Thomas County

Thomas County is a safe and friendly community in northwest Kansas that has seen significant growth in the public service and economic sectors. The diversity of our community has forged a strong workforce that supports our county’s robust agricultural, entertainment, healthcare, and small businesses. Thomas County is home to the unique Colby Visitor Center, Aquatic Park and Poolside Park, the historic Thomas County Courthouse, Cooper Barn at the Prairie Museum of Art and History, the newly completed Colby Event Center, and much much more. Thomas County is also home of the Colby Community College which has a long history of student performance and consistently ranks near the top for graduation and retention rates among Kansas community colleges.

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About Thomas County

Thomas County, in the northwestern corner of the state, was created by legislative action in 1873 and named in honor of George H. Thomas, a major-general of the Civil War and covers 1080 square miles. Several of the current townships were named for Kansas soldiers who fought and died under Gen. Thomas at the Battle of Chickamauga. The county is located in the second tier of counties south of Nebraska and the second tier east from Colorado. Prior to the organization of county government,
Thomas was made a township and attached to Sheridan County for judicial purposes in 1882 with Kenneth as the county seat.

Prior to Euro-American exploration and settlement the area now designated as Thomas County was utilized as hunting grounds for various migratory indigenous Indian peoples. The rich grass prairie teemed with wildlife, including bison, antelope and horses and a wide array of avian life. The first non-Indian settlement in Thomas County came in the spring of 1879, south of the present town of Gem, and a post office was established at Letitia April 1, 1879. The first settlers homesteaded under
very adverse conditions and due to the virtual absence of trees, homes consisted of sod houses or dugouts. The 1881 Census showed a population of 161 and the need for a town where lumber and provisions could be brought was the talk of the day.

Colby remains as the county seat and is the largest town in Thomas County with the other incorporated towns being Rexford, Gem, Brewster, and Menlo, a portion of Oakley, and the unincorporated communities of Halford, Mingo and Levant. All the towns in the county, with the exception of Colby, were established as “railroad” towns.

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