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Thomas County, Kansas

Thomas County was organized on October 8, 1885, by Andrew Reed; M. W. Witham; F. S. See; C. Hubbard; J. Monroe; W. H. Archer; A. B. Janline; Thomas Reed; Robert Jardine; W. H. Reed; Joseph and John Barcer; Frank and William Lord; J. W. Irwin; W. H. Miller; P. Huddleston; P. T. Turney; John Kuuntz; N. Byars; R. T. Heming; M. L. Lucey; E. Conway; D. C. Jardine; J. Davidson; Ira Jennings; M. Hamling; J. R. Colby; Peter Gallagher; John Kelly; Hugh Gallager; Joseph Spath; and John Brennan. The county was named for Major General George H. Thomas, of Civil War fame and contains the towns of Colby, Gem, Menlo, Rexford, Oakley (part) and Brewster.

Railroads were important in Thomas County. The Union Pacific Railroad arrived in the county in 1887 and by 1888, three different lines of the Union Pacific, and the Rock Island, were all located there. The early real estate development in the county beginning in 1885 saw the population increase from 161 in January of that year, to over 1900 by October. The railroads contributed to this increase.

The Colby Christian Church, founded in 1886, was the first church. The first county fair was held in 1917, and was voted to be an annual fair in 1926. The first school district was organized in 1882 five miles south of Colby.

Thomas County is home to an interesting Kansan, Mary Hay. Mary Hay homesteaded on 160 acres of land in the county in 1889. She was the foster mother of two children. In 1886 she had been registered as a doctor of medicine by the State Board of Health after a recorded medical practice of 20 years. She was a teacher of a private day school and the public supervisor of education in Thomas County. She was the founder and owner of the town of Otterbourne, Kansas, and its first postmistress in 1881, and organizer of the first Sunday school in the county (Episcopalian) and later served as the minister. Samuel Ramey, an operatic bass with a long distinguished career, was born in Colby.

Charlotte Hinger's, Come Spring, 1986, is set in the county.

For more information see the Thomas County website. The County Historical Society has all the newspapers ever printed in the county, and an extensive photograph file. It also has other materials relating to the county's history from 1885 to the present.

Entry: Thomas 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: July 2021

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.