Rooks County Kansas

History of Rooks County and Its Principal Towns


Rooks county founded 1872. Named in memory of John C. Rooks, Private of Co. 1, 11th Kansas Infantry, who died December 11, 1862, at Fayetteville, Arkansas of wounds received in the battle of Prairie Grove, Arkansas, December 7, 1862

Rooks county is located in north central Kansas; with a total area of 895 square miles of which 891 square miles is land and 4.6 square miles is water. 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 if 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 beds 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 lago and on Elm and Medicine Creeks. Sandstone, gypsum and potter's clay are also found.


A post-village of Rooks county, is located in the township of the same name, a little north of the Solomon river and some 15 miles west of Stockton, the county seat. The population of the entire township for 1910 was 320. Alcona is therefore a small place, but it is a trading center and rallying point for the people in that part of the country.


Paradise Township settled between 1868 to 1878, and during that time the first town of Motor was established. It was one mile east of what is now Codell, and located on all four corners of intersection 25 Road and 18 Highway. The name was changed to Codell.

Codell School District No. 11 organized in 1879 at Motor in a sod building with hand sawn logs for benches. A 2 story building erected in 1894, but destroyed by a tornado in 1918. A new brick building erected in 1920 and served as grade and high school for 20 years. In 1938 to 1940 a new high school was built and used until 1965. The grade school closed 1978.

Codell had a tornado three times in successive years 1916, 1917, 1918 on the 20th day of May. The first year the twister passed at the west edge of town in late afternoon. The second year it passed close to the east edge of town in mid afternoon. The third year wiping out a large part of town after dark. The town has never fully recovered after the 1918 tornado.

A thriving little town of Paradise township, Rooks county, is a station of the Union Pacific R.R. about 20 miles southeast of Stockton, the county seat. It has a bank, a money order postoffice with one rural route, express and telegraph office, telephone connections, Baptist and Methodist churches, good public schools and does considerable shipping. The population in 1910 was 175.


First church services held in home of Ezra St. Peter in 1887. He donated 3 acres for a cemetery and 2 acres for a church east of his home.

Community first known as St. Petersville, but later known as Damar.

Damar Knights of Columbus on Main Street was completed in 1922.

One of the thriving towns of Rooks county, is a station on the Union Pacific R.R. in Richland township, about 20 miles southwest of Stockton, the county seat. Concerning this town the Topeka State journal of Jul 27, 1910 said: "Five years ago there were less than a dozen buildings on the Damar townsite. Today it has a thrifty population of about 300; it has two general stores, lumber yard, bank, hardware and implements, two elevators, drug, furniture and several smaller places. The deposits in the state bank reach close to the $50,000 mark."

Damar also has a money order postoffice with one rural route, express and telegraph offices, telephone connections, a Catholic church and convent, and it is the principal shipping point for the western part of the county.


A hamlet in Rooks county, is located on Big Medicine creek, 10 miles southeast of Stockton, the county seat, and 5 miles south of Woodston, the nearest shipping point and postoffice whence mail is distributed by rural route.


First village in Northampton Township, located 1 1/2 miles northwest of Palco was Cresson.

First postoffice established February 1879 with McLaughlin as postmaster.

First school organized 1879.

First church in Cresson was the 7th Day Adventist Church in 1883. By 1885, three more followed: Christian, Presbyterian and Free Methodist.

New village name "Palco", was decided using the first two letters of the last names of two railroad officials. Mr. Palmer and Mr. Cole, "pal" and "co", hence Palco.

First National Bank built 1928, was one of the few banks in Rooks County that did not close its doors following the Stock Market Crash of 1929. Now the current library.

Palco Township hall completed in 1917.

An incorporated city of the third class in Rooks county, and located on the Union Pacific R.R., 20 miles southwest of Stockton, the county seat. It has a bank, weekly newspaper The Enterprise, 3 elevators, a number of retail stores, telegraph and express offices, and a money order postoffice with two rural routes. The population in 1910 was 279.


First called the Paradise Flats. The name was derived from the fact it is a large and level plain situated at the head of the Paradise Creek, where buffalo, deer and antelope were once so plentiful it was given the name "Hunter's Paradise".

