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Stafford County, Kansas

Stafford County, Kansas had to hold four elections before the county seat could be determined. While two elections were because a majority was not reached, one election produced no result due to a tornado.

Stafford County, Kansas was established in 1867, but a better-defined establishment was done in 1870. It is named after Civil War Captain, Lewis Stafford. Stafford was killed during the war. The county was once part of the land that was the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County.

For some time in the 1870s, much of the land that was Stafford County was taken away from the county, causing the only part of the county remaining to be extremely small. The Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional and Stafford County was returned to its previous borders.

The first election for the county seat was held in 1879 in the year that the county was organized. The election produced no majority among the county seat contenders. In 1882, a second election was held, but a tornado occurred the same day and destroyed a ballot box. A third election was held, but once again no majority. A fourth election finally produced a result and named St. John the permanent county seat. St. John had been the temporary county since the county’s organization.  

In the late 1870s thousands of African Americans left the South and moved to Kansas with the hope of better lives. This wave of colonists who came starting in 1879 were called Exodusters. The African American families who moved to St. John had owned land and farmed in Illinois. The Martin were a large extended family who settled in Kansas and established a farm.”

The discovery of oil in the county has been an important industry. The oil industry started in 1930 in the county.

Stafford County has several properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Martin Cemetery is an African American cemetery in the county.

There are many interesting figures with connections to Stafford County. Dr. C.A. Ruggles, who settled in the county in the 1890s, established the first public hospital in Stafford County. Paul Nagle Gray, born in 1916, had a successful career in the Navy. He commanded many ships over his years of service. He has been called “Navy’s Bravest Man.” Just Bill was a White Plymouth Rock rooster and was owned by Earl Kelly of Stafford County. Just Bill’s fineness of breed gave him a successful career in the spotlight, even being taken to Hollywood. He appeared in Life magazine.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867
Date Organized: July 2, 1879
County Seat: St. John
Kansas Region: South Central
Physiographic Region: Arkansas River Lowlands
Scenic Byway: Wetlands & Wildlife
Courthouse: 1928-1929


1867 - Stafford County is established.
1870 - Stafford County is better established and defined
1879 - Stafford County is organized.
1930 - Oil industry begins in the county. 

More on Stafford County


Entry: Stafford 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.