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Kansas Cowtowns - Page 2

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Dodge City, Kansas, 1876Dodge City - The wickedest and most well-known of the Kansas cowtowns, Dodge City got its start before the cattle trade as a stop along the Santa Fe Trail and served as a civilian community to nearby Fort Dodge. Later it developed into a buffalo hunting town. In September, 1872 the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad arrived in Dodge City, which would initiate a tremendous growth for many years. 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.


Dance halls, saloons, and brothels increased in number to accommodate the many cowboys. During its "heyday" years, Dodge City hosted list of colorful Old West characters, including such names as Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Bill Tilghman, Clay Allison, Luke Short, "Mysterious" Dave Mather, Doc Holliday, and dozens of others. During this time, the wicked little town was also the site of the Dodge City War and the Long Branch Saloon Shootout. More ...


Ellis - Primarily a railroad town in its early days, Ellis was laid out by the Kansas Pacific Railroad in 1873, though a post office had already been established in 1870. The first business was a merchandise store started by Thomas Daily. The town became a secondary shipping point for cattle herds in 1875, and as such, took on many of the same characteristics typical of other Kansas cowtowns. By 1880, the shipping trade was over. Today, the primarily agricultural town is home to about 1,800 people. 


Ellsworth, Kansas, 1867Ellsworth - Long before Ellsworth began to dominate the cattle market, it was already a turbulent place. The Smoky Hills region had long been home to the Cheyenne and other Indian tribes who roamed the area killing buffalo. However, when the Santa Fe and Smoky Hill Trails came through, they began to raid wagon trains and stagecoaches, prompting the building of nearby Fort Ellsworth, which later changed its name to Fort Harker.


With the railroad extended its line to Ellsworth, the town quickly developed into a thriving cattle market, dominating other Kansas cowtowns from 1871 to 1875. With the flood of cowboys, also came gamblers, outlaws and the inevitable "unruly” women, and a bad reputation. As the era of the cattle drives passed, Ellsworth, like other cowtowns, became a solid business and farming community, today supporting about 2,000 people. More ...


Great Bend - Before it became a town, the site that would become Great Bendheld only a trading post on the Santa Fe Trail, which ran right through the Great Bend's present-day Courthouse Square. The first settlers came to the area about 1870, living in rough dugouts and sod houses. The next year, the town was officially formed, soon becoming a secondary market in the cattle trade, complete with shoot outs, Texas cowboys and saloons. Afterwards, Great Bend settled down as a regional trade center. Today, it is the Barton County Seat and is home to about 15,000 people.  More ...


Hays, Kansas in the late 1800's.Hays City - Hays got its start in 1867 as the southern branch of the Union Pacific Railroad worked its way west. Hays City was named after Fort Hays, which was founded in 1865. Hays, like Junction City and Great Bend, was never a major cattle market, but did receive some business due its location on the 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, at one time sporting 37 saloons and dance halls. A number of colorful Old West characters lived in Hays, including the Custers and the 7th Cavalry, Wild Bill Hickok, and William F. Cody, who acquired his nickname of Buffalo Bill by furnishing buffalo to feed the railroad workers in Hays. Today, Hays has a population over 20,000 and is the county seat of Ellis County


More ....




Hunnewell - In 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. Also typical was that violence was not uncommon and was the site of the Hunnewell Gunfight in 1884. Though the town never grew very large, it dwindled with the loss of the cattle trade. Today it only has about 80 residents.



Continued Next Page


Cattle at the Smoky Hill River near Ellsworth, Kansas

Cattle at the Smoky Hill River near Ellsworth, Kansas, 1867. Photo by Alexander Gardner.

This image available for photographic prints  and downloads HERE!


The Overland Stage in Hays City, Kansas, 1867.

The Overland Stage in Hays City, Kansas , 1867.

This image available for photographic prints  and downloads HERE!


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