WHERE WAS THE SHERIFF?
The story about the early days in Cowley County concerning area stockmen would not be complete without the story of a bank robbery that occurred in 1878 when so many were dependent upon a bank to assist them in money matters.
The Citizens Bank.
[Later Renamed “Arkansas City Bank.”]
The first bank in Arkansas City, Cowley County, Kansas, was started by John C. McMullen, son of Patrick McMullen, born 1792, in Limerick, Ireland, who emigrated with his wife, Ellen McGirl McMullen, to the United States in 1831. J. C. McMullen was born in the family home near the New Jersey border in March 1835. He had six brothers and sisters. Patrick McMullen and his family moved to Wisconsin in 1847.
John Cornelius McMullen was educated at Lawrence University from 1853 to 1860, receiving a degree. He enlisted September 16, 1861, at the age of 26, for three years as a Private in Company H, First Wisconsin Infantry, from Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin. He became a Second Lieutenant on October 8, 1861; First Lieutenant on March 20, 1862; and a Captain on October 27, 1863. His regiment was involved in numerous engagements in Middle Kentucky and Tennessee and Northern Georgia, including the Atlantic Campaign of 1864 under Gen. Sherman. McMullen was mustered out of service at Camp Washburn, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on October 14, 1864. He married Miss Mary E. Loomis, daughter of I. C. and Nancy L. Cochran Loomis in 1865. J. C. McMullen became an attorney at law and an employee of the Treasury Department at Clarksville, Tennessee, which position he held for seven years.
In September 1870 Col. J. C. McMullen was one of the proprietors of a new town, called Sumner, laid out in Sumner County, Kansas, on Slate Creek, about thirty miles south of Wichita. He was mentioned in the Emporia News on February 17, 1871. “Col. J. C. McMullen, an attorney at law of Clarksville, Tennessee, and Judge Cunningham intended to start Saturday morning on a tour through Sumner County, the promised land in which some of their possessions lie, but when the stage-driver called for them they concluded they would not start that day—there being twelve passengers inside of the vehicle and three on the outside. We understand that Col. McMullen is making arrangements to locate in Kansas, and we hope he will.”
In 1871 Col. McMullen moved to Arkansas City, Kansas, and became president of the first bank in Arkansas City, a privately owned bank called “The Citizens Bank.” By January 1876 a name change took place. John C. McMullen was president and James A. Loomis was cashier of the “Arkansas City Bank,” located on the west side of Summit Street in a cut-stone building.
Rev. James E. Platter of Winfield presided at the wedding of E. P. Kinne, an early-day grocer in Arkansas City, to Mrs. Helen M. Loomis, both of Arkansas City, at the McMullen residence on Tuesday, September 22, 1874.
Col. McMullen’s elegant private residence, which cost $6,000, was the first brick residence in Arkansas City. It had cut stone trimming. The residence was noted as one of the most prominent and expensive structures in Arkansas City in 1876, which at that time had a population of about 550 citizens.
The McMullen family kept close relations with their relatives, the Kinne and Loomis families. In November 1875 E. P. Kinne was elected Register of Deeds, making it necessary for the Kinne family to move to Winfield in December 1875. The separation became unbearable for the families. Banker J. C. McMullen determined that he could just as easily run a bank in Winfield in order to be closer to the Kinne family.
Already possessing a safe at the bank, Col. McMullen paid $1,600 for a new one in October 1876 from Cincinnati, Ohio, with a Yale time lock. In November 1877 Col. McMullen bought residential land in Winfield from E. C. Manning.
On January 23, 1878, both of the safes within the Arkansas City Bank (weighing over 4,000 pounds each) were moved to Winfield over the new bridge just completed south of Winfield by Leon Lippman for $30, each wagon hauling the two safes headed by six yoke of heavy oxen. It was estimated that the weight of the teams and loads was not less than 20,000 pounds.
The formal announcement of the opening of the “Citizens Bank of Winfield” was made on February 7, 1878, in the Winfield Courier. J. C. McMullen was President and A. W. Berkey the Assistant Cashier. Berkey married Georgia, oldest daughter of James Christian.
Cowley County State Bank of Arkansas City.
The second bank in Arkansas City, the Cowley County State Bank of Arkansas City, was established as a state bank in 1872. The officers were A. A. Newman, President; W. M. Sleeth, Vice President; H. P. Farrar, Cashier; T. H. McLaughlin, H. O. Meigs, and R. C. Haywood, Directors. By 1878 Major W. M. Sleeth and Captain H. P. Farrar bought all the bank stock and made the Cowley County Bank a private bank.
Major William M. Sleeth.
The story of Major Sleeth is told in Volume I—The Beginning, History of Cowley County, Kansas.
Mr. Sleeth wrote to his brother, David Sleeth, on October 20, 1869, from Emporia, Kansas, concerning a trip made to Kansas in search of starting a business. In this letter he told his brother that while he was at Emporia, he looked up old friends of his from Tennessee: A. A. Newman and O. P. Houghton. They were in the dry goods and grocery business, having two business houses, and were doing a very heavy trade. He stated: “Newman told me that Houghton and himself had cleared about $4,000 apiece in the last year.” He also looked up another old friend from Tennessee, T. H. McLaughlin.
Mr. Sleeth at first settled at Eldorado, Kansas, where he installed a saw mill. [The town was later called “El Dorado.”] He moved his family to that location in April 1870.
When Sleeth learned that his old friends (Newman, Houghton, and McLaughlin) were settling in a town south of him called “Creswell,” he began to investigate business affairs there. This town became Arkansas City within a short time. Sleeth & Co. (Wm. Sleeth and his brother, David) contracted to put their steam sawmill and a shingle-machine into operation at the Cowley County town. Teams were sent to aid Mr. Sleeth in bringing down his mill in June 1870. By June 24, 1870, the sawmill was fully operational and already overworked. After two years in the milling business, Major Sleeth sold it. He then entered into the banking business with his old friend, A. A. Newman, President of the Cowley County State Bank of Arkansas City.
Harry Prince Farrar.
Harry P. Farrar, 22, journeyed from his home in Maine to Kansas in 1874. He became part of an Arkansas City dry-goods firm known as “Farrar, Houghton & Sherburne.” He then became Cashier and Secretary of the second bank in Arkansas City, the “Cowley County State Bank.” Farrar remained as Cashier when Sleeth started a private bank in 1876, the “Cowley County Bank.”
The story of the bank robbery at Arkansas City on July 31, 1878, was covered by the Winfield and Arkansas City newspapers.
THE COWLEY COUNTY BANK ROBBED OF $2,000!
IS IT THE JAMES BOYS?
A SECOND NORTHFIELD.
No Blood Shed, But Everything Done Quietly in Broad Daylight.
Arkansas City Traveler, Wednesday, August 7, 1878.
Generally speaking, there is little to create an excitement in our town, though we live on the border of the Indian Territory, the harbor for all horse thieves and desperadoes who are fleeing from State Justice.
Last Wednesday, however, our people were rudely awakened from their dream of security from invasions by lawless characters, by the report that the Cowley County Bank had been robbed in broad daylight, and that the robbers were heading west with their booty as fast as their horses could carry them. The particulars, as near as we can gather, from the thousand-and-one statements afloat, are as follows.
At ten minutes of ten o’clock on that morning, four horsemen rode into town, two of whom put up at Finney’s livery stable, and gave orders to have their horses fed immediately, but not unsaddled, as they would want them soon. Behind each saddle was a two-bushel seamless sack and a pair of over-alls, and small saddle bags were attached. They inquired particularly as to the time of day, and also were anxious to gain all the information they could concerning a herd of ponies near Caldwell—the exact location, condition of ponies, etc.
