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Sedgwick County, Kansas

Sedgwick County, Kansas has been an important place for many industries such as the cattle industry, milling, and a leader in aviation. It’s county seat, Wichita, was once called the “Air Capital of the World.” Well-known individuals in the aviation industry such as Cessna and Boeing have connection to Wichita.

Sedgwick County, Kansas, organized in 1870, was named after Major General John Sedgwick. Sedgwick fought in many wars and campaigns including the Mexican and Civil Wars. He died fighting in the Civil War in 1864. Parts of Otoe and Hunter Counties, which no longer exist, were partly in Sedgwick County.

The Osage and Wichita Indians have resided in the Sedgwick County area. Part of Sedgwick County was included in the Osage Trust Lands. An early and one of the first settlers in the county, John Ross, was murdered most likely by the Osage in 1860.

At the time the Wichita Indians came from the south to reside in the area around 1864, Jesse Chisolm came with them and made a settlement. He started a trail, which would become the well-known Chisolm Trail which served several purposes. Traders, cattle drivers and the government for supply transport used this trail over the years. The cattle drives would be an important part of the trail’s history. During the 1870s, Wichita was an important Cowtown.

When Sedgwick County was organized, there was a county seat election between Wichita and Park City. Despite their most likely being fraudulency from both parties, Wichita won the county seat. Population came at a quick pace starting in 1870. In the late 1910s, oil was discovered nearby, only helping the already increasing population.

Wichita has been an important city for industry from cattle, to milling, to other forms of industry and trade. One of the most important industries to establish itself in the town was aviation. Despite its presence prior, the 1920s were crucial to the establishment of Wichita being coined the “Air Capital of the World.” The Travel Air Manufacturing Company was started in Wichita by individuals many may recognize today, Clyde Cessna, Lloyd Stearman, Walter Beech, and Olive Ann Mellor Beech. The Company eventually merged with the company of Curtiss & Wright. Cessna, Stearman, and the Beeches later formed their own companies. Over the years Wichita had well over a dozen airplane manufacturers. Many big-name companies have had ties to Wichita. In addition to Cessna and Beechcraft, Learjet and Boeing have had connections to Wichita. Factories, airports such as old Municipal Airport, and flying schools are all pieces of Sedgwick county’s rich history of aviation. The Municipal Airport was at the location of what is now McConnell Air Force Base. Today, the county’s existing airports are Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, Beach Factory Airport, Cessna Aircraft Field, Colonel James Jabara Airport, Cook Airfield, Maize Airport, Westport Airport, and Westport Auxiliary Airport. 

A U.S. Navy ship was named U. S. S. Wichita, launched November 16, 1937, and commissioned February 16, 1939. The cruiser represented the city in Kansas.

Between 1974 and 1991, there was a series of murders by the BTK killer. He had not been heard from since 1979, but this all changed in 2004. The BTK killer, Dennis Rader of Park City, started to “taunt” the police and in 2005 he was arrested and will be imprisoned for the rest of his life.

Friends University was found in 1898, Fairmont College was found in 1895, and is now known as Wichita State University. Sacred Heart College was established in 1933 and is now Newman University.

Sedgwick County possesses many properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. The Henry J. Allen House was the home of statesman and Governor Henry J. Allen. Wichita High School was a project of William B. Ittner who is known for his work in changing architecture of schools. The Broadview Hotel was built in 1922. The Administration Building and Stearman Aircraft Company hanger were both located at the Municipal airport which is now McConnell Air Force Base. The old Sedgwick County Courthouse was in use from 1888-1959. The Eaton Hotel, otherwise known as the Carey House was attacked by Carry Nation in the year 1900 as she fought for prohibition. The Dunbar Theatre was part of the all-black McAdams Neighborhood. The Mentholatum Company Building, was part of the Albert Hyde’s Mentholatum Company, a salve that would become internationally successful. Wichita Veteran’s Administration Building, now known as the Robert J. Dole Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center, Wichita, Kansas, was built in the 1930s. Since that time, it has seen renovations and expansion. The Veteran’s Affairs Regional Office was established there in the 1990s. Over the years it has worked with the University of Kansas and Wichita State University. Residency Programs, research, and laboratories have been a part of its history.

Individual of note with connections to Sedgwick County include U.S. Senator Nancy Landon Kassebaum, Governor Lorenzo D. Lewelling, Governor Henry J. Allen, and other U.S. senators, U.S. congressmen, Kansas Supreme Court justices, as well as Judy Bell and Kirstie Alley.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867
Date Organized: April 27, 1870
County Seat: Wichita
Kansas Region: South Central
Physiographic Region: Wellington-McPherson Lowlands, Arkansas River Lowlands, and Flint Hills Uplands
State Park: Cheney State Park
Courthouse: 1957


1860 - The first settler in the county is murdered by Osage Indians
1867 - Sedgwick County is organized on February 26
1870 - Sedgwick County is organized
1870 - Wichita is an important cowtown
1920 - Wichita is called Air Capital of the World 

More on Sedgwick County


Entry: Sedgwick 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.