Towns & Places
Barton County Slideshow
Barton County map, 1899.
Nearly in the geographical
center of the state,
County was created by a Legislative Act in 1867 and was named in honor of Clara
Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross Association. The southern half of
the county was once part of Washington County, which was created by a
Legislative Act in 1855, while the northern portion was first included as part
of the unorganized territory attached to the counties lying east of it.
It is thought that the first
white men who saw this part of Kansas were the Spaniards under Coronado. The
first American to visit Barton County was Lieutenant
Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who led an
exploring expedition to the
in 1806. On October 13th of that year, Pike reached the most northerly bend of
the Arkansas River, about six miles east of the present-day site of Great Bend,
where he encamped for several days. Several years later, the Robert McKnight
party, with a train of pack mules, followed the trail along the Arkansas River
in 1812, and in 1820,
Major Stephen Long's expedition passed along practically
the same course. This early route later became the historic
Santa Fe Trail.
For the next 50 years wagons
hauled valuable trading supplies up and down the Santa Fe Trail -- through
present-day Barton County, leaving in their wake, a volume of history. Along
this path came such men as
Kit Carson and General Stephen Kearny leading his
"Great Army of the West" in 1846 to fight the Mexican-American
War. In 1849, thousands blazed the trail in their quest for fortune in the
these travelers faced
Indian attacks including a
Cheyenne raid a few miles near
in 1853. As a result, soldiers were ordered to briefly establish a camp near
present-day Great Bend
in June, 1853, but they stayed only about a month.
Francis T. Bryan, of the Corps of Topographical Engineers,
blazed the Fort Riley-Fort Larned Military Trail that crossed
seven miles northwest of its mouth on the Arkansas River. Later, a branch
connected the trail to
Fort Zarah. That same year, the first white men --
William Allison and Francis Boothe, built an
adobe trading post near present-day
Two years later, Boothe became the first settler to be murdered when a Mexican man, passing along
Santa Fe Trail, split his head with an axe in 1857. The remaining owner,
William Allison, prospered as the trail once again boomed in 1858 with the start
of the Pikes Peak Gold Rush, as many took the “Mountain Branch” of the trail
Dodge City to
Colorado. However, Allison died of heart failure in 1859 and
the ranch was then taken over by a man named George Peacock, and the posts’ name
changed to Peacock Ranch. But for Peacock, his time would also be short.
In 1859, a local
Satank (Sitting Bear) was arrested after almost “passing out” after
drinking too much at the Peacock Ranch.
Satank escaped and the following year
asked Peacock to write a letter of introduction saying that the was a “good
Indian.” However, Peacock, instead wrote that
Satank was a “bad
Satank who couldn’t read English, passed it on. He later learned of Peacock’s
deceit and in the fall of 1860, led his warriors to the ranch, where they killed
Peacock and five other men and stole all of the livestock.
The trading post was then
taken over by a trader and
buffalo hunter named
Charles Rath and the post became
known as Rath’s Ranch.
Rath expanded the operations to also include a stagecoach
hotel, a restaurant, a post office, and a saloon.
On May 17, 1864,
Indians attacked the site, but fortunately Rath,
who was married to a Cheyenne
woman, had learned of the attack and was able to escape.
Due to the frequent
Indian attacks in the area, Camp Dunlap was established two miles east of
in July, 1864. Situated at the point where the Santa
Fe Trail crossed Walnut Creek,
it was initially little more than a camp of tents and dugouts near the site of
the Rath Ranch Trading Post. However, work soon began on a more permanent
facility about 100 yards distant and renamed
Though the area then had a military presence, the Indian attacks would continue
for several years, including numerous attacks on the fort itself.
By 1867, the
& Santa Fe Railroad was pushing through the county, and
William F. "Buffalo Bill"
spent a considerable amount of time in the area hunting
to feed the workers of the railroad. During this time, he was captured by
but was later able to escape. That same year, Charles Rath was accused by the U.S.
Army of selling liquor to the Indians at his trading post. He soon left the area
to later make a name for himself in
On May 19, 1868, the trading
post, which had long been the only building in the county was destroyed by
Indians and was never rebuilt. By the following year, the vast majority
of the area had been brought “under control” and
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