About Ford County

First established in 1867 as part of a Legislative Act to organize the Western regions of Kansas, the area that became Ford County was already a pivitol location in Western geography. The flow of the Arkansas River provided a navigable highway through the area and offered one of the few water sources in an otherwise dry plain. Inspired by the Zebulon Pike expedition, some of the first white travelers through what would become Ford County were the Robert McKnight expedition of 1812. By 1821, a trade route was being established with Santa Fe in what was then part of Mexico and until the arrival of the AT&SF Railroad, the Santa Fe Trail was the greatest economic highway in the United States. Then, in 1865, with military resources being freed up after the Civil War, Fort Dodge was established to protect traffic along the Trail. Colonel James H Ford, instrumental in the construction of Fort Dodge, was the namesake for Ford Country which was drawn up around the military post. Fort Dodge quickly became a supply post for freighters and buffalo hunters and gained a nationwide reputation as “The Gateway to the Southwest.”

In 1872, Dodge City was established to provide services that the military officially denied such as alcohol, gambling and other forms of vice. Dodge grew rapidly and garnered its own reputation as the “Wickedest Little City in America.” The increasing population made it necessary for Ford County to be officially organized, which occurred on April 5, 1873 by proclamation by Governor Thomas Osborn. Charles Bassett was appointed the first Sheriff and in June of that year the other County Officers and the first County Commissioners were elected. By 1875, Texas longhorn cattle were being driven north to the rails in Dodge City, and cattle ranches began to dominate the Ford County landscape. Over the years Ford County saw the rise of many future legends of the American West, as the likes of Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Luke Short, Bill Tilghman and others all maintained a very significant presence. Today Ford County maintains its roots in the thriving cattle economy and embraces its place among the western legends.