Jump to Navigation

McPherson County, Kansas

McPherson County, once home to Plains Indians, lured Spanish explorers into the region in search of gold. Immigrants from Sweden settled Lindsborg, bringing their music, arts, and cultural traditions. 

McPherson County, Kansas, organized in 1870, was named after General James B. McPherson. McPherson was killed in the Civil War. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado traveled through what is now McPherson County in the 1540s. The Santa Fe Trail went through the county. McPherson County was once part of the land that was the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County.

During the late 1860’s there were Indian raids and scares in the county. A man was killed by Indians around 1867. The county seat was first Sweadahl, then Lindsborg, and then became McPherson, where the county seat is located today.

Lindsborg was founded in 1868 and was settled the Chicago Swedish Company. Bethany Academy, later called Bethany College was founded in the 1880’s. Lindsborg holds onto their heritage as they are recognized for many things such as art, music, and events that keep their culture alive. The King of Sweden even visited briefly in 1976. An event where the “Messiah” is put on is an event that successfully brings in people. It started in 1882, and the festivities expanded with the addition of an art exposition 1899. The Swedish Pavilion, which was a part of Bethany College as well as the community for years, was originally a building established for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. It was part of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. After the fair it was purchased and given to Bethany College. The building was moved to Old Mill Museum and Park ran by the Smoky Valley Historical Association in 1969. The Swedish Pavilion is on the National Register of Historic Places.  

 Several Mennonite families lived in McPherson County. They supported peace and their beliefs were challenged by others in the community especially when the United States was involved in war. Their patriotism was questioned and at times they were threatened by mobs that destroyed property or caused them bodily harm.

McPherson County has several properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Register of Historic Kansas Places. The McPherson County Courthouse was built in the 1890s. The McPherson Opera House, built in 1889, has served the community for entertainment and public meetings. It closed in the 1920s and reopened as a motion picture theater. The building was eventually converted to business and apartment space. The Red Barn Craft Studio in Lindsborg served artist Lester Raymer and his wife, Ramona. Raymer ran the studio from the 1940s to the 1990s when he died. The Smoky Valley Roller Mill, built in 1898, provided an important service for Lindsborg’s wheat industry.

Farming continues to be important to the county, which is among the state’s leading sunflower and winter wheat producers.

The Grasshopper Company was established in Moundridge in 1969 and made the first zero-turn mower.

There are many interesting individuals with connections to McPherson County. Dr. Carl Swenson, pastor and founder of Bethany College, was one of the most influential persons in the county. Abraham Smith, a prominent early day pioneer, served in the Kansas House of Representatives and ran for governor in 1892. Mrs. Belle Gray, mayor of Canton in the 1890’s, along with an all-woman city council, sought to reform the town creating state and national publicity.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867
Date Organized: March 1, 1870
County Seat: McPherson
Kansas Region: South Central
Physiographic Region: Smoky Hills, Wellington-McPherson Lowlands, Flint Hills
Scenic Byways: Prairie Trail
Courthouse: May 1, 1894


1540 - Coronado travels through the county
1860 - Indian scares and raids occur in the county. Swedish settlement is established.
1867 - McPherson County is established.
1870 - McPherson is organized.
1918 - During World War I, mobs targeted Mennonites in the county and some surrounding counties for their beliefs in not supporting military organizations. 

More on McPherson County


Entry: McPherson 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.