FROM OUR PAST
Early Days in Ellsworth
The city of Ellsworth came into existence in 1867 when a survey was made by William McGrath and Colonel Greenwood. H.J. Latshaw selected and laid out the town site on the north bank of the Smoky Hill River in sections 28 and 29. The plot and the certificate were filed for record May 8, 1867, in Saline County.
As a frontier town, during the years of 1867 to 1871, Ellsworth was full of vice. Gun battles were common, hangings were frequent and gambling and drinking were indulged at all hours of the night. Frank A. Root said in part, "There were about 100 business houses in town, many carrying on their trade in tents. All business appeared to be transacted on the high pressure scale. It seems as if nearly every other house in town was a drinking place, while gambling and dance halls and other questionable results were uncommonly numerous."
The Kansas Pacific Railroad was building west from Kansas City and reached Abilene in March 1867. Excitement ran high. It was rumored that Ellsworth would be the western terminal of the Kansas Pacific and the shipping point for the immense business to the Southwest. People came by the hundreds: merchants, lawyers, doctors, gamblers, gunmen, laborers and thieves. Stores, restaurants, hotels, saloons and gambling houses were erected of every conceivable material at hand. E.W. Kingsbury built the first structure, a store and hotel. J. L. Bell sold tin-ware and stoves; Coffin and Harker, Lockstone and Phelps and O. Bell sold groceries and provision. Andres Schmidt sold boots and shoes; and Grieger and Co., a commission house. The town was booming. Between 1,000 and 2,000 people had come to Ellsworth.
In June, 1867, disaster struck the town. The Smoky Hill flooded and four feet of water stood in the street. The poorly built structures collapsed and stocks of goods were swept downstream. The entire town was completely ruined. The townspeople decided to move to a new site and selected section 20, two miles to the northwest.
Shortly after this change was made, cholera broke out and threatened to wipe out the town. People left by the hundreds and the population dwindled to less than 50. By October, the people began to return and Ellsworth became a permanent settlement.
New Ellsworth was laid out in July, 1867, at the same time the Kansas Pacific reached the new site. The town was built on both sides of the track. Two streets, North Main and South Main, consisted of three blocks of buildings facing the tracks.
The town was headquarters for all southwest freight traffic. Many bull and mule trains came bringing in a class of men who were not always of the best reputation.
Some effort at organization took place in August 1867, when the first election was held and county officials were chosen. E.W. Kingsbury was elected sheriff. A bridge company was organized for the purpose of building a bridge across the Smoky; the post office was established July 17, 1867 and the railroad company built the first depot in August, south of the tracks and north of what is now the Tucker Hotel (build by Arthur Larkin in 1874). Ellsworth was incorporated as a village in 1868. With the coming of the cattle trade in 1871-75, Ellsworth became the "rip-roaringest, toughest" Cowtown in the west. The population doubled. A city government was organized and Ellsworth because a third class city. W. Husema was elected mayor, with Leo Herzig, George Seitz, W. Phelps and Frank Graham serving as councilmen and C.B Whitney as marshal. Ordinances were passed regulating the duties and pay of peace officers, use of deadly weapons and restriction of drunks. With this growth more builds were erected to accommodate the trade.
The location of buildings commencing at the west end of South Main shows the Drovers Cottage, which was moved to Ellsworth from Abilene in sections. It was a three-story hotel of 80 rooms and was operated by J.W. and Louisa Gore and M.B. George. It burned in the early 1880s and a pottery factory was built on the site. This location was a block west of the present Helwick Motor Co. Continuing east were Jack New's saloon, John Kelly's American House, Nick Lentz's saloon, Jerome Beebe's merchandise, Joseph Brennan's saloon, Whitney and Kendall's furniture store and others.
On the north side, going east from Douglas Avenue, was the Seitz Drug Store (building still remains) which was advertised as the oldest established drug store in Kansas (1868). Next was a livery stable, a post office, a gambling place and Arthur Larkin's dry goods and clothing store. At the corner of Lincoln and Main, the Grand Central Hotel (present White House Hotel) was built by Arthur Larkin. Many noted characters of the Old West stayed there while in Ellsworth: Buffalo Bill Cody, Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Ben and Billy Thompson, Rowdy Joe Rowe and many others.
East of the Grand Central was the Ellsworth Reporter office. The first jail was a small building on the site of the present O'Donnell Hardware Co. and the first church, the Episcopal Church on the present site of Sheriff's Drug Store, was built by the pastor himself. The courthouse and a new jail were located two blocks east of Douglas on the north side. The stockyards were in the west end of town and covered several acres. Two hundred cars of cattle could be loaded in a day. By 1872, the stockyards were the largest in the state.
Nauchville, the tough part of town, was located a half-mile east of town on the river bottom. Most of the evil afflicting the town had its start here, a conglomeration of brothels saloons and gambling joints. A race track featured horseracing and the rough element had a "high old time with plenty of wine, women and song."
In 1871, a total of 35,000 head of cattle was shipped from Ellsworth. This increased to 150,000 in 1873. The people of Ellsworth made every effort to build this trade and carried on an extensive advertising campaign. Highly publicized were the railroad facilities, cattle yards and hotel accommodations. The town was full of strangers hunting for homes. Rents rose to 15 and 20 dollars per month. Twelve hotels, including tent houses and restaurants, where people were fed and housed, were filled to capacity.
