` Southwestern Kansas History
In 1855 the "Bogus" Legislature of Kansas formed Washington county. It included all of Southwestern Kansas, and much other territory. Washington county was attached to Allen county for judicial purposes. (Laws of 1855.)

The Legislature of 1857 cut down Washington county almost to its present size, but there was no provision made for the territory in this part of the state, and it was left nameless. (Laws of 1857.)

Eight new counties were created by the Legislature of 1860 Among these was the county of Peketon, which included all that part of the state west of the sixth principal meridian to New Mexico, and south of Township 16, i.e., the entire area of Kansas west of the present Marion County and south of the present Saline county. (General Laws of 1860.)

The Legislature of 1865 wiped out the county of Peketon and enlarged Marion county to include all the territory in Peketon. In 1867 Marion was reduced to very nearly its present form, and the southwest corner of Kansas was again left without a name.

During July and August of 1872 this region was surveyed. The first selection of land was made by the Santa Fe railroad, which occurred January 18, 1873. That same winter the entire area of Southwest Kansas was divided into counties and named as follows: Hamilton, Kearny, Sequoyah, Stanton, Grant, Arapahoe, Kansas, Stevens, Seward, Scott, Wichita, Greeley, Lane, Gray and Meade. A land office was located at Larned in 1874 for this part of the state.

With the building of railroads through Western Kansas the Indians were finally driven from the plains and herded into reservations; and the buffaloes were soon all slaughtered by the hunters. Practically all the land thus vacated belonged to the United States government, or to the railroad companies. The Santa Fe land grant in this region comprised a strip twenty miles wide and one hundred thirty miles long of alternate sections, extending from near Dodge City to the Colorado line. Most of this grant west of Dodge lay in the Arkansas river valley, the most favorable between eastern Kansas and the Rocky Mountains. The Indian and the buffalo were gone, and here lay thousands of acres of good grazing land waiting only for cattle. The cattlemen had the free consent of both government and railroad to use the range, and they hastened to take possession. Almost immediately this big expanse of pasture was covered with the longhorn Texas cattle and cowboys. The "long trail" from Texas was the means of stocking this vast area quickly.

THE CATTLE RANGE AND THE COWBOYS
"Twas good to live when all the sod
Without no fence nor fuss,
Belonged in partnership to God
The government and us."


The real history of all Western Kansas began with the cattle which were first driven up over the trail from Texas. Those drives marked the beginning of that brief period during which the cattlemen reigned supreme; and was one of the most interesting epochs in the development of this region.

The story of those veteran cowmen of the south who dared to drive their cattle over the long trails to shipping points in Kansas is full of thrills and romance. But the life of the drovers and cowboys who accompanied the herds was by no means an easy one. They endured constant exposure and privations. Their life was always in danger. Accidents, stampedes, marauding bands of Indians and horse and cattle thieves harassed them continually. Those cowboys were the real pioneers of the prairie, and their charge, the long-legged Texas cow, has been dubbed "the mother of the West".

The noted firm of Barton Brothers introduced the cattle industry into the western third of Kansas. They left southern Texas in February, 1872, with 3,000 head of long-horn cattle and headed for the Arkansas river in Western Kansas. However, there were many tribes of hostile Indians and gangs of Mexican desperadoes between them and their destination. They were forced to abandon their original plan of crossing the Indian Territory, and follow the western or Pecos trail, whose course was up the Pecos river valley in New Mexico and on north to Colorado. Striking the Arkansas river at Pueblo they followed its course down to the present town of Garden City, and camped beneath a big, old cottonwood tree. Its giant trunk had been half burned and almost stripped of branches to furnish fuel for Santa Fe trail travellers, but it furnished a marker for their camp site that could be seen many miles out on the range by the cowboys. They remained at this location until fall, when they established ranch headquarters for the winter in dugouts built in the bank of the Arkansas river at Pierceville. From that time on their cattle range was south of the river, between Pierceville and Cimarron, and south to the Red river of Texas. The personnel of the Barton Brothers company in charge of cattle at this time was D. W. (Doc) Barton, Al Barton, D. Eubank, and Tom Connell. They were assisted by twelve drovers and cowboys.

