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Edwards County, Kansas

On March 17, 1874, the Edwards County boundaries were defined by the Legislature and on August 1, 1874, the county was organized by Taylor Flick; Robert McCanse; Captain Peter H. Miles; and C. L. Hubbs. The county was named for W. C. Edwards of Hutchinson who promised that when the county was organized he would build a brick block of buildings in Kinsley if the county was named for him. He was the senior partner of the House of Edwards Brothers in Kinsley. It contains the cities of Belpre, Kinsley, Offerle and Lewis.

The Battle of Coon Creek was a major event in county history. Fought on June 18, 1848, between some 200 Comanche and Osage Indians and 140 soldiers on their way to fight in the Mexican War, this was the first battle to use breech-loading rifles. The story also tells of an Indian woman mounted on a horse, who seemed to be their queen, directing the handling of the wounded. On January 27, 1878, bandits attempting to loot the Santa Fe railroad station's safe, and also rob the westbound Pueblo Express, were foiled by a young telegraph operator named Andrew Kincaid. Four of the gang were later captured by Bat Masterson. In 1939 a "Half-Way" sign was erected two miles west of Kinsley denoting Kinsley's location as half-way between New York and San Francisco. The signing was done in commemoration of the 1939 World Fairs being held simultaneously in the two cities.

The Kinsley Congregational Church was founded on May 10, 1874. The first county fair was organized by the Edwards County Fair Association in 1885 complete with new buildings. The first school district was organized in Kinsley on November 14, 1874, and school was initially conducted in the city building and a church until the first schoolhouse was built in June, 1877, at the site of the present Lincoln Grade School.

Interesting Edwards County citizen are Vivian Irene Milner, better known as Rena, is said to be the first woman city manager in the United States, serving Kinsley from May, 1928 until 1932. George "Honey Boy" Evans, who grew up in Kinsley, wrote the song, "In the Good Old Summertime." Earl Winfield Spencer, the first husband of the woman who later became the wife of King George IV and Duchess of Windsor, was born in Kinsley. The Easy Washing Machine and Easy Churn, were patented and manufactured by John Wire and Charles Ryan of Kinsley. Charles Edwards, son of the founder of the Kinsley bank, started the first Shakespearian open air theater west of the Mississippi, known as Meadowbrook, east of Kinsley near Coon Creek. Congressman Jovett Shouse (1915-1919) and Kansas Court Justice Harold R. Fatzer (1956-1971). Fatzer served as Chief Justice from 1971-1977.

Interesting sites in the county include the Santa Fe Depot, the Chapel and Sod House in Midway USA and several old homes and the house belonging to the founder of Lewis are still on the west edge of town.

For more information see the Edwards County website. Kinlsey Public Library and the Edwards County Historical Society have local records and several early publications relating to the county. The most recent publications are:

Myron C. and Elizabeth Burr, Kinsley-Edwards County Centennial Book, 1873-1973, 1973.

Oft' Told Tales, 1976, and The Great Next year Country, 1983, by Myrtle Richardson

Offerle History, 1876-1976, by Julie Riisoe Ackerman

Belpre, Kansas, the Story of a Small Town, by David Kearney, 1978



Entry: Edwards 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: October 2015

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