Saturday, November 6, 2021

Early Wichita

“Cities are not the result of chance nor do they make themselves. Their prosperity and greatness are in a large measure due to the sagacity and enterprise of their founders and early settlers in reaching out and drawing to them the channels of commerce and trade.” James Mead Most of my research of early town formation has involved North Eastern Kansas. Town formation in NE Kansas was dominated by the New England Emigrant Aid Society, free-staters, abolitionist and pro-slavery “Border Ruffians”. Lots of discussion of Bleeding Kansas and the fight to be a free state. I do not know if it is my sources or if it is fact but for the Topeka area, Native Americans are generally not mentioned, they seem to have been nomadic. I have found 3 settled villages in Shawnee County but not a lot about them. White Plume and Chief Burnett are the main figures. In contrast to this, Wichita’s history of habitation seems to be older, Native Americans played a larger role and hunters, traders and businessmen dominated the formation. Moralist become a driving force later in its development. There is very little discussion of the Civil War and the Free v. Slave state. (what a difference 1Also, that I can find none of the Spanish explorers went into the northern part of the state, Salina seems to have been the farthest north they went. The following is a summary of the very early years. This era is of particular interest to me because I know so little of it and I think that it gets brushed off. Please correct my mistakes and set me on the right path. Ideally while doing this I would create maps for you, maps and timelines have always figured heavily into my classroom practice. Although, I think that the tribes that came from the East had to have been discouraged, jaundiced and untrusting because they had tried to get along, I have always maintained that I think that most people during this era did not set out to be exterminators or the exterminated, but generally they wanted to get along and they only saw their little piece of the puzzle. I could be entirely wrong. But I grew up on the farm and I see this period as much more like my early years than many people. Conditions were not always easy, lack of a good garden or a bad year in the fields had consequences, you got along because you needed each other at times. And the buffalo (bison), well my uncle raised them as a hobby for many years after he retired from active farming. He generally had 100 or so. And one of the things you did with him was to load up a couple lawn chairs in the back of the truck, drive out and sit and watch them---with a loaded shot gun across your lap. We called him the anthropologist. He had been about to start school at KSU’s veterinarian program when he was drafted for Korea. He served there as a field medic, when he came back, he never returned to college, but he had a way with animals and was who everyone in the area called before they called the vet (he was free, more available and always did house/field calls). During his active years he ran about 1,000 head of cattle at time. But, back to the buffalo (and he always called them buffalo although he knew they were bison) one winter, he had a bull that that kicked him in the stomach, and he was hospitalized for several weeks, ever after that he felt that that bull was going to take him out. So, he felt that he was forced to sell the herd (he kept 3 females until his death). Sadly, the greatest price would go to trophy hunters who wanted him to line up the ideal “hunt” and so that they could get the best “heads”. This fact was soul crushing to him. He ended up selling them to Cabela’s—it was the most respectful and humane way to go in his opinion. But this is the lens that I look through these early years, generally good people, trying to do the best they can with what they have and what they know. Wichita is sited on the Arkansas River near the mouth of the Little Arkansas river and evidence suggests that this area has been the site of established Native American settlements had been there many years before whites entered the picture. In 1541, the Spanish explorer Francisco Vazquez de Coronado came across the area in his search for the mythical “Seven Cities of Gold”. Although he did not find cities of gold, he did find a civilization of straw thatched villages with and fields of corn, beans and squash stretching from Lyon to Salina counties. He named this civilization was Quivira. The Quivirans were the forefathers of the Wichita and Caddoan tribes that would be in the area when the white man began arriving in the 1850s. The Wichita and the Caddo Native American tribes at this time were living in a large area in southwestern Kansas, the Oklahoma Panhandle and Texas. Subgroups to this were the Kichai, Waco and Towakoni. I believe that the Osage were around as well but clustered around the Missouri River and I am not sure if the Kaw were in the northern part of the state, but prior reading has given me the sense that they probably were but existing as seasonal villages and nomadic as the Osage did. (Price’s Wichita 1860-1930) Don Juan de Onate was the next Spanish explorer to find the area and Quivira in 1601. Onate was from a family of Spanish nobles who had served for decades in the Spanish court and in high political positions. His wife was the granddaughter of Henan Cortes and the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma Xocoyotzin. In other words, Onate had a lot to live up to and he was wealthy. Onate was sent to the New World by Spain to colonize, explore and spread Catholicism. He began in New Mexico and established Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico and then ten set out in 1598 to explore. In October of this year, he encountered the Acoma Pueblo, where he tried to take stored food from the Native Americans, when they resisted, he considered this an insurrection and order the pueblo destroyed, killing 800-1,000. This became known as the Acoma Massacre (and to the best of my knowledge this is the first massacre of Native American in the SW part of the US). When King Philip II hears of this, he banishes Onate from New Mexico, but Onate continues in America. In 1601, Onate organized a expedition to find the Quivira, and the fabled cities of gold. Onate ventured into Kansas and encountered the Quivirans, their rivals the Escanjaques and Etzanoa but thankfully seems to have only visited them. ( Rumors of gold in the area of the Arkansas River would persist through the years. In 1757, Antoine du Pratz, a French explorer/attempted settler (?) published a map it is unclear to me but this appears to be in his History of Louisiana, which was in Thomas Jefferson and the more erudite of the days’ libraries, but has generally been forgotten. He seems different than most of the French that came here in his exploring but maybe traders/hunters are not given enough credit as explorers and maybe what separates the hunter/traders from explorers is their written records? (A professor from Oregon is intent on seeing that he receives more credit so that shall be interesting to follow). In the 1700’s the Osage began expanding out into the Arkansas River area under the leadership of Black Dog. The Osage trail going from Baxter Springs to the Great Salt Plains in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma was built by him for the use of hunting and mourning parties. Osage hunters were known for their ferocity and would go as far as Santa Fe and Mexico. I am not sure why they traveled so far; according to Meade it seems that at this time game was abundant in the plains region but it might have been following the game with the seasons. James Mead, from Indians in Kansas says “All of Kansas as west of these reservations, comprising about three fourths of the state, as the best hunting grounds on the continent.” They began a settlement outside of what will become Wichita. By early 1800’s the Osage are ousted from their more eastern holdings by the US government to open up land for settlers and forced into the Three Forks area of Oklahoma. And by the 1830’s the Osage, whose numbers are diminishing leave the area This corresponds with in 1830 Andrew Jackson signs the Indian Removal Act authorizing that Native Americans would be given last west of the Mississippi in return for their properties in the East. Many of these refugees ended up in Kansas and Oklahoma, land in which the government was worthless and unhabitable based on the Long Expeditions’ assessment of it as “the great American dessert’. In June of 1834, the US government passed the Indian Trade and Intercourse Act. The Intercourse Act was passed to make up for the vagueness of the Removal Act. It stipulates where the Native Americans are to move to, “that part fo the United States west of the Mississippi, and not within the states of Missouri, Louisiana, or the Territory of Arkansas.” Which is still pretty vague. The Intercourse Act created the “Permanent Indian Frontier”—well sort of. I think that the Ft. Scott NHS states the pervasive attitude best, “They felt that to survive, the Indians must become “civilized” and learn the ways of the white man.” The Cherokee in particular had been moving toward “civilization” significantly over the years, they had established a written language, started a newspaper, and begun to create settlements based on farming. (Farming is highly correlated with white’s idea of being “civilized”, Mead too, talks of it in his The Indians of Kansas, he seems rather fatalistic about the Native Americans in his Hunting and Trading, “the attempt to change their life has, in a great majority of instances, proven an entire failure.”). It seems like the eastern tribes were coming too close to “civilized” for the comfort of Jackson, he may have perceived them as a threat to the US’s sovereignty or he may just have felt superior and was controlling. In 1863 the Wichita Indians fled Indian territory to Leroy and during 1864 they again move to cluster around the Arkansas River. Then in 1865, the Treaty of the Little Arkansas River is signed. This treaty is one of a series of treaties that the US government signed with the Kiowa, Comanche, Plains Apache, Southern Arapahoe at the Little Arkansas River in October of 1865. In part in response to the Sand Creek Massacre and in another part to bring “peace” and to let the army be dissembled after the Civil War, this created reservations and gave widows of the massacre cash settlements. Lasting less than 2 years, the reservations that were to be created by it never materialized and were reduced by 90% by the Medicine Lodge Treaty in October of 1867. I like to think that this was entered into on both sides with optimism as Mead’s book Hunting and Trading would seem to indicate but he contradicts himself in the last chapter and in some of his earlier writing with the view that Native American were inferior and that this was just how it was, they were not civilized, or hard enough workers and extinction was their fate. The areas come to development first with the hunters, such as James Mead. We know the most about Mead because he was a prolific writer and his writings are a gift to researches of this era, but they also represent the viewpoint of the victor writes