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Kansas Cowtowns - Violent Places on the American Frontier

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On the Trail

On the cattle Trail.



Primary Cowtowns:




Dodge City




Secondary Cowtowns:


Baxter Springs




Great Bend

Hays City


Junction City

Newton ?




Cattle Trails





During the Civil War, Texas cattle were no longer allowed to be shipped northward, effectively cutting off the income and much of the economy of the Confederate state of Texas. When the war was finally over, this policy had led to a large abundance of Texas cattle, as well as a pent-up demand for beef in the northern states. Texas cattle ranchers were only too happy to meet the demand.


They were worth only $3 to $4 a head in Texas, while eastern cities were offering 10 times that for the cattle.



Immediately following the war, a number of Kansas cowtowns began to spring up along the developing railheads. Beginning in Baxter Springs, and expanding westward along with the railroad to Abilene, Ellsworth, Caldwell, Wichita, and Dodge City, these cities all developed a reputation as wild and wooly frontier towns. Secondary cattle markets in Newton, Hunnewell, Great Bend, Hays, Brookville, Coffeyville, Salina, and Junction City also achieved periods of brief success as cowtowns.

Meeting the demands of the many cowboys coming off the Chisholm Trail, dance halls and saloons, which almost always featured gambling, were fixtures in these Kansas cowtowns. Brothels and prostitution were another business that excelled with the high percentage of men arriving and very few women to accommodate them. The towns grew quickly, often levying taxes on the vices provided to the cowboys– liquor, gambling and prostitution. They also quickly grew reputations that were described as "wicked, decadent, evil, and lawless.”

Between the years of 1865 and 1885, hundreds of thousands of Texas Longhorns were driven to these shipping points. However, by the mid-1880's, a number of events ended the cattle drive era in Kansas. Most prominently was the arrival of the railroad into Texas, but also factoring in, were quarantine laws and homesteaders that closed of much of the open range. But the cattle business in Kansas did not end. By 1890, the state ranked third in the nation in cattle production. As to the cowtowns themselves, most moved into a quieter existence becoming peaceable agricultural communities.


It was here in these cow towns that many famous Old West characters gained or bolstered their reputations, men such as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Wild Bill Hickok, John Wesley Hardin, and dozens of others. In these wild frontier towns also occurred some of the most famous gunfights of the American West including the Dalton Gang Shoot-Out in Coffeyville, the Hide Park Gunfight in Newton, and Long Branch Saloon Shootout in Dodge City.





Texas, or Spanish (as it later came to be called), fever was first detected in Pennsylvania in 1796, following the delivery of cattle from South Carolina. On the Plains, this infectious bovine disease, particularly prevalent in Texas, was influential in the development of the cattle trails and cow towns of the Great Plains.
The longhorn cattle from the Southern Plains that carried the disease were immune to its fatal effects, but the domestic cattle of the Midwest were not. The problems caused during the 1850s by the smaller droves of cattle passing through Missouri on their way to eastern markets were multiplied greatly when tens of thousands of Texas longhorns were trailed to Sedalia in 1866. The hostility of the Missouri legislature and local farmers resulted in the closing off of Missouri as a shipping point and the opening of the Kansas cow towns, led by Abilene in 1867.
Dispute over the cause of the disease between Texas drovers, whose cattle showed no symptoms, and local stockmen, many of whose cattle died, led to the establishment of quarantine lines that prohibited the importation of Texas cattle unless they had been wintered over in the north. In 1885 the entire state of Kansas was closed to Texas cattle, interrupting the trail drives and contributing to the demise of the cattle trailing business. The cause of the fever–a tick that was host to a microscopic organism that attacked the bovine spleen–was not discovered until 1889. Dipping vats and insecticides eventually replaced quarantine lines as the most effective method of controlling the spread of the disease, although the Kansas City stockyards maintained separate areas for southern and northern cattle well into the twentieth century.




Joseph G. McCoy, an Illinois entrepreneur, was experienced in large scale cattle dealing and believed the answer was to herd the Texas longhorns north to be shipped to the eastern market via the railroad.

He began looking for a city along the rail line in which to build a stockyards.

According to Jeff Sheets, director of the Dickinson County Historical Society, McCoy first went to Junction City and asked to build his stockyards there.

"They declined, so he went to Salina and they did the same. He then approached Solomon, and they also said no," Sheets said.

The problem, said Sheets, was Texas cattle carried a parasite that caused Texas Fever. The Texas cattle were immune to the disease, but as they moved north the parasites fell off the longhorns to be picked up by local cattle that was susceptible to the disease.

When McCoy finally approached Abilene about building the stockyards here, Sheets said, there were only 12 buildings in the village of 300 people and only two of those had shingled roofs.

"When the train stopped to let McCoy off everyone thought he must be famous," said Sheets. "Prior to that the train had never stopped in Abilene. Apparently if there was any mail to deliver they would just toss it out the window on the way through. So the train stopping to let this guy off was pretty impressive."

McCoy made his proposal to build a stockyards in Abilene in which to hold the cattle until they could be shipped east, and the city approved. A cowtown is born The Great Western Stockyards, the largest stockyards west of Kansas City, and the Drovers Cottage Hotel were quickly constructed and the first shipment of 20 carloads of cattle left Abilene on Sept. 5, 1867. That was the beginning of the west's first true cow town and for the next five years Abilene was the hub of the cattle trade with millions of longhorns moving through town.





Longhorns in Dodge CityAfter the Civil War there was an acute shortage of beef in the northern states. Texas ranchers were burdened with five million head of cattle and no railroads on which to ship them to market. Realizing the immense profit to be made, Texas cattlemen looked for the nearest rail heads. Thus began the era of the long cattle drive and Kansas cowtowns.

From 1866 to 1885 hundreds of thousands of Texas longhorns were driven annually to shipping points in Kansas. Abilene, Ellsworth, Wichita, Dodge City, and Caldwell received the major portion of the booming cattle trade. Baxter Springs, Newton, Hunnewell, Great Bend, Hays, and Junction City achieved periods of brief success.

The Chisholm Trail served as the major trail to many of the Kansas cowtowns. After years of use, it was described as being 200 to 400 yards wide and as bare as a city street. As quarantine laws and homesteaders' fences closed off more and more towns to Texas drovers, Dodge City emerged as the principal Kansas cowtown. From 1875 to 1885 Texas cattle followed the cutoff on the Chisholm Trail or the Western Trail to the "Cowboy Capital."

Texas cattle drives actually began before the Civil War but on a small scale and ceased during the war. The 1866 season brought large herds and the cowboy crowd to Baxter Springs in the southeastern corner of the state. Profits were low that year and fewer herds were driven north the following year.