City fathers decided that they could not root out lawlessness; therefore they were going to make all of the vicious vocations contribute to the maintenance of law and order. The entire sum of municipal expense was paid from licenses and fees. The Topeka Commonwealth, July 1, 1873, says in part: "The city realizes $300 per month from prostitution fines alone. The city authorities consider that as long as mankind is depraved and Texas cattle herders exist, there will be a demand and necessity for prostitutes, and that as long as prostitutes are bound to dwell in Ellsworth it is better for the respectable portion of society to hold prostitutes under restraint of law."
With the shifting of the cattle trade from Abilene in 1873, much of the sinister element arrived. Among them were Ben and Billy Thompson, Cad Pierce and Neil Cain, two handsome "wild" boys, and John Sterling, a gambler with considerable money who always won whether his bet was a good one or not.
The city police force consisted of a marshal and four deputies who were appointed by the mayor with the approval of the council. "Brocky Jack" Norton was marshal. Ed Hogue, John DeLong, Jon Marco and John Brauhan were employed as policemen. Vincent B. Osborne was police judge and most of his work came during the cattle season. Two months later, in the summer of 1873, he passed judgment in more than 60 cases in his courtroom over Larkin's Dry Goods Store.
Prominent among the cases before his court were those of Billy Thompson, arrested twice that summer, the first time by Ed Hogue, when he paid a fine of $25 and costs; the second time by "Happy Jack" Morco on the charge that on June 30 he "did then and there unlawfully and feloniously carry on his person a deadly weapon commonly called a revolver and was unlawfully disturbing the peace and did unlawfully assault on John Morco."
The case which is number 142 in the old police court docket was tried July 1. Five witnesses were subpoenaed. Among those were Sheriff Whitney for the prosecution and Henry Inman for the defense. Billy pleased guilty. Judge Osborne fined him $10 and costs amounting to $15. The fine was paid, Billy was released and a fee of $2.50 was paid to "Happy Jack" in accordance with the ruling that when someone was arrested and successfully prosecuted, the policeman making the arrest received that amount.
Origins of the U.S. Beef Industry
By Jim Gray
Since the first cowman trailed his herd of cattle off to market, cowboys have filled the imagination of folks the world over. The vision of a cow puncher riding up the trail, "his hat throwed back, and his spurs a jinglin " will live forever in the annals of American legend and lore. Cattle herders have been known for thousands of years; common men doing a menial job that had to be done.
There was something different about the cowboys of middle to late 19th century America. Perhaps it was the times. The country was growing by leaps and bounds following the great Civil War. The whole world, it seemed, opened up to an adventurous and exciting panorama of destiny. Perhaps the difference was the destination itself. Nothing on earth had ever been quite like the Kansas cattle towns at the end of that long and dusty trail.
In 1867, an Illinois cattle buyer named Joseph McCoy established a cattle depot at Abilene, Kansas, and thus, a new era was begun for cattlemen driving their Texas Longhorns on the long trail to the northern markets. America was hungry for beef and war-weary Texans were more than ready to exchange cattle on the hoof for gold coins. So it was that the fabled cowboy found himself on the streets of Ellsworth, Kansas, in the years 1868 to 1875.
The Kansas Pacific Railway took advantage of their unchallenged position on the plains and actively promoted shipping cattle all along their line. Ellsworth immediately became known as a good location to graze cattle until they were ready to load on railcars. Abilene continued to dominate the market as McCoy made every effort to accommodate both seller and buyer. But, by 1871, wheat was taking the place of grass on the prairies surrounding Abilene. The market shifted south to Newton on the Santa Fe Railway and west to Ellsworth on the Kansas Pacific.
The cattle industry was also taking shape as a major segment of the national economy. Ellsworth was poised to take center stage as America watched with eager anticipation. The Kansas Pacific hired a Texan, Robert D. Hunter, to run the Ellsworth stockyards. The commission company of Hunter & Evans would later become one of the largest dealers in stock in the United States.
The streets of Ellsworth teemed with the famous and the soon to be famous. Colonel J. J. Myers was one of the grand old men of the cattle business. He had been through what would become Ellsworth County in 1844 with "The Pathfinder", Captain John C. Fremont, who was returning from an expedition to California.
Many of the drovers had gained early experience with a Myers outfit. Captain Eugene Millett bossed a Myers herd to Illinois in 1866. In 1875, he and three partners put together one of the largest trailing operations in history, trailing over 100,000 head of cattle north in a single season.
Millett later ranched in Ellsworth County. Kanopolis Lake covers his headquarters. Millett helped organize the Kansas City Fat Stock Show in 1882. It would eventually be known as the American Royal.
Partnerships were common in the cattle trailing industry. John T. Lytle & William Perryman sold 1,000 head of cattle to Millett & Mabry in Ellsworth in 1872. Lytle would become the senior member of Lytle, McDaniels, Schriener, and Light. John Light had met many cattlemen on the streets of Ellsworth which led to his partnership with the Lytle operation. They became the major trailing contractor, delivering over 600,000 head of cattle to northern destinations.
"Shanghai" Pierce had been one of the first cattlemen to break away from the Abilene market to sell in Ellsworth. His exploits on the trail are legendary. Cowboys used to love to sit around the fire and listen to Shanghai s stories that usually ended with Pierce himself being the embarrassing target of some antic or joke.
Print Olive barely escaped Ellsworth with his life in 1872 when young Jim Kenedy shot him down in a saloon on South Main. Olive s cowboys were tough hombres, tough as the land that had spawned them. Olive would later run his vast herds of cattle in the Smoky Hill country south of WaKeeney.
