History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


Pawnee County, Kansas

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Towns & Places

Extinct Towns of Pawnee County

Fort Larned National Historic Site

Museums & Historic Sites


Pawnee County Historic Map.

Pawnee County Historic Map.





Situated in western Kansas, Pawnee County was created in 1867 and named for the Pawnee Indians, who had long inhabited the area utilizing it as their hunting grounds. Years before the county was created, Fort Larned was established on the Santa Fe Trail in the fall of 1859 and the buildings completed in 1860. In 1862 a post office was established at the military post at Fort Larned. However, no other settlers came to the area until 1864, when Samuel Parker established a ranch about a mile and a half above the mouth of Pawnee Fork. The next year he built another ranch house farther up the stream, which he sold to Tortat & Fletchfield. In 1867 this ranch was in the hands of a Mr. Wagginer, whose wife was the first white woman in the county. However, after area Indians ran off the stock and burned the buildings, the ranch was sold to a man named A.H. Boyd, who was also harassed by the Indians. In 1868 his stock was also ran off. Sometime later, while Boyd and another man named McGinnis were traveling back from Fort Larned, they were attacked by Indians, who killed McGinnis and stole his horse. Boyd barely escaped with his life. The last Indian raid occurred in 1871, when ten mules and six horses were run off from the Boyd ranch. Among other early settlers were John Haney, William White, Henry Booth, F.C. Hawkins, F. S. Burleson, T. McCarthy and George Nolan.

On November 4, 1872, Governor James M. Harvey issued a proclamation organizing the county, which provided for the temporary county seat at Larned and appointed public officers and commissioners. That same year, several new settlers came to the area including George B. Cox and the first general store was established at Larned by Colegrove & Russell in June, 1872.  The first general election occurred November 5, 1872.

In 1873 the county was divided into townships and a colony from Geneva, Ohio settled in Garfield Township in May, and  Adams Peabody in Pleasant Valley Township. The settlement of Garfield gained a post office in June, 1873, with E. W. Grover as its first post master. Soon, there would also be post offices in the burgeoning settlements of Burdett, Frizell, Larned, Point View, Ray, Rozel and Sanford. The population in 1873 was estimated at 150 but it would continue to grow and by 1876, there were nine school buildings in the county.

In July, 1874, the county was plagued by grasshoppers, which came in swarms so large they blocked out the sun and brought with them near near total destruction. That same year, county settlers received their last Indian scare, bringing numerous settlers from outlying communities into Larned, though nothing resulted of the scare.

By 1882, the population of the county had increased to more than 4,300 people and by 1900 to more than 5,000. By this time, the county had developed primarily into an agricultural area.


Larned, Kansas around 1900Today, Pawnee County's mainstay continues to be farming and ranching, supporting more than 6,500  people. Several remnants of its past can be seen at the Fort Larned National Historic Site, which is located six miles west of Larned. The 1859 fort has been fully restored and several impressive trail ruts can be seen at the site. Just two miles west of Larned is the Santa Fe Trail Center which tells the story of the the Santa Fe Trail and includes a sod house, schoolhouse, and dugout.  At Coon Creek Crossing on the Santa Fe Trail, more trail ruts can still be seen on the north bank of the creek. It is located about 1 miles west of Garfield, Kansas.


The current towns of Pawnee County include:



Population (2010)


Burdett 247
Garfield 190
Larned (county seat) 4,054
Rozel 156



Compiled by Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated October 2019.





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