The other two ponies were taken to a different portion of the town, and left standing.
One of the two men who stopped at the stable was known by Mr. Finney as a person who used to herd for Mr. Smythia several miles south of here, who went by the name of Jim Kennedy. This man is about five feet, eight or nine inches in height, dark complexion, with dark brown moustache and chin whiskers trimmed short, and is probably between thirty and thirty-five years of age. The other one was nearly six feet in height, sandy complexion, with light brown moustache.
At five minutes after 12, just after Major Sleeth, president of the bank, had gone to dinner, a man stepped into the bank and requested Mr. Fred Farrar (who, in the absence of his brother, H. P. Farrar, acts in the capacity of cashier) to change a twenty-dollar bill. Mr. Farrar seeing that the bill was genuine, turned to make the change, when the man exclaimed roughly: “Here! Hand that bill back!” Naturally a little surprised, Farrar looked up, only to see the muzzle of a large seven-shooter staring him in the face; and before he could recover from the shock, two men, each with their revolvers cocked and pointed at him, stepped around the counter and politely invited him to come into the back room. Realizing in a moment that resistance was more than useless, Mr. Farrar coolly replied: “All right, sir,” and walked back, when one man guarded him, while the other went through the safe, taking all the money that he could find, the third man standing guard at the door. By the time the money was taken, the fourth man, who had been standing with the other two horses on the corner some fifty yards south, walked into the bank, and two of the robbers waited with Mr. Farrar while the other two went for the horses. Bringing the horses up to the door, they all mounted, turned to Farrar, and with a polite “Good day, sir,” they galloped off. The whole proceedings in the bank had not occupied over five minutes’ time.
Mr. Farrar immediately gave the alarm, and in an instant all was confusion. Men rushed up and down the streets in search of horses and fire arms, seemingly bereft of their senses. C. R. Mitchell and J. A. Stafford were first in the saddles, and started after them in the direction of Salt City. Stafford caught a glimpse of them, and cutting across the country, came near enough to them to fire, which he did. The leader looked around at him and coolly remarking, “You G_d d____d son-of-a-b___h,” leveled his gun and returned fire, the bullet singing past Stafford’s ear, but not striking him. As all the party stopped, Stafford thought he had better go behind a small mound of sand, and just as he dropped down, another bullet from the robbers threw the sand all over his face. Mr. Stafford returned this shot, when the men touched up their horses and galloped easily off. By this time a crowd of our citizens had arrived on the spot and all joined in the chase.
After they had passed the “jack oaks” northwest of town, the pursuers could find no trace of them, and concluded they were hiding in the oaks, when they turned back and sent word to town for more men and guns—that they had the robbers corralled in the oaks.
Here is where the great mistake was made, as the thieves were still going toward Salt City, and crossed the ferry at that place shortly after 1 o’clock.
Our men did not discover their mistake until too late to catch up with them, though the party in pursuit crossed the Salt City ferry one hour and a half behind them.
By this time Bolton township was aroused, and Frank Lorry, with two more farmers, in company with Mr. Knight, of this place, started west, keeping near the line. They soon struck the trail of the robbers, and hearing that they were not more than a mile ahead, Mr. Lorry told a Mrs. Lucky [Luckey] to send her husband to town for reenforcements. Mrs. Lucky [Luckey] ran half a mile, with her baby in her arms, to where her husband was plowing, but for some reason he did not come in.
When this party arrived at Peters’ ranch, on the Shakaska, some 20 miles west, Mr. George Peters turned out with them and rendered most valuable assistance in the pursuit, besides furnishing feed for the worn-out horses.
They followed them until Thursday night, when the robbers gave them the slip at midnight, and got away, though the party would have chased them to Fort Sill had the reenforcements been sent. But not meeting these, and their own horses being completely worn out, the party of four were compelled to return. They desire to return hearty thanks to Mr. Peters for his assistance, and are enthusiastic in his praises.
Mr. Farrar described the man who presented the bill as being 5 feet, 10 or 11 inches in height, well built, dark complexion, black moustache and goatee, and with a scar on his right cheek. Another man was described as being about 5 feet, 7 inches, light complexion and smooth face. The fourth man was described as being nearly 6 feet tall, and wore a moustache.
Some think the leader was one of the notorious James boys, but there is nothing reliable as to this. However that may be, it was about the coolest piece of business our citizens ever witnessed, and despite the hot weather, they are not desirous of seeing another.
A reward of $100 each for the robbers, dead or alive, has been offered; and $500 for the return of the money, or a proportionate sum for what can be regained.
A BOLD ROBBERY.
Unknown Robbers Go Through a Bank at Noonday.
The James Boys Outdone.
Winfield Courier, Thursday, August 8, 1878.
On Wednesday, July 31, 1878, at about half past 12 o’clock, four strangers effected the robbery of the Cowley County Bank at Arkansas City. The amount of money obtained is said to be $2,800. The robbers were seen in town during the forenoon; two of them entered a saloon, called for beer, drank, and sat down in the saloon for some time. The other two walked around town together; and at one time came into the saloon and called for beer, but pretended not to recognize their pals sitting there.
At dinner time two brought out their horses from a stable and hitched them not far from the bank. The two others came towards the bank from another direction and hitched their horses in another place. A drug store is next door to the bank and the salesman was at the door. One of the robbers called for quinine, saying he would step in and get it in a few moments, and the druggist went into his store to weigh it out while the customer patrolled the sidewalk.
Another robber went into the bank, where Mr. Farrar was alone in attendance, Mr. Sleeth having just gone to dinner, and presented a $20 bill, requesting small bills for it. Mr. Farrar proceeded to make the change, but immediately a revolver was presented at his head and silence commanded; at the same time two other robbers appeared with cocked revolvers. One of them led Mr. Farrar into the back room while the other two went through the safe, which was open. They took what money there was to be readily found and then Mr. Farrar was brought out to the door and required to sit down. The robbers made some jokes, thanked him for his kind attention, and promised to call again when they wanted more money. They bade him good-bye, mounted their horses, and rode together out the south side of town, then around to the west side and north past the cemetery. They were each armed with revolvers and a long range rifle.
The alarm was immediately given, and in a very few minutes a large number of men were on horseback, with such arms they could get hold of quickly, in pursuit. Messengers were at once sent over the river into Bolton township to notify Frank Lorry and Rudolph Hoffmaster and rouse the people with the view of cutting off the retreat into the Territory. Others, including Mr. Sleeth, the president of the bank, rode rapidly up to Winfield for help to head them off in case the robbers should go north toward Wichita. A considerable number followed rapidly on the track of the robbers.
Mr. Stafford nearly overtook the robbers and got two shots at them; but they turned on him and fired a rifle shot, just scratching his cheek, and another throwing dirt over him, as he lay close to the ground in the grass to avoid their shots. The robbers then rode on, as other pursuers were coming up. At one place they rode into a grove or ticket and the pursuers immediately surrounded the grove and believed they had corralled their game. They spent a hour or more in searching the thicket, and finally determined that the robbers were not there. They then pursued on to the Salt City ferry. There they learned that the robbers had crossed more than an hour before and had turned southwest through Salt City in the direction of the Territory.
Messrs. Lorry and Hoffmaster had collected a number of men in Bolton and were patrolling the road all the way from Arkansas City to South Haven, two of their men having crossed the robbers’ tracks nearly half an hour before they got along; but their place of crossing this line was so uncertain, it was scarcely possible that Lorry’s men should be at the right place at the right time, so the robbers crossed their line and passed on into the Territory; but Lorry and his men soon got together and pursued.
Burt Covert and others, of Winfield, started out west from Winfield to intercept the robbers, if they went north. They rode over to the Arkansas River and discovered that the robbers had escaped across the Salt City ferry going southwest. Covert and C. G. Holland, of Beaver, having first-class horses and courage, pursued some thirty miles into the Territory and long into the night, until Covert’s horse got so sprained in crossing a bog that he was unable to proceed except at a slow and limping gait. They therefore abandoned the pursuit.
On Friday following Frank Lorry returned. It appears that they got a long ways ahead of the robbers in the Territory and therefore lost all track of them. They therefore abandoned the pursuit and probably passed them on their return.
It is believed that at least one of the robbers was a James. It is evident that they are experienced hands at the business.
REVISITING THE BANK ROBBERY OF 1887.
The following covers the livery stable visited by the bank robbers, the Salt City Ferry, and a review of the citizens of Arkansas City, Winfield, Creswell and Bolton townships mentioned in the articles. Also, some details about the two cattlemen referred to in the articles, both living at that time in Indian Territory.
In February 1878 Fred Farrar, younger brother of H. P. Farrar, arrived for a visit.
The first steamboat to arrive at Arkansas City, the “Aunt Sally,” arrived on Sunday, June 30, 1878. Both President Sleeth and Cashier H. P. Farrar made a trip on the steamer on July 4th in celebration of the holiday. H. P. Farrar then departed for the east to reclaim his family, vacationing in Maine.
Fred Farrar remained in Arkansas City in order to take his brother’s place temporarily as cashier, making plans to take a trip “out west” on the return of Harry and his family.
Livery Stable Located on West Central Avenue.
Richard Woolsey was proprietor of the first hotel in Arkansas City, the “Woolsey House,” completed in July 1870, which had a front of fifty feet on the street, and was thirty-four feet deep, with a two-story wing nearly as large as the hotel. [The Osage Hotel now occupies the site.] In order to accommodate hotel guests a livery stable was finished at about the same time. Mr. Woolsey, born in New York, was forty-three years of age when he came with his family from Iowa. He had two sons and two daughters. One of his boys, Alfred, joined forces with Billy Anderson, from Winfield, and purchased the stable in October 1874.
The “Woolsey Barn” was sold to Rudolph Hoffmaster in May 1876, who advertised the “Livery Feed & Sale Stable, West Central Avenue, Arkansas City, Kansas, as having good rigs, gentle teams, and careful drivers. The stable boarded horses by the day or week, claiming good yards in connection with the stable. Hoffmaster put in a new stock of horses, purchased buggies, and was prepared to turn out good conveyances on short notice and at reasonable rates at the stable located one block west of the “Central Avenue Hotel,” the replacement for the former “Woolsey House.” About that time a report was circulated that Billy Anderson, one of the former owners of the stable, was hung in Texas for being found with some parties that had stolen cattle.
In July 1876 Hoffmaster’s livery stable was converted into a High Court of Impeachment in the arbitration case of Skinner versus Kay et al. The “equity court” convened to hear certain facts in reference to a disputed corner between sections 12 and 13 in township 35, range 4. The parties interested were Messrs. W. B. Skinner and Wm. G. Kay of Bolton township. Hon. W. P. Hackney, of Winfield, was the attorney for Skinner and Judge James Christian was the attorney for Kay. Hackney was “scooped,” and confessed he didn’t know anything about livery-stable arbitration cases.
Mr. Kay claimed one hundred and sixty acres of land in the section as surveyed by the county surveyor. Skinner claimed one hundred and sixty-eight acres, as was supposed to have been surveyed by the U. S. Surveyor. They agreed to arbitrate the matter and entered into bonds to abide the decision of the arbitrators. Esq. J. H. Bonsall, R. Hoffmaster, and Mr. Cline were chosen. Several witnesses were sworn, a majority of whom testified that the government corner had been standing there ever since they came to the country, which dated back to the survey. The witnesses for the other side swore that several government corners had been moved in that neighborhood and that there were no natural objects in the vicinity of this corner to show that it was standing where the original survey placed it. The county surveyor was called, the original field notes produced, and a plat of his survey presented and explained. The field notes and the old corner did not correspond by about eleven rods, so the arbitrators decided that the corner was not correct, and therefore awarded the land to Mr. Kay. Messrs. Skinner and Kay ended up having the same amount of land, just what their respective patents called for, whereas before there was quite a difference. The procedure was under the new law passed in the winter of 1875—an improvement on the old way. Someone commented: “If justice is what a man wants, an arbitration is the place to apply for it. If, like the Irishman, ‘Be Jasus, justice is what we don’t want,’ then go into the courts.”
The old stable was completely flattened when a storm in July 1877 blew it down after it had been leaning to the north for several days.
In October 1876 the Finney Brothers (David, Ed, and Tom) and R. W. Hopkins, formerly of Osage Agency, Indian Territory, started conducting the “City Livery, Feed, and Sale Stable,” which they leased from Rudolph Hoffmaster, who spent some time at a blacksmith shop with Henry Franklin. He soon moved back to Bolton township. Before long both Ed and Tom Finney and R. W. Hopkins were busy at the Osage Agency, leaving David Finney in charge of the stable. By December 1877 the stable was owned by David Finney, R. W. Hopkins, and A. W. Stanton. Stanton had previously been part owner in another livery stable started by J. A. Stafford. An addition was made to the livery stable in the shape of a carriage house some 20 by 40 feet. People generally referred to the stable as “Finney’s livery stable.”
A. M. Smythia, Cattleman, Indian Territory.
A. M. Smythia was about 31 years of age in 1878. He was a well-known cattleman who resided in Indian Territory. He had to hire help, and like many other ranchers, was often assisted by questionable people. In May 1877 one of his hands, Charles Cobaugh, age 14, rode off on a black mare pony, the property of Mr. Smythia. The boy was caught at Fredonia, Kansas, in June 1877. He had traded the animal off, but he told where it was, so Mr. Smythia recovered the pony. Young Cobaugh said he hardly knew what made him steal the pony. Mr. Smythia and his wife moved to Bolton township in 1880.
C. R. Mitchell.
C. R. Mitchell was considered one of the leading attorneys in Cowley County. He married the daughter of Rev. B. C. Swarts, Mary Elizabeth (“Lizzie”), in 1873. For years he was reluctant to get involved in politics. In September 1876 he was nominated by the Republican convention of the 89th District, held at Dexter, to be their representative. In the November 1876 election C. R. Mitchell received 772 votes out of the 1,242 votes cast in his representative district, which comprised the townships of Beaver, Bolton, Creswell, Cedar, Dexter, Liberty, Otter, Pleasant Valley, Silverdale, Spring Creek, and Windsor townships. He served as a member of the Committee on Appropriations, Educational Institutes, and Revisions of Laws in his first term.
On July 12, 1877, the Arkansas City Traveler printed a response from Hon. C. R. Mitchell to a query by an anonymous person from Maple City relative to the status of the herd law, considered very unpopular by this time, and when it would expire.
“The law of 1872 is the one now in force. And as it now stands in our county, there is no power except the Legislature that can amend or repeal it at any time. A bill was up before the Legislature last winter to authorize the County Commissioners to say when this law should cease to be in force, and it required a majority of the voters of the county to petition the board of County Commissioners, to that effect, before they could take such action even then, but most of the western members were so bitterly opposed to a change of any kind in the herd law that although the bill passed the House, it was killed in the Senate.”
