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Crawford County, Kansas

Crawford County, Kansas, has gained a reputation for its role in the coal mining and zinc smelting industries. Once a part of the Cherokee Neutral Lands, it was organized in 1867.

Crawford County was named for Kansas Governor Samuel J. Crawford. From 1855 to 1860 the area was a part of McGee County. McGee ceased to exist after it was split into Crawford and Cherokee counties. When the Cherokee Neutral Lands were released in 1866 much of it was opened for settlement. Governor Crawford named Crawfordsville as county seat, but an 1868 election selected Girard as the center of county government.

With the county’s location along the Missouri border, area residents lived through border violence during the Civil War. When these skirmishes occurred between those sympathetic with the Union and those supporting the Confederacy, sometimes local farms were caught in the crosshairs.  

  • Here in the Cherokee Lowlands or Osage Cuestas the natural mineral resources are particularly rich. Coal mining has long been important to Crawford County. The Pittsburg-Weir Coalfield is located partially in the county. Pittsburg was established as a coal mining camp in 1876. As time passed it grew beyond the population of Girard. By the end of the 1880s Pittsburg had active and booming coal and zinc smelting industries.

Girard received a boost in 1870 with rail passenger service reached the area with the Missouri River, Fort Scott and Gulf Railroad.

In the early 1920s, there was a coal mine strike. Women showed support for those that worked there, who wished for not only better wages, but better conditions. They were armed with American flags and marched near Pittsburg.

Carney Hall, Pittsburg State University, 1920

Crawford County has many properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places including the Hotel Stillwell, Besse Hotel, Crawford County Courthouse, Haldeman Julius House, Girard Carnegie Library, and the Franklin Sidewalk. The Franklin Sidewalk was established in the 1930s to keep pedestrians safe from traffic as the underground coal mining industry started to decrease and schools had consolidated.  

Interesting figures with a connection of Crawford county include Emmanuel Haldeman-Julius publisher of the “Little Blue Books,” and was an influential publisher; Fred W. Brinkerhoff, journalist, politician, historian, editor and Publisher; Kansas Supreme Court Justice Perry L. Owsley; and Congressmen Edwin Ridgely, Joe Skubitz, and Thomas Winter.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 13, 1867
County Seat: Girard
Kansas Region: Southeast
Physiographic Region: Cherokee Lowlands and Osage Cuestas
Scenic Byways: Frontier Military
Courthouse: 1921-1922


1855 - 1860 - Area that is now Crawford County, is a part of McGee County.
1857 - Coal is discovered in the county.
1861 - 1865 - During the Civil War, the settlers experience incidents of violence.
1867 - Crawford County is organized.
1868 - Girard county is determined the county seat over Crawfordsville.
1876 - Pittsburg starts out as a coal mining camp but as the years progress, become a booming town in coal and zinc smelting industries.
1936 - Franklin Sidewalk, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is constructed due to the decline of the underground coal mining business and consolidation of schools.

More on Crawford County

Entry: Crawford 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: August 2023

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