Ellinwood is located in Barton County, Kansas just north of the Arkansas River. Highway 56 and the Santa Fe railroad pass through town. Ellinwood was on the Santa Fe Trail, the trail that played a critical role in the westward expansion of the United States, and was an important two-way avenue for commerce and cultural exchange.


The town is named for Capt. John Ellinwood, chief civil engineer and surveyor for the AT&SF, who camped near here in the fall of 1871. The town's first merchant, George M. Jackson, laid out the town in the spring of 1872 and began selling whiskey and tobacco. The railroad reached Ellinwood that summer, and growth was rapid, reaching 400 by 1878.

Ellinwood is of German heritage which is shown by the architecture of the Main Street buildings and the Underground Tunnels of yesteryear. The tunnels remain of greatest interest to tourists. Ellinwood lies in the middle of the Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira Wildlife Refuge, both natural wetlands that attract nature lovers and hunters.

The Early History of Ellinwood
by Frank W. Blackmar (1912)
Ellinwood, an incorporated city of the third class in Barton county and the third largest city of the county, is situated on the left bank of the Arkansas river 10 miles east of Great Bend, the county seat. It is on the main line of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe R. R. and is the western terminus of the Florence & Ellinwood division of the same system. The town site was located and platted in 1871, and the first house—a small frame structure—was erected by William Misner. This building was occupied late in the year by A. Burlisson, who put in a stock of goods and became the pioneer merchant of the town. A few miles west was the old village of Zarah, and when Ellinwood was started most of the inhabitants of Zarah removed to the new town. One of the buildings thus removed in 1872 became Ellinwood's first hotel, conducted by Rugar & Greever.

The railroad was completed to the town in the summer of 1872 and the settlement of the place was more rapid. A number of new inhabitants arrived in the spring of 1873, and that year the first school house was built, the first school being taught by Miss Carrie Bacon. For the next five years the growth was slow. Many of the pioneers were Germans, who brought with them the customs of the Fatherland, and in 1875 a brewery was established, one of the first in western Kansas. The big crops of 1878 gave the town a new impetus. Early in that year the Ellinwood Express was started and the new paper aided materially in building up the town. The branch railroad was completed in 1881, a roundhouse was erected, and before the close of the year Ellinwood was incorporated as a city of the third class with F. A. Steckel as the first mayor.

Since its incorporation the growth of Ellinwood has been of a substantial character. In 1890 the population was 684; in 1900 it was 760, and in 1910 it was 976. It has 2 banks, 2 large flour mills, 2 creameries, a weekly newspaper (the Leader), 3 grain elevators, an international money order postoffice with three rural routes, a telephone exchange, hotels, churches, and annually ships large quantities of grain, flour and live stock.

Ellinwood is located at 38°21'22N, 98°34'51W (38.356226, -98.580873). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.8 km² (1.1 mi²), all land.

As of the census of 2000, there were 2,164 people, 906 households, and 594 families residing in the city. The population density was 773.6/km² (1,996.8/mi²). There were 1,034 housing units at an average density of 369.7/km² (954.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.90% White, 0.23% African American, 0.83% Native American, 0.05% Asian, 0.60% from other races, and 1.39% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.85% of the population.

There were 906 households out of which 31.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.1% were married couples living together, 9.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.4% were non-families. 31.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 6.3% from 18 to 24, 23.8% from 25 to 44, 21.7% from 45 to 64, and 22.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 85.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $29,596, and the median income for a family was $42,292. Males had a median income of $29,792 versus $19,194 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,811. About 7.3% of families and 10.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.0% of those under age 18 and 15.1% of those age 65 or over.

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