In October 1877 Hon. C. R. Mitchell was elected chairman of the Republican Central Committee of Cowley County. In April 1878 he was the only one drawn from Cowley County as a juror on the United States Grand Jury at Topeka.
Hon. C. R. Mitchell returned from Little Rock, Arkansas, in July 1878, after going down the river on the “Aunt Sally,” in company with Mr. Lewis C. Harter, of the Tunnel Mills at Winfield, interested in delivering flour via steamboats on the Arkansas river. They conversed with the businessmen of Little Rock to see what could be done in the way of putting a line of boats on the river between Arkansas City and Little Rock. He was at his law office in Arkansas City when the bank was robbed and joined the posse.
J. A. Stafford.
In January 1876 J. A. Stafford was the proprietor of a livery stable in Arkansas City. By February that year he became a licensed trader for the Wichita Indians. In June 1876 he left Wichita Agency on the 15th and arrived in Arkansas City on the evening of the 19th, the entire distance being 180 miles, as follows: from the Agency to Fort Reno, on the south side of North Fork Canadian, 40 miles; to Dan Jones’ Ranche, on the Cimarron, 40 miles; to Skeleton Creek, 35 miles; to Caldwell, 46 miles; to Arkansas City, 35 miles. Mr. Stafford stated that the trail was almost continually flocked with cattle and buffalo were numerous on the plains, being found as near as twenty-five miles west of the Salt Fork, feeding southwest.
In January 1878 Mr. Stafford was quite busy. He sold his interest in the livery stable; married Mollie Williams, daughter of A. C. Williams, at that time the U. S. Indian Agent at Wichita Agency; and purchased Col. McMullen’s residence in Arkansas City for $2,500. As a result, Stafford was in Arkansas City on July 8, 1878, when the bank was robbed.
Salt City Ferry.
The first ferry near Salt City, Sumner County, Kansas, was located east of that city in Cowley County. The “Salt Springs Ferry Company” was chartered on June 12, 1871. Its incorporators included C. R. Sipes, William Wright, W. J. Walpole, M. J. Martin, and E. A. Fish. This company was capitalized at $200, with shares at $10 each. The principal office of the company was at Arkansas City. The ferry was operated on the Arkansas River at the northwest quarter of Section 8, Township 34, Range 3 West. On August 22, 1871, Mr. W. J. Walpole received a license from Cowley County to operate the ferry. The ferry license was granted to John Murray on July 1, 1872, by the Cowley County Board of Commissioners with the following provisions: license free, rates of ferryage, 75 cents for one four-horse team, 25 cents for one horse, and 10 cents per head for loose cattle and horses.
In October 1877 the Salt City Ferry was considered one of the best crossing points on the Arkansas River, located about one mile east of Salt City, on the most direct route to Caldwell and Indian Territory. Teams or horsemen were taken across at any hour of the day or night for the small sum of twenty-five cents. The route was generally favored by freighters going to the Indian agencies. In May 1878 the ferry license was granted to J. C. Conley, who replaced H. B. Pruden.
At least one of the four men who robbed the Cowley County Bank must have been familiar with the area northwest of Arkansas City. Taking this route to the Salt City Ferry saved them some four or five miles. Furthermore, it made it possible for them to either go north toward Wichita or in another direction to either Caldwell or the Indian Territory.
Frank Lorry was born in France. Frank and his growing family moved from one state to another for years: Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, and then Kansas. While living in Illinois his parents joined the family. They settled in Bolton township, Cowley County, Kansas in 1873. Frank’s wife, Sarah E., aged 35 years, died February 15, 1876, leaving her bereaved husband and seven children, the youngest three weeks old. Frank was 34 years at the time of his wife’s death. His father, Claude, was then 57 years of age; his mother, Mary E. Lorry, was 54.
Thanks to his parents and hard work by himself, Frank Lorry was a successful farmer. He harvested 3,000 bushels in the summer of 1876. Frank also had the usual problems. In July he lost a mare that strayed from his premises. In August he made a pole shed for his cattle, putting threshed straw on it for a roof. While a yoke of his cattle were under it, the shed came down, killing both. In March 1877 he purchased 225 four-year-old trees in an effort to start a fruit and grain farm; and like so many others, worked toward getting a railroad. Like everyone in Cowley County, Mr. Lorry wanted a railroad. It did not matter to him whether it was east, west, north, or south.
In June 1877 the Stock Protective Union met in Bolton. Rudolph Hoffmaster was elected Captain, and Frank Lorry, First Lieutenant. The object of the organization was to prevent stock stealing, and follow the transgressors.
Mr. Lucius Knight arrived in Arkansas City in June 1878. A graduate of Ann Arbor, Michigan, he came with the intention of purchasing a farm in Cowley County and eventually opening a law office. A “greenhorn,” it is hard to comprehend his willingness to partake in the pursuit of bank robbers; but it turned out that, like a diamond, Knight had many facets. He immediately volunteered to help the committee in charge of furnishing swings, croquet sets, boats, etc., for the picnic that was planned for July 4, 1878.
After the bank was robbed, Knight joined Amos Walton in selling real estate in Cowley and Sumner counties and loaning money at low rates. He gave a course of free lectures at the South Bend Grange Hall in Pleasant Valley township on subjects such as “The Tariff,” gaining a reputation as an orator and speaker. In April 1879 he became the Police Judge in Arkansas City. In May 1879 W. P. Campbell, Judge of the Thirteenth Judicial District, which comprised six counties (Sedgwick, Sumner, Cowley, Butler, Howard, and Greenwood), learning of Judge Knight’s ability with shorthand, appointed him as stenographer for his district, making it necessary for Knight to move to Winfield. Lucius Knight was one of the first in Cowley County to purchase and learn how to operate a typewriter. He was one of the first to arrive at a big fire in Winfield, and struggled in rescuing a baby’s rocking chair.
Judge W. P. Campbell was replaced by Judge E. S. Torrance. Found among Stenographer Knight’s reports of Judge Torrance’s charge to the jury in the trial of a gentleman charged with stealing a hog was the following beautiful and expressive question.
“Do you not think that far away amid the unknown worlds which drift through space and along whose track the drifting system of planets wheel and circle through countless ages, while man clothed in a little brief authority, cuts such fantastic tricks before high heaven as makes the angels weep, regarding himself as the center of the solar system, planning to frustrate the inimitable laws of nature, violating the prime and co-ordinate common law of universes, going behind the returns, as it were, trying to peer behind the veil, as we might say, prognosticating the prognosticatable, evading the axioms and by-laws which not only regulate worlds and their creation, but link the phantasmagoria of diagonal animalculae and cast broadcast the oleaginous incongruity of prehistoric usufruct?”
The defendant was acquitted by the jury.
When court was not in session, Lucius Knight began to travel to such places as New Mexico and Wichita. In September 1881 Knight left Chicago on the C. & A. train, which was stopped by the James Gang at Blue Cut. The Winfield Telegram reported that they compelled Knight to disgorge his wealth, consisting of 50 cents in cash and a small gold ring given him by his best girl, which he was compelled to throw into the sack despite his tears and protestation, saving a roll of bills by thrusting it down his trousers.
In December 1881 Lucius Knight commented, “There is so little crime in this section that a respectable stenographer cannot make a decent living reporting criminal cases.” Knight left for Kansas City, expecting to make his fortune. He never returned.
Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Luckey.
The Traveler article called the lady who tried to assist in the pursuit of the bank robbers “Mrs. Lucky.” Mrs. Mary Jane Luckey was about twenty-six years old at the time of the bank robbery. Mr. and Mrs. J. R. Luckey became residents of Creswell township in 1875 when they moved from Iowa with their son, Martin M. Luckey, and J. R.’s father, Samuel Luckey, who was sixty-six years old when he died in December 1877. No longer able to get help from his father, J. R. Luckey failed. The family soon departed.
