Ulysses - Born Twice
and Still Kickin!
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Ulysses, Kansas in
1929, courtesy Wichita State University. Interestingly, Gray and
Rosel, which you see on the second building, was still in
business until just a few years ago.
Ulysses 80 years later, Kathy Weiser, April, 2009.
Cimarron Branch of the old
Santa Fe Trail, in
Ulysses was born twice. The first time was in 1885 when it was
founded, and then a second time when the entire town was loaded onto
skids and moved three miles across the prairie.
Ulysses was established on
March 20, 1873 about the time that the
Santa Fe Trail
traffic was beginning to slow down due to the coming of the steam
engine to western
But, the steam engine itself led to a number of towns springing up in
Zionville and several other now
At one time, there were some twenty different post offices in
Grant County; however,
all of the post offices with the exception of Ulysses are gone. The
only other remaining towns are the tiny little unincorporated burgs of
The town was named for
General Ulysses S. Grant and the settlement was surveyed by
George Washington Earp, first cousin to
fame, in 1885.
Earp was one of Ulysses’ first promoters, a businessman
and, like his cousins, its first peace officer. Furthermore,
according to legend, he was just as "free with his gun” as Wyattand his bunch.
By 1886, the town boasted nearly 1,500
people, an opera house, a large hotel, a number of other businesses,
even though Kansas was considered a dry state at the time. Just two
years later, it had added 500 residents, three hotels, six saloon,
and also supported twelve restaurants.
When Grant County was first established
in 1887, there were two candidates for the county seat
-- Ulysses and and Tilden (later called Appomattox.) The
governor's proclamation was not made until June, 1888, which named
Ulysses as the temporary county seat
and appointed County Officers.
A few months later, an election was held to
determine the permanent location of the county seat on October 16, 1888. Before
and after the election, the two towns were embroiled and a fierce county seat
would later say that the Ulysses Town
Company imported several noted gun men "to protect the security of the ballot"
at the elections. Among them were
Ed Dlathe, Jim Drury, Bill Wells,
Ed Short and
others. The men built a lumber barricade across the street from the polling
place, stationing themselves behind it with their Winchesters and six-shooters,
in case of trouble or attempts to steal the ballot box. But, no trouble erupted
and in the end, the election resulted in a win for Ulysses.
But, like many other
Counties, the fight wouldn’t end there. With charges of corruption, the fight
went all the way to the Kansas
Supreme Court, where evidence was submitted by a Tilden partisan named
Alvin Campbell. He introduced facts to show that the city council of Ulysses had bonded the people to the extent of $36,000 to
buy votes, claiming that the total votes paid for was 388.
It was an “open secret” that votes were bought and “professional voters” had
been brought in and boarded for the requisite 30 days before the election, and
given $10 each when they had voted. But, it was not known at the time that this
had been done at public expense. It was also alleged that “professional toughs”
were also hired to intimidate the Tilden voters.
The exposure of the fact that public funds had been used
created excitement among the citizens of the county, who found themselves
subject to the payment of bonds, and those to blame for the outrage
retaliated upon Alvin Campbell by tarring him in August, 1889.
It was also shown in court that Tilden had bought
votes and engaged in irregular practices, and though Ulysses finally won, it was a
dearly bought victory. Added to the $36,000 spent in the county seat fight
was $13,000 in bonds, which had been voted for a school house and $8,000
for a courthouse. Ulysses has since retained its county seat status.
At the height of the county seat contest between Ulysses and Appomattox
in 1888, Ulysses boasted a population of
2,000 and supported twelve restaurants, four hotels, several other
businesses, six gambling houses, and twelve saloons.
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