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Ellsworth, Kansas

Ellsworth, Kansas
Ellsworth water tower as seen from Kansas State Highway 156 in 2012
Ellsworth water tower as seen from Kansas State Highway 156 in 2012
Location within County (top) and Kansas (bottom)
Location within County (top) and Kansas (bottom)
Country United States
State Kansas
County Ellsworth
Incorporated 1867
 • Type Mayor–Council
 • Mayor Stephen Bahan[1]
 • City Clerk Patti Booher[1]
 • Total 2.43 sq mi (6.29 km2)
 • Land 2.43 sq mi (6.29 km2)
 • Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation 1,539 ft (469 m)
Population (2010)[3]
 • Total 3,120
 • Estimate (2012[4]) 3,116
 • Density 1,300/sq mi (500/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 67439
Area code(s) 785
FIPS code 20-20500 [5]
GNIS feature ID 0475460 [6]

Ellsworth is a city in and the county seat of Ellsworth County, Kansas, United States.[7] As of the 2010 census, the city population was 3,120.[8]


  • History 1
    • 19th century 1.1
    • 21st century 1.2
  • Geography 2
    • Climate 2.1
  • Demographics 3
    • 2010 census 3.1
    • 2000 census 3.2
  • Government 4
  • Media 5
  • Infrastructure 6
  • Notable people 7
  • In popular culture 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


19th century

1915-1918 Railroad Map of Ellsworth County

Once called "The Wickedest Cattletown in Kansas", the city is named for Fort Ellsworth, which was built in 1864.[9] Due to speculation on imminent railroad construction, the population of Ellsworth boomed to over two thousand by the time it was incorporated in 1867. It has since been said, ""Abilene, the first, Dodge City, the last, but Ellsworth the wickedest".

Ellsworth was a bustling cattle town for a time during the late 1860s but its cattle trade had dwindled down by the mid-1880s. During this period it was known for being one of the wildest cattle towns, the scene of numerous killings following shootouts between drunken cowboys, and the town sported numerous saloons, brothels and gambling halls, with prostitution being rampant.[10] Wild Bill Hickok ran for Sheriff there in 1868, but was defeated by former soldier E.W. Kingsbury. Kingsbury was an extremely effective lawman, but had to have the help of the local police to control Ellsworth itself, as he also had the county to deal with. Violence inside Ellsworth was commonplace.[11] Ellsworth Marshal Will Semans was shot and killed on September 26, 1869, while attempting to disarm a rowdy man in a dance hall.

For a time during this period, two small-time outlaws known only as Craig and Johnson began bullying people around the community, often committing armed robbery openly and without fear of arrest due to Marshal Semans having been killed. Before long, though, citizens formed a vigilance squad and overwhelmed both men, hanging them near the Smoky Hill River. Sheriff,[12] a deputy to Kingsbury, took over following Sheriff Kingsbury's departure, and Whitney quickly gained a reputation as being both tough and respectable, resulting in his being well liked. In 1872 the Drovers Cottage was built, which could accommodate 175 guests, and stable 50 carriages and 100 horses.[13]

Lawman Wyatt Earp served in Ellsworth for a short time, achieving nothing notable. He would later claim that he'd arrested gunman Ben Thompson there, however that was a false claim. In actuality, professional gunman and gambler Ben Thompson was arrested by Deputy Ed Hogue after his brother Billy Thompson accidentally shot and killed Ellsworth County Sheriff Chauncey Whitney in 1873. Billy Thompson fled despite the shooting being accidental, fearing that he would be lynched. Thompson was eventually captured and put on trial, but was acquitted in the shooting, as Sheriff Whitney himself, a friend to both Thompsons, stated prior to his death it was an accident. At the time of being shot, Whitney was standing with the two brothers, who were having a dispute with local Ellsworth police officer John "Happy Jack" Morco and gambler John Sterling over a gambling debt Sterling owed Ben Thompson. Although rumors about that shooting have circulated over the decades into Billy Thompson cold bloodedly shooting Sheriff Whitney down, that never happened.[14]

Following the accidental Thompson killing of Sheriff Whitney, violence against visiting Texas cowboys passing through on cattle drives increased. Ellsworth Chief of Police Ed Crawford beat Texan cowboy Cad Pierce to death with his pistol, after first shooting him in the side, while crowds of drunken vigilantes roamed the streets threatening Texas cowboys and ordering them out of town. "Happy Jack" Morco swore out a warrant for assault against Ben Thompson, and shortly thereafter Ed Hogue arrested Thompson.

