Gray County was founded in 1881 and named for Alfred Gray. Between 1887 and 1893, a county seat war took place in Gray County that involved several notable Old West figures, such as Bat Masterson, Bill Tilghman and Ben Daniels. As a result of the dispute, Cimarron became the permanent county seat of Gray County.
Gray County is a county located in Southwest Kansas in the Central United States. In 1887, Gray County was organized, having been originally a part of Ford County. At that time, Cimarron had a population of approximately 1500. Gray County includes the cities of Cimarron, Montezuma, Ingalls, Copeland and Ensign.
The Santa Fe Trail follows through Cimarron. This was a trade trail and over 780 miles long. Wagons carried trade and supplies each day traveling about 17 miles per day. The most direct route was though the Cimarron Crossing. The actual point of crossing was somewhere between the present towns of Cimarron and Ingalls, depending on the condition of the Arkansas River. The Cimarron Crossing Park has two markers describing the trail throughout this area.
A steadily growing community located between historic Dodge City and Garden City in west-central Kansas, Cimarron is home to just under 2,000 residents and a variety of retail, service and manufacturing businesses. Cimarron offers a high quality of life in a friendly, small-town atmosphere, an award winning school system and diverse recreational opportunities, including a recreation center, baseball fields, city park and municipal golf course. The area is well known for hunting, hiking, biking, 4-wheeling and other outdoor pursuits. Recent industrial development in the vicinity includes dairy farms, ethanol plants and wind farms.
The current certified population of Montezuma is 966 and we are a self-sufficient and fast growing community. The main industries in our area are agriculture or agricultural-related. You can find a list of the area businesses under Business District. We have two new residential additions and an industrial park for new business development. Montezuma is a clean town with many positive qualities not found in most small towns of its size, such as paved streets, medical services, three churches, a grocery store, a city library and a weekly newspaper. In fact, with the exception of a clothing store, most everything a person needs can be found in Montezuma. Other assets of Montezuma are Bethel Home, a renowned extended care facility, a senior citizen center, a nine-hole golf course, an RV park, and a municipal airport which was recently paved. Our school system is also different than most in that, instead of being consolidated with other schools in our area, we have a sharing agreement with the town of Copeland, located 11 miles west of Montezuma. The schools in our town consist of a preschool, elementary school, high school, and learning center, with the middle school being located in Copeland. Montezuma has an active planning commission and a recreation commission that runs the summer ball programs and swimming pool. The recreation commission also organizes community activities throughout the year such as ski trips, skating and bowling excursions. We have several organizations in Montezuma such as Lions Club, Red Hat Society, Boy & Girl Scouts, and the Crooked Creek Country Club that sponsors tournaments and other activities at the golf course.
Ingalls is located just north of the Arkansas River. Highway US-50 connects Ingalls to Dodge City and Garden City; so does the Santa Fe Railroad. Long before Ingalls was permanently settled, The Santa Fe Trail passed through the town site. Downtown Ingalls has two small red stone markers erected in 1906 by the DAR to mark the route of the great frontier highway. Ingalls was founded in 1884 by Asa T. Soule, a millionaire and early Kansas investor. He named it for John J. Ingalls, then a US senator from Kansas, who created the state motto Ad astra per aspera and wrote the poem Opportunity. Mr. Soule had grand dreams of building a canal from Ingalls to Spearville (east of Dodge City) to take water from the Arkansas and use it for irrigation. It never worked and Mr. Soule unloaded his interest in the Eureka Irrigation Canal for $1,000,000. Traces of the canal can still be seen east of town. Mounds of dirt excavated during construction mark the route. One of the giant pumps for pumping water from the Arkansas into the Soule canal is on display in front of the local museum. The steam-driven centrifugal pump could move 30,000 gallons per minute. Ingalls had a long and violent struggle with nearby Cimarron over which town should be the county seat of Gray county. Ingalls lost for the last time in 1896 and by 1928 had dwindled to the point that the Board of Agriculture report did not list the population of Ingalls as a separate town. Gray county’s first (1872) settler, D. W. “Doc” Barton (1850-1946), lived in Ingalls for much of his life. He came to western Kansas in 1872 to graze Texas cattle on the open rangeland of the area, and was very successful until he was bankrupted by the great blizzard of January, 1886.
In 1887, the original Ensign was laid out 1 mile south and 1.5 miles west of the current city location. The current town site was established in May 1912 at the location staked out and numbered by the Santa Fe Railroad. The city is determined to grow and thrive with a small town atmosphere that each one of our residents can appreciate. As a community they are determined to work hand in hand with our neighbors to ensure our children can grow up safely with access to the best school systems in the state, with only a small commute to employment opportunities.
Copeland was named after E.L. Copeland, secretary-treasurer of the Santa Fe Railroad.
Gray County Windfarm
Built in 2001, the Gray County Wind Farm was the FIRST wind farm in Kansas with the average wind at the site is approximately 20 mph. It started with 170 Vestas V-47 wind turbines with the generating capacity of 112 megawatts – enough electricity to power 33,000 homes. The original turbine towers are 217 feet high, with 77 feet long blades with 10 turbines per section. The newer turbines are 100 foot taller and the blades are 150 feet long with only 3 towers per section. Gray County now has 344 turbines and is in the process of adding another site north of Ensign. Kansas ranks 3rd in the U.S. for wind energy potential. The Gray County Wind Farm commemorated the start of wind generation in Kansas with an informational visitor kiosk just east of Montezuma, on the north side of US Highway 56.
