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Pratt, Kansas History

The actual birth year of Pratt County is recognized as 1876, although it had been organized and bonds sold to unsuspecting buyers in 1873.

The county was named after Caleb S. Pratt, a Bostonian and 2nd Lieutenant for the Union during the Civil War. The State Legislature of Kansas, at a loss for names for some 105 counties, chose to use those of officers of the Union side, bearing no connection between the counties and the men they were named for.

There were in the beginning, three contenders for the county seat. Saratoga, located three miles to the east, Iuka, which held the seat until a redistricting of the area and Pratt, the most centrally located.

Pratt was founded in 1884 on a site that was once the hunting grounds of the Kiowa Indians.

When one town seemed to have the advantage, the other two would join forces creating an obstacle. In 1885, a horseman rode through the main street of Pratt shouting, "Indians! Indians!". While some inhabitants had been warned of the scare, others fled to town buildings for a day or two until the event proved to be unfounded.

January 6, 1886, proved to be the worst blizzard know to this county before or since. An estimated 80 percent of the cattle froze to death along with a large number of residents of the county.

An election finally established Pratt as the bearer of the crown and the home of the county offices in 1888. It was so well accepted as the county seat near the end of the first decade that the citizens elected in 1909 to assume the debt of building a new courthouse.

One of the most colorful elements of Pratt history is the tale of "Skunk" Johnson, an early fur trapper who had built a cave near the Ninnescah River as his home. "Skunk" inherited his name when he was forced by the Indians to live in his cave . . . and ate skunk oil to survive.

Pratt is located on the Rock Island (Southern Pacific) Railroad.

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