A line drawn through the center of the State from north to south, would pass through Kingman County, about six miles from its west line, so that the county may be said to be in the eastern half of the State. The south line of the county rests upon the sixth standard parallel, Kingman being in the second tier of counties north of the south line of the State.
For municipal purposes, the county is divided into twelve civil townships, and three commissioner districts. The county is bounded on the north by Reno County, on the south by Harper and a small portion of Barber, on the east by portions of Sedgwick and Sumner, and on the west by Pratt and the northern portion of Barber. The county is located about midway between the east and west boundary lines of the State.
The surface of the county is mostly high rolling prairie, but in the vicinity of the Ninnescah it is somewhat broken, but not to such an extent as to be termed bluffy. Leaving the valley of the stream, the ascent of the surface is considerable, but once the top is reached it stretches away in undulating prairie, with now and then a sand hill, or knoll, showing itself in the distance. Along the streams are strips of beautiful valley, or bottom land, but not a solitary tree can be seen to mark their course. The Ninnescah valley will average about a mile in width throughout the county, and although totally void of timber, is quite picturesque. Along the other streams in the county, the valleys are not continuous, but at intervals, very fine tracts of bottom land are to be found.
The county is very well watered, the Ninnescah being the most important stream, the Chikaskia being next. The Ninnescah is a very beautiful stream, and being fed altogether from springs, its water is pure and clear. It is about 160 miles in length, and flows through the entire length of Kingman County from west to east, receiving on its way the waters of Smoot Creek, a very fine little stream that rises at the center of the north line of the county, and runs in a southerly direction until it enters the Ninnescah at the east line of the county.
Sand Creek or Big Sandy, is a small stream in the southwestern portion of the county, about twelve miles long that empties into the Chikaskia, the latter being quite an important stream that flows eastward along the southern boundary line of the county. Besides these are several lesser streams that do not appear upon any of the maps. The Ninnescah is always a living stream, and although very shallow, preserves through all seasons of the year, either wet or dry, about a uniform flow of water, seldom or never overflowing its banks, and never falling below a certain volume. Good well water is found in all portions of the county, but in the uplands it is only obtainable by sinking wells from fifty to eighty feet in depth, but when found it is pure and clear and never failing in supply.
The soil of Kingman County is a mulatto colored loam and quite porous. It is considerably mixed with sand and is easy of cultivation. It is sub-soiled in most places by a kind of red sandstone, which is excellent for building purposes, and which in some places, especially in the vicinity of the Ninnescah, crops out from the surface. The soil, particularly along the streams, is very productive, and even the upland has proved to be excellently adapted to agricultural pursuits, although not so reliable as the land in the valleys. Excellent crops, however, have been raised on some of the upland farms, and with a moderate rainfall good crops are assured. Small grain of all kinds can almost invariably be successfully raised, but corn is not so certain; but in seasons when rain falls at the proper time, large crops of corn are produced.
Although a very good agricultural county it has certain advantages which place it in the front rank for stock-raising. It has an abundance of excellent water, and its wide stretches of buffalo grass afford good pasture. Cattle, however, are not confined to buffalo grass alone, as "blue stem" has supplanted it to a considerable extent. There are also many fine stretches of meadow land in the county, from which a plentiful supply of good hay can be cut for winter use. This dual character which pertains to the soil makes Kingman a very desirable county for that class of men who wish to engage in both farming and stock-raising.
The first actual settler in Kingman County was Martin Updegraff, who located on the Chikaskia, about twenty miles southeast of the present town of Kingman, on Section 36, Town 29, Range 10, west of the sixth principal meridian. Mr. Updegraff made settlement in February, 1873, and was followed a few months later by J. K. and S. F. Fical and Charles Barr, and some two or three others.
In the spring of 1874, a few settlers came in, among whom were W. H. Childs, H. L. Ball, A. D. Culver, H. S. Bush and W. P. Brown, all of whom located in Kingman and took claims adjacent to towns. That spring also, W. H. Mosher located upon a claim in the northern portion of the county, at the head of Smoot Creek. In the course of the year, several others came in who located chiefly in the central portion of the county along the Ninnescah.
