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Rawlins County, Kansas

Rawlins County is of the most northwestern counties in the state of Kansas. Containing the cities of Atwood, McDonald and Herndon, the county was founded by W. R. Shirley; G. P. Winter; S. B Hunter; Joseph Hewes; C. M. Egelston; J. D. Dewalt; E. J. Fullmer; James M. Matheny; and John A. Bliss. The county was organized on May 25, 1881.

The first church was in a homesteader’s house around 1880, but a stone church was constructed in 1891. The first county fair was held in McDonald in September, 1918, and later moved to Atwood. In 1879 the newspaper states there was one school district for the entire county, District Number 1, in Atwood.

The county gets its name from General John Rawlins, Secretary of War under President Ulysses S. Grant. An old county legend states that Belle Starr, while fleeing from the law, is supposed to have lived with her gang in one of the caves in the eastern part of Rawlins County.

The county is birthplace to two unique Kansans, Rudolph Wendelin, the "Smokey the Bear" artist for the Park Service, is from the county as well as Mike Hayden, who was a member of the Kansas legislature and Speaker of the House prior to being elected governor in 1986. Also Edith Aynes, a Lieutenant Colonel in the U. S. Army Nurse Corps, and a native of the county wrote, Night-In-Gales to Eagles.

For more information see the Rawlins County website. The Rawlins County Museum has an archives on county history which includes county records, microfilm of all county newspapers, and glass plate photographs for the period 1905-1930s.

Entry: Rawlins 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: April 2020

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