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Osborne County, Kansas

The area where Osborne County, Kansas, is located was the traditional hunting grounds for the Plains Indians. The area was open to settlement in the early 1870s and saw a large increase in grow when the railroads reached the area toward the end of the decade. By the beginning of the 20th century Osborne County was home the last of the great range wars.

Osborne County, established in 1867 and organized in 1871, was named for Vincent C. Osborn, a private in the Civil War who lost a leg, and later returned to Kansas. He was prominent in politics and business until his death in 1879.

A popular location for Plains Indian hunting, this area along the Solomon River valley was rich with beaver, antelope, elk, and buffalo. A group of about 200 Cheyennes were at an encampment in 1866 when surveyors arrived to map the area. One of the surveyors was killed in an encounter with the campers.

When the Central Pacific Railroad reached Osborne County in the late 1870’s and the ending of the Indian difficulties in 1878. The Central Branch of the Union Pacific Railroad Company went through the railroad town of Downs. Eventually after years of the line being leased from them, the Missouri Pacific Railroad Company purchased the line in the mid 1890’s. 

 The issue of the county seat in the county, was comprised of elections held around in the early 1870’s. After several elections in 1871-1872, the question once again came up in 1874 with a petition. The petition did not have enough names, so no election was held. Osborne stayed the the county seat.

Osborne County suffered during the grasshopper invasion in 1874-1875. The last of the great range wars, beginning in 1902, ended with the assistance of the Kansas National Guard in 1903. The resolution led to the final settling and opening of the land for all types of agriculture.

Osborne County properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places include the Downs Missouri Pacific Depot, built in 1917, Osborne County Courthouse built 1907-1908, and Carnegie Libraries in Downs and Osborne, established with help from Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation’s work to establish public libraries.

Individuals of note associated with Osborne County include Hiram C. Bull, known as “general” for his Civil War experiences even though he never rose above captain. Bull moved west to seek his fortune, establishing a short-lived town and ranch on the Solomon River. Charles “Buffalo” Jones lived in a sod house on a homestead in the county from 1872 to 1876 before moving west to co-found Garden City in 1879. Jeff Durfay, early settler, buffalo hunter, friend, and colleague of William F. Cody, lived in the county. Chauncey Dewey, a Chicago speculator and landowner, was credited with starting the Osborne County range war when he retaliated against settlers who had cut fences on his ranch. Moulton A. Kletcher and Rose Rochford, who married in 1902, were both photographers and are listed in the Osborne County Hall of Fame.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867
Date Organized: September 12, 1871
County Seat: Osborne
Kansas Region: North Central
Physiographic Region: Smoky Hills
Courthouse: September 26, 1907


1867 - Osborne County is established
1871 - Osborne County is organized
1870 - Railroads reach the county. 

More on Osborne County


Entry: Osborne 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.