Ellis County History
EstablishmentLocated in north-central Kansas, Ellis County was established on February 26, 1867. It was named for Lieutenant George Ellis of Company I, Twelfth Kansas Infantry, who was killed at the Battle of Jenkins' Ferry, Arkansas on April 30, 1864.
In October, 1867, a petition requesting organization of the county was presented to Governor Samuel J. Crawford. Once approved, commissioners were appointed, and Hays City was made the temporary county seat. At a special election in April of 1870, Hays City was made the permanent county seat.
SettlementSettlement of the county was initially slow. In 1872, a small colony from Ohio settled near the now-extinct town of Walker in the eastern part of the county. These folks were soon followed by two more groups of settlers from Pennsylvania and New York.
That same year, an Englishman named George Grant purchased 50,000 acres of land from the railroad company, intending to colonize it with English farmers. During the next two years, some 300 Englishmen, several of them with families, immigrated to the area.
Russian SettlementThe grasshopper scourge of 1874 caused a large number of settlers to leave the county; however, a large number of Russian immigrants soon came to take the place of those who had left. Between 1875 and 1877, these Russian immigrants established five main settlements in the county:
- Victoria, or Herzog - Regarded as the capital of these Russian settlements
Today's Ellis County
Fort Hays University, established in 1902, has drawn new residents by the thousands each year. Hays has continued to be the county’s largest city.
The county’s rich history can be seen at a number of museums and historic sites including: