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Cowley County Conveyances

Early Conveyances of Supplies, Mail, and Passengers.
by Mary Ann Wortman

The gateway to Cowley County, Kansas, in its infancy was Council Grove, where the old Santa Fe Trail broke away from the last vestige of civilized residence. Council Grove was supplied by freight wagons over the Santa Fe Trail from the Missouri River prior to 1869 inasmuch as there was no railroad connection. By 1869 the M. K. & T. (Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad) ran down the Neosho River by Emporia. In the following year the little A. T. & S. F. (Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad) started out from Topeka and ended at Emporia. Immigration increased with the advent of the railroad. Many started from Emporia toward southern and southwest Kansas.

Trains of huge government wagons were driven over the trail. They were for the most part pulled by oxen, four pairs to the wagon. The yoke at the tongue was a pair of sturdy, well-broken steers. The yoke in the lead was well-broken also, but the four intervening steers were generally under training. If one of them did not keep his feet and the pace, it was dragged along by the yoke until it got to its feet and assumed its place again. These wagon trains hauled Indian and army supplies from the railroad to Fort Sill and Camp Sully in the Territory.

Prospective settlers came in their covered wagons (drawn by horses, mules, or oxen) to this area of Kansas, taking their claims and starting towns. Stores soon appeared to supply the newcomers with their sugar, coffee, tobacco, bacon, dried codfish, flour, meal, gun powder, gun caps, etc. Dried apples and dried peaches became a desirable commodity inasmuch as canned fruits had not then come into general use. Frontier whiskey was supplied through new drug stores and wholesale liquor houses. (It must be noted that the whole liquor houses were not permitted to sell by the drink. Nothing less than a half pint was obtainable.)

Places were sought and found at streams where fording could be done by going down one bank and then up the other bank to a prairie trail by the steady flow of freight wagons which came over the early trails, bringing the needed supplies to the new country. The law of the road was to help any mud-stuck wagon out of distress. Travelers and freighters camped at night at their convenience, sleeping under or in their wagons, by campfires or fallen trees, generally serenaded by coyotes at night.

There was a supply of native lumber at first, for sawmills had come with the pioneers. But "soft lumber" was essential in constructing most dwellings and stores. White pine was the soft lumber in general use. An additional cost of one to two cents per pound (to pay the freight haulers from Emporia) had to be added to the already high cost of lumber.

In the summer of 1870 Parker & Tisdale established daily stage lines at the railroad terminus: Emporia. One branch of their stage line ran south to Eureka and west to El Dorado. Another branch line went through Towanda to Wichita. Still another branch ran up the Cottonwood, across the Flint Hills, and down the Walnut to El Dorado.

At El Dorado the four-horse stage ended; it was necessary for two-horse stage coaches to take over. One of these branch lines went through Towanda to Wichita; the other branch line came south down the Walnut to Augusta, Douglass, and Little Dutch to the towns of Winfield and Arkansas City in Cowley County, Kansas.

The first stage coach driver to Arkansas City was Billy Preston.

Newspaper Items Concerning Early Stage Coaches.

Emporia News, July 10, 1868.

Henry Tisdale was in town this week, and informed us that he had put in operation his daily line of hacks from Topeka here. This will be a great accommodation to the public, as it will save those desiring to come to Emporia or go to the Railroad some eighteen miles of staging, and then it gives us daily mail communication with the capital.

Emporia News, July 24, 1868.

CHANGED HANDS. We understand the Neosho Valley stage and express line has changed hands, Henry Tisdale having bought out T. C. Hill. Mr. Tisdale is now the owner of nearly all the lines in Southern Kansas. He came here a few years ago as a stage driver. By close application to business and strict honesty, he has become one of the largest stage men in the West.

Emporia News, May 7, 1869.

During the past week we have received calls from Mr. Henry Tisdale (known among the drivers and agents as the "old man"), proprietor of the Lawrence and Emporia stage line, and Hank Lowe, agent. Neither of these gentlemen admire, to any alarming extent, what we have been saying about the line in the past few numbers of our paper. They think our jokes rather serious. Well, we did not suppose they would like them much, and in all respect to them, it was not a matter of much concern to us whether they liked them or not.

