The area prior to 1879 was nothing but buffalo, antelope, wild horses and bunch grass and was designated as “Indian Country”. The original Post Office, established in 1882, was near the geographical center of Thomas County. There was talk of a need for a town to provide the many newly arriving settlers with their lumber and provisions. The settlers homesteaded the land under very adverse conditions living in sod houses. It was decided that the best place to build the town was on railroad land which had slope enough for drainage and availability of water. This new location was three miles north of the original post office and was finally secured from the railroad in March of 1885.
In April of 1884 J. R. Colby secured a patent to establish the town. He was one of the oldest settlers in the county. By profession, he was a land assessor who later ran a boarding house and was a “sometimes” preacher. He was the father of 10 children. In April of 1885, the Colby Town Company received the Town Charter from the office of the Secretary of State. March 12, of 1885, the Thomas County Cat newspaper was published. Through many owners and publishers, it is today the Colby Free Press. The same year, Mike Donelan was recognized as the first Colby merchant when he established a general merchandise store at what is now 5th and Franklin.
The Union Pacific Railroad Railroad came through in 1887 and the Rock Island in 1888. Transportation has played an important role in the development of Colby. The inter-state highway was not supposed to come through Colby, but some political pressures in the Senate changed those plans. I-70 was finished in 1965; today we can thank it for the traffic that supports the economic climate through hotels, restaurants and convenience/gas stores.
Throughout it’s history, Colby has been progressive and forward thinking. We can thank our ancestors and today's community leaders for helping to shape Colby into “the Oasis on the Plains”.
Convention & Visitors Bureau
350 S. Range Suite 10
Colby, KS 67701