That year an Indian scare occurred, and, in order to repel the anticipated attack, Mr. Fical was commissioned as Captain and W. H. Childs as Lieutenant, with authority to organize a militia company, but when the commissions arrived there were no men to be found, as nearly all the settlers had fled the county. It proved only to be a scare, however, as the Indians did not come as far east as Kingman County, and the settlers who had fled soon returned.
The years 1875 and 1876 were not remarkable for the arrival of many new settlers coming into the county, but in 1877, the immigration was quite large. But little, if any, settlement had been made in the eastern part of the county prior to that year; what few there were being confined to an isolated settler here and there, north of the Ninnescah. The year 1877 was not a month old, however, when Samuel Davidson, E. S. Allen, R. T. Nolan, John Jackson, C. M. Tack, H. H. Goldsborough and William Green all settled in the eastern part of the county, followed immediately after by large numbers of others. The new settlers, however, did not confine themselves to that particular locality of the county, as a great many took claims in the central portion, and quite a number located in the northern part in the vicinity of Smoot Creek.
The spring of 1877 was made memorable by the heavy rains that set in on May 11, and which continued, almost without cessation, until the 11th day of June. These rains swelled the streams to such an extent as to render them impassable, and, as there were no bridges across the Ninnescah east of Kingman, the settlers in the eastern portion of the county were cut off from their trading point, Wichita, and, in consequence thereof, were brought to almost the last extremity for provisions. For several days, parched corn furnished about the only food many of them had to subsist upon, and when the waters sufficiently subsided to render the streams fordable, but few of them had provisions to last for twelve hours.
So rapidly did the eastern portion of the county settle up, that in 1878 a town was started, to which was given the name of Akron. The town site was located on Section 28, Town 28, Range 5. The starting of this town was a preliminary step toward making an attempt to secure the county seat, for, that very same year, a petition was presented to the County Commissioner, asking that the question of re-locating the county-seat be submitted to a vote of the people; but the board refused to grant the prayer of the petitioners, and the town of Akron was abandoned.
When Kingman County first began to be settled, buffalo and antelope roamed over its prairies in countless herds, and for several years after, the settlers found rare sport in hunting the king of the plains, by which their tables were plentifully supplied with meat. The last buffalo killed in the county was in 1877, by Orange Culver. In 1878 and spring of 1879, the population of the county increased rapidly, and a large immigration was distributed over the county. The two following years more people left the county than came into it, owing to the unpropitious seasons, and shortness of crops.
A circumstance occurred in 1880, which created considerable excitement, and which is still enshrouded in mystery, and is now in court for solution. The current account of the affair is, that in 1880, M. S. Sprowls, who, at the time, was County Attorney, Milton Karr and R. G. McLain had entered into a partnership for the negotiation of loans. The system they pursued led them to be arrested at the instance of J. B. Watkins & Co., of Lawrence, who advanced the money on the loans negotiated.
Sprowls & Karr gave bonds for their appearance, and McLain was lodged in jail, from which he made his escape, but was afterward re-arrested and placed in jail at Wichita, but from that he also escaped. Before court convened, Sprowls mysteriously disappeared and the supposition was, and is, that he was killed. Karr lived in Kingman, and had a brother who lived about sixteen miles from there in the country. Sprowls' relatives, who reside in Pennsylvania, in December, 1882, sent out one of Pinkerton's detectives, to solve, if possible, the mystery surrounding Sprowls' death or disappearance.
The detective was in the county about a month, when he succeeded in finding a coat, about a mile south of Karr's house, that had belonged to Sprowls. In the back of the coat was two holes supposed to be bullet holes. This fact, and the further one, that Sprowls was last seen at Karr's house, let to the arrest of the latter, who, at his preliminary examination, was required to give bond for his appearance at the District Court, where the matter is now awaiting disposition.
In 1882, immigration into the county was very large, and a great many new farms were opened. The first child born in Kingman County was born to Mr. and Mrs. J. K. Fical, in 1873, a girl, to whom was given the name of Ninnescah, in honor of the stream on which Kingman is situated. The first person to attempt farming in the county was Charles Barr, by whom the first prairie in the county was broken in 1873.