George Peters, Rancher, Indian Territory.
There was no mention of George Peters before the bank robbery in the newspapers. The first mention found was in the April 30, 1879, issue of the Arkansas City Traveler, which stated that Peters & Cooper, who had been wintering cattle on Wild Horse creek in Indian Territory had driven their stock up on Chikaskia, and had some 500 head of as fine beeves as one could wish to see in the Territory. Further, that they were remarkably lucky, not having lost a single head during the winter and in getting their stock in such good shape so early in the season.
The Cheyenne Transporter in July 1881 stated that Capt. George W. Peters, of Winfield, Kansas, was on the trail with 1,640 head of the finest beeves that have been driven this season, commenting that all were in fine condition, some reaching the enormous weight of 2,200 lbs. In October 1883 the Caldwell Journal stated that Capt. George Peters had bought two young Polled Angus bulls, paying the modest sum of $3,000 for them. In November the Journal stated that Capt. George W. Peters had made several valuable additions to his Polled Angus stock, and now claimed he had the largest herd of that class of cattle in Kansas.
George Peters was forced to sell all of his livestock at his “Polled Angus Farm,” located six miles northeast of Caldwell, Sumner County, Kansas, at a public sale on November 11, 1885, in order to satisfy a note and mortgage that he and his wife had made to J. C. Fuller and J. C. McMullen, of Winfield, Kansas, dated July 17, 1884.
The Posse from Winfield.
Many individuals rode forth from Winfield after the Arkansas City bank was robbed, but only two followed the robbers into Indian Territory: Dr. C. G. Holland and Bert Covert.
Dr. C. G. Holland, of Beaver Township.
Dr. C. G. Holland, born in North Carolina, married Martha E. Holland of Kentucky. The family settled in Beaver township. Dr. Holland was a charter member of the thirtieth grange started in Cowley County at the Pleasant Grove schoolhouse on February 21, 1874.
C. G. Holland, M. D., physician and surgeon, practiced in Beaver and other townships. He was located one mile northwest of Thomasville in 1876 near Beaver Creek; and in May that year was driven out of his home due to a heavy rain and hail storm.
In November 1877 he was elected as the trustee and assessor of Beaver township. Due to the general good health of nearby citizens, he was compelled to hunt in Indian Territory to provide for his growing family. As a result, he was familiar with firearms.
In May 1878 Dr. Holland assisted others in promoting an agricultural society to consider holding a Fair. He also lost a very fine mare that month due to colic.
A severe rain and wind storm struck about midnight on the night of June 12, 1878, that lasted about five hours. Dr. C. G. Holland’s residence on Beaver Creek stood on a knoll, surrounded by lower land. The water rose to the windows and the occupants stood in water five feet deep. The house moved partly from its foundations. Dr. Holland kept his house from being swept away by luring a twelve hundred pound horse and a milch cow into his abode to anchor it down. The family had to remain in the house for about twenty-four hours before they were rescued. Three lives were lost due to the storm. Dr. Holland purchased a new site in Pleasant Valley township, about a mile east of the mossy banks of Beaver Creek.
Albert G. Covert (known as “Burt” or “Bert”) was born in New York, the son of A. J. and Mary Covert. He participated in the Civil War as a member of Company H, 21st New York Cavalry. In 1872, when he was 23, Burt ran a meat market in Winfield.
At the age of 44 in 1872, A. J. Covert, “Burt’s” father, built the “Tunnel Mill” in Winfield with his partner, Andrew Koehler, expending about $14,000. The mill had two burrs driven by the water of the Walnut flowing through a tunnel, 130 feet in length, constructed beneath a narrow peninsula about a quarter of a mile west of Winfield and a half mile south of the bridge that was built one year later across the Walnut river. The mill was contained in a three-story frame building, 24 by 36 feet, in addition to a basement. In June 1873 Covert’s interest in Tunnel Mill was sold to Joseph C. Blandin. A. J. Covert, Burt’s father, was sued on numerous occasions over his ownership in the mill. In February 1874 A. J. Covert sold his half interest in the mill to Ira E. Moore and departed from Winfield. By 1876 I. E. Moore was proprietor of the Tunnel Mill, now valued at $16,000. In April 1877 the Harter Brothers and C. C. Harris purchased Tunnel Mill.
Albert G. Covert became a member of the Tansey family when he married Flora E. Tansey in Winfield, Kansas on November 27, 1873.
W. E. Tansey and his family came to Winfield in the 1870s from Indiana. Tansey, 45 years of age in 1873, had a number of children. His oldest daughter, Clara J. Tansey, married Col. O. P. Johnson, an Indian scout and plainsman. Tansey had two sons: Theodore and Dayton. W. E. Tansey was usually referred to as “Judge Tansey” or “Capt. Tansey.” In 1872 and 1873 W. E. Tansey was a deputy sheriff. Burt Covert became a constable in 1873.
In February 1874 Burt Covert arrested Albert G. Headrick in Howard County, on a charge of stealing a pair of horses from Judge Saffold. The prisoner was placed in the county jail at Winfield, which was at times called the “Covert House.” In March 1874 Burt Covert foiled an attempt by some of the prisoners to escape. They had used a nail and a stick of wood to break the lock so that the door could be easily opened when the shades of night furnished an attempt for escape. Covert walked in and stopped their little game.
In the April 1874 election in Winfield township, A. T. Shenneman and Burt Covert were elected as the constables. Burt began to earn money as a jailer, constable, and witness. In April he earned a total of $287.94. Serving under Sheriff Walker, Burt began to accompany Walker on visits throughout Cowley County. One of the citizens in Lazette commented about the good looking deputy, Burt Covert. In November 1874 Burt and his wife purchased a house in Menor’s addition in Winfield, but remained in their quarters above the courthouse.
In mid-January 1875 Ed Bedilion and N. C. McCulloch were in the courthouse at Winfield, when they were approached by Mrs. Covert (who was holding her baby) and her sister, crying “Fire.” They quickly went up the stairs to the Burt Covert residence. When they entered they observed that the table, from which the supper dishes had not yet been taken, and a board partition against which the table stood, were blazing brightly. Mr. McCulloch pulled the cloth from the table and let the dishes fall upon the floor, breaking the major part of them. The blazing cloth he threw out of doors after which the fire was soon extinguished. The trouble was caused by the explosion of a kerosene lamp.
In 1875 Burt Covert and E. R. Evans were elected as the Winfield township constables in the November election. W. E. Tansey was the successful candidate for Justice of the Peace, but he failed to get the certificate of election notwithstanding he received about thirty majority. The election judges refused to count about forty ballots that had the names of two candidates for justices of the peace upon them even though it was well known that Tansey was being voted for the vacant office and that A. G. Green was being voted for the vacancy that was expected in the following spring. As a result, J. W. Curns became Justice of the Peace.
In 1876 Burt Covert became the city marshal of Winfield. He was described in May that year as still having a charming moustache. In June Burt Covert, lawyer W. P. Hackney, and others laid out an egg-shaped half-mile race track between Winfield and the mound in great anticipation of having fun July 4, 1876, with some lively horses.
Covert owned an interest in a four-horse freighting team that was driven by his brother-in-law, Dayton Tansey, in October 1875.
Albert G. Covert and E. R. Evans were elected as constables of Winfield township in November 1876. At the same time Covert faced a trial case before Justice Boyer, brought by R. B. Waite, who charged Covert with an assault with a deadly weapon, etc. A jury trial resulted in a verdict of not guilty.
