On Sunday, May 4, 2003, a very strong and violent F4 tornado touched down in western Crawford County at around 4:40 p.m. The tornado remained on the ground throughout Crawford County until it entered neighboring Barton County, Missouri—traveling a total of 35 miles and ending near Liberal, Missouri. The towns of Ringo, Franklin, and Mulberry, all in Crawford County, were devastated.
The tornado cut a path of destruction roughly one quarter mile wide. Several F4 and F5 tornadoes hit Kansas, Missouri, and several other states that day, including the Kansas City metropolitan area. Six deaths were reported in Kansas, and Governor Sebelius declared much of Eastern and Southeastern Kansas a disaster area, including Crawford County.
Early History of Crawford County
By Frank W. Blackmar (1912)
Crawford County, one of the eastern tier and the second north of the line separating Kansas and Oklahoma, is bounded on the north by Bourbon county; on the east by the State of Missouri; on the south by Cherokee county, and on the west by the counties of Neosho and Labette. It was created by the act of Feb. 13, 1867, and was named for Col. Samuel J. Crawford, at that time the governor of Kansas. The area of the county is 592 square miles. It is divided into nine townships, to-wit: Baker, Crawford, Grant, Lincoln, Osage, Sheridan, Sherman, Walnut and Washington. The general surface of the county is undulating, the water-courses flowing in three different directions. In the northeast Drywood, Bone and Coxes creeks flow northward to the Marmaton river; in the west Big and Little Walnut and Hickory creeks flow southwest to the Neosho; and in the southeast Lightning, Lime and Cow creeks flow southward, their waters finally reaching the Neosho.
Crawford county lies in the tract known as the "Neutral Lands" (q. v.), which were ceded by the Cherokee Nation to the United States by the treaty of July 19, 1866. Prior to that treaty some attempts were made by white men to settle within the territory. John Leman, a blacksmith, settled in Osage township in 1848. In 1851 P. M. Smith located in Baker township, but did not erect a dwelling, being content to live during his short stay in a tent. A man named Sears built the first house (a log cabin) in this township in 1856. Coal was discovered in this township by a government exploring party under Col. Cowan, and was first mined by parties from Missouri in 1857. As early as 1852 a number of white men, among whom were Howard, Fowler, Hale and the Hathaways, settled in Lincoln township, and the first school in the county was opened there in 1858 in a small log house that had formerly been used as a dwelling, the settlers contributing the funds to pay the teacher.
James Hathaway had established a blacksmith shop where Arcadia now stands in 1844. Harden Mathews settled in Sherman township in 1850, and there were a few white men in Walnut township in 1857. In 1861 the Cherokee Indian agent, acting under orders from President Buchanan, took a body of United States troops and expelled the settlers, burning their houses and destroying their crops. Others soon came, however, to take the places of those who had been driven out. That same year a man named Banks settled on the Big Cow creek in Crawford township. In the summer of 1865 John Hobson, Frank Dosser, Marion Medlin and a few others settled in Osage township, and about the same time J. F. Gates, Stephen Ogden, John Hamilton and others located in Sheridan township. Settlements were made the following year in Grant and Washington townships. In Sept., 1866, a postoffice was established at Cato, in the northwest corner of the present Lincoln township.
J. W. Wallace, Lafayette Manlove and Henry Schoen were appointed special commissioners and F. M. Logan county clerk, for the purpose of organizing the county. The first meeting of the commissioners was held on March 16, 1867, and the first order was one dividing the county into nine civil townships. The second order divided the county into election precincts. Another order directed the clerk to give 30 days' notice of an election to be held on April 15, 1867, for the election of county and township officers, and to decide the location of the permanent county seat. At the election J. W. Wallace, F. M. Mason and Andrew Hussong were elected commissioners; F. M. Logan, clerk; and J. M. Ryan, sheriff. The county seat question was not decided at that time, and in September Crawfordsville was selected as temporary seat of justice.
