Today’s Kansas counties did not always exist in the present form. They went through many different changes in the space of a few short years.

Kansas Territorial Counties

Between 1803 and 1819, several famous explorers came to explore the region that is now the state of Kansas. Some of those explorers were Stephen H. Long, the famous exploring duo of Lewis and Clark, and Zebulon Pike.

From 1812 to 1821, Kansas was part of the Missouri Territory. However, it wasn’t until 1827 that the first permanent settlement was established at Fort Leavenworth.

In 1842, a settlement at Fort Scott was established, followed by one at Fort Riley in 1853. The point of some of those settlements was to protect those traveling along either the Oregon Trail or the Santa Fe Trail.

The Kansas Territory, was organized on May 30, 1854. There were originally 36 Kansas counties when they were first organized on August 25, 1855.

The State of Kansas entered the union as the 34th state on January 29, 1861.

Kansas Counties Today

Today, Kansas is divided into 105 counties.  States bordering Kansas are ColoradoMissouriNebraska and Oklahoma.

Kansas has 28 former counties have existed but are now defunct due to name changes, reorganizations, or mergers and splits.

Wyandotte County and the city of Kansas City and Greeley County and the city of Tribune, operate as unified governments

Fun Facts about Kansas Counties

Counties by Year

County Size Facts

County Population Facts

Kansas City Facts

Kansas’s 10  largest cities (2017 est.) are:

  1. Wichita (390,591) is in Sedgwick County
  2. Overland Park (191,278) is in Johnson County
  3. Kansas City (152,938) is in Wyandotte County
  4. Olathe (137,472) is in Johnson County
  5. Topeka (Capital) (126,587) is in Shawnee County
  6. Lawrence (96,982) is in Douglas County
  7. Shawnee (65,513) is in Johnson County
  8. Manhattan (56,832) is in Riley County
  9. Lenexa (53,553) is in Johnson County
  10. Salina (46,994) is in Saline County

Boundary Changes of Kansas Counties from 1855-1893

This Interactive Map of Kansas Counties show the historical boundaries, names, organization, and attachments of every county, extinct county and unsuccessful county proposal from 1855 to 1893.

List of Kansas Counties

List of Old Former / Extinct Kansas Counties

Kansas contains some counties that no longer exist because they were discontinued, renamed or merged with another county. These are important for genealogy research purposes.

The below counties formerly within the area of the State of Kansas no longer exist:

  • Arapahoe (1st) County: Established in August 30, 1855. Arapahoe County was attached to Marshall County for all business purposes. Arapahoe County was never organized. In early 1859 it was split into six counties (Arapahoe, Broderick, El Paso, Fremont, Montana, and Oro). When Colorado Territory was established Feb. 28, 1861, the new Colorado legislature created seventeen counties, which are considered the original counties of the state.
  • Billings County: Established on March 20, 1873. Billings County, during its brief history of less than one year, operated as an organized county because Norton County was organized on 22 Aug 1872 by the proclamation of Governor James Madison Harvey. Billings did not, however, have a county seat during its period of existence. The town of Norton was elected the county seat in 1874, following the reinstatement of the name of Norton County on February 25, 1874.
  • Breckenridge County: Established on August 25, 1855. The Territorial Legislature of 1855 organized Breckinridge County, attaching it to Madison County for civil, criminal, and military purposes. In 1861, Madison County was abolished, and its northern part was given to Breckinridge.
    Breckinridge County was renamed Lyon County in February 05, 1862, due to Breckinridge’s political sympathies.
  • Buffalo County: Established on March 20, 1873. In 1881, the northern tier of townships was removed from Buffalo County and added to Lane; the remainder was made part of newly-created Gray County, and later was taken to form part of Finney County. Buffalo County was never organized.
  • Calhoun County: Early marriages of Calhoun County, Kansas Territory, are in Holton, Jackson County, Kansas. Established on August 25, 1855 and Organized on September 24, 1855. The location of the town of Calhoun was in the extreme southeast corner of the county. By the time the 1859 Legislature changed the county name to Jackson on February 11, 1859, the town of Calhoun had lost its postoffice, and it soon faded into oblivion.
  • Davis County: Established on August 25, 1855. Davis was one of the original 33 counties created by the first territorial legislature. It lost territory to Dickinson County in 1857 and to Wabaunsee County in 1860; it gained territory from Dickinson in 1860 and from Riley in 1873. Name changed on March 07, 1889 to Geary County
  • Dorn County: Established on August 25, 1855. Named in honor of either (1) Earl Van Dorn (1820-1863), an army officer during the Mexican War and Indian campaigns, or, more likely, (2) Andrew Jackson Dorn (1815-1889), also a Mexican War veteran and Indian agent for the Osages, Quapaws, and Senecas and Shawnees at the Neosho Agency from 1853 to 1861. Both men joined the Confederate Army in 1861, and the county was renamed Neosho. The county was never organized. Dorn was divided on June 03, 1861 into present counties of Neosho and Labette.
  • Foote County: Established on 1881 from Unorganized Territory. (renamed Gray, 1887)
  • Garfield County: Established on 1887 from Buffalo County. (annexed to Finney, 1893)
  • Godfrey County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. The name changed to Seward (not present day county); then to Howard.
  • Howard County: Established on 1867 from Godfrey (which had been Seward) County. (divided, 1875 into Elkland and Chautauqua)
  • Hunter County: Established on 1867 as an Original County. (1870) (renamed Cowley)
  • Kansas County: Established on 1873 from Unorganized Territory. (abolished 1883; became Morton)
  • Lykins County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (changed to Miami, 1861)
  • Madison County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. Madison was divided 1861–64 into Breckenridge (later Lyon) and Greenwood.
  • McGee County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (name changed, 1866 to Cherokee)
  • Otoe County: Established on February 17, 1860 as an Original County. Named for the Otoe [Oto] Indian tribe of Nebraska. On February 24, 1864, the boundaries of Butler County were enlarged to include Otoe County. Most of the territory once comprising Otoe is included in the present county of Butler, with the remainder in the eastern parts of Harvey and Sedgwick counties.
  • Peketon Territory County: Established on 1854 as an Original County. The County Seat was Beach Valley. Peketon County was never organized due to no population, and its territory became a part of Marion County in February 26, 1867.
  • Richardson County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (changed to Wabaunsee 1859)
  • St. John County: Established on 1881 (name changed to Logan 1887)
  • Sequoyah County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (absorbed in 1883 by Finney) Some records are in Ford County.
  • Seward (old) County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (as Godfrey; renamed, 1861; renamed Howard, 1867)
  • Shirley County: Established on 1860 as an Original County. (name changed 1867, Cloud)
  • Weller County: Established on August 25, 1855 as an Original County. (name changed 1859, Osage)

Wise County, Kansas

Created on August 25, 1855 from non-county area. Wise County was renamed to Morris County on Febuary 11, 1859.

COUNTY County, Kansas

Created on DATE from LAND. COUNTY County was renamed to COUNTY County on November 7, 1907.

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