Merchants Hotel, Abilene, cowtown on the Chisholm TrailIn 1867 Joseph G. McCoy, a young cattle dealer from Illinois, decided Abilene would make a good rail head. When McCoy arrived in Abilene in the spring of 1867, the town consisted of only a few log cabins. McCoy built the Drovers Cottage and Great Western stockyards and promoted the rail head to Texas cattlemen and by September 1867 when the herds started to arrive, he was ready for business. Abilene received about 35,000 head of cattle that first year. The arrival of the Union Pacific, Eastern Division Railroad, known as the Kansas Pacific in 1869, connected Abilene to the east. Under McCoy's leadership, Abilene reigned as the primary market for Texas cattle for four years.

Although many people profited from the cattle business, not all Kansans approved of it. The longhorns carried a tick that spread Texas fever among local cattle. Farmers lobbied the Kansas legislature to enact quarantine laws to keep the Texas cattle out of their area. By choosing Abilene, McCoy had actually violated the 1867 quarantine law which only permitted Texas cattle in the area south and west of present McPherson. The town was so sparsely populated, however, and the potential profits so great that no one objected.

By 1870, Abilene had grown to the point that a marshal was needed to keep order. Thomas J. Smith, an experienced lawman, was known for using his fists rather than his gun to end disputes. He lost his life to an assailant's bullet and then was nearly decapitated.

"Wild Bill" Hickok was hired as Abilene's town marshal in 1871. He had a reputation for being a quick draw and for spending most of his time playing cards in the saloon. Although dressed in buckskins for this photograph, he often wore the finer clothes of a dandy.

In 1871, the last big year for Abilene, more than 40,000 head of cattle were shipped out by rail. Increased settlement and community disapproval of the cowtown lifestyle forced the cattle market to move west to Newton and Ellsworth.

In 1871, Newton experienced its only major cattle season. It was described that year as probably the roughest town in the West with 27 saloons, eight gambling halls, and a boot hill.

The businessmen of Ellsworth anticipated the shift in the cattle trade from Abilene to their town. In 1872, the Drovers Cottage, once owned by Joseph McCoy, was moved to Ellsworth. It could accommodate 175 guests and the stable held 50 carriages and 100 horses. Ellsworth would dominate the market from 1871 - 1875, while receiving stiff competition from Wichita.

Ellsworth quickly attracted those businesses associated with the cattle trade such as drover's stores and boot shops. John Mueller did a brisk business with his "Big Boot" company. In the first months of the 1874 cattle season, he reported sales of more than 100 pairs of boots to the cattlemen.

Most drovers arrived in town in June and completed shipping by early fall. In the 1873 season, more than 150,000 cattle were trailed to Ellsworth. Over 30,000 were shipped out by rail while most of the others were sold to stock western ranges.

As the era of the cattle drives passed, Ellsworth, like other cowtowns, became a solid business and farming community.

In 1872, the Wichita and South Western Rail Road line reached Wichita. It provided the necessary link with the Santa Fe Railroad trunk line, which would carry cattle to eastern markets. The following year 66,000 head of cattle were shipped out of Wichita, twice as many as from Ellsworth.

Every cowtown had its rough part of town and Wichita was no exception. The "Delano" district was the hub of gambling and drinking activities in Wichita. Among its cast of characters was dance hall proprietor "Rowdy Joe" Lowe who shot and killed his business rival, "Red Beard."

Every cowtown also acquired a police force. Some lawmen served several different towns during their careers. Wyatt Earp served on the Wichita police force in 1875 and 1876 before moving on to Dodge City. An experienced "gun toter," Earp ironically almost ended his own life in a freak shooting accident. On Sunday, January 9, 1876, while sitting in the back room of the Custom House saloon, his gun slipped from his holster. He had committed the serious error of leaving the hammer resting on a loaded chamber. When the gun struck his chair, it discharged sending a .45 caliber slug through his coat. Contemporary accounts noted that the gunshot "got up a lively stampede from the room."

Brothers Mike and John Meagher served on the Wichita police force in the 1870s. Mike's service as marshal involved everything from rounding up hogs (done more in the early years before the cattle boom) to disarming rowdies and arresting robbers, horse thieves, and murderers. Although not working as a law officer at the time of his death, in 1881 Mike was shot down while assisting the Caldwell city marshal with an arrest.

Junction City, located on the Kansas Pacific Railroad line, was a secondary shipping point for the cattle trade.

Hays, like Junction City and Great Bend, was never a major cattle market. It did receive some business, however, because of its location on the Kansas Pacific Railroad line and the ready market at Fort Hays. The combination of railroad workers, freighters, buffalo hunters, and soldiers, plus occasional cowboys, made it a very rough town for a number of years.

Front Stree businesses in Dodge City, 1875Dodge City’s mostly male population found needed supplies such as: whiskey, guns and ammunition, clothing and billiards at local stores. Founded in 1872 shortly before the Santa Fe Railroad line reached Ford County, Dodge City served primarily as a civilian community to nearby Fort Dodge. Business also centered on the sale of buffalo hides and bones before the cattle trade era began in 1875.

When quarantine laws closed Wichita to the cattle trade, Dodge City emerged as the "Queen of the Cowtowns." From 1875 - 1885, more than 75,000 head of cattle were shipped annually. Many thousands more were driven through Dodge to stock northern ranges or to be shipped from other railheads.

Firearms were prohibited in Dodge City, however, in 1875, it is estimated that as many as 25 people died of gunshot wounds.

Down the street from the Dodge House stood John Mueller's new boot shop. When the cattle business failed in Ellsworth, Mueller promptly followed it to Dodge City. He finally sold his business in 1880 to devote his full attention to raising livestock.

Dance halls and saloons were a fixture of all Kansas cattle towns and Dodge City had some of the finest. Sometimes the saloon owner sponsored the gaming. Individual gamblers also worked the taverns looking for an opportunity to ply their trade. Favorite card games were poker, monte, and faro. Dice games and keno, a game similar to bingo, were also popular gambling activities.

Prostitution has traditionally appeared where there is a high percentage of men and a low percentage of women. This was the case in the cattle towns of Kansas. Brothels were established but many women worked for the dance halls where they earned money from dancing, as well as prostitution. Dodge City boasted of three dance halls for a brief time but for most of its ten years as a cattle town, there were only two. The city also earned an income from these activities by levying taxes on liquor, gambling, and prostitution.

Wyatt EarpDodge City had the most impressive list of gunmen and lawmen of any town in the West. Wyatt Earp, the Masterson brothers, Bill Tilghman, Clay Allison, Luke Short, Dave Mather, and "Doc" Holliday all resided in Dodge at some time in their careers.

