Brief History of Hamilton County Kansas
Hamilton County was named after Alexander Hamilton. The county is located in the southwest part of Kansas, and contains an area of 996 square miles of land, which makes it three quarters the size of Rhode Island. Located within the Great Plains, the county is relatively level, mostly treeless, and semi-arid. It receives an annual precipitation of 16.69 inches. The prevailing winds are southerly, except during the winter months. The population in 1990 was 2,388.
Eighty seven percent of the land area is used for agriculture. Livestock ranked first in value production, with four commercial feedlots currently in operation. The world’s largest beef-packing plant is located fifty miles east of Hamilton County, which is the major reason the cattle business is prominent in the County. Wheat ranked second in value production, and is the major crop, followed by hay, corn, and sorghum. Irrigation plays a prominent role in the agricultural economy.
The County consists of three communities, Kendall, Coolidge, and Syracuse, the county seat. In the 1880’s the county had more than thirty school districts. The number has dwindled to one school district located in Syracuse. In 1989, 421 students were enrolled in kindergarten through twelfth grade.
The Santa Fe Trail, an ancient passage way, was used regularly after 1821 by merchant traders traveling to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It followed the Arkansas River through Hamilton County. The importance of the trail faded with the coming of the railroad in the early 1870’s.
A stage coach station was located in Hamilton County at Spring Creek. It was formally established as a fort in September of 1865, and named after Francis Xavier Aubry. Fort Aubry was organized because of the need for protection on the Santa Fe Trail from Indians and renegades. No major battles were ever recorded at the fort. The troops lived in sod buildings and dug-outs. The number of troops stationed at Fort Aubry reached its peak in December with 363 soldiers. By April of 1886, after only seven months of operations as a fort, Fort Aubry was deactivated.
With the construction of the Atchison-Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in 1871-72 through Hamilton County, came a wave of advertising by the railroad to convince people to homestead in Kansas. A group of people from Syracuse New York decided to scout out the land. They found the land of Hamilton County to hold countless possibilities, and convinced 25-40 families to settle there. The railroad offered to move the settlers free of charge and if they were dissatisfied, would move them elsewhere. At that time, Syracuse consisted of a side track and a water tower and was called Hollidaysburg, named after C.K. Holliday, president of the railroad. The group arrived at Hollidaysburg in March of 1873. Soon after settling ing Hollidaysburg, the townspeople decided to change the name of the town to Syracuse, in honor of their hometown.
They built homes of sod and imported lumber. The first home built of lumber was constructed by president of the colony, E.P. Barber. It served as a home and also as a refuge for the townspeople during the Indian Scares. The house still stands is preserved by the Hamilton County Historical Society.
The crops planted by the settlers were not suited to the Kansas climate, and adversely affected by a drought and Rocky Mountain locust plague, the first crop failed. Many of the colonists became discouraged and took the railroad up on their offer to move them elsewhere. By 1884, only three of the original settlers remained, E.P. Barber, James Gates, and H.N. Lester, founder of the local newspaper. In the 1880’s, more settlers came to Syracuse from Ohio and Illinois. The county experienced a boom.
Coolidge, a town fourteen miles west of Syracuse, was born via the railroad also. It was named after T.J. Coolidge, president of the railroad. The Santa Fe Railroad used Coolidge as a base of operations, which created the need for stores, saloons, stables, and other services. Coolidge was also a division point of the railroad where they would change crew, load up with coal, water, grease, and repair. The town took shape, more businesses were being built all of the time. One of these was a $75,000 opera house which gave one performance, before it burnt to the ground. Its peak years were 1885-1887. The town was platted in 1886, making it the first organized city in Hamilton County. In the late 1880’s, Coolidge enjoyed a huge cattle trade and had a floating population of 800-1000. The division point was moved from Coolidge to La Junta, Colorado, in 1890 and the population began to decline steadily.
Kendall was platted in February, 1885, and by May, 200 houses had been built. The town was originally called Aubry, but was changed to Kendall, after the Kendall brothers who were popular merchants in the area. Kendall was named temporary county seat in 1886, but the seat was moved to Syracuse by a Kansas Supreme Court decision in July 1888. Kendall survived losing the county seat bur remains a small-unincorporated community.