In 1877 Burt Covert served as a deputy sheriff under Dick Walker, who was serving at that time in a dual capacity: mayor of Winfield and sheriff of Cowley County. In November that year Burt Covert and J. H. Finch were elected as Winfield township constables.
The election for the Winfield township constables took place in April 1878. Burt was defeated. In May 1878 Covert was subpoenaed to appear before a court-appointed committee and was interrogated without being sworn. As Burt Covert was about to answer a question, he asked, “Hold on here, must I tell this thing under oath or must I tell it straight?” He was told, “Tell it straight.”
He volunteered to pursue the robbers of the Arkansas City bank, but was forced to return after his horse became lame.
Burt Covert experienced nothing but troubles after this. He was reduced to running the water wagon. His team ran away with him in August 1881. He broke one of his legs and for some time it was thought he would lose it. He sold his street sprinkler in June 1882 to Mr. C. W. Paris, known in Winfield as “Uncle Wesley,” who got the water for the sprinkler at the K. C., L. & S. tank for the streets of Winfield. Next to go was the house that Burt and Flora Covert owned. They lost it in December 1882. The Covert family took up quarters with the Tansey family. Finally in January 1884 it looked as if matters would improve. Burt became a teacher in the Industrial School at Ponca Agency, having sixty children under his care. In May 1884 Mr. Burt Covert began to complain of not feeling well, saying his head ached and that he felt queerly. Four days later his reason left him. He recognized no one—not even his wife and child. Capt. Tansey took Burt Covert to his house, but nothing seemed to help the sick man. He was adjudged insane in July 1884 by Judge Gans and was taken to the Topeka insane asylum by his father-in-law and guardian, Capt. Tansey.
Charles L. Harter and Charles C. Black.
Charles L. Harter, who was the elected sheriff of Cowley County in 1878, had close connections with C. C. Black, a resident in Winfield, Kansas.
One of the early merchants in Winfield, Kansas, T. H. Benning, had a good location for sales of dry goods, clothing, boots and shoes, groceries, and provisions in 1872. His store was located on the corner of Main and Ninth street. In January 1873 J. J. Ellis and C. C. Black purchased the Benning store and set themselves up as general dealers in groceries, etc. C. C. Black made frequent trips to Illinois to visit with the family of S. L. Brettun, his grandfather. As a result of these trips by Mr. Black, Charley Harter was hired to assist Black and Ellis at the store. On July 4, 1874, Charles C. Black was married to Miss Marian E. Braidwood of New York at the Congregational Parsonage in Winfield, Kansas. In September 1874 C. C. Black purchased the interest of Mr. Ellis, who remained behind the counter to accommodate his numerous friends and customers. The firm name became “Chas. C. Black.” In October Mr. Brettun, Charles C. Black’s grandfather, came for a visit, bringing with him a cousin of Mr. Black’s, Brettun Crapster, known as “Burt.” Mr. Brettun returned to Illinois. Burt Crapster remained for some time with the Black family.
One night in November 1874 Charles L. Harter decided that the chandelier at the store needed to be filled. He took a quart measure and proceeded to replenish the illuminator. While thus engaged the oil in the measure unexpectedly ignited from one of the burners, and Charley (as young Harter was generally called), with the blazing can grasped firmly in his fist, glided swiftly toward the door. The air from without upon coming in contact with the flames carried them back into the face of the torch-bearer, and compelled him to deposit his burden upon the floor. His somewhat excited tones brought J. J. Ellis to the rescue with a couple of blankets, which he spread over the blaze, overturning the can, and giving the flames a new impetus. The excitement now became intense, as the window curtain went up like a flash and the fire started along the counter. Jack Cruden, another employee, pushed the calico from the counter, and grasped a blanket with which to whip the fire into submission. Tom Braidwood , brother-in-law of C. C. Black, pulled down and dragged out the line upon which was suspended shawls, scarfs, etc., while Ellis leaped the counter and rescued the mosquito bar which hung in front of the shelves. Just at this juncture a new actor appeared upon the scene in the shape of Burt Crapster staggering under the weight of a pail of water in each hand, a skillful application of which put a dampener upon the ardor of the flames, and quiet was soon restored. The total loss amounted to about twenty-five dollars.
By January 1876 Charley Harter was played up as the chief salesman at Chas. C. Black’s store. In March that year Charles L. Harter and two of his brothers, Lewis C. and Virgil Harter, took over the store of Chas. C. Black. In July A. E. Baird, a merchant at Elk City, Kansas, sold his store and moved to Winfield, where he purchased an interest in the Harter Brothers’ store. The store was renamed the “New York Store.” Lewis C. Harter acted as the purchasing agent for the firm. While on a purchasing trip to St. Louis, Chicago, and New York City in September 1876, Mr. Harter narrowly escaped death on the North Missouri railroad. Four or five passenger cars were wrecked. Mr. Harter lost his $5 hat and had his clothing partially torn off, but escaped without severe injury. Four people were killed and a
number wounded. On his return home in October Mr. Lewis Harter hailed the birth of a son.
In December 1876 the New York Store moved into Manning’s new brick building. In April 1877 the Harter Brothers sold their interest in the New York Store to W. F. Baird of Elk City, Kansas, a brother of A. E. Baird. The name of the store was again changed. It became “Baird Bros.”
Harter Brothers and C. C. Harris, a 29 year old money lender at Winfield from Ringgold, Georgia, who had accumulated considerable real estate in Cowley County, purchased the Tunnel Mill in April 1877. Lewis Harter took charge of the mill activities in May 1877.
In June 1877 J. N. Harter, another brother, arrived in Winfield, Kansas, to take full charge of Green’s drug store. “Joe” Harter soon acquired his own drug store. Harter’s drug store was located at 822 Main Street, Winfield, Kansas, for many years.
The Harter brothers started a new mercantile business in Wellington, which they soon decided was not profitable. In September 1877 they set up a mercantile store at the old stand of McMillen & Shield, early-day merchants, who moved from the Old Log Store to a store located one door north of Myton’s Hardware in 1877.
In 1877 the Winfield Livery, Feed, and Sale Stable, located south of the Lagonda House, was owned by A. G. Wilson. In February 1877 the stable caught fire due to a large lamp in front of the stable exploding. The stable had a caretaker who managed to save the stable. In September 1877 Charley Harter became part owner of the stable. In October J. L. M. Hill, a good friend of Charley Harter’s, purchased A. G. Wilson’s interest in the livery business.
While Lewis C. Harter was hard at work in managing both a mercantile store and the Tunnel Mill, Charley’s interest turned to having a good time.
Charles L. Harter and his good friend, C. C. Black, were involved in starting the “Evening Star Club,” in October 1876, an exclusive club for the “elite” only. Charles C. Black became a city councilman in 1876 after he sold his store to the Harter Brothers. He went into the “money lending” business and became the possessor of a lot of real estate in Cowley County. Black spent a great deal of time hunting and traveling and trying to manage the Democratic party in Cowley County. He became a lawyer, being admitted to the Cowley County bar in August 1877. In April 1878 he became the agent at Winfield for the New York Life Insurance Company. He was the Democratic nominee for the position of State Treasurer in 1878, an election with no future for him as it was the wrong party in Kansas. It is impossible who had the idea that Harter should run for Sheriff of Cowley County: C. C. Black or C. L. Harter. Once Harter decided to run, Black used his influence in getting the Winfield Telegram to back him.