These noted gunfighters convened in Dodge City to assist their friend, Luke Short, in an episode that became known as the “Dodge City War.” Co-owner of the Long Branch Saloon, Short had violated a new city policy banning prostitutes from saloons. Short and his partner, prominent banker and cattleman, William Harris, felt that the law had been unequally enforced since mayor and rival A. B. Webster had not faced similar prosecution. Short was arrested, then forced to leave town. He appealed justifiably to the governor that he had been denied due process. A compromise was attempted but Short chose instead to convene his pals to ensure his permanent return. The state's adjutant general was finally able to mediate a settlement before any violence erupted with Short being permitted to stay in town.

Mysterious Dave MatherIn the early 1880s, the existence of gambling, drinking, prostitution, and dance halls in town, often in open violation of the law, began to heat up as an issue. The "Dodge City War" in the spring of 1883 was followed by pressure from the Santa Fe Railroad to clean up "their" town. The reform-minded and status quo factions were still feuding when David Mather came to town the following year. A gambler who went by the nickname "Mysterious Dave," he served as assistant marshal in 1883 and 1884 and was co-owner of the Opera House Saloon on Front Street. Because of its prominent downtown location, the city council objected to his decision to turn it into a dance hall. They passed an ordinance banning all dance houses but took no action against the one owned by Mather's successor as assistant city marshal, Thomas Nixon, allegedly because of its remote location. For several months, Nixon and Mather battled to put each other out of business. The feud escalated when Nixon fired some shots at Mather. Three days later, Mather ended the rivalry by shooting and killing his competitor.

Pat Sughrue worked as a blacksmith in Dodge when not serving as a peace officer. Elected sheriff of Ford County in 1884, he was in office during the final days of the cattle era. An epidemic of splenic fever among the Texas longhorns sent local cattle growers and eastern buyers into a panic. Under orders from the governor, Sughrue had the unsavory task of turning back trail-hardened drovers from the Kansas border. This situation coupled with low beef prices and decreasing availability of empty rangeland, led to the passing of the cattle drive era after 1885.

Mike Sughrue served as deputy sheriff of Ford County under his twin brother Pat. For his heroic efforts in capturing a murderer, the citizens of Ashland, Clark County, elected him their town marshal in 1885.

Caldwell challenged Dodge City for the cattle market in the 1880s. Although it was within the quarantined area, it was so near the border that it was able to conduct business without any problems. Known as "the Border Queen," nearly 100,000 head of Texas longhorns were shipped out on the Santa Fe line in 1882 and 1883.

The rowdy behavior witnessed in other cattle towns was characteristic of life in Caldwell during its cowtown period, 1880 - 1885.

On April 30, 1884, the citizens of Caldwell were shocked to learn that their marshal and his assistant were bank robbers and murderers. Early that morning, Brown, Wheeler, and two cowboys rode to Medicine Lodge to rob the bank. While attempting to defend his property, the bank president was fatally wounded by Brown. Wheeler immediately killed the cashier. Realizing their plans had failed, the four robbers fled.

Within hours, this posse captured the four bank robbers in a canyon outside of town. The citizens of Medicine Lodge were ready for a lynching but the sheriff managed to secure his prisoners in the town's jail.

During the evening of April 30, 1884, a mob overpowered the sheriff. The prisoners attempted to escape when the doors to the jail were opened. Shots were fired and Brown lay dead. The three remaining prisoners were taken to an elm tree east of town and hanged.

Cattle roundup on a ranch near HunnewellIn the 1880s, Hunnewell flourished briefly as a shipping point for Texas cattle. Located on the Kansas-Oklahoma border in Sumner County, the Leavenworth, Lawrence and Galveston Railroad provided quick access to the Kansas City stockyards. Typical of cowtowns, the business district of Hunnewell reportedly consisted of one hotel, two stores, one barbershop, a couple of dance halls, and eight or nine saloons.

Violence of all kinds was not uncommon to Hunnewell. As one railroad worker recollected years later, "There was no Bat Masterson to control the casual use of firearms, and there was more shooting than I ever saw in Dodge City."

By the mid-1880s, many events came together to end the cattle drive era in Kansas. Rail lines had reached directly into Texas, there was a growing demand for better bred stock, quarantine laws were continually closing off more and more of the open range and what was left was being filled up by homesteaders. Although the trail drives were over by 1885, the cattle business in Kansas did not end. By 1890, the state ranked third in the nation in cattle production.



The dramas of Kansas
By Charles Lincoln Phifer

There were such things to do, and they were done
With such originality and dash In Kansas, that the whole world looked and gasped.
Witness, the handling of the cattle business.

That the great plains from Kansas down to Texas
Should be ranged by innumerable herds
Of ponies, buffaloes and mavericks
Was a strange fact not found in other lands
In any age. Fur dealers speedily
Wiped out the buffaloes. The Indians
And early settlers lassoed and broke in
The mustangs. The cattle numbered millions.
Lank, with their long horns, grazing on the
greasewood, .
And miring in the waterholes, they were
The population of the wilderness,
Perhaps with a long history unwritten,

Spotted and speckled, wiry, with calves Trotting beside them. It was their stringy flesh,
Dried in the desert air and termed jerked beef,
That fed the first explorers on their journeys.
The age of branding mavericks and killing
The cattle needed constitutes the first
Act of a drama strange in many ways.

When the first western railways passed through

And startling plans were made to market these
Wild cattle of the plains that cost men nothing,
Joseph G. McCoy drove down to Texas,
And ploughed a furrow up to Abelene,
Six hundred miles in length, as mark for those
Who wished to drive the cattle up .for shipment.
They came in droves. The cowboys had before
Been roping steers and branding them. They

Rounded up herds and headed for the railroad,
Following the furrow that became a road.
Thousands in every herd, the herds so close
One to the other as they journeyed northward,
Each herdsman ever saw the one in front,
They sauntered 'mid the shout and vicious oath,

Through sage brush, cottonwood and muddy ford,
On to the place of fate. At night they camped, Killed a beef maverick and had their supper, Then 6lept beneath the stars, with heads on saddles,
Ropes coiled around to keep tarantulas
And snakes from them. By day they jogged

Hands on the pommel and the feet in stirrup,
Lest the mustang should stumble in the hole
Of prairie dog or buck at sight of rabbit
Bounding away. They found few habitations.
But here and there a ranch was seen with house
Like some baronial castle. 'Mid such romance,
More strange than any Canterbury tales
Or adventurous crusade of olden knights,
They drew through strange mirage and thirsty

To the new town Abilene.
Never was there city Like this cow town. The cattle came so fast The trains could not convey them to the city, And herds were grazing on the prairie near, Awaiting turn for marketing. Within,
Saloons and dives and gambling houses ran All day and night. Things surely were wide open,
For Kansas then was wet, yes, sopping wet—
Faro and poker and shell games were going
Without surcease. Women were everywhere,
Hardened and leading in the ways of sin,
Madam Moustache, Lonna Paquita and others.
Sometimes a drunken cowboy would shoot up
The town. Sometimes they'd quarrel and kill.
The daily papers came of type peculiar
To the new age. Greeley and others printed
The story of the cow towns—for Wichita,
Dodge City, and some others came to share
Wild glory of old Abelene—and Europe
Copied the stories and held off aghast.

