Grant County, Kansas
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Santa Fe Trail Thru
Wagon Bed Springs
Grant County map, 1899.
Situated on the High Plains in the far southwestern part of Kansas,
Grant County was created in 1887 out of Hamilton County territory, by an act of
the Kansas Legislature and named in honor of
General Ulysses S. Grant.
before the county was formed; however, numerous travelers made their way through
the area along the
Cimarron Branch of the old
Santa Fe Trail. Mostly prairie, these hardy pioneers traveled along the
that, unfortunately, was dry most of the time, even back then.
The Santa Fe Trail entered what was later to become Grant County midway of its
eastern boundary and continued its southwesterly course, crossing the North Fork
of the Cimarron River, before making its way to the well-known "Lower Springs,"
later known as the "Wagon Bed Spring" on the
Cimarron River. The Jornada stretch was a perilous route for both men and
animals in the dry season as the wagon trains often ran out of water and their
arrival at the oasis of Wagon Bed Spring was a
Grant County is the second county north of the
line and the second east from
the census at the time it was created in 1887 was 2,716 people, 653 of whom were
Grant County was first established there were two candidates for the county seat
Ulysses and and Tilden (later called
governor's proclamation was not made until June, 1888, which named Ulysses as the temporary county seat
and appointed County Officers. The county is divided into three townships --
Lincoln, Sullivan and Sherman. Some of the first post offices were established
in the now extinct towns of
Waterford, as well as in
the county seat of Ulysses.
A few months later, an election was held to
determine the permanent location of the county seat on October 16, 1888. The voters had to decide between
Ulysses and Tilden (later called Appomattox) and the
county seat fight was fierce. At that time,
George Washington Earp, cousin to the more famous Earp brothers,
was the mayor and constable of Ulysses. According to legend,
George Earp was just as
"free with his gun” as
would later say that the
Company imported several noted gun men "to protect the security of the ballot"
at the elections. Among them were
Ed Dlathe, Jim Drury, Bill Wells,
Ed Short, and
others. The men built a lumber barricade across the street from the polling
place, stationing themselves behind it with their Winchesters and six-shooters,
in case of trouble or attempts to steal the ballot box. But, no trouble erupted
and in the end, the election resulted in a win for
But, like many other Kansas
Counties, the fight wouldn’t end there. With charges of corruption, the fight
went all the way to the Kansas
Supreme Court, where evidence was submitted by a Tilden partisan named
Alvin Campbell. He introduced facts to show that the city council of Ulysses had bonded the people to the extent of $36,000 to
buy votes, claiming that the total votes paid for was 388.
It was an “open secret” that votes were bought and “professional voters” had
been brought in and boarded for the requisite 30 days before the election, and
given $10 each when they had voted. But, it was not known at the time that this
had been done at public expense. It was also alleged that “professional toughs”
were also hired to intimidate the Tilden voters.
The exposure of the fact that public funds had been used
created excitement among the citizens of the county, who found themselves
subject to the payment of bonds, and those to blame for the outrage
retaliated upon Alvin Campbell by tarring him in August, 1889.
It was also shown in court that Tilden had bought
votes and engaged in irregular practices, and Ulysses finally won, though it was a
dearly bought victory. Added to the $36,000 spent in the county seat fight
was $13,000 in bonds, which had been voted for a school house and $8,000
for a courthouse.
At the height of the county seat contest between
Ulysses and Appomattox
in 1888, Ulysses boasted a population of
2,000 and supported twelve restaurants, four hotels, several other
businesses, six gambling houses, and twelve saloons.
In the end, Ulysses was the victor in the Kansas
Supreme Court in 1890, and has since retained its county seat status.
But, the troubles weren’t over. In 1898, the county
suffered from severe drop failure causing a panic and reducing the
population from 1,500 to 400 in Ulysses, and later only to some 40
souls. Buildings were moved away, banks closed and merchants let their
stock of goods run down.
The next few years however, good crops returned the county
to prosperity. A new bank was opened, new buildings were erected to take
the place of those moved away, and by the turn of the century, Ulysses boasted some 422 residents.
Continued Next Page
Today, the site of
Ulysses, is marked by this beautiful iron sign, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
Ulysses in 1906, courtesy Wichita State University.
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From Legends' General Store
Old West Lawmen
Legends of America
and Legends of Kansas,
who is FROM
sheriffs were in high demand in some of the most lawless settlements as
well as the numerous mining camps that dotted the West. Though the vast
majority of these lawmen were honorable and heroic figures, ironically,
many of them rode both sides of the fence and were known as outlaws as
well. Old West Lawmen is a collection of stories featuring 57