippi River.
  • Graham County was organized on April 1, 1880, for administrative purposes. The county seat was originally located at Millbrook, but this town was destroyed by a tornado on August 4, 1887. The county seat was moved to Hill City on March 10, 1888.
  • The Minium Fossil Quarry outside of Morland was part of a National Geographic archeological dig in 1985 and 1986. The quarry is unique for its specimens of early animal and plant life, and it is said that the site is the richest fossil site in the world.

Notable Residents:

Veryl Switzer

Grant County

  • County Seat: Ulysses
  • County Code: GT
  • Established: March 20, 1873
  • Organized: June 9, 1888
  • Region in Kansas: Southwest

Origin of name: Ulysses S. Grant, Union general during the Civil War and 18th president of the United States.

Did you know?

  • Grant County was established in 1873 but was merged into Finney and Hamilton counties in 1883. Grant County was re- established to its original boundaries in 1887.
  • Grant County sits on one of the world's largest deposits of natural gas, the Hugoton gas field.
  • Wagon Bed Springs was a vital watering place for travelers on the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail. Many believe that Coronado and other Spanish explorers from the 1500s-1700s stopped at these springs based on artifacts found in the area.
  • Famed explorer Jedediah Smith was killed by Comanche Indians in 1832 in the area that would become the town site of Ulysses.
  • The struggle to determine which town would become the Grant County seat was fierce. The battle was so expensive that the town of Ulysses went deeply into debt. In 1909, the buildings of the town were moved three miles to the present site to prevent foreclosure at the old town site. Now, Ulysses is the only incorporated town in Grant County.
  • The Grant County Adobe Museum in Ulysses features historical artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of life on the High Plains. The museum's permanent collection includes Indian artifacts, Santa Fe Trail memorabilia, as well as artifacts from old and new Ulysses.
  • Each year on the third Tuesday of September, the Grant County Home Products Dinner draws citizens from across the county to Ulysses for a home-cooked meal, entertainment and great company. This tradition began in 1941 when State Representative Will Christian's wife provided dinner for several members of the Legislature and the lieutenant governor using only products that had been produced on their rural ranch. The Grant County Chamber of Commerce decided to keep this tradition alive in order to showcase locally produced foods.

Notable Residents:

Gary Bender

Gray County

  • County Seat: Cimarron
  • County Code: GY
  • Established: July 20, 1887
  • Organized: July 20, 1887
  • Region in Kansas: Southwest

Origin of name: Alfred Gray, late secretary of the Kansas State Board of Agriculture.

Did you know?

  • The Gray County Wind Farm outside of Montezuma was the first wind farm operating in Kansas. It opened in 2001.
  • Ingalls was founded by Asa T. Soule, known worldwide as the Hops Bitter King, who had made a fortune peddling a patent elixir made with bitters, hops and alcohol. Soule hoped to profit from the development of a 96-mile canal that would divert water from the Arkansas River to drought-stricken lands in Gray and Ford counties. The canal failed, but outlines of the canal can still be seen.
  • Cimarron and Ingalls were rival candidates for the Gray County seat. The voting took place October 31, 1885, and both towns claimed victory. Both were armed to the teeth, and the governor was forced to send a detachment of militia to keep the peace. The county offices were moved to Ingalls in 1887, but after several rounds of litigation Cimarron emerged the winner. The rivalry between Cimarron and Ingalls for the county seat lasted for more than two years, switching from Ingalls, to Cimarron, and back to Ingalls. Finally, after a Kansas Supreme Court decision, the county seat was officially moved to Cimarron in 1889.
  • Cimarron was the dividing point of the Santa Fe Trail. The Mountain Route continued west into Colorado while the Cimarron Cutoff went south and west into Oklahoma and New Mexico.
  • The Stauth Memorial Museum in Montezuma is dedicated to the world travels of Claude and Donalda Stauth. The Stauth's took 23 international trips (including two around-the-world trips) from 1940 to 1980 and brought back over 10,000 photograph slides and numerous souvenirs, which are on display in the museum. The museum also features traveling exhibits by the Smithsonian and other national and international exhibit sources.