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Seward County, Kansas

Like many southwest Kansas counties, Seward County experienced a dispute over the county seat. Over the years the towns of Fargo Springs, Springfield, and Liberal have sought out the coveted position. The current county seat of Liberal was determined in the 1890s.

Seward County, organized in 1886, was named after U.S. Secretary of State William Seward. Seward, of New York, was anti-slavery, and served under U.S. Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson. Seward County was once part of the land that was the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County.

The county, established in 1873, experienced border changes before organization in the 1880s. The original borders were restored, however, and immigration within the current borders of Seward County began around 1884. As with many southwest Kansas counties, Seward County experienced a dispute over the county seat. Springfield and Fargo Springs were the contenders. Springfield had been the original temporary county seat established. Commissioners, from Fargo Springs, established election districts in their favor. When the election was about to take place, Fargo Springs people took control of a polling station the night before. The voting was far from honest as individuals voted not only early before the polls were open but more than once. Some were not happy with this, made their own voting booth out of a wagon. The commissioners wouldn’t examine the wagon votes. This issue took to the courts, and in the end Springfield wins in 1887. The county seat came up a few years late. In 1888 a new town called Liberal had been established. Springfield and Liberal went up against each other in an election and in Liberal was the winner. In 1890 the county records had been burned while still at Springfield.  

In 1922, natural gas was discovered in the county, but nothing was really done with it, as it wasn’t an industry that was seeing much demand. In 1927, natural gas was discovered in the nearby county of Stevens. Stevens’ County was discovered to contain the center of the Hugoton Gas Field. The Hugoton Field reaches into Seward County. Its gas is high in helium.

During the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, Seward County was one of the places affected by the terrible dust storms that hit the region. These storms even were known to cause deaths and sickness. Farming continues to be important in the county, which is among the top corn producer

Seward County Community College saw its first students in 1969. Over the years the campus, which was opened in 1973, has seen improvements, new construction, and expansion of programs offered.

Each year women of Liberal compete in a timed pancake race between them and their sister city of Olney, England. The first competition was held in 1950.

The Rock Island Depot and Hotel, built in 1910, is in Liberal and is on the State Register of Historic Places.

John W. Baughman settled in the county in 1872 and began to amass large landholdings in both Kansas and Colorado. When he died in 1954 he had accumulated over 300,000 acres in the two states in addition to other interests in oil, cattle, and feedlot operations. His son Robert was president of Baughman Farms until his death in 1970. Long interested in history Robert was the author of Kansas in Maps, Early Day Post Offices, and published the book Kansas in Newspapers for the Kansas Historical Society.

Quick Facts

Date Established: March 20, 1873
Date Organized: June 17, 1886
County Seat: Liberal
Kansas Region: Southwest
Physiographic Region: High Plains
Courthouse: 1957


1873 - Seward County is established.
1886 - Seward County is organized.
1887 - After a county seat struggle, Springfield wins.
1892 - Liberal becomes the county seat.
1922 - Natural gas is discovered in Seward County.
1927 - Natural gas is discovered in nearby county of Stevens, and the Stevens County town of Hugoton is discovered to be the center of the Hugoton Gas Field. The gas field reaches into Seward County. 

More on Seward County


Entry: Seward 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.