The county was dissolved in 1883, but was reëstablished in 1885 with slightly different boundaries. The northern boundary was made the north line of township 30 south, and the east boundary was extended to the east line of range 27 west, adding another tier of townships on the east. The county was organized in 1885, when a petition signed by 250 householders attesting that the county had more than 1,500 inhabitants and that more than 250 of these were householders, was sent to the governor, John A. Martin. He appointed I. N. Graves census taker. The returns showed a population of 3,507, of whom 1,165 were householders.
The governor made the proclamation of organization on Nov. 4. Meade Center was declared the temporary county seat and the following temporary county officers named: County clerk, A. D. McDavid; commissioners, L. S. Sears of Meade Center, H. L. Mullen of Fowler, and E. M. Mears of West Plains. The election for the location of the county seat and the choosing of permanent officers was held on Jan. 5, 1886. The candidates for county seat were Fowler, Pearlette and Meade Center, the last named being the winner. The officers elected were as follows: County clerk, M. B. Peed; clerk of the district court, W. H. Willis ; treasurer, W. F. Foster; probate judge, N. K. McCall; sheriff, Mr. McKibben; register of deeds, C. W. Adams; superintendent of public instruction, M. B. Clark; county attorney, Samuel Lawrence; surveyor, Price Moody; coroner, E. E. Buchecher; commissioners, John D. Wick, Chris Schmoker and H. L. Muller; representative, R. M. Painter.
The first settlements in Meade county were made in 1878. In 1879 a colony from Zanesville, Ohio, settled at Pearlette. Daniel Dillon and John Joblin were prominent in the organization of the colony. A little newspaper, the Pearlette Call, was issued, the first number appearing in April, 1879. In February of the same year a salt sink was discovered about 3 miles south of Meade Center. This hole, which was said by scientists to be one of the remarkable natural curiosities of the state, made its appearance suddenly on the site of a favorite camping ground.
A traveler having camped on the spot returned after 3 days and found the salt sink, which was a hole 200 feet wide and over 100 feet deep, and about half full of water. Salt was manufactured by evaporation for four or five years, but the enterprise was abandoned for lack of a market. Peat was discovered in the fall of 1878. About the middle of the '80s artesian water was discovered and by 1887 a large number of wells had been sunk on farms in Crooked Creek township. At present there are 1,000 artesian wells in the northeastern part of the county, within an area of 6 miles wide by 30 long, known as Artesian Valley. The water is found at a depth of 150 feet. A good grade of pumice limestone, sandstone and gypsum is also found.
The county is divided into nine townships, viz: Cimarron, Crooked Creek, Fowler, Logan, Meade Center, Mertilla, Odee, Sand Creek and West Plains. The postoffices are Atwater, Carmen, Fowler, Jasper, Lakeland, Meade, Mertilla, Miles, Plains and Uneda. The general surface is a rolling prairie with some rough lands and bluffs in the southeast. Bottom lands average a mile in width and comprise 10 per cent. of the area. Timber is scarce. Crooked creek enters in the northeast, flows east about 10 miles, thence by a devious course to the southeast corner of the county. It has several tributary creeks. The Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific R. R. enters in the northeast and crosses southwest through Meade into Seward county.
The leading crop is wheat, which in 1910 brought an income to the farmers of $618,938; Kafir corn the same year was worth $170,340; alfalfa and other tame grasses, $128,097; barley, $75,644. Corn, oats, buckwheat, millet, milo, maize, sorghum, Irish potatoes and wild grasses are other important crops. The raising of live stock is profitable. The animals sold for slaughter in 1910 brought $264,644, and the total value of farm products for that year was $1,642,089. The assessed valuation of property in 1910 was $9,192,283, and the population was 5,055, showing an average wealth per capita above the average for the state. The population in 1900 was 1,581, the gain in the last ten years being over 200 per cent. In common with other western counties Meade experienced a depression during the latter '80s and the '90s from which it has now fully recovered.
Law and government
Although the Kansas Constitution was amended in 1986 to allow the sale of alcoholic liquor by the individual drink with the approval of voters, Meade County has remained a prohibition, or "dry", county.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 2,537 km² (980 mi²). 2,534 km² (978 mi²) of it is land and 3 km² (1 mi²) of it (0.13%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,631 people, 1,728 households, and 1,252 families residing in the county. The population density was 2/km² (5/mi²). There were 1,968 housing units at an average density of 1/km² (2/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 91.10% White, 0.39% Black or African American, 0.54% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 6.24% from other races, and 1.51% from two or more races. 10.90% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 1,728 households out of which 36.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 64.70% were married couples living together, 4.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.50% were non-families. 25.60% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.60% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.16.
In the county the population was spread out with 29.50% under the age of 18, 6.90% from 18 to 24, 26.50% from 25 to 44, 19.20% from 45 to 64, and 17.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 98.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.00 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $36,761, and the median income for a family was $41,550. Males had a median income of $29,295 versus $20,153 for females. The per capita income for the county was $16,824. About 6.70% of families and 9.30% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.90% of those under age 18 and 5.70% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
Name and population (2004 estimate):