Fort Hays State University > About FHSU > Academic Divisions > Forsyth Library > Kansas Heritage > Decatur County
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Prentis, Noble Lovely. "History of Kansas". Winfield, KS: E. P. Greer, 1899.
Named for Commodore Stephen Decatur who was in command of the warship United States during the War of 1812. He was later in a dual with Commodore James Baron and was killed.
The first record found is that of an expedition crossing Decatur County lead by Fremont in 1843. The county's first settlers came in the later part of 1872 when a group of buffalo hunters came to the Sappa valley on a hunting expedition. By early spring of 1873, Decatur County was receiving an early rush of immigrants. Several town sites were started, but they were soon abandoned.
A number of settlers from Bohemia arrived in the area on April 17, 1873 from Omaha, Nebraska where they had been residing. They were said to be industrious American citizens which was a good quality to have to be a pioneer. Their homes were in what is known as the Big Timber Community. (Click here to read an online article about this community.)
In April 1874, a town site was platted and surveyed for J. A. Rodehavor, who named it Westfield, which later became the Oberlin town site. Twenty-eight miles to the southwest, several families from Iowa took up claims in what became known as the Hawkeye settlement.
Decatur County was created by an act of the Kansas Legislature in 1873 and the first post office opened in April 1874. The county was organized by Governor John P. St. John in November 1879 and Oberlin was named the permanent county seat.
The site of the last Indian raid in Kansas occurred in Decatur and Rawlins counties in September 1878. Forty settlers were killed by the Cheyenne Indians led by Dull Knife and Little Wolf as they crossed into the two counties. NIneteen of the settlers killed on September 30 were in Decatur County.
Decatur County Historical Book Committee. "Decatur County Kansas". Lubbock, TX: Specialty Publishing Company, 1983.
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