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Reno County, Kansas

Reno County, Kansas, has had many industries over the years such as salt mining, and milling. The cattle industry’s well-known Chisolm Trail once traveled through the county.

Reno County, Kansas, organized in 1872, was named after Major General Jesse Reno who was killed while fighting in the Civil War. The county seat is Hutchinson, named for C.C. Hutchinson, who was an ardent temperance supporter. Naturally, the town bearing his name was a temperance town as well. Reno County was once part of the land that was the old Washington County, Peketon County, and later an enlarged Marion County.

The land that is Reno County was once Osage land. The area become what has been described as a “neutral ground” between Osage, Arapahos, and Cheyenne, as there was some confusing and with treaties. Around 1871, Kaw and Sac and Fox Indians were camping near what is now Hutchinson. Settlers were not alarmed by these tribes, however that summer a scare did occur. Word was spread that the Cheyenne were close and going to attack. Thankfully, the only attack that occurred was some cattle being driven off. The Cheyenne were pursued and the cattle taken back. 

The Chisolm and Goodnight cattle trails went through Reno County. Eventually there was the passage of the “herd law,” sponsored by C.C. Hutchinson. This disallowed cattle drovers from coming through Reno County, thus encouraging the building of fences, the planning of crops, and the development of agriculture in the county.

The grasshopper invasion of 1874 caused destruction to Reno County.

Salt was discovered in the 1880s and salt would become a major industry in the county and state with the establishment of Carey, Barton, and Morton salt companies. The county has had many industries in addition to salt mining, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and milling.

The Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway built a mainline extension from Herington to Pratt in 1887. Hutchinson was on this line. Hutchinson would see the arrival other well-known railroads as well. The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe and Missouri Pacific Railroads would also come through the town.

The invention of the Baldwin combines by Curtis Baldwin in 1924 in Hutchinson revolutionized agriculture. During World War II, German and Italian Prisoners of War were sent to camps in Kansas. While the bigger camps were located elsewhere there was also smaller branch camps. Once such camp was located at Hutchinson. In 2001, a gas explosion caused damage to Hutchinson. Two buildings in the downtown area destroyed and two people were killed.

There is a population of Mennonites and Amish in the county. The town of Yoder is home to an Amish community.

A U.S. Navy ship was named U. S. S. Hutchinson, launched August 27, 1943, and commissioned February 3, 1944. The ship represented the city in Kansas.

Reno County Courthouse | SAH ARCHIPEDIAReno County has several properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places and Register of Historic Kansas Places. The Hutchinson Public Library, built around 1903-1904, was a Carnegie Libraries which were established with the help of Andrew Carnegie and the Carnegie Corporation’s work in establishing public libraries. The Reno Courthouse was built around 1929-1930. The Fox Theater in Hutchinson was built around 1930-1931. It was a project of the well-known Boller Brothers and was closed in 1985. The Kansas Sugar Refining Mill lasted only a brief time in the early 1880s, but the building would go on became the Hutchinson Soap Factory, and later the Nelson Manufacturing and Supply Company. Despite it being left vacant in 1978, it was turned into a space used for storage room rental and even a band rehearsal hall. Kelly Mills was established in 1906. When World War I began the company, founded by William Kelly, entered the international market. Kelly, despite pressure from others, chose to not cut salaries during the Great Depression. The Company was sold to Ross Industries in 1969, and Cargill a couple of years later. The “original complex” was demolished in 1980.

There are many interesting figures with connections to Reno County. W. Y. Morgan, editor of the Hutchinson News, was a lieutenant governor of Kansas, and a member of the Board of Regents. James Dick, world renowned concert pianist and found of the Round Top, Texas, musical festival and American poet William Stafford, are from the county. Governor Walter A. Huxman, Congressmen William Brown and George Neeley were natives of the county. John F. Fontron served as Justice of the Kansas.

Quick Facts

Date Established: February 26, 1867
Date Organized: January 1, 1872
County Seat: Hutchinson
Kansas Region: South Central
Physiographic Region: Wellington-McPherson Lowlands, High Plains, and Arkansas River Lowlands
State Parks: Sand Hill State Park and Cheney State Park
Courthouse: 1930


1867 - Reno County is established.
1871 - Hutchinson is founded.
1872 - Reno County is organized.
1880 - Salt is discovered in the county.
1940 - POWs during WWII were kept at a branch camp near Hutchinson.
2001 - Natural Gas explosion in Hutchinson.  

More on Reno County


Entry: Reno 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.