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
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
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
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
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
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.
N. J. Earp, post office Garden City. Brand, N E high on right side. A mark in left ear with under and upper slit. Range at Point of Rocks.
A. J. Shorb, post office Garden City. Brand, X S high on left side. Range on Pawnee.
D. R. Menke, dealer in thoroughbred sheep. Range three miles northeast of Garden City.
A. F. Lee, Deerfield, Kansas. Range on Arkansas river between Sherlock and Deerfield.
W. H. Herford, Garden City. Range on Pawnee with Churchill brothers. Cattle branded with flying H on either or both sides. Ear mark, swallow fork left. Under stop right. Horse brand flying H on left shoulder.
D. W. Barton, post office Pierceville. Brand OS on left side, crop off the right ear.
M. L. Lavender, post office Felix, Finney county. Range on Pawnee. Horses branded ML connected, on left shoulder. Cattle branded on the left side.
A. S. Van Patten, Finney county. Cattle branded VAN on left side. Horses branded VP connected, on left shoulder.
Henry Barton, Pierceville, range on south side of the river opposite the town. Branded on the left side and hip with flying V.
Alex M. Kinkaid, post office Garden City. Range twenty miles north on Pawnee. Cattle branded XK on left side. Ear mark, slit in left ear.
August G. Wolfley, Pierceville. Range on Crooked creek. Cattle branded AW on left side; increase brand on neck; horse brand AW on left hip.
Churchill brothers, post office Loyal, ranch on head of Pawnee. Cattle branded on left side J-C. Additionalbrands, J on left hip. Horses and mules branded C on left shoulder.
F. E. Despres, post office Garden City. Cattle branded O on right hip and 4 on right shoulder. Horses branded F. D. on right shoulder. Range four and a half miles north of Garden City.
W. L. Curtis, post office Garden City. Range twenty miles north on Pawnee. Cattle branded WLC on left side. Horses branded C on left shoulder.
Halloway Cattle Company. Peter Van Os, manager. Address, Garden City. Range at Point of Rocks, near Sidney, Finney county. Brand HC on left shoulder.
D. C. Sullivan, Spring Ranch, Hamilton county, post office Lakin.
Barkley and Gregory, Garden City. Thoroughbred and graded Cotswold and Merino sheep. Range on Sherlock section, northeast.
Keyser brothers, post office at Garden City. Range north side of the Arkansas river, eight miles east of Pierceville. Cattle branded bar H on left shoulder and bar H on left hip. Ear marked with swallow fork in right. Additional brands, leg, double H on left hip; ear mark, crop right and under slope left. Also bar T on left side and - on thigh; ear mark, swallow fork and under hit in left.
S. A. Bullard, post office address Dodge City. Range south side of Arkansas between Pierceville and Garden City. Cattle branded cross ++ on left shoulder and circle on left hip; also some with bar on shoulder. Horse brand bar on shoulder; others were branded with cross on shoulder.
The Union Cattle Company. A part of the cattle ranging on the Pawnee, 20 miles north of Garden City, in charge of M. L. Lavender. Balance of the herd was in the Indian Territory. All cattle branded UC. B. Haskell was the general manager, Atchison, Kansas.
A. B. Boylan. Address Lakin. Range, Arkansas river and on the Pawnee with Cranston brothers. Cattle branded B.
E. E. Evans, address Cowland, Kansas. Cattle branded cross ++; also figure 2 on right hip. Horse brand, figure 2 on left shoulder. Range at Hackberry Springs in Finney county.
Isaac Hurst and Sons. Post office Garden City with range north. Cattle branded and owned, viz: those branded IH on left shoulder by Charles Hurst; IH on left side by Wm. Hurst; IH on left hip by Isaac Hurst; those branded with lazy V ( < ) on left side just back of shoulder, and (A) on side and hip, owned by Albert Hurst.
Moss and Moss, post office Loyal, Finney county. Care of Churchill Bros. Texas cattle branded J on left leg.
D. H. Atwater, Sherlock, Kansas. Range near Sherlock. Branded A on left shoulder and T on left hip.
John O'Laughlin, Lakin. Range at Wagon Bed Springs, on the Cimarron thirty miles south. Cattle branded (pig pen) on left side. Ear mark crop off and two splits in right.
D. Pay, Cowland, cattle branded PAY. Range at Hackberry Springs, Finney county.
Dr. A. Sabine, range five miles north of Garden City. Joe Beeson, foreman. Brand Also owned all UC bar cattle in Kansas.
X Y ranch, H. M. Falls, manager, Deerfield. Cattle branded X Y on left side. Left ear cropped.
Lock Locke, post office Lakin. Range on north side of Arkansas river, between Hartland and Coolidge. Cattlebranded IXL bar on left side.
Inge Brothers and Vinzant, Garden City. Brand I N on left side and V on left hip. Range south and east of Deerfield.
Phi Norman Horse Ranch. Headquarters ten miles north of Garden City. Brand, Greek letter Phi on left shoulder. The Phi stud comprises the following stallions: Duke of Monmouth, Lord Balfour, Lafayette, Jim, Frank.
B. F. Smith, Garden City. Breeder of short-horn cattle. Brand box S on left hip.
Cimarron and Crooked Creek Cattle Company. R. E. Steele, manager, range on Cimarron river. Brand, crooked L on left shoulder and hip.
I. R. Holmes, Garden City. Range northwest. Cattle brand T cross on left side.
Goff and Morgan, Garden City. Range north of Arkansas river. Brand D G - on left side.
B. L. Stotts, dealer in thoroughbred and grade sheep. Range Point of Rock.