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Ellsworth, Kansas
Ellsworth water tower as seen from Kansas State Highway 156 (2012)
Ellsworth water tower as seen from Kansas State Highway 156 (2012)
Official logo of Ellsworth, Kansas
Location within County and Kansas
Location within County and Kansas
KDOT map of Ellsworth County (legend)
Country United States
State Kansas
County Ellsworth
Founded 1860s
Incorporated 1867
Named for Fort Ellsworth
 • Type Mayor–Council
 • Total 2.39 sq mi (6.20 km2)
 • Land 2.39 sq mi (6.20 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
1,539 ft (469 m)
 • Total 3,066
 • Density 1,282.8/sq mi (494.5/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (CST)
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code 785
FIPS code 20-20500
GNIS ID 475460

Ellsworth is a city in and the county seat of Ellsworth County, Kansas, United States. As of the 2020 census, the population of the city was 3,066. Known as a cow town in the 1870s, when the Kansas Pacific Railroad operated a stockyard here for shipping cattle to eastern markets, in the 21st century, it serves as the trading center of the rural county.


19th century

Santa Fe Train passing through Ellsworth, Kansas, 1867. (Boston Public Library) (cropped)
Ellsworth in 1867

Once called "The Wickedest Cattletown in Kansas", the city is named for Fort Ellsworth, which was built in 1864. Due to speculation on imminent railroad construction, the population of Ellsworth boomed to over two thousand by the time it was incorporated in 1867. It has since been said, "Abilene, the first, Dodge City, the last, but Ellsworth the wickedest".

Ellsworth was a bustling cattle town for a time during the late 1860s, when the Kansas Pacific Railroad had a stop and stockyards there. Cattle were driven up from Texas to this point, and then shipped to major markets. Often cowboys had the run of the town. In 1875 Kansas Pacific closed its cattle pens, moving to another location. The cattle trade dwindled to almost nothing by the mid-1880s.

During the late 1860s into the 1870s, Ellsworth was known for being one of the "wickedest" cattle towns, the scene of numerous shootouts between drunken cowboys. Wild Bill Hickok ran for Ellsworth County Sheriff in 1868, but was defeated by veteran Union Army soldier E. W. Kingsbury. Kingsbury was an effective lawman, but relied on local marshals to patrol the town, as he also had to police the county. Violence in Ellsworth was commonplace among the cowboys and people associated with them. Ellsworth marshal Will Semans was shot and killed on September 26, 1869, while attempting to disarm a rowdy man in a dance hall.

Stouffer's Railroad Map of Kansas 1915-1918 Ellsworth County
1915-1918 Railroad Map of Ellsworth County

For a time during this period, two small-time outlaws known only as Craig and Johnson began bullying people around the community, often committing armed robbery. After Semans' murder, they operated openly. Before long, citizens formed a vigilance squad and captured both men. Chauncey Whitney, a deputy to Kingsbury, took over following Sheriff Kingsbury's departure. Whitney quickly gained a reputation as being both tough and respectable, and was well liked. The scale of business is shown by construction of the Drovers Cottage in 1872. It could accommodate 175 guests, and stable 50 carriages and 100 horses.

Lawman Wyatt Earp served in Ellsworth for a short time. He later claimed to have arrested gunman Ben Thompson there. But Thompson was arrested by Deputy Ed Hogue after his brother Billy Thompson accidentally shot and killed Ellsworth County Sheriff Chauncey Whitney in 1873. Billy Thompson fled, fearing that he would be lynched for the death of the popular sheriff. Thompson was eventually captured and put on trial, but was acquitted in the shooting. Sheriff Whitney, a friend to both Thompsons, had told bystanders before his death that the shooting was an accident.

By the late 1870s the crime rate had dropped dramatically, as fewer cowboys came through after Kansas Pacific closed its stockyard here. Cattle drives were directed to other market cities, such as Dodge City and Abilene, Kansas. Ellsworth suffered economically.

21st century

Ellsworth has been developing heritage tourism related to its unique 19th-century history. The city and activists have plans to restore Ellsworth's Signature Insurance Building for use as the National Drovers Hall of Fame. Funds for the project are being raised party from an annual cattle drive down Main Street and Douglas Avenue; it is one of the few in the United States that is historically accurate.


Ellsworth is located at 38°43′55″N 98°13′45″W / 38.73194°N 98.22917°W / 38.73194; -98.22917 (38.731924, -98.229204) at an elevation of 1,539 feet (469 m). The city lies on the north side of the Smoky Hill River in the Smoky Hills region of the Great Plains. Oak Creek, a tributary of the Smoky Hill, flows south past the eastern side of the city to its confluence with the river southeast of the city.