The first marriage in the county took place at the house of A. D. Culver, in Kingman, on November 2, 1875, the contracting parties being Jesse McCarty, and Miss Cecilia Capitola Scribner, the ceremony having been performed by W. H. Mosher, a Justice of the Peace; and from that time until April 3, 1883, just 100 marriage licenses had been issued from the office of the Probate Judge of the county.
The county was organized on February 27, 1874. The methods by which it was accomplished are not recorded, but it is a well-known fact that when the organization took place there were not twenty bona fide settlers in the county. Gov. Thomas A. Osborn appointed J. Harmony county Clerk, J. K. Fical, J. M. Jordan and G. W. Lacy as County Commissioners to fill those offices temporarily, and designated Kingman as the temporary county seat.
The officers met at Kingman March 5, 1874, for the purpose of organizing a board of permanent County Commissioners; the temporary board was declared permanent; but as J. K. Fical withdrew, W. C. Frink was appointed in his place. On petition from the citizens, the board called a special election, to be held at Kingman, April 7, 1874, to vote on the question of issuing county bonds to the amount of $70,000, for the following purposes, to wit:--$25,000 for a court house, $10,000 for bridges and $35,000 for general expenses, said bonds to be payable ten years from date of issue, bearing interest at the rate of ten per cent per annum, payable semi-annually.
It was then ordered that the county and township officers should be voted for at the same election. At this election the following officers were declared elected: H. L. Ball, J. K. Fical, G. W. Lacy, Commissioners; J. Harmony, Clerk; F. S. Fical, Sheriff; J. M. Jordan, Treasurer; W. P. Brown, County Attorney; George Pitts, Probate Judge; G. A. Whicher, County Superintendent; W. J. Harmony, Register of Deeds; W. P. Brown, Coroner; R. R. Wilson, Surveyor; G. A. Whicher, District Clerk. The county seat was located at Kingman and the issue of the $70,000 in bonds authorized. These bonds were printed, but were cancelled the next spring and destroyed. What the vote of the county was at the first election is not shown by the records, but it must have been very light, as the actual settlers in the county were very few.
In 1881, the settlers in the central portion of the county thought they were sufficiently numerous, with the assistance they could receive from the southern and eastern portions of the county, to have the county seat removed from Kingman to a more central point, and with this object in view, a petition was presented to the Board of Commissioners, on October 4, 1881, asking that the question of relocating the county seat be submitted to a vote of the people. The prayer of the petitioners was granted, and an election was ordered to be held on November 7, 1881. The competitive points were Kingman and a point about seven miles southeast from there, to which had been given the name of Dale City. The result of the election was that Kingman was declared the choice of the people by a majority of eighty-five votes.
Mills and Press History
There are only two mills in the county, both located on the Ninnescah, and both flouring mills. Both may be said to be located in the town of Kingman, as one is situated but a few rods west of the town limits and the other about a mile east. The one west of town stands on the north bank of the river, and the one to the east, on the south bank. The former was built by Starling Turner, in 1879, and commenced running in January, 1880. It is a water-power mill, the power being obtained by cutting a race two miles and one hundred and eighty yards long, parallel with the river. By this means, a fall of fifteen feet is obtained, which furnishes excellent power. The mill is three stories high with a basement, has four run of buhrs and a capacity of fifty barrels of flour per each day of twenty-four hours. The estimated value of the mill is $20,000.
The other mill was built by William S. Grosvenor; was commenced in 1882 and completed early in 1883. Its power is also obtained by means of a race about two miles in length, cut along the south bank of the Ninnescah, by which a twelve-feet fall is obtained. This mill is three stories high, with a basement, and is fitted up with the latest improved machinery. It has seven rollers and three run of stone, and has a capacity of one hundred barrels of flour each twenty-four hours. The estimated value of this mill is $35,000.
There are few, if any, streams in the State that have better power or that possess more mill privileges than the Ninnescah. The natural fall in the stream is seven feet to the mile, and as the flow remains about the same at all seasons of the year, power sufficient could be obtained to turn the machinery of all the mills that could be built at intervals of three miles along the entire length of the Ninnescah through Kingman County. The two mills spread in operation in the county furnish a very fair example of the advantages the Ninnescah offers for mill sites. These mills are only about two miles apart, and both operated by water conducted through a race, one race being cut on the north side of the stream and the other on the south.