Jesse Driskill used his cattle money to establish the Driskill Hotel. It was the showplace of Austin, Texas, when it opened in 1886. It is still one of Austin s premier establishments and is described as "a world which transcends time and place".
George W. Littlefield wrote to his nephew in 1873 from Ellsworth, "This is our Place. This is the Place and this is the winter, for You & I to make a rise in the world." His rise was exceptional. The LIT Ranch became one of Texas largest ranches. Littlefield organized the American National Bank of Austin and he became a major contributor to the University of Texas.
John Blocker made his very first drive to Kansas in 1873. He sold out that herd in Ellsworth at such a good price that he continued driving cattle as long as the trails were open. He and his brothers were highly respected in the cattle business. In 1886, he had an interest in 86,000 head on the trail to northern markets.
Hittson & Goodnight and Weaver & Chisum sold cattle in Ellsworth in 1872. Hittson claimed he owned 100,000 cattle in 1873. He would go on to be known as one of the founding ranchers of Colorado. Charles Goodnight s name is spoken with reverence by cowboys throughout the West who identify with his sense of frontier integrity. John Chisum s New Mexico exploits are legendary, often being identified with the life of Billy the Kid.
The names are intermingled with the traditions of the range. The American cattle industry was brought into existence on the strength of their will. Drought, flood, lightning, blizzard, depression, rustlers, Indians or even months on the trail would not deter them.
In 1884, the first national convention of cattle raisers was held in St. Louis, Missouri. It was the brain-child of Robert D. Hunter, the former manager of the Kansas Pacific Stockyards in Ellsworth. Of the 1,365 official delegates to the convention a good number could say they had been to Ellsworth in its heyday.
John T. Lytle and Shanghai Pierce were on hand as representatives from south Texas. Seth Mabry, John Deweese, and James Ellison had all been Captain Millett s partners on the "Big Drive" of 1875. Millett and Print Oliver were there from Kansas. The cattlemen for the very first time were meeting as a national organization.
Today, the traditions that were begun at the "end of the trail" are evident in the cattle ranches of Ellsworth County and the state of Kansas as a whole. Approximately 40,000 head of cattle and calves annually graze the prime grasslands of Ellsworth s Smoky Hills. Across the state beef reigns supreme as the number one economic industry of Kansas.
Historically, Ellsworth had its moment in the sun. The men who shaped an industry walked our streets and watched the sun set over these same Smoky Hills. Few American towns can lay claim to the extraordinary position that Ellsworth holds in the development of a nation. The mythic West and real events come together in our past to make up a heritage like no other.
The Forest City
April 12, 1888 The Ellsworth Reporter
Ellsworth is romantically situated on a beautiful undulating prairie, increasing in altitude from either side of the Smoky Hill River, to a series of elevated ridges which the possession of by handsome residences, has converted into an attractive, picturesque, peculiarly health-inspiring boulevard; a feature rarely met with in the generally level citys of the "plain," so common to Kansas.
Ellsworth, rising but gradually from the rich alluvial and naturally timbered river-bottom, has its avenues, streets, and residence-grounds more than ordinarily susceptible to forest-growth; its citizens therefore, from the "new birth" of the city---the period some 10 or 12 years ago, when it was freed from the blighting thralldom of "The Texas cattle trade" -have been diligent in beautifying their thoroughfares and homes with arborescent forms, until now it has earned and deserved its enviable title of "The Forest City".
The Wickedest Cattle Town in Kansas
by Jim Gray
Photo by Peg Britton
Ellsworth was destined for a turbulent reputation from its very inception. Fort Ellsworth had been established at the very edge of the frontier in 1864. The Cheyenne had driven everyone off the trails leading to Denver City, Colorado Territory, and it was up to the military to reopen the trails. Fort Ellsworth lay at the point of division between the Fort Riley Military Road which led to the Santa Fe Trail and the Smoky Hill Trail, the most direct but also the most treacherous route to Denver City.
The Cheyenne would not go willingly. There were raids upon wagon trains, horses were stolen directly from Fort Ellsworth, and ill equipped soldiers were led on wild chases across the sea of grass known as the Great American Desert. In 1866, the fort was renamed Fort Harker and, in 1867, relocated one mile to the northeast.
Fort Harker would become the major supply post for the military campaigns to subdue the Plains Indians. In this atmosphere the idea of Ellsworth City was conceived. Of course, the idea was to make money from the soldiers and so the city was platted just beyond the Fort Harker Military Reserve. The railroad was nearing the city and the new town overflowed with frontiersmen of every kind. A man could dig a hole in the bluff that bordered the town, set up a table with some cards and a bottle of whiskey within its curtained door, and open for business. In no time, his little dugout would be overrun with soldiers, gamblers, bullwhackers, railroaders, Texas cowboys and the inevitable unruly women that made up the character of doing business in an "end of the line" town.
Only months in existence, Ellsworth was struck a series of near fatal blows. The Smoky Hill River raged out of its banks leaving the town standing in nearly four feet of water. Cholera struck at Fort Harker and spread to Ellsworth. Those who didn't die fled in fear. Nearby Fort Harker was no deterrent to the Cheyenne who killed railroad workers just west of town, attacked bull trains on the trail to Santa Fe, and even stole horses from Ellsworth itself! A handful of people endured it all and began again on higher ground west of the original townsite.
