The company was founded in 1939 by A.C. Ferrell in Atchison, Kansas. Renaming itself Ferrellgas when A.C.'s son James assumed control, the company expanded across the Missouri River to acquire a Rushville, Missouri dealer in 1968. In the next ten years, the company acquired other Midwestern dealers and established a wholesale operation, and profited amid the energy crises of 1973 and 1979. During that time, the Ferrellgas headquarters shifted, moving first to Platte City, Missouri before moving further east to Kearney. Its expansion continued, opening Ferrell North America, a propane and feedstock distribution arm, in 1977. In 2004 it acquired Blue Rhino. Ferrellgas is the second largest propane distributor in the United States.
Although publicly traded on the New York Stock Exchange since 1994, the Ferrell family maintains a presence with the company. James E. Ferrell serves as the company's chairman and chief executive officer, and has twice been elected president of the World LP Gas Association. Through a stock ownership plan, Ferrellgas employees own a total of 18 million shares, out of 31.3 million shares outstanding.