Harter waged a dirty campaign against Leon Lippman, a native of France, who came to the United States when he was eleven years of age. Leon Lippman joined the Union army in 1862. He was honorably discharged at the close of the war in 1865, with all the rights of citizenship of the government. At the age of 26, Lippman came to Cowley County in 1870, and started his sawmill on Grouse creek in Silverdale township. To avoid all imaginary objections, Lippman presented his proofs that he was “naturalized” under the laws of the United States. When not engaged in milling, Lippman was busy as a farmer.
The Winfield Courier was run at this time by two men: D. A. Millington and his son-in-law, A. B. Lemmon. Novices at the newspaper business, they did little to back the Republican candidate. Furthermore, Charles L. Harter did a lot of advertising in their newspaper while his opponent, Lippman, owed them money.
Sheriff Charles L. Harter.
Charles L. Harter defeated Leon Lippman, the man who hauled Col. McMullen’s safes to his new bank in Winfield, by a margin of 88 votes. Harter became sheriff of Cowley County in January 1878. He immediately appointed J. L. M. Hill and J. H. Finch as his deputies.
J. L. M. Hill, as noted, was a partner with Charles Harter before the election in a livery business in Winfield. The partnership lasted until April 1878 when A. D. Speed bought the interest of deputy sheriff Hill and the business changed to Harter and Speed. In May deputy sheriff J. L. M. Hill became a partner of J. W. Johnston in the furniture business. They played up the fact that they had the oldest and largest undertaking establishment in Cowley County, and soon started erecting a new stone building on a vacant lot across the street.
A very strange occurrence took place in May 1878 concerning J. L. M. Hill. While the bailiff had the jury in the jury room, they sent out for additional instructions from the court, and the bailiff was sent for Judge Campbell. The bailiff returned, unable to find Judge Campbell. The Undersheriff, Jim Hill, then attempted to go in, saying it was some d d little thing that he could tell them just as well as the court; but the bailiff insisted upon “holding the fort.”
J. L. M. Hill was still acting as deputy sheriff in June 1878 and at the same time busy at work with his new business venture. He proceeded to bill the city for coffins for paupers. The firm of Johnston & Hill moved into their new furniture store in August 1878.
While Harter’s other deputy sheriff, J. H. Finch, was on the witness stand in court in May 1878, he was asked the question, “What official position do you hold in this county?” J. H. Finch replied truthfully: “Constable, jailer, deputy sheriff, deputy U. S. marshal, and ex-deputy postmaster.” James H. Finch was appointed Deputy U. S. Marshal in June 1878 by the U. S. Marshal for the District of Kansas, Benjamin F. Simpson.
J. H. Finch was 44 years of age at the time of the bank robbery. He first settled in Silver Creek and Richland counties before bringing his family to Winfield. He had four boys and four girls. He would have been the logical choice to pursue the bank robbers. It appears instead that he was kept busy at the jail by Sheriff Harter. He proved that he was a valuable deputy after Harter was gone and served for a number of years with distinction.
Not once did the county papers relate trips being made by Sheriff Harter or his deputies after criminals. Harter sometimes took prisoners to the penitentiary and usually attended court sessions. On rare occasions Deputy Hill was in court.
The Winfield Courier began to ridicule Sheriff Harter. In May 1878 the following item was printed.
“Our sheriff got some shackles for the ‘jail birds,’ and locked them with some center spring, double back action padlocks—something that would hold them, you know, and this morning in escorting the colored prisoner to the courtroom they met with a difficulty in the way of the stairs, which the African gentleman was unable to climb on account of the shackles. He took in the situation at a glance and quietly remarked: ‘Mr. Hahta, will you please gub me the loan of your knife?’ The knife was produced and was followed by the request: ‘Mr. Hahta, will you please hand me that little stick?’ The stick was produced by the wondering sheriff; the dark colored gentleman gave it a few strokes with the knife, gently inserted it in the padlock, and in half a minute the shackles were off his limbs and handed to the sheriff with the remark: ‘Mr. Hahta, please take cah of des things. Much obliged fow de use eb you knife.’ And now ‘Mr. Hahta’ thinks of taking him to the blacksmith shop and having his shackles welded on.”
Complaints were made about horse thieves in the Winfield Courier in early July 1878 after two newcomers in the Winfield area had some valuable horses stolen. Martin King, who lived west of Winfield, had two horses and a mule stolen. One of these was a noted pacer called “Tom,” from Indiana, valued at $1,600. William King had an excellent mare worth about $175 that was taken. A pursuit was organized by local people and the stolen animals were traced to the Indian Territory. Two of the horses returned, bearing evidence of having been ridden excessively bareback. The mule and “Tom,” the pacer, were never recovered. At about the same time a horse was stolen from a citizen in Winfield proper that was never recovered. Neither Sheriff Harter nor his two deputy sheriffs pursued these thieves.
The Cowley County Bank Robbery that occurred in Arkansas City on July 31, 1878, was brought up by the Winfield Courier, by now disgusted by the activities of Sheriff Charles L. Harter. Two separate items appeared in the October 23, 1879.
“A good joke is told on Charley Harter about the Arkansas City bank robbery. After the news had arrived, Charley met Burt Covert on the crossing of Main street and Ninth Avenue, his face pale and hair disheveled, and grabbing him by the arm, said: B___; B __Burt; Read’s Bank has been robbed; five hun__ hundred dollars reward, get Dick Walker and go after them quick.’ Burt and Dick went after them while Charley, after his ‘excitement’ had subsided, learned that it was Arkansas City, instead of Winfield, that had been raided, and immediately took steps to capture them if they came within two blocks of Main street.”
An anonymous person calling himself “Creswell” sent in the following item.
“When the Arkansas City bank was robbed, a general rush was made by all who could go to capture the robbers. ‘Where was Charles L. Harter, Sheriff of Cowley County, at that time?’ Did he spend a nickel, or move a hoof to aid in the pursuit of these bandits? Not that anybody ever heard of. One great, leading duty belongs to the office of Sheriff, to keep the peace, and to arrest violators of law, horse thieves and robbers. Has Sheriff Harter a record in this respect that any law abiding citizen can take pleasure in? Not that anybody knows of.”
The Winfield Courier continued their attack on Sheriff Harter, pointing out that he made an amount of money from the sheriff’s office far in excess of that of any other incumbent in the same time: receiving a very large number of personal tax-warrants, which he collected, charging full mileage on each from Winfield to the residence of the taxpayer and return, notwithstanding considerable numbers lived in one immediate neighborhood. For instance, he sent some forty of them to Arkansas City, to be collected for him, and though the actual mileage on each would not have averaged twenty cents, he collected $2.80 on each.
WHO ROBBED THE COWLEY COUNTY BANK?
Speculation about the identity of the men who robbed the Cowley County Bank at Arkansas City in 1878 continued for many years. Many thought it had to be a gang from the Indian Territory while others were positive that it was the gang led by Jesse James.
On October 1, 1880, West Brown, the notorious outlaw, broke jail at Henrietta, Texas, and made his escape to the Indian Territory. Sheriff Craig, of Clay County, Texas, offered a reward of $1,100 for his capture. Brown was well known throughout the Territory and southern Kansas as a fearless, reckless man, and a hard character. He participated in the Caneyville, Kansas, robbery, assisted in the murder of Stockstill and Henderson, stock men, and is thought to have been one of the men implicated in the Cowley County Bank robbery in 1878 at Arkansas City. For a number of years Brown roamed along the border of Kansas, making his headquarters at the mouth of the Cimarron. More than $2,000 in rewards had been offered for him before he was captured in New Mexico and taken to Henrietta. On one occasion he traveled four hundred miles to kill a half-breed Indian who had informed an officer of his whereabouts.
