Category: Pioneer History

Pioneer History

Leoti-Coronado County Seat Fight

The following are two accounts detailing the Leoti-Coronado county seat fight.

Account taken from the Coronado Herald, June 16, 1887

"During the time one Gerow was taking the wishes of the voters of this county in regard to the temporary county seat, certain parties in Leoti sent to Wallace to secure the services of one Charles Coulter and his six-shooter, both too well known in western Kansas to the sorrow of many good people. Coulter came and for the promise of $750 undertook the job of making Leoti the county seat. His first appearance was at the polls north of Coronado with about 150 imported toughs to receive $4 per day. Coronado voters dared not go near the polls. Again on the day of registration he, with his companion, Rains, stood at the polls with guns and dictated who should register and who should not. Coronado men left the place of registration to avoid bloodshed. During the time they were at the polls the unarmed Coronadoites were covered with rifles in the hands of Coulter’s friends, stationed in the town of Leoti. Later that day Coulter and Rains held up tow Coronado men with guns and killed a valuable horse belonging to them.

Up to this time not a single Coronado man had exposed a weapon, or lost his temper. On Sunday morning, February 27, while the people of this town were at church, William Rains and A.R. Johnson came to Coronado from Leoti and asked a druggist here for a bottle of beer. They were informed that there was not any beer in town. Not seeing anybody on the street they remarked that it would be a good time to round up the d–n town. They returned to Leoti and recruited their forces with Charles Coulter, Frank Jenness, A.N. Boorey, Emmet Denning, George Watkins, and a case of beer. When they arrived at Coronado they proceeded to make everybody they met drink with them, and tried to make a sick man get out of bed and dance at the muzzles of pistols. Later Coulter commenced to knock men down with his pistol, while Frank Jenness would single out men to cover with his pistol. But such sport was too timid for drunken desperadoes so Coutler opened the ball by shooting Charles Loomis twice, while Rains shot him (Loomis) in the arm. Up to this time not a single weapon was drawn by a Coronado man, but after these three shots were fired by Coulter and Rains, it seemed for thirty seconds from pistol reports, that every man in and near the crowd was shooting. When the smoke cleared away the old maxim was verified: Death loves a shining mark, and in Coulter and Rains it certainly had struck two daisies."

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Account taken from the Leoti Standard, March 2, 1887

"On Sunday morning the town of Coronado was the scene of one of the most cowardly and dastardly crimes ever perpetrated in any community that had any pretense of being civilized, it being the shooting from the back of seven of our best and most respected citizens. The victims were Charles Coulter, instantly killed; Wm. Rains, instantly killed; George Watkins, fatally wounded; Frank Jenness, shot six times; A.R. Boorey, shot three times; Emmet Denning, leg broken by shot.

The bitter fight caused by the county seat fight and the way Leoti has beaten her opponent by might of right, and right of might, is well known. Coronado had been satisfied until Sunday to carry on the fight by trickery, fraud, lies, and forgery, and in this way had managed to make the town and people despised by all who had the slightest insight into the matter. A note was placed in Mr. Coulter’s hands on Sunday, inviting him over that afternoon and telling him to bring a friend or two with him and have a good time. It had been customary to visit back and forth, so in the afternoon the crowd of seven went over. They arrived there about two o’clock, and after a couple of hours of pleasant chatting with their friends and acquaintances, they all got in the buggy and started off. As they drove by the bank building Frank Lilly, standing in front of the bank, applied some foul name to Mr. Rains, at the same time making a motion as if to draw a gun. Rains sprang from the buggy and said that Lilly would have to fight for that. Lilly replied that he had no gun, whereupon Rains handed his gun to one of the party in the buggy and offered to fight with his fists. Lilly refused and Rains took his revolver and returned it to his pocket. Meantime Coulter, Denning, and Johnson had gotten out of the buggy. Charles and ‘Red’ Loomis, and John Knapp were standing near the bank at the time. As Rains put up his gun he remarked that he could easily whip Lilly. Lilly retaliated by calling him a liar, at which Rains drew his revolver and struck him over the head, mashing his hat, but not knocking him down. The men in ambush who were awaiting the signal, now opened a volley of some sixty or seventy-five guns on the unsuspecting crowd (from Leoti). Every man was shot; shot from the back. The four men on the ground were brought down and of the three in the buggy, Watkins and Jenness fell out. The horses were shot and started to run away, with Boorey still in the buggy.

After falling from the buggy Jenness got on his feet and started toward Leoti on a run. A number of shots were fired at him, five taking effect. The men of Coronado now ran out and commenced shooting at closer range, and after Coulter and Rains both were dead, put the muzzles of their guns against them and fired."