Both these gentlemen inform us that the line is to be fitted up in better style—all of which the traveling public will be glad to hear. Mr. Lowe has come among us to reside as agent. He will immediately commence the erection of a large barn here to accommodate the wants of the company. So soon as the proper arrangements can be made, the line is to be stocked up and a four-horse coach run from here to Burlingame. This company has long needed an active agent here. Mr. Lowe is an old hand at the business and he assures us that nothing will be left undone to make this one of the best stage lines in the state. We notice that the stages and teams have lately been much better than a few weeks ago. Mr. Tisdale has just purchased, at St.. Louis, some forty head of horses for his Kansas lines, and will soon bring on thirty more.

We wish to say that our thrusts at this company were not dictated out of any ill will at all to Mr. Tisdale. On the contrary we have always befriended him in every way in our power, have made excuses for his poor accommodations, and desired his prosperity. We have no feelings of a malicious nature toward him. We wish him and all his interests prosperity. We want a good stage line—one that will come something near accommodating the public interests not only of this point but this whole section of country. This we must have. We want Mr. Tisdale to give it to us if he can. If he can’t, let him "clear the track," for we are bound to have it. In pursuing the course we have condemned he has lost a large share of the trade he might have had, because so wretched have been the accommodations a good share of the time that no man would ride with him more than once if there was any possible way of avoiding it. If he fixes up the line as he now promises to, we will venture the assertion that he will do twice the business he has been doing. And when that time comes, he will not find us growling; but on the contrary, doing all we can to assist him.

Emporia News, November 12, 1869.

TRI-WEEKLY. We learn that Parker & Tisdale, of the Southern Kansas Stage Company, have made arrangements to run tri-weekly coaches from Emporia to El Dorado, Butler County, via Cottonwood Falls, for the transportation of mails and passengers. This is a move in the right direction. The people of Chase, Marion, and Butler Counties will be rejoiced to hear this.

Walnut Valley Times, May 20, 1870.

Parker & Tisdale have the contract for carrying the mail from this place to Winfield and return twice a week. We understand that this firm have also the contract from Emporia here, and will put on stages immediately.

Walnut Valley Times, June 10, 1870.

Parker & Tisdale are stocking the road and will commence running tri-weekly coaches from Emporia to Creswell, via Eldorado, Augusta, Douglass, and Winfield in a few days.

Emporia News, June 17, 1870. Mr. Meigs, of the firm of Tisdale & Meigs, passed through here a few days ago on his way to Arkansas City, to place on the route the stock for the stage line to that city. The stages will be running to Arkansas City tri-weekly in a few days.

Emporia News, June 24, 1870. H. Tisdale, Superintendent, The Southern Kansas Stage Company, announces service from Emporia to Wichita: on and after June 18, 1870, will run a tri-weekly line of coaches from Emporia to Wichita. H. B. Lowe, local agent in Emporia.

Emporia News, July 1, 1870. Messrs. Tisdale & Parker commence running stages from Ottawa, via Pomona and Lyndon, to Osage City, on the 1st of July, carrying the U. S. mail.

Emporia News, July 15, 1870.

Ho for Arkansas City and WICHITA!

THE SOUTHERN KANSAS STAGE COMPANY on and after June 18th, 1870, will run a tri-weekly line of coaches from EMPORIA TO ARKANSAS CITY AND WICHITA.

This line is fully equipped with both horses and coaches. Leave Emporia Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, at 5:30 a.m., reach El Dorado at 7 p.m. of the same day, and Wichita at 11 p.m.; arrives at Arkansas City next day at 7 p.m. Be sure to call for your ticket at H. B. Lowe’s office, on Commercial street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues.

