Ulysses – Born Twice and Still Kickin!

Ulysses, Kansas 1929

Ulysses, Kansas 1929

In the 1920s natural gas was discovered in the area surrounding Ulysses. The Hugoton natural gas field called “The Gas Capital of the United States,” spans over 4,800 square miles. This discovery led to strong area prosperity.

In 1921, the town name was official changed to “Ulysses” rather than “New Ulysses.”

Today, a portion of the Ulysses high school grounds is on the old site of of Appomattox. Part of the old Hotel Edwards is a feature of the local museum, and history abounds at nearby Wagon Bed Spring south of town.

The vast plains that surround Ulysses afford the most spectacular sunrises and sunsets that one has ever seen. For the hunting enthusiast, the area is renowned for its excellent deer and pheasant hunting.

The Cimarron Cutoff on the Santa Fe Trail passed just east of the current site of Ulysses, turned south and crossed the path of current highway US 160 following the Cimarron River.

Wagon Bed Spring, Ulysses, Kansas

Wagon Bed Spring, Ulysses, Kansas

A famous watering spot along the Santa Fe Trail, Wagon Bed Spring, is located ten miles south of Ulysses. The Cimarron cutoff was a risk to those early travelers, as the journey was periled with dry creek beds and frequent Indian attacks. However, there were many willing to take the risk to save hundreds of miles of travel, rather than taking the “safer” trail through Colorado. The “La Jornada,” as the dry crossing between the Cimarron and the Arkansas Rivers became known, was the shortest road from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to the Southwest. It was near here that noted Western explorer and fur trader Jedediah Smith, spent four days without water and was killed by Comanche just as he reached the river.

Though no military post was ever established at Wagon Bed Spring, hundreds of soldiers refreshed themselves there from the start of the Mexican War in 1846 until the railroads replaced the wagon road.

1864 was the bloodiest year for Indian attacks all along the Santa Fe Trail, and 15 men were killed at Wagon Bed Spring during a two week period. Soon, General James H. Carleton, commanding the Department of New Mexico, sent 100 men to Wagon Bed Spring with rations for sixty days. Today, the site still provides “treasure” hunters with caches of lead balls, empty cartridges and arrowheads.

Ulysses, Kansas today

Ulysses, Kansas today

In 1961, Wagon Bed Spring was recognized as a National Historic Landmark. However, the spring itself is long dry from irrigating the fertile fields of western Kansas.

Ulysses is located in Grant County in southwest Kansas.

P.S. – This is the small Kansas town that I grew up in.


© Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March, 2017.

Grant County Museum, Ulysses, Kansas

Grant County Museum, Ulysses, Kansas


Grant County Museum – The museum is an official National Park Service Santa Fe Trail Visitor Center. The museum complex includes an old adobe building that was built in 1938 as a county shop and includes all manner of historical items of the area. Also included is the Hotel Edwards, where you feel as if you have stepped back in time. The complex also includes a one-room schoolhouse. Hours: Monday-Friday 10:00 – 5:00, Saturday & Sunday 1:00 – 5:00. 300 E. Highway 160, (620) 356-3009.

Wagon Bed Spring – Wagon Bed Spring Historical Site is 10 miles south on Hwy 125; follow the signs.














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