Great Bend, Kansas

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Great Bend, named for its location at the historic big bend of the Arkansas River, is the most populous city in and the county seat of Barton County, Kansas, United States. The population was 15,345 at the 2000 census.



Early settlers to the area arrived around 1870. Most of the pioneer homes were rough dugouts and sod houses that barely protected their inhabitants from the severe weather often experienced in Kansas. They were fitted with holes in the wall to defend against Indians. Early settlers killed buffalo to provide food for their family and sent the tanned hides to the East for a cash income. A few settlers tried farming, but were unsuccessful at first because the buffalo trampled the crops. The first settlements in Great Bend township were made by E. J. Dodge and D. N. Heiser in 1871.

The town was named after the Great Bend of the Arkansas River, a feature noted as early as the first days of the Santa Fe Trail. It was here that a trading post was established and later a small military post, Fort Zarah. After the Civil War the land began to be developed by easterners, and by the early 1870s a town had formed and Great Bend participated for a short time as a cow town, complete with shootouts, Texas cowboys and saloons.

Following the close of the cow town phase, Great Bend took up its place as a regional trade and service center, a role that grew stronger during the growth of the oil industry and, later, when it served as a major World War II Army Air Corps training base. Since then the community has continued to develop as a medical, legal and technical service center, as well as a regional shopping and entertainment provider. Since 1973, the Fuller Brush Company has had its factories in Great Bend, having moved from Connecticut after the founder's death.

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