Marshals were tried, to keep disorder down.
But they were playfully run out of town.
Then Hickox came, hair streaming down his

Moustaches dropped, with steady eye of grey,
And, being quicker on the trigger than
Any of the bad men, soon brought death
To many and then respect for law and order.
Wild Bill became a hero. Beadle's writers

Pictured him and his many imitators
In sturdy fights and wild adventures that
Made them ideals of a generation
Who woke to read the wondertales of action.
Blood and thunder tales the people called them.
If there was not a killing in each chapter
The million eager boys who learned from them
Desire to go west and slaughter bad men,
Flagged in their interest. Not only was
This a new literature that had a place
Because 'twas virile, but it came to earth,
The first cheap literature, the first boy tales
Save of the goody goody kind that had been

When the strange herds that nature had supplied
Had passed, their long horns tossing as they went,
And the wild cow towns ceased with them to be,
Then Beadle's novels were no longer found;
And yet they formed a mould from which was

A cheap and virile line of books.
The taming
Of the cow towns was fatal to them. But they built The packing houses in the cities, turning
Production of the nation's meat to few.
Perhaps the building of the slaughter cities
That flourished after the cow towns had waned,
Until they ruled the foodstuff of the world,
Is the fifth act of the great cow town drama.
Again the tragedy, half comic, had
Extended beyond Kansas till it touched
All people in the world. Once more it came,
With new type, killing with the great machine,
Embracing workers of all tongues and races,
Raw on the stage, but mighty in their deeds.

They pass as real things, but may come again
As shadows that still hover in the pages
Of a new literature they may inspire,
And as strange living creatures quick
To come and go within the realm of th* mind.

The Story of the Santa Fe
By Glenn Danford Bradley

1 1UILDING the first railroads across Kansas made posJjsible the rapid development of the Northern Texas cattle business; and it led to the equally rapid extinction of | the buffaloes. While the rich pastures of the Texas Panhandle were capable of sustaining vast herds of cattle just as they had for centuries supported countless buffaloes, the raising of cattle in this region never could be attempted on a large scale so long as they had to be driven to Missouri River points several hundred miles overland for marketing. The cattlemen welcomed the Union Pacific, which first crossed the plains. At once the practice arose of driving the herds
'This chapter is presented solely as a picture of conditions as they were. It aims to depict some of the scenes enacted in the most typical of the cattle towns that sprang up at the "end of the line" as the Santa Fe railroad moved westward across the prairies. The writer is familiar with these towns as they now are, having lived in one of them nearly two years. A few years ago he visited Dodge City, the most famous of them all, and carefully interviewed some of the most noteworthy of the survivors of the early days, the men who were founders of the town and who witnessed the incidents herewith reproduced. Among the men thus interviewed were Chalkley Beeson, Robert M. Wright, G. M. Hoover, and M. W. Sutton. These gentlemen, one a ranchman, one a business man, one a bank-president and another a lawyer, have long been among the most respected citizens of the town. Three of the number, Beeson Wright, and Hoover, recently died. Mr. Wright has written some interesting historical accounts of his early experiences on the frontier. While many of the smaller details of the stories in this chapter cannot be literally confirmed they are given as the concurrent testimony of the four gentlemen mentioned above.

