Ford County, Kansas

Ford County, Kansas west of Dodge City by Kathy Alexander.

Ford County, Kansas west of Dodge City by Kathy Alexander.

Towns & Places:

Bloom – Unincorporated Ghost Town


Dodge City – County Seat


Fort Dodge – Unincorporated

Kingsdown – Unincorporated Ghost Town

Spearville – Unincorporated

Willrose Gardens – Unincorporated

Wright – Unincorporated

Extinct Towns






More Extinct Towns

Arkansas River

Ford County Photo Galleries

Santa Fe Trail in Ford County

Ford County, Kansas Location

Ford County, Kansas Location

Ford County Map by L.H. Everts & Co., 1887.

Ford County Map by L.H. Everts & Co., 1887.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in the old town of Windhorst, Kansas courtesy Wikipedia.

Immaculate Heart of Mary Catholic Church in the old town of Windhorst, Kansas, courtesy Wikipedia.

Fort Dodge, Kansas 1867

Fort Dodge, Kansas 1867

Ford County, Kansas, located in the southwestern part of the state, was created by a Legislative Act of 1867, which provided for the division into counties of all the unorganized parts of the state. It was named in honor of Colonel James H. Ford of the Second Colorado Cavalry, who was in charge of the construction of Fort Dodge after the Civil War. However, pioneers had frequently traveled through the region along the Santa Fe Trail.

One of the first parties to travel westward through this portion of Kansas with a pack train was the McKnight Expedition in 1812, which followed the Arkansas River. A few years later, Major Stephen H. Long’s Expedition passed up the Arkansas Valley, and by 1825, this route became known as the Santa Fe Trail. One of the earliest military posts in Kansas, Fort Atkinson, was located in Ford County. Fort Dodge, established in 1864, was on the north bank of the Arkansas River, about five miles southeast of Dodge City. The old military reservation is now the State Soldiers’ Home site.

Buffalo hide yard in Dodge City, Kansas.

Buffalo hide yard in Dodge City, Kansas.

During the California Gold Rush in 1849, thousands of gold seekers passed through the area along the Santa Fe Trail, but few settled there. One of the first permanent settlers was Andrew J. Anthony, who settled on a ranch about 20 miles west of present-day Dodge City in 1867. He kept a few cattle and a general store for a year, then moved to Fort Dodge and engaged in the sutler business until 1874. Herman J. Fringer came to Fort Dodge in 1867 as a quartermaster’s clerk. Later, he opened one of the pioneer drug stores and served as Justice of the Peace before the county was organized. H.L. Sitler came to the county in 1868 and was one of the pioneer freighters before the railroad was built.

In August 1872, buffalo hunters and businessmen in various branches of industry were attracted to Ford County and Dodge City was established upon the completion of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad the following month. Before the buffalo were wiped out, their hides were extensively shipped from Dodge City. Later, Dodge City would develop into a rough-and-tumble cowtown.

Charles Rath

Charles Rath

As the frontier moved further west, Ford County became populated with industrious farmers and ranchers who established permanent homes. On April 5, 1873, Governor Thomas A. Osborn issued a proclamation providing for the organization of Ford County. He appointed Charles Rath, J. G. McDonald, and Daniel Wolf as special commissioners and Herman J. Fringer as a special clerk. The commissioners soon met at Dodge City and elected Charles Rath as chairman. An election for county officers was ordered for June 5, 1873, when the commissioners and officers were elected.

By 1874, Dodge City had developed into the primary shipping point for the Texas cattle trade; the cowboys from the Plains driving in large quantities for shipment. These many cowboys, along with railroad workers, gamblers, gunfighters, and “ladies of the night,” soon earned Dodge City a reputation as a wicked little town.

One of the earliest newspapers in the county was the Dodge City Messenger, which was established in February 1874, but the paper was suspended in 1875.

Until 1875, rented buildings were used for courthouse purposes and county offices, but during the summer of 1876, a fine brick courthouse was completed at the cost of $8,000, and all the county offices and records were moved to it.

On May 20, 1876, the Dodge City Times made its appearance, and over the decades, Ford County sported several other newspapers. The Ford County Globe was established at Dodge City in December 1877 and exists today.

In 1880, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad reached Santa Fe, New Mexico, marking the death of the Santa Fe Trail and the many travelers passing through Dodge City.

Santa Fe Railroad Depot in Dodge City, Kansas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Santa Fe Railroad Depot in Dodge City, Kansas, by Kathy Alexander.

With the Indians effectively “lodged” on reservations, there was no longer a need for a military presence, and Fort Dodge was closed in 1882. By 1886, the cattle drives had also stopped, and the county settled down into a more peaceful existence.

By the turn of the century, Ford County sported almost 5,500 people and would see tremendous growth during the next decade as its population doubled to more than 11,000 residents. By this time, Dodge City had become a transportation hub in the area, with some 90 miles of railroad tracks situated within the county. Along with its mainstay of farming and ranching, the county also held good sandstone, limestone, and gypsum, which were quarried and sold. The area’s industry and services also expanded to include several flour mills, machine shops, ice plants, and more.

During the 1930s, Ford County, like many others in Kansas, was caught in the midst of the dust bowl days, especially on “Black Sunday,” when a massive front moved across the Great Plains on April 15, 1935. Though many hardy residents stayed, living on hope and taking the advice of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service, a great many others gave up and left the area, reducing the county population.

However, Ford County recovered and diversified its interests and businesses over the next 50 years. Today, the county supports a population of about 34,000 people. Its rich history lives on in its historical landmarks and museums, including the Boothill Museum in Dodge City.

Contact Information:

Ford County Kansas
100 Gunsmoke Street
Dodge City, Kansas 67801

Ford County Cowboys at Chuckwagon, 1884.

Ford County Cowboys at Chuckwagon, 1884.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of Kansas, updated December 2023.

Great Western Hotel in Dodge City, Kansas by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

Great Western Hotel in Dodge City, Kansas, by Kathy Alexander.

Also See:

Ford County Photo Gallery

Kansas Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe Trail – Highway to the Southwest

Santa Fe Trail Photo Gallery