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Wallace County, Kansas

Wallace county, which contains the cities of Sharon Springs and Wallace, was named for For Fort Wallace, which was named for General William H. L. Wallace of Civil War fame (Illinois general, not to be confused with L. E. W. Wallace of Indiana). In was first organized on August 25, 1868, but when it was discovered the county did not have the required population, the governor ordered it dissolved in 1879. The county was reorganized on January 5, 1889. The founders were Charles Westerberg; Andrew Okeson; Joe Capper; Charles Mather; George Alloman; J. B. Spurlock; and Addie Starkey.

The establishment of Fort Wallace and its operation from 1865 to 1882 offered protection to the early settlers of the county and provided many services. The Union Pacific Railroad arrived in 1868 and was building across the county for two years, bringing people and money to the area. The Smoky Basin Cave-In in 1926 was an unusual subsidence in the county that drew thousands of people and many scientists to the area. President Theodore Roosevelt spent a couple days in Sharon Springs in 1903 on his way to California. 

The first church was the Wallace Catholic Church founded in 1877. The first county fair was held in 1945. The first school in the county was at the fort. The first public school was started in 1869 as a subscription school; later, the school in Weskan was the first consolidated school in the state of Kansas.

Probably the most historic and best known citizen of Wallace county would be Peter Robidoux, who had a large well-stocked store in Wallace beginning in 1868 that supplied most of the staples to the early settlers. Robidoux bought and traded buffalo hides by the carload. The house still stands.

It is said that after the murder of one Sprague Corley, two McKinley men were hanged for the affair. Later it was found they were innocent. An old timer tells of seeing "fox fire" run along the ridges of houses of the men who had been involved in the hanging.

Wallace county contains the sites of the Robidoux House, Fort Wallace Cemetery and two sod houses south of Sharon Springs

For more information see the Wallace County website.The Wallace County Historical Society compiled a history of the county and left all the notes, research materials not used, and all available sources at the Fort Wallace Memorial Museum in Wallace where they are available for research.

Entry: Wallace 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.