northward to the most accessible railroad point and then shipping them in trainloads eastward. So early as 1867, in spite of restrictive quarantine laws imposed by Kansas, 35,000 head were shipped from Abilene, in that state, over the Union Pacific. In 1871 about 600,000 head were received at this little town. In the summer of that year, it will be recalled, the Santa Fe reached Newton and within eighteen months had also crossed the state, running from eighty to one hundred miles south of the Kansas Pacific. Since the animals could now be shipped from points still nearer the big pastures, the cattle business at once passed to the more southern Santa Fe route, and, as this railroad moved westward, strange towns sprang up from the plains at the "end 1 of the line." These were the so-called "cattle towns" of the 1 early Seventies. Their origin as important centers was due almost wholly to the sudden influx of hundreds of cattlemen bringing tens of thousands of cattle, seeking a place of shipment.
So in the fall of 1871, the strange frontier conditions, the booming prosperity, unrestrained vice, lawlessness, crime, six-shooter justice and "boothill" grave-yards—where men were buried with their boots on—all these conditions which had characterized Abilene, passed with the cattle trade to Newton. A few months later as the railroad advanced, Newton was to divide this questionable distinction with Wichita, on the south, and with Raymond, Great Bend, Larned and Dodge City to the westward. Lying at the southernmost point of the Santa Fe main line in Kansas, and hence at that time the nearest railroad station to the Pan Handle country, it was Dodge City that became the most notorious of all the cattle towns, and because of her proximity to the cattle country this town held this notoriety the longest of any of the famous prairie towns on the old railroad frontier. While many interesting stories can be written of all these places, Dodge City as the most representative has been chosen for the main theme of this chapter.
A story goes that more than forty years ago on a warm summer day, a drunken man stumbled aboard a Santa Fe train in western Kansas without having troubled himself to purchase a ticket. Now the conductor of this particular train—we may call him Smith—was a little man who served his company well, but he stuttered. Finding the inebriated passenger snoring serenely in the smoker, Smith shook him gently.
"Whatcher want?" growled the irate citizen.
"T—ticket p-pl-please!"
"Ain't got none!"
"W-well, wh-where you g-goin'?"
"Goin' to hell!"
"Say, m-mister, g-give me a d-dollar and I-FU let y-y-you off at D-D-Dodge City!"
No western town has been more truly western, nor has any American town been more truly American than Dodge City. And so famous has this place become that it is now the usual practice of magazine writers to make Dodge City the setting for nearly all their "gun" stories. While most of these tales are highly colored, and while there has been a tendency to over-emphasize the bad and to overlook the good features of this community, it must be admitted that the town has had a remarkable past. It has typified all that the West has stood for—an utter disregard of things conventional, lawlessness, six-shooter justice and a sham social and political organization; yet these lax conditions were permeated by a desire for things better, which desire finally resulted in a triumph of law and order and in the creation of a sane community spirit.
In years back this little straggling town on the Arkansas was a sort of crucible in which all the diverse elements of the plains—soldiers, railroad men, merchants, cattlemen, gamblers, divekeepers, strumpets and roustabouts—were fused "into a composite something, and that something was the Dodge City of popular fancy.
But times have changed. Busy switch engines snort back and forth where whooping cowboys once cavorted. Mildeyed young men in white coats draw soda-water where fierce bartenders in buckskin shirts once appeased the thirst of bad men. A peaceful, law-abiding town of about four thousand souls is the Dodge City of to-day. Quiet reigns there, and vice is conspicuous by its absence. Old men sit in front of restaurants and pool halls and swap yarns. Milk wagons and delivery carts rattle harmlessly about, while automobiles glide in all directions. A Harvey House gong, thumped by a slant-eyed Japanese, announces the arrival of the trains. One sees along the streets the usual aggregations of banks, barber poles, bakeries, and bill boards. A large brick school house stands decorously on the summit of Boot Hill, once famed as a coffinless cemetery. A dozen or so well-attended churches attest to the piety of the place. A change has even come over local politics, for the Mayor is no longer the leading saloon-keeper. There are no saloons now and the mayor is usually a prominent business man. All this sounds commonplace enough, to be sure, but forty odd years ago things were different.
Dodge City originated in 1872, just a few weeks before the arrival of the Santa Fe railroad. The first white men to locate there were G. M. Hoover and J. G. McDonald, who on June 17th started a retail business in a tent. A little later that same day the firm of Cutter and Wiley established a supply store, which building still remains. These two men were railroad contractors, and they were joined almost immediately by the Masterson brothers—of sixshooter fame—who had a sub-contract for building two miles of railroad grade directly through the town-site.
The town was laid out in August, at or very near the time the railroad arrived. Ford County, in which Dodge is situated, was not organized until the spring of 1873. This settlement was then in the heart of the buffalo country, and it is not surprising to learn that the town was first called Buffalo City. But in applying to the government for a postoffice it was found that there was already a Buffalo Station out on the Kansas Pacific, and another little town of Buffalo—which still survives—in Wilson County. Not caring to have any more "Buffaloes" in Kansas, the Postmaster General in granting a postoffice sent out the name of Dodge City, in honor of Fort Dodge, which was but five miles away.
Having thus secured a railroad and a postoffice the town began to grow; and it also commenced to assume some of the commercial importance which Hays City over north on the Union Pacific had been enjoying. In fact Dodge secured some of her most noted pioneer citizens from Hays, these gentlemen being keen enough to see good business openings in the new town. First there came Jim Kelly, who opened and ran the well-known Opera House saloon and who later became mayor and "all-round man" in the community. Then came A. B. Webster and R. W. Evans, both with stocks of merchandise. They were followed by Jim Hanahan who became the first state representative from Ford County, together with Moses Waters, a prosperous liquor dealer, and other enterprising characters.
Having thus gotten into the school geographies through the conventional means of a railroad and a postoffice, Dodge City then proceeded to put herself upon the map in more thorough-going style. First, business was needed, for there were several well-equipped stores and bar-rooms awaiting customers. Big business came. The railroads had brought many hunters onto the plains and the slaughter of the buffaloes was then at its height and freight traffic came with leaps and bounds. Almost from the outset hundreds of cars loaded with buffalo hides and meats were shipped eastward. And each day there were arriving from the east dozens of carloads of grain, flour, provisions, spirits, and other frontier supplies. Within a year the town had acquired a large floating population. Aside from being the shipping point for Fort Dodge, an important military post nearby, it was the headquarters for hundreds of trappers, traders, hunters, settlers, and hither came the cattlemen with dusty, panting herds of Texas long-horns. These men caroused frequently, to be sure, but they also bought supplies, and their patronage made for good business.
It is said that the local firm of Charles Rath and Company once wired Long Brothers of Kansas City for two hundred cases of baking powder, to be forwarded at once. Astounded at so large an order from a frontier town a member of the Kansas City concern went to Col. W. E. Askew, a prominent hide-buyer who was supposed to know all about Western Kansas, and inquired if the order could be bona fide. Askew thought it looked queer and telegraphed Rath & Co. to find if there had not been a mistake. Their reply was, "No mistake. Double the order." Arriving in Dodge City on a business trip a few days later, the Colonel saw seven or eight carloads of flour stacked up in a single warehouse, and he was then glad to admit that still more baking powder might be needed.
Few rich mining camps ever have equaled the boom days at Dodge City. The plains swarmed with buffaloes and a good hunter could make one hundred dollars a day killing these beasts for their skins. Money was over-plentiful. A quarter was the smallest change, and no item sold for less than that amount. A drink of whisky, a shave, a box of matches, or a plug of tobacco, all sold for the same price, twenty-five cents.
Now, it is not surprising that a town of this kind would attract all kinds of persons, good, bad and indifferent; and that occasionally there arose feuds and personal differences which required immediate adjustment.
Gambling and painted women were the chief cause of most of Dodge City's violence; race prejudice was also a factor. The town started out peaceably enough and had it not been for the steady influx of these two lawless elements, its early history might read differently. But the women and the gamblers came, together with three-card monte, poker, faro, and roulette—and with this combination came trouble swift and certain.
The first man killed in Dodge was a negro called "Tex." He had had some trouble with a gambler known as "Denver," and it seems the two parted without effecting a settlement. Procuring a gun "Denver" stationed himself over Jim Kelly's saloon and lay in wait for his victim. "Tex," unconscious of danger, happened along soon afterward, and was shot through the top of the head. For this crime "Denver" was not seriously molested.
In the spring of 1873 another negro, who drove a hack to and from Fort Dodge, was killed. It appears that while he was temporarily absent from his rig, a gang of saloon loafers took possession of it and started out for a hilarious ride. The colored driver on reappearing, ran indiscreetly after the crowd, protesting against their conduct, and he was shot down in cold blood. This murder caused trouble, for the dead man was or had been a private employee of Col. R. I. Dodge out at the fort. Col. Dodge at once started an investigation, which resulted in sending Hicks, one of the gang, to the penitentiary. "Scotty," an accomplice, hid in an ice box in Peacock's saloon, and although the town was surrounded by United States cavalry, he was spirited safely away that night. Hicks' confession of guilt was candid. After the murder, the corpse had been thrown upon the sidewalk and covered with a buffalo hide. Walking up to the body and coolly jerking aside its covering, Hicks pointed to a certain bullet hole, with the remark, "I shot him there!"
During the first year of Dodge City's existence about fourteen men were shot. This high rate of crime may have been due partly to the fact that the county was then, as already noted, unorganized. For judicial purposes it was attached to Ellis county on the north, which arrangement made the courts of justice cumbersome; in fact so slowly did criminal justice move that men usually preferred to redress their own grievances.
Even during the balmiest days the spirit of law was never entirely lacking in Dodge. Besides the above-mentioned lack of a county organization which worked a severe judicial handicap, for over a year the town was rent into factions. At first there was a civil and a military division, many citizens hotly resenting the right of soldiers from the fort to make arrests in the town even when lawlessness was openly defiant. Other men, of course, clamored for an orderly community even if martial law were required to secure it.
With the coming of the cattle trade which followed closely the arrival of the railroad, matters took on a new aspect. The town then split into "gang" and "anti-gang" elements, the latter faction adhering politically to the county outside as opposed to Dodge City proper. This was just after Ford County had been organized.
The cowboys who now started coming to town in great numbers were not always so bad as they have been represented. Often—too often—they would begin a riotous celebration shooting out lights and committing other acts of violence that were not conducive to public safety. Again, they would take exception to the extortionate business methods practiced by the gamblers and saloonmen and "start trouble." There were, of course, marshals, and more marshals to preserve peace when possible; and these officials naturally stood in with the "gang" or town clique. As a result, the cowboys usually got the worst of it though they managed now and then to create a lot of excitement in their efforts to even up their alleged wrongs.
Several extracts from the correspondence between Colonel R. I. Dodge, Commandant at the fort, and Governor Thomas Osborn of Kansas are here reproduced. They furnish a good contemporary picture of the conditions that prevailed in 1873 and they also show the inevitable difficulties that arise when military and civil authority conflict.
To Governor Thomas Osborn, Leavenworth, Kansas. A most foul and cold-blooded murder committed last night by ruffians in Dodge City. County organized but no election yet. Had nobody with power to act. Please authorize the arrest of murderers.
Richard I. Dodge, Major Third Inf. Comdg.
Leavenworth, Kan.,
June 4, 1873.
To Richard I. Dodge,
Major Comdg. Third Infantry,
Fort Dodge, Kansas.