Plainville, 3,089. Founded 1877, so named from the plain on which it is located, a divide between the Solomon and Saline rivers. (County and Community Names in Kansas, Wayne E. Corely, Kansas State Library)

North half of the original townsite of Plainville was first settled by Mr. Washington Irving Griffin, July 1, 1876.

Plainville post office established May 1878 with Mr. Griffin as postmaster.

Name "Plainville" was arrived at when Mr. Griffin went to the homestead of Lambert P. Darland to fix up the papers to start the new town. Mr. Darland suggested the name Plainville, and without questioning Mr. Griffin, on whose farm the town was to be started, agreed, and so the town was called Plainville.

The first library built by the "GAR boys" (Grand Army of the Republic) was a one story frame hall located next to the current library on 100 block of West Mill Street and began as such May 24, 1902.

First Plainville school system was founded May 14, 1880. First school building, a 2 story frame, erected 1888. The football program began in 1904. The current high school was completed in 1952 on the same site as the original school. Principal C.E. Rarick became president of Fort Hays State College with Rarick Hall being named for him. Football coach, Jack Hartman became Kansas State University basketball coach and inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.

A considerable village, containing several stores and mechanics' shops, was first settled in 1877 by B.L. Sinclair; the second settler was W.I. Griffin. The surrounding country settled rapidly and it is now one of the most desirable sections of Rooks County. The town was named by a Stockton town company, but the old site was "jumped" and a new town laid off, on the claim of William Bradly. As it is the only village between Stockton and Hays City, it enjoys a large trade. The town, as its name indicates is located on level ground.

The first marriage in the village occurred in 1878 - Ramson Rouse and Miss McCloy.

The first death, James Conger, occurred in 1878.

F.S. Mickey taught the first school in King's residence in 1878 and two years later a substantial school house built, one mile from the center of the village.

Rev. W.L. Mickey, a Methodist, preached the first sermon in 1878 at G.F. Slosson's residence. In the summer of 1880 a Methodist church was built.

A postoffice was established in 1878 and W.S. Griffin appointed postmaster.

Joseph opened the first store in 1878.

The town is situated in the south part of the county seven miles from the County line.

The M.E. Sunday school, of which E.M. Gale is superintendent, was organized in 1878, has 50 scholars and 5 teachers.

A social club called the Rough and Readies was organized in 1879 and has a membership of 30. F.S. Mickey is the present presiding officer.


First church: St. Thomas Catholic, was constructed of native limestone in 1878. A small replica was built at the Catholic Cemetery northwest of Stockton with the stones from the original church.

Possible names for the new town: McNultyville, Stockville, Stocktown; but Stockton was chosen.

County Agricultural Fair Association was organized in June 1879, and the first Rooks County Fair was held October 8-10 of that year.

The Congregational Academy, which later served as the public high school in Stockton, was hoped to become a college, but the school fell on hard times and graduated it's last class in 1896.

Two story structure housing the county offices was built in 1881. The present courthouse built in 1923.

The city of Stockton, county seat of Rooks County, now containing a population of 700 was first settled in June 1872. Several of the earliest settlers were cattle dealers and they named their new home Stocktown, or as it soon became Stockton.

The first settler in the town was George W. Beebe, who also erected the first house and opened the first stock of goods. He came on the town site in June 1872. Other early settlers were S.C. Smith, who built the first frame house, bringing his lumber by team from a distance of 150 miles; Joseph McNulty, Marvin and Lyman Randall - the Randall's built in 1872 the large stone business house on Main street. W. O'Brien, Joseph and Jackson Dickson, Joseph Randall, Thomas McNulty.

The first town officers, elected in 1873 were Charles Stuart, trustee; D.K. Dibble, clerk; John Park, treasurer; G.W. Patterson and P.G. Green, justice; G.W. Norcutt and W. Dickson, constables.

Stockton was organized as a city in the spring of 1879. The first officiers were: C.E. Maynard, mayor; C.E. McDaniel, Jewell Elliott, M.M. Steward, James Moore and John Sarver, councilmen; D. Washburn, marshal; W.A. Ecker, police judge; T.C. McBreen, clerk. Present officers: M.M. Stewart, mayor; John Newton, M. Schrulen, M.E. Prickett, Hiram Lee, J. Guthrie, council; John R. Hicks, marshall; Frank McNulty, police judge, T.C. McBreen, clerk. The council meets regularly every month.

