Caldwell - The Wicked Border Queen
known as the Border Queen, saw wild days as a
Kansas cowtown, as well as
serving as a jumping off point to the
Oklahoma Land Rush
Located just north of the
Oklahoma border, the town
was established in 1871 and named in honor of United States Senator
Alexander T. Caldwell, of Leavenworth, Kansas.
The first building was erected by Captain C. H. Stone, one of the
founders of the town site, who built a log house which was used as a
store and the first post office. Stone became the fledgling city’s
first postmaster. Other buildings soon followed including a hotel,
other businesses, and the Red Light Saloon, which thrived with both
Situated along the
Chisholm Trail, the town catered to the
who passed by with their large cattle herds on their way to
Abilene and Wichita. However, it remained
little more than a trading post up until 1879, when it had about 260
However, when the Santa Fe
Railroad extended its line to Caldwell, Wichita investors soon took notice
and formed a town company in 1879, selling lots for $125 . The city was
soon incorporated and quickly promoted its opportunity as a cattle
shipping point. The town grew quickly and soon boasted some 1,500 people.
began to drive the cattle up the
to Caldwell, the town took on all of the elements of a lawless frontier
settlement. These many drovers gave the town its nickname, the "Border
As the town sprouted
gambling dens, and brothels, the first town north of
provided a place where the
could go wild after months on the dusty and treacherous trail.
showdowns, general hell raising and hangings soon became commonplace.
During its reckless cowtown period between 1879 and 1885,
Caldwell "boasted” a higher murder rate, and loss of more law enforcement
officers than other more famous
During this period, violence claimed the lives of 18 city marshals,
leading a Wichita editor to write, "As we go to press hell is again in
session in Caldwell."
One of the first incidents
occurred at the Moreland Saloon on July 7, 1879, when Deputy Constable
James Wilson and a citizen,
Flatt, cornered two
named Woods and Adams, who had been firing their guns outside the saloon
in celebration of being paid for a Texas cattle drive earlier in the day.
The confrontation; however, soon led to gunplay and when the smoke
cleared, Woods and Adams were dead. In the melee, an innocent bystander by
the name of Kiser was wounded. Having now made a reputation for himself,
Flatt was soon made Caldwell’s
first City Marshal. He gladly took credit for shooting the
but no one ever came forward to accept responsibility for wounding Mr.
Flatt was not well liked by
local citizens and on April 5, 1880, a new mayor was elected in Caldwell,
Mike Meagher. One of the first things Meagher did was discharge City Marshal
George Flatt because he disapproved
Flatt's confrontational way of
He then appointed William Horseman as the new marshal;
Frank Hunt and Dan Jones as deputies, and James Johnson stayed on as
Flatt was none to happy about
this event and wasted no time voicing his complaints about town.
evening of June 18,1880, a drunken
Flatt made his rounds in a
number of Caldwell saloons, voicing his complaints to anyone who would
listen. Somewhere along the line, he ran into Frank Hunt and the two
argued until Hunt was finally able to persuade
Flatt to go home about 1:00
o'clock in the morning. But
Flatt wouldn't make it. On his
way, he was ambushed and died in the street with a bullet in the back of
Mayor Mike Meagher, and police officers William Horseman, Frank Hunt, James
Johnson, and Dan Jones for the murder were soon arrested by Sumner County Sheriff, Joe
Thralls. Although all of the men were bound over for trial, only William
Horseman was tried. A year later he was acquitted.
Mike Meagher, he would get his due on December 17, 1881 in a
with Jim Talbot and three other men.
Meagher was killed. Also killed by the gunfire was George Spears, a
former policeman, who had changed to the Talbot side. The
lasted long enough for a hardware store to pass guns and ammunition out to
townspeople. Only one of Talbot's men was ever convicted for the murder.
Talbot was acquitted but was later killed, probably by
John, who was seen following Talbot from the courthouse after his release.
the time Caldwell was just three years old, it needed its ninth marshal.
Unfortunately for the City and the new marshal, a 10th would soon follow.
Appointed in March, 1882, George S. Brown, 28, lived to enforce the law
only until the summer. On June 22, 1882, Marshal Brown was killed by
Steve and Jess Green in the Red Light Saloon as Brown and a deputy
answered a disturbance call. With the help of the saloon employees, the
Green brothers escaped into
only to be caught in a
with Territory lawmen in October. Steve Green and a deputy sheriff were
killed and Jess Green was captured, riddled with 13 gunshot wounds. The
governor gladly paid the
Texas posse the $1,000 in
reward money. Jess Green died in the county jail, just prior to his murder
Also hired in 1882 was another Mr.
Brown – one Henry Newton Brown, as
Assistant Marshal. He was later promoted to City Marshal.
But, Brown had failed to tell the city
council about his interesting past which included cattle rustling, riding
Billy the Kid,
and a trivial murder charge during the
County War in
hired his friend
Wheeler, aka: Ben Robertson and
the two men "cleaned up” the tough town quickly. When Brown felled two
outlaws in the streets of Caldwell in 1883, the
Caldwell Post bragged
Brown was "one of the quickest
men on the trigger in the Southwest." So taken were the town citizens
that they presented him with a new, engraved Winchester rifle.
What the town didn’t know;
however, was that
into financial trouble and returned to his outlaw ways. On April 30,
1884, Brown, along with his deputy,
Ben Wheeler, and two other former
outlaw friends, attempted to rob a bank in Medicine Lodge,
Though they made off with no money, they shot a killed two bank employees.
A posse was immediately after the would-be robbers, catching up with them
right out of town.
They were taken to the Medicine
Lodge jail and in no time, a mob outside formed, chanting "Hang them! Hang
them!” That night, about 9:00 p.m., the mob broke into the jail and the
prisoners attempted to dash for freedom.
fell quickly, his body
riddled with bullets. Wheeler was also wounded but was dragged along with
the other two, to a nearby elm tree and hanged.
Later that year, when
"Buffalo Bill" Brooks, a former Newton and
Dodge City lawman, turned to outlawry,
he was captured by
a posse with several other horse thieves near
Caldwell. Hauled to jail to
await trial, a lynch mob stormed the
Caldwell on July 29th and lynched Brooks, along with two other horse
thieves by the names of L.B. Hasbrouck and Charlie Smith.
By the next year, the cattle trade
had moved farther west and
settled down to an agricultural
community. During its thriving cattle days, more than a million longhorns
and their guardian
saw more wild days in 1893 when Congress opened the Cherokee outlet to the
south for settlement. Soon,
with thousands of land hungry pioneers preparing for the last great land
rush in America. On September 16, 1893, 15,000 people gathered in
Caldwell, awaiting the cavalry soldiers'
gunshots to start the mad rush for land.
prosper until other towns were established in the new territory to supply
the settlers' needs. The town survived as a railroad junction and
agricultural community. Today, it supports a population of about 1,300.
days of hustle
and bustle are gone, the small city continues to display its rich heritage
through a number of historical markers that dot the town, at the Cherokee
Strip Visitors Center & Museum at 1 North Main, its boothill cemetery,
and a number of celebrations throughout the year.
of America, updated September, 2016.