Jump to Navigation

Montgomery County, Kansas

Montgomery County has a rich history of business and industry, and but also some not so pleasant events. The Dalton Gang’s robbery of Coffeyville banks forced the town to defend its rights to law and order occurred in 1892, and the Bender family’s murders near Montgomery County’s Cherryvale, occurred just over the border in Labette County resulted in the murders of many travelers in the 1870’s.

Montgomery County, organized in 1869, was named after Revolutionary War “hero” General Richard Montgomery. The area that is Montgomery county was once the land of the Osage Indians. Trading posts were established in the county, before the immigration started more quickly in 1869. Little House on the Prairie, written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, was published in 1935. It is the third book in her series of books she wrote which display a fictionalized account of her childhood and young adult life. Little House on the Prairie tells the fictionalized account of how her family moved to Kansas, near Independence in Montgomery County. They eventually left though as they faced being forcibly removed as the land belonged to the Osage and had not opened for white settlement as had previously been believed would happen.

The issue of the county seat took some time to determine as it had originally been established by the governor’s organization proclamation at Verdigris City. Liberty and Independence also ended up in the mix, and eventually Independence was given the lasting title and remains the county seat today.

In 1873, settlers near Cherryvale found a gruesome discovery. Travelers had been going missing and suspicions began to arise, especially after the disappearance of a man named Loncher and his daughter and Dr. William York. The surrounding area began to be searched, and it was discovered that the property of the Bender family was abandoned. Upon inspection, several bodies were discovered. The Bender family, John Bender Sr., Ma Bender, Kate Bender, and John Bender Jr. had settled in the Labette County area, near the Montgomery County line, along the Osage Mission Independence Trail and as travelers stopped at their story and inn they would rob and murder them. They would sometimes even murder people that had nothing of value. The victims were hit with a hammer as they sat near a canvas. The Bender murders were a family effort and the family mysteriously disappeared when suspicions arose. Despite many theories and rumors, what happened to them is unknown. 

The grasshopper Invasion of 1874, hit Montgomery County, and in 1885 a severe flood hit parts of the county.

The discovery of oil and gas in 1890 was the most significant long range even in the county’s history. Neewollah, which is Halloween spelled backwards, held in Independence six months opposite Halloween each year is billed as Kansas’s largest celebration. In 1892, the Dalton Gang committed the Dalton Raid on the Coffeyville banks. The subsequent defense of the town from the robbery of the citizenry is significant for citizens defending their right to law and order.

For decades the Civil Rights movement was an issue being fought out in the courts before the U.S. Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka ruled it unconstitutional. One such case was the court case Thurman-Watts v. The Board of Education of Coffeyville was a case dealing with the issue of segregation in Montgomery County in 1924.

Coffeyville, with a broad spectrum of industries, such as glass-blowing, oil, brick making, clay, shale, sand, pottery and stoneware, etc., helped ease the pain of the Great Depression of the 1930’s. While it was still a difficult time, the community fared better than other places.

During World War II, the Coffeyville Army Airfield was established in 1942, and was active in the training of pilots. It closed in 1946.

Montgomery County has several properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Register of Historic Kansas Places. Cherrvvale Carnegie Free Library, Coffeyville Carnegie Public Library Building, and Independence Carnegie Library are examples of public libraries that were helped established by Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation’s work with the establishment of public libraries. The Kansas Rock Art nomination, sites of Native American art, contains 30 total sites of petroglyphs and pictographs. Montgomery County contains four petroglyphs sites. The Coffeyville Municipal Building and Courthouse was opened in 1929.

There are several interesting figures with connections to Montgomery County. William Inge moved to Independence when he was one years old. He lived in Independence until he left to pursue higher education at the University of Kansas. Inge was a well-known playwright with shows on Broadway, and even had some of his plays turned into movies. Splendor in the Grass earned him an Academy Award for best original screenplay. He was also a Pulitzer Prize winner. Lyman Humphry was Governor of Kansas, Alfred Landon, Governor and presidential candidate, Harry Sinclair, an oil tycoon, and Congressmen Harold McGugin, Herbert Meer, Denver Hargis, Eva Jesseye, musician; Mildred “Micky” Axton, Woman’s Airforce Service Pilot, and Walter McVey are also notable Kansans.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867
Date Organized: 1869
County Seat: Independence
Kansas Region: Southeast
Physiographic Region: Osage Cuestas and Chautauqua Hills
State Park: Elk City State Park
Courthouse: 1931


1867 - Montgomery County is established on February 26.
1869 - Montgomery County is established.
1870 - 1873-The Bender family commits their murders in Labette County near Cherryvale and the border with Montgomery County.
1892 - Dalton Gang raid on Coffeyville.
1914 - William Inge moves to Coffeyville as a one-year-old, where he would live for the remainder of his childhood until he pursued further education at the University of Kansas.
1924 - Thurman-Watts v. The Board of Education of Coffeyville
1942 - Coffeyville Army Airfield is established. 

More on Montgomery County


Entry: Montgomery 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.