Famous Kansans » Early Kansans
Carry A. Nation
- Born: November 25, 1846
- Died: June 9, 1911
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Medicine Lodge
Carry A. Nation was a radical activist of the Women's Christian Temperance Union who was a strong opponent of alcohol and fought for the enforcement of prohibition laws in Kansas. She moved to Medicine Lodge in 1889 and formed a local branch of the Temperance Union. In June 1900 she was called by God to go to the saloons in the nearby town of Kiowa and smash up their stock of liquor. She attacked six saloons in Kiowa and then a few months later attacked an elaborate bar in Wichita in which she started using her famous hatchet. In 1901 she and her supporters marched on Topeka and attacked prominent bars and saloons on Kansas Avenue. She was arrested 30 different times for her actions in her crusade against alcohol. She put down her hatchet in 1901 and took the the printing presses, spreading her message through he biweekly newsletter The Smasher's Mail.
- Born: April 22, 1811
- Died: December 27, 1898
- Connection to Kansas: Lived near Osawatomie
Samuel Adair was a congregational missionary and abolitionist during the early days following of Kansas becoming a territory. He married the half-sister of abolitionist John Brown and came to Kansas in 1854 with the second party of the New England Emigrant Aid Company. He settled near Osawatomie, built a log cabin and organized the Osawatomie Congregational Church. When John Brown came to Kansas, he used the Adair cabin as his base of operations for his abolitionist activities in Kansas and Adair provided spiritual and material assistance to Brown and his cause. The cabin also served as a shelter for fleeing slaves on the underground railroad. During the Civil War he served as a military chaplain at Fort Leavenworth and after the war he returned to Osawatomie and helped establish the Osawatomie State Hospital, the first mental institution in Kansas. He volunteered his services at the hospital for eleven years. The Adair cabin still stands today and is part of the John Brown State Historic Site.
- Born: May 9, 1800
- Died: December 2, 1859
- Connection to Kansas: Lived near Osawatomie
John Brown was an abolitionist and staunch opponent of slavery who came to the Kansas Territory in 1855 to ensure that Kansas entered the union as a slavery-free state. He set up his base of operations near Osawatomie as he rallied support for his anti-slavery cause and defend against attack from border ruffians from Missouri. He is believed to have been involved in the Pottawatomie Massacre in which five pro-slavery men were killed with broadswords. He was later involved in the Battle of Black Jack, the Battle of Osawatomie, in which he earned the nickname Osawatomie Brown, and the Battle of the Spurs. He left Kansas in 1859 to gather forces and to enact his unsuccessful raid on the armory at Harper's Ferry, Virginia. He was found guilty of treason for this attack and hanged. The John Brown Museum State Historic Site in Osawatomie was created in his honor and he is depicted in John Steuart Curry's painting Tragic Prelude in the Kansas Capitol.
Buffalo Bill Cody
- Born: February 26, 1846
- Died: January 10, 1917
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Leavenworth County
William Frederick "Buffalo Bill" Cody was a soldier, buffalo hunter, showman and one of the most colorful figures of the Old West. He came to Kansas in 1853 when his parents settled near Fort Leavenworth. He began working at age 11 following his father's death first with a freight carrier company and then as a Pony Express rider. He enlisted the Union Army in 1863 joining the 7th Kansas Cavalry where he served as a wagon driver and scout. Following the Civil War he settled in western Kansas near Fort Hays where he would serve as a scout for the army during the Indian Wars. It was during this time in western Kansas when he earned his famous nickname for his prowess as a contract buffalo hunter for the army and the Kansas Pacific Railroad. In 1883 he founded his circus-like attraction, "Buffalo Bill's Wild West," which toured the United States and Europe until 1906, making him a household name. He also founded the town of Cody, Wyoming in 1895.
Charles "Buffalo" Jones
- Born: January 31, 1844
- Died: October 1, 1919
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Doniphan, Osborne and Finney counties
Charles "Buffalo" Jones was a frontiersman, rancher, buffalo hunter and early conservationist. He came to Kansas in 1866 when he settled in Doniphan County to operate a fruit tree nursery. He then moved to Osborne County where he built a sod house and became a buffalo hunter where his success as a hunter earned him his "Buffalo" nickname. In addition to hunting buffalo, he tamed buffalo calves and sold them at county fairs. In 1879 he homesteaded 160 acres in Finney County and help found Garden City and would be elected its first mayor and the first member from Finney County to the Kansas House of Representatives. He made a change from buffalo hunting to buffalo conservation when he saw first-hand that the buffalo were on brink of extinction. He set forth from Kansas into Texas to find as many buffalo calves as he could in order to form a herd and to try to cross-breed with regular cattle. By the early 1890s his herd grew to become the largest in Kansas. In 1902 he was appointed by President Theodore Roosevelt as the first game warden at Yellowston National Park in Wyoming, where he also introduced a buffalo herd. He has been cited by the National Archives as one of the "preservers of the American bison."
