According to legendary history, Coronado traveled as far north as Kansas in 1542 in search of the fabled cities of Cibola. Probably one of the first Europeans to travel this territory, Coronado camped for a few days in what is now a western section of Winfield as evidenced by weapons and utensils excavated over the years.
In 1868, the first white settler built a log cabin on the then Indian country of Cowley County. With the demise of Indian hostility, farming settlers began to reclaim the area from the “Great White Desert”.
The City of Winfield, Cowley County, Kansas was first named “Lagonda” (about 1869) after Mrs. “Lagonda” Wood who was the first white woman to settle south of Timber Creek. Her husband had persuaded her to come to this isolated wilderness by promising her to name the new town, “Lagonda”. Other stories say that Mr. Wood called the town Lagonda because it was the Indian word for “clear water”. Information regarding population at the time seems to be conflicting, in that, a “number” of other settlers moved into the area in the autumn of 1869 to join “several” other settlers who came in the summer of 1869 followed by a party of fifteen men on Christmas Day, 1869. At the first Christmas in 1870 the Winfield Town Company was organized with C.E. Manning, president; W.W. Andrews, vice-president; C.M. Wood, treasurer; and W.G. Graham, secretary. At the suggestion of Mr. W.W. Andrews, the name of “Winfield” was adopted as Mr. Andrews had persuaded his wife to come to the new settlement with him following a promise from Rev. Winfield Scott, a Leavenworth Baptist preacher. The minister said he would build them a house of worship if they would name the new town after him. Rev. Scott did as promised and built a stone church. The first city election is said to have been March 7, 1873, first council meeting, March 10, 1873, electing W.H. Maris as the first Mayor.
The economy depended entirely on agriculture until 1879 when the citizens of Cowley County authorized the issuance of bonds to help finance the construction of the Santa Fe Railroad. In 1885, Southwestern College was founded, broadening the cultural and social aspects of the community. In 1891, a second educational institution, St. John’s College, was founded. It was closed in July of 1986, however, the City purchased the campus and many buildings have been renovated for public and private use today.
Between 1910 and 1930, oil was discovered. In 1940, Winfield and Arkansas City voted to jointly build Strother Field located halfway between the two cities. During the war, the field was leased and developed by the Air Force with the provision that the cities could take over the airport as improved or could require the ground be returned to its original condition. In 1946, the cities elected to take over the airport. This provided the nucleus for the development of an industrial site with most of the facilities already provided. This area, with its industries, provides the community with an asset that has broadened the industrial base of the city.