At the general election on Nov. 5, 1867, a full quota of county officers was chosen, as follows: County clerk, H. Germain; clerk of the district court, C. H. Strong; probate judge, Levi Hatch; sheriff, J. M. Ryan; treasurer, R. B. Raymond; register of deeds, H. Coffman; assessor, William Roberts; surveyor, R. Stalker; coroner, Jacob Miller, attorney, L. A. Wallace; commissioners, Frank Dosser, I. Evans and Joshua Nance. At this election Girard was selected as the county seat, and at a meeting on May 11, 1868, the commissioners ordered all the county officers to remove their offices, records, etc., to that point. The people of Crawfordsville applied to the district court at the September term for a writ of mandamus to compel the county clerk to take all records back to Crawfordsville, claiming that it was the legal county seat. The writ was granted, but on Nov. 7 a petition, signed by 577 citizens, was laid before the county commissioners, asking them to order an election for the location of a permanent county seat. An election was accordingly ordered for Dec. 15, when Girard received 375 votes and Crawfordsville 312. This settled the question.
The first newspaper published in the county was the Crawford County Times, one number of which was issued by Scott & Cole on April 16, 1868. After that one issue the publication office was taken back to Osage Mission. On Nov. 11, 1869, the first number of the Girard Press made its appearance. It was published by Warner & Wasser, and was the first paper regularly published in the county. On July 14, 1871, the office and contents were burned by a mob, the ill feeling toward the paper being the outgrowth of the troubles over the diposition of the Neutral Lands. Three weeks later the publication was resumed, the paper appearing in an enlarged form and better than ever before. It is still running. The People's Vindicator was started at Girard on July 28, 1870, but suspended in the following November. Other early newspapers were the Guard Pharos, the Cherokee Pharos and the Cherokee Index, all of which were started in the early '70s. There are now published in the county 1 daily (the Pittsburg Headlight) and 13 weekly newspapers, and one quarterly periodical. One of the weeklies is printed in the German language.
In 1868 a Catholic parish was established in Grant township and a house of worship erected. This was the first church in the county. A Presbyterian church was built at Girard in 1870, and the following year the Methodist church at Mulberry Grove was established. At the present time all the leading denominations are represented in the towns and villages of the county. The first white child born in the county was John Leman, whose birth occurred in Walnut township in 1859. The first marriage license was issued on Dec. 27, 1867, to W. M. Breckenridge and Miss Elner Stone. Marriages had been solemnized in the county before that time—in fact before the county was organized—but the licenses had been procured elsewhere.
On Feb. 5, 1870, the Crawford County Agricultural Society was organized, one of the chief promoters being Dr. W. H. Warner of the Girard Press, who served as secretary of the society for six years. The affairs of the society were managed by a board of thirteen directors, who bought 40 acres a short distance east of Girard, where fairs were held annually until the society was reorganized and a new fair ground purchased on the west side of the city. The reorganization took place on May 27, 1882.
During the Civil war the few settlers in what is now Crawford county were seriously harassed by guerrillas and bushwhackers, most of the outrages being committed by the notorious Livingston gang. Among those killed by guerrillas were Capt. Henry M. Dobyns of the Sixth Kansas cavalry, and Capt. John Rodgers, who established the first store at Cato in 1858. The latter was a member of one of the Kansas volunteer regiments, but was at home on furlough when the raid was made in which he lost his life. Four brothers named Tippy came into the county in the spring of 1866, and two of them were afterward hanged by a posse of citizens near Monmouth, after they had been tried and found guilty by a jury of twelve men for participation in the murder of a man named Shannon. Several skirmishes occurred in the county between the guerrillas and Union troops.
Since its organization Crawford county has suffered severely from storms, the worst of which was probably the tornado of May 22, 1873. It came from the southwest and swept across the entire county, leaving desolation in its wake. Seven persons were killed outright, 34 others were injured, and a large amount of property was destroyed.
