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Cheyenne County, Kansas

Cheyenne County, Kansas, located in the far northwest corner of Kansas, was organized in 1886. The county features a rugged formation with deep gullies and ravines along the Arikaree River. The Arikaree Breaks, sometimes called the badlands, extends 36 miles and reaches into Colorado. Tensions between the Plains Indians and U.S. army led to the Battle of Beecher Island just west of the county border in 1868. Roman Nose, an experienced dog soldier in the Northern Cheyennes, was one of many men killed in in that fight.

Cheyenne, County Kansas, was named for the Cheyenne Indians who hunted in the region. The county was founded in 1873, but settlers didn’t begin arriving until 1885 when open range laws were passed in Kansas. Cattle ranchers saw an opportunity to move their herds west to this unsettled area with rich buffalo grass. Land promoters encouraged people from Europe and the eastern United States to settle in the High Plains. Bird City was first selected as county seat.

Wano was formed as a trading post northeast of present-day St. Francis. Residents believed the railroad would pass through the area. By fall 1887 it was apparent that Wano would need to move to the northeast. The town moved and was renamed Saint Francis and became the county seat in 1889. 

Charles Lindbergh was a mechanic in Nebraska when he joined an exhibition company in northwest Kansas. He gained respect for the region’s wind as he stayed in Bird City between barnstorming performances around the Midwest.

Cheyenne County has several properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places and Register of Historic Kansas Places including the Cheyenne County Courthouse, built in 1924. Apollo 17 astronaut Ron Evans was born in St. Francis in 1933.


Quick Facts

Date Established: March 20, 1873
Date Organized: April 1, 1886
County Seat: St Francis
Kansas Region: Northwest
Physiographic Region: Regions: High Plains
Scenic Byways: Land & Sky
Courthouse: 1924


1868 - Battle of Beecher Island
1873 - Cheyenne County is founded on March 20
1885 - Open range laws in Kansas encourage settlement in the northwest
1886 - Cheyenne County is organized
1887 - 1888 - Town of Wano is moved due to the railroad and becomes St. Francis
1922 - Charles Lindbergh lives in Bird City while barnstorming

More on Cheyenne County

Entry: Cheyenne 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.