A ruthless cattle baron's empire. Ancient carvings in canyon walls. A legend of lost treasure. The tracks of giants discovered in a riverbed of stone. These canyons and plains gave birth to many stories, all told and retold with words that disappeared in the smoke rising from countless campfires. Take a moment. Maybe read a few. If you're very quiet, you might hear the whispers on the wind.
To the person who's drawn by stories, the West of days gone by can be a haunting and elusive place, populated by tales that are, sometimes, unpredictable and surprising and, other times, predictably cruel and harsh. To that person, the distant West is both foreign and familiar, and the yardstick by which lives were measured belongs to that time alone.
Lillian Cline Sapp: A Pioneer of a Different Sort
“Life on the frontier” was not exactly a cake walk. It was difficult, and it was dangerous. There were jobs that required the help of more people than there were people who were present to help. As a result, those who would never be granted equality to any reasonable degree in other situations soon became as equal as anyone else, simply by virtue of where they happened to be at the time. Women were no exception.
The Confession of Mr. Dargy
This story took place around the area that would become the Kiowa/Prowers County line in the late 1800s. It's as true as it is surprising.
The Killing of Coral Hickman
If you happen to be heading east out of Eads on Highway 287, you'll soon notice a dog leg in the road heading south just before the turn-off to Highway 96. That bend in the road is roughly three miles from town, prompting the name “three mile turn” which locals use to describe the spot.
But older residents who have lived in the area for, say, fifty years or more call that turn “Hickman Hill”. It's a good name for that turn, and there's a good reason behind it. What follows is the story that explains it all.
The Cowboys of Kirkwell Cattle Company
Just before noon on an unusually cold and dry March 14, 1930, three men walked into the Manter Bank in Manter, Kansas. Manter was a new and booming town in far southwestern Kansas, and the three anticipated the bank would be heavy with deposits. Several minutes later, while brandishing “rifles, shotguns and six-shooters,” John Walker, Andrew Halliday, and Clyde “Shorty” Ray, came back out of the bank with roughly $4000 in cash. They then got into a Model A Ford and started up the engine.
The Fleagle Gang: Violence on the Plains
If you find yourself driving through Lamar on Main Street (aka Highway 287), you'll pass a rather non-descript building on the northwest corner of Main and Olive Street. Today, the sign in the window says “Boot Repair,” but, in 1928, the building housed the First National Bank, the site of one of the most consequential bank robberies in the state. The robbery itself impacted the small Western town for a long, long time. But the method used to catch the robbers changed the course of criminal investigations forever.
Camp Amache: The Day Democracy Stumbled
At 12:30pm Eastern Time on December 8, 1941, Americans sat by their radios and listened as President Franklin D. Roosevelt described the bombing of Pearl Harbor the day before. "December 7, 1941, the day that will go down in infamy," he said.
Boggsville: The Grand Experiment
To those unfamiliar with the history of southeastern Colorado, Boggsville is not a site that naturally garners much attention. Although it was the first non-fortified settlement in southeastern Colorado, it wasn't particularly large.In its heyday, Boggsville had thirteen structures and a resident population of 97. It also didn't last as a functioning settlement for long.A total of eleven years passed between the time the founders built their house and the settlement was established to the time when even the founders moved to another place.
But what happened during those eleven years was truly extraordinary as evidenced by, in 2014, the highly prestigious National Trust for Historic Preservation designating Boggsville a “national treasure.”That designation has only been granted to around 50 other sites in the nation.
Buffalo: The Mighty Giant of the Plains
“At one time, buffalo were found from northwest Canada throughout the plains of the United States and down into northern Mexico. Their numbers were estimated to be between 30 and 60 million. And then, in a phrase that appears often in the history of the canyons and plains, things changed.”
Towner Bus Tragedy: 33 Hours Frozen in Time
All the signs were there for those who took the time to notice: a blizzard was coming, and it was shaping up to be a bad one.