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Homesteading In Rooks County


The Stockton Town Company was chartered in August of 1872 and incorporated in 1880 to develop a new community in the valley of the South Solomon River in Rooks County, Kansas as a market center for farmers and ranchers. Early settlers, mostly cowboys, named the town Stockton hoping that it would be a livestock center with the coming of the railroad.

A good many people wanted to call the town McNultyville, (after Joseph McNulty who homesteaded 160 acres just above the creeks mouth) but Joe thought the name might be considered a little too suggestive of a fresh importation from Limerick or Cork (Ireland). As stock raising was the only industry at first, the names of Stockville and Stocktown were urged, but Stockton was finally settled upon.

McNulty built a log home on his property, which adjoined the townsite on the west and was later added to the town when the McNulty Addition was annexed, This building was later enlarged and used as a hotel. It was destroyed in 1924, but a replica of the "Log Hotel" was built in 1961 across Main Street south from the original location.

Stockton, and nearby Rooks Center, were both candidates for the county seat after Rooks County was officially organized on November 26, 1872. A contest won by Stockton in an election on December 31, 1872 cemented the town's future as the site of local county government. The hope that the town would become a livestock center never materialized. However, the coming of the railroad would prove to be essential in maintaining Stockton as a viable community.

The increased population of the area following 1877 stimulated the first Stockton boom, and the town grew from a population of about 100, with 20 buildings, to a population of about 600 with over 100 buildings by early 1878. Many of the buildings were constructed of native limestone with no particular ethnic influence. The first church, St. Thomas Catholic, was constructed of native limestone in 1878. A small replica was built at the Catholic Cemetery northwest of Stockton with the stones from the original church.

A County Agricultural Fair Association was organized in June 1879, and the first Rooks County Fair was held October 8, 9, and 10 of that year. This later became an annual affair and is an important institution in the history of Rooks County and Stockton. By the 1980's, the annual Rooks County Free Fair was the largest county fair in the state. The fairgrounds and buildings erected there as a W.P.A. project at a later date (1930's) constitute an important part of the heritage of the community.

The Congregational Academy, which later served as the public high school in Stockton, is an example of the importance that education played in the city's history. At one time, it was hoped that the academy would become a college, but the school fell on hard times and graduated it's last class in 1896.

In 1881, a two-story structure was constructed to house the county offices. The building served the county until the present courthouse was completed in 1923. Today, the courthouse stands as one of the outstanding examples of courthouse design in Kansas.

Stockton remains essentially as it began, a typical county seat town on the Great Plains existing to provide goods and services for the agricultural community. The buildings of the town reflect the heritage of the community as many of the homes and businesses constructed of native limestone or locally manufactured brick are still in use including the wide, brick Main Street.

The ethnicity of its settlers is unknown.


Information from Roger Hrabe, Rooks County Economic Development Director


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