Wichita in 1873

Wichita was a trading post in 1864. After the removal of the Native Americans from the area in 1867 a white settlement developed around the trading post. Wichita became a cattle town and was part of the Chisum Trial. The most important businessman in the town was William Greiffenstein. It became a boom town when the railroad reached it in 1872. By 1874 200,000 cattle and 2,000 cowboys arrived in the town every year.

With its collection of saloons, dance halls, gambling houses and brothels, Wichita developed serious law and order problems. In 1875 Wyatt Earp moved to Wichita where he married a local prostitute. He also joined the Wichita police force. However, he was discharged in April 1876 after a fight with a fellow officer. By the early 1880s Dodge City took over the role as the major cowtown in Kansas.

Wichita in 1873
Wichita in 1873

Primary Sources

(1) Wichita Eagle (12th April, 1872)

There is little or no doubt that Wichita will be the important shipping point for the Texas cattle trade the coming season. Already several large herds are being pastured sixty and a hundred miles south of us waiting until vegetation becomes more advanced before venturing this far north.

Settlers are pouring in from the north and east - homesteaders. The great majority come in wagons, bringing along their cattle, horses, farming implements and household furniture, and accompanied by their families. Homesteaders are the men who make and develop a new country.

(2) Wichita Weekly Beacon (12th May, 1875)

On Tuesday evening of last week, policeman Wyatt Earp, in his rounds ran across a chap whose general appearance and get up answered to a description given of one W. W. Compton, who was said to have stolen two horses and a mule from the vicinity of Le Roy, in Coffey county. Earp took him in tow, and inquired his name. He gave it as "Jones." This didn't satisfy the officer, who took Mr. Jones into the Gold Room, on Douglass avenue, in order that he might fully examine him by lamp light. Mr. Jones not liking the looks of things, lit out, running to the rear of Denison's stables. Earp fired one shot across his poop deck to bring him to, to use a naughty-cal phrase, and just as he did so, the man cast anchor near a clothes line, hauled down his colors and surrendered without firing a gun. The officer laid hold of him before he could recover his feet for another run, and taking him to the jail placed him in the keeping of the sheriff. On the way "Jones" acknowledged that he was the man wanted. The fact of the arrest was telegraphed to the sheriff of Coffey county, who came down on Thursday night and removed Compton to the jail of that county. A black horse and a buggy was found at one of the feed stables, where Compton had left them. After stealing the stock from Coffey county, he went to Independence, where he traded them for a buggy, stole the black horse and came to this place. He will probably have an opportunity to do the state some service for a number of years, only to come out and go to horse stealing again, until a piece of twisted hemp or a stray bullet puts an end to his hankering after horse flesh.

(3) John Wesley Hardin, Life of John Wesley Hardin as Written by Himself (1896)

When we had crossed into Kansas, we felt better andsafer. On reaching a place called Cow House, about twenty

miles on this side of Wichita, a party of men interestedin changing the trail from Wichita came out to the herd

and induced us to go to the left of Wichita and cross theriver about twelve miles above. They wished us to openthis trail, as they were interested in building up a new townon the north bank of the Arkansas River. We followed aplough furrow on this new trail and these men furnished aguide. When we had crossed the river, a delegation fromthe new town came out to meet us and invited all thosethat could leave the cattle to enjoy the hospitalities of thenew town.

(4) Wichita Weekly Beacon (5th April, 1876)

On last Sunday night a difficulty occurred between Policeman Earp and William Smith, candidate for city marshal. Earp was arrested for violation of the peace and order of the city and was fined on Monday afternoon by his honor Judge Atwood, $30 and cost, and was relieved from the police force.