H. TISDALE, Superintendent.

The Parker & Tisdale stage line was served by Concord coaches; and in the height of incoming immigration, they were loaded to capacity. Relays of fresh pony teams were supplied at proper intervals, so that the stage station keeper was ever ready to unharness, rehitch the fresh team, and promptly get the stage coach on its way without undue interruption. The stages also served mail routes, which kept the settlers in touch with letters from their eastern families and friends as well as newspapers apprising them with informa-tion about events taking place back home and elsewhere.

In time this stage line became known as the Southwestern Stage Company.

Cowley County Censor, March 18, 1871. On Monday seven passengers arrived at Winfield by stage and one pursued his lonely journey on below. The cars are now running to Cottonwood Falls and the stages connect therewith running into this valley. We are told that passengers lay overnight at the Falls going either way.

Cowley County Censor, Saturday, July 1, 1871. Winfield now has three stage lines running to it from various points. The Southwestern Stage Company have just established a tri-weekly line from Independence to Winfield; it runs via Elk Falls and Canola, in Howard County, and crosses Grouse Creek at Jeffersonville, in this county. This gives us stage communication with railroad lines to the east and north.

Mr. Isaiah Burns also runs a semi-weekly hack from here to Oxford, Nenescah, and Belle Plaine. Arrangements are being made for a hack line to the east via Dexter, Cedarvale, and Belleview. Semi-weekly mail service has been put upon the last named route. These, with our daily stage line along the Walnut valley, give us ample mail and stage facilities. One more is needed, and we will have it: that is a stage line from here to Eureka via the valley of Timber Creek.

Cowley County Censor, July 1, 1871. The Southwestern Stage Company is preparing to erect a large barn on the corner of Manning Street and Ninth Avenue. It will be completed at once, in order to accommodate the large stock of horses.

Cowley County Censor, October 21, 1871. Stages leave daily from Winfield for the north and south, and tri-weekly for the east.

Winfield Courier, Saturday, January 18, 1873. Mail. Stages from the East which have heretofore run tri-weekly are now making two trips a week.

Winfield Courier, Saturday, February 1, 1873.

Frozen. The stage driver on the Wichita route had his hands and feet frozen while driving from Arkansas City to this point. He thawed them out and proceeded on his journey.

Winfield Courier, Thursday, May 8, 1873. [R. A. H., Atchison Champion.]

WINFIELD, KAS., April 24, 1873.

At present daily stages of the Southwestern Stage and Omnibus Company run north and south from Arkansas City to Wichita. A tri-weekly line is also run to Independence (east) and the same to Oxford and Wellington, west.

Winfield Courier, Thursday, June 5, 1873. Front Page.

SOUTH HAVEN, Sumner Co., May 25, 1873.

There will be a tri-weekly stage running through here from Arkansas City to Caldwell, on and after the first day of July, i.e., leave Arkansas City one week and try to get back the next. [Report from "More Anon," correspondent from South Haven.]

Winfield Courier, January 16, 1874. The daily stage line from Wichita to this place is to be changed from the present route and come down the Arkansas Valley to a point about two miles this side of Oxford and then runs into this place and down to Arkansas City. A buck-board will run from here to Douglass.

Winfield Courier, February 13, 1874. The stage from Wichita has been taking a rest up at Augusta, because the lazy denizens of that place are too stingy to bridge their streams.

Winfield Courier, May 8, 1874. The stage and "buckboard" have swapped roads and now we ought to be happy as we are two or three hours ride nearer Wichita. We are not, however, as happy as might be expected, owing to the fact that the mail is very irregular. What is the matter with the post office at Wichita?

Winfield Courier, February 11, 1875. A man 63 years of age has made the trip between Elk Falls and Douglass, a distance of 51 miles, every day this winter, on a buckboard, delivering the mail with perfect regularity, never missing a single day, though the wind has been terrible, and the thermometer at times has been down three or four rods below the freezing point. When the time rolls around and Uncle Sam "comes to make up his jewels," will not this old stager and his weather beaten mule form a part of the central setting? Aye, verily.

