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Morton County, Kansas

Morton County contains part of the Cimarron Route of the Santa Fe Trail. The county was heavily impacted by the Dust Bowl years of the 1930’s.

Morton County, established in 1886, was named after Oliver Morton, who was an Indiana U.S. Senator. Morton County was once part of the land that was the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County. Later, it was Kansas County. The Cimarron National Grassland is in the county. The Apache Indian tribe once hunted in what is now Morton County.

The Santa Fe Trail’s Cimarron Route, also called the Dry Route, passed through Morton County. There are several segments of the trail, such as the Santa Fe Trail Cimarron National Grassland Segment One, in the county that are on the National Register of Historic Places. Located in the Point of Rocks-Middle Springs Santa Fe Trail Historic District, were important campsites for travelers. Both sites held important needs like water, but Point of Rocks also offered good visibility.  

Richfield was the original county seat of the county, but around 1913 the building of railroad lines caused the establishment of Elkhart. The county seat dispute between them lasted for decades, until Elkhart was finally victorious.

During the Dust Bowl years of the 1930’s, Morton County suffered from the effects of the dust storms to hit the state during the years of drought.

There was a POW Camp located in the county during World War II.

Natural gas joined the industries of farming and ranching in Morton County when it was discovered in the 1950’s.

There are interesting individuals with connections the county. Morton is the only county to have produced two Olympic winners, Glenn Cunningham and Thane Baker. Cunningham was also a world record holder in the mile. Baker also held record in dashes from 60 to 300 yards. J. Floyd Breeding served in Congress.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 20, 1886
Date Organized: November 18, 1886
County Seat: Elkhart
Kansas Region: Southwest
Physiographic Region: High Plains
Courthouse: August 30, 1964


1873 - 1883- Kansas County exists in what is now Morton County
1886 - Morton County is established.
1930 - Dust Bowl years.  

More on Morton County


Entry: Morton 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.