Cedar Vale was founded in 1869 by J. R. Marsh, who was "hunting a place of peace and rest." He was captivated by the local tall-grass prairie, the beauty of nearby Lookout Mountain, and the rich bottom-land of the Caney River Valley. Platted the following year, the town was laid out on the diagonal, rather than aligning with N-S compass points. This layout gave an unobstructed view of the Caney River and Cedar Creek Valleys.
Cedar Vale today has been referred to as "The Gem of the Sunflower State ... the most enterprising Little City on Earth" in a book entitled, Dawn of the Twentieth Century 1901. Located just south of US Highway 166 in western Chautauqua County, Cedar Vale is home to an outstanding museum housed in the old Adams Mercantile building. Cedar Creek, located just south of town, was so covered with cedar trees that when the town company was organized,
the town was named Cedar Vale.