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Kansas Cowtowns - Lawlessness on the
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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.
ranchers were only too happy to meet the demand.
Immediately following the war, a number of
Kansas cowtowns began to
spring up along the developing railheads. Beginning in
and expanding westward along with the railroad to
Dodge City, these cities all developed a
reputation as wild and wooly frontier towns. Secondary cattle markets
Great Bend, Hays,
and Junction City also achieved periods of brief success as cowtowns.
Meeting the demands of the many
cowboys coming off the
Trail, dance halls and
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
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
Texas Longhorns were driven to these shipping points.
However, by the mid-1880's, a number of events ended the cattle drive era
Kansas. Most prominently was the arrival of the railroad into
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 cowtowns that
Old West characters gained or bolstered their reputations, men
Wild Bill Hickok,
Wesley Hardin, and dozens of others. In these wild frontier towns also
occurred some of the most famous
gunfights of the American West including
Dalton Gang Shoot-Out in
Hide Park Gunfight in Newton, and
Long Branch Saloon Shootout
Abilene already existed before it became a cowtown. 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
The Kansas Cowtowns - Violent
Places on the American Frontier - Page 2city soon filled with not only
cowboys, but also
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
cowtowns until new railheads in Newton,
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
with just about 200 people and no open businesses.
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
Caldwell catered to the
who passed by with their large cattle herds on their way to
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
gambling dens, and brothels, providing a place where the
could go wild after months on the dusty and treacherous trail.
showdowns, general hell raising and hangings soon became commonplace.
Coffeyville - As
early as 1803 the present site of Coffeyville was occupied by
the Black Dog band of
roamed this part of
Kansas and northern
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
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
Texas, Coffeyville settled down, that least until the famous
Dalton Gang Raid in 1892. Probably the best-known incident in
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
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