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List of Kansas Counties

Burdett | Garfield | Larned | Rozel

Homesteading in Pawnee County

Pawnee County map
Prentis, Noble Lovely. "History of Kansas". Winfield, KS: E. P. Greer, 1899.

The Santa Fe Trail, established in 1821 for commerce and trade, followed the Arkansas River in this area of the plains. Military escorts to protect the traders from the Indians were sent to the trail in 1829. After the Mexican War began in 1846, the Santa Fe Trail became the major route for east-west commerce. When the gold rush began, gold seekers disregarded the treaties that had set aside land for the Indians, and they traveled across the tribal lands as they headed west. This angered the Indians to the point that they asked for help from William Bent who was a trader in Colorado. Bent, known for being fair, suggested to the federal government that a strong point be established at Pawnee Rock, and the government decided to begin building one in 1859 at Pawnee Fork, several miles down the river. By year's end there were 52 enlisted men with the thankless job of protecting the traders and travelers at the only military station between Forts Riley and Union.

In February 1860, the camp on Pawnee Fork became known as Camp Alert, and on May 29, 1860, the camp was renamed Fort Larned. Named in honor of the Army paymaster, Col. Benjamin F. Larned, the new fort did not have decent housing until 1867. New buildings made of sandstone were built, including officers' quarters and a bakery.

In July 1872, the Santa Fe Railroad had built its tracks to Pawnee Fork, and the soldiers began guarding the crews working on the railroads.

Governor James Harvey declared the official organization of Pawnee County in November 1872. The new county was named to honor the Pawnee Indians who had lived in the area. Larned City was named the temporary county seat, and as a result of an election on October 17, 1873, it became the official county seat.

In 1874 a group of Mennonite "German Baptists" arrived to begin a new life far from their homes in Europe. They planted the hard red Turkey wheat and stayed in the area despite the grasshopper plague, the drought, and the threat of Indian hostilities.

A colony of 65 Swedish families settled in Garfield in the mid-1880's.

In June of 1878, the headquarters ordered the deactivation of Fort Larned with troops sent to Fort Hays and property sent to Fort Dodge.


"Panorama of Progress: Pawnee County, 1872-1972". Supplement to The Tiller & Toiler. Larned, KS: The Tiller & Toiler, 1972.



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