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Sumner County, Kansas

The Chisholm Trail, an important route for the cattle industry, went through Sumner County, Kansas. Farming is an important industry in the county, particularly in growing wheat.

Sumner County, organized in 1871, was named after Charles Sumner, a Massachusetts U.S. Senator. Sumner was physically beaten in the Senate by a South Carolina Senator, over his free-state beliefs. A portion of Sumner County was once part of the land that was the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County.

Meridian was the first temporary county seat. There were many elections held to determine the county seat. The elections did not determine a county seat, and today Wellington holds the honor.

During the years of the cattle drives and industry, cattle were driven into Kansas from Texas through the Chisholm Trail. Caldwell was on the Chisholm Trail and was for a time a rough town. It later became a less rowdy farming community. In the county’s more recent past, Sumner County’s main industries are wheat farming, and is a part of the aircraft parts industry. 

Artesian springs, Gueda SpringsIn 1892 the town of Wellington experienced much damage, injuries and numerous deaths when a tornado struck the town.

Sumner County possesses many properties on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. Bartlett Arboretum was developed by Dr. Walter Bartlett. The Bartletts even known to allow university classes to come to their property to study. Both Caldwell and Wellington have Carnegie Libraries. Carnegie Libraries were established with the help of Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation. The Old Oxford Mill was built in the 1870’s and is an example of a flour mill. The Susanna Madora Salter House was constructed in the 1880’s. Salter was not only Kansas, but the United States’, first woman mayor. This was made possible by Kansas granting partial suffrage. Women could vote in city and school bond and officer elections. They could run for these offices as well. Salter, whose name was thrown in the running as a joke by anti-temperance men, won the election and served her year long term in her town of Argonia in 1887.

Individuals of note with connections to Sumner County include Dr. Joe Maddy, a Wellington musician, who founded the Interlochen Musical Camp. Fred Stone, who at one-time lived in Wellington, was a well-known vaudevillian, actor, and movie personality. He was famous for his portrayal of the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz on the stage. John Donovan Strong developed the 200-inch Mount Palomar telescope. May Williams Ward one of Kansas’ best-known poets and winner of the Poetry Society of America Award in 1937, was from Wellington.

Quick Facts

Date Established: 1867
Date Organized: February 7, 1871
County Seat: Wellington
Kansas Region: South Central
Physiographic Region: Wellington-McPherson Lowlands and Arkansas River Lowlands
Courthouse: 1951-1952


1867 - Sumner County is established.
1871 - Sumner County is organized.
1892 - Tornado hits Wellington and causes deaths and much damage. 

More on Sumner County


Entry: Sumner 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.