History of
Arkansas City, Kansas

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Arkansas City was first conceived in the minds of fifteen men in Emporia. These men were prominent in business and politics and were aware of the financial rewards possible. Among these men were the Norton brothers and E. C. Manning.

E.C. Manning came to Cowley County and constructed a log cabin below the junction of Timber Creek and the Walnut River in October 1869.

Christmas Day, 1869, the Norton Brothers and their party arrived at Manning's cabin with a letter addressed to him from men in Emporia suggesting he should cooperate with the party in establishing a town at the mouth of the Walnut River in Cowley County. Manning did so although he had previously visited the area and was convinced that the ]unction of the Walnut and Arkansas Rivers was too far south for the location of a county seat.

The men from Emporia, however, decided to locate their town where Arkansas City is currently situated. They decided to call it Delphi, located their claims and returned to Emporia. On January 8, 1870, they formed the Cresswell Town Company (having decided to change the name) and had it incorporated in Topeka on January 10, 1870.

Mr. Manning formed the Winfield Town Company on January 22, 1870, and arranged to keep in touch with happenings in the Kansas Legislature.

In February, 1870, the Kansas Legislature was in session and a bill was introduced to organize Cowley County with Cresswell as the temporary County seat. The Lieutenant Governor, who presided over the Senate, and the Speaker of the House of Representatives were both members of the Cresswell Town Company

The story of how this bill was thwarted is told in the overview of Cowley County.

From Arkansas City Town Company. Filed in Topeka July 15, 1871.

"The following named persons residents of Cowley County, Kansas, have associated themselves together in conformity to the laws of the State of Kansas, for the purposes herein specified, to wit: C.R. Sipes, M.A. Leonard, H.B. Norton, G.W. Norton, W.M. Sleeth, G.O. Meigs, David Beedy, L.B. Kellogg and A.A. Newman.

1st. The name of this corporation is the Arkansas City Town Company.

2nd. It is formed for the purpose of selecting, laying out and platting a town site into lots, Blocks, streets, alleys, and parks and for the occupation, sale and disposal of the same, upon the West half of section (30) thirty, township (34) thirty-four, of range four east (4) and the southeast quarter of section twenty-five (25), of township thirty-four (34) of range three (3) east, of the sixth principal meridian.

3rd. Its place of business is at Arkansas City in Cowley County, Kansas.

4th. The term of its existence shall be ten years.

5th. The number of directors are five of which the following are the names and place of Residence, of those chosen for the first year. H. B. Norton, H. 0. Meigs, W. M. Sleeth, A. R. Sipes and G. H. Norton of Arkansas City.

6th. The amount of its capital Stock is fifteen thousand dollars, which is divided into three hundred shares of fifty dollars each.

The State of Kansas-Butler County SS

Before me a Notary Public in and for t County and State aforesaid, personally appeared W.M. Sleeth, G.H. Norton, C.R. Sip M.R. Leonard, and A.A. Newman, known me to be the persons whose names are her mentioned, and acknowledged the within strument to be their own act and deed for t purposes therein Specified.

  • W.M. Sleeth
  • G.H. Norton
  • C.R. Sipes
  • M.R.Leonard
  • A.A. Newman

    Witness my hand and Notarial seal, the 15th day of July AD. 1871.

    (Seal) G. H. Lafetia, Notary Public

    The above is from records in the Secretary of State's office in Topeka, Kansas.


  • 1872-Arkansas City delegates traveled Emporia by stagecoach, to urge railways to track to Arkansas City.

  • 1878-The first fire-station was constructed.

  • 1879-The first train arrived on Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.

  • 1883-The first telephones were put in use.

  • 1884-Chilocco Indian School opened.

  • 1885-The city started laying pipes for city waterworks.

  • 1886-The first property annexation took place. The south east 40 acres of the far Henry Endicott was taken into the Town company.

  • 1890-The first bridge was built over Walnut River. The city started macadamizing the streets. The city started laying the first sewer lines.

  • 1892-The Arkansas City Gas and Light company offered to furnish the City with twelve streetlights.

  • 1893-Boom days. The Cherokee Strip land rush took place on September 12.

  • 1902-The first auto appeared. (Owned by William Rowan.)

  • 1903-Heneberry Packing Company opened.

  • 1907-Electricity replaced mules on city trolley.

  • 1908-Purity Cafe opened at 309 South Summit. Public Library opened. Paris Park created.

  • 1909-Salvation Army organized in Arkansas City.

  • 1910-Oil is discovered in Cowley County Arkansas City Population is 7,508.

  • 1911-First Chautauqua was held.

  • 1914-Wilson Park Rotunda built.

  • 1915-Arkansas City Country Club founded.

  • 1917-America enters into World War I.

  • 1918-World War I ends. Purity Cafe bought by Gochis Brothers.

  • 1919-American Legion Post 18 started.

  • 1920-Arkansas City Population is 11,253. Construction started on Osage Hotel.

  • 1923-Flood.

  • 1924-Burford Theater opened.

  • 1925-Gas Service Company started using natural gas. Farmers State Bank robbed of $75,000. Explosion at Millikin Refinery killed two men.

  • 1926-First Arkalalah.

  • 1927-Helium was discovered in Dexter. Spencer-Ralston V.F.W. Post 1254 founded.

  • 1935-Dust bowl days arrived.

  • 1936-Auditorium-Gymnasium opened.

  • 1938-Purity Cafe moved to north of Home National Bank.

  • 1940-Strother Army Air Force field was started. Norman Austin pioneered frozen foods with Zero Lockers.

  • 1941-Maurer-Neuer bought Keefe-LeStourgeon Packing Co.

  • 1942-Acton Manufacturing started.

  • 1945-World War II ended.  Strother Army Air Force field was deactivated. The properties were turned over to Arkansas City and Winfield jointly.  Fairchild Aircraft was the first commercial tenant.

  • 1946-Arkansas City purchases Mercy Hospital.  Kiwanis hold first Pancake feed at Arkaialah.

  • 1947-Deibel's started cafe downtown on Summit Street.

  • 1951-General Electric started operation at Strother Field.

  • 1952-Arkansas City experienced its first earthquake.

  • 1955-Skyline Corporation started producing mobile homes.

  • 1957-Deibel's restaurant moved to North Summit Street.

  • 1958-City builds first Sewage Treatment Plant.

  • 1960-John Morrell and Company acquired Maurer-Neuer Meat Packers.

  • 1964-Middle School opened.

  • 1965-Spooksville was started.

  • 1966-Cherokee Strip Land Rush Museum opened.

  • 1968-Purity Cafe burned down.

  • 1970-January 1. Arkansas City High School band played in the Rose bowl parade and the announcer mispronounced the name.

  • 1971-APCO refinery fire.

  • 1973-City builds Water Treatment plant.

  • 1980-Chilocco Indian School closed.

  • 1981-School District sells Auditorium-Gymnasium to Cowley County Community College.

  • 1982-John Morrell Packing Co. closed.

  • 1983-Ark City Packing Co. opened. New Senior High School opened.

  • 1989-Ark City Packing Co. closed

    Submitted by Richard Kay Wortman.
    As Printed in the Cowley County Heritage Book, 1990

  • Glad You're Here!

    EMAIL Cowley County Coordinator
    Karen Rodenbaugh ....Arkansas City, KS

    Email corrections and submissions to Steve ruggles

    State Coordinators
    Tom & Carolyn Ward, Columbus, KS