[Story of Stockstill and Henderson murder told in Volume II—The Indians.]
The Jesse James Gang.
In April 1882 the Winfield Courier reprinted an article taken from the Kansas City Journal, in which the author speculated that the Cowley County Bank was robbed by Frank and Jesse James, Dick Liddill, and Ed Miller—old hands at the business. According to this account they were evidently on their way from Kansas City to Texas, and called at Arkansas City for spending money.
Jesse James and Edward Jonathan (“Buckskin Joe”) Hoyt.
From the book, Buckskin Joe, by Glenn Shirley, and published by the University of Nebraska Press in 1966, the following emerges concerning Edward Jonathan (“Buckskin Joe”) Hoyt.
E. J. Hoyt was born October 4, 1840, near Magog, in the province of Quebec. His father and grandfather were living in Canada. Samuel Hoyt was his father and Judith Sampson Higins Danforth Hoyt was his mother. While at home in Canada, he learned to play 16 instruments, and to tumble. He enlisted in a Pennsylvania regiment in May of 1861. He left the circus business October 15, 1870, at Louisville, Kentucky. He arrived in Creswell [later Arkansas City] in the latter part of November 1870 with his brother, Albert Hoyt, and others.
The following statements were made by Mr. E. J. Hoyt with respect to meeting Jesse James on two different occasions.
“One hot forenoon in the summer of 1878, when all was quiet, four well-armed men rode into town, fed and watered their horses, then came to my store and ordered a big lunch of crackers, cheese, and bologna. I soon recognized one of them as Jesse James.
“I hadn’t seen Jesse before, but his description had been in the papers for years. Since the war, he had robbed banks and trains in Missouri and Kentucky and from Texas to Minnesota. After the Northfield disaster, he was supposed to have gone to Mexico. As a boy he had suffered granulated eyelids, and the rest of his life had the involuntary habit of blinking. He had large eyes, of a light shade of blue. And they were blinking fast at me at the moment.
“We joked a little, and he said he had seen me in a circus once in Iowa. About noon he paid for the lunch all round. As he started out, he shook my hand with the remark, ‘I will see you.’”
“In the summer of 1879, in Leadville, Colorado, Hoyt met Jesse James again. Jesse James thanked him for the cheese and crackers last year.”
Encounter Between Jesse James and E. J. (“Buckskin Joe”) Hoyt.
E. J. Hoyt, who was known as Prof. E. J. Hoyt, Joe Hoyt, and later as “Buckskin Joe” Hoyt, opened the “new Athletic Grocery House” in Arkansas City in April 1878 with a good friend of his, Frank Speers. A horizontal bar and spring board were placed in the rear of their store, enabling “Joe Hoyt” and interested friends to exercise. At the age of thirty-eight in 1878, Mr. Hoyt was still active and in June 1878 reorganized a cornet band in Arkansas City. He was in Arkansas City on the day that the Cowley County Bank was robbed and he was in Leadville, Colorado, in the summer of 1879.
The account by Mr. Hoyt relative to meeting Jesse James with his gang at his grocery store, where he furnished them a lunch of crackers, cheese, and bologna does not correspond with the newspaper accounts. The “New Athletic Grocery House” furnished groceries and crockery. It did not have a lunch counter. Furthermore, the newspaper coverage of the bank robbery indicated that the robbers were not seen together before they converged on the bank.
Walking a Tight Rope in Arkansas City.
On Saturday, September 7, 1878, E. J. Hoyt walked a tight rope, stretched from the top of Houghton & McLaughlin’s dry goods store, a brick building on the east side of Summit Street [north side of the present Home National Bank] to the Schiffbauer Brothers’ Green Front Grocery, on the west side of Summit Street [north side of the present Union State Bank]. Mr. Hoyt wheeled a wheelbarrow over it and performed a number of trapeze feats on the rope, entertaining a crowd that gathered to watch his performance. He again walked the rope on Saturday, October 12, 1878, during a heavy gale, laying down on the rope, standing on his head, playing his banjo, etc. A huge crowd gathered for this event.
The grocery store of E. J. Hoyt and Frank Speers was closed on December 4, 1878.
E. J. Hoyt Gets Rich in Colorado Mines.
Word about E. J. Hoyt’s success in mining ventures in Colorado came from a friend of his from Arkansas City, George Shearer, who reported in August 1879 that he and Mr. Hoyt had an interest in several mines in Leadville, Colorado. In October 1879 Mr. Shearer wrote that he and Joe Hoyt had an interest in eight mines together, while Joe had an interest in several more. In November 1880 Mr. E. J. Hoyt returned from Leadville, Colorado, resplendent in long hair and a suit of oil-tanned buckskin, which showed indications of considerable service. In March 1881 Mr. Shearer reported that he and E. J. Hoyt owned “Buckskin Gulch,” located a short distance from Aspin, Colorado. In November 1884 the Winfield Courier reported that Joe Hoyt, of Arkansas City, better known as “Buckskin Joe,” made a vow in 1880 that he would never have his hair cut until he was worth $50,000, and that he had just had it cut, losing fifteen inches in length of his hair and part of a moustache that was six inches long.
Samuel, E. J., and A. O. Hoyt.
Samuel Hoyt, the father of E. J. and A. O. Hoyt, was a resident in Magog, Canada. He did not like the cold winters in Canada and spent a great deal of time in Arkansas City. He was one of the first to work actively in getting a steamboat to reach Arkansas City. In April 1876 Samuel Hoyt went to Plainfield, Ohio, to arrange for the purchase of a steamboat that was described as follows: 90 feet long, 30 feet beam, 19 feet deck, and three foot hole, drawing from eight to nine inches of water, capable of carrying fifty tons on two feet of water. They had high hopes that the first cargo would consist of salt and lumber. In May the steamboat moved down to Zanesville in order to put in the machinery. The steamboat, named the “Gen. G. F. Wiles,” finally moved down the river in June 1876, but was laid up for a week at Gallipolis when the wheel was damaged and Mr. Hoyt was arrested and fined $55.00 for not registering the boat according to law. In July Mr. Samuel Hoyt reported that they were detained near the mouth of the Arkansas river on account of high water, the current being too strong for their small engine. On July 24, 1876, he reported that they were at Pine Bluff, Arkansas, detained by sickness of the crew. By the time the steamboat reached Little Rock, Samuel Hoyt, sixty-one years of age, was himself quite ill. After it was learned that a new engine would have to be installed, the attempt to go ahead with getting the steamboat to Arkansas City was dropped. The steamboat was sold. It is thought that the investors lost a lot of money due to this failed project. If so, the amount lost was never revealed.
A. O. Hoyt, another son of Samuel Hoyt, became a partner in January 1876 in the drug store of one of the early settlers in Arkansas City, H. D. Kellogg. Hoyt and Kellogg sold out in January 1878 and moved to Emporia, where they purchased another drug store.
Samuel Hoyt made a great deal of money in Arkansas City in real estate and money lending. In 1879 he advertised that he would loan money, without commission, at 12 percent.
In June 1885 E. J. Hoyt and his father, Samuel Hoyt, erected a two-story building, 30 by 60 feet, on lots in the block west of the Cowley County Bank. The second story was made into a hall, which was fitted up and used as a gymnasium. A year later the building was rented by various individuals. In November a hotel business was started there.
On July 4, 1885, the “Buckskin Border Brass Band,” was part of a three-mile long parade in Arkansas City, viewed by over 10,000 people. Prof. E. J. Hoyt, leader of the band, organized the members of the band with regard to the frontier. Each member was dressed in a buckskin suit, making them fully up to the standard of a typical ranger, in appearance, of an earlier day.