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Ellsworth County, Kansas

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Ellsworth County was established February 26, 1867. The county was named after the old Fort Ellsworth, named in honor of 2nd Lieutenant Allen Ellsworth of the 7th Iowa Cavalry (Company H), who supervised construction of the fort in 1864 during the American Civil War. On November 17, 1866, the fort was renamed Fort Harker in honor of General Charles Garrison Harker who had died on June 27, 1864, from wounds received in an abortive offensive action in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. The fort was subsequently moved to a new site about one mile to the northeast, and the old fort's remaining buildings were ordered torn down in June 1867.

On March 22, 1869, Fourteen Pawnee Indians, including scouts who had been honorably discharged after working for the army, were traveling through Ellsworth County when they ran into U.S. cavalry troops. Though the Pawnees had discharge papers from the army, a fight ensued. The Indians retreated to a sandstone cave, known today as Palmer's Cave. Their attackers set fire to grass at the cave's entrance, and six to nine Pawnees were killed as they ran out. The others died from exposure without their possessions. A few days later, the post surgeon at nearby Fort Harker, in today's town of Kanopolis, removed six heads from their bodies, and shipped them to the Army Medical Museum in Washington, D.C., for cranial study.

In the later 19th century, this area became known for cattle ranching and cattle drives. Town life was often riotous with cowboys celebrating after long drives.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Towns

  • Arcola (Ghost Town)
  • Ellsworth (County Seat)
  • Frantz (Ghost Town)
  • Holyrood
  • Kanopolis
  • Lorraine
  • Midway (Ghost Town)
  • Terra Cotta (Ghost Town)
  • Wilson

Other Townships & Communities: Ash Creek, Black Wolf, Carneiro, Clear Creek, Columbia, Delight, Elkhorn, Empire, Garfield, Green Garden, Langley, Lincoln, Mulberry, Noble, Palacky, Sherman, Thomas, Trivoli, Valley, Venango and Yankee Run




Faris Caves

Fort Harker

Nat'l Reg. of Hist. Places