George Armstrong Custer
- Born: December 5, 1839
- Died: June 25, 1876
- Connection to Kansas: Stationed at Fort Riley and Fort Hays
George Armstrong Custer was a brevet major-general in the United States Army during the Civil War and Indian Wars made famous for his defeat at the Battle of the Little Bighorn. He was stationed in Kansas from 1866 to 1870 where he was in charge of the new 7th Cavalry Regiment that was formed at Fort Riley. Under the command of generals Winfield Hancock and Philip Sheridan he led skirmishes against Indians in Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma to move the Indians onto government assigned reservations. He was killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876, along with nearly 300 other soldiers of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, by a much larger force of Indian warriors. He has had more written about him than any other soldier of the Indian Wars.
- Born: 1820
- Died: October 11, 1878
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Kansas at various times
Satanta was a Kiowa sub-chief who was known for his use of both warfare and diplomacy in seeking safety for the Kiowa people. He was highly regarded for this communication skills and could speak four different Plains Indian languages and Spanish. He participated in with other Kiowa leaders in advance of the Treaty of the Little Arkansas River in 1865 and was selected to represent the Kiowa at the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty in 1867 which earned him the name "Orator of the Plains." The town of Satanta in Haskell County was named in his honor.
- Born: March 19, 1848
- Died: January 13, 1929
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Wichita and Dodge City
Wyatt Earp was a lawman who served in Kansas in the 1870s and was best remembered for his role at the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. He came to Kansas in 1874 where he settled in Wichita, a booming cowtown at the time. While in Wichita he helped a police officer find and arrest some wagon thieves and he officially became a deputy marshal in 1875, serving until 1876. He left Wichtia for another rough cowtown, Dodge City serving as an assistant marshal from 1876 to 1877 and again from 1878 to 1879. It was in Dodge City that he starting making a name for himself as a lawman and became friends with Bat Masterson, Charlie Bassett and Doc Holliday. He became one of the Wild West's famous figures following his death and numerous television shows and movies have been made about his life.
Wild Bill Hickok
- Born: May 27, 1837
- Died: August 2, 1876
- Connection to Kansas: Lived in Leavenworth and homesteaded in Johnson County
James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok was an army scout and lawman and became an Old West folk character who was known for his prowess as a gambler and gunfighter. He came to Kansas in 1855 and joined Jim Lane's Free State Army where he would befriend a young Buffalo Bill Cody. In 1857 he staked claim to 160 acres of land in Johnson County, near present day Lenexa, and was elected as one of four lawmen of the township. Following the Civil War he served as an army scout stationed at Fort Harker, Fort Riley and Fort Hays during the Indian Wars. In 1869 he was elected city marshal of Hays and sheriff of Ellis County serving until 1870 and then in 1871 he was named town marshal of Abilene. He was killed from behind by an assassin in 1876 while playing poker in Deadwood, South Dakota.
- Born: November 26, 1853
- Died: October 25, 1921
- Connection to Kansas: Raised near Wichita, lived in Dodge City
William Barclay "Bat" Masterson was another prominent figure of the Old West gaining his reputation as a buffalo hunter, Army scout, gambler and lawman. He came to Kansas around 1870 when his family settled on a plot of land outside of Wichita. In 1877 he joined his brothers Jim and Ed, who were town marshals in Dodge City and soon became a sheriff's deputy alongside Wyatt Earp. He was soon elected as sheriff of Ford County, serving until 1880, and had his hand in capturing a number of train robbers, horse thiefs and murderes in Dodge City and Ford County. He left Dodge City in 1880 and traveled around Colorado and Arizona living as a gambler before returning to Dodge City in 1883 to participate in the bloodless Dodge City War. In 1883 he also began a career as a sports writer and would end up working at the New York Morning Telegraph until his death.