For the purpose of cutting the second race, a water-power company was organized in 1881, composed of F. E. Gillett, W. D. Sugars, C. R. Cook, J. H. Brass, Joseph Roberts and Charles Richman. This company had the right of way for a mill race condemned, but that was about all it did towards cutting a race or erecting a mill. A new company was formed, consisting of Messrs. Babcock, Craycraft, Gillett, Sugars and Grosvenor, who purchased the franchise from the old company. Babcock, Craycraft and Grosvenor then organized themselves into a milling company, and commenced the digging of a race, which they about half completed, when the company dissolved, after which Mr. Grosvenor completed the race himself and erected one of the finest mills in Western Kansas.
The Mercury was the first newspaper published in Kingman county. It was established by J. C. Martin, the first issue bearing date June 14, 1878. The paper was small, being a five-column folio, and was published by Mr. Martin until August 19, 1880, when he sold the office and material to A. E. Saxey, who changed the name of the paper to the Kingman Blade. The Blade had but a short existence, covering only a period of a little over three months, it having ceased to exist December 9, 1880, Mr. Saxey selling the subscription list and good will of the office to the editor of the Citizen, and moving the press and material out of the county.
The Citizen was established at Kingman, September 13, 1879, by P. J. Conklin, as sole editor and proprietor, by whom the paper was published until March, 1881, when he sold the office and material to George E. Filley, who has continued to publish the paper since that time, and who still continues to publish it as sole editor and proprietor. The Citizen is a six-column, eight-page paper, Republican in politics, and has a circulation of 850.
The Republican was established at Cleveland, in Kingman County, in July, 1881, by Conklin & Childs, and appeared first as the Cleveland Star. November 1, 1881, Conklin & Childs sold to Raymond & Myers who continued to publish it at Cleveland until February 1, 1882, when they moved it to Kingman and changed its name to the Republican. In July, 1882, Raymond & Myers sold the paper to E. H. Farnsworth, the present editor and proprietor. The Republican is a seven-column, four page paper, Republican in politics, and has a circulation of about 450.
School and Other Statistics
There were in 1882, in Kingman County, thirty-seven organized school districts, but since the close of the school year which ended July 31, 1882, several new districts have been organized. There are in the county thirty-eight schoolhouses, of which thirty-two are frame, five sod, and one stone. The first schoolhouse built in the county, was a small frame building in Kingman that was erected in 1874, of which the first teacher was Miss Ada Crane. The school commenced with an attendance of five pupils. In 1882 the school population of the county, between the ages of five and twenty-one years, was 926, of which 496 were males and 430 female.
The enrollment in the public schools was 772, of which 408 were males and 364 females, and the average daily attendance was 548. The number of teachers employed in 1882, was 35, being thirteen males and twenty-two females, and the avarage sic salary paid to the former was, per month, $25.06, and to the latter, $21.15. The number of districts that sustained public school for three months, or over, during the year, was twenty-four, and the number failing to sustain school for three months was thirteen. The average assessed valuation of each school district in the county was $17,643, and the school bonded indebtedness of $9,365, and the estimated value of school property was $25,000. There were twenty-four certificates granted during the year to persons to teach, of which one was of the first grade, seventeen of the second, and six of the third.
The balance in the hands of the District Treasurer, August 1, 1881, was $296.59, the amount received from district taxes, was $1975.68, from State and county funds, $429.59, from sale of school bonds, $3,230, from all other sources, $2,452.35, making a total of $8,384.21. The total expenditures during the same period for all school purposes, was $7,292.17, leaving a balance in the hands of the District Treasurer on July 31, 1882, of $1,089.04.
