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Dickinson County, Kansas

Dickinson county was organized on February 20, 1857 by Geroge Freeman; Charles Staatz; John Erwin; Herman Oesterreich; and John Lamb. It contains the cities of Abilene, Enterprise, Manchester, Herington, Carlton, Hope, Woodbine, Solomon and Chapman. The county was named for Senator Daniel S. Dickinson of New York, supporter of Kansas' quest for territorial status.

The coming of the cattle trails to Abilene, and the heydey of the "cowtown" from 1867 to 1871.

The first church in the county was the Methodist church in Lincoln Township founded in 1859, followed by the New Basel United Church of Christ in Jefferson Township in 1867. The first county fair was held on October 18-19, 1870, in the James Bell meadow south of Abilene. The county fair still continues in Abilene. The first school district was Lyona No. 1, founded in 1869 in Lincoln Township.

Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of the United States (1952-1960), hails from Dickinson.  Charles Harger, editor first of the Abilene Reflector and later of the combined Reflector-Chronicle, whose work also appeared in The Outlook, Harpers, and the Saturday Evening Post, was a life-long friend of Eisenhower who worked successfully to establish the Eisenhower Library.

Cheever Township has a legend of the "Well Diggers Ghost" that involves a former Civil War soldier by the name of Augustus Becker. Becker, a Prussian, was a well-known well digger. One day a well collapsed and killed him. He was the first burial in the new cemetery. As roads were later laid out they passed by his grave and many travelers spoke of seeing a ghost at night. Night travel past the cemetery ceased. One night two boys decided to venture through the cemetery. As they did, they heard loud talking and suddenly they saw a white form coming from the grave. As they moved so did the form. Finally, feeling braver, the boys decided to count three, shout charge, and go for the ghost. As they prepared, however, the ghost charged them, coming in enormous leaps—as it came closer it gave out the ghostly sound of "baa-aa-aa." The spectre turned out to be a farmer's white calf. From then on, the road was used day and night. The well diggers grave stone is in the Cheever Township cemetery to this day.

Legend says that Lone Tree Creek received its name from one old Cottonwood tree that had been a landmark to Indians and white travelers for generations. The tree survived two prairie fires and was still alive as late as 1943, but today is dead. Even though other trees surround the area, no other Cottonwood grows near, preserving the legend of the "lone tree." Abilene, the "Greyhound Capital of the World," is home to the Greyhound Hall of Fame. Located across the street from the Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home, the building was dedicated on April 29, 1973.


Abilene's Buckeye Street has many National or State Historical Register buildings located between 7th and 14th streets. Other areas with Register buildings include N. Cedar, N. W. 5th, and others in the general area. A Historical Resources Inventory listing is available for all these buildings.

For more information see the Dickinson County website.The Dickinson County Historical Society and Museum have primary as well as a large collection of secondary source materials available, including most standard works on the county and city of Abilene. Also available is microfilm of Kansas newspapers from the area, and a collection of historic photographs.

Entry: Dickinson County, Kansas

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: February 2010

Date Modified: October 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.