Rooks County, in the northwestern section of the state, is in the second tier south of the Nebraska line, and the fifth county east from Colorado. It is bounded on the north by Phillips county; on the east by Osborne; on the south by Ellis, and on the west by Graham. The legislature defined the boundaries in 1867 as follows: "Commencing where the east line of range 16 west intersects the 1st standard parallel; thence south to the 2nd standard parallel; thence west to the east line of range 21 west; thence north to the 1st standard parallel; thence east to the place of beginning."
It was named in honor of John C. Rooks of the Eleventh Kansas cavalry. Settlers did not begin coming into the county till 1871. By the fall of the next year there was sufficient population for county organization, which took place on Nov. 26, 1872. Gov. Harvey in his proclamation named Stockton as the temporary county seat, and appointed as commissioners, Lyman Randall and Lewis Stults. The commissioners chose George W. Beebe as clerk. The first election was held Dec. 31, 1872, when the following officers were elected: Probate judge, M. Drake; sheriff, John Russell; county clerk, L. C. Smith; treasurer, Joseph Brossard; surveyor, Albert Cooper; clerk of the district court, Thomas Boylan; superintendent of public instruction, John M. Park; attorney; D. K. Dibble; register of deeds, L. C. Smith; coroner, D. W. Gaun; commissioners, Lyman Randall, D. O. Adams and Lewis M. Stults; representative, Joseph McNulty. For county seat Stockton received 95 votes and Lowell 52. The whole number of votes cast in the election was 147.
Among the early events was the killing of two young men named Roberts by a desperado by the name of Johnson. In 1873 a cattle dealer from Kentucky was murdered and robbed, his body being hidden in the sand 12 miles east of Stockton, where it was found by some children. In June, 1875, two men with 35 head of Texas ponies came to the south fork of the Solomon river not far from Stockton, where they camped and gave notice that their stock was for sale. One of the strangers went to town to make some purchases and the people gathered to inspect the ponies. While they were doing so sheriff Ramsey of Ellis county, accompanied by sheriff Joseph McNtilty of Rooks county, rode up heavily armed and announced that the ponies had been stolen. Ramsey ordered the thief to throw up his hands. Instead of doing so, the man jumped behind a pony and prepared to shoot. Both Ramsey and the thief were armed with needle guns. They both fired and simultaneously dropped dead. The other stranger was hunted up and wounded in the jaw by a shot but he managed to escape.
The first newspaper was established in Jan., 1876, by J. W. Newell. It was a Greenback labor paper and was called the Stockton News. The county agricultural society was formed in 1879. Until 1881 the county offices occupied rented quarters. A $5,000 court-house was built that year, the city of Stockton contributing $3,000 of this amount. A strong jail of cottonwood logs, strengthened by tons of iron, was built near the court-house. A number of flour mills were built in the '70s.
The county is divided into 22 townships, viz.: Alcona, Ash Rock, Belmont, Bow Creek, Corning, Farmington, Greenfield, Hobart, Iowa, Lanark, Logan, Lowell, Medicine, Northampton, Paradise, Plainville, Richland, Rush, Stockton, Sugar Loaf, Twin Mound and Walton. The postoffices are: Alcona, Codell, Damar, Palco, Plainville, Stockton, Webster, Woodson and Zurich. A line of the Union Pacific R. R. enters in the southeast and crosses northwest into Graham county. A branch of the Missouri Pacific enters in the northeast and terminates at Stockton.
The general surface of the county is rolling, with high bluffs along the south fork of the Solomon river and Paradise creek. One-fifth of the surface is almost level, and about three-fifths are undulating prairie. The bottom lands along the Solomon are about one and one-half miles in width, and those of other streams from one-half to one mile in width. The streams are lined with thin belts of native timber, and some artificial plantings have been made. The south fork of the Solomon river enters on the west and flows eastward through the county. Slate and Sand creeks are tributaries from the northwest and Spring Lost, Box-Elder, Elm and Medicine from the south. Other creeks are Paradise, Wolf, West and East Eagle and Bow. Magnesian limestone of a superior quality underlies the entire county, with quarries at Iago and on Elm and Medicine creeks. Sandstone, gypsum and potter's clay are also found.
In 1878 the number of acres under cultivation was 5,211. In 1882 the value of farm products was $634,077. In 1910 the total value of farm products was $3,403,171. Wheat was worth $1,463,950; corn, $399,543; oats, $142,038; Kafir corn, $110,075; tame grass, $220,671; wild grasses, $113,694.
The population in 1875 was 567; in 1880 it was 8,112. In the next decade there was a decrease of 94, the population in 1890 being 8,018. In the next ten years there was a decrease of about 60. In 1910 the population was 11,282, showing an increase of 3,322, or nearly 50 per cent. The assessed valuation of property in 1910 was $16,351,545.Pages 604-606 from volume II of Kansas: a cyclopedia of state history, embracing events, institutions, industries, counties, cities, towns, prominent persons, etc. ... / with a supplementary volume devoted to selected personal history and reminiscence. Standard Pub. Co. Chicago : 1912. 3 v. in 4. : front., ill., ports.; 28 cm. Vols. I-II edited by Frank W. Blackmar. Transcribed July 2002 by Carolyn Ward.
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