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A Brief History of Edwards County


The Chicago Workingmen's Town Company founded a nearby town in 1872, naming it "Petersburg" for T. J.. Peter, a director of the Santa Fe Railroad, which was then building westward. In 1874 the Kansas Legislature defined Edwards County and it was named for W. C. Edwards, who built the first brick block, which became the center around which the county was built. The City of Kinsley, was founded in 1873, and  named after E. W. Kinsley of Boston, Mass., who donated money to the town to build a Congregational Church. Within 5 years (1878) Kinsley became incorporated.

Kinsley and Edwards County hit the cover of the Saturday Evening Post with the distinction of being the half-way point between San Francisco & New York, 1561 miles from each city. The April 22, 1939 issue featured two cars meeting, one coming from & one going to the Worlds Fair...the designation of "Midway USA" is now known world wide.

 

Kinsley has also had it's "Great Train Robbery" January 27, 1878. Bandits attempting to loot the Santa Fe station's safe and the westbound Pueblo Express were foiled by a young telegrapher named Andrew Kinkade. Four of the gang were later captured by Sheriff Bat Masterson of Dodge City.

Edwards County's early history is rich in tales of settlers on the Santa Fe Trail. Indian attacks along the Santa Fe Trail were frequent from the 1820's to the 1870's. Near here, where the trail followed the Arkansas River, the Battle of Coon Creek was fought.

In June of 1848, an attachment of 71 Missouri recruits were issued new breech-loading rifles and sent west  on the Santa Fe Trail. From Council Grove, they were to escort a wagon train of 60 wagons to Ft. Mann, just west of Dodge City. West of Walnut Creek, they were joined by an artillery battalion of 60 men with two cannons. Suspicious of Indian activity, the group camped one night where the Coon Creek empties into the Arkansas River,  a few miles west of Lewis. At daybreak, June 17, an immense herd of  buffalo were stampeded toward the camp. Behind the herd were 800 Comanche and Apache Indians. The deciding factor of the battle were the new breech-loading rifles  with their ease of reloading. In the final minutes of the battle, an Apache chief was killed. A young Indian boy, in the face of certain death, rode out to recover the body of the chief. The soldiers held their fire, admiring the boy's courage. His name was GERONIMO.  A startling occurrence after the battle, according to the official report, was the appearance of an Indian woman, wearing a scarlet dress, who rode about giving "directions about the wounded." The identity of this angel of mercy has remained a mystery.

 

Buried Treasure also figures in the history of Edwards County and the Santa Fe Trail. Near the town of Offerle, there is a legendary pot of gold that was buried in 1850. As legend has it, a caravan of people, returning from the gold rush in California to Boston, were attacked by Indians. Hastily, the people put their gold in an iron pot and buried it for safe keeping until the battle was over. All were killed except for a small girl, who was taken captive. She later escaped from the Indians and told officials what had taken place. In 1888, treasure hunters from Massachusetts came to the area hunting for the treasure for two months. The treasure was never found and to this day the hunt still continues.

The "Kinsley Library", located at 208 E. 8th, the "Meadowlark Library", Main Street - Lewis, and the Henry Laird Library, 405 Wheeler - Belpre, have an extraordinary amount of information on the great culture and heritage of the "Plains Indians" and the Immigrants and their families who were determined to settle the wide open plains in search of a place they could call home.

 

 


You will also find a "treasure trove" of Genealogical information and help at the Kinsley Library on the people who succeeded in settling Edwards County and even on individuals who left their mark as they were passing through.

 

If you're stopping here on vacation, just passing through or even a resident of the county,  "The Edwards County Museum", located on W. Hwy. 56, is a great source of visual history, not only for Edwards County, but how people who settled the plains lived and worked. You will see how  life was lived in the early days with the tools, equipment and households of the families that settled the area. The Sod House will give you a sense of awe & wonderment of the ingenuity and determination of the pioneers plus a gallery of early photo's that give credence to the life of Edwards County and it's people.