Fort Hays State University > About FHSU > Academic Divisions > Forsyth Library > Kansas Heritage > Thomas County
Brewster | Colby | Gem | Halford | Levant | Menlo | Mingo | Otterbourne | Rexford
Prentis, Noble Lovely. "History of Kansas". Winfield, KS: E. P. Greer, 1899.
Thomas County was one of twenty-nine counties whose boundaries were defined by the Kansas Legislature on March 7, 1873. After Sheridan County (on the eastern border) was organized, Thomas County was attached to it for judicial purposes. Plans for organizing the county began in 1885, and by the fall of that year, Thomas County was officially a county.
Members of the Andrew Reed family were the first settlers in Thomas County; they came from Dubuque County, Iowa in 1879.
Immigrants to Thomas County came from the European countries, as well as Americans from the eastern part of the country. The recruitment of the railroads and the policies that provided free land were the attractions that brought the settlers to this area. There was not a settlement established by any nationality group. However, people of Irish, Polish, Danish and Swedish descent settled in the northwest part of the county, Mennonites settled in the southeast part, and Germans settled in the central and southwest.
The railroad played a big part in the formation of the towns in Thomas County. By 1887, three railroads were making plans to build their tracks within the county. Union Pacific Railroad built a branch line from Oakley, in Logan County, to Colby in 1887 and went as far as one mile west of Colby, intending to take it into Colorado. In the meantime, the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railroad, later known as the Rock Island Railroad, had laid tracks as far as Norton in Norton County. Unless the people of Thomas County would pay them $60,000, the C. K. & N. Railroad was going to stop at Norton. Thomas County held a bond election which passed and thus provided the funds for the track to be laid to Colby. It was finished in 1888 and the railroad built tracks westward through the county. It was along these tracks that the C. K. & N. Railroad built depots which eventually became the towns of Rexford, Gem, Levant and Brewster. The third railroad that built tracks into Thomas County was the Lincoln and Colorado line being laid eastward to connect with a track being built west from Salina. The Union Pacific established the towns of Zillah and Verner along its L. & C. line. These later became Menlo and Halford.
Wingo, Wayne C. A History of Thomas County. Masters Thesis, Fort Hays Kansas State College, 1964.
Bruner, R. I., Editor. Land of the Windmills Thomas County, Kansas. Thomas County Historical Society, 1976.
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