The first claim was staked in 1872 when it was certain the railroad would be completed nearby. The railroad was finished the same year and the city was named after Colonel John Ellinwood, a civil engineer working for the Santa Fe railroad. Ellinwood became a fast growing community of mostly descendants of southern German/Austrians. Located on the Santa Fe Trail, the town was a social and cultural center of the 1890's.
German heritage is shown by the architecture of Main Street buildings and the underground shops of yesteryear. Brick streets are carefully maintained. Today, a community of 2,100 and located in the center of Kansas, it provides a warm, small town environment with many features and services of much larger communities. The municipality has its own power and sewage plants, several water wells, recycling trailer, and compost area.
Ellinwood's schools are an outstanding feature of the city, as is St. John's Lutheran Child Development Center for pre-schoolers. Available are a senior citizen center, civic clubs, hospital, long term care facilities, doctors, clinic, EMT unit and municipal airport. Churches include five denominations. The Cheyenne Bottoms and Quivira Wildlife Refuge, both natural wetlands, have attracted nature lovers and hunters over the decades.