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Ness County, Kansas

Ness County, which contains the cities of Bazine, Ness City, Ransom, Utica, and Brownell, was named for Noah V. Ness, a member of Company G, Seventh Kansas Cavalry, who was killed at Abbeyville, Mississippi, during the Civil War. The county was originally organized on October 23, 1873, by S. G. Rodgers; J. E. Farnsworth; Charles Maguire; Edward Haydin; and John Lee; however, one of the first officers claimed fraud on the population count, and when the charge was substantiated, the governor "disorganized" the county. The county was reorganized on April 14, 1880.

The arrival in 1873 of a Chicago Settlement Company under the leadership of S. G. Rodgers began the first settlement of the county. The fraudulent population situation mentioned above continued to plague the county settlement for nearly eleven years. A group of influential cattlemen did not wish the county officially organized and prevented it by exposing the population count and placing obstacles in the way of formal organization.

The first church was organized as a union congregation in April, 1882, and began with their dedication of their sod church building in Highpoint Township. The first county fair was held in Ness City in 1895. The first school district was organized in 1878. The first school was held in a dugout. The township also had the first school in 1857.

Ness County has had many interesting figures. Ross Calhoun, the father of Ness City, opened the first general store in town and built the Calhoun Hotel. After the initial "boom" of the early 1870s, he lost all his enterprises. Samuel Sheaffer, elected Clerk of the District Court in 1880, was appointed District Judge in 1901, and served in the office for fourteen years. Clifford Bice, a founder of the Bice and Hunt business firm (1884) which still has an office in Ness City, was an early settler of the county. James K. Barnd established the ”Ness County News" newspaper in 1884 and was responsible for the construction of the "Opera block" in Ness City. Governor Andrew F. Schoeppel (1943-1947) was from the county. Schoeppel also served as a Congressman from 1949 to 1962.

The use of "medicinal" alcohol from the local drugstore during prohibition has reached legendary proportions. One story recounts that one of the early Ness City newspaper editors would keep tabs of those persons buying such "medicine" and then publish their names in the newspaper. Supposedly, because of this, a group of men broke into the newspaper office one evening and dumped the press in Sunset Lake. The newspaper has repeated this story over the years, but no one has been able to locate the dunked press.

Ness County contains the sites of the Ness the Barnd Opera House in Ness City, Lion Block, and the New Arlington Hotel.

For more information see the Ness County website. The Ness County Historical Society has files of the early newspapers as well as other primary and secondary source materials. The county records are available at the courthouse.

Entry: Ness 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: October 2015

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.