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Mann and J. Barnes and soon thereafter Baxter Springs became an outlet for the Texas cattle trade. As Missouri became off-limits for Texas cattle due to quarantines, Baxter Springs welcomed them to Kansas. The community built stockyards with corrals capable of holding 20, cattle and provided rangeland with plenty of grass and water. After the long cattle drives from Texas, cowboys found the town a welcoming sight after several months on the dusty trail, making the most of the numerous Baxter Springs saloons.
Offering up flowing liquor, card games, and available women, every third business in town was a gambling house or a saloon. Public hangings, gunfights, and saloon brawls soon became common occurrences. More bonds financed a new school, a courthouse, and street improvements.
But soon, the railroad pushed south into Texas, and the Baxter Springs cattle industry died. However, its illustrious past hung tight, when in , the mayor of Baxter Springs, J. Boyd, shot down C. Taylor, the city marshal, over a dispute regarding a warrant for an arrest. For several years Baxter Springs made little progress. During this period of hard times, it was discovered that the mineral springs had wonderful health-giving properties, and Baxter Springs became a famous health spa. A park was laid out on Military Avenue near the bathhouses, and people came from across the country to drink the healing waters.
Though Jesse and Frank James may have been involved in some manner in planning the robbery, they were not seen. Almost three thousand dollars were said to have been taken from the bank. The locals will also support this, though historians believe that the James Brothers were not directly involved and were nowhere near Baxter Springs at the time of the robbery. In the late s, lead and zinc were discovered across the state line in Missouri and helped Baxter Springs economically by attracting more residents.
Soon the mining operations grew and reached into the southeast corner of Kansas, and the town once again became a prosperous business center. With the influx of miners, the dependence on the mineral springs disappeared, and the bathers eventually stopped coming. Then, in Route 66 came through the town, providing an additional source of revenue as gas stations, cafes, and motor courts sprouted up in the town. As the legend goes, Bonnie and Clyde came through Baxter Springs and robbed the store, only to return just a week later when they traveled through town again and robbed it once more.
In , while playing a baseball game in the park, Mantle hit a ball into the Spring River. Later, when a rainstorm delayed the game, Mantle was approached by Tom Greenwade, a scout for the New York Yankees, and signed Mantle up to play. However, Baxter Springs continued to thrive through the diversification of business, agriculture, and industry. Today, the small town is called home to about 4, residents. Drovers were always on the alert to guard the herds from the potential dangers that they knew might await them at the end of the trailhead.
Baxter Springs was certainly no exception to the potential dangers. As with most frontier cattle towns Baxter Springs for a while was home to its own class of desperados, a rather lewd and raucous sort. Legendary tales report that lawlessness, as might be expected, occurred here. It probably was not unlike most other frontier towns of the time.
Exactly to what extent, it would be difficult to ascertain. No doubt, all sorts of vile and shady characters sought to make Baxter Springs their place of business, at least for a time. City court records reflect any number of fines collected, mostly for civil offenses. For some, a court appearance was a frequent occurrence, their fines adding greatly to city coffers.
The arrival of the railroad in May of indeed ushered in a period of prosperity for the fledgling town, albeit it was a short period of time. Cattle arrivals from Texas no longer had to be driven a longer distance to Sedalia or other markets.
Formerly, the additional drive could take several more tiring days. Shipping the cattle from Baxter Springs to northern terminals took from 10 to 12 hours by rail. Countless thousands were shipped from Baxter Springs in the first couple years after the arrival of the railroad. The glee following the arrival of the railroad for ease of cattle shipment was short lived, however.
In the Kansas legislature enacted a bill which was intended to prevent Texas cattle from entering Kansas at any point east of the Arkansas River. This restriction was to be effective until November of each year, months after the arrival of most herds. The legislation was in response to complaints of local ranchers who claimed that the Texas longhorns were infected with tick fever.
Secondly, the competing cattle towns to the west were then also receiving cattle by way of the Chisholm Trail, a much longer distance. This legislation definitely worked to the advantage of those opposed to the cattle trade taking place in Baxter Springs.
Out of necessity, cattle drovers chose those routes to the west from that point on to market their vast herds. By , Baxter Springs, "the First Cowtown in Kansas" had now become largely a memory in the cattle industry. As a fledgling cattle town, Baxter Springs was incorporated in the year Very rapid growth ensued.
Lots were platted as early as Two gentlemen named Barnes and Mann constructed the first homes on property that became the original city plats. Eighty acres of land encompassing the springs, the old Ft. Blair and the Baxter homestead became the original plats for the city. In its first year as an incorporated city, Baxter Springs could boast an impressive array of diverse and vital business enterprises. But what might be most astonishing for a developing frontier town, only two saloons were in operation that first year.
The cessation of the Civil War greatly impacted the make up of the populations of many towns. People who saw little hope for themselves in the rapidly growing and increasingly expensive East were seeking a new life in the wide open spaces of the West. They greatly anticipated the prospects of cheap and bountiful land. Many of these migrating folks were actually immigrants from Europe. The census rolls of illustrate the fact that many of those who first came to the new town of Baxter Springs were, in fact, born in Europe.
Many of the skills and trades which these immigrants brought with them to the frontier were helpful in constructing the town of Baxter Springs. City government was quickly established. Mayor L.
Denton presided over the first elected council which quickly enacted a very progressive and admirable book of city ordinances. These ordinances addressed many pertinent issues of the day pertaining to diverse subjects such as preventing watering livestock at the city springs, loitering on the streets, regulating the hours of operation of saloons and gaming houses, outlawing public intoxication, forbidding the carrying of weapons in public, forbidding prostitution, riding horses faster than eight miles an hour in town, mandatory sidewalks and describing their width, ordering all able bodied men to contribute one weekend of community service, and forbidding animals from roaming freely within the town.
This is only a small list of the original ordinances. Unquestionably, all of these ordinances would have been exceedingly difficult for a single marshal and his constable to have enforced at all times. Yet, it is surprising the number of arrests made by the authorities.
The court docket also records an extraordinary number of cases, mostly guilty, which were adjudicated in the municipal court. The original books of handwritten ordinances and the court proceedings are among the most perfectly preserved documents among the archival collections of the Baxter Springs Heritage Center and Museum. These documents preserve the most accurate record of the town's early history.
Despite the numerous ordinances enacted by the first city councils in the initial days after incorporation intending to curtail lawlessness, it was inevitable that there would be trouble and trouble makers.
Baxter Springs was a typical frontier town in its infancy struggling to establish its identity. Therefore, characters of dubious reputation sought to make their presence known here.
The work of the marshal and constable was a formidable task. But they handled the responsibility very capably. The city police docket records that many arrests were made in the initial days and months after incorporation.
The names of the two marshals, Seaman and Taylor are found recurring on the records as the arresting officers. Both were very capable and respected within the new community. On that day, Seaman was called to the Wiggin's House, one of the popular hostelries in town, to quell a disturbance. Miss Nellie Starr, a very prominent woman of "ill repute," was causing a dispute with the proprietor of the hotel, Mr.
Nellie had been arrested for plying her trade on numerous occasions by the marshal. In his attempts to settle the dispute, shots were fired by both Nellie and a cowboy from Texas named Isham Good.
In the ensuing gunfire, Marshal Seaman was shot and mortally wounded. Wiggins sustained a minor wound. Good was arrested and taken to Columbus to stand trial for murder.
Curiously, he was released on bail.
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