Until Ford County is fully organized you are authorized to hold, subject to orders of the civil authorities of the proper judicial districts, all persons notoriously guilty of a violation of the criminal laws of this state. I desire that you should exercise authority with great care and only in extreme cases.
Thomas A. Osborn,
Governor of Kansas.

A few weeks later the Colonel addressed to the Governor a long letter of which portions follow:
Fort Dodge, Kan., July 5, 187S.
Gov. T. A. Osborn,
Topeka, Kan.

Governor:—Since Judge Brown held court here there have been two more attempts at murder in Dodge City, a negro being the sufferer in each case. The man shot last night will probably die, being wounded in head and lungs.
It is hardly necessary to invite your attention to the fact that I am not the proper person to exercise civil authority. Sec. 18, Act Appd. July 15, 1872, provides that any officer of the army on the active list who shall exercise the functions of a civil office shall thereby vacate his commission.
In making the arrest of the murderers in the Taylor case I exercised no function of civil office, but simply, as a citizen, obeyed the order of the chief magistrate of the state. Should I, however, continue to make arrests of "persons found violating the criminal laws of Kansas" it might be argued that I was violating the spirit if not the letter of the law quoted.
Besides this, there is, as you know, throughout the whole country a very great jealousy on the part of civilians and civilian officers of any interference of the military, and officers of the army are, and must be, extremely careful of their actions in such cases.
In declining to act any further against the ruffians of Dodge City I feel it my duty to make a statement of some facts and to point out some difficulties under which you will labor in undertaking to bring the town under the control of law.
Every one who has had experience of life in railroad and mining towns in unorganized counties or territories beyond the reach of civil law is perfectly aware of the necessity of "vigilance committees," so-called organizations which take upon themselves the right and duty of punishing crime when otherwise it would go on unpunished and unpunishable. Were it not for such organizations life and property would be at the mercy of villains ejected from law-abiding communities and whose only hope of life outside of jails is the absence of the authority of law.
So long as these organizations confine themselves to the legitimate object of punishing crime they are not only laudable but absolutely necessary. It is not often that the propertyowning and valuable class of citizens is strong enough to do this work alone. They are obliged to receive into their organizations some of the roughs. These in turn take in others worse than themselves, until, as I have often seen it, a vigilance committee organized by good men in good faith has become after a while simply an organized band of robbers and cutthroats.
Another difficulty: Having banded together and taken certain obligations as to secrecy, mutual protection of the good men sometimes finds them obliged to aid and abet what in their own hearts they know to be cold-blooded crime perpetrated by their associates. The town of Dodge City is under the control of such a band of vigilantes—some good men, some bad. The murder of Taylor was committed by these vigilantes, who were called together on the first alarm, then dispersed to search for Taylor, and while Scott and Hicks (vigilantes both) dragged him from the drug store and shot him to death at least a dozen other vigilantes stood by ready and obliged to take a hand in the shooting if necessary. Among them were good men who would be shocked at the thought of committing individual crime, and yet they aided, abetted and became "particeps criminis" in the most cowardly and cold-blooded murder I have ever known in an experience of frontier life dating back to 1848.
Of course the vigilantes are only a small portion of the population of Dodge City. It is probable they do not number over thirty or forty men; but, being organized and unscrupulous, they are able to exercise a complete tyranny of terror over the really good citizens who lack organization.
In selecting a man from Dodge City to execute the laws, you risk appointing a member of the vigilantes (all the members being known only to themselves), who would use his power for the benefit of the vigilantes; or you appoint a man well disposed to carry out your views but paralyzed by terror and utterly powerless to do anything.
The government is supposed to give protection. It protects these citizens from the Indians at great expense, yet leaves them to the tender mercies of a foe a thousand times more bloody and brutal than the Indians and infinitely more dangerous because he is in our very midst. ,
I sincerely hope that you may be able to devise some means of giving security to these people.
Richard I. Dodge, Major Third Infantry.
The governor thanked the army officer for this communication and took the matter under advisement. For making civil arrests during this period of turmoil Dodge was subsequently arrested and sued for $5,300 by private parties, but Governor Osborn, through Senator Ingalls, secured the services of the United States District Attorney to defend the Major, and the case fell flat.
Without going further into details it is only necessary to say that Dodge City, like other frontier places, finally secured peace and quiet. While during the worst days the south side of the railroad tracks was given over to saloonmen and gamblers, the north side was usually kept respectable. In taming the town, heroic measures were sometimes used. The old calaboose was a well fifteen feet deep in which drunken men were given time to become sober; this effective "cooler" sometimes held four or five inmates at once. The final cleaning up of the community was effected through the ability of certain fearless citizens to enforce the law backed by an overwhelming public sentiment that demanded law enforcement. In the long run this town, like every other, became exactly what its citizens willed it to be.
It may be worth while to present a few anecdotes, both trivial and tragic, which characterized its existence when Dodge City was on the railroad frontier.
Old Jim Kelly, a well-known barkeeper, had a tame bear named Paddy. Now Paddy was something of a town pet although the boys were in the habit of tormenting the brute now and then. One morning, after enduring an uncommon lot of persecution, Paddy ran into the Dodge House, the leading hotel, looking for protection.
It happened that one of the downstairs guest rooms was occupied by a commercial traveler, just in from the East. Having retired late the night before he still was asleep, and as the weather was warm his door stood ajar. Into this room rushed Paddy who sought refuge under the bed. For a time all was quiet save for the heavy breathing of the tired wayfarer.
Finding he no longer was pursued the bear finally began to feel uncomfortable, since there was none too much room between the bed slats and the floor. While Bruin was changing his position the bed—mattress, covers, traveling-man, slats, springs and all were heaved wildly about, which quickly brought the slumberer to his senses. Hastily peering under the wrecked bed, he saw two fiery eyes glaring at him. And Paddy, thinking perhaps that his tormentors had returned, ventured to growl. The next instant the hotel clerk heard a yell and a white figure shot through the office and out of doors. Clad only in a night shirt, the scared visitor sprinted the entire length of Front Street, never stopping until he reached the depot. Here he was overtaken by a couple of citizens who, after reassuring him that there was no danger, escorted him back to the hotel. It is said that the traveling-man left town on the next east-bound train.
One day a cowpuncher came to town bent on having a good time. So he strolled into the Green Front saloon and played his money on a game of chance. In a short time the cattleman was a serious loser and, angry at this ill luck, he determined to bring "charges" against the proprietor of the place for running a gambling house in defiance of the law. So he hunted up the Honorable Mr. Wright, mayor of the town, and after introducing himself presented his case somewhat after this manner:
"A feller in that 'er Green Front has just robbed me of mor'n sixteen dollars and I wants ter have 'im pulled."
"Been gamblin', have ye?" retorted Mr. Wright. Then, addressing the city marshal, Bill Tilghman, who was just crossing the street, he shouted, "Here, Bill, is a fellow who's been gamblin'. Run him in!"