Old Steele Pioneer Home

As a visitor to Lake Scott State Park you’ll want to stop at the Old Steele Home. This site has a variety of features, from the stream below the home fed by natural springs, to the bluff across the road giving a breathtaking panoramic view of the Park and Lake. All the attractions are within walking distance of your car.

The home was hand quarried from native sandstone in 1894. Built on two levels, the house’s front door opens onto the road where visitors park. The back door, on the lower level exists to a gently sloping meadow leading to the stream below. As an additional attraction from visitors, the building’s interior is furnished with articles typical of pioneer homes.

Take the time to climb to the top of the bluff across the road. You can catch your breath in the stone shelter at the top. Then, stand beside the Steele Memorial made from a four-ton red granite boulder which was brought from Colorado and placed on its concrete base at the end of the bluff in 1930. Now, gaze out over the dream-come-true of Herbert and Liza Steele. They envisioned the State Park in the late 1920s and dedicated 640 acres of their property to the Kansas State Forestry, Fish and Game commission.

We hope you’ll enjoy the heritage the Steele’s preserved for future generations and take away with you a kindred spirit of love for this natural beauty.

Sibley’s Camp

As one of the last acts of his presidency, James Monroe signed a bill on March 3, 1825 which provided $10,000 for surveying the road and $20,000 to treat with Indians for right-of-way. On March 16, Monroe’s successor, John Quincy Adams, appointed three commissioners to oversee the survey. One of those commissioners was George C. Sibley, formerly in charge of Fort Osage, a trading post operated by the U.S. Government east of present Kansas City. Sibley’s journal and diaries provide most of what is known about the survey.

The expedition departed Fort Osage on July 17, 1825 with 42 men including two slaves and seven wagons painted light blue. Surveying as they traveled, the party arrived at Council Grove in early August where they negotiated with the Osages for right-of-way through their lands on the 10th of that month. Six days later, they conducted a similar treaty with the Kanzas near present day McPherson, Kansas. By August 30th, the survey team passed Pawnee Roek and on August 31 arrived at Pawnee Fork. Sibley’s diary entry for August 31 and September 1 reads:

At half past 10 we reached the Pawnee fork, and camped on the bank a little below file fording place, at Some large Elm Trees, having measured from the last camp 6 M[ile}s & 56 Ch[ain]s. A heavy rain fell while we were on the road. The Creek appears to he too full now to venture to cross it with the Waggons; besides the hanks require some digging at the ford. Here we have a beautiful camping place & very fine range for the Horses.

The morning cloudy and cool. Mercury 68 at 8 o ‘Clock. The Pawnee River is here about 40 yards wide, banks pretty high, bottom sandy, Water at present Muddy. Timber Elm, Ash, Elder, Cotton Tree, Willow, and Grape Vines. Yesterday I turned off from the direct course and struck the Arkansas at mouth of this River and then coursed it up about a mile to the fording place near which we are now encamped, which is just at the foot of a high rocky Hill. The path leading up from the mouth to the ford passes between the Pawnee and some Cliffs of Soft Rock upon the smooth faces of which are cut the names of many Persons, who have at different times passed this way to and from New Mexico. Some Indian marks are also to be seen on these Rocks.

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The site described by Sibley as "Cliffs of Soft Rock" is at the corner of Second and State Streets in Larned, Kansas. Much of the stone observed by Sibley has disappeared being quarried by early Larnedites for building material. Gone too are the many inscriptions and Indian marks of which Sibley wrote. Regardless, the site still retains its basic integrity. Undoubtedly, the location was the campsite of the survey team on August 31, 1825.

The property was purchased by the Cobb family in 1921; and two of the Cobb brothers, Leslie and Wesley lived out the balance of their lives making marked improvements to the site. Through their hard work and creativity, the old quarry site strewn with rubble and debris was transformed into a garden spot.

In 1995, the site was purchased by three Larned citizens who have proposed to restore the property to its pre-century appearance and preserve this little piece of real estate as Sibley’s Camp.

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The Santa Fe Trail Center

The Santa Fe Trail Center near Larned is a regional museum dedicated to preserving and interpreting the history of the geographic area once known as the Santa Fe Trail. The trail was a great trade route which linked the United States with Mexico, and later with its own American southwest. The era of the Santa Fe Trail began in 1821, when Mexican independence from Spain opened up new trade opportunities for both American and Mexican merchants. Pulled by oxen and mules, commercial freight wagon trains crossed the plains until the railroad arrived near Santa Fe in 1880. This ended rnthe Santa Fe Trail’s freighting days and a new era began as settlers established homes, farms, and ranches along the ruts of the old trail.