Ellsworth police officer John "Happy Jack" Morco was fired due to his involvement in the incident leading up to Whitney's death, and a short time later the entire force was dismissed, replaced by new personnel. Morco was shot and killed shortly thereafter by newly appointed Ellsworth police officer J. C. "Charlie" Brown in front of the Lizzie Palmer Dancehall. Former officer Ed Crawford was shot and killed shortly after this, in a brothel in Nauchville, more or less a suburb of Ellsworth, being located about a half a mile out of the city. No arrests were made, and it was suspected that cowboy friends to Cad Pierce had committed the killing. Former officer Ed Hogue fled.

By the late 1870s the crime rate had dropped dramatically, but the community was beginning to suffer due to cattle drives taking their cattle elsewhere, like Dodge City and Abilene.

21st century

Ellsworth has recently seen a resurgence in interest in its historical significance. Plans for the restoration of Ellsworth's Signature Insurance Building and its operation as the National Drovers Hall of Fame are underway and partly funded by one of the only historically accurate cattle drives in the US down Main Street and Douglas Avenue every year.[15]


Ellsworth is located at (38.731924, -98.229204) at an elevation of 1,539 feet (469 m).[6][16] The city lies on the north side of the Smoky Hill River in the Smoky Hills region of the Great Plains. Oak Creek, a tributary of the Smoky Hill, flows south past the eastern side of the city to its confluence with the river southeast of the city.

Ellsworth is located at the intersection of K-14, K-140, and K-156 in central Kansas roughly 27 miles (43 km) west-southwest of Salina, Kansas. Ellsworth is approximately 82 miles (132 km) northwest of Wichita and 192 miles (309 km) west-southwest of Kansas City.[17] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.43 square miles (6.29 km2), all of it land.[2]


Lying in the transition zone between North America's humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) and humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), Ellsworth experiences hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The average temperature is 53 °F (12 °C), and the average yearly precipitation is 27.3 inches (694 mm).[18] Snowfall averages 16.7 inches (424 mm) per year.[19] On average, July is the warmest month, January is the coldest month, and May is the wettest month. The hottest temperature recorded in Ellsworth was 117 °F (47 °C) in 1936; the coldest temperature recorded was -30 °F (-34 °C) in 1913.[20]

Climate data for Ellsworth, Kansas
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
Average high °F (°C) 39
Average low °F (°C) 13
Record low °F (°C) −30
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.72
Snowfall inches (cm) 6.3
Source: The Weather Channel;[20] National Weather Service[19]


2010 census

As of the census[3] of 2010, there were 3,120 people, 997 households, and 639 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,284.0 inhabitants per square mile (495.8/km2). There were 1,154 housing units at an average density of 474.9 per square mile (183.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.9% White, 9.3% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 0.7% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.2% of the population.

There were 997 households of which 26.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.6% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.9% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.77.

The median age in the city was 38.4 years. 17% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 31.5% were from 25 to 44; 25% were from 45 to 64; and 16.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 61.9% male and 38.1% female.

2000 census

As of the census[5] of 2000, there were 2,965 people, 995 households, and 641 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,413.3 people per square mile (545.1/km²). There were 1,141 housing units at an average density of 543.9 per square mile (209.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.40% White, 7.55% African American, 0.94% Native American, 0.51% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.94% from other races, and 1.62% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.95% of the population.

There were 995 households out of which 27.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 7.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.5% were non-families. 33.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.23 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the city the population was spread out with 17.3% under the age of 18, 10.0% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 22.2% from 45 to 64, and 19.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 132.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 139.9 males.

As of 2000 the median income for a household in the city was $35,625, and the median income for a family was $45,156. Males had a median income of $30,233 versus $19,762 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,396. About 3.8% of families and 7.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 9.0% of those under age 18 and 9.9% of those age 65 or over.