The first school was taught in 1872 by W.H. Barnes in the north part of town and soon after the first school house was built in the same section.

The first sermon was delivered by Elder Joy Bishop in the public hall at the close of 1872.

James Finnegan was appointed postmaster. The first mail was brought on horseback from Cawker City, via Bulls City.

The grist mill was built by Bulls and French, east of and near town line.

Stockton is located on the second bottom on level prairie.

A child of Geo. W. Norcutt, born in the spring of 1874, was the first birth in Stockton.
The first burial in the grave yard, was a man named Foster; whose death is noted elsewhere.

Stockton has just cause to be proud of her educational advantages, having a successful grade school in a substantial and elegant three-roomed two-story building. The house was built in 1881, at an expense of $4,000. Three teachers are employed with an enrollment of 150 scholars. Her earliest teacher, W.H. Barnes still takes a warm interest in the subject of education.

As you drive along Hwy 24, heading west toward Stockton, and you look to the north you will see these sculptures on the hillside. These are several around the area. Here is an example of two of them.

bull  wagon 


Settlement established in 1869 with a population of more than 20,000 in 1880 when favorable precipitation yielded good crops. But the following years were interspersed with years of extreme drought. Prolonged drought in the 1930s emphasized the need for storing water for irrigation. The Webster Dam began construction November 1952 and completed was 1957.


First postoffice established 1886 with James S. Wilson as postmaster.

Grade schools built in 1886 and 1907 and continued until 1974. High school built in 1921 and used until 1968.

First church was Free Methodist. The Methodist Episcopal Church held the first service September 17, 1911 and is today the only active church. The Ash Rock Congregation or "Stone Church" held it's first service March 4, 1883, renovated 1976 and an historic site in Rooks County.

An incorporated city of the third class in Rooks county, and is located in Lowell township on the south fork of the Solomon river and the Missouri Pacific R.R., 10 miles east of Stockon, the county seat. It has a bank, a newspaper, a flour mill, a grain elevator; a cornet band, all lines of retail establishments, telegraph and express offices, and a money order postoffice with one rural route. The population in 1910 was 299. It is the receiving and shipping point for a large and prosperous grain and stock raising territory.


First postoffice in 1880 with Mrs. Armenda Webb as postmaster, and was asked to submit a name for the community. She and her husband, John Webb, were born in Zurich Switzerland and submitted Zurich.

Union Pacific Railroad came to Zurich in 1887 with 4 trains daily.

Zurich once had 3 grocery stores, 2 grain elevators, a bank, telephone office, a medical doctor, drug store, implement dealer, 2 car dealerships, lumber yard, hardware store, hatchery, 3 gas stations, creamery, barber shop, real-estate office, blacksmith, auctioneer service and a cafe. Fire destroyed several of the businesses and they were never rebuilt.

New Catholic Church built in 1882 with Fr. M.B. Pujoz as pastor. A Catholic Convent was built in the northeast part of Zurich, but dissolved before 1892. St. Ann's Roman Catholic Church, built on the site of the original church built in 1886, was completed in 1950. The parish was dissolved in 2007.

Zurich School built in 1930.

Zurich Township Hall built in 1914. No longer used.

A little town in Rooks county, and located in Logan township on the Union Pacific R.R., 20 miles southwest of Stockton, the county seat. It has a hotel, a grain elevator; a telephone exchange, owned by a local company; a number of general stores, a telegraph office and a money order postoffice with two rural routes. The population in 1910 was 200.

Source: History of Rooks County; eReference Desk; Wikipedia, History of the State of Kansas, Chicago, A.T. Andreas, 1883; A Standard History of Kansas & Kansans, Edited by Frank W. Blackmar, A.M., Ph. D. Vol 1 and 2, 1912; Kansas Cyclopedia of State History, by Frank W. Blackmar, A.M., Ph. D. Vol 2, 1912, transcribed by J.S.


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