The May 15, 1874, issue of the Winfield Courier had the following to report from the Arkansas City Traveler. "Four stage horses were stolen on the west line of the stage com-pany, one from the Rev. McQuiston, at Winfield, and one from Mr. Harris, near the mouth of the Walnut. Mr. Harris’ came back two days after being taken. The thieves had also stolen a boat, and finding they were being pursued, left the boat and horse."

Winfield Courier, September 18, 1874. Forty old racks of bones, branded "S. Co.," at one time horses in the employ of the S. W. Stage Company, passed through town yesterday on their way to winter quarters in Howard County.

The Arkansas City Traveler printed an article concerning "Mail Matters," that was reported in the October 2, 1874, issue of the Winfield Courier.

"The change of mail we spoke of a few weeks since has taken place. We receive a mail every day, but it is two days old, as it lays over one day at El Paso. Instead of the buckboard to this place, as we mentioned, the stage comes direct from Wichita, without going to Winfield at all. The connection for that place is Oxford, and from there it goes by buckboard to Winfield. As it is now, our Winfield mail comes via Oxford, and we have no direct communication with that place."

Winfield Courier, December 17, 1874.

The stage now comes through from Wichita in a day bringing the mail.

Winfield Courier, December 17, 1874. Tisdale, of the ubiquitous Southwestern Stage Company, was in town this week looking after his connections.

Winfield Courier, December 31, 1874. An order from the P. O. Department requires the stage company to carry the mail from Wichita to Winfield, via Oxford in twelve hours daily.

Arkansas City Traveler, February 9, 1876.

For the information of parties desiring to come to or go from Arkansas City, we publish the following time tables, in a plain form, so that it can be understood by all.

Parties leaving the East will do best to purchase "through tickets" from the starting point to Wichita, via Atchison or Kansas City. Independence, Fort Scott, or Coffeyville are not in direct connection with Southwestern Kansas.

One passenger train leaves Atchison daily, except Sunday, at 10:45 a.m., and arrives at Wichita at 10:36 p.m. Omni-busses are at the depot to convey passengers to the hotels. Fifty cents is the fee, and the distance to the up-town houses is about one-half mile. Comfortable hotels are within a few steps of the depot.

Stages to all prominent points remote from the railroad call at all hotels for passengers, between six and seven o’clock in the morning, daily, except Monday. The distance from Wichita to Arkansas City is fifty miles, and requires about twelve hours to make the trip by stage. Fare, $5.00. Dinner can be had at 1 o’clock at Nenescah, and supper at Arkansas City, on the arrival of the stage.



Stages leave Arkansas City daily, except Monday, at 6 o’clock in the morning, stopping at Nenescah for dinner, and arriving at Wichita at about 6 in the evening. In order to secure passage, and have the stage call for you, tickets must be purchased previous to the day of leaving. H. O. Meigs is Stage Agent at this place. The fare to Wichita is $5; to Winfield, $1.50.

One passenger train leaves Wichita daily, except Sunday, at five minutes past 4 o’clock in the morning; arrives at Peabody at twenty-four minutes past 6, where breakfast can be taken; arrives at Emporia at 9 o’clock and twenty-eight minutes; arrives at Topeka at half-past 12, in the afternoon, and at Atchison at fourteen minutes after 3 p.m.

The distance from Wichita to Emporia is 101 miles; from Wichita to Topeka, 172 miles; Wichita to Atchison, 212 miles; from Wichita to Kansas City, 227 miles. The railroad fare in Kansas will average about seven cents per mile.

Arkansas City Traveler, March 1, 1876.

The stage coach ran over a skunk one night lately. The stage didn’t stop.

Winfield Courier, May 11, 1876.