The town was soon to prosper once again and a photograph taken by Alexander Gardner in September of 1867 shows a vibrant and active business district. Ellsworth continued its wicked ways. It was said that "Ellsworth has a man every morning for breakfast!" And that it did! Gunfire and revelry in the streets could be heard at all hours of the night or day. Outlaws rode in and took over the town only to be hung on the hangin' tree when the vigilante committee tired of their shenanigans. Wild Bill Hickok ran for Sheriff in 1868, but there were many equal to the calling in frontier Ellsworth. Former cavalry man, E.W. Kingsbury, defeated him, and along with Chauncey Whitney kept the town from complete madness. Hickok and Redlegs sidekick, Jack Harvey rode the district as Deputy U.S. Marshals.
The tales of gunfights, hangings, and fortunes won and lost are legend. By 1872, the Texas cattle trade had abandoned Abilene. The wild Texas Longhorn trailed through the streets of Ellsworth to the Kansas Pacific Stockyards. The Cowboy reigned supreme, or at least, the gamblers let them think so. The Plaza was filled with men and women from around the world and reporters marveled at the diversity. Nearly every other business was a saloon even though the sign outside might read "Restaurant". The railroad cut the extra wide street in half with businesses facing the tracks, a line on the south and a line on the north. On north main, The OLD RELIABLE HOUSE sold everything a cowboy could ever want or need. The Drovers Cottage was across the tracks and was headquarters for many Texans who could see the stockyards just out their window.
In 1873, Ellsworth geared up for the largest drive of Texas Longhorns to date. They expected trouble, and beefed up the police force to five men. Four of them were named either Jack or John, the other was Ed Hogue who also served as assistant Sheriff of Ellsworth County under Sheriff Chauncey Whitney. The Cowboys poked fun at the city lawmen referring to them as "four Jacks and a Joker". Sheriff Whitney they liked. The season remained quiet; only one killing. One hot August Sunday Ellsworth erupted in gunplay that would in due time mark the beginning of the end of cattletown Ellsworth. City Marshal, "Happy Jack" Morco sided with a gambler against Texan Ben Thompson in a dispute over the winnings of a game. Ben was a notorious gunman with a reputation equal to Wild Bill's. Ben and his drunken brother Billy had moved to the middle of the Plaza near the depot and called to the others to meet them in the open. The city law was out of control and unable to intercede peaceably in the matter, and so Ellsworth County Sheriff, Chauncey Whitney stepped into the street and called to the Thompsons. In short order he convinced them to take a drink with him and as they stepped into Joe Brennan's Saloon, Happy Jack charged down the street guns drawn. Ben wheeled and fired his Henry rifle narrowly missing Morco, Billy stumbled and discharged his shotgun mortally wounding the Sheriff.
Ben and an army of Texans held off the town as Billy rode away. In the next few weeks 'Hell was in Session in Ellsworth." Happy Jack was fired. Ed Crawford, a new city marshal, pistol whipped a Texan to death. Vigilantes roamed the streets issuing "white affidavits" to Texans to "get out of town or else". Happy Jack was gunned down in the streets when he failed to disarm, and a Texan killed Ed Crawford in the dim hallway of Lizzie Palmer's Dancehall.
Most Texans went home to the "girl they left behind" and family dear. Few if ever spoke of the things they saw and did at the "end of the trail". But, the mementos were there. In Ellsworth they had often purchased the first "store bought" clothes they had ever worn. With saddlebags packed with gifts from the north they triumphantly rode home. And though Ellsworth would close its shipping pens in 1875, the story would be told again and again of "Abilene, the first, Dodge City, the last, but Ellsworth the wickedest".
Jim Gray is co-owner of Drovers Mercantile
Compiled by Marvin Bush
Thomas Mullen moved to Kansas from Illinois in 1867 and purchased a quarter section of land 6 miles south of Brookville, where the Castle Rock Bed and Breakfast now stands.
The Union Pacific Railroad, Eastern Division, ran diagonally through this quarter section, which made an ideal location for Mr. Mullen's business of shipping clay out for pottery and sand out for molding.
At this time, Ellsworth was the end of the track.
The clay and sand were shipped from Mullen's siding, which was the name given to the side track located on Mullen's farm. At this time, there were about 15 or 20 people living near this siding. Later on it was called Rock Springs, then Terra Cotta. Terra Cotta means "colored earth" from the red clay in the surrounding hills.
In 1878, Tom Mullen and Mr. S.M. Simpson from Lawrence, laid out the Terra Cotta town site. In 1867, land sold here for $3.50 an acre. One hundred and sixty acres would cost $400 or $360 if you paid cash. Mr. S.M. Simpson sold his half interest in Terra Cotta to a load of Yankees from Connecticut.
There were three Loomis and Keep families. Monroe and Frank Loomis built a grocery store, elevator and a lumber yard. Monroe Loomis was the town's first postmaster. These brothers also built a hotel and later sold it to a man named Bliss. Mr. Bliss sold it to a Mr. Fletcher, who added a grocery store to the hotel. Mr. Bliss started a blacksmith shop. The town grew to a population of 75 people, with no sidewalks and only a few trail streets. Dave Burrall and a Mr. Williams started a cheese factory. They produced very fine longhorn cheese. John Mullen was the town's second postmaster. He was follow by Mr. Burrall and Alex Fletcher. Ellen Hessian later ran the post office from the Hessian Home.
In 1897, Mrs. Tom Mullen became postmaster and ran the office until it was discontinued in 1914. Tom Mullen shipped out over 3,000 cars of sand.
