Rice County is the central county of Kansas. It was founded by legislature in 1867 and organized in 1871. It was named in memory of Samuel Allen Rice, Brigadier-General, U.S. Army volunteer, killed April 30, 1864 at Jenkin’s Ferry, Arkansas. He never entered the state of Kansas but oftentimes as Civil War veterans moved westward and settled after the war, they paid tribute to their leaders by naming cities and counties in their honor.
The population of Rice county is 9,660 (2017) including the nine incorporated cities. They range in size from Lyons at 3,565 (2017) to Frederick on the north side of the county with a population of 8 (2017). It became the smallest incorporated town in the state of Kansas after an election in November, 2017 dissolved the previous town listed. The other towns are Alden, Bushton, Chase, Geneseo, Little River, Raymond, and Sterling.
The Santa Fe Historic trail runs east to west through Rice county along highway 56. Throughout the years, artifacts left by both Native Americans and pioneers have been found along the trail. These artifacts are being preserved and exhibited at the Coronado Quivira Museum in Lyons. The Santa Fe trail’s history through Rice county has been written in several books and articles.
The spring of 1886 the first college in the county, Cooper College, was started by a group of state and local businessmen; And it was opened on November 1, 1887. It was named as a memorial to the late Reverend Joseph Cooper. Over the next few years additional buildings and departments were added. Cooper College was renamed Sterling College in 1920 and has continued to retain their original focus as a Christian college.
Today, Rice County is multifaceted - comprising of agriculture, manufacturing, service, and retail businesses. There are several large farming operations and feedlots. JACAM Chemicals, a fast-growing company serving the oilfield and beyond, has a manufacturing plant between Lyons and Sterling, and their headquarters in Sterling. Salt plays a major role in Rice County with two salt facilities, North American Salt and Central Salt. Education employs the greatest number of people with five unified school districts and Sterling College. There are many other thriving industries including Kansas Ethanol, KMW, Cal-Maine Foods, Lyons Manufacturing, and United Industries.
Rice county is governed by three commissioners. Their meetings are held every Monday morning (except for federal holidays) in the historic Rice County Courthouse in the downtown square of Lyons.