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Our History

Wellington was platted in 1871 and named for the Duke of Wellington. It was designated as the Sumner County seat in 1872. Trading with cattlemen moving their herds up the Chisholm Trail was an important factor in the early economy of the town. The railroads also played an important part in the city’s history and made Wellington a railroad town. Today, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad transcontinental line passes through with Wellington as a crew switch point. The Union Pacific Railroad has a main line running north-south through the city. Manufacturing, especially of aircraft parts, is a part of Wellington’s history in the more modern years. The proximity to Wichita, known as the Air Capital of the World, led to the aircraft parts plants and several are located in the City.

Early in Wellington’s history, a devastating event changed Wellington. In 1892, Wellington was a thriving city with a population of more than 12,000 and growing steadily. A tornado struck the city moving through the downtown area. It caused extensive damage to a 26-block area. Eleven people were killed, 29 were injured. The tornado ended the momentum of growth the city had been experiencing. A few years later, there was a major fire that destroyed some buildings, and that was another major blow to the city.

Much more recent history is that Cowley College has expanded from Cowley County and built a Sumner Campus in Wellington to serve Sumner County and the region. The Technology and Innovation Center opened for classes in August 2018. The Short General Education Center opened for classes in 2019. One area of concentration for Sumner Campus is the machining tract to assist the area aircraft parts manufacturing plants in a trained workforce.