Stauth Memorial Museum – Montezuma
Located in Montezuma, Kansas, the Museum features the travel adventures of Claude and Donalda Stauth, long-time residents of southwest Kansas. Journey with Claude and “Donnie” as you stroll through the permanent exhibit “Around the World.” Browse colorful displays of handicrafts and arts from every corner of the earth. Experience famous sites and everyday places from around the world through video and slide programs based on the Stauth’s trips. The Stauths wanted the museum to go beyond the story of their personal travels. Continue your discoveries in the Special Exhibitions Gallery featuring traveling exhibits from renowned national and international exhibit sources. Return again and again to learn about history, art, science, and more. Also featured in the Stauth Memorial Museum is the Fry Wildlife Collection, one of Kansas’ most extensive collections of North American and exotic game animals, including former record-breaking specimens. This is a must see for all hunters, sportsmen and conservationist. The newest addition to the museum is the Wall Western Collection exhibition, which features nineteen Frederic Remington authentic bronze reproductions, plus other famous western bronzes. This extensive collection is the life-long passion of another Montezuma resident, Howard Wall. These world class permanent exhibitions and continuously changing traveling exhibits continue the Stauth’s tradition of bringing the world and its cultures to Montezuma and Kansas.
Soule Canal – Ingalls
In the fall of 1882, a couple of brothers from Spearville came up with a scheme to make drought-stricken southwest Kansas blossom. They proposed a vast irrigation system to divert the Arkansas River. And to finance the venture, they turned to a millionaire from their hometown of Rochester, New York. Asa T. Soule, known worldwide as the Hops Bitter King, had made a fortune peddling a patent elixir made with bitters, hops, and alcohol, guaranteed to “cure what ails ya.” Soule enthusiastically entered into the project, and into the free wheeling politics of the newly settled region. He founded the town of Ingalls and to insure it as the Gray County seat, he built a bogus railroad. His other exploits included arming men to raid the town of Cimarron and investing in Dodge City land to take advantage of the growth Soule was sure would come with successes of irrigation. His main interest lay in the profits to be made from the Eureka Irrigation Canal Company. It took two years to dig the 96-mile canal that snaked up the north side of the Arkansas River through Gray and Ford Counties. Soule paid farmers working during their off seasons $1.50 a day, $2.50 if they brought their own team. But problems beset the huge ditch shortly after it was completed. The diversion dam flooded out, and canal water seeped through the porous soil. The most plaguing was the erratic flow of the Arkansas River often left the ditch dry. Within five years the grand dream became known as Soule’s Folly, though by that time he had sold it to foreign investors. Over the years the canal changed hands a number of times but never became a profitable venture. Yet in the 1880s, the Eureka Irrigation Canal and miles of other ditches in southwest Kansas lured homesteaders who established enduring settlements. The scheme also began the common use of irrigation that still remains vital to the region.
Today, outlines of the canal zigzag along the Arkansas River serve as a lasting reminder of the Hops Bitter King, and his dream of making southwest Kansas “bloom like a rose.”
Santa Fe Trail Museum – Ingalls
Just off the beaten path of Highway 50 between Dodge City and Garden City sits a small town with a big history. Before Ingalls was even a town, the Santa Fe Trail passed through the site, and since its beginning as an actual town, Ingalls has been involved in some of the most fascinating events ever recorded in Kansas history books. Those include a grandiose plan for a lengthy irrigation ditch called the Eureka Canal in the late 1880s and the infamous Gray County Seat War in 1889. History of those events and others somewhat lesser known is on display in the Santa Fe Trail Museum on Ingalls’ Main Street. In an effort to preserve some of Gray County’s colorful history, Ingalls residents moved their Santa Fe Railway station, built around 1892, to city property south of the railroad tracks and began a call for memorabilia. Later they expanded by adding the old Montezuma depot to their lot. In addition to relics such as a 7,500 year-old fossil found near the town, the centrifugal pump actually used for the Eureka Canal, and a large mural depicting the irrigation project, the museum is also home to prints from Gray County burial records, local family histories, a 45-star American flag which flew during the Spanish-American War, an issue of the New York Herald which came out the day after President Abraham Lincoln was shot, and pictures of Western Kansas during the Dust Bowl days. “A lot of people come in and go over the burial records and family histories,” says Debbie Milne, who serves as museum tour guide. “They’ll spend whole afternoons pouring over them or even check them out for research. And the Dirty 30s photos are also really popular with people. Many of them can remember those days.” There’s a wealth of local history in those two railroad depot buildings, just waiting to be discovered by the traveler going off the beaten path. The Santa Fe Trail Museum is open May 1 through October 31, 9-11 a.m. and 1-4 p.m., Monday through Saturday.
Contact for Gray County section of website should be in the future for changes and updates should be Kim Legleiter – firstname.lastname@example.org NOT Brad Burgkamp.
Stauth Memorial Museum
111 N Aztec Street
PO Box 396
Montezuma KS 67867
Santa Fe Trail Museum
PO Box 143
Ingalls KS 67835
Cimarron Chamber of Commerce
PO Box 602
Cimarron KS 67835