Indians of different tribes occupied the country; some just hunting while passing through to other reservations; others out scouting around for mischief and on the warpath. But some of the tribes lived here the year 'round. In the year 1876 Mr. Barton kept a herd of one hundred and sixty good saddle horses up on Pawnee creek. That winter the Northern Sioux Indians were also wintering on the Pawnee. They were out on the warpath and short of horses, but they did not bother Mr. Barton's herd, and his herds of cattle were never at any time molested by the Indians.

Mr. Barton was here with his cattle before the first structure of any kind was built in Dodge City, and he has lived in or near there during all these years, and has witnessed every step in its development. He knew all the famous characters of Dodge City and the frontier and many of them were employed to work in his outfits. The "Slaughter Kid" worked for him three years. He had a bad reputation, but Mr. Barton says he was a good hand. Ben Hodges,. the reputed desperado and horse thief, also worked for Mr. Barton for a few years. He was well acquainted with the Daltons, Billy the Kid and all the so-called bad characters that made Dodge City famous. But he says there was just one cowboy buried on Boot Hill, the rest were gamblers and a rough element that ran the town.

Mr. Barton gradually bred his herds up until he had a good grade, and his cattle business prospered until the blizzard of 1886. At that time he lost eleven thousand head of grade cattle and eight hundred that were registered. Mr. Barton still lives at Ingalls, Kansas, and is eighty years of age, but he appears to be many years younger. For many years he has been engaged in wheat ranching.

Those men who made cattle raising their business in the early days were forced to live always on the edge or just beyond settlement. This was necessary in order that they might graze their stock on the uninhabited wilderness beyond. Very few of those early ranchmen owned much of the land they used. They usually owned the land on which the ranch buildings were located and also the watering places on their range. They obtained this by homesteading or buying it from the railroad company. In this way each held a monopoly within the agreed boundary limits of his range. They paid no taxes; they paid no rent; their range was free. About the only expense was the wages paid for help. The grass was very nutritious and they depended entirely upon it for feed. In this semi-arid climate it cured upon the ground and became as good for winter grazing as for summer use. Unless the winters were too severe, cattle grew fat with-out other feed.

A few years after the Bartons arrived in this region with their first herd of Texas cattle, trails were opened up through the Indian Territory to Dodge City, and at once it became the most popular of all the shipping points in Kansas for the Texas trail herds. At first the herds were allowed to feed along the trail only in passing. They soon found, however, that it was good business to arrive at the shipping point early and allow the cattle to graze on the Kansas grass for a month or two before putting them on the market. Many times they were forced to hold them on the prairie for quite a period waiting for a buyer.

There were different ways of disposing of a herd when they arrived at the shipping point. They might sell to eastern buyers, or ship on their own account. Or they might drive them on into open territories and sell direct to ranchers; but they much preferred to sell to buyers on the prairies. In the beginning of the drives the Texans sold their cattle by the head, and they had to be paid in gold. As they became better acquainted with the buyers, they accepted exchange on Kansas City, St. Louis and New York and learned to sell by the pound. Cattle of any age or condition above four years of age was called beef.

Some of the buyers were Indian agents who contracted for herds to be delivered to the reservations. Other government contracts were for the use of soldiers who were garrisoned at various places on the prairies. In those years of the cattle trade herds were being moved continually by the various owners and buyers in all directions across Western Kansas. During these drives a number of the cattle would always break away from the main herds and were left behind on the range. These were the so-called "wild cattle" which the early settlers found roaming free on the prairie.

The Texas cattle of trail days had long slender legs with the backbone prominent. The bones were covered with little flesh and still less fat. The face was narrow with a pointed nose, but the heads were invariably topped with long, sharp horns. The average length of the horns was between five and six feet. It has been said "the old-time Texas ranger was about fifty-fifty on horns and the rest of him". The horns were so long that the drovers experienced the greatest difficulty in getting the animals through the car doors when the shipments were made.