Today, the communities of Kendall and Coolidge exist with a population of less than 100 each, and Syracuse has a population of 1,623. The people of Hamilton County have survived countless droughts, floods, depressions, blizzards, heat waves, wars, and technological changed. The pages of the past help the citizens of this county to look to tomorrow with continued steadfast determination.
The goal of this site, the official web site of Hamilton County, Kansas, is to provide information about Hamilton County, its government and the services we provide.
We hope this site will provide the residents of this County with access to county offices and departments.
Hamilton County is located in Southwest Kansas, with the State of Colorado bordering it on the west, Greeley County on the north, Kearny County on the east and Stanton County on the south.
Syracuse and Coolidge are the two incorporated communities in Hamilton County. Syracuse is the county seat.
Hamilton County has an area of 998 square miles of land, which makes it three-fourths the size of Rhode Island.
It was organized in 1886 and named after Alexander Hamilton. The population of Hamilton County in 2000 was 2,670.
The County Clerk, by Kansas Statutes, is responsible for a wide variety of duties, some of which are as follows:
- Posts agendas for Commissioners’ meetings, attends meetings in order to take minutes, signs and issues all orders approved by Board of Commissioners and keeps the official records of County Commission;
- Processes all accounts payable for all County departments, processes County payroll and prepares all necessary reports;
- Maintains County personnel files, along with current County Personnel Handbook;
- Combines valuations for each taxing district and certifies values to each taxing district and the State;
- Audits all budgets received from the various County entities and helps prepare the County’s budget for submission to the Commissioners and filing with the State;
- Computes all tax levies and prepares levy sheets;
- Prepares real estate, personal property and state assessed tax roll and certifies to the County Treasurer;
- Files a bond indebtedness report for all taxing entities in the County;
- Maintains tax unit maps of the County;
- Balance and certify distribution of motor vehicle taxes to County Treasurer;
- Administers the County employee benefits program, including health insurance and retirement plans;
- Serves as the County Freedom of Information Officer;
- Maintains inventories of County property;
- Provides assistance to County residents in preparing the Homestead Property Tax Refund Applications for the Kansas Department of Revenue;
- Issues Kansas Wildlife and Park permits;
Carries out all elections and certifies results to the Secretary of State; maintains voter database; accepts filings for public office; keeps financial statements of expenses for county, city, school district candidates for the State.
Hamilton County Commissioners
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Nikki Schwerdfeger, John Simon, Randy Braddock, Keith Puckett, Mike Lewis
The County Commissioners are the Chief Executives of the County. They meet at 8:30 a.m. on the first three Tuesdays of each month, unless there are five Tuesdays in a month, then they meet the first four Tuesdays. The meetings are held in the Commissioners’ room at the Hamilton County Courthouse, 219 N. Main Street, Syracuse, Kansas. All meetings are open to the public.
County Commissioners are vested by Kansas State Statute 19-212 with both legislative and administrative powers and duties. Some of these duties and powers are:
Pass legislation in response to local needs through home rule authority.
Supervision of County property.
Control of financial affairs of the County.
Approval of the annual budget.
Levying of County taxes
Provide for adequate County government facilities.
Adopt personnel policies and pay plans for all County offices.
Construction and maintenance of County roads and bridges
Approval of land use and zoning policies for the County.
Organization of township following statutory procedures
Appoint and direct County officers/staff in offices other than offices of elected officials
Issuance of bonds and awarding of contracts
Determine township boundaries
Creation of special districts and incorporation of cities
Set salaries of all County officials
Make appointments to County boards
Serve as County Board of Canvassers for elections
The Commissioners serve four-year terms, with two of the five Commissioners being elected in the same year, and the other three Commissioners elected two years later. Commissioner terms begin the second Monday in January after the general election in November.
The Board of County Commissioners represents all citizens of Hamilton County, regardless of their residence inside or outside of the city limits.