history. Mead was from Iowa; his father had attended Yale and was a minister, his viewpoint seems to stay on line as a businessman, he never strays into being a moralist and he views himself as a naturalist and a historian. The hunters and trappers found the area with abundant wild game. Mead in his book Hunting and Trading describes his first visit an area near Council Grove as filled with game, buffalo as far as the eye can see. Mead is an experienced hunter and he finds the others in his party to be less (there is a bit of arrogance in his writing?) so he goes out and hunts on his own and finds the buffalo easy to hunt. The book was in a way a tallying of game he killed. Mead (and other hunters of the period) took the hides to Leavenworth but there were several other cities that he might have taken them to, Atchison and Weston being other possibilities I presume. Mead used animal hides as currency. (at this time there was no national currency but instead different locales had their own, so hides would have been more universal) He traded hides for goods, coffee, tobacco, flour, and upon return sold them to the Native Americans—once again by trading for hides. Trading posts were most commonly a room or a lean-to on a small house and they were often run by the wives of the hunters/traders. If not completely, then the wife did the accounting. There were interactions with the Native Americans but most seemed to be amicable. It was not until I read his accounts of the them in Bentley’s book (Chapter XLI) that I saw a sense of superiority and arrogance toward the Native Americans. I am not sure why the two sources read so differently. Darius Munger, Buffalo Bill Mathewson, William Greiffenstein and Jesse Chisholm all got their starts as hunters and traders in much the same fashion as Mead. Jesse Chisholm is unusual in this crowd for his half Native American/half white heritage. He spoke multiple Native American languages and laid out the trail from Wichita to Indian Territory in the south in order to maintain his trading posts. Chisholm was able to straddle both worlds, he looked up to in the Native American communities as being a sort of father figure and was respected as a fellow hunter/trader in white circles. Chisholm dies fairly early in Wichita’s development but it is unlikely that he would become a founding father, in Craig Miner’s book The Magic City, he is described as a “rude trader” and it is said that he did not have the education to keep his books or for urban strategy. Whether this is true or not, it indicates that he would have been closed out of the deals that took place in order to be a founding father. Buffalo Bill Mathewson got his nickname from saving a group of starving settlers by the gift of buffalo meat one winter. And he was known to the Native Americans as “Long Bearded Dangerous Man” for his battle with the Kiowa leader Satanta. Mathewson was a licensed government trader at Kiowa and Commanche agency and was later involved in the negotiation of the Little Arkansas Treaty and the Medicine Lodge Council Meeting, both of which were not favorable to the Native Americans. He would build one of the first houses in Wichita and establish the Wichita Savings Bank. William Greiffenstein ran a trading post and had contracts with the federal government to supply, move and contract farms for Native Americans in Indian Territory. His first wife was Cheyenne and he was run out of Indian Territory when the federal government discovered that he was selling guns to the Native Americans. Greiffenstein sued the federal government for this action and won, he then used this money to buy trading posts, which was the beginning of his career in real estate speculation. He will go on to have heavy holdings in milling and banking and to be the leader of the “Douglas Avenue Crowd”—a political and economic clique of the 1870s. And Darius Munger. Munger was sent by the Wichita Town Company from Topeka to Wichita in 1868 to create the city of Wichita. In 1869, he completed a 1/1/2 story log cabin near 9th and Waco. It is described as being near the river and with orchards of fruit trees. This served as the core of the platted town and functioned as a post office, boarding house and office of the Justice of the Peace while Munger lived there. By 1870 the land issues with the government start to get settled and in July of that year Wichita incorporates as a small town along the Little Arkansas River. Almost immediately a rivalry starts up as to the center what will be the economic hub of Wichita, it is Mead and his “North Enders” v. Giffenstein and his “Douglas Avenue Crowd”. In the end, the “Douglas Avenue Crowd” will win out and be where the downtown area is established. The 1870’s in Wichita are marked by the cattle trade. Cattle drives begin bringing longhorns from Texas up to Kansas to be sent to the eastern market for slaughter. The story of the “4 Horsemen” tells of how Wichita was saved from being a ghost town when four of the city fathers went out one night and intercepted a cattle drive headed to Park City and convinced—with maybe a bit of cash between friends—them to come to Wichita instead. For about ten years Wichita will be a “cow town”. The cattle drives and the subsequent money they bring will aid the development of business and the creation of wealth. I tend to gloss over this because I feel that it is overdone and as a Kansan, I am tired of it (much like Dorothy). There is an excellent book David Dary entitled Cowboy Culture: A Saga of Five Centuries and Robert Day’s The Last Cattle Drive are great and both favorites.

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