The eastern buyers began early to place yearling steers on ranches surrounding Dodge City. At the end of two years they would market them at a big profit. Many of the cattle driven up were bought by ranchers who used them to stock this country. And many men went to Texas and bought and drove up their own herds. It took but a short time for all the available grazing lands near Dodge City to be taken up. As others came in desiring range they began to reach out in surrounding territory. Before 1880 the entire area from Dodge City to the Colorado line had all been parcelled out, and was claimed by various ranchers. Their branded herds mingled more or less together as they ranged over this territory.

The cattlemen usually lived comfortably at ranch headquarters or in town. But the cowboys who took charge of the herds were scattered day and night over their vast range of prairies.

They were always on patrol, forming an army of volunteer mounted guards, and were a big aid in protecting the frontier. This region was not sufficiently organized to have much protection by the law, and the carrying of deadly weapons was a prevailing custom of that day. The cowboys were always armed and were forced sometimes to be a "law unto themselves", especially when it came to dealing out justice to cattle and horse thieves and other notorious offenders of the law. The warnings of the Indian outbreaks were swiftly carried by them to the settlers, and also to the military authorities. Many times the cowboys could settle Indian troubles themselves; it was a well-known fact that the Indians had more fear and respect for the cowboys than they had for the soldiers.

The cowboy holds a prominent place in American history and will always be a favorite character in American literature. The original cowboys of the far southwest may have been the toughs they were pictured, but after the civil war the cowboy was certainly a different character. Northern men of all classes joined the ranks of the cow-punchers. Farmers' sons, college men and sons of noblemen from across the seas; but it didn't matter who they had been or what they had done, they won a place on the plains as "cowboy" after they had proven what they could do.

The qualities of a genuine cowboy were good horsemanship and a skillful use of the lariat. He suffered more hardships than any other type of pioneer. His work kept him always in the open and he was forced to endure constant exposure and fatigue. He did not desert the herd to protect himself even in the worst blizzard, tornadoes or hail and thunder storms. He may have been rough acting, but not a desperado. He was always mounted on a well-trained horse, and in his work with the cattle on the range controlled only by the voice and never used a whip. During a threatened stampede they would circle the herd and hold them together by singing.

It is impossible at this late date to collect all the names of those first venturesome men who dared to carry on their business among the Indians and the outlaws. The country was inhabited only by wild beasts and deadly rattlesnakes. Those men gave no thought to preserving historical data. They knew little and cared less about the political and geographical divisions of the region they were occupying. They rode from Dodge City to Colorado and from the Arkansas river to the Red river of Texas, but the distance was not gauged by miles. Their saddle horses were not equipped with modern mileage registers; they travelled by time. They had no idea how many miles it was between certain points, but they knew exactly how many hours, or days, or weeks it would take to get there, barring unexpected delays.

The following information concerning the various cattle, horse and sheep ranchers was secured from old files of the Garden City newspapers. Each issue contained a directory of the various ranchers and their range:

The Hardesty brothers were among the very earliest to range cattle in this territory. During the `70's they ranged from Dodge City to the Colorado line. Later they had headquarters on Beaver Creek in "No Man's Land." Their main brand was lazy bar S on left hip, and lazy bar W on left side.

One of the first cattle and sheep ranches to be established was that of Meyers, who had headquarters at Lakin and his range was between Lakin and Sherlock. The earliest known horse ranch was that of H. Porter. His headquarters were on the river south of Sherlock. In 1881 Fred Harvey bought the range of both Porter and Meyers, which gave him the entire range between Lakin and Garden City, and his round-up covered the territory between the Arkansas and Canadian rivers. He brought his cattle down from Wallace, Kansas. Major Falls was in charge of his cattle operations and S. H. Corbett was one of the cowboys. The brand was X Y, and it was known as the X Y range.

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Note: Text taken from "Conquest of Southwest Kansas" by Leola Howard Blanchard, which can be ordered through the Finney County Historical Museum.


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