So the prisoner was hauled into police court, where he was fined ten dollars and costs as an object lesson for those who might presume to violate the anti-gambling laws of Dodge City.
There once was a cattleman named Peppard, who was heartily disliked by the Marshals of Dodge. Whenever he came to town trouble always started, and the following story will attempt to describe one particular instance in which he vexed the peace officers of that town.
While driving up a number of cattle for shipment, it is alleged that Peppard's boss killed a negro cook—this being done merely to please Peppard, with whom the boss was intimate. On arriving at Dodge City these two men had a falling-out and, in the language of the time, vowed to "get" each other. Peppard soon located his employer behind a saloon bar, and blazed away at him with a charge of buckshot. But the boss, being a spry person, managed to dodge behind an ice box and so escaped unhurt.
The boys would allow no more shooting in the "Green Front" and, after taking away Peppard's gun, they admonished him against further disorders of this kind and told him to leave.
But Peppard was a man of great persistence and he was determined to get even with the boss. Procuring the services of a friend, the two started out to the spot where the negro had been killed, about twenty-five miles from town. On arriving, they dug up the remains, severed the head with an ax and started back to Dodge, having what they thought would be sufficient legal evidence to convict their enemy of murder. When it was presented in court the bullet hole in the skull was claimed to be prima facie evidence of the defendant's guilt.
The case was well argued. The prosecution claimed that producing the head in court was equivalent to all the body being present. The bullet hole was, of course, convincing proof of murder.
The defense on the other hand claimed that, since the crime had been committed miles away, the remains were naturally scattered. Hence, if Ford County had jurisdiction over the head, Comanche County, or any neighboring county might therefore go to trial over the other portions of the body.
After much deliberation the court ruled that the case should be given a continuance until the remaining portions of the body could be produced in court—which decision so disgusted Peppard that he left the place and never returned.
It happened during the cattle days, in 1877. Bat Masterson 1 was then sheriff of Ford County and his brother, Ed, was marshal of Dodge City.
One afternoon a gang of Texas cowboys, headed by a fellow known as Corporal Walker, came to town. It seems 1 Still a noted character who at last reports was in New York City.
they were in ugly humor, and, taking possession of a dance hall, started trouble. For a time they were not molested and had things their own way, until their conduct became unbearable even for Dodge City. So the proprietor sent a message to the authorities asking for help and to this request the Masterson brothers responded.
Hurrying to the building, Bat, who was some distance in advance, entered first to see what was going on. It was now early evening. Ed had scarcely reached the door when he met a Texan named Wagner coming out. Always quiet and a gentleman, Ed politely remarked, "Guess I had better disarm you." Drawing his revolver as if to surrender, the cowboy suddenly pressed the muzzle against Masterson's body and fired, setting fire to his victim's clothes. Hearing the report, Bat rushed out, only to see Ed stagger away groaning and with the words, "I've got my dose, Bat; I'm done for."
Bat did not stop for sentiment. Leaping from the sidewalk into the shadowy street, he exclaimed, "Put out the fire, Ed, and try to get some help while I attend to these devils." Scarcely had he spoken before he shot Walker, the leader—who had suddenly appeared—once, twice, through the lungs and through the side. Wagner was shot down with a single bullet just as he was coming through the door. He died that night.
The crowd inside stampeded and broke for cover. Running into the building, Masterson saw that his work had been thoroughly accomplished. In less time than it takes to tell it he had avenged his brother and scattered the gang.
Meanwhile, Walker had managed to reach the rear room of an adjoining saloon, where he fell. Bat Masterson again rushing from the dance hall found Walker missing and at once trailed him into the self-same barroom only to find him dead. Coming out he met his friend, M. W. Sutton, an attorney. "Come on, Mike," said Bat, "let's hurry and see how poor Ed is getting along."
So they ran across the street in search of the wounded man. It was unnecessary to go far. Ed had staggered to the railroad tracks a few rods north, where he fell and was breathing his last when they reached him. Overcome with grief, Bat turned away, followed by Sutton. The hero of a dozen gunfights sat down on the sidewalk, with tears streaming down his face.
"It will grieve poor mother to death," was all he said.
Thus did three men die in one of the many tragedies of the old railroad frontier.
A well-behaved tenderfoot had no trouble in Dodge City. While there is no authentic record of unsophisticated visitors ever being made to dance at the muzzle of a revolver, the verdant young man from back East usually got what he was looking for. If he were peace-loving and attended strictly to his business he was treated with respect. If, on the other hand, he sought trouble or was anxious to "show off," the boys could always accommodate him.
"Playing Indian" was the favorite method of initiating curious visitors. As might be expected in a frontier town in those days, many people owned Indian trophies, such as war bonnets, shields, bows and arrows, beaded shirts, moccasins and leggings. This paraphernalia was turned to good account in many a joke of which the following is typical. Once a Hebrew named Cohen came out from Kansas City for a hunt, engaging Chalkley Beeson as guide. No sooner were the pair started than the boys arrayed themselves in Indian finery, and mounting their ponies, made a wide detour, secreting themselves in a ravine near which Beeson and Cohen must pass. Having traveled several miles, Mr. Beeson, as prearranged, began to explain to his com: panion that Indians had been seen only a few days before, that a party of Cheyennes had been committing outrages in the vicinity and that there was more or less danger.
Suddenly a fierce warwhoop was heard and the lonely hunters saw a band of painted "warriors" headed straight toward them at full gallop—not two hundreds yards away. There was nothing to do but race their horses back to town if they were to escape this villainous looking crowd. As the yells grew louder, Cohen began to pray for deliverance. Luckily for him he had a good horse, so swift that Beeson could scarcely keep up with him. So the baffled "Indians" were soon left far behind, but they reappeared that evening at the "Long Branch," where the Jew cheerfully bought drinks for the crowd.
On another occasion the tables were turned. A young man who had just arrived from somewhere in the East desired to fight Indians. He was warned that the sandhills were full of warriors but that it might be possible to bag a few antelopes without being massacred. So after the usual jaunt over the prairies the "attack" began and as usual the guide and his frightened companion galloped madly toward town while the crowd behind screamed and fired guns. But, as ill-luck would have it, the visitor had been furnished a slow horse, which soon began to lag. Finding that he could not escape his pursuers, the Easterner suddenly wheeled about and began pumping away at the crowd with a repeating rifle. Due to his excitement, he shot wildly or somebody might have been killed. Finally, to avoid bloodshed, the would-be jokers threw off their Indian headgear and confessed that it was only a prank after all.
Time has worked changes upon the little group of men who made stirring history in Dodge City. Many are dead, some are scattered, and only a few remain. The lives of those who survive have blended from the wild frontier days into the present conditions of modern life. In looking back over more than forty years they have seen the pastures turned into wheat fields and the cattle trails changed to irrigating ditches. Within their memory the buffaloes and the Indians have disappeared, and the picturesque cowboy has vanished. And so we now turn to the cause of this great transition—the colonizing activities of the railroad.