Ranching was the most important vocation in the area with a little farming mixed in. About 3 miles west of Terra Cotta was the Weigh Ranch, where the main source of income was from sheep. There were quite a few sheep and cattle in this part of the county at this time, but there were no signs of hard feelings between the two.
In 1885, the stockyards were built at Terra Cotta. Between 1886 and 1912, more cattle were shipped from Brookville and Terra Cotta than from any other town between Kansas City and Denver. Terra Cotta alone shipped three times more cattle than Brookville. Many citizens of Terra Cotta, through their work with the railroad, met such men as Wild Bill Hickok, Ben Thompson, Wyatt Earp and others.
Some of the people around Terra Cotta were famous in their own right. One of them was Warren Webster, who invented the first disc wheat drill. He got the idea while watching Frank Mullen playing with a rotary posthole digger. He designed the drill and it worked, but he failed to get a patent on it. Some men from an Eastern manufacturing company looked it over while visiting Webster and told him it wouldn't be profitable to manufacture. They returned to the East, built the machine and got a patent on it.
A Butterfield Stage Relay station was located about 1 ½ miles west of Terra Cotta. A prairie fire came through in 1887 and burned down the hotel. Terra Cotta's lifespan was a wild 10 years.
The children of Terra Cotta were educated in a school located about three-fourths miles east of the town site. In 1876, school district No. 28 was organized and a school was built the same summer. This was the first school in Ellsworth County to provide books free to its pupils. The school was called Rock Springs and when Terra Cotta was founded, the name was changed to Terra Cotta school.
In the early years, it had as many as 45 pupils and in 1940 it had one pupil. Thirty-one teachers taught in the school during its span of usefulness.
In about 1888, the recession hit. Loomis and Keep left, the elevator was moved to Shady Bend, the hotel had burned in a prairie fire, Bliss Blacksmith Shop was moved to Venango and Mullen ceased a large part of his clay operations. The Loomis grocery store, which had been sold to Mr. Fletcher, was moved to Kanopolis. By the early 1890s, all the business houses had disappeared.
Some settlers sold their holdings to area ranchers who were springing up all over the eastern part of the county. Others mortgaged to Eastern loan companies at $10 an acre, which was the going rate at the time, and left the Eastern investors to hold the bag.
The cemetery was at the north end of town. At one time, there were 48 marked graves.
In 1900, a depot was built, long after Terra Cotta was down to no business houses whatsoever.
The reason for the construction still is a mystery.
Some say the depot building was designed for a siding in Nebraska and was shipped out on the Kansas City to Denver by mistake and built in Terra Cotta.
In 1934, the depot was sold to a Mr. McCoy, who moved it to Ellsworth along old Highway 40. It was used as a night club and honky tonk club called the "Silver Moon".
In 1946 and 1947, it was moved south of the Lockhart Motel and made into apartments. It sat empty for many years and in 1996, the City of Ellsworth bought it and the ground it sat on. The city gave it to the Ellsworth County Historical Society and paid for moving it to its present site at the Hodgden House Museum complex.
In 1999, the Union Pacific Railroad started building a new and longer siding at Terra Cotta. It is about 1 ¾ miles long. The switch heaters are in place and the signals also are installed, but turned sideways and not in use. The continuous welded rail hasn't been installed yet between the two signals. The switches for the siding will be controlled from Omaha Nebraska.
What is the connection between a dead man's hand in poker and Ellsworth County?
One night, after finishing his run to Abilene, Tom Mullen stepped off the train, and saw a man walking down the railroad tracks carrying a lantern. Wild Bill Hickok was there and told Mr. Mullen and another passerby to watch him put out the lantern light.
Now Hickok had a reputation as a sure-shot gunfighter. Hickok shot at the lantern and instead hit the unarmed man and killed him in cold blood. This man's name was McCall. McCall's brother vowed he would not work another day until he killed Hickok. Hickok was hired in early 1871 as marshal of Abilene, and discharged by the city after shooting one of his own deputies by mistake. That was around December 1871.
He was shot in the back while playing poker in Deadwood, Dakota Territory, on August 1, 1876. He was holding a pair of aces and eights. They are why it's called the dead man's hand. Hickok was shot by a man named McCall, the brother of the man the gunfighter killed in Abilene in front of Terra Cotta's Tom Mullen.
Information compiled by Marvin Bush, railroad historian and director of the Ellsworth County Historical Society.
Ellsworth - The Town That Wouldn't Die
By Jeri L. Hill-Harder
Listen carefully when you walk the streets of Ellsworth. You may just hear the ghosts of the likes of Buffalo Bill Cody, Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickock, Shanghai Pierce, Rowdy Joe Lowe, the Thompson brothers, Billy and Ben, and of course, Sheriff Chauncey Whitney. Back in the 1860s and 70s Ellsworth attracted men with colorful names and even more colorful lives. Try to imagine a cowboy version of Las Vegas.
Ellsworth started life as a row of dugouts in a riverbank known as Fort Ellsworth, named for its commander, 2nd Lt. Allen Ellsworth. In these beautiful and now serene Smoky Hills, Indians once fought fiercely to protect their hunting grounds and ancient way of life from the white invasion that was fast turning their world upside down. Isolated settlements and hunting parties were often the target as the Indians practiced with their bows and arrows. Fort Ellsworth was one of several outposts established to provide protection as folks followed the Smoky Hill River to gold fields of Colorado. In 1866, the fort was upgraded, moved, and acquired a new name, Fort Harker.
