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The geographic center of the contiguous United States is located in a field near Belle Fourche, South Dakota, but a marker for it is located in a small town called Belle Plaine, Kansas.
Barton County, located in central Kansas, has a rich history dating back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Wichita and Cheyenne, who relied on the fertile land for hunting and agriculture. European exploration of the region began in the 18th century, and in the early 19th century, the area became a part of the Santa Fe Trail, an important trading route between Missouri and Santa Fe.

The county's officially recognized history began in 1872, when it was established and named after Clara Barton, the founder of the American Red Cross. The county quickly developed as settlers arrived, attracted by its abundant natural resources and potential for farming. Agriculture, particularly wheat and livestock farming, became the backbone of the county's economy.

Barton County also played a significant role in the development of the oil and gas industry in Kansas. In 1914, the discovery of oil near the town of Great Bend led to an oil boom, attracting numerous oil companies and workers to the area. This led to the growth of towns and the establishment of oil refineries, making the county a major player in the oil industry.

The county's history also includes significant events such as the devastating tornado that hit Great Bend in 1915, causing widespread destruction. However, the community rallied together to rebuild and recover, demonstrating resilience and determination. Today, Barton County continues to thrive, with a diverse economy including agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism, while preserving its historical heritage.

This timeline provides a condensed summary of the historical journey of Barton County, Kansas.

  • Barton County was established on February 26, 1867.
  • In 1872, the first settlement was established in the area that would become Great Bend, the county seat.
  • In the late 19th century, the county experienced a population boom due to the expansion of the railroad.
  • In 1918, Camp Funston was established in Barton County as a training facility during World War I.
  • In the 1930s, the county was heavily affected by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl.
  • In 1951, Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Area was designated as a National Natural Landmark.
  • In 1979, the county suffered significant damage from a tornado that struck Great Bend.
  • In recent years, Barton County has focused on promoting tourism and outdoor recreational activities.