The museum’s exhibits show the trail as a transportation route which blended the Indian, Spanish, andAmerican cultures. Displays include prehistoric Indian artifacts, a Wichita Indian grass lodge, a full-sized mounted buffalo, a commercial freight wagon , and an exhibit showing the Spanish influences on rnthe trail.

The period of settlement along the ruts of the old trail, brought about by the coming of the railroad, is depicted in the museum by a series of rooms showing pioneer life in the early 1900’s. An impressive rncollection of historic firearms showing the progression of weapons from flintlock to cartridge is also on display.

Outdoor exhibits on the Trail Center’s 5-acre complex include a sod house, dugout home, limestone rncooling house, one-room schoolhouse, and a Santa Fe Railroad depot. On special occasions, living history programs provide visitors with an insight into early pioneer life.

In 1991, the Santa Fe Trail Center was designated a certified site on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. It was the second site on the trail and the first site in Kansas to receive this important designation by the National Park Service.

The Jones & Plummer Trail

The first trail through the area was made by the Jones & Plummer Cattle Co., bringing their cattle from the Texas Panhandle on the Canadian River to Dodge City. As soon as Dodge City could handle freight, this company took teams of oxen and Conestoga wagons and broke a trail through where Beaver, Oklahoma is now, north to the Cimarron River, across Crooked Creek and keeping to the high land to the east, came up the east edge of Meade before turning north, west on Fowler and on to Dodge.

The trail can be seen north of 54 Highway to the west side of the CMS tower and also south of the Hoodoo Brown road ranch and can be seen from the air almost all the way to the Oklahoma line.

The Lone Tree Massacre

Preparing Southwest Kansas for settlement often ended in tragedy for both Indian and white man.

On August 24, 1874, a government survey party of six, marking the township lines of Odee Township was ambushed by Cheyenne. Twenty-four Cheyenne from Fort Reno, Oklahoma led by Chief Medicine Water killed the six members of the surveying team. The slain men were temporarily buried near their camp by a lone cottonwood tree on Crooked Creek. This old tree stood for 64 years as a memorial to the surveyors.

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The Dalton Gang Hideout & Museum

A modest house and barn on a cottonwood shaded hill are home to an Old West legend. Notorious for robbing trains and banks, the Dalton Gang created a hideout in Meade and built an escape tunnel from the home of their sister, Eva Whipple, to the barn some 95 feet away where their horses could carry them away undetected by the law. The Whipple house, escape tunnel and barn museum have been preserved and are all open to the public. Viewing the tunnel provides a sense of adventure that appeals to all ages.

Also on the grounds is the Heritage House, a restored circa 1900 Meade County home.

At the south end of the tunnel the barn houses a museum in the loft which contains a fascinating collection of western items that have been preserved by the pioneers of Meade and surrounding counties.

The Dalton Gift Shop, also located in the barn, affords an opportunity to by Hideout souvenirs.

The shady park beyond the barn offers picnic and playground facilities. At the south end of the Hideout park you will find “Old Town” a wild west town facade built for the historical reenactments and gunfight competitions we have each year during Dalton Days Wild West Festival. Kids love to pose for photos behind the bars of the jail or in the old casket propped up on the undertaker’s wall.

Bluff Station

Bluff station was southeast of Indian Mound, on the east side of a sand creek which circles north and east of the Mound and flowed into the Arkansas River. Some sources think it may have been built by Major Bennett Riley’s troops in 1829.

In the 1850s and 1860s, stage companies used it as a relay station where fresh horses and some supplies could be obtained. Remains of the walls of the station were visible as late as 1900.

To the east of Bluff Station was one of the best camping grounds on the Trail. On this wide river bottom lush, green grass grew as high as a horse’s back. The bottom was dotted with campfire sites and pits where campers had dug down to shallow, fresh water for drinking and cooking.

Bear Creek Pass

This pass is one of the most interesting histories in the state of Kansas. Kearny County was fortunate in the creation of the sandhills, with the only natural pass through the low lying hills and sand dunes.

Bear Creek, rising in Colorado, entered the hills in Kearny County running mainly north to what was known as Clear Lake. This made a natural pass through the hills and was known as Bear Creek Pass. It was used before the white man’s time by Indians and buffalo. In the seventies and eighties, buffalo hunters and bone pickers traveled it to get to the railroad at Lakin. From which point many carloads of hides and bones were shipped east.

As the Rock Island railroad was not built until 1888, cattle were taken through the Pass to Lakin and shipped to eastern markets.

From 1885 to 1887 it came into its own as a freight route and all transportation went through the Bear Creek Pass.