Although it held great promise in the beginning, Ellsworth was plagued with setbacks from its inception. It was anticipated that the Kansas Pacific Railroad would halt for a time at Ellsworth. Town promoters viewed this as a promising, and profitable, turn of events as the site would be a major shipping point for goods to Denver and Santa Fe.
The original town site was platted in January 1867, just west of Fort Harker on the north bank of the Smoky Hill River. In June the river flooded covering the young town with four feet of water. Then Cheyenne Indians expressed their displeasure at the new settlement. As the country's settlers gathered at Fort Harker for protection from the Indians, Asiatic cholera broke out killing many and causing others to move to more hospitable areas.
Following the flood the town relocated to its present location with the help of a special act of the legislature to transfer titles from the old site to the new.
In 1868 the railroad tracks moved west from Ellsworth prompting town promoters to obtain a charter for the "Ellsworth & Pacific Railroad Company." They hoped Congress and the army would switch allegiance from the Kansas Pacific Railroad extension to Denver to a route from Ellsworth to Santa Fe. Despite Gov. Samuel Crawford's apparent endorsement, the E. & P.R.R. failed.
Ellsworth had hopes of being the destination for the first of the large cattle drives from Texas in 1867. The quarantine line of that year, designed to protect domestic livestock from Texas fever, prohibited Texas cattle from being driven to any areas of the state other than the southwest quarter. Then an Illinoisan, Joseph McCoy, entered the picture and promoted Abilene as the perfect shipping point for Texas longhorns. The quarantine was never observed, as Abilene was located well east and north of the artificial boundary.
In 1871, those hardy souls who had persisted through Ellsworth's seemingly unending calamities began to see their dedication pay off as the cattle trade began to move west from Abilene. With the cattle trade came supporting businesses; saloons, gambling, and prostitution as well as more legitimate concerns.
All cow towns were wild and woolly, but Ellsworth was one of the wildest and woolliest. In 1873, with thousands of cattle grazing in the hills surrounding the town, the cattle market went bust. Complicating matters was the soaring heat that set in early and refused to let up. With little else to do, Texas cowboys filled the town day after day.
A generally corrupt police force, at the time, only contributed to the problems. An especially enthusiastic, but irresponsible deputy, John "Happy Jack" Morco was a major source of antagonism to the Texans. The accidental killing of Sheriff Chauncey Whitney by Billy Thompson was attributable to Happy Jack's poor judgment. Happy Jack was dismissed from the police force and left town only to return with a brace of ivory handled six-shooters. When he refused to disarm, a recently hired deputy, Charlie Brown shot and killed him.
Five men lost their lives in Ellsworth that summer, including a popular Texan, Cad Pierce, and his murderer, Ed Crawford, also on the police force. Crawford's assailant was never identified, even though he was gunned down in a local brothel.
1875 was the last year for Ellsworth to enjoy the benefits of the Texas cattle trade. Quarantine lines and longhorns moved south and west.
Things had quieted down significantly since that fateful summer of 1873. The businesses along North and South Main Streets lining the Plaza burned in 1874 and 1875 leaving the Plaza, between North and South Main streets open. The business district is now found on Douglas Ave. and features a drug store, hardware, restaurants, shoe store, clothing store, and even a hat shop, Johnny Bingo's. Drovers Mercantile "the Cowboy Store" is devoted to the western heritage of Ellsworth and is an excellent place to start exploring.
On Second Street stands the oldest wood frame house in Ellsworth. It is now the home of Village Cottage a charming gift shop operated by Glenda Jensen, a local artist. To get more of the aesthetic feel for the community, stop at the Ellsworth Arts Council Gallery at 204 N. Douglas.
If antiques are your 'thing,' stop in at the Antique Mall downtown. You will find everything there from Bobby Goldsboro LPs (you know the vinyl kind) to a porcelain drinking fountain. Furniture, dolls, jewelry, you name it, the Antique Mall probably has an example of what you're looking for.
With the addition of a well-stocked grocery store, the shrine in many Kansas farming communities, the Co-Op, and Alco...Ellsworth is equipped to supply the purchasing needs of most everyone.
Dining options are varied in Ellsworth with several local cafes. While shopping downtown try the homemade pies and desserts at Main Street Deli or if your tastes run more toward Mexican food, check out Paden's.
Don't miss the Hodgden House Museum Complex. Hodgden House itself was the first private home to be rebuilt after the fires in the 1870s. Because of previous calamities, the Hodgdens built their new home out of native stone. The complex also includes a 1880s livery stable, 1912 one room school, 1880s church, small log cabin, a 1911 caboose, 1900 train depot and displays featuring a general store and farm equipment.
Recreation in the area is enhanced by a beautiful nine whole golf course. The area is also well served by Lakes Kanopolis and Wilson.
The large, well secured, facility on the north side of town is a state prison and the largest employer in Ellsworth.
Less restrictive lodging is available at the Garden Prairie Inn, a Best Western motel complete with swimming pool. The Ira E. Lloyd House is a local bed and breakfast located just east of town in a house that was built by one of early Ellsworth's more prominent citizens. Fifteen miles down the road, just off Highway 141, is Castle Rock Ranch Bed and Breakfast. If you really crave isolated surroundings, call Judy or Terri.
For folks who like wide open spaces and country hospitality, you can't beat Ellsworth. It's truly a special place that I find myself gravitating to time and time again. Give it a try. You may just feel the same pull that I do.
Last Pure-Blooded Kaw Indian Dies
April 27, 2000
Filed at 11:03 a.m. EDT
by The Associated Press
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) -- The last pure-blooded member of the Kaw Nation, the tribe that gave the state of Kansas its name, has died at age 82.