Ellsworth is located at the intersection of K-14, K-140, and K-156 in central Kansas roughly 27 miles (43 km) west-southwest of Salina, Kansas. Ellsworth is approximately 82 miles (132 km) northwest of Wichita and 192 miles (309 km) west-southwest of Kansas City. According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.43 square miles (6.29 km2), all land.


Lying in the transition zone between North America's humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) and humid continental climate (Köppen Dfa), Ellsworth experiences hot, humid summers and cold, dry winters. The average temperature is 53 °F (12 °C), and the average yearly precipitation is 27.3 inches (694 mm). Snowfall averages 16.7 inches (424 mm) per year. On average, July is the warmest month, January is the coldest month, and May is the wettest month. The hottest temperature recorded in Ellsworth was 117 °F (47 °C) in 1936; the coldest temperature recorded was -30 °F (-34 °C) in 1913.

Climate data for Ellsworth, Kansas
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 78
Average high °F (°C) 39
Average low °F (°C) 13
Record low °F (°C) −30
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.72
Snowfall inches (cm) 6.3
Source: The Weather Channel; National Weather Service


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 448
1880 929 107.4%
1890 1,620 74.4%
1900 1,549 −4.4%
1910 2,041 31.8%
1920 2,065 1.2%
1930 2,072 0.3%
1940 2,227 7.5%
1950 2,193 −1.5%
1960 2,361 7.7%
1970 2,080 −11.9%
1980 2,465 18.5%
1990 2,294 −6.9%
2000 2,965 29.3%
2010 3,120 5.2%
2020 3,066 −1.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 3,120 people, 997 households, and 639 families living in the city. The population density was 1,284.0 inhabitants per square mile (495.8/km2). There were 1,154 housing units at an average density of 474.9 per square mile (183.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 87.9% White, 9.3% African American, 0.6% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 0.7% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.2% of the population.

There were 997 households, of which 26.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.6% were married couples living together, 9.2% had a female householder with no husband present, 3.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 35.9% were non-families. 32.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.21 and the average family size was 2.77.

The median age in the city was 38.4 years. 17% of residents were under the age of 18; 10.5% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 31.5% were from 25 to 44; 25% were from 45 to 64; and 16.1% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the city was 61.9% male and 38.1% female.

In popular culture

  • The first four episodes in 1955 of the ABC/Desilu western television series, The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp, starring Hugh O'Brian in the title role, are set in Ellsworth. Earp was the marshal here prior to moving to the larger Wichita, where the remainder of the season-one episodes are set. Subsequent seasons were set in Dodge City, Kansas, and Tombstone, Arizona.
  • Ellsworth Federal Penitentiary appears in the game Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent, indirectly referring to "Ellsworth" (its location is listed as simply "Ellsworth Federal Penitentiary, Kansas"). The main character Sam Fisher must meet with an inmate named Jamie Washington, a member of a US terrorist organization called John Brown's Army. Fisher must escape with Washington and then use Washington to establish cover for his mission. The Federal Penitentiary in this state is located in Leavenworth, KS. The Ellsworth Correctional Facility is operated by the state of Kansas Department of Corrections.
  • The city is the subject of the song "Ellsworth", recorded by country group Rascal Flatts for the 2006 album Me and My Gang.


The community is served by Ellsworth USD 327 public school district. The district high school, Ellsworth Jr/Sr High School, is in Ellsworth. The Ellsworth High School mascot is Ellsworth Bearcats.


Smoky Hill Wind Farm Located In Ellsworth, Kansas
Smoky Hill Wind Farm near Ellsworth

In 2008, TradeWind Energy and Enel North America made Ellsworth and Lincoln counties home to the Smoky Hills Wind Farm. Its 155 wind turbines have a total capacity of 250MW and are installed on approximately 20,000 acres of agricultural land. Some 100 landowners have lease arrangements to have the Smoky Hills Wind Farm's turbines installed on their properties. The wind farm generates enough power to satisfy energy consumption requirements of 85,000 homes.

The Post Rock Wind Farm is a 200 MW wind power facility in Kansas, reaching across Ellsworth and Lincoln counties. Post Rock Wind consists of 134 three-bladed 1.5 MW GE wind turbines. Pattern Energy owns 60% of the project, equal to 120 MW. The facility, which reached commercial operation in October 2012, sells 100% of its electrical output under a long-term power purchase agreement with Westar, which has a BBB+ credit rating. Post Rock Wind facility spreads across an area of 23,000 acres in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties of Kansas

Notable people

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Ellsworth (Kansas) para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Influential Hispanic activists
Janet Murguía
Nelson Merced
Jovita Idar
Dolores Huerta
María Teresa Kumar
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