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Ellis County, Kansas

Ellis County was organized on October 28, 1867, by John Bauer; Joseph Duncan; Joseph S. Clarke; John V. MacIntosh; John M. Schlyer; Marcus J. R. Treat; William Rose; and William E. Webb. Containing the cities of Victoria, Ellis, Hays and Schoenchen, the county was named for Civil War Lieutenant George Ellis, Co. I, 12th Kansas Infantry.

The establishment of Fort Hays on October 11, 1865, and the arrival of the Union Pacific Railway, Eastern Division in October of 1867, were major events in the settling of the county.

The first church was the Hays Presbyterian founded in 1873. The first county fair was established in Hays in 1881 and still continues. The first school district was formed in Hays in 1867.

Two interesting figures from Ellis County are Joseph S. Clarke, early-day Leavenworth newspaper reporter and owner and editor of the first newspaper in Ellis County, the Hays City Railway Advance, 1867-1868. Also Kathryn O'Loughlin served the county as a Congresswoman from 1933-1935. There were also many well-known personalities associated with Fort Hays and the cattle town era and the history of the fort, including:George Armstrong Custer, General Philip Sheridan, and James B. Hickok.

A story has been reported that involves an unidentified grave near Fort Hays and a ghostly appearance from the grave site. Some tell that the grave is that of Elizabeth Polly, wife of the first hospital steward at the fort, who died while nursing soldiers during the cholera epidemic of 1867. She requested to be buried on top of a hill southwest of the Fort. It is alleged that the ghost of Mrs. Polly, veiled in a blue glow, has been seen in the vicinity of the grave. Research, however, indicates no such person as Elizabeth Polly.

For more information see the Ellis County website.The Ellis County Historical Society has an archives of local source material. A bibliography of Ellis County historical materials has been published by Blaine Burkey, Ellis County Gold, 1979. The Fort Hays University Library has an archives of county history.

Entry: Ellis County, Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: February 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.