William Mehojah, who died Sunday, was one of only about 2,500 people on Kaw Nation tribal rolls. Most have only a fraction of Kaw blood.
The tribe -- previously known as the Konza, Kanza or Kansa -- at one time stretched over 20 million acres across northern Kansas into Nebraska and Missouri. By 1825, westward expansion reduced that land to 2 million acres. The tribe moved to what is now the Kansas, or Kaw, River valley in the early 1800s.
In 1873, the federal government moved the tribe to a 100,000-acre reservation in northern Oklahoma. By this time disease had reduced the number of Kaw to about 700, said JoAnn Obregon, a member of the Kaw executive council. About 600 live on the former reservation land today.
Only four pure-blooded Kaw were left five years ago: Mehojah, his brother and two nephews. Mehoja's last surviving nephew died two years ago.
Mehojah served in the Army during World War II, then worked for 35 years with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Montana, the Dakotas, Idaho and Arizona, where he retired in 1976.
He and his wife, Fredericka, moved to Omaha a year ago to be closer to their daughter, the Rev. Sandra Mehojah, project coordinator for the Omaha School District's Indian education office.
Survivors include his wife and three children.
History of the Baker Hotel
by Peg Britton
Photo courtesy Baker Family Archives
One of the few remaining Ellsworth landmarks left from the 1800's soon will be 100 years old and may be saved from the wrecking ball according to the present owners, Ruth and Robert Rodgers. The large two-story structure at the intersection of South Main and Douglas, now the Charles B. Rodgers Gallery and Museum, was once a very prominent gathering place for people throughout the county and those who came to Ellsworth on the railroad.
The original structure was built by Jerome Beebe in the mid-1890's. This historic cow town hotel was constructed of native sandstone and located on "Snake Row", the main street of this early wild-west town, where all the action took place and such men as Wyatt Earp, Wild Bill Hickock, and Ben Thompson were to be found.
In November 1901, the property was sold by Sarah Beebe, widow of Jerome, to Lottie V. Baker for $3,000.00. It was immediately renamed the "Baker Hotel" and marked the beginning of an era of fine dining in Ellsworth that lasted for a period of twenty-three years.
Frank and Lottie V. (Jury) Baker were married 4 Nov 1890 and for eleven years owned and operated the hotel in Kanopolis. While living in Kanopolis their one son, Bruce Hudson Baker, was born 10 October 1892. The Baker family moved from Kanopolis to Ellsworth in 1901 when they purchased the hotel, which may have been called the American House, from Sarah Beebe. In 1911 they extensively remodeled the first floor of the hotel where the office, wash room and dining room were located. The following article was taken from the Ellsworth paper, 1911:
Remodeling of Baker House Completed.
The work of remodeling the first floor of the Baker House has been completed and Mr. Baker now has the neatest, most conveniently arranged and most pleasant hotel office, wash room and dining room to be found in this part of the state.
The office and wash room have been moved into the northeast corner of the building. They are large, commodious and well lighted. The floors of the office and wash rooms are of tile. It is well laid, and the design is neat and attractive.
The dining room has been extended out to the north side of the building taking up the space formerly given to the office. This makes the room almost twice as long as it was before, and enables Mr. Baker to seat from seventy-five to eighty at the regular tables without crowding. In an emergency one hundred could be easily and comfortably seated.
The room has been thoroughly renovated, repapered, repainted and a new metal ceiling added. It is light and airy, well ventilated and inviting.
It is such men as Mr. Baker that help to build up and make a town a good place to live in. He owns considerable property in Ellsworth, and he is always improving and adding to it. His home on South Douglas Avenue is one of the neatest and most comfortable in town. His hotel is now one of the best in the state.
People came from far and wide to eat at the Baker Hotel as it had become a famous gathering place and focal point for the county because of the good food and social atmosphere. The seating capacity was expanded to accommodate the one hundred or more diners who arrived each Sunday for the noon meal. It is said the chandeliers were exquisite in ornate detail and in keeping with the beautiful decor of the dining room. Very large portions of excellent food were served at the hotel for twenty-five cents, which included pie and beverage. Later the price was raised to thirty-five cents "due to increased food prices". Two kitchens were used for food preparation, the main one and a "summer kitchen" outside. They served three meals a day, seven days a week. One of the favorite dishes served and long remembered was Lottie's creamed dried corn. It was said she could make it like no other. She also made fresh donuts, rolls, bread, and pies daily.
Photo courtesy Baker Family Archives
There was a livery stable behind the hotel as most of the customers came from a considerable distance by horse and buggy and spent the day. Frequently families from throughout the county would come to Ellsworth to shop, socialize, and spend the weekend at the Baker Hotel.
The area south of the hotel was devoted entirely to vegetable gardens, asparagus beds, fruit trees, wood storage and chopping, and a dozen or so chicken coops whose contents were headed for the kitchen. It was also the home of a pet pig called "Peggie Hogan" who frequently was dressed in a lace bonnet and dainty clothes to be paraded around the hotel.
In addition to the Baker's and their children, who did the lion's share of the work in operating the hotel, they had help from Lottie's father, Theodore Jury, who helped with all the garden and hotel chores until his death in 1922. Theodore's wife, Mary Elizabeth (Link) Jury also helped until she became ill and subsequently died in 1908. Frank's parents, James M. and Frances C. (Beckwith) Baker helped for several years until their deaths. In addition there were four young women and a young man who worked at the hotel. One is remembered as being Lizzie Shade.
