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Ellsworth County, Kansas

Ellsworth County was organized on August 24, 1867, for P. M. Thompson; Joseph Lehman; D. H. Page; D. Cushman; Adam Weadle; Leverants S. D. Walker; J. J. and C. L. Prather; and Irwin and H. V. Faris. Named for Lieutenant Allen Ellsworth of the 7th Iowa Cavalry who established Fort Ellsworth in 1864, the county contains the cities of Ellsworth, Kanopolis, Lorraine, Holyrood and Wilson.

The establishment of Fort Ellsworth, later named Fort Harker, protected the early settlements and served as a shipping point for the Santa Fe Trail. The early cattle trains and trade established in the 1870s and the route of the Butterfield Overland Dispatch through the county contributed significantly to the settlement and economy of the area. The construction of Kanapolis Dam in 1950 aided both flood control and water conservation.

The first church was the Holy Apostles Episcopal Church founded in 1870 in Ellsworth. The first school was taught in 1867 in a dugout along Thompson Creek, but was unable to complete the first term because of an Indian scare.

Many famous generals and individuals were often located at Fort Harker, including:General George Armstrong Custer, General Nelson Appleton Miles, General Winfield Scott Hancock, General Philip Sheridan, William F. Cody and James B. Hickok were also stationed at the fort either as scouts or briefly living there.

Other men in the county, particularly the "cowtown" days of Ellsworth, include: Colonel Henry Inman, Sheriff Chauncey B. Whitney, and Dr. George Sternberg, a local doctor, later became the United States Surgeon General.

Although not entirely legend, some of the facts concerning the shooting of Sheriff Chauncey Whitney have become so. The shooting is reenacted every year during the Cowtown Festival.

In addition to the famous names mentioned above, the Story of a Ranch, by Alice Wellington Rollins was written about her brother's ranch north of Carneio. Colonel Henry Inman's works, Tales of the Trail, Tragedy at Twin Mounds, and Ranch on the Oxide, were all set in Ellsworth County and/or around Fort Harker.

For more information see the Ellsworth County website. Ellsworth County Historical Society Museum, Ellsworth, has a variety of county records and books. A complete bibliography of the county's history, compiled by Dennis Schockley was included with the report.

Entry: Ellsworth 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.