Ford County, Kansas
Towns & Places
Ford County Pioneers
Ford County map, 1899.
Located in the southwestern part of the state, Ford
County was created by a Legislative Act of 1867, which provided for the division
into counties of all the unorganized part of the state. It was named in honor of
Colonel James H. Ford of the Second Colorado Cavalry, who was in charge of the
However, the region had been traveled through frequently, by pioneers along the
Santa Fe Trail.
of the first parties to travel westward through this portion of Kansas
with a pack train was the McKnight Expedition in 1812, which followed the
Arkansas River. A few years later Major Stephen
H. Long's Expedition passed up the Arkansas Valley and by 1825 this route
became known as the Santa Fe Trail. One of the
earliest military posts in Kansas, Fort Atkinson,
was located in what is now Ford County. Fort Dodge,
established in 1864, was on the north bank of the Arkansas River, about five
miles southeast of
The old military reservation is now the site of the State Soldiers' Home.
California Gold Rush
in 1849 thousands of gold seekers passed along the Santa Fe Trail, through what is
now Ford County, but few located there. One of the first permanent settlers was
Andrew J. Anthony who settled on a ranch about 20 miles west of present-day
in 1867. He kept a few cattle and a general store for a year, then moved to
and engaged in the sutler business until 1874. Herman J. Fringer came to
in 1867 as quartermaster's clerk. Later he opened one of the pioneer drug stores
and served as Justice of the Peace before the county was organized. H.L. Sitler
came to the county in 1868, and was one of the pioneer freighters, before the
railroad was built.
In August, 1872, buffalo hunters and
business men in various branches of industry, were attracted to Ford County and
was established upon the completion of the
& Santa Fe Railroad the following month. Before the buffalo were wiped out,
their hides were extensively shipped from
A short time later,
would develop into a rough and tumble cowtown.
As the frontier moved further west Ford County
became populated with industrious farmers and ranches, who established
permanent homes. On April 5, 1873, Governor Thomas A. Osborn issued a
proclamation providing for the organization of Ford County. He appointed
Charles Rath, J. G. McDonald and Daniel Wolf as special commissioners, and
Herman J. Fringer as special clerk. The commissioners soon met at
and elected Charles Rath chairman. An election for county officers was
ordered for June 5, 1873, when the commissioners and officers were
had developed into the primary shipping point for the
cattle trade; the
cowboys from the Plains driving in large quantities for
shipment. These many cowboys, along with railroad workers, gamblers, gunfighters
and “ladies of the night,” soon earned
a reputation as a wicked little town.
One of the earliest newspapers
in the county was the Dodge City Messenger, established in February, 1874
but the paper was suspended in 1875.
1875 rented buildings were used for courthouse purposes and county offices, but
during the summer of 1876, a fine brick court-house was completed at a cost of
$8,000, and all the county offices and records were moved to it.
May 20, 1876, the Dodge City Times made its appearance and over the
decades Ford County sported a number of other newspapers.
The Ford County Globe was
Dodge City in December, 1877 and continues to exist today.
In 1880, the Santa Fe Railroad reached
Santa Fe, marking the death of the Santa Fe Trail and the many travelers passing through
With the Indians
effectively “lodged” on reservations, there was no longer a need for a military
presence and Fort Dodge was closed in 1882.
By 1886, the cattle drives had
also stopped and the county settled down into a more peaceful existence.
By the turn of the
century Ford County sported almost 5,500 people and during the next decade would
see tremendous growth as its population doubled to more than 11,000 residents.
By this time,
had become a transportation hub in the area with some 90 miles of railroad
tracks situated within the county. Along with its mainstay of farming and
ranching, the county also held good sandstone, limestone and gypsum that was
quarried and sold. Area industry and services also expanded to include several
flour mills, machine shops, ice plats and more.
During the 1930’s, Ford
County, like many others in Kansas,
was caught in the midst of the dust bowl days, especially on “Black Sunday,”
when a massive front moved across the Great Plains on April 15, 1935. Though
many hardy residents stayed, living on hope and taking the advice of the U.S.
Soil Conservation Service, a great many others gave up and left the area,
reducing the county population.
But, Ford County
recovered and diversified its interests and businesses over the next 50 years.
Today, the county supports a population of more than 33,000 people. Its rich
history lives on at its historic landmarks and museums, including the Boothill
Ironically, Ford County, with its fascinating Old West history, is the only
county of any size in Kansas
that does not have a county museum. However, there are people that are trying to
garner enough support that one might be established.
The current towns of
Ford County include:
Ford County Kansas
Compiled and edited by
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
the Article: Much of the historic text in this articles comes from Kansas: A Cyclopedia of State History,
edited by Frank W. Blackmar, published in 1912 as well as Kansas: History of the State of Kansas, by William G. Cutler;
published in 1883.
However, other sources have also been used, the content combined, and heavily
Ford County Slideshow:
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sheriffs were in high demand in some of the most lawless settlements as
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