The stage from Wichita last Saturday got sandwiched between Spring and Dog Creeks and the passengers, of which we were one, had to take to the water to find dry land. Hack, horses, and everything went down in the mud. Through the efforts of our worthy local agent, Mr. Bangs, and "Tommy," the driver, the mail and the females were transferred to a wagon and driven back to El Paso for the night. In getting out of our difficulty, we happened to drive over a field of wheat which was under water that belonged to an idiot on Dog Creek. He swam the creek and chased us on foot for about two miles. That was all the good it did him, however, as we hadn’t time to converse with him. We saw him the next morning. He brandished a weapon in front of the stage and demanded "damages or blood." Bangs modestly but firmly suggested that "This is the U. S. mail line. One man and one shot gun has no legal right to delay these documents of importance; these letters of business; and these epistles of love that are trying to reach their destination. Stand aside, my friend. Lay your troubles before special mail agent Jno. M. Crowell. He will refer you to Senator Ingalls, he to the Department at Washington, and it will give you redress." We drove on. The fellow sat down and cried. Bangs was too much for him.

Arkansas City Traveler, February 21, 1877. DURING the bad state of the roads, a buckboard was put on the mail route from Wichita, in place of the stage.

Trains and Stages.

Arkansas City Traveler, March 7, 1877.

Time Table. A. T. & S. F. Railway.

Express and mail, arrives at Wichita daily.

Leaves daily, at 3:40 a.m.

Freight and accommodation arrives daily at 4:45 p.m.

Through freight and stock express leaves daily at 9:00 a.m.

Trains leave Newton for the west—express, 10:25 p.m., freight, 2:15 p.m., 11:45 p.m., and 1:35 p.m.

Trains connect at Wichita with Southwestern Stage Company, for Augusta, Douglass, Winfield, Arkansas City, Oxford, Belle Plaine, Sumner City, Wellington, Pond Creek, Cheyenne Agency, Wichita Agency, and Fort Sill.

Arkansas City Traveler, May 30, 1877. "Micky" Jim—the stage driver from Wichita to El Paso—was seriously hurt on Tuesday of last week in crossing the bridge over the little creek at the Dutch Ranche, some few miles this side of Wichita. He was driving his four horses and the heavy coach. The leaders getting frightened backed off the bridge, pulling the whole outfit after them. The horses were all more or less injured, and the coach smashed into flinders. "Micky" went down with the coach and horses, and sustained very serious injuries—his arm being broken and his back badly hurt. Telegram.


Winfield Courier, June 26, 1879 - Front Page.

Beautiful churches and school houses give yet more evidence of the noble spirit of this people. The main office of the southwest stage company is here under the management of that efficient agent, M. L. Bangs, Esq., whose business and pleasure it is to superintend in person everything connected with this vast enterprise, at present the main convenience between the terminus of the railroad points and surrounding country.

A two-horse stage connects Winfield with Arkansas City, a thriving little town full of whole-souled businessmen who already see their beloved town the metropolis, railroad center, and terminus of at least a half dozen railroads.

Arkansas City Traveler, October 1, 1879.

Mr. Bangs, agent of the Southwestern Stage Co., sent stock on Sunday last to be left at stations on the mail route between this place and Okmulgee.

Early Railroads Into Cowley County.

The Santa Fe pushed on to Newton, Kansas, in 1871. They reached Wichita, Kansas, in 1872; Winfield, Kansas, October 1, 1879; and Arkansas City, Kansas, January 2, 1880. Each advance of the railroad reduced the stage routes until they were eliminated. The towns and cities in southern Kansas were so eager to get rail service that they donated land and money in their efforts to secure this form of transportation.

The railroad engine size of that era would allow one engine to pull 530 tons, excluding the weight of the engine and tender, up a grade of forty feet per mile. It appears that the larger freight wagons of that era could haul 100 bushels of wheat, approximately 6,000 pounds, or three tons.

One train could haul the equivalent of 173 wagons of product. A 173-wagon-train would be approximately 1.6 miles long.

Cowley County voted $72,000 on October 13, 1878, to secure thirty-year bonds to buy stock in the C. S. & F. S. (Cowley, Sumner and Fort Smith) railroad. On December 30, 1878, Cowley County issued $56,000 more of said bonds for stock in this railroad. It was soon in operation to Arkansas City, Kansas, with 32 miles of railroad in the county.

