County History

Graham County was one of thirty-four counties created by the legislature in 1867, which divided into counties all of the organized portion of the state east of range line 26W. It was named in honor of Captain L. Graham, Company D, Eighth Kansas Infantry, who was killed in action in Chickamauga, September 19, 1863. The area-comprising Graham County was originally occupied by the Comanche tribe of Indians.

Graham is in the second tier of counties from the Nebraska Line and the fourth tier from the Colorado line. The Legislature of 1867 laid out the boundaries of Graham County, thirty miles square, making it one of the few square counties and giving it an area of 900 square miles. Assessed valuation for 2007 was $57,134,503. 2007 population was 2,896.

The first white occupants of Graham County arrived in 1873 and 1874, and were herdsmen from Rooks and Norton Counties. The earliest homesteaders, largely from the middle west settled along Bow Creek in the northeast corner of the county in 1877. The same year a colony of blacks, many of them from Kentucky, as established in Nicodemus, near the eastern boundary. They were attracted to the county by W.R. Hill, real estate dealer, after whom Hill City, the present county seat, was named. The first school and the first church in Graham County were established at Nicodemus in the winter of 1877-1878.

Graham County was organized for administrative purposes on April 1, 1880, with 1500 inhabitants in the county and with the first county seat located at Millbrook. Millbrook was destroyed by a tornado on August 4, 1887, and the county seat was moved to Hill City on March 10, 1888. Mr. J.R. Pomeroy, who assisted Mr. Hill in developing Hill City, donated most of the tract of land on which the courthouse was built. This site is still being used for a modern courthouse.

In addition to Hill City, the county seat, there are two incorporated towns, Morland and Bogue. There are also three unincorporated towns, St. Peter, Penokee and Nicodemus.

Oil was in the 1950's and 1960's the greatest industry in Graham County. Farming and ranching are also important industries. Grain storage is also important in Graham County.

There are a number of small lakes in the county that provide excellent fishing. An abundance of quail, ducks, pheasants, and deer in the county provide sport for the hunters in the fall. The climate is moderate with few extremes of either heat or cold. There are over 320 days of sunshine each year and an average high temperature of 70 degrees and an average low of 40 degrees.

Hill City, with an altitude of 2200 feet has a population of around 2,000. It is the center of Graham County with several related businesses. The Oil Museum in the west part of town is one of the very few oil museums in the world. Oil companies have provided the exhibits, which show the history and modern methods of oil industry. There are very fine elementary, junior and senior high schools and several church denominations with most congregations housed in new buildings. In addition to the City Park in the center of town, there is a very fine roadside park at the west edge of town on Highway 24 that offers free overnight camping to tourists or visitors to the area.

The Community of Nicodemus is a National Historical Site: Morland, working through Fort Hays University, has an archaeological dig site: and the Pratt Ranch is located just west of Morland, Which is being renovated to a working ranch, and being completed restored.