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Edwards County, Kansas

The Santa Fe Trail commerce route followed the Arkansas River through Edwards County and Comanche and Apache hunting grounds. A group of soldiers assigned to escort 60 wagons in 1848 was attacked in what became known as the Battle of Coon Creek. In the 1930s as the car culture emerged, the county became known as the halfway point between New York and San Francisco.

Edwards County, in the southwest part of the state, is in the Arkansas River Lowlands where the sandy plains are well suited to produce alfalfa, hay, and corn. Established in 1874, it was named for W. C. Edwards, a settler and businessman. He built the first brick building, which he gave to the county. At one time the county was part of the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County.

Soldiers later recalled details of the Coon Creek battle that became part of the county history. One soldier witnessed a young Apache enter the crossfire and recover the body of a fallen warrior. He believed the young man to be Geronimo. Another soldier saw a woman dressed in red on horseback who directed for the care of the wounded.

A legend developed regarding a prospector that returned from California in 1850 who buried gold before an encounter with Plains Indians. A young girl who survived provided an eye-witness account, but the gold was never located.

Edwards County was among those that during the grasshopper invasion of 1874. Farmers in the region lost most of their crops that year when the Rocky Mountain locusts arrived in swarms.  

Early in 1878 a gang known as the Trio attempted to rob the Santa Fe Railway station safe and westbound train near Kinsley. Before they could succeed they were stopped by telegraph operator Andrew Kincaid. Dodge City sheriff Bat Masterson arrested the gang members.

Charles Brodbeck was a Kinsley farmer who in 1901 was inspired to build a carousel on his land. His first customers were neighbors before he began taking the carousel on the road. The carousel business proved more fruitful than farming and he added a ferris wheel, among the first commercial versions in the nation.

Kinsley was designated the halfway point between New York and San Francisco on a sign erected in 1939. The Saturday Evening Post inspired the cover and an article that year about Kinsley as Midway USA, between two World’s Fairs on opposite coasts.

Edwards County properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places include the Kinsley Civil War Monument, a concrete sculpture created in 1917.

The city manager of Kinsley from 1928-1932, Vivian Irene Milner, better known as Rena, was among the early female city managers in the United States. Other notable figures with ties to Edwards County are George “Honey Boy” Evans, author of the song “In the Good Old Summertime,” who had been a cub reporter and typesetter for the Kinsley Mercury; Earl Winfield Spencer, the first husband of the future wife of King George IV and Duchess of Windsor, was born in Kinsley; Charles Edwards founded the first Shakespearean open air theater west of the Mississippi in Kinsley in 1914; Congressman Jovett Shouse; and Kansas Supreme Court Justice Harold R Fatzer.

Quick Facts

Date Established: March 18, 1874
Date Organized: August 21, 1874
County Seat: Kinsley
Kansas Region: Southwest
Physiographic Region: Arkansas River Lowlands and High Plains
Courthouse: October 19, 1928


1848 - Battle of Coon Creek
1874 - Edwards County is established and organized
1878 - Train robbery in Kinsley
1939 - Kinsley is featured as a midway point in the nation in the Saturday Evening Post

More on Edwards County


Entry: Edwards 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: August 2023

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