The Baker home, the large two-story house one block south of the hotel on the west side of Douglas (now owned by the Thorne's), had a large sunken garden on the south side adjacent to the river where they grew vegetables, rhubarb and flowers, also to be used in the hotel. Lottie Baker canned everything from the two large gardens for use at the hotel and at home where she entertained extensively. Yearly she made several varieties of wine to serve on special occasions. She loved flowers and the tables at the hotel and in her home were adorned with a wide variety of flowers gathered from her numerous flower beds.
Lottie Jury was born at Millersburg, Pennsylvania September 14, 1868. She came to Ellsworth County with her parents, Theodore and Mary Elizabeth (Link) Jury, and three brothers, Herbert W., Charles, and Chester Jury in the early 1870's. They settled on a farm in Empire Township and lived there until 1881 when they moved to Langley where Theodore Jury opened a blacksmith shop. Work was scarce and the family, it was said, ate a lot of "rabbit sausage". Lottie resided there until her marriage to Frank Baker. Dr. Herbert W. Jury practiced medicine in Claflin, Kansas for more than sixty years. Charles moved to Idaho and Chet eventually went to New York City.
James Frank Baker was born in Elmira, New York 5 April 1856 and moved to Ellsworth with his wife, Hattie Barber, and his parents, James M. Baker and Frances C. (Beckwith) Baker in the early 1880's. Hattie Barber became ill in 1886 and returned to Elmira where she died. J. Frank and Hattie Baker had two children, Harry B. and Fannie Baker, and a son who died young. Harry B. Baker married Jo Brubaker and they were the parents of Dale and Ardene Baker. Fannie married Harry Rice and they were the parents of Marjorie, James, LLoyd and Benton Rice, all familiar to the Ellsworth community. A brother of Frank Baker, Hollis C. Baker, and his wife, Jennie, also lived in the Ellsworth community for several years before returning to Elmira.
Following the death of Hattie Baker, Frank Baker married Lottie Baker and they had only one child, Bruce Hudson Baker. Bruce Baker married Margaret Louella (Tedlock) Baker they and were the parents of Peggy, Barbara and Bruce H. Baker, Jr. Peggy Baker became the wife of Roy P. Britton, and they are the parents of Dane, Todd and Allyson Britton. The sixth generation children of the Ellsworth pioneers are Mackenzie, Drew and Tyler Britton.
An article in the Ellsworth Messenger dated Thursday January 5, 1956 recounts the life of Ellsworth County Pioneer, Frank Baker:
James F. Baker is best remembered as a hotel man, but he also was one of the organizers of the Ellsworth Telephone Co., and of the Ellsworth Creamery Co., of which he was secretary for two and a half years.
Mr. Baker came to Kansas from New York with his parents in the 1870's. He worked with his father on the Damon ranch five miles south of Ellsworth until a blizzard wiped out their cattle, along with those of most ranchers of the county. The father, James M. Baker, then moved to Kanopolis where he operated a real estate and insurance business. James F. Baker went to work at 50 dollars a month at a creamery in Ellsworth, but was also associated with his father in the latter's interests at Kanopolis. He bought the hotel in Kanopolis, and later bought the American House, now the Tucker Hotel in Ellsworth.
The creamery he started here in company with other local men was continued until the 1930's, and the Ellsworth Telephone Co., he started was taken over by the United Telephone Co., and then by the Southwestern Bell Telephone Co.
Mr. Baker never lost the enterprising spirit which so many of the early pioneers of this area possessed, although he suffered a number of major reverses. He and his father came west after their tobacco and cigar business hit upon rough times. Mr. Baker was married in Elmira, N. Y. and his wife returned there to die after her health failed. He remarried. A son, Bruce Baker, has been with the Lee Hardware Co., in Salina for many years, and his half-brother, Harry Baker, lives in Pratt. The one daughter, Fannie, now deceased, married Harry Rice. A granddaughter, Mrs. Roy Britton, lives in Ellsworth.
Mr. Baker was fond of saying that he, with Frank Foster and two other men were the only Democrats in Ellsworth County. He served the county as County Assessor, filled an unexpired term as County Clerk, and in 1890 represented this county at the congressional convention in Colby. He was active in local public affairs of all kinds, was a member of the I.O.O.F. lodge, the Ancient Order of United Workmen, and the Modern Woodmen of America, serving as a representative to the grand lodge of the latter order and was a member of the Royal Neighbors.
Frank Baker became suddenly ill with pneumonia in December 1924 and died seven days later. One bitter cold night he walked in his night gown, bare-foot to the hotel saying, "If I have to die, I want to die there." He opened all the windows in the north-east corner room of the hotel and died there on December 18, 1924. Lottie V. Baker died 11 January 1938.
Soon after the death of Frank Baker, Lottie Baker disposed of her interest in the hotel to Clifford Robson in 1925 by mortgage. Three years later Lottie Baker recovered a judgment against Clifford and Mona Robson (Allen), his wife, after the property was seized and sold by Sheriff J. M. Toman, in the amount of $14,217.85. The property was deeded back to Lottie V. Baker who assigned the property to F. C. Easterly, trustee, who deeded it to Pearl Tucker in October 1931. Pearl Tucker sold the property to Ray Ogburn in October 1956 for approximately $20,000. The Smoky Hills Arts Foundation bought the property at a Sheriff's sale in 1968 and sold it to Charles B. Rodgers 16 May 1973.
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