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Gray County, Kansas

Gray County, located in south western Kansas, was home to portion of the Santa Fe Trail, county seat disputes, and the Soule Canal, a failed experiment in irrigation.

Gray County, Kansas, organized in 1887, was named after Alfred Gray who served as the Secretary of the Kansas Board of Agriculture. Gray County’s history begins long before it was called Gray County. It was once a part of the old Washington County, Peketon County, and finally an enlarged Marion County and contains land from the old Foote and Buffalo Counties. The high plains region, which Gray county is a part of, was once home to the Comanche, Kiowa, and Kiowa Apache tribes.

Early in the county’s organized history, it experienced county seat disputes. The main contenders were Ingalls and the temporary county seat, Cimarron. Asa T. Soule, a rich Kansas investor, wanted so badly for the county seat to be in Ingalls that he promised to give the town of Montezuma a railroad in exchange for votes. The dispute eventually led all the way to Kansas Supreme Court, and eventually Cimarron became the permanent county seat a few years later. They were not easily handed the county seat however, as it was moved to Ingalls for a time, and eventually given back to Cimarron. In 1889, armed men came to Cimarron and stole county records. The Governor went so far as to send militia to the area. The invaders were later tried for murder as a death had occurred in the conflict, but they were acquitted.

Gray County, Kansas > HomeThe Santa Fe Trail passed through Gray County, and the trail split near the future town of Cimarron. One way took you through the Bent’s Fort path and one took you through the Cimarron Route. Later, the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe Railroad passed through both Cimarron and Ingalls.

Farming continues to be important in the county, which is among the top corn producers. Ranching is also an important industry; the county has among the largest inventory of cattle and calves in the state.

The county possesses properties on the National Register of Historic Places such as the Cimarron Hotel, Gray County Courthouse, and Soule Canal-Gray County Segment 1 and 2. The Soule Canal was a project of A.T. Soule in irrigation. It was a failure, and while it was started in 1884, the last unsuccessful attempt at redeveloping the canal took place in 1931.

Quick Facts

Date Established: March 13, 1881
Date Organized: July 20, 1887
County Seat: Cimarron
Kansas Region: Northwest
Physiographic Region: High Plains and Arkansas River Lowlands
Courthouse: 1927


1855 - 1857-The area of Gray County was part of Washington County.
1860 - 1867- The area of Gray County was part of Peketon County
1873 - 1881- The area of Gray County was part of Buffalo and Foote Counties.
1881 - Gray County is established March 13.
1887 - Gray County is organized July 20.
1889 - Armed attack on Cimarron occurs when men from the county seat rival, Ingalls, steal county records.

More on Gray County


Entry: Gray 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.