The Ellsworth government consists of a mayor and five council members. The council meets the 2nd and 4th Monday of each month at 7PM.[1]

  • City Hall, 121 W First St.


Ellsworth has a weekly newspaper, the Ellsworth County Independent/Reporter.[21][22]

K243AR, a translator of radio station KPRD-FM in Hays, Kansas, broadcasts from Ellsworth on 96.5 FM playing a Christian format.[23][24]


In 2008, TradeWind Energy and Enel North America made Ellsworth and Lincoln counties home to the Smoky Hills Wind Farm. Its 155 wind turbines have a total capacity of 250MW[25] and cover approximately 20,000 acres of agricultural land.[26] 100 landowners host the Smoky Hills Wind Farm’s turbines on their property.[27] The wind farm generates enough power to satisfy 85,000 homes’ energy consumption requirements.[25]

Notable people

In popular culture

The first four episodes in 1955 of the ABC/Desilu western television series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O'Brian in the title role, are set in Ellsworth, where Wyatt Earp was the marshal prior to moving to the larger Wichita, where the remaineder of the season-one episodes are set. Subsequent seasons were in Dodge City, Kansas, and Tombstone, Arizona.[28]

Ellsworth Federal Penitentiary appears in the game Leavenworth, KS. There is however an Ellsworth Correctional Facility, which is a facility with the Kansas Department of Corrections.

The city is the subject of the song "Ellsworth", which was recorded by country group Rascal Flatts for the 2006 album Me and My Gang.[29]

See also


  1. ^ a b c Ellsworth - Directory of Public Officials
  2. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files 2010".  
  3. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  4. ^ "Population Estimates".  
  5. ^ a b "American FactFinder".  
  6. ^ a b "US Board on Geographic Names".  
  7. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  8. ^ "2010 City Population and Housing Occupancy Status". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved March 27, 2011. 
  9. ^ Ellsworth - History
  10. ^ Smith, Jessica (2013). "Morality and Money: A Look at how the Respectable Community Battled the Sporting Community over Prostitution in Kansas Cowtowns, 1867-1885".  
  11. ^ Drovers Mercantile - History
  12. ^ Chauncey Whitney
  13. ^ Legends of America - Ellsworth
  14. ^ Billy Thompson
  15. ^
  16. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990".  
  17. ^ "City Distance Tool".  
  18. ^ "Historical Weather for Ellsworth, Kansas, United States of America". Weatherbase. Retrieved 2010-01-18. 
  19. ^ a b "NOWData - NOAA Online Weather Data".  
  20. ^ a b "Average weather for Ellsworth, KS".  
  21. ^ "About this Newspaper: Ellsworth reporter". Chronicling America.  
  22. ^ "Ellsworth County Independent/Reporter". Ellsworth County Independent/Reporter. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  23. ^ "K243AR-FM 96.5 MHz". Radio-Locator. Theodric Technologies LLC. Retrieved 2009-10-04. 
  24. ^ "Station Information Profile".  
  25. ^ a b
  26. ^
  27. ^ Meghan Lawrence, " Homeier adds value by growing energy on his Ellsworth Co. farm", Farm Talk, Retrieved 2012-1-10.
  28. ^ The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp (September 1955 episodes)' at the Internet Movie Database
  29. ^

Further reading

  • History of the State of Kansas; William G. Cutler; A.T. Andreas Publisher; 1883. (Online HTML eBook)
  • Kansas : A Cyclopedia of State History, Embracing Events, Institutions, Industries, Counties, Cities, Towns, Prominent Persons, Etc; 3 Volumes; Frank W. Blackmar; Standard Publishing Co; 944 / 955 / 824 pages; 1912. (Volume1 - Download 54MB PDF eBook),(Volume2 - Download 53MB PDF eBook), (Volume3 - Download 33MB PDF eBook)
  • Guide Map of the Best and Shortest Cattle Trail to the Kansas Pacific Railway; Kansas Pacific Railway Company; 1875. (Read Online)(Map)

External links

  • City of Ellsworth
  • Ellsworth - Directory of Public Officials
  • Ellsworth County Independent Reporter
  • USD 327, local school district
  • J. H. Robbins Memorial Library
  • Ellsworth City Map, KDOT
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