Jump to Navigation

Kiowa County, Kansas

Kiowa County, Kansas, elected the state’s first female sheriff in 1926. Mabel Chase drove an armor-plated carried a submachine gun to stop bootleggers and bank robbers. A deadly tornado devastated much of Greensburg, the county seat, in 2007. As part of the community’s rebuilding plan, Greensburg now has the most LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) buildings per capita in the U.S.

Kiowa County, Kansas was named for the Kiowa Indians. It was once part of the land that was the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County. While the county was established in 1867, it ceased to exist in 1875. The county’s land was given to nearby county, but in 1886, Kiowa County was reestablished and organized.

The railroad arrived as the county was organized. The Greensburg Well, built in 1887-1888, serviced the Santa Fe railroad until 1895. The hand dug well is unique in that it has been called not only the largest one in Kansas, but also one of the largest in the world. It has been a popular tourist attraction since 1939. The well is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

The first oil well drilled in Kiowa County was in 1917. The building of the natural gas pipeline, and the installation of four major compressor stations between 1932 and 1951, were all significant in the county’s history.

Welcome - Kiowa County, KansasMabel Chase ran for county sheriff after her husband’s time in the office was term-limited. He provided her the family’s 1926 Hudson Super Six, equipped with armor-plating and bulletproof glass. She was the first sheriff in Kansas to be supplied with a Thompson submachine gun. Chase conducted raids on local stills.

On May 4, 2007, the county seat of Greensburg was nearly destroyed completely when an EF-5 tornado hit the town. The deadly tornado took the lives of 11 individuals; 95 percent of the town was destroyed. After the tornado, Greensburg turned to renewable energy, with all electricity provided by wind energy; all city streetlights use LEDs. All water is conserved with low flow fixtures and rainwater is collected for irrigation. Native plantings are used in the landscaping. The city has received numerous sustainability awards.

Kiowa County’s properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places include the Fromme-Birney Round Barn, a 16-sided barn that was built by Henry Fromme. The round style was popular from the 1890s to 1920s and chosen to save time and labor and wind resistances. Two sites of early Native American Art can be found in the area. A thematic National Register nomination includes the petroglyphs that are similar to others in the state. The 1915 S.D. Robinett Building was among the few survivors of the 2007 Greensburg tornado.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867
Date Organized: March 25, 1886
County Seat: Greensburg
Kansas Region: Southwest
Physiographic Region: High Plains and Arkansas River Lowlands
Courthouse: 1913-1914


1855 - 1857- Kiowa County is part of the old Washington County.
1860 - 1867- Kiowa County is part of Peketon County
1867 - Kiowa County is established.
1886 - Kiowa County is organized.
1917 - First oil well is drilled in the county.
2007 - A tornado destroys the town of Greensburg. 

More on Kiowa County


Entry: Kiowa 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.