The land now recognized as Pawnee County was a high traffic area long before its boundaries were officially plotted and permanent settlement began in 1872. The buffalo and Indians roamed freely for centuries before the white soldiers arrived in 1859 to establish a military post at Fort Larned to assist in commerce and travel along the Santa Fe Trail. George Custer, Kit Carson, William Cody, Black Kettle, Santanta, and Yellow Bear were, but a few of the legendary people frequenting the fort.
It was Henry Booth, retired captain of Company L, 11th Kansas Calvary, who petitioned the state for official organization of the county in 1872, naming it after the familiar Pawnee River as well as recognizing the Pawnee Indians who inhabited the area historically.
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