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Cheyenne County, Kansas

Cheyenne County is the most north western county in the state of Kansas. Containing the cities of Saint Francis and Bird City, this county was founded by John F. Murray; George C. Rusk ; J. F. Webb; Max Rich; C. N. Sears; B. F. Brennaman; and L. R. Keaton. These men were land promoters who encouraged Volga-German settlers to settle in the area in 1885. The county was organized March 20, 1873.

The first church was the Methodist Church of Wano, established on August 1, 1886.The first county fair was held in Wano, later to become St. Francis, in 1886. The first school district was organized as a subscription school known as the Big Timber Area School on December 3, 1881. In 1889 a permanent county seat was established in St. Francis.

The Arikaree Breaks, a unique geologic formation in the county along the Arikaree River, form a 36-mile long and three-mile wide section of rough terrain. Originally carved by water, the soil eroded into vertical cliffs with deep gullies and ravines. The breaks extend into Nebraska and Colorado.

A Cheyenne Indian legend, known as the legend of "Devil's Swamp," relates the following story about Cheyenne County. The Cheyenne often hunted in Arapaho country north of the South Fork of the Republican River. When Cheyennes were discovered by the Arapahos, the Cheyennes would retreat homeward through a swamp that was unknown to the Arapahos. Because of this the Cheyennes were usually able to escape and many Arapahos were caught in the swamp. The Arapahos’ tears supplied the water for the swamp.

The Battle of Arikaree, also known as the Battle of Beecher Island, was fought in this area in 1868.

Roy J. Weber’s, Dust on the Sunflowers, published in 1983, was based on the Weber family and the Swedish settlement area of the county. NASA astronaut Ron Evans was born in St. Francis.

For more information see the Cheyenne County website. The county historical society is located in the courthouse, which has microfilm of the county newspapers, indexed census records, and family and burial records.

Entry: Cheyenne 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: March 2014

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