Kansas Cowtowns: 


Vintage Abilene, Kansas postcard.Abilene - Abilene already existed before it became a cow town. In 1857, it was established as a stagecoach stop and was officially laid out in 1860. However, it retained a sleepy existence until a livestock dealer from Illinois, named Joseph G. McCoy saw Abilene as the perfect place for a railhead from which to ship cattle from in 1867.


The city soon filled with not only cowboys, but also gamblers, outlaws, and prostitutes. By 1870, it had become so lawless, that Abilene hired its first marshal, Thomas Smith, whose first official act was to issue an order that no one would be allowed to carry firearms within the city limits without a permit. However, Smith was killed in the line of duty before the year ended. The next year, Wild Bill Hickok became the city's marshal. Abilene reigned supreme as the Queen of Kansas cowtowns until new railheads in Newton, Wichita and Ellsworth, became the favored shipping points in 1872. During its four year reign, over 3 million head of cattle were driven up the Chisholm Trail and shipped from Abilene. More ...


Baxter Springs - The first Kansas cowtown to develop was Baxter Springs, in the corner of southeast Kansas. In 1865, after the war was over, a town was laid out on 80 acres by Captain M. Mann and J. J. Barnes and soon thereafter Baxter Springs became an outlet for the Texas cattle trade. As Missouri became off-limits for Texas cattle due to quarantines, Baxter Springs welcomed them to Kansas. The community built stockyards with corrals capable of holding 20,000 cattle and provided range land with plenty of grass and water. Though the town took on all the appearances of prosperity, it also inherited a reputation for being one of the wildest cowtowns in the West. Baxter Springs remained cattle outlet through the 1870’s as the herds were driven up the Old Shawnee Trail. More ...


Brookville - When the Kansas Pacific Railroad arrived in 1870, the town served briefly as a cattle shipping area. It soon boasted 800 people, a bank, a newspaper, telegraph and express offices, and a post office, as well as a few other businesses. Today, Brookville is a virtual ghost town with just about 200 people and no open businesses.


Caldwell, Kansas 1880'sCaldwell - Challenging Dodge City for the cattle market in the 1880's, Caldwell was known as the "Border Queen," for her location near the Oklahoma border. Situated along the Chisholm Trail, Caldwell catered to the many cowboys who passed by with their large cattle herds on their way to Abilene and Wichita even before the town became a shipping point itself. However, in 1879, the Santa Fe Railroad extended its line to Caldwell , and the town found itself in the middle of the cattle trade. In no time, it sprouted saloons, gambling dens, and brothels, providing a place where the cowboys could go wild after months on the dusty and treacherous trail. Gunfights, showdowns, general hell raising and hangings soon became commonplace. More ...


Coffeyville - As early  as 1803 the present site of Coffeyville was occupied by the Black Dog band of Osage Indians who roamed this part of Kansas and northern Oklahoma, hunting buffalo. The site was first settled by white men in 1869 when Colonel James A. Coffey established an Indian Trading Post. News of the trading post spread quickly through the tribes living southward in Indian Territory and the business thrived. Soon a number of settlers came to the area and the new town that formed around the trading post was called Coffeyville, in the Colonel's honor.


A town was officially formed with the arrival of the Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston railroad in 1871. It soon became yet another one of the famous Kansas Cowtowns as Texas cattleman used it as a shipping point. Saloons, dance halls and gambling places multiplied as the city served three major rail lines. Soon it took on the name of "Cow Town" due to its shipping point status and the large number of cattle grazing the open range surrounding the town. Once the railheads moved to Texas, Coffeyville settled down, that least until the famous Dalton Gang Raid in 1892. Probably the best-known incident in Coffeyville history, the event occurred when the Dalton Gang tried to rob two banks simultaneously, but were instead, surprised by local citizens and police officers who fought back. All the members of the Dalton Gang were killed with the exception of Emmett Dalton, who amazingly survived with 23 gunshot wounds. Three citizens, including a U.S. Marshal, Marshal Charles T. Connelly, died in defense of the town.


Toward the end of the 19th Century, Coffeyville continued to grow as a trading center and prosperous farming region. In 1900, the town progressed into manufacturing and by 1915 it had grown to a population of nearly 19,000 residents. However, when the plants started closing, people moved on. Today the town supports about 10,000 souls.



Continued Next Page


The Dalton Gang killed

The bodies of Bill Power, Bob Dalton, Grattan Dalton and Dick Broadwell in Coffeyville, Kansas.

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