Coal of fine quality underlies the entire county, some of the veins running five feet or more in thickness. More than half the coal mined in the state comes from this county. Building stone, cement rock, fire and potter's clay of excellent quality are abundant in several localities and though only partially developed are a source of revenue to the owners of the deposits. Belts of timber averaging about half a mile in width are found along the streams, the principal varieties being oak, walnut, poplar, hickory and cottonwood. Some artificial groves have been planted. Agriculture is an important industry. The five leading crops in 1910, in the order of their value, were as follows: corn, $999,900; oats, $345,960; hay (including alfalfa), $187,208; wheat, $142,031; flax, $59,670. Kafir corn, Irish potatoes and sorghum are also important crops. The value of dairy products for the year 1910 was $222,558, and the value of all farm products, including live stock slaughtered or sold for slaughter, was $2,660,750.
Crawford county is well provided with transportation facilities, lines of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe, the St. Louis & San Francisco, the Missouri, Kansas & Texas and the Missouri Pacific systems crossing the county in every direction and giving the county nearly 220 miles of main track. Pittsburg is one of the greatest railroad centers in eastern Kansas.
According to the U. S. census for 1910, the population of Crawford county was 51,178, a gain of 12,369 during the preceding ten years, making it the fourth in the state in population. There are eleven incorporated cities in the county, viz.: Arcadia, Arma, Cherokee, Curranville, Frontenac, Girard, Hepler, McCune, Mulberry, Pittsburg and Walnut. Other important towns and villages are Beulah, Brazilton, Cato, Chicopee, Croweburg, Dunkirk, Englevale, Farlington, Franklin, Fuller, Midway, Monmouth and Yale.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 1,541 km² (595 mi²). 1,536 km² (593 mi²) of it is land and 6 km² (2 mi²) of it (0.36%) is water.
Crawford County's population was estimated to be 38,222 in the year 2005, a decrease of 3, or -0.0%, over the previous five years.
As of the U.S. Census in 2000, there were 38,242 people, 15,504 households, and 9,441 families residing in the county. The population density was 25/km² (64/mi²). There were 17,221 housing units at an average density of 11/km² (29/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 93.29% White, 1.83% Black or African American, 0.94% Native American, 1.11% Asian, 0.09% Pacific Islander, 1.11% from other races, and 1.63% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.38% of the population.
There were 15,504 households out of which 28.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.90% were married couples living together, 9.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.10% were non-families. 30.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.40% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.96.
In the county the population was spread out with 22.90% under the age of 18, 16.40% from 18 to 24, 25.00% from 25 to 44, 20.20% from 45 to 64, and 15.50% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 95.00 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.40 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $29,409, and the median income for a family was $40,582. Males had a median income of $27,881 versus $21,517 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,245. About 9.40% of families and 16.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.00% of those under age 18 and 10.30% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):
Girard, 2,687 (county seat)
Unified school districts
Northeast USD 246 - Serves the northeast portion of Crawford County, namely the towns of Mulberry, Arma, and Arcadia. Mascot - Vikings Colors - Burgundy and White
Southeast USD 247 - Serves primarily portions of Crawford and Cherokee counties, but also includes small portions of Labette and Neosho counties. The 300 square mile district serves over 800 students in grades Pre-K through 12. Southeast High School (the "Lancers") is located just west of the city of Cherokee (where the district office is located). In Crawford County the district also serves the city of McCune. Mascot - Lancers Colors - Baby Blue and White
Girard USD 248 - Serves the Girard area. Mascot - Trojans Colors - Burgundy and Yellow/Gold
Frontenac USD 249 - Serves the Frontenac area. Mascot - Raiders Colors - Black and White/Silver
Pittsburg USD 250 - Serves the Pittsburg area. Mascot - Dragons Colors - Purple and White
Saint Mary's - Colgan is a private Catholic K-12 school located in Pittsburg. Mascot - Panthers Colors - Blue and White