History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Grant County, Kansas

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Grant County, Kansas



Extinct Towns

Santa Fe Trail Thru Kansas

Wagon Bed Springs



Grant County, Kansas Map, 1899

Grant County map, 1899.





Situated on the High Plains in the far southwestern part of Kansas, Grant County was created in 1887 out of Hamilton County territory, by an act of the Kansas Legislature and named in honor of General Ulysses S. Grant.


Long before the county was formed; however, numerous travelers made their way through the area along the Cimarron Branch of the old Santa Fe Trail. Mostly prairie, these hardy pioneers traveled along the Cimarron River that, unfortunately, was dry most of the time, even back then.


The Santa Fe Trail entered what was later to become Grant County midway of its eastern boundary and continued its southwesterly course, crossing the North Fork of the Cimarron River, before making its way to the  well-known "Lower Springs," later known as the "Wagon Bed Spring" on the Cimarron River. The Jornada stretch was a perilous route for both men and animals in the dry season as the wagon trains often ran out of water and their arrival at the oasis of Wagon Bed Spring was a welcome relief.


Grant County is the second county north of the Oklahoma line and the second east from Colorado, the census at the time it was created in 1887 was 2,716 people, 653 of whom were householders.


When Grant County was first established there were two candidates for the county seat -- Ulysses and and Tilden (later called Appomattox.) The governor's proclamation was not made until June, 1888, which named Ulysses as the temporary county seat and appointed County Officers. The county is divided into three townships -- Lincoln, Sullivan and Sherman. Some of the first post offices were established in the now extinct towns of Shockey, Gognac, Lawson, Waterford, as well as in the county seat of Ulysses.  


A few months later, an election was held to determine the permanent location of the county seat on October 16, 1888. The voters had to decide between Ulysses and Tilden (later called Appomattox) and the county seat fight was fierce. At that time, George Washington Earp, cousin to the more famous Earp brothers, was the mayor and constable of  Ulysses. According to legend, George Earp was just as "free with his gun” as Wyatt and his bunch.


Luke Short, gunfighterGeorge Earp would later say that the Ulysses Town Company imported several noted gun men "to protect the security of the ballot" at the elections. Among them were Bat Masterson, Luke Short, Ed Dlathe, Jim Drury, Bill Wells, Ed Short, and others. The men built a lumber barricade across the street from the polling place, stationing themselves behind it with their Winchesters and six-shooters, in case of trouble or attempts to steal the ballot box. But, no trouble erupted and in the end, the election resulted in a win for Ulysses.

But, like many other Kansas Counties, the fight wouldn’t end there. With charges of corruption, the fight went all the way to the Kansas Supreme Court, where evidence was submitted by a Tilden partisan named Alvin Campbell. He introduced facts to show that the city council of Ulysses had bonded the people to the extent of $36,000 to buy votes, claiming that the total votes paid for was 388.


It was an “open secret” that votes were bought and “professional voters” had been brought in and boarded for the requisite 30 days before the election, and given $10 each when they had voted. But, it was not known at the time that this had been done at public expense. It was also alleged that “professional toughs” were also hired to intimidate the Tilden voters.


The exposure of the fact that public funds had been used created excitement among the citizens of the county, who found themselves subject to the payment of bonds, and those to blame for the outrage retaliated upon Alvin Campbell by tarring him in August, 1889.


It was also shown in court that Tilden had bought votes and engaged in irregular practices, and Ulysses finally won, though it was a dearly bought victory. Added to the $36,000 spent in the county seat fight was $13,000 in bonds, which had been voted for a school house and $8,000 for a courthouse.


Hotel Edwards Ullysses, KansasAt the height of the county seat contest between Ulysses and Appomattox in 1888, Ulysses boasted a population of 2,000 and supported twelve restaurants, four hotels, several other businesses, six gambling houses, and twelve saloons.


In the end, Ulysses was the victor in the Kansas Supreme Court in 1890, and has since retained its county seat status.


But, the troubles weren’t over. In 1898, the county suffered from severe drop failure causing a panic and reducing the population from 1,500 to 400 in Ulysses, and later only to some 40 souls. Buildings were moved away, banks closed and merchants let their stock of goods run down.


The next few years however, good crops returned the county to prosperity. A new bank was opened, new buildings were erected to take the place of those moved away, and by the turn of the century, Ulysses boasted some 422 residents.




Continued Next Page



Old Ulysses sign

Today, the site of Old Ulysses, is marked by this beautiful iron sign, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.


Old Ulysses, Kansas

Old Ulysses in 1906, courtesy Wichita State University.


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