Cowley County voted $68,000 on April 29, 1879, to secure thirty-year bonds to buy stock in the S. K. & W. (Southern Kansas & Western) railroad. This road was a branch of the L. L. & G. (Leavenworth, Lawrence & Galveston) railroad from Cherryvale, which extended west through Cowley County. This railroad reached Winfield, Kansas on February 17, 1880, and was completed to the Sumner County line on March 16, 1880.

Cowley County voted $144,000 on December 24, 1879, to secure thirty-year bonds to buy stock in the C. S. & F. S. (Cowley, Sumner & Fort Smith) railroad. This railroad was later sold to and became a part of the A. T. & S. F. Railroad.

Trains and Stages.

Winfield Courier, February 5, 1880.

"The excursion to Wichita by the Winfield Rifles last Thursday evening passed off very pleasantly, barring a few hard characters, not belonging to the company, who got too much liquor aboard. The two coaches chartered by the company were comfortably filled by about 100 ladies and gentlemen. At the Wichita depot the Rifles were met by the Wichita Guards and were escorted to their armory where they stacked arms and dispersed to the various hotels for supper. The Tremont House seemed to be the favorite with the boys, and A. N. Deming was compelled to enlarge his culinary department to accommodate them.

"After supper, in company with Frank Smith, of the Beacon, we took in the town, visiting the principal business houses, and finally bringing up at the Opera House, the pride and glory of Wichita, which is truly a magnificent building. The building is one-story, with very high ceilings, and will seat about 1,000 people. It has a gallery running about half-way around the building, and a large vestibule with box offices and waiting rooms complete. Last but not least is the stage, which is 40 x 60, and has been furnished regardless of cost. The scenery and fixtures will compare favorably with that of any theatre west of the Mississippi.

"The drama of the ‘Union Spy,’ by the Wichita Guards, was simply immense. We had heard the piece spoken of highly by those who had seen it, but our anticipations were surpassed by the reality of the play. Judge Campbell as ‘Albert Morton,’ in Andersonville prison, brought tears to the eyes of most of the audience, and even Krets, of the Telegram, was suspiciously handy with his pocket-handerchief.

"One of the Winfield boys, who had been through Libby prison, excused this unmanly condition by saying: ‘If you-you’d a b-b-been there like I was, y-y-you’d a cri-cried, too.’ At half-past twelve the train started homeward, and the time was passed very pleasantly in the ladies’ car, with music and singing. Special credit is due Conductor Siverd, of the A. T. & S. F. for his accommodating manners and gentlemanly conduct during the trip, and also the Southwestern Stage Co., which furnished free transportation to and from the depot."

Arkansas City Traveler, August 4, 1880.

M. L. Bangs is now in the employ of the K. C., L. & S. railway. M. L. has for many years been connected with the Southwestern Stage Company, and will be missed by the b’hoys.

Winfield Courier, June 2, 1881.

Arthur Bangs, the manager of the Tisdale Omnibus and stage lines in this place, is one of the most popular, gentlemanly, intelligent, and obliging young men in Southern Kansas. We hear fine compliments for him daily.

Cowley County Courant, November 17, 1881.


Daily Line of Stages From Winfield -To- Douglass, El Dorado -And- Augusta.

Leave orders at all Hotels, or the Company’s office, 9th Avenue. A. C. BANGS, Agent.

Cowley County Courant, March 16, 1882.

Hereafter the South Western Stage Co. will run a hack to and from Salt City at least twice a week and as much oftener as the public convenience demands. Parties wishing Geuda Springs water or transportation can leave orders at Wells, Fargo & Co.’s express office, or at the Brettun House, where it will be promptly attended to. A. C. BANGS, Agent.

Cowley County Courant, March 16, 1882.


Winfield Courier, August 30, 1883.

Mrs. H. Tisdale, of Lawrence, is spending a week with Arthur Bangs and wife. Mrs. Tisdale is the wife of Henry Tisdale, the big stage man and proprietor of our ’bus lines.


Cowley County Historical Society Museum