In 1879, the number of acres in the county, included in farms, was 75,882. Of this number, 20,868 acres were sown to field crops, of which 5,557 were sown to wheat, and 10,918 to corn, leaving only 4,393 acres for all other kinds of crops. The acreage included in farms in 1880 was not quite so large as in 1879, being only 75,161 acres, or 721 less than the preceding year. While the total acreage in farms was less, that of field crops was greater by 11,462 acres. This increase in crop acreage about corresponds with the increased acreage of wheat and corn, the former being 10,722 acres, and the latter, 15,392, or a total of 26,116, leaving 6,215 acres for all other crops.
In 1881, the number of acres included in farms, was 98,935, an increase over the preceding year of 23,774 acres, the increase in field crops being 14,651 acres. The wheat acreage that year, was 12,569 acres, and that of corn, 18,180, or a total of 30,749, so that there was left for other field crops, 16,232 acres. The number of acres included in farms in 1882, had grown to 112,627, being an increase over 1881 of 13,692, or 10,082 less than the increase of 1881. The decrease in the wheat acreage that year compared with 1881, was 3,272 acres while the corn increase was 3,180 acres. Of the portion left for other field crops, embracing 11,629 acres, 8,000 acres of it was devoted to meadows and the cultivation of tame grasses. These figures show a gain in the number of acres included in farms, during a period of three years, or 36,745, or an average each year of a little over 12,000 acres.
There are many other evidences in the county of advancement in material wealth that are not shown in the statistical records. The primitive sod houses and "dug outs" are rapidly disappearing and good comfortable frame houses taking their place. The records are also silent as to the high state of improvement that many of the farms throughout the county have reached, all of which adds to the material wealth. The herd law having been in force in the county since its organization, but very little money has been expended in fencing, there being, all told, but 15,183 rods of fence in the county, of which 828 rods are board, twenty stone, 6,345 hedge, and 7,990 wire. Artificial forests embrace nearly 1,000 acres, while the fruit trees in bearing are limited to twenty-four apple, 8,050 peach, thirty-two plum, and fifty-four cherry. The number of fruit trees not in bearing are: Apple, 7,359, pear, 209, peach, 73,230, plum, 1,975, and cherry 2,911. These figures are taken from the statistical record of the county for 1882. Agricultural implements in the county for the same year were valued at $16,068.
The settlement of the county began in 1873, but for some years immigration was rather slow, and the county made but little progress toward increasing its population. Settlers did not come into the county to any great number until 1877, but during that and the year following, new comers began to locate in different portions of the county. The census of 1879 shows that in that year there were in the county 544 families, and a total population of 2,599. By 1880, the families had increased to 727, and the population to 3,125. The unpropitious seasons of 1879 and 1880, caused a good many to leave the county, and in 1881 the number of families in the county had dropped from 727 to 601, and the total population from 3,125 to 2,757.
In 1882, the population took an upward turn, and the Assessor's returns of the spring of that year shows the population to have been 2,864, a gain of 107 over that of the preceding year. During the fall of 1882, and the spring of 1883, a very large accession was made to the population, and the Assessor's returns, so far as completed, indicate the population of the county in the spring of 1883 to have been between 4,000 and 5,000. The assessed valuation of all taxable property in 1882 was $617,529.30, and the bonded indebtedness of the county was $31,400.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,245 km² (867 mi²). 2,236 km² (863 mi²) of it is land and 9 km² (3 mi²) of it (0.39%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 8,673 people, 3,371 households, and 2,420 families residing in the county. The population density was 4/km² (10/mi²). There were 3,852 housing units at an average density of 2/km² (4/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 97.45% White, 0.21% Black or African American, 0.58% Native American, 0.24% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.35% from other races, and 1.15% from two or more races. 1.44% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 3,371 households out of which 32.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.90% were married couples living together, 7.10% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.20% were non-families. 26.00% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 3.03.
In the county the population was spread out with 27.40% under the age of 18, 5.80% from 18 to 24, 24.70% from 25 to 44, 22.50% from 45 to 64, and 19.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 96.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.50 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $37,790, and the median income for a family was $44,547. Males had a median income of $31,771 versus $25,298 for females. The per capita income for the county was $18,533. About 8.40% of families and 10.60% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.90% of those under age 18 and 7.40% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Kingman, 3,275 (county seat)
Unified school districts
Kingman USD 331
Cunningham USD 332