Fort Hays State University > About FHSU > Academic Divisions > Forsyth Library > Kansas Heritage > Kearny County
Prentis, Noble Lovely. "History of Kansas". Winfield, KS: E. P. Greer, 1899.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad (ATSF) got a federal land grant in 1864 to build a railroad and get it to the Kansas-Colorado border by January 1, 1873. They barely made it by finishing the rail line on December 28, 1872. The county was blocked out and named by the legislature the following year (1873), but was not officially organized until March 27, 1888.
It was originally organized as a municipal township of Ford County in 1879, and in 1883 was divided between Sequoyah (Finney) and Hamilton Counties. Finney County was formed in 1884 with the land of the eastern half of the original Kearny County and all of Sequoyah County. All of the old Kearny County land was detached from Finney County in 1886 and then united with Hamilton to become Hamilton County. Finally, on March 27, 1888, Kearny County was organized as it had been blocked back in 1873.
The first permanent settler in the county was John O'Loughlin, born in 1842 in Ennistymon County, Clare, Ireland. He came to the United States with his mother and two siblings in 1850 and settled in Iowa. While serving in the Grand Army of the Republic Quartermaster Corps as a wagon master under General George Custer and Philip Henry Sheridan, O'Loughlin began a trading post and toll bridge over the Pawnee Creek on the Fort Hays-Fort Dodge road. After the ATSF had completed its line, O'Loughlin decided to look for another location for his trading post. The site he selected in 1873 was halfway between Dodge City, Kansas and Granada, Colorado. He named it Lakin after an ATSF railroad trustee, David Long Lakin.
Among the settlers were a small number of Danes and Swedes. In 1885-1886, there were 13 men who purchased claims, among them brothers Hans P. and Rasmus P. Eskelund and their brother-in-law Louis Hoi. Their families joined them in January 1886, but Louis Hoi and family returned to New York after three years. A Swiss family settled northeast of Kendall in 1906.
In 1905-1906, a colony of Mennonites from Harvey, Reno and McPherson Counties in Kansas settled in the southwest part of the county and the southeast part of Hamilton County. The Menno post office was established and a couple of churches were built, as well as a store and a blacksmith shop. However, by 1912, only about a dozen families remained, because the dry years lead to discouragement in farming the western Kansas land. Many families returned to eastern counties they had come from.
A Jewish Agricultural colony was founded in Kearny County in 1886. It was called Touro.
"History of Kearny County, Kansas." Lakin: Kearny County Historical Society, 1970.
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