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Ness County, Kansas

Ness County played a critical role in the Plains Wars of the late 1860’s. A confrontation in 1867, helped shape George A. Custer’s tactics throughout his career.

Ness County, organized in 1880, was named after Corporal Noah V. Ness, who fought and died in the Civil War. The county was originally organized in 1873, but was disorganized a year later. The county was once part of the land that was the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County.

Between 1867-1869, there was fighting on the plains between plains Indians and U.S. Soldiers. Tension had been rising between Indians in Kansas and the number of people passing through on trails such as Santa Fe and Oregon Trails. In 1867, however, a confrontation between Cheyenne and Sioux and General Winfield Scott Hancock at the Indian Village on Pawnee Fork was extremely important in starting the “Hancock War.” Hancock had traveled to forts to try with two options on his mind, peace or war. When Hancock came near the Indians at Pawnee Fork, they did not want him to approach but Hancock didn’t listen. They of course, felt threatened and a confrontation ensued. Both sides agreed to talk. The tribes request Hancock not come close to the village, but Hancock once again does not listen. The Indians had essentially fled when Hancock arrived, and eventually he essentially destroyed the village. Despite treaties, the “warfare” continued into 1869. Lessons were learned at Pawnee Fork. George Custer, was a part of this battle, which was a first of its kind in his career, and lessons he learned from it impacted his tactics in his future career. 

 Ness County has several properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. George Washington Carver Homestead Site, is a well-known figure in agriculture and science, homesteaded in Kansas for two or three years. He later moved away from Kansas to pursue education and then spent many years working at the Tuskagee Institute. The Ness County Bank was founded in the 1880’s and the building was built just a few years later. They moved into the building in 1890. The building has served many purposes including the home of the county court and offices for several years. The Indian Village on Pawnee Fork is also listed on the National Register.

Ness County has had many interesting figures with connections to the county. 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 in 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.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867 
Date Organized: April 14, 1880
County Seat: Ness City
Kansas Region: Southwest
Physiographic Region: High Plains and Smoky Hills
Scenic Byways: Smoky Valley
Courthouse: 1917-1918


1867 - Ness County is established.
1867 - 1869-Indian wars started by the confrontation at the Village at Pawnee Fork.
1873 - Ness County is organized.
1874 - Ness County is disorganized.
1880 